Illustration by Fritzie Marie C. AmarANA CERVANTES thought nothing could ruin the night.

She stood at the far end of the restaurant’s parking lot, humming softly as she opened the door of her second-hand Civic. It was dark in the area for half of the lamps were already turned off, but she wasn’t bothered. She was in a celebratory mood, her heart light over being offered her own column. She smiled as she got in the car, her mind still wrapped up on the night’s happenings. She locked the doors and was about to start the engine.

Then, a gunshot.

She ducked down, her small frame making it easy to squeeze most of her upper body in the cramped space under the steering wheel. Bang. She dared not look up, the guts that came easy on coverage flying out of the window. Her chest was pressed against her thighs and she could feel her heart pounding.

Bang.

She heard a couple of men talking in the distance but couldn’t understand what they were saying. A motorcycle engine started. She sat back up.

She squinted, trying to make out the faces of the men, but the shadows rendered by a nearby lamp hid their features. She unlocked the door as the men drove away, their wheels screeching.

Meters away from her was a fat, balding man bathed in a pool of blood. She felt nauseous but willed herself to walk closer to the body. When she bent over and saw the man’s face, she gasped.

It was 1979 and she was five years old again.

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Her mother was holding her hand tightly as they ran on the dark, narrow alley in Tondo. In front of them was her father, who had all their bags. She looked up at her mother’s long, beautiful face and seeing the calmness there, she smiled.

“Faster,” her father hissed. Although her feet were hurting because of her thin rubber slippers and the rocky road, she followed, giggling and pulling away from her mother’s grasp.

Her father took a turn. She kept on running after him, taking occasional glances at her mother behind her. Her fear of the dark diminished with every step.

She saw her father, who stood by a wall, his hands up in the air.

“Pa—“

A gunshot.

She stopped running. Her father fell against the wall and slid down slowly. Police officers were aiming their guns at him. She didn’t look away as several gunshots followed the first.

Her mother reached her side, pulled her into a dark corner—away from the officers’ sight—and covered her ears.

Bang.

A tear fell down her cheek as she stared at her mentor’s face. Mr. Olivarez was her father’s best friend, the man who took them in after her father’s death and taught her everything she knew about the profession she loved.

Ana Cervantes thought nothing could ruin that night. But the man who helped her get to her cause of celebration was lying in that pool of blood. It used to be a beautiful night. Rose-An Jessica M. Dioquino

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