12. Smokes and Secrets

The atmosphere surrounding the four-cornered wall office of Mother Superior bore a reeling weight that was way more impossible to carry in the back of their heads. It grasps a tight pull of invisible strings on Alexandra’s neck. The three occupants in the room, at the same time taking part in the suspense, could perceive none other than the word uncanny.

The ticking of the clock has never been this loud and prevailing… not until this moment. It sounded to Alexandra that there was an orchestra playing a crescendo of ominous melody, with the tempo increasing as her awareness heightens.

As seconds continue to tick with such heavy twist of the thin metal, the pointed arrow on the notch - shaped perfectly to serve its function as the captain navigator, preceded from one pace of a second forthwith another. The momentum was getting farther and further away.

There was a heavy contraction predated by a painful throb in her heart. Like an artery went sore from too much internal pressure and the only way to vent out is to burst the flesh open.

It was difficult to inhale air. She just wanted to die at that moment.

All suppressed feelings of anger, frustrations, and worst of all, betrayal, were done with their sport of haunting down Alexandra and were just in time to witness the revelation between the treacherous younger nun and the conniving Old Superior.

“You’re my mother? So what you told me ten years ago were lies? All made up by your selfishness to mold me to believe that I was not any different from all other orphans, and their awful stories on how their mothers abandoned them? Well here’s the catch, I am indeed different because my mother was a nun! Sister Helen… tell me all of this is not true. I will believe you, for the last time, just tell me I’m not tucked in again imagining things. Tell me all of this nonsense is not true!” 

Alexandra’s voice grew in an escalation as she initially spilled out her frustrations.

She looked at Sister Helen with forehead wrinkled hardly into large folds. Her well-mannered eyebrows now colliding like how tectonic plates form mountains. Her eyes all transparent with the hunger for answers - not sure exactly if it were the yearning for truths because she admitted that she had no idea how she would cope up with the truth that Sister Helen was her biological mother.

The nun who nursed her since conception.

The nun who she regarded as her only friend, and who she had confided with almost all of her problems.

The nun who she loved as a motherly figure, turns out to be her real mother. So that what made Sister Helen so dear to her, so attached; it is the leap of blood shared between the root and the fruit.

She disgusted the thought that she came from the womb of a nun, who has taken an oath to remain sacred and pure.

She disgusted herself.


Because she was the fruit of impurity.

“Alexandra… p-please forgive mm-e love…”

Sister Helen broke her voice into desperately pleading tears. She is stuttering again and is in great difficulty to add up to the zenith of her burden. But this is the moment where she had to spill her heart out of the truths she had long withheld and kept in the shadows. She knew she wasn’t true enough. She was a big liar, shameful for still carrying the title of being a nun. 

But does being a nun needs no room for mistakes? 

Mistakes such as conceiving a child on the verge of completing her noviciate training?

Yes. She was twenty-three years old when she was initially released from the convent as part of her noviciate training and as preparations before she would take her final vows.

Her name was Viola Celeste before she was baptized with a new name, Sister Helen.

Viola was a daughter of a farmer in a remote mountain barangay in the province of Cebu. She had no siblings because her father chose not to meddle any more with another relationship after Viola’s mother died after giving birth to her. Her father would keep himself busy by taking care of their crops early in the morning, cockfighting in the afternoon, and getting drunk in the evening. That was the poor and lonely man’s life cycle after his wife’s death.

With this, Viola was left at home, learning things around the house, taking charge of all the operations all by herself. She knew that her father kept on doing unhealthy things to divert his attention. His misery. But what could an eight-year-old possibly do other than to strive to take care of herself without the aid and guide of a parent?

Her father would go home late at night, with a heavy and loud knock on the door.


That’s how the lonely man would call out for her daughter to clean up his vomit after drinking a couple more shots of Tuba or coconut wine even if he already got home.


The lonely man sang his daughter’s name again. Viola emerged from the kitchen, holding up a dipper with half-full water in it and a rugged towel in her other hand.

“Yes, father.”

The little girl already got the things needed for cleaning up the mess, for she knew that when her father would call out her name, that would be for this purpose. Especially because this is the only time her father would call her out. Other than that, none. Like she never existed.

When Viola turned eighteen years old, her father was diagnosed with severe lung disease. And as the only family left of the lonely man, she ought to take care of her father.

Months passed, and her father’s condition had gone worse. She asked for financial help from their neighbors just to support the medications of the poor man.

Until a man named Blas, which was also one of the barangay councilors, offered help to Viola. 

Viola was very delighted, but that did not continue. Because the offered help was an indecent proposal. She opts to have sex with the man in exchange for money. Viola disagreed, her emotions stirred deep with anger and frustrations. She also feared the man because it may come back to her and might potentially molest her sexually.

Viola confessed and burst out in tears to her father regarding Blas and his indecent proposal.

But what her father replied was very unacceptable to her.

“Why the hell are you crying for that simple proposal? You should’ve accepted it! It is what women of your age do to survive and earn. They offer pleasure for money. That’s normal Viola. Why... you have no use in this family. After your mother died, this house isn’t a home anymore. I just wish… you died instead of your mother.”

Viola stopped crying. It was not because she didn’t felt like crying anymore. But because what she just heard made her realize one thing: no matter how much you extend your love to a person, especially a family, they don’t give back the love to you because there was no love meant for you to begin with. There was only hatred, resentment, loathing. It is a curse to have loved and never been loved back.

Her father coughed drastically, evident enough that he was catching small amounts of breaths in between coughs.

Viola unintentionally stood up from her seat beside the bed, walked a few steps, and hence crawled herself to the bed. She positioned herself in the back of the poor man, motioned her arms with gentle force, and pulled her father’s torso upwards. She slid both her arms below each of the lonely man’s shoulders and embraced him from behind. Her other hand reached for her father’s head and brushed his thin hair to comfort him, quite embracing his head with her arm.

Her father is still coughing. Non-stop. It was rather disturbing now for Viola. These smooth series of care she just did were out of her rational mind. Rather it was something her body usually responds to doing. 

And she’s doing it, again.

Yes, she’s doing it.

She’s doing it.

Doing it.


For the last time.

She crawled her other hand that brushed the hair of her father and slowly groped her way to his mouth.

She could feel the grains of saliva on her palm as it is only just an inch closer to her father’s mouth.

An inch away and her sacrifices for the man will now cease.

An inch away. She will be able to satisfy herself with the word that had long dwelled in her mouth, yet there wasn’t enough courage to spell it out, nor even to spill it out.

But now, nothing ain’t stopping her.

Just an inch away from accuracy, she can finally say the word undaunted.


She tightened the grip on her palm and forcefully covered her father’s mouth, letting no air to inhale nor to exhale. Her father suddenly shrugged with apex difficulty. His chest looked like it’s about to explode, with thuds of minimal wavelengths consequently from clogged passages of air.

The poor man wailed his arms and legs, wiggling from the compulsive coughs he was refrained from.

He was struggling to breathe.

Only a couple more seconds went, the lonely man, deteriorated from his ailment and withered from the melancholic distress for his deceased wife, was now devoured completely by death.

“I want you to know that I did that as a sacrifice. I did that to protect you. You should know love that I had no choice… I had no choice because they are gonna take you away from me. And I don’t want that. I want you near Alexandra, you are all that I care about my sweet little girl.”

Alexandra shook her head in disapproval, eyes bewildered, and stirred with disgust.

“You keep on lying Sister Helen. Why? Tell me because I don’t know anymore what to believe. Why did you have to deny me for fifteen whole years that you were my mother? Why expose the truth just now?”

Alexandra shrugged unsteadily. Her lips stammering and fingers twitching into peculiar rhythmic spasms.

“And…” she continued, “...Mother Superior, what does it have to do with you acting like a mediator? What is it that I should know more about Sister Helen?”

Sister Helen abjectly looked at Alex, and then Mother Superior. Something on the elder nun’s eyes made Sister Helen shiver and submissively open quite her mouth in a small letter ‘o’ shape. Her lips started to tremble in increasing intensity. Her eyes frantically crammed in tears. She isn’t going to make it.

After the death of her father, Viola sold their house. She has everything planned already, yet killing her father was not part of the plan. But as she perceived, it is the only way to get through her life’s misery. And that counts for one final act, to kill her father. 

She had no family left. Her father’s relatives won’t acknowledge her as their blood. Her mother’s relatives as well are from Northern Luzon, the travel expenses to go there won’t suffice from all the money she accumulated. She is uncertain too if they will be able to recognize her if she shows up there.

Her only plan was to travel to the city and apply as a nun. In that way, she’ll have a place to stay and to surround herself with God-centered individuals. The convent was perfect for her to reconnect with people, feeling that she exists, and repent with the sin she had committed.

Viola was conscientious about putting death in her own hands. The man was rightful of death, but he did not deserve that death will come in the form of her daughter.

Years passed, and Viola was able to do good in the convent. She was regarded by her fellow novice and other nuns especially the Reverend Mother a good reputation.

Among all the novices, there was one very dear to Viola.

“Vi… where would you go first after you partial release?”

Concordia Ramas turned to Viola who is currently staring up above the night sky hunting for constellations.

“I don’t know Connie… I wished I wouldn’t be released. I have nowhere to go. How about you?”

Viola answered without taking off her gaze at the stars.

“Same. but I’m thinking if I could make use of my temporary freedom by doing the things I haven’t done and I have been restricted to doing in my whole life.”

Viola turned to Connie with growing interest.

“What are those things Con?”

Connie turned to Viola dramatically rolling her eyes and plastering a smirk on her face.

“Now I have your attention. It makes me jealous when you are all focused on all those little lights up there when all they do is to look back at you. While I am here blabbering my mouth with puns and everything in a trial just to get your catch.”

Viola smiled.

“You already have said a lot but you haven’t even answered my question.”

“Okay… you only cared for things that potentially interest you. But yes, I plan to go to Medellin. I have a childhood friend there, and he owns a bistro by the beach. I want to stay there, and party all day, get drunk and lie on the shoreline under the vast blanket of the night sky together with its luminous little stars silently laughing at me for getting wasted.”

Connie examined the look on Viola’s face and assumed that she might be thinking of coming with her.

Connie raised an eyebrow.

“What do you think?”

Viola smiled. Her lips were perfectly curved to the fullest crescent moon.

“Can I come with you?” she asked.

“Of course, Vi. I know that already.”

The look on Sister Helen’s face is painted thickly with trauma. All muscles in her body were uncontrollably wobbly, in an upsurging quake of the tension marinating her every bones and muscle.

"Now what is it that I need to know, Sister Helen?"

Mother Superior asked with her usual calm yet stern diction. Sister Helen looked at her, with a stammering mouth and replied out of the context of the actual situation.

“No… it was just a mistake. I was drunk, and I can’t see clearly. I was helpless, Con. You need to believe me.”

Connie perplexedly looked at Viola. They were in their room in the convent. Viola was holding a pregnancy test, and there were two parallel red lines subdued on the test kit.

“Vi… you need to tell me honestly. That indicates that you are pregnant. There was a missing link from what you told me. Vi…” 

Connie suddenly broke her voice into tears, unable to contain the inexplicable pain she’s been feeling. 

“...though it pains me a lot, tell me. To whom have you had sexual intercourse?”

Viola closed her eyes and wept silently. She hitches her breath in small gaps appearing to have difficulty breathing.

“To… to Theo. He is the father of this child.”

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