Sal planted one herb in the slit of the window and it was growing well. It would be nice if this gets to thrive. The maid back in the Casa immediately disposed of the one she planted before.

Someone banged the door so loud and shook the knob, she thought it would fall over. Sal shrunk in a corner, but relented when the other voice spoke. Just out by the door, a girl stood at about Sal’s shoulder’s height, her pristine white dress soiled by a large brown mud stain. To Sal’s surprise, the girl barged in and locked the door before proceeding to lay on Sal’s bed. This was an invasion.

“I believe, this is not your room.” Sal opened the door.

The child got up. “Oh, and my spare clothes are in the study room.”

A study room? “Books. Does it have books?”

“Well, boring ones. But you might as well get my clothes. The study room is just straight out of the hallway,” The child picked at her nose and wiped her hand on the sheets.” And turn right.”

As soon as Sal stepped out, the child chimed in.”When they ask for Marcia, tell them I’m gone.”

Sal just wanted to see the books in the study room. It was not hard to find although she did wander quite for some time and the bigger challenge was on hiding herself. There are sometimes peopBefore she was able to see the study room, hushed voices rushed out from a slightly opened room on her left. It would be rude and impolite to eavesdrop but Sal can’t help herself.

“ Will Marcia be fine?”

Marcia, she said tell them she’s gone. Sal kept her ear close by the door as the two caretakers conversed.

“A Mercantile wants to adopt her. Who can be luckier than her?”

One woman snickered. “ A piece of work she is. She will be their problem then anyway.”le who’d pass by. But she managed fine, she thinks.

The two women were going about the place. They went about opening boxes and overturning mattresses and looking under furniture even going so far as checking the slits of the floorboards. The bug-faced one spoke “A letter, jewelry. Just any unusual item you find will do.”

“Don’t you think this is going overboard?” The caretaker with long hair spoke.

“Don’t be a wimp then. You can leave anytime you want.” The woman continued on and spilled the contents of a box on the bed.

“Nay Rosa will be angry.”

“I’m telling you, Madam will even thank you for this. Besides, I thought you don’t want to go back to the factories? I’m telling you, with the meager donations we get, the moment they trace the Signor’s bastard child in this house. We’re dead.”

Sal’s hands went numb, but common sense must have flew out of the window for she kept on listening.

“But is that rumor about a green child true?”

“ At this point, is it even far-fetched if a man who’d cover up his crimes with murder would have a child like that?”



Sal watched the lone herb growing in her room. This poison. This cursed thing. She remembers how the maid crushed the small plant in her hands before and Sal vowed never to do get attached to small mundanities and strange things like that. After all, the maid was right, looking out the window would lead to her being discovered. And there was nothing more horrible than that.

Sal proceeded to try and kill the plant in the windowsill, but it was a different sight that welcomed her. Lea was on the yard, inspecting a carriage parked there. The woman waved at her before coming to the room.

“’Nay Rosa will see us.” Sal had replied. She didn’t know that person, but everyone has been using her name.

“Listen!‘Nay Rosa sent us on an errand. If she learns that you disobeyed her, the others will be angry.” The woman leaned close to her, the close contact rendering so much discomfort. The woman shrugged. “Well, of course. You are the princess after all.”

Sal cringed at the words, how the woman spoke them was grating. She had no arrows, no words to retort with. It did not matter. What was important were Ren’s orders, best not to anger the other staff. She heaved. “I’ll go.”

And like that, Sal let herself be taken into the woman’s devices. This woman instructed her to hide on an empty cart where they lay on the hard, dirty wood covered by a moldy, smelly cloth. The road was bumpy but at least the ride was slow. But every minute, Sal held her breath together.

Quite some time later, the carriage stopped. Someone opened the cloth covering the two stowaways in the cart. The caretaker with long hair stood over them. Distress written on her furrowed brows and her shrill voice.

Sal held her fingers together, eyes closed. But the braided woman beside her had drunk up all the guts and the rudeness in the world.

“Well, why did you only spot us now?”

“You !” the long-haired woman sputtered.

“You can kick us out of this cart now. Come on!”

The long-haired woman held her fist to her side. Sal would almost shrink at the knowledge of where she is. She glanced at the braided woman who beamed like a proud crow in the sun. This woman was a bird she wished she could pluck all her feathers out. Oh, how nice her braid is, how nice to pull.

The caretaker spoke, “You lot are trouble. You, what do you want?”

“Just a whiff of fresh air for me and my companion here.”

The woman heaved, “I’ll be watching you. Stay on the cart while I shop. Don’t make trouble. Do not draw attention to yourself. Don’t look at people. Don’t point at people. Keep yourself quiet and most importantly, do not stare.”

Sal nodded.

The braided woman must be pleased at her trickery. For not only did the caretaker lie to the constables at the gates. She claimed that only she and the caretaker entered the town plaza. Sal kept herself a good distance from the braided woman inside the cart and tried hard to behave herself, but as soon as the caretaker took some time to retrieve fallen groceries, the braided woman snuck out of the cart.

Sal crouched unto herself waiting for the caretaker to come back.

The long-haired caretaker arrived, obviously in distress at the stow away and Sal could only shake her head at the question of Lea’s whereabouts.

“Hey child, are you alright?” the woman asked.

No, she was not fine. Her back hurt from having to lay for quite a while in a shaking cart and also having to expose herself in the sun.

“You must be feeling hot.” The caretaker led her to a small hut barred by trees which was used as a storage for coconuts.

Sal scanned the place for other people. Despite the emptiness, there was a certain sense that she’s being watched.

“Don’t worry. There are not too many people here. Stay here while I look for Lea.” She ordered. “Oh, and also” The woman fetched a small cloth pouch from her pocket and handed it to Sal.”I got something for the two of you. Don’t open it until Lea arrives.”

Sal did as she was told and waited for the caretaker. What good was it to disobey now? She stayed crouched by the door of the hut when Lea appeared, alone.

Lea darted to where Sal stood and immediately whispered a question conspiratorially in her ear. “The caretaker? Where did she go?”

Sal shrugged. “She was looking for a quacking goose.”


Sal pointed a long finger at Lea.

Lea shoved the finger down. “How many minutes has it been since she was away?”

“Quite a while.”


“Quite a while to come back.”

A clack of a cart’s wheels accompanied by a holler of a wareseller came in the air. Lea then immediately shoved Sal into the hut, where they landed on unpeeled coconuts. Lea kept Sal hushed until the sound died down.

“Are you alright?”

Sal shook her head.

“That is fine. At least we were not seen. Now, where is the caretaker?”

The door shut right behind them locking them inside the hut. Lea pounded on the doors, yelling like an animal. “Bloody ships! Let us out.” Lea pounded on the door, more and more. For a few minutes, she did not stop.

After a while, a familiar voice spoke from the other side of the door. “You insisted on coming here in the first place.” It was the caretaker.

“Ate Meriang?!” Lea exclaimed. “Let us out! Promise, we’ll behave.” No one spoke, silence met Lea’s insistence. “What do you want?”

A soft almost muffled voice came. “Sorry.”

“This does not make sense. You’re crazy. Why do you do this?!”

‘You exist. “ A scratch lingers outside the door. “ And I have to protect the children.”

Sal kept her stare trained at the door, and searching at the slits through the nipa hut to make out the figure of the caretaker. Lea as she kept at the door, looked more and more like a wild fowl with horns fruitlessly pecking at steel.Nothing came but more expletives.

The caretaker’s voice became more strained, whispered, “I don’t know which among you two is the Signor’s child but do remember I have no choice.”

Lea kicked at the door, shouting even more angry words on how she hates the caretaker, everyone. The Signor even. Sal covered her ears. Ah yes, even this stranger would hate the Signor.

Sal fished out the pouch the caretaker handed her. Sharp, pungent smell unlike tobacco from dried leaves emanated in the air. She spilled some of it on the ground. “She said to open this when you come.”

Lea picked at the leaves then bolted up. “That bitch!”

Sal covered her ears for no other sound came but of Lea’s anger. The vitriol grated on her. She closed her eyes as if it would make the space around her disappear. It was nice for everything to disappear for a while.

“Help me!”

Lea squatted in front of her. Sal’s arm hurt. Had she just slapped her.

“Help me here. Do you have anything we can use. Something she gave you?”

She does not understand. This woman does not understand. You do not provoke the ire of the elders. You do not try to escape. She retreated further into herself, crouching, and laying on the ground. The woman was angry. It was all a blur, her words dissolving.

“You must be so stupid. So weak.” Lea yelled.

Sal lifted her head a little and gave a small nod. Lea’s face was a collection of shapes barely resembling a face. “I don’t understand. I don’t understand.”

Suddenly, Lea’s voice became clear, melodic unlike the steel drum that was before. “Listen closely. I will spell it out. We’d be done for if people, the constables, find us with these leaves. We will officially be bad people.”

It was not surprising. She has betrayed Ren. She, a bad person.

“ We’re alone. Nobody likes us, not even the caretakers who are supposed to look after us. And for all I know, ‘Nay Rosa would put the hospicio and the other normal children first over the two of us.”

Suddenly, the woman’s face was clear. Sal laid still as the woman’s face now seem to lay parallel with her on the ground.

“You like floors, huh?”

And suddenly, Sal could see her face reflected back at her. It was repulsive yet fascinating at the same time.

“I promise, I’ll get us out of here. “The woman stood.

She scoured the place. Sal picked up a shard of coconut husk which the braided woman set to work cutting off the twine. The woman was a tireless bird trapped in a cage wildly flying in all directions. Like that sparrow that was trapped inside Sal’s room in the casa, wildly flying back and forth through the room without rest looking for the way out. There was no point in escaping. All that was waiting was captivity. Yet, Sal could not tear her eyes away from the woman who tore across the rope.

Something rustled outside and Sal closed her eyes. Waiting for the release. Instead, what opened the door was a constable. The constable in the hospicio. As she looked at the man, Sal waited for an arrest. For him to declare them captives.

“What happened?” The constable only asked.

The woman and the constable argued with each other. Their voices only making up this strange song with their accents.

The woman dragged Sal by the hand. “Let’s go home.”

“Come on, you going home without me?” the constable said.

And like that, the constable offered to escort them back to the hospicio. The noises on the trip was either the voice of the crowd or of the two bickering. It was taking too long. They’ve stayed in the plaza for too long. Each second outside the hospicio feeling like hours.

SamCarreon Creator

Beware of the quiet ones