In 2010, I wrote this short story with the original intention of inserting it into my novel so its characters could be a foil for the book’s protagonists. Also, the short story was supposed to explain a time lapse within the novel’s plot. The story is about a crime and in the novel, one of the characters serves as a juror for the trial of the story’s criminal. Therefore, they are within the same universe.
The overall story is about a man named Marcos Carandang who takes extreme, deadly measures when he realizes he is losing the love of his life to his best friend. His neighbor Diego discovers that perhaps something is not quite right in the Carandang household and decides that Marcos must be stopped. Diego’s fight for justice is hampered, however, by his uncertainty about Marcos’s guilt and unwillingness to destroy his family which includes Luz, Marcos’s daughter, whom Diego has a soft spot for.
This excerpt contains spoilers.
In 2011, I adapted it into a play which was part of the Downtown Urban Theater Festival in SoHo in March 2012. The production’s official website is SecretsLovePlay.com.
Horrifyingly, everything was beginning to make sense to Luz. She sat wordlessly on Diego’s couch, leaning back and sitting more comfortably as he had ever seen her sit. Diego was a bit surprised at how comfortable she was now in her womanly skin. He knew college would change her, but he did not expect her to be so much more mature than she already was. Gone was the ponytailed girl conjugating verbs on his front porch; in her place was a young woman who actually bothered to curl her hair and who fully understood the subjunctive—in both Spanish and Tagalog. What he didn’t know was that Luz’s body was subconsciously shaped into a pose of leisure and ease only because she almost had no choice but to accept this man’s deep involvement in her life.
“And I realized that your father had done something wrong. I told the police everything I heard and saw before I told them what I thought—“
“And what do you think?”
Diego was hoping that she would allow him to stall before finally revealing his suspicions, but now she was prompting him to answer, forcing him to spill without laying a proper foundation.
“I think…I think that your father did something bad to his best friend and your mother. I have no idea what he did to Martón; as for your mother, I think he was keeping her somewhere in your house against her will. Something happened and he was angry with her, I guess. They were fighting. And then, I don’t know. I think he may have physically hurt her, but I’m not totally sure—I think he knew someone would find her and he’d get in trouble so he made a run for it. I don’t know how Leila didn’t know about any of this or what she knew—“
Luz cut through his babbling. “You think?”
“What?” Diego wasn’t sure which of his thoughts she was questioning.
“You think he physically hurt her?” She snapped out of her relaxation and leaned towards the other side of the sectional where Diego sat. “They found my mother’s corpse in the house this morning,” she said plainly.
Diego was stunned. “Luz, I had no idea—“
“It’s not your fault…Diego.” Her slight hesitation when addressing him by his first name was the first glimpse of the old Luz that he had seen in a long time. She caught her old girlish embarrassment, too, and looked away from him. “My father locked up my mother because that’s what that possessive bastard has always wanted to do and now he’s killed her.” She turned so she could look Diego in the eyes. “You witnessed my mother’s murder—”
“I didn’t know! Luz, I would’ve saved her if I could! I was ready to fight for something when I left my house that night—I just wasn’t sure! I—“
“I’m not blaming you for her death,” Luz said quickly. “You weren’t inside, you didn’t know— you just heard and saw it. That’s all I meant to say. There’s only so much we could have done….” Diego wondered if she somehow felt guilty, perhaps for being away at college and unable to protect her mother, even though none of this was her fault. “Now my dad’s gone and he’s going to get away with everything,” Luz mumbled.
She began crying and crumbled into Diego’s arms. There again was the young, girlish Luz, the one who always needed help finding what to say, the one whose worries were relieved after talking to him, the one who boggled his mind by asking how to say words like “porcupine” and “doorknob” in Spanish.
“I’m sorry, Luz. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for your mother. Every night I wish I had gone in there and made sure everything was okay. And I know I should’ve said something sooner. I’m sorry. But your father will get exactly the amount of justice and mercy he deserves, either from the courts or from God.”
Luz let go of Diego and sat upright. Her voice said nothing but her face said everything. She was angry, devastated, heartbroken and afraid.