Pssst….Can You Keep a Secret?

Fourth in a series

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.

In the Philippines, when a single woman gets pregnant, she is often married off in a shot-gun wedding. Unlike the United States, abortions in the Philippines are illegal.

To Maria’s relief, the cashier was quick and Maria was able to leave Mercury without anyone else seeing her.

For Maria, neither option was on the table for her. Maria knew that. Francisco knew that. Nor would Maria even think of marrying someone else who could appear to be the father of her child.

But Francisco was dumbfounded with Maria’s fear that she was pregnant. He knew his father could not have impregnated Maria. Francisco questioned Maria, “Have you been with anyone else, Maria?”

Maria was shocked at Francisco’s question. “What kind of person do you think I am?” Infuriated, Maria stormed out of Francisco’s apartment, leaving Francisco profusely apologizing for his statement. But Maria would not hear any of it, and with her tears streaming down her face, she ran past Tino, the guard, and returned to pray silently at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

The text from Junior interrupted her prayers and Maria deleted it without even reading it. Maria knew she had to return soon but she first had to compose herself and try to explain to Junior where she was. And Maria was not in the mood for any love making. Another text came in… this time from Francisco and Maria also deleted Francisco’s text without reading it and blocked him on her phone. Maria could not understand why Francisco would think she had been with someone else. “They’re all the same,” Maria thought. “Just because they have money, they have no respect for women.”

But Maria’s lack of money meant she really had no options if she wanted to finish at De La Salle. She vowed that once she finished, she would move away… and in the meantime, she really had no choice… and there was no Prince Charming in sight to rescue her.

Maria continued to pray to the Blessed Mary, asking for courage and strength. After praying, Maria felt calmer, and decided she needed to make a few more stops before going back to Junior. As Maria exited St. Mary’s Cathedral, she saw the Mercury Drug Store, and decided to go find something that would help her feel better.

In the Mercury Drug Store, Maria went to the over the counter medical section, hoping to find something that would make her feel better. She couldn’t decide whether to get some Dramamine, some Tylenol, some cough syrup. She walked up and down the aisles, looking for a cure-all. Then she saw the sign, advertising a pregnancy test from Clear Blue. Although Maria was in nursing school, she was quite naive about such matters. She read the box and learned it was easy to administer so she quickly looked around, saw no one familiar in the Drug Store, and proceeded to the cash register that was manned by a young girl. To Maria’s relief, the cashier was quick and Maria was able to leave Mercury without anyone else seeing her.

As Maria exited Mercury Drug, she smelled the aroma of pan de sal. Maria saw Tito’s Bakery, famous for their pan de sal. Maria knew Junior loved his pan de sal so she decided to get some to placate Junior. After buying a bag of pan de sal, Maria knew she had to hurry back to Junior’s apartment.

But it was not meant to be.

Her phone was buzzing with texts from the hospital, requesting all personnel to report. Usually such texts were sent when there was a calamity of sorts. And students were the last to be called in but Maria knew that many nurses were away at the International Convention in Cebu. So nursing students were also on-call and Maria knew that she had to rush to the De La Salle Hospital.
Upon her arrival at the Hospital, the charge nurse, Clarita, told Maria the situation. There had been a gas leak at one of the luxury apartment buildings in Mandaluyong on Shaw Boulevard. Clarita said that more than fifty folks had been admitted within the past half hour and more were expected but it was taking a long time for the firemen to rescue all of them because the elevators were automatically disabled.

Clarita instructed Maria that her job would be to go to each patient and assess their situation. Maria was raring to go and knew that this would be another way for her to prove to Clarita and the rest of the medical staff that she deserved to be at De La Salle; she had heard some comments that she was someone’s special project/friend.

Maria began her assignment and went into the first ER room, station A1. The patient, a man in his thirties, was stable, with oxygen flowing. His vitals were normal. Maria continued her visits and each patient was stable. A half hour later, Maria was feeling a little dizzy and decided to take a break to get some water.

Just as soon as Maria finished drinking her water, the doors swung wide open, with medical personnel, racing with a body on a gurney. Clarita met them and instructed them to go to station B3. The hospital paging system announced a Code Blue-Special, which meant that someone of importance–politically or financially, was in cardiac arrest. Clarita saw Maria and instructed her to follow the gurney into B3.

This was Maria’s first experience in such an emergency and she was excited to be part of the team, even though she was still a student.
Her excitement, however, quickly turned to despair when she learned who the patient was—Junior.