Pssst….Can You Keep a Secret?

Love, Scandal etc. by Ate Nora

Fifth in a series

Moments before the medical technicians defibrillated Junior, Maria was an emotional wreck, but she could not let anyone see what was going on inside of her.
Editor’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

It would be up to Sara, Junior’s Chief Spokesperson, to relay the news to the media.

Junior’s wife Ofelia wouldn’t arrive until an hour after Junior had been admitted to ER but by that time, Junior had already expired.

Francisco had been the first to arrive within minutes of Junior’s arrival, followed by Sara and Samson, the eldest. Elena, the third child, and Jose, the youngest, arrived with Ofelia.

Maria had followed the gurney into Room B3 upon Clarita’s instructions but had not been prepared to see Junior on the gurney. When Maria saw it was Junior, she was in shock and Clarita, who had followed her into Room B3, had to snap at Maria to concentrate.

Maria’s job was to monitor the screens while the technicians were shocking Junior. After Clarita snapped at Maria, Maria’s professionalism kicked in. The technicians shocked Junior four times but to no avail and Doctor Lim announced Junior’s death and the time.

In shock, Maria staggered out of the room. “Maria!” exclaimed Clarita. “What happened to you in there?”

“I’m sorry Clarita but don’t you know who that was? That was Mayor Mendoza. He was my mentor and I worked as his Special Assistant before I was admitted to De La Salle,” explained Maria. “I’m so sorry but he helped me so much and I was shocked to see him there.”

Clarita gave Maria a hug and whispered in her ear. “That’s okay. I won’t put it down in your record. I understand how it is when a friend is brought to ER. But you did bounce back and there was nothing you did which affected the outcome. I hope you’ve learned a lot from this experience. Now go and tend to the other patients.”

“I’m sorry to announce that my father, Mayor Junior Mendoza, passed away two hours ago,” said Sara, reading from a prepared statement. “My father, Mayor Mendoza, left a legacy of life-time service to the people of Diliman City—a legacy that we, his children, hope to be able to somehow continue. He was very proud of his accomplishments as a Mayor as well as his championship bouts in boxing. Our family, led by my Mother Madame Ofelia Mendoza, would like to thank the staff of De La Salle for their efforts in trying to save him. De La Salle holds a special place in my father’s heart, having served for many years as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and leading the efforts to build this hospital. We ask that in this time of grief, you will allow our family to mourn but you will always remember our father and his service to Diliman City.”

More hazmat mishap victims were brought in to the hospital from the same accident that Junior was in.

Maria was not present at the media conference attended by almost fifty media representatives. She would not hear the details of the ongoing investigation into the gas leak that would take Junior’s life. She didn’t want to think of what would have happened to her if she had returned earlier. Would she have been able to save Junior? Would she have also been affected? Would she be alive today?

Maria knew deep down inside that now was not the time to concern herself with personal matters, although she was concerned how Junior’s death would affect her tuition waiver. She knew she had no more second chances and she had to convince Clarita and the rest of the hospital staff that she was worthy of being a nurse. She knew she had to work harder so there would be no doubt about her capabilities. Her family was relying on her.

For the next hour, Maria did her rounds, checking on each patient. More patients arrived every hour as the firemen were able to rescue them. Maria learned that a dozen already did not make it and the authorities feared there were even more trapped in the higher floors.

Maria was exhausted—physically and emotionally—and decided she needed a break to drink some water. Near the vending machines, she saw a couple of firefighters and police officers chatting. She recognized one of the firefighters, Captain Serrano, as she had met him at one of the San Miguel events where she was a hostess. Captain Serrano came from a political family in Cebu but decided to venture away from the family business of real estate, banking, and politics and instead decided to battle real emergencies.

Captain Serrano saw Maria and recognized her. “Aren’t you Mayor Mendoza’s aide? I’m so sorry. I tried to do everything. I saw him in the lobby with his phone, texting, and he just collapsed. We tried CPR for a while but we were not successful.”

“Thank you for trying,” Maria stuttered. “I used to work for him before I started at De La Salle. I’m sorry, I have to go but thank you.”

Maria knew if she engaged in more conversation with Captain Serrano and the others, she would begin sobbing like a baby and become an emotional wreck, which she did not want Clarita and other hospital staff to see. So she quickly excused herself under the pretense she had to complete her rounds.

But there was only one place that Maria knew she could hide. She texted Clarita she was going to take a lunch break. Clarita took the elevator to the basement, passed the hospital restaurant, opened the door to the chapel and entered.

She could hear a woman praying in between sobs.

Suddenly, the chapel doors opened, with several people coming in. “There you are, Mom. We were wondering where you were,” said Francisco, as Ofelia looked up from her prayers and locked eyes with Maria.