THE FIRST thing I became aware of as soon as I woke up was the strange sensation of aching on my head. The next thing that I became aware of, which was after I opened my eyes and took a better look at my surroundings, was the awful gut feeling that I was going to be in trouble.

“Mr. Wiggles!” I cried out as soon as I saw my beloved teddy bear sitting next to my bed. I quickly pulled him to a tight hug. “Mr. Wiggles, I think we’re in big trouble now! What could we possibly be doing in auntie’s house? Oh dear, Mr. Wiggles, what should we do? Chances are that auntie would’ve called daddy already! And that would not only mean that I would be in for lots of scolding, but would also mean me getting sent home!”

But I can’t go back now! I still hadn’t found Dy! After I’ve gone so far, I can’t end my fairytale adventure with a happily ever after! I nudged my little companion again as I sat back on the bed and recalled what happened to me hours ago.

“Let’s see—clothes, check; food, check; storybook, check; pillow and blanket, check! All right, I’m ready to go!” I said happily earlier this morning as I zipped my fully packed backpack close. “OK, Mr. Wiggles, this is it! There’s no backing out now? Are you with me?”

Not bothering to wait for the reply of my faithful teddy bear friend, I took him quickly to my arms before I quickly ran across the kitchen and to the back door. Since daddy and stepmom are out, and the maids are all sleeping like babies, no one heard me as I stepped outside the house, and not a single soul was there to stop me as I locked the gate and went off to the direction of the tricycle station. To think my heart was pounding nonstop every step of the way!

“But no one was there to stop us, Mr. Wiggles!” I told him happily as we stood patiently waiting for the next trike to come along (the tricycles were always so busy during mornings). “See, today is the day, Mr. Wiggles! We’re so lucky! I’m sure we’ll be able to find Dy in no time, then we’ll all be together again!”

Dy was my big brother, five or six years older than me, I think (he’s 17, and I’m 9). For as long I could remember, daddy and mommy were always busy with work and stuff, so Dy was the one who was always there to take care of me. He made sure I ate my meals, did my homework, and played with me whenever he could.

Dy has always been my very best friend, and he was always there to make everything better for me. So even after mommy died, I did not feel sad for a very long time because Dy was there to hug and comfort me on the day that of the funeral, and even during the days that our stepmom was around.

I was so sure stepmom was a witch in disguise. She always had this huge frown whenever daddy wasn’t around, and she was always picking on me or Dy for some reason. She always did what she could to make life miserable for me—which was why I was so sure that it was her fault why Dy suddenly left home without a good explanation.

The mere thought of it was enough to make me cry, so I decided to do something to cheer me up a bit. I plopped down the bench next to the tricycle station and pulled out a book out my bag to pass the time.

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“My First Fairytale Storybook” read the cover of my favorite book ever. I smiled a bit as I recalled how I came to love fairytales so much.

Every night, before I went to bed, Dy would always be there to read me a story from the fairytale book he got me as a present when I was four. The stories he read always fascinated me, for no matter how many big bad wolves, witches, giants and mean stepmoms may come in the way of the princes, princesses and children, they would always be able to defeat the bad guys and live happily ever after!

“Oh, Dy, look at them!” I told him one night after he read me another fairytale. “Even after their stepmom abandoned them in the middle of a big forest to be eaten by the witch in the gingerbread house, Hansel and Gretel were still able to find happily ever after in the end, right? So that would mean that we can be just like them and live happily ever after too!”

I could still remember how Dy scoffed lightly at me. “Sissy, ‘Hansel and Gretel’ is just a fairytale. Happily ever afters don’t come true in real life.”

“You’re such a wet blanket, Dy!” I stuck my tongue out at him. “Hmph, if our stepmom suddenly comes up and throws us in the middle of the forest of the witch, we’ll see who’s right!”

“Sissy, that’s ridiculous! There’s no forest anywhere near Manila!”

“Who knows with our stepmom? I wouldn’t be surprised if she were the witch herself!” I said confidently. Dy smiled lightly at that. “Well on that point, we certainly agree. Just don’t say that in front of stepmom though. You can’t possibly want her to hate you more than she already does.”

“OK.” I paused a bit to think about what I was to say next before looking back up at Dy. “Hey, Dy?”

“Yeah?” “If one day, I’ll be able to find my happily ever after, will you be there with me?”

“What? Again with your happily ever after thing?” Dy rolled his eyes. I pouted at him. “You may think it’s funny now, but I’ll definitely find it, Dy! I’ll find that happily ever after for sure! Then you’ll be sorry that you ever thought it was stupid!”

“Oh, that will be the day, sissy, I’m sure.” Dy grinned cheekily as he poked my forehead. “Now off to dreamland you go, sissy. You still need to wake up early for school tomorrow.”

“Ah! But you still don’t believe me, Dy!” “We’ll see, sissy, we’ll see.”

Moments I had with Dy were always like that—full of fun, laughter and gentle teasing. It was moments like these that made living in our house for me bearable, because Dy was always there to turn things around, like Hansel does in Hansel and Gretel.

But everything for us changed two weeks ago.

I know that Dy is a kind and caring person deep down, but whenever he’s around my stepmom, he changes. He would always become angrier and more stubborn, and he always made stepmom angry because of that. Not that he cared though—he never liked stepmom after all.

But daddy did, and he thought that Dy was going too far with how he treated stepmom. I didn’t understand much, because even though daddy and Dy were already yelling at each other, I can’t make out what they were saying. But the end result of it was daddy sending Dy away from home to live somewhere else without much ceremony. I didn’t even know about Dy being sent away until I arrived home. It was stepmom who told me about it, and with a grin on her face too. It was that grin and the fact that Dy wasn’t going to be there for me anymore that made my world crumble to my feet.

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“But I won’t need to worry anymore!” I remarked, tucking my book back into my bag after a reading of Hansel and Gretel because there was already a tricycle waiting for me. “Don’t worry, Dy, I’ll find you soon, and then I’ll show you that we can have a happily ever after too! Let’s go, Mr. Wiggles!”

With that, I happily made my way to the tricycle, positive that everything about my grand fairytale adventure would go just the way I thought it would.

If only things ended that way though.

“Greta?!” “Wha—?” I was shaken out of my memories when I heard a familiar voice call my name. My heart then soared when I saw who it was who called me.

Dy! It’s my brother Dy! “Ah, Dy, you’re—oof!”

But before I can say anything else, my voice was muffled when Dy pulled me to a bone crushing hug. “Wha—Dy, what are you—?”

“God, Greta, don’t you dare scare me like that again!” Dy’s voice sounded both angry and upset next to my shoulder. “Who gave you the bright idea to run away and head to the city? I can’t believe you let yourself be put in such danger! If I didn’t find out from dad that you ran away, then who knows what more could’ve happened to you!”

“B—but I did it to look for you, Dy.” I tried to say despite the choking feeling on my throat. “And I didn’t run away from home. I—I was just planning to bring you back home!”

“What do you mean bring me back? Don’t you know how ridiculous that sounds, Greta? Did you honestly think that even if you did find me, that I’ll be able to go back home so easily?” Dy snapped harshly, pulling away to look at me in the eyes. “Greta, I told you before that the real world doesn’t work the way fairytales do! There are no fairy godmothers, genies, princes and princesses in the real world! Only adults who think they can bully anybody weaker than them! So stop believing in your nonsense happily ever after, because it was that stupid idea that nearly got you lost in the city and nearly got you hit by a car if I didn’t push you out of the way on time! Damn it, Greta, life is already hard for me as it is, so stop adding to my problems already, for pity’s sake!”

Dy never shouted at me before. He always sounded so patient and gentle whenever he spoke to me, so being at the receiving end of his screams made me scared, confused and upset. “Dy, I—I’m—Greta is—”

I wanted to speak. I wanted to say what I wanted to say so desperately that I felt at that moment that I need to talk as much as I needed to breathe. But the pain in my head and heart overwhelmed that wanting by my need to cry.

It’s been a long time since I cried like this. The last time I did was on the day mommy died—tears after tears flowed freely down my burning cheeks, my throat bawled out continuous sobs, and my body was shaking like crazy.

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“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry, Andy!” I sobbed as I angrily wiped my tears away. “I—I didn’t know I was making things hard for you. I didn’t know that I make you angry now. All—all I wanted was for us to be together again, because I thought—that if we’re together, then we’ll be all right, just like Hansel and Gretel.”

“Greta—” “But if I’m just being trouble to you, then I’ll go away. If—if it makes Andy happier, then I won’t go find you again. I know auntie would’ve called daddy about me by now, so by the time he comes back here, I’ll just go back with him. I know it’ll be hard to get used to not being having you around anymore, but I can do it. If—if doing this will bring me a step closer in finding your happily ever after, then I can do it!” I hugged Mr. Wiggles closer. “I’m sorry, Andy, but no matter how many times you yell or get angry at me, I can’t give up on happily ever after. Even if the whole world says it doesn’t exist, I won’t give up finding it for you, because I know that happily ever afters are real, Andy! I know they’re real because I know that my happily ever after is seeing my big brother happy. That’s why I—”

“No happily ever after is worth you, sissy.”

“What?” “No happily ever after is worth losing you.” Dy repeated, drawing me to another hug. “I’m sorry I yelled at you, sissy. And I’m sorry I called you trouble. I didn’t mean any of that. I was just so worried, so upset at you for making me nearly think that I’ve lost the only true family I have left.”

“Dy.” “And I don’t want you out of my life, sissy. If only the circumstances were different, then I would’ve been so happy to see you again.” Dy ruffled my hair. “I don’t believe in happily ever afters anymore, sissy, because I don’t need them. I don’t need that fantasy to make me happy. You’re here, aren’t you?”

“R—Really?” I looked up hopefully at my brother. “So—so you won’t send me away?” “Of course not, sissy! Just so you know, auntie’s been out of town for the past three days, so it’s just me here all by myself. And I just told dad that you’ll have to spend the rest of the weekend with me since you still need to recover from that head injury you got when I had to push you away from that speeding car.”

Oh, yeah I remember that experience too well. It taught me really well that I should look left and right before crossing the street.

“Hey, don’t look so down anymore, sissy.” Dy added gently. “If you don’t get better soon, then who will help me pack my things?”

“Pack?” I looked up at him in confusion. “Pack for what?”

Dy smirked knowingly at me. “Well, after thinking a lot of things over and talking a bit with dad, I just came to the conclusion that I can’t very well leave you alone to the mercy of the witch known as our stepmom, right?”

It took me five full seconds to finally understand what he was getting at, and with a loud cry of delight, I dropped Mr. Wiggles and tackled my laughing older brother again.

I know that our lives were far from perfect, but right now, this moment was happily ever after enough for me.

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