Jukebox: A Short Novel By Jonathan Aquino (Part 3 of 7)
It all started when Jo was a young lady, growing up in a small fishing community in Samar. Everybody calls her Pinay. She helps her mother Rosal, who looked like Tetchie Agbayani in Yanggaw, in their sidewalk eatery in the market. They start preparing before dawn, as her father Juanito, who looked like Joel Torre in Amigo, gets ready for his work as a fisherman.
"Pinay, it's almost four in the morning," said Rosal, wrapping her hair in a bandana. "I have to go to the market. You cook the champorado and macaroni," she added, getting a large mat-like bag hanging from a nail. "You fry lots of eggs, yesterday we ran out early."
"I'll take care of it, Mother," Jo replied, bringing a mug of steaming coffee to the table. "Here's your coffee, Father!"
"Where's your brother?" he asked grumpily. "It's already late!"
"I already woke him earlier," said Jo, crossing the kitchen.
The curtain separating the bedrooms parted and out came Juancho, who looked like Rocco Nacino in Ang Sayaw Ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa.
"There's Kuya now," Jo said.
"What's the matter with you?" their father demanded as the young man groggily went to the table. "You've been drinking every night!"
"Father, it was only last night!" Juancho protested. "Besides, it was Leandro's birthday!"
"And where's that friend of yours?" nagged Juanito. "He's also late!"
Just then, they heard footsteps and Leandro, who looked like Paulo Avelino in Aswang, entered.
"Good morning, Mang Juanito!" he greeted.
"You two," said Juanito, pointing to the boys and standing up, "you hurry up or we won't catch any fish!" He went out, saying, "I'll go prepare the net!"
"Leandro, here's your coffee," said Jo, serving him.
"Hey, wait a second!" said Juancho. "How come he has coffee and I don't?"
"Alright, Kuya!" smiled Jo, rolling her eyes. "I'll make you coffee too!"
Juancho put his hand on Leandro's shoulder. "Leandro, I love you like a brother, you know that!" he said affectionately with a trace of menace. "But I don't want you and my sister--"
"Kuya!" exclaimed Jo, outraged.
"Bro, what are you talking about?" protested Leandro.
Juancho nodded, accepting his coffee, looking at Jo then Leandro. "Just so we understand each other!" he said.
Later that afternoon, Jo and Rosal were rushing to serve the customers on their eatery.
"Here's the extra rice," Rosal told a customer devouring a bowl of menudo. Turning to another customer standing next to her, she asked, "Yours is caldereta, right?"
Jo was handing some money to another customer who standing up and unhitching his belt. "Here's the change for the fifty."
"Pinay," said Rosal, "you go to the market now."
Jo looked around unobtrusively while wiping her hands in a rag. "Uh, Mother," she replied hesitantly, "can I go later?"
"What's wrong with going now?" Rosal asked, pumping the small kerosene stove to ignite the flame.
Juancho and Leandro arrived, carrying a large metal basin full of fish. "Where shall we put this, Mother?" asked Juancho.
"Here," said Rosal, motioning to a table, taking away the frying pan over it.
"Mother," said Jo, quickly taking off her apron. "I'll go to the market now!"
"Now you're the one rushing," said Rosal, shaking her head and digging into her apron. "Here's the list and the money!"
" By the way, Mother," said Jo, taking a paperback from a drawer, "I'll have to drop by Isay's house to return this pocketbook and borrow another one!"
As they heaved the metal basin on the table, Leandro told Juancho, "Bro, I think I'll go home early, I feel a little dizzy!"
"Are you okay, bro?" asked Juancho, concerned.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm alright," assured Leandro. "Just need a little rest, that's all!"
"Mother," said Jo, "I have to go now!" She walked away, pretending not to rush.
"I'll go ahead, Aling Rosal!" Leandro told her. Turning to Juancho, he said, "See you tomorrow, bro!" Then he walked away in another direction.
Birds were singing in the large mango tree, its leaves filtering the sunlight like a kaleidoscope. Jo and Leandro embraced and kissed passionately as they reached their secret meeting place under the mango tree in the middle of the forest.
"Oh, my God, Leandro!" said Jo. "I'm afraid that Kuya is getting suspicious!"
"I told you, Pinay!" said Leandro, breathless. "Let's run away!"
"Leandro, I'm afraid!"
"Think of us being together!" he said. "Free at last!"
"Oh, Leandro," moaned Jo, feeling a strange kind of heat but liking it.
"Come on!" said Leandro, taking her hand and almost dragging her. "There's no one in our house now!"
"Leandro!" Jo was shocked.
"Pinay, I can't fight this feeling anymore!" Leandro, said, panting, seeming to be in agony.
"You love me, right?" the young man demanded.
Jo was on the verge of tears. "Leandro, you know I do...!"
He cupped her face in his hands, looking at her straight in the eyes. "Then prove it!" he challenged. "Prove to me that you really love me!"
The weeks swept by like thieves in the night. Life went on. Then came a day when nothing would ever be the same again.
"It's torta and one and a half rice, right?" Rosal confirmed from a customer. "Only twenty!" Another customer was gesturing for water. "Pinay," Rosal told Jo, "give sir a glass!"
"Yes, Mother," Jo answered weakly, turning from the stove.
Rosal was clearing the plates when she heard the glass shatter. "OH-A-GIANT-HORSE-DICK!!!" she exclaimed. "Pinay! What happened?!"
"I'm sorry, Mother, I dropped the glass," said Jo miserably. "I'll sweep it up."
"Oh, Lord, Pinay, you're so pale!" said Rosal, frightened, coming to her. "Here, sit down, never mind that!"
Jo sat down, almost falling on the chair. She was swaying, her eyes glazed.
"Pinay, what's the matter?" Rosal was taking the broom and the dustpan from Jo while machine-gunning prayers to heaven.
In a flash, Jo was throwing up, seized by violent spasms. From G15 somewhere far away, she could hear her mother's hysterical screams as the world slowly went down into a dark abyss.
The municipal hospital was a mile away. Rosal was in the waiting room, trying to remember the prayers from her stack of novenas back home. With her was Etang, a neighbor who looked like Caridad Sanchez in Kahit Konting Pagtingin, whispering about how God works in mysterious ways. Hearing approaching footsteps, they looked up to see Juanito and the boys.
"What happened to Pinay, Rosal?" Juanito demanded.
"Juanito, thank God you came!" she nearly shouted. "She was throwing up, then she fainted," Rosal explained, stammering.
"How is she, Aling Rosal?" asked Leandro, sick with fear.
"There's the doctor!" said Juancho, pointing to a female doctor who looked like Hilda Coronel in Tanging Yaman.
"How is my daughter, doctor?" Rosal asked, almost pleading.
"She's fine, ma'am," said the doctor. "You have nothing to worry about!"
"What happened, doctor?" asked Juanito. "It isn't food poisoning, is it?"
The doctor slowly shook her head. "No," she said hesitantly. "It wasn't anything she ate."
Rosal was looking at the doctor, confirming her worst fears. "Doctor," she said quietly. "I am also a woman."
The doctor hesitated.
"Yes, ma'am," she said finally. "You're daughter is pregnant."
The revelation stunned them.
Juancho was seathing with fury. He started to go to Jo's room.
"Stop it, Juancho!" Rosal commanded. "Let your sister rest!"
"Calm down, son," said Juanito in a voice of thundering steel. "We'll find out who did this." His eyes flashed with revenge. "We're going make him wish he's never been born!"
Juancho stood still. "Where's Leandro?" he asked no one in particular. "He was just here." A growing realization possessed him like a demon. "I knew it," he whispered. Suddenly, he was running out of the hospital, out for blood.
"Juanito, go after our son!" screamed Rosal, crying. "For the love of God, stop him!"