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The Lucky Fan

3

The Last Choice

314

Episode 3: The Last Choice

 

"YOU son of a bitch, Fino!" My voice reverberated in all four corners of Beatrice's room.

 

I hadn't expected what I had just witnessed. My heart couldn't bear what I saw. My sister is still a minor. Why did Fino involve her in his stupidity too?

 

My feet carried me toward Fino. My eyebrows furrowed deeply. My chest tightened with rage. I will never forgive him.

 

"Oh, why?" He managed to laugh. "She wanted this herself—"

 

My palm landed on his cheek. But he didn't even flinch, holding a grin as if challenging me, mocking me. He’s still taunting me as if what he had done wasn't grave. It’s making my blood boil. "Get out—get out before I have you jailed."

 

I closed my eyes in frustration. "Jailed?"

 

He sneered. "And where's your evidence? Nothing's even happened yet. And besides, your sister wanted this. She was the one who sent me here," he added, provoking me further. His grin widened. "Should I show you the messages she sent me?"

 

I just pressed my hand to my forehead. "Just leave, Fino. Please, just get out of here." He only exacerbated my headache. It's something he consistently did to make me lose focus at work.

 

He didn't let up on his teasing smile as he took his camera off the tripod. He still watched me with those mocking eyes until he exited the room.

 

The moment the door closed, my teary gaze shifted to Beatrice. She was dressing herself in shame. She couldn't meet my eyes.

 

"What's going on, Beatrice?" I approached her. I tightly clench my fists, desperately restraining myself from slapping her. Ever since our parents disappeared, I vowed never to harm her. What Papa used to do to her when scolding her, I promised to be different. I wouldn't become like him. I couldn't even bring myself to spank my sister before.

 

Beatrice responded with a soft sob. That's when my jaw tightened. My voice grew deeper, my anger simmering in my chest. "Answer me, Beatrice. Answer."

 

"Sorry, Ate," she mumbled, now covering her face. She intermittently wiped the tears from her eyes. "Sorry."

 

"Sorry?" I exhaled an irritated breath. "What good is your sorry when you went through with that foolishness?"

 

"Sorry, Ate," she turned her tear-filled eyes towards me. "Sorry if it's become difficult for me to see you struggle. Sorry if that's the only way I thought of to help you. Sorry if I'm helpless. Sorry..."

 

I paused. Her sobbing continued. "Sorry if we're going through so much, Ate. Sorry that you have to toil all by yourself. Sorry that I'm just a teenager. Sorry if I can't help in the right way... I want to work, but you don't want me to. You don't even want me to be a working student. I can't think of any way to help you." She wiped her tears using her clothes.

 

I let out a sigh. "You don't really need to help me, Bea."

 

I sat down beside her, assisting her in wiping her tears while my own threatened to fall onto my cheeks. My vision blurred due to that. "Seeing you study happily is already a big help for me."

 

"Someone who isn't struggling. Someone carefree. Because I would rather choose to struggle, just to support you in your studies. It's better to finish."

 

A pang of sadness pierced my chest at the sorrow in her eyes. "With your intelligence, you'll go far, that's why I endure everything—I swallow my pride just to push myself to work hard and move for you... for both of us."

 

"Ate..." She wallowed in her tears like a child. Her words came out in fragments. "Sorry... Sorry..."

 

I embraced her. The hot tears finally streamed down from my eyes. "Don't think about unnecessary things. Just let Ate handle everything, okay? I've got this. I can handle this, so you just focus on your studies."

 

I quickly wiped my tears away. "We won't be at the bottom. I won't let us sink any lower."

 

"We will never fall for the nonsense Fino is offering. Never..."

 

I sighed deeply. "There are many ways. There are still plenty of ways." Are there really?

 

I WOKE up early to prepare food for Beatrice for the entire day. This is my usual routine. I really don't like that kid moving around in the house. I want her to focus solely on studying. I can see how happy she is doing that. She's different from other kids who complain or struggle with their studies. She genuinely loves it, more than hanging out outside, which she only does on rare occasions when she's invited by her friends.

 

Once I finished with all my morning daily routine, I put on my uniform. With my bag slung over my shoulder, I left the house.

 

It was still dark. I really enjoy going out like this because there are no idlers outside whose job seems to be catcalling every woman passing by our street corner. Instead of working, they're a nuisance in life.

 

"GOOD morning," I greeted as I saw my co-workers in front of the restaurant. The place was still closed. Kuya Peter hadn't arrived yet, and he's the only one with the key.

 

"Well, well, look at this!" exclaimed Badette. She pointed at my face. "She's blooming, how crazy! Let me guess, aftersex glow, huh?"

 

I chuckled. "You're insane."

 

"No need to wonder, Lara has a boyfriend after all," Shobe chimed in, as always. "Don’t compare her to yourself though. When you had a partner, you didn't exactly become that blooming."

 

"You b*tch, ruining the day so early?!" I stifled a laugh as Badette lightly slapped Shobe's head. They ended up playfully slapping each other. I was afraid it might escalate into hair-pulling.

 

I covered my mouth because I could feel that I might burst into laughter at any moment.

 

"Hey, that's enough. You're acting like idiots. Kuya Peter is here," said Chan, the new assistant chef. I never allowed myself to get too close to him since he seemed like a playboy. I couldn't tell if it was because he was handsome or because he was really close to some of our female co-workers.

 

When we entered the restaurant, as was customary, us waitresses just sat on the side while Kuya Peter and Chan were busy cooking. It was only six in the morning, so there were no customers yet.

 

"Coffee?" I was surprised when Chan sat down beside me. I was the only one there at the moment, as Badette was already attending to our first customer. I moved away from him immediately, offering a forced smile. "Just finished."

 

"You know, why do I feel like you don't want to be friends with me," he pouted.

 

I blinked at him. "I-it's not like that." I really wasn't used to lying.

 

"That only made me want to know you more though," he added playfully, directing a mischievous smile at me that I quickly avoided.

 

I stood up, and I was genuinely grateful that a new customer walked in at that moment. "Oh, just a moment. Let me attend to this customer." I avoided looking at him at all costs. I heard him chuckle softly. And from my peripheral vision, I caught his slow nod.

 

I didn't wait another second. I hurried over to the customer to take their order. Just as I was jotting down the order, Boss Rustan entered the room. "Good morning, Boss," I greeted with a wide smile, only to be met by his scowl in response."

 

I swallowed hard, focusing my attention on the customer's order instead. I ignored the judgmental glance the customer gave me when I embarrassed myself. After hanging the order in the designated area, I was about to approach another customer when Shobe suddenly stopped me.

 

"Lara, Boss is calling for you," she said, her worried expression causing a sense of concern to well up in me. I nodded at her. With heavy steps, I made my way to Boss's office. My heart pounded against my chest as I stepped inside. Once again, my eyes met his furrowed brow.

 

"Hi Boss, you wanted to see me…" I began, but he cut me off.

 

"You are fired. You only have a month on this job, you can choose to leave anytime on that span of 30 days."

 

A chill ran down my spine. My knees suddenly felt weak. At what I heard, I could only gulp.

 

"Boss... I really need this job—"

 

He cut me off once again. "And why should I care? You have poor performance. Do you still want me to keep an employee who performs f*cking erratically?" He sneered. "Are you special?"

 

My chest tightened. Each corner of my eyes burned with rage.

 

"You're free to leave. And please, don't ruin my day." He sat down in his swivel chair, as usual, immersing himself in his laptop. As if I weren't in front of him. As if I were nothing more than trash in front of him.

 

I felt the weight of the world as I walked out. I leaned against the door. I covered my mouth as all my worries slowly flooded my mind.

 

If I lose my job, what would Beatrice and I eat? How would she continue her studies? She's going to college next year. Add to that Fino's pressure on me about the debt Papa left behind. He'll tighten his grip on me even more.

 

What will happen to us?

 

It's hard to find a job because of this pandemic.

 

It's extremely difficult to come up with solutions during these times... Where can I find a job? Something quick. Something immediate.

 

I closed my eyes as Fino's face involuntarily surfaced in my mind. I took a deep breath, pressing my hand to my head. It seems I might not have a choice anymore...

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