A change of scene for Anna all of a sudden as Samar took her out of the brothel house for the first time since she got there.
“I can’t believe you just dragged me all over that place looking for clothes for more than three hours! Who does that?”
“Anna, you’re an embarrassment to most of the women out there. Women love shopping – I mean, why wouldn’t you?”
“Geez, I don’t know, maybe because it is so tiring! Lugging all these bags with clothes – I don’t even know why I had to buy new clothes.”
“We’ve already talked about this, Anna. You need clothes of your own; you can’t keep using my hand-me-downs.” Then, as if as an afterthought, she added, “No matter how much you loved wearing my clothes.”
Samar and Anna were making their way back from the bus station. Having taken Anna out shopping at the complex nearby, they had opted to take the bus instead of using the car provided by Madam Ahjunta. Samar thought this was a good way in getting Anna exposed to the outside world as a person, rather than as the vagabond that she was previously. Looking over at Anna, watching her struggle with the multiple shopping bags that was laden with new clothes, Samar felt a surge of happiness all of a sudden. For a moment, they were both ordinary people, sharing an ordinary experience.
“You didn’t have to stress that ‘loved’ word you know,” Anna said wryly. “It’s just,” she huffed out a breath, a little exasperation mixed with her troubled mind. “I don’t want you spending any money on me,” she said as Samar reached over to take some of the bags off from her hands.
Looking over at Samar, she continued, “You’ve done so much for me; I can’t add on to that – it’d take me my whole life to repay you.”
“I’m not looking for any repay–” Samar began as she arranged the bags neatly in her hands but Anna cut her off.
“I know you aren’t. That’s the problem; I can’t keep accepting when I don’t have and can’t give anything in return. Amnesia or not, I’m still a human; I have my pride too.”
Gripping the bags tightly in one hand, Samar cupped Anna’s cheek with the other.
“I know you have your pride but you shouldn’t, not in this matter. What is mine is yours; you’re mine after all.” Watching Anna’s eyes widen in surprise, in pleasure, Samar quickly amended, “I mean, I told Madam I’d be responsible for you, so it’s only fair I take care of all of this pesky details, isn’t it?” she said as she released her hold on Anna.
Anna tried her best to swallow the chuckle that was threatening to escape, her cheeks pink still. She knew very well that Samar didn’t mean to say those words earlier on, just as she knew that those words were the closest to a confession that she would get out of Samar. Ever since Samar took care of her the other day when she was sick, the distance between them was lesser now. While Samar still didn’t like it when she spent time with the other women at the house, Anna could see that Samar’s hostility to the rest was piping down when she was concerned. Samar might not have noticed it, but Anna was certain everyone else had – and everyone knew who was behind these changes.
It might not be the kind of declaration or the kind of relationship she wanted with Samar, yet at the moment, she’d take any kind of relationship that does not involve them being at odds.
“I suppose, but surely there’s something I could do for you?” Anna asked.
Indeed, there was definitely something that Anna could do for her that Samar was sure she wouldn’t mind doing, yet she couldn’t ask for that. It wasn’t right – it wasn’t her place. She shouldn’t be taking advantage of an innocent girl who was obviously confused with her thoughts and feelings.
“I’d really appreciate it if you can stay out of trouble,” she said instead, laughing at Anna’s reddened face. “I was just joking. Just be happy, Anna – that’s all I’d ask of you.”
Though she answered Samar’s smile, deep inside Anna knew that Samar had a different answer. She wasn’t sure what was holding Samar from asking what she wanted but Anna was sure pushing for an explanation wasn’t going to help in any way. She felt matured all of a sudden; as if Karmen’s story the other day had opened her eyes to many things that she was oblivious to previously, things that concerned Samar.
The new knowledge about this woman that she deeply admired as a person made her rethink her previous stand. All the confusion and complicated thoughts surrounding Samar seemed to have evaporated all of a sudden; she knew now all she had to do was ask and Samar would answer her this time around. She was simply looking for the right time to ask.
Just as she was about to change the topic, they came across a crowd that was gathering nearby. Her curiosity peaked; Anna began to move towards them yet was stopped by Samar. The last thing that they needed was to have attention on them so close to their area. Samar wanted to head home straight, seeing as they were barely ten minutes away but Anna’s puppy look won her over.
“We’re not getting involved,” Samar warned, to which Anna simply nodded and began moving towards them, pulling at Samar’s hand as she went.
Approaching the crowd, Samar glanced around, trying to spot any familiar faces around while Anna was trying to figure out what was the commotion all about. Finally managing to get to the front of the crowd, she noticed that they were gathered around a woman that was lying on the asphalt road, her clothes badly torn. Everyone was standing around her, snapping pictures but none went forward to help her. Samar wasn’t sure if the woman was conscious as her back was to them, however before she could say anything, Anna already rushed forward to help her.
Shaking her head, she stepped forward as she watched Anna crouch beside the woman and pull out tissues from her pocket that she had stuffed in earlier on after their meal.
“Samar, she’s bleeding.”
Glancing furiously at the crowd that did not bother to help a bleeding woman, Samar crouched beside Anna, finally getting a look at the woman.
“Inness?” Samar asked, shocked to see the woman in front of her.
Inness simply blinked at Samar; she made no move nor did she appear to recognise Samar. Samar glanced at Anna, who was taking in Inness’ profile with more interest now that she found out who she was. Realising the crowd was still gathered around them and was still taking pictures of them, Samar helped Inness to her feet, leading her away from them.
Anna followed silently behind them, still clutching the bags that Samar had discarded thoughtlessly moments ago.
Samar led Inness to an empty building not far from the brothel house. Studying the structure, Anna knew that the building must have belonged to Madam Ahjunta, as though it appeared to be abandoned and unoccupied, the building was surprisingly well kept. Moving quietly into the building, they made way into one of the rooms – Anna assumed that Inness stayed there as she could now see scattered clothes and an overused mattress occupying the space in the room.
Gently lowering a still swaying Inness onto the mattress, Samar walked out of the room without saying anything, leaving Anna to stand awkwardly beside her. Anna took the chance to study Inness closely.
Inness was certainly taller than her; unlike Karmen, she wasn’t petite nor delicate; her height giving her a kind of intimidating look. The bruising that marred her face might have caused her to lose some points in terms of appearance yet Anna could see clearly the hardness that the drug addiction had enveloped her. She had the same chestnut hair as her sister though hers were chopped short, skimming just past her earlobes. The t-shirt that she wore as a match for her ripped jeans was torn too, exposing her tanned skin underneath.
Samar returned just then with a first aid kit and a bowl of water.
“You seem familiar with this place,” Anna began.
“Of course, I helped them settle in here after all.”
Inness still appeared drowsy and confused; she barely moved as Samar began washing the dried blood off from her forehead and lips. The moment Samar uncapped the iodine and began cleaning her wounds, however, Inness let out a loud curse.
“What the fuck!” Opening her eyes and spotting Samar, she cursed once again. “If you’re gonna kill me, at least give me my fix first!”
“You’re not getting any fix for now. Do you even know what happened?”
Scrunching her brows at Samar, she shrugged.
“I don’t see why I have to know.”
“This is the kind of attitude that makes people want to stay away from you.”
Inness snickered. “It’s better that way.”
“Not if you want a steady list of clientele to get that next fix – or are you shamelessly hoping for free handouts still?”
The insult stung bitterly; she slapped at Samar’s hands that were still busy treating her wounds.
“I don’t need handouts from Madam – I can score my own fix. And I don’t remember allowing you to come in here. Regardless of the business, I deserve my privacy.”
“You should have thought of that before you made the streets your new bedroom. From the looks of it, you seem to have been dumped there by your client; probably because you gave him such a shitty service last night.”
Inness took a swing at Samar and missed by a long mile – her throbbing head growing worse with the sting of the iodine on her wounds, causing her to fall backwards onto the mattress. Making use of the opening, Samar hurriedly bandaged her injured head before Inness could stir from the bed. Stealthily pinning the bandage into place, she began dabbing on Inness’ lips then.
“You should’ve been a nurse instead,” Anna commented. “You’re always taking care of the injured and the sick.”
“One of my many hidden talents – attracting the lost and the hurt.”
Inness eyed Anna curiously, finally noticing her presence there.
“Who’s the puppy?” Inness asked, causing Samar to laugh before she could stop herself.
“I don’t understand what’s funny.”
“Sorry Anna, but she wasn’t far off with that name.” Glancing back at Inness, she answered, “She’s with me. A new addition to the big house.”
“A newbie? She doesn’t seem to know how to play tricks.”
“Cause she’s not there to play tricks. She’s with me,” Samar repeated.
Inness looked at her with interest.
“I didn’t know you were taking in strays, ‘sis’,” she said sarcastically, stressing on the last word. “How come you didn’t take me in as a pet too? You know I’m more seasoned than her.” Inness ran her hands on Samar’s sides as she hovered above her, still treating her torn lips.
Samar didn’t have to glance at Anna to know that she was raging with jealousy. While on some other days she would have laughed it off, seeing as she would be secretly happy with Anna getting a taste of her own medicine, she knew that at the moment she had to avoid any unnecessary conflict.
Yet before she could say anything, Anna answered for her.
“Maybe she wanted one that was still pure and untouched so that she can teach it new tricks that would only cater to her own needs and no one else.”
Samar sighed deeply.
“By the way,” Anna continued, still seething with jealousy, wanting to inflict hurt in return. “It’s funny that you call her ‘sis’ though when your real one is working at the big house too. I never knew someone as beautiful as Karmen would have a sister such as you.”
Both Samar and Inness grew still at Anna’s reply; Samar rigid with temper while Inness was stilled by shock.
Clutching at Samar’s arms, Inness asked with a mixture of hope and anger, “Karmen’s at the big house – she’s working at the big house?”