Anita woke up without a name. The idea was terrifying, but for some reason, she was calm as the doctor called her name.
“Anita? Can you hear me?” The doctor peered down at her, but his eyes kept shifting away.
Another figure came into her field of view. A plump woman, probably in her 50s, with raven black hair and a set of brown eyes. Despite her age, the woman was regal. She carried a tight-lipped smile and an air of elegance.
“Do you remember me?”
Though she couldn’t pinpoint her name, Anita whispered a familiar word. “Ma.” The visible tension in the woman’s shoulders released as soon as she said the word, and she started to cry in relief.
“That’s good!” The doctor beamed. “Now, Anita, you currently have dissociative amnesia, so you may forget some personal information or traumatic experiences, but they’ll come back eventually, so don’t worry.”
Anita nodded, eyeing her crying mother. Not once did she reach out to her, and Anita didn’t know what to think.
Her mother thanked the doctor as he left, leaving them in a blanket of uncomfortable silence.
Anita took this time to look around the room. It looked like what a typical hospital room would look like. All around her, the walls were white, devoid of any decorations or colors. There were chairs for visitors, but there were no occupants. The whole room seemed to mock her. A blank slate. A being with missing parts.
When Anita turned her attention to herself, she noticed numerous bandages on her arms.
“Anita,” her mother called. “Do you remember what happened?”
Anita detected something odd in her tone. This was the moment that would determine her successive days. Yet even though she was suspicious, there was no point in lying, especially if she wanted to know the truth.
“No, I don’t.”
Her mother sighed, in relief or disappointment, Anita didn’t know.
“Well, I suppose I should tell you first before I can let the others see you.”
Her mother sat on her bed and took her cold hands. She glanced at Anita before looking down at their clasped hands.
“You were in, ah, an accident. You were driving your brother home from his friend’s house when…a truck swerved in your lane. It was horrible, Anita. The moment I saw you, I-I thought you were gone. There was blood everywhere and—” her mother pursed her lips, urging herself not to cry. She took a shaky breath before squeezing Anita’s hands.
“Your brother, thank God, was unharmed, but the drunk driver died. I guess that was God’s justice.”
Anita’s head throbbed from the narrative. The bandages and the bruises on her body made sense. It took everything from her to ignore the small voice in her head. And it took more for her to smile and accept her mother’s distant hug.
More people came into the room after. Their faces recalled nothing from her memory, and their presence made her uncomfortable, but she forced a smile. They introduced themselves individually, with their names passing over Anita’s head except for Josh, her brother. The resemblance between her mother and Josh was uncanny. Same facial features and same kind of smile. The others left while Josh remained behind. He touched her hand and said, “I’m glad you’re okay, Anita.” And she was, too, but it felt odd to see him perfectly unharmed while pain racked her body and amnesia forced itself in her head.
She spent more days in the hospital. She talked with relatives who visited her. Most of them were worried, while some had knowing smiles. From that alone, Anita could tell who was hostile even before the accident.
On her last day, her mother, whom she learned to be Janet, kissed her forehead and whispered a secret. “We Corazons value family more than anything. It’s above everything else, so once you walk out the door, trust in your family. Nothing else matters.”
Anita found out that they’re rich. Not just rich but extremely privileged and powerful. Her father didn’t show himself at the hospital because of his work. When Anita asked for him, the maids merely shook their heads and avoided her, exchanging uncomfortable glances.
Their house felt more like a palace than a home. Her heels clicked along the ceramic floor as her feet carried her to three levels. Family pictures graced every wall, and grand chandeliers hung from high ceilings. There were framed paintings in every corner of the house. She touched every piece of furniture, feeling the high-quality materials underneath her fingertips. Her brother called her to jump at the glistening water of the pool, but she shook her head with a small smile.
Anita reached her room with a maid’s help and waited there like a kid, seeking the courage to face herself. When she entered, it felt like invading an enemy’s territory. The cream- colored walls matched her furniture. The only thing that reflected her personal memories was the picture on her bedside table. Her arms were wrapped around a girl she couldn’t remember. The girl stood taller and her hair darker than Anita’s. She traced her fingers lightly on their faces, marveling that her face looked softer and innocent. Their smiles reached their ears, cheeks flushed, and eyes beaming with visible happiness. Anita found herself copying their grins only to feel as if she was merely a hollow imitation.
Anita left her room and let her feet carry her around the house. Without direction, she floated like a ghost. A soul just passing through everything. Even in her own skin, Anita felt like she didn’t belong.
It took a few more days before a memory came back.
The buzzing noise of city traffic and a boisterous crowd flooded her senses. Bullets of sweat formed on Anita’s forehead and upper lip. She squinted, palm shielding her eyes, but she had no way of hiding her irritation. She glanced back at the store, waiting for Niki to come out, when someone approached her. The child’s face was covered in dirt and mud. His clothes were decorated with uneven holes and grime. In both disgust and surprise, Anita took a couple of steps back. She flinched as the boy drew nearer. He held out his hand, begging for alms.
“I’ve got nothing on me. Sorry,” Anita said, giving the child a pitying look.
“Please, Ma’am. For food.”
Anita clicked her tongue, frowning. “I already said—”
“Just one coin, Ma’am. Please.”
If words don’t work, maybe pretending he was not there would, so Anita looked above his head, glancing away from him. In her mind, she was scolding Niki for taking too long to order.
The boy, fueled by his growling stomach, grasped her blouse. Anita stood aghast before shoving the child hard away from her. Strength won over weakness, and the boy toppled over the sidewalk. His hands met the rough asphalt, a wince making its way to his filthy face.
“You—Look at what you’ve done!” Anita exclaimed, staring at the stain on her clothes.
Niki had finally left the store, holding a bag of freshly baked bread. Upon hearing Anita’s
cry, she hurried over. “What happened? Are you okay?”
Anita scowled. “No, my favorite top is ruined because of this little street rat,” she spat.
Niki turned her attention to the child before kneeling in front of him. “She doesn’t
mean that. I’m sorry.” She offered a hand to help him up, but the boy stared at the paper bag she was holding. “Are you hungry?”
The child gazed at her, eyes bright with unshed tears. He nodded, and she gave him two
pieces of bread. He thanked her and left in a hurry, leaving nothing but the stain on Anita’s
Niki smiled at Anita. “He’s just hungry.”
“Yes, and he’s also a nuisance. We’re not responsible for him. His parents are.”
“And you’ll let him suffer from his parents’ faults?”
Shame. It was sharp and hot. It scorched Anita’s throat as it went down her stomach. She turned the picture frame away, finding herself unable to look at Niki’s face.
Josh found her with her head down. He tapped her shoulder, and she raised her head from the dining table. “Everything okay?” he asked.
For some reason, Anita was hesitant to ask her brother. “Has Niki looked for me?”
Josh froze before glancing at her. His face was devoid of emotion, but his closed fist betrayed him. “So you actually forgot her?” Josh landed a heavy hand on her shoulder before grasping it painfully. “Here’s some advice. Nothing good will come of remembering her. Forgetting Niki is your brain’s way of protecting you, so just let it be.”
Anita debated with herself. “Niki seems like a good person,” she said.
Josh paused. “She was,” he started. “But that was before I broke up with her.” To say that Anita was surprised was an understatement. It triggered another memory.
“You’re siding with Niki now? I’m your brother!”
Anita glared at Josh. “Are you serious? You cheated on her because you needed someone to stroke your ego.”
Josh scoffed. “Look at you, coming to her defense. Didn’t you hate her? You said her righteousness was irritating. You didn’t even approve of our relationship!”
Anita stumbled over her words. “B-But that was in the past! Niki is inherently a good person. I shouldn’t hate her because of that.”
“That’s what you say now, but I see how you look at her. You’re fake, Anita. So is your friendship, and so is ours.”
Anita’s confusion was a soul laden with inconsistencies that couldn’t leave her. Maybe remembering was a curse. What if her past self wasn’t someone she wanted to be now? What if her past would reveal an even darker future? Doubt crept into her heart like vines crawling on a grave.
When Anita bumped into Josh again, the words spilled out of her mouth. “Are you not on good terms with Niki? Is that why she hasn’t visited me?”
Josh guffawed at her questions. “Keep pointing it at me, little sister. That’s the best way to handle it. Maybe you should ask Mom about it,” he ended with a smirk.
It was ominous. Josh’s words took the air from Anita. He was toying with her, mocking her with the truth taken from her by her amnesia. The fear of knowing the unknown had shackled her to the house. It spoke to her in harsh tones. Stay inside. Do not seek anything. Remain blissfully unaware. Anita found herself contemplating its words.
When another memory came back, it took every confidence she had in herself.
The air was cold as it sank its teeth into Anita’s bare skin. Goosebumps spread on her arms as she stared at the packet. Josh waited for her answer, and after some time, he repeated his question. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
It wasn’t, but Anita needed to feel something else, so she took the pill from his hands and downed it with water.
“As always, you’re right. I consider Niki as my friend, but something inside me despises her. Sometimes I just want to hurt her.”
Josh chuckled. “Well, if you do that, tell me, okay?”
“You’re supposed to tell me not to. What kind of brother are you?”
“The best kind. Now, tell me your plan?”
“There’s no plan. Niki wanted to watch a movie, so we’re going to the cinema.”
“And you took the drug because…?”
Anita exhaled forcefully. “Because I can’t look at her without wanting to push her
Josh shrugged. “Then, drive safely.”
Remembering only gave more questions. Was it just before the accident? Curiosity triumphed over her fear. She’d rather be hurt than remain in the dark forever.
If I couldn’t get answers from anyone, I’d find them myself, Anita thought.
Her family went out of the house. Anita mentally memorized the pattern, and when she was sure enough, she sneaked inside their rooms. First, she rummaged through her mother’s drawers, and when she found nothing that helped, she went into her brother’s. The search also proved of no value. That left her looking into her father’s room.
She stood before his door, hand still on the doorknob. What will I do if I find something? Anita thought. Her moment of hesitation gave way to a mistake.
“What are you doing?” Josh’s voice boomed in the hallway.
Anita’s heart nearly jumped out of her chest, but she forced herself to remain calm under his gaze. “I wanted to talk with him,” she lied.
Josh didn’t answer for a second, and Anita thought she was caught red-handed. But he laughed and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her away from the door. “He’s not home yet. Come join us for merienda.”
Janet was a monarch of her own kind. She was naturally striking, demanding everyone’s undivided attention. Anita wondered if she emitted the same aura. Sitting across the table, Janet looked like a painting come to life. Her lips turned up when they reached her. “Ah, I miss looking at the two of you like this. Come sit, Anita.”
As soon as they sat across Janet, Josh said, “She was waiting in front of Father’s room. I think she misses him.”
Janet beamed. “That’s good! Well, but you know how he is. Always busy with work and serving the public, especially now that the campaign season is on going.”
Anita’s ears pricked up at that. She didn’t know her father was a public servant.
“He’s a mayor?”
Janet laughed. “No, dear. He’s a senator running for the presidency! Can you imagine me, the First Lady?”
The surprise must’ve shown itself on Anita’s face because Janet cooed. “Don’t worry.
Your father will make time to make up for not visiting you at the hospital. He’s a family man, after all.”
“The best man for cleaning up stupid mistakes, too,” added Josh.
“Josh!” Janet took a sharp breath, scowling at him, but he was relentless.
“One time, I beat up a kid so hard he was sent to the hospital. His parents wanted to sue me, but father—” Janet brought her fist down at the table, causing the snacks to jump from their plates. Janet’s composure was gone in an instant. Her nostrils flared, her lips curled, and her glare hostile.
Yet Josh continued on. “Father came to my rescue like a hero he is. When his money didn’t work, he used violence.” Josh smiled. “I heard his mother is still comatose.”
It was difficult to act like Anita hadn’t heard her father and brother commit atrocities. She peeked from under her eyelashes and saw her mother staring awfully calm at Josh. It was a stark difference from her outburst earlier. Anita felt the change in the atmosphere like a serene sea before a storm.
“Anita, why don’t you go try the pool out for a swim?”
It was a weak attempt to make her leave, but she excused herself, leaving the sounds of their angry shouts behind.
Josh’s story had awakened another memory.
“Father, I messed up.”
Her father stopped writing. He glanced up at her and sighed. “Of course, you always do. Who did you hurt this time? I hope it’s not our newly-hired maid.”
Anita gritted her teeth. “It was an accident. I didn’t know she’s allergic to peanut butter.”
Her father scoffed. “You’re everything but an idiot, Anita. Where is she now?”
“Josh and Mom had called for our private doctor.”
He opened a drawer, retrieved a bundle of money, and threw it on the table, not bothering to count its amount. “Fixed. Now, leave.”
Anita felt like laughing. What a way to show paternal affection. When the sun found its bed, Anita tiptoed to her father’s room, and this time, there was no hesitation as she opened the door.
Anita stopped momentarily as she closed it behind her. The office looked exactly as she remembered it. At the end of the room was a large mahogany table. The walls were covered with tall shelves of books and files, organized alphabetically. Piles of boxes flooded the floor. There was no reminiscing in this kind of place. Love had no place in her father’s office.
Anita spent a good ten minutes rummaging through the boxes and shelves. What she found made her sick to the stomach. Her father, whom her mother admired, was a man whose crimes were hidden under a gargantuan pile of reports of tax evasions, land grabbing, and bribery. But there was no time to process this, and Anita needed to accomplish her initial plan.
She walked to the table and opened the drawers only to see office wares. Her last resort was her father’s computer. She cursed under her breath when she was asked for a password. The indefinite probabilities had started getting to her head that she was panicking.
“No, no, no,” she muttered under her breath. Think, Anita, think.
She couldn’t remember anything fond about her father. The only thing that connected her to him was their familial relationship. Her mother’s face came to mind, followed by her words in the hospital. We Corazons value family more than anything…above everything nothing else matters.
Anita typed in [Corazons]. Wrong. She tried [Corazon Family]. Wrong. The longer she was inside her father’s office, the more likely she’d get caught.
“Third time’s a charm,” she mumbled as she typed [Family Above Everything Else]. The computer screen darkened for a second before loading its interface.
Anita didn’t waste time and scanned every file until she saw an unnamed folder. Time slowed down when she opened it and stopped when she read its contents.
It contained the reports of her accident that occurred when she took the drug. A vehicular collision. Casualties and damages. And then she reached the pictures and what she saw made her blood run cold. Inside the overturned car wasn’t her brother. Anita wasn’t with Josh when the accident happened. In the passenger seat, a girl hung from her seatbelt. Face bloodied, she recognized the girl’s face, and Anita whispered her name in horror, “Niki.”
A question immediately coursed through her head. Why would her family lie about who she was with?
Anita scanned the documents more until she came across forensics reports. The truck driver, a father of two, did die in the accident. His mangled corpse was beyond recognition in the photos. But in his system, no traces of alcohol were found. Her mother lied. But why?
Anita pushed down the bile forming in her stomach. The details were morbid, but Anita continued reading. Niki’s body in the pictures was severely mutilated. Anita could only stare in horror.
Browsing through the whole folder, she opened a police report. “…swerved into the truck’s lane, resulting in a head-on collision…” she read aloud. Then it dawned on her. It crashed through her mind that she pushed herself away from the computer and fell to her knees.
The truth rendered her frozen and, along with it, brought another memory that made the reality unbearable.
“Should we go with romcom or horror?”
“Why are you asking me that? You wanted to watch, so go choose.”
“Ah, but what kind of friend am I if I don’t consider your feelings? I’m the best among your friends, after all.”
Anita laughed. “Niki. You know I love you, right?”
Niki frowned. She noticed Anita’s watery eyes and how she was looking at almost everything at once.
“Are you crying? Anita?”
Anita’s hands shook as she drove the steering wheel. “But sometimes, you annoy me. Have you ever considered that maybe I’m not the kind of person you thought I was?”
Niki froze. “What are you talking about?”
“Hey, do you love me, too, little miss angel?”
“Anita? What’s going on? Pull the car over so we can talk.”
Anita shook her head and grinned. “Do you?”
Niki let out a shaky breath. “Yes, now, pull over!”
“Then, let’s put our love to the test,” said Anita as she stepped harder on the gas pedal. She giggled as the car accelerated, driving it to dizzying speed. Niki screamed, holding on to the grab handle. She shut her eyes in terror while shouting for Anita to stop. Anita felt sudden drowsiness, so she slowed the car down, but it was too late as bright lights blinded her.
Time stopped for Anita. The excruciating pain in her chest felt like it would go on for eternity. Everything was a lie. The truck driver was neither intoxicated nor did he swerve in her lane. Because of her, two people met their gruesome death. Two children lost their father, and Anita lost her friend. She destroyed lives.
She spent hours in her father’s room, curled into a ball. She was no longer worried they’d find her there. Instead, she internally begged for them to discover her there. To drag her away from the truth. Anita cried for a long time; her mouth hung open in a silent scream.
After the truth, the devastating reality of facing the future followed. Anita stayed in her
room. The picture mocked her and Anita heard a voice in her head say, “You’ll let us suffer from your faults?” Anita refused to go out or eat. Janet and Josh tried persuading her, but she stayed cooped up. For the first few days, Anita’s mind was loud. Numerous questions crossed her thoughts. Her mother’s words echoed in her mind. The memory of Niki’s death replayed itself in her bain. The image of the driver’s corpse stained her thoughts, his mouth opening to repeat words like a broken record. What of my children’s future?
Each time, Anita relived the event, and each time, a heavy weight anchored itself in her heart. She could point out her mother to be the monster. A deceiver. Someone who would reconstruct a story for the sake of her family. A mask that covered a more specific interest — her father’s candidacy. Janet formed a story built on a false sense of value. Family above everything else.
When more days passed, Anita’s mind was silent. It was clear that she needed to decide. Two matters sat in the balance. Two deaths versus the Corazons. Which carried more weight to Anita? Whose lives was she supposed to save? Which truth was she supposed to tell?
In the silence, Anita locked her door. She faced the camera and spilled all the dirt she had. Then she sent it. In the silence, Anita chose betrayal.
On the tenth day, she left her room. Josh immediately hugged her, whispering consolation words. “It was my fault, too. I’m sorry for making you carry the burden alone.” He brought her to Janet, who hugged Anita tighter.
“No matter what you did, you’re still my daughter. And your father, he thought of you as well.”
“Are you feeling okay now?” Josh asked. Both waited for an answer, and both exhaled in relief when Anita nodded.
“That’s good. Now, take a bath. Your father’s presidential candidacy mustn’t wait for too long.” Janet caressed Anita’s face with the tender hands of a mother. “No matter what, we support each other. Now, we’ll support your father, too.”
The crowd cheered when Anita’s father reached the podium. He was a handsome man of charisma and power. Under the radiance of the afternoon sun, his gold watch glistened. His pepper-and-salt hair matched his pristine gray suit. Like Janet, her father carried an air of confidence.
He walked near the people, shaking their hands, letting their sweat touch his blood-stained palms. People waved their hands, hoping for his attention. Their shouts of encouraging words were deafening. Her father took it all in, pride swelling up in his chest.
“Today, we stand here together for a reason. Today, we fight for change!”
The audience’s screams colored the venue. Blue confetti and balloons filled the sky. People looked at Anita’s father with hope in their eyes. They had appointed him as the person who would alleviate their poverty, make their lives worth living, and make society more just.
When Janet, Anita, and Josh walked to the podium, the cheers became louder. They were
no longer mere people. They had ascended and became an image of a dutiful family. In the
public’s eyes, they became worthy of praise and devotion.
Until Anita’s plan came to its fruition.
Anita watched as her family’s smiles turned into a look of confusion and then horror. The noise of the audience’s confusion was forgotten as Janet gripped Anita’s shoulders. Her eyes widened, gazing into Anita’s with shock.
“What have you done, Anita? You chose them over your family?” she asked in disbelief. When she didn’t answer, Janet’s eyes reflected resentment and rage. She raised her hand and brought it down to Anita’s face. Anita’s head whipped to the side at the force. She clenched her jaw and squeezed her eyes shut as another landed again. It made her ears ring, but her mother’s voice was loud against the roar of the people around them.
“We protected you. I took you in despite your foolish mistake, and this is how you repay us? You’re a disgrace.” Janet’s hand gripped Anita’s chin. “You are not a Corazon,” she spat.
Janet raised her hand to hit Anita again but was stopped by another. The police officer showed them a paper while another clamped cold metal cuffs on Anita’s wrist.
In a single day, Anita had ruined her family. She took down her father’s candidacy and destroyed any possibility of his return to politics. Anita even overturned Janet’s motherly figure and cursed Josh’s future.
In a single day, Anita had revealed the truth behind Niki and the driver’s death. The dead can no longer seek justice. To give them what they deserve, Anita laid herself bare for judgment.
But that was only for a day. The future will hold the Corazons in contempt. The family of her victims will resent her, but Anita will hope that they can find peace in knowing that she will receive what she deserves. Hereafter, Anita would spend her years in prison. Her cellmates would watch her vacate every dirt in her body, and she would watch them in return. Anita would share beds with strangers, her life always at the edge of a knife. But in that space, she would find solace because whenever the moonlight shone through the bars of the small window, the ghost of two people would smile down on her, saying words that would forever remain unheard by her ears.