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Conquering What's Within SHORT STORY

Conquering What’s Within
By Joann Mae Marie C. Orbon
A typical afternoon in year 2004 was the starting point
of a mother’s dream for her very own firstborn. She has always
given regard to healthcare providers particularly those who
interact most with patients and whose hands turn unsterile
every time due to their own clients’ ailments. Maria gives her
hats off to all nurses she bumps into whenever possible. She
optimistically spoke, “The fulfillment of her aspirations will be
mine as well. The pencil she picked up first on her crib is surely
a sign. I hope she’ll be like you.” The nurse curved her lips into
a smile.
Maria was just a teen when she felt a special force
calling her to motherhood, but she knew better. She finished
college by balancing work and academics with a scholarship.
She then went on taking up her own crosses by putting aside
love and focusing more on livelihood to pay for her siblings’
education. Maria has this futuristic view that her decisions in
life will be copied by her future child. “My daughter must
inherit the greatness in me,” she thought to herself. Right when
she met the man that she was forced to marry at age 28 and
when she gave birth to Mae did she realize how great of a
mother she is as repeatedly uttered by her own little one. She
felt like she has reached the milestone of her life.
“Mom, I’m going to school now! Thank you for being the best
momma in the whole world. Take care at work. Someday I will be your
future nurse!” Maria pecked a kiss on daughter’s forehead and waved
Mae conforms to her mother’s orders. She may be five but she’s
surprisingly solving huge puzzle pieces. Her mom says, “You should
have your siesta, so you’ll grow taller. Puzzle—.”
“later, anak,” Mae finished her mother’s usual line. Maria feels
frustrated when her daughter spends so much time solving the puzzle
pieces like her life depends on it. It was not something she expected of
her first child, yet she is beyond grateful for helping herself to
understand complicated things like such at age five.
“Later in life you will eventually solve these pieces and when you
do, you’ll see the same thing that you’re forming.”
“Like a stethoscope too, Mom?”
Mae smiled as if realizing something. “But I want to be like uncle,
Lolo and auntie now! Can I be a healthcare provider now, Mom? Like
Maria laughs to her daughter and fixed her bangs. “Someday but
not too soon. You need to gain strength and wisdom from the trials to
prepare yourself beforehand. Trials like adjusting to the people around
you. You need to sleep now so you could treat sick Barbie as soon as
possib—". Maria let out a soft chuckle at the sight of her daughter’s
abrupt lying down. She stared for so long to her sleeping young one and
she kissed her daughter’s forehead once more.
“MARIA! GO TO WORK NOW! I’ll look out for that girl.
GO!” Her husband banged the door open and stood in front of
“Don’t lay your hands on her or else.” She stared coldly
to ‘the biggest regret of her life’ and past him she trotted.
New day at school equates to new challenges but I refuse
to see it this way. Another day spent means there are fewer days
till I graduate high school and be part of history. Wow, I could
really be optimistic, huh? For the past ten months I emplace
myself into thinking these notions and I invest more on
optimism to finish all that needs to be done. There would be
times when I am in awe of myself after ascertaining the way I
managed my mindset well on certain things that could affect my
sensitive feelings. I had really mastered the art of overcoming
emotions. I’m so proud of myself. If it weren’t for that bad
experience, I would have always been the terrified Mae. I sat down
with my two peers in the lobby of our school’s building. They
are understanding enough to let me be on my own world while
listening to my favorite song Touch the Sky. They were laughing
out loud for some reason I couldn’t fathom. Perhaps I could ask
them when I wrap-up my playlist? It is four in the afternoon and
today is the bittersweet day I always imagined since seventh
grade. Today is literally the last day that I’ll be spending with
the people who made my final year in high school manageable
and fun. I had spent hours talking and expressing my
gratefulness not only to my friends but also to my teachers.
I guess a little moment of relaxation through music wouldn’t hurt. I
directed my gaze to the corridor and thought about the 20 months of
journey in this pink building I once called home.
Find me here at your feet again, everything I am, reaching out, I
“I sing with a choir in our church. I am able to serve God and bond
with my mother more in that way.”
I nodded and genuinely smiled to my friend. We are talking about
our religion for about an hour now. We agreed on knowing each other more
through asking personal questions. Could this day get any better? I am all
smiles since the first period because of the bond I had with my big circle of
friends. I came from a Catholic school and I only had three kind girls with
me for the entire four years I had in Junior High. After the moving up, I was
anxious if I’d ever find the same set of friends I can depend on when life
goes downhill a.k.a. when problems arise at home. We are ten in our group
and it could be unrealizable at first but everyone has partaken their own
stories about God for the past three months which is truly unreal to think
about. This moment is one for the books, I tell you. I am that kind of person
who thinks of the worst scenario most of the time and since I left my
beautiful home, Sacred Heart School and the nuns I loved dearly, I had
imagined of witnessing all the inappropriate occurence that I never
experienced in Sacre. I thought about learning to discipline myself more
that I am always on the road by myself. To have this support system was a
miracle in this age and time.
Four months had passed and I realized that having a strong
connection with the right people is truly beneficial for survival in
school. Not that friends matter more than grades, of course. The
encouraging words I absorb from them and the puissance I get
from the sense of belonging they let me experience aid me to get
by. It is an understatement to say that they bestow me the potency
that make me the Mae with high grades. I see my comrades a part
of me and it sucks that I have no one at home but I have so much on
this “temporary home”.
I am not feeling well today. This is not the first time that my
migraine is forcefully activating the pain receptors on my head so
I had to tell my friends to execute everything without me again. I
am physically present but my mind is flying somewhere else. I
stared in a blank space and to my friends holding a voice recorder
and a videocamera. They are filming a priest for an interview. I
must say they have very good interviewing skills. I’m more than
contented that they followed everything and some adlibs I’ve
written for the script. That is the usual scene. I write and think of
what needs to be done, foresee the best framework for our
projects and they carry out the procedures because I cannot even
stand properly. I just love this whole bunch for taking over.
“I’m glad to know you all. Thanks for accepting my silliness
into your elite group,” says Bianca after the interview.
“There she goes again. Ha ha ha!” I cannot help but laugh
to her puns.
“But seriously though. I enjoyed shooting our MIL Project!
“But seriously though. I enjoyed shooting our MIL Project!
This documentary about angels gave me goosebumps,” says Isabel.
“Thank you for cooperating with me. You guys were all so
thrilled and enthusiastic I thought you were just acting like it.”
“Trust on us, Mae.”
It was one of my most thankful moments. I hold onto my
grades because I can’t with my own flesh and blood. Those numbers
are the only proof that I am worthy of living. But there would come
a time when my body will betray me and force me to rest. I still have
to study! My father will hurt me! Thank heavens my friends are
such angels willing to back me up.
“Sleepyhead, wake up. Sir is coming.” I felt a cold hand touch
my forehead as I slowly open my eyes. I never realized I fell asleep
in class.
“Guess I’m still not feeling well.”
“Does your arm hurt?”
My eyes travelled down to my soar arm and onto my hands
with traces of blood. “A little,” I whispered. I am fully covered with
a thin jacket and I could only hope that the red stains won’t be much
of a problem today. This secret shall be buried underneath the
Earth to keep me alive and kicking. He’s always warned me to zip
my sinful lips.
Sir V went inside and gave us a quick reminder on the
upcoming exams. He also gave us another task to accomplish for the
day. “You’ll be using your drawing skills today.”
The class went wild. Well, at least they feel the
struggle too. I suck at drawing but I have to do well on this
and for goodness sake, my temperature isn’t pitching in to my
plan again. Better to endure the tasks here in school than
torture myself with that man at home. Twenty minutes flew
by and I am still staring at this white sheet. I could have
drawn a wild masterpiece by now if it weren’t for my
enervated physique. My head seems to be in scarcity of
brilliant ideas at the moment. I just want to sleep this
frustration away.
“Remember the documentary we filmed last week and
the good grade we get from our teamwork? Remember the
words of Fr. Lucas? And your favorite lyrical excerpt?”
Francesca suddenly came out of the blue. This girl knows
when to save me.
Come sweep me up in Your love again
And my soul will dance
On the wings of forever~
I remember it clearly. This is the song that gave me
strength since last year. The song that revitalized my being.
“My heart beating, my soul breathing. I found my life
when I laid it down,” My voice sounds dreadful singing to it
but I was so happy my friend knocked some sense out of me.
It’s agonizing to battle with my own body, a bleeding one for
that matter, but I’ll try my best because the song gave me a
reason to. Lord, for you I’m doing this. I proceed on sketching
a dove.
That was really a fast and witty concept to make. I
mouthed, “Thank you Ces.”
Those were one of the days that my heart was pounding
with so much joy I could even hear it thumping “Thanks”. I
realized that I was fortunate to have a support system like that.
I was feeble at home but I regain my strength from the words of
my friends; like a dried flower blooming to life again because of
sunlight. There are times when I’ll ask myself how come I have
maintained a good standing in academics when my mind is
stuck deeming of the crisis in my household? I do most of the job
of course but my determination to keep going would have
vanished a long time ago if it weren’t for my peers’ soothing
reminders. These nine ladies became the great pillars to my
roof. It was a bittersweet moment to think about the past. They
were once here showering me with inspiration but now they
went away with the current. No one dared to fight the waves.
We ordered food in the canteen and quickly went to our
favorite place as usual. I happily sat on my chair and asked
everyone, “So excited for the school fair! Are you?” I checked on
my friend’s reactions and I was dumbfounded to see their cold
“Hey, uhm, is anyone going with me?” These weird fellas
are pranking me again. Way to go!
Again with the no response.
“Unless I get credit for my hardwork then—,”
exclaimed Bianca.
“That was my idea too—,” shouted Isabel.
“Oh then how the hell.”
“How the hell am I better than you?”
My eyebrows raised at the sarcasm in their words.
What the freak is going on? They are still spitting fire but they
weren’t looking at each other. Are they seriously fighting in
front of our meal? So no one from the group is going to stop
them? I shaked my head in disappointment at my oblivion.
Why am I not informed about this conflict? Isabel loudly put
down his utensils and headed for the canteen doors. Four of
my friends stood up in unison as they evil eyed me and the
rest from the circle. What? I don’t get it. Is this a prank?
Things were okay all year round until the fourth
quarter. I felt like I was thrown in a deep well looking for light.
I cannot see. I can’t grab a ladder to go back. I was drowning.
My life at home was pure torture and my other world is slowly
falling apart.
“I am not buying that Isabel. Come on now. It’s easy to
say you got my idea and never gave me credit for it. We’re
always together. We work on projects as one team and it’s
easy to admit that my ideas are better than yours sometimes!”
Bianca stood from her chair and pointed her long finger
to my friend.
The day after the rebuttal was the time when I admitted
to myself that the tables have officially turned for me. I hit rock
bottom and the last weapon I could resort to to continue living
has turned into a massive problem that I have to deal with too. I
ate all by myself and rumor has it that my group had split into
two because of the conflict between Bianca and Isabel. I cannot
take sides. I’d rather be alone and to my horror, we’re grouped
again for a project in Biology. I could not believe that they hold
onto their pride for this immature drama. It’s getting out of hand
and my classmates are looking towards our direction now it’s
embarrassing. My being outdated adds so much mental trauma
that my chest literally feels like bursting for an explosion.
“We know you’re carrying so much at home we don’t want
you to think more about this,” Viel whispered to me.
“What is going on? I feel betrayed!”
“And hurt. You’ve been a good Ate to us that we don’t
want you upset.” She let out a deep sigh and continued, “but we
can’t control the emotions of these two. They’re just not in good
terms right now. Please refrain from being affected Mae. Stay out
of it.” They know I can never do that.
I noisily let out my
frustration and I buffered for a minute as I absorb this agonizing
moment. Why did this dilemma come out when school year is
about to end?
I scanned the crowd to see handful of jaws dropping
as they witness Bianca’s soft image turning three hundred
sixty degrees now that she is fuming angry. I’m the one in
the middle, lost and confused.
“Why are we suddenly splitting up? Can we stop this
drama!” I shouted.
“Easy, Mae. We don’t always believe Isabel,”
exclaimed CJ.
“Nor we always believe Bianca! Dream on. I know
your duality Biancs since the start of the schoolyear!” says
I can no longer take it from there. I ran to the back of
the room and out to the hallway. I received a text from Mimi.
I was catching my breath when I felt the vibration from my
It was a good idea that you went away, Mae. Now
they’re blaming you for tolerating Isabel and discrediting
Bianca. I know you’re a great leader but do you really have to
do that? I’m hurt. You’re smart but you can be a total
disappointment too.
My knees felt weak for this confrontation and lie. I sat
down on the quiet hallway. Insecurities killed the friendship.
So am I wrong to have this massive group? How dense am I
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I felt the sting on my arms
and the cold belt touching my body when he is enjoying the
sight of my blood. I closed my eyes as I recalled those nights
with him in the dark.
“Dad, please. I’m sorry. I’ll do better in school.
Promise! Dad! Please!”
And the thick leather belt hit my thighs again. Mom
doesn’t know, and I will be cold dead if she did. Father bought
me another jacket to cover up my wounds. I could count he
has five of different variants every night he’s planned to enjoy
his new “hobby”.
I held my jacket tightly as blood dripped out from my
arms. The wound is still fresh. I hope this heals before I
become the person who does the job of healing.
The simple argument turned worse. I looked at this
thin piece of white paper holding my future. For the first time
in forever I got a line of 8. I missed all group performance
tasks for all subjects. My grade went ten feet underground
and I lost all my friends just because of the insecurity I never
thought existed within our group. I have to prepare for my
punishment later today. I clenched my fist while holding my
red jacket.
What is God really telling me? I’ve tried my hardest to reconcile
these kind people but turns out they were mad at me too. I do
not understand where they are coming from, Lord.
Upward falling, spirit soaring, I touch the sky when my knees hit
the ground~
“Viel, can I talk to you for a minute please?”
“Just 60 seconds.”
“If you want a timer, then go ahead. I miss all of you. Are
there any ways we could do to fix this? I’m transferring school
next year. My parents decided to split up because my mom knew
about… this,” I pointed to my bruises. “And you know what
happens after that. I just want you to know that being open to
each other is crucial. Challenges in school will ALWAYS test our
patience. If you think you cannot continue further, then blaming
another person won’t help you win this game. Look up, kneel
down and pour your heart to Him. This way you’ll get moving to
the right path. Our religious circle had forgotten God and made
us slaves to our own hardships. I thought we will never be fazed
by any of that? I’m still helping you out here even if everyone has
turned their backs on me. I’m still the Ate of the group,” I turned
around after saying those words I always wanted to tell them.
I’m in awe to have the courage to speak to them again after the
troublesome experience. This closure is harder than I thought.
For the last time, Mae, let those tears back to your ducts. You
need to appear bold and undaunted.
“Mae, trust that I will relay your words to them. The
storm…has calmed down. Thank you for being the dove we
always needed for strength.”
“You did just the same for… me.”
I left her after I bid my last farewell.
This is my last day as an 11th grade student and I am still
alone in my serenity. I am part of the top 5 in the batch but I
am not totally happy. Teens do have extreme emotions and I
am glad I was able to control mine. I shed a tear for the things
I have realized and I am so proud of not self-destructing. In this
moment, I found strength from my own self but I never really
wanted to forget that bitter past. Did God make me experience
that silent treatment so I could talk to myself more? I just know
that I am more prepared for the battle that lies ahead. I only
have myself and thank heavens I’m stronger as ever.
Will I forgive? Will I forget the words thrown like
daggers to my heart during those days that I was close to
waving the white flag?
“You always wanted to be a leader but you take sides.”
“You’re the angel within the group but you are just a
silent killer.”
“You know we hate you right?”
“You know we used you for grades, right?”
I am Mae, an eighteen-year-old whose fragile heart
almost become her reason of giving in to darkness.
I am close to having depression and the ones that I
thought were my angels turned demons to lure me into
ending my own life. Lord, why did they have to hide
behind those masks?
I forcefully wiped my face from the stupid tears. I
am hearing something. I looked up to see my two friends
huddled around me. What is this? Viel knelt down in front
of me and said she’s sorry. CJ followed and mouthed,
“Thank you for making us realize a very important life
hack...again.” I pat both of their heads, cried and laughed
with them. “But where are the others?”
“They decided to leave. Sorry Mae but some
people’s hearts are really closed for this,” says Viel.
“I am deeply lonesome that they get devoured by
their own anger but we are here to say that we’re thankful
of you. We were always each other’s strength and I am
beyond happy to be back here with you. I am deeply sorry
for taking sides.” I no longer said anything and just
hugged them. The real ones will stay, and I have these two
They come, and they go. Some people are here but
eventually will be gone. Some friendships won’t last long
especially if it isn’t real. I learned four crucial life lessons:
Do not be too attached; be mighty enough to ignore
negativities to carry on in life;
millennials must master the art of overcoming emotions to cope
with the labels of society; and trust is not something thrown at
people initially when they show kindness. My goal is to finish
school and invest more in myself. If I learn to overcome my
emotions, I’d be able to work more efficiently so that I could be
the best nurse that my mom always wanted me to be.
My friends are like patients in need of care. I am like my
friends too. We need therapeutic treatment and communication.
Just like how I must tell them what their weaknesses are and not
letting them give their word of dependence. Just like how they
assist me with hopes of curing me along the way and in return, I
will always be just around the corner to listen and ask for God’s
miracle. Just like what a true nurse should do for her clients.
So this is my mother’s remark. I should build good connections
with the people around me, but I should pick the true jewel in all
deceiving shows.
Listening alone could be an aid. These conflicts had been my
training ground. Lord, truly knows his plans for me.
Upward falling, spirit soaring, I touch the sky when my
knees hit the ground~
The song stopped because of the sudden ringing on my pocket. My
reminiscing mind went back to earth. A twelve-digit lighted up my
phone. “Congrats, anak. You passed Ateneo! Road to becoming a
student nurse! Let’s celebrate later.” It was mom and I told her I’ll
come home immediately.
“Mae! Let us visit father now! Come!”
“Sure thing!” I removed my earpods and walked with them. I
smiled and looked up. All the downs of my life had a reason. I’m blessed
to discover that I’m stronger because of Him.
“Congratulations again, bestie!”
“You always inspire us, you deserve it!”
I hugged them once more before entering the chapel and
meeting Father Lucas for the last time.