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“You think I look beautiful in this dress, Marie?”

“It is as you say, Miss.”

Both are not beautiful.


“Marie, you finish cleaning windows?”

I’m too tired to answer; besides, her questions have the soul of an echo.

“Marie, you finish cleaning outside of windows?”

“Yes, Miss.”

I haven’t. I did them two days ago and like always, she won’t notice.

“I walk dog now.”

“You walk dog now?”

I answer by shutting the back door behind me.

Chai, the backcombed Bichon Frise bounces up and down like a ridiculous white cloud. Silent and opinionless, we walk the short distance to the spot where she can do her business. My escape and re-capture take forty minutes.

“I back, Miss!”

“You back? Good, I will take my nap now—I’m very tired.”

The visit to the nail bar this morning must have been exhausting. Still, her daily ritual allows me mine. This is my sacred hour with no demands or empty questions to fill my head. A time to go to my prefabricated cement room outside and do what a daughter of the Philippines does best: sing.

The music and my voice bounce around my sanctum, each song bringing me closer to my daughter back home; the reason I am here in a foreign country. I know not if my tears are for joy or sadness, but they are, nevertheless, welcome companions.

Saving Cindi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ to last, I empty my lungs and my heart.

Five minutes later, a knock at my door and, “You collect Mei from school bus?”

I don’t answer; she knows I will.

Stepping off the bus, Mai slips her tiny hand into mine and her cute moon face looks up to me.

“You give me dinner?”

“Yes, little Miss, I’ll give you dinner.”

Flash Fiction by Steve Richardson
Picture: The Voice by Andy Morffew under CC BY 2.0

Published in Summer 2017


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