Luningning sweet revenge—6
The police came and the ambulance. All efforts failed. The body was hauled off to the mortuary. Nobody felt that any more than a perfunctory inquest was needed. The undertaker was called to testify and old Doc Manners. Yes, it was decided that the car fell off the jack and crushed the poor fellow. “Yes,” Doc told the jury. If only someone had been there to help, the poor man would almost surely have been saved. It’s a pity no one was there.”
Luningning cried tears of relief at the funeral. She and Mama were in the back row alone. Politicians didn’t sit in church next to maids, in those days. Mama cried tears of sorrow for that poor nice man who, out of the kindness of his generous heart had given her a raise of five hundred pesos a week, paying her almost as much as a others would be paid for the same work.
Mrs.Calderon had seen Luningning’s expression after the funeral services. With a shock, she suddenly realized the reason for her late husband’s “generosity” to their maid. Luningning saw the look of comprehension on the widow’s face. She averted her gaze and hoped Mama wouldn’t be punished.
As they were leaving the church, Mrs.Calderon came up to Luningning and Mama and said, “Luningning, if it would be all right with your mother, I would like to have you help me at the church tomorrow. Mama looked at Luningning and nodded her head and said, “If Luningning feels up to it, it’s fine with me, ma’am. It be okay with me if it okay with her.
Luningning nodded her head and said, “Yes ma’am.”
Mrs.Calderon smiled briefly and left, taking her dry eyed son in tow. Luningning and Mama walked slowly home. “Honey, if you don’t want to help Misses Calderon, she’ll understand.”
“That’s okay, Mama. Misses Calderon is a nice lady, I don’t mind.” Mama smiled tenderly at her daughter and they walked on in silence.
The next day, a Wednesday, Misses Calderon picked Ruby up after school in almost the same spot her dead husband had. As Luningning climbed into the car, Misses Calderon fumbled in her purse and withdrew one thousand pesos. She handed them to an uncomprehending Luningning. “Here, take these,” she told the young girl. “I didn’t really need any help, but I needed to talk with you. Go ahead and take the money. It proves you ‘helped’ me.
Luningning accepted the money and waited quietly for what she was very certain was coming next. She said nothing, just stared ahead and waited.
“Oh dear, this is so hard to do!” She paused a moment and then plunged right in to the subject. “Perhaps you noticed that I didn’t seem too grief stricken at my husband’s death.”
Luningning nodded and waited for her to get to the point, even though she knew what the “point” really was.
“Oh, Luningning, was there a ‘special reason’ my husband gave your mother five hundred a week more in wages?”
Luningning nodded once, keeping her eyes to the front, her young body tense.
“Softly, in a hesitant voice, she asked, “Were you the reason for the raise in pay?” She cupped one fist in another and began to chew on her knuckle, her eyes showing her anxiety over what she already knew the answer to be.
“Ma’am, I didn’t want to do it! But he say he fire my mama if I don’t let him do what he want. Please, ma’am, don’t make my mama lose her job over this! Please!”
Misses Calderon patted the young girl on the shoulder and told her, “You just hush that sort of talk. Your mother’s job is safe for as long as she wishes it. Let’s hear no more of that. Now that he is gone, I’m going to need her more than ever.”
She took a deep breath and continued, “My husband was a pig, a filthy pig! The only reason I didn’t leave him was that there was no way I could take care of my son Claudio, if I left him. I have an idea what he wanted of you.” She looked at Luningning who nodded once and looked straight ahead again.
“Tell me, were you there when the car fell off the jack?” Luningning nodded once, still not looking at her. “Er, uh,
Luningning, did you …?” Her voice trailed off.
“Oh no ma’am! I wouldn’t do nothin like that! But I did see it happen and I just stood there and told him how much I hated him and that I was glad he was going’ to die! But I never would of…” She shook her head. It’s just that I didn’t hurry to tell nobody. That’s all.” She folded her hands in her lap and looked down at them.
“Thank you, Luningning,” She told the young girl, “Thank you. I better take you home now.”
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