Meya knows her Mama likes secrets. Every day after school, her Mama would tell her a secret after she finishes her homework, or when she gets a good grade in school. Her Mama would hide it for Meya to find— in the refrigerator, under Meya’s books, or in the fruit basket. Today, it was another chocolate bar. She found it stuck in their red flower vase, and she jumped. It was bigger than the one she found last Tuesday!
Meya ate the bar with joy and ran fast to her mother who was making something in the kitchen. “Mama, Mama, do you have more secrets?”
“We all carry them curled in our hearts, darling, like sleeping cats. You have yours, Papa has his, and I have my own things to keep.”
“But I don’t know mine,” Meya said.
Her mother only patted her head. “A good secret keeper does not wake the cat,” she said, “but the best keepers do not know they carry one.” She smiled, wiped her hands on her apron and reached for a rectangular box from a shelf.
“Mama, what are you making?”
“It’s a secret, darling. You’ll know at dinner.” And she winked.
In her bed that night, Meya rubbed her big tummy beneath her blanket while thinking about the butterscotch bars at dinner. How delicious her Mama’s secrets are! But what could her secret be?
The open window let in the cold breeze of the night. Something told her to find it. She must find it. She rose from her bed and wore her slippers, while the curtains danced, floating gently with the moon. The stars looked like they were singing.
She looked at the back of her bedroom door thinking she could find it there. She checked behind her dresser, within her drawers, in between her folded clothes, but there was only the light from the moon, and nothing else.
She ran her hand over her sheets, shook her pillow, and crouched to see under her bed. She asked her teddy bear where the secret is, but in its eyes, there was only the light from the moon, and nothing else.
She picked up her rug, tied her curtains, and flipped through her books. She found ribbons, a red thimble, a small Minnie mouse pin, her lost handkerchief, and a dusty sock. But among them wasn’t the secret, she thought. She was sure of it. She slept with a heavy heart, for she had not found her secret.
The next day, her mother was braiding her hair when she asked. “Does a secret have to be a cat?”
Her mother chuckled behind her. “Your secret can be anything you want. Something that you think should be known just by you, and no one else. It could be a memory, a word, an experience, a chocolate bar you bought, a story you read from a book…anything! ”
“How do I know it’s my secret?”
“A secret hides only from those who do not own them. But to their owners they are like eyes that follow them around.”
That night Meya did not leave her bed. She looked around her, at the ceiling, on her table, above her blanket, on the floor. She kept the door open, and the window let the cold breeze in. She waited for her secret to show its eyes. She thought she’ll take any owl or bat that would show their eyes, but there was nothing else that night but the bright moon outside.
She sighed and rose from her bed again. She walked slowly to her Mama and Papa’s room, thinking that her secret might follow her there. There was light ahead, for somebody did not close the door. She stood by that gaping door, and saw her mother sleeping on the bed, curled like a cat. Her window, too, was open, letting the cold breeze in.
She climbed up the bed. “Mama, I have no secret,” she whispered.
Her mother turned her face towards Meya and opened her eyes. “It’s all right. Lie down beside me.”
“Mama, where is Papa?”
“Papa is not here, Meya.”
“But his bed is here. Where is he sleeping now?”
Meya felt warm tears on her nape as her Mama hugged her tightly. She stopped asking. She tugged her mother’s blanket. “Mama, can we share?”
“Yes, darling. We can share.”
Meya slept deeply that night. She had found her secret, the light from the moon showed her. It was somewhere between her mother’s eyes and the waiting bedroom door.
Melona graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines Mindanao with a degree in BA English.