My mother was not the best mom in the world. I thought she was the worst. She was selfish and could not do her job as a mother. The only thing that set her aside from other moms was that she had the skill of a best cook.

"Did you eat your lunch?" she asked as I get inside the house.

I looked at her and nodded. "Yeah."

She stared intently at me, from head to toe, and then smiled. "Soup is ready."

I faintly smiled. The picture of the dead kitten was still clear in my mind. I do not want to raise a suspicion to my mother but what she asked first when I got inside was something... odd.

Why would she ask about me eating my lunch?

I followed her to the kitchen while unzipping my backpack to get the lunchbox. Surely, I did not want to bring it up but I might not rest well due to suspicion.

"Mom?" I put the lunchbox at the kitchen sink. "Is it you who fried the fish?"

"Fried the fish?" She put a bowl of soup at the center of the table and faced me. "What do you mean?"

"Uh." I washed my hands and dried them up. I looked at my mom. "When I feed the kitten at the school, that same kitten died out of a poison. Uh... I do not mean to ---"

"Suspect me?" She raised her brow. "Are you suspecting me?"

"N-No. I mean, no. I just want to ask you if you had put something on the fish?"

She crossed her arm. "Did you eat your lunch?" she asked.

I gulped hard. The same question again. I nodded. "Yea, I had some."

"And you're well?"

I nodded again. "I g-guess?"

"So why would you suspect your own mother?" Her forehead creased and walked closer to me. She picked up the empty glass at the kitchen counter and stepped closer to the dining table. "If I had put something on your food, you must be dead by now."

"Mom..."

"I'm serious," she huffed. "You suspect me of something heinous and you did not even think that maybe the kitten ate a poison before you feed him? You have your mind to think, Sydnee!"

I looked down the floor. "I-I'm sorry, Mom."

"Even though I know that you don't do well in class, but I expect you to at least have some common sense."

"S-Sorry, Mom."

She put water in the glass and drank it. She breathed deep and looked scornfully at me. "Throw your lunchbox away. If that kitten died out of poison, then your lunchbox is not safe."

"Okay, Mom."

"And don't just feed some stray animals, Sydnee. Those are dirty and you should not get close to them!"

I heaved a sigh. "Okay," I said and picked up the lunchbox.

The truth was that I have been feeding stray animals for years now. I had kept it a secret to my parents because I knew that my mother would get mad if she'll know about it.

I have been sharing my lunch to stray animals and it was the first time that an animal died after I feed it. In the past, there was no incident like this. But maybe my mother's words were true.

Maybe the kitten had eaten something poisonous before I feed it. And maybe it was just a coincidence that the kitten had died. But I just could not believe with a mere coincidence, though.

Nonetheless, I did what my mother instructed me to do. I threw away the lunchbox at the landfill nearby.

I could smell the stink of garbages that had been piled up over the years. I want to heaved a sigh but I could not do so because of so much stink.

I hurriedly walked past the landfill and back to the humble nipa hut, just kilometers away from the mountain of garbages.

"If only he did not steal something," I whispered.

I could see the dim light from the inside of the nipa hut. I knew that my mother was waiting inside, but I stopped just a meter away from it.

The scene of a humble nipa hut was not what my grade school self hoped for. My grade school self was dreaming of a big and fancy house where someday she and her parents will live in. But all of those dreams were burned along with our former house when my dad stole some of his boss' money.

Our house was burned into ashes and later that day, my dad was accused of fraud. He was put to jail but my mother bargained to the boss to free my dad in exchange of the same amount of money that dad had stolen.

And that was hard for my mom. Because dad did not have enough savings. My mother did not have a work so where could she get money to free my father?

I remembered how she cried all night while we stayed in the lonely street of Consolacion. I still remember how I got so fascinated by the city lights in front of my eyes, while my mother was silently crying at my back.

My innocent and young mind did not know the reason why we stayed on streets, or why dad was not with us. I just thought of the fascinationg city lights. I even tried to chase after the cars if not of my mother who scolded me like that was her last night.

I could see how angry she was at me. She blamed me for why we are staying on the street, and why dad was put to jail, and why our house was burned. She scolded me like there was no tomorrow. She spanked me hard, even slapped me in my both cheeks.

I cried because of so much fear and pain.

And in that one night, I saw how cruel the world was. And still up to the present, I could still experience the cruelty in both my school and in my own home.

Home. Is it really... where the heart is?

I took a step forward. I walked closer to the nipa hut and entered in. I just need to take few steps before I enter the small kitchen.

And I saw mother. She was silently taking a sip on her small bowl of soup. "Take some soup," she said without looking up to me.

I silently heaved a sigh and sat on the other side. I quietly pour some soup on my bowl when she said something.

"Pour more. You need to finish the soup."

I gulped. "O-Okay."

My insides curled. I was still scared of my own mother.

The memories of my childhood never ever leave my memory. They stayed there like an old friend, who visited me from time to time to remind me that they were still there and I could count on them when I need them.

But I didn't need those memories.

I didn't like to have them!

But everytime I tried to run away from those memories, they keep on chasing after me. They were chasing close enough to touch me. And in those times, I knew, I could not escape them.

They had already made a home in my mind.

#032121