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Girl Code: Dancing on My Own

For the first time, our four girls find themselves in the same place.
ART Trixie Ison

Charlie
A few people from the pep squad have invited me to a party. Again. I'm really not the type to party a lot, even if most people think that partying like there's no tomorrow is an athlete's favorite pastime. Stop generalizing, people. But hey,just because I've never partied before doesn’t mean I can't start now—even if high school just ended. A number of varsities won a ton of games, and this is their reward. Maybe it can be mine, too.

Rae

I cannot believe my sister. Our parents go on a mini-vacation, and she goes and throws a house party? No, wait, it's not just aparty; it's THE party of the year, according to all the tweets and Snapchat stories. This isn't the first time she's done this, but I thought she'd learned her lesson from last year's debacle involving drunk party boys and my mom's favorite vase. Plus, I can't believe she has the audacity to ask me to be the photographer. What does she need a photographer for? She can't even ask me how I'm doing, but she thinks she can go and boss me around like that? The nerve.

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Lissa

I had plans with my couch tonight when all of a sudden I hear a thud—my phone was vibrating so much, it fell off my dressing table. Only Sam has the power to drag me out of my watering hole for a silly house party. I throw on the new dress I bought on impulse last week and figure it wouldn’t hurt to check out the crowd.

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Sam

It's 8PM, the party is starting soon, and I'm still standing in front of my closet with nothing to wear. Which is totally not okay if you're hosting the biggest party of the year. I hate this eternal dilemma. I'm pretty sure Rae has been stealing my tops. I reach into the back of the closet and pull out all my clothes until they're one big pile on the floor I can sift through. Looks like I'm gonna have to go with my trusty denim shorts. Ben always complimented them. He said I looked like the perfect girl next door. I can't believe it's been a week and he hasn't replied to a single text or call. I don't even know if I'm upset that we broke up or just upset that he got it all wrong. Who am I kidding? He was right about Mike and I was just in denial. It was a long time coming but I really thought we could have ended as friends. Obviously, that's not possible when you've loved someone for three years but then decide you don't love them anymore. Ugh. I need a distraction. Maybe I should go check on Rae. She's been locking herself up in her room since her breakup, but the last thing I want is an awkward sister sob-fest. I'll just introduce her to a cute guy later.

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Charlie

Thank God for my teammates! I would be so alone right now if it weren't for them. Contrary to my steadfast belief on parties, they're actually pretty fun. I guess I understand why people like them so much. And it just hit me: I'm really going to miss my friends once we're all in college.

Girl Code

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Sam

The house is spilling over with people and there are still more guests arriving. I can't stop looking around, hoping that familiar smile shows up. I want to convince myself I'm looking for Ben, but I can't take my mind off Mike. Where are you, Mike? KC said you were coming. Is my makeup okay? Hair? I can't relax. I need a drink.

Lissa

This is a nightmare. (Twenty minutes in and I can’t find Sam. Might just bail if she doesn't spot me soon.)

Rae

Being the pushover that I am, I agreed to take photos of this "aaamaazing" party. Not quite sure what's so amazing about teenagers drinking way more alcohol than they can handle—my sister included, but whatever. Photography's something I love, and it's way better than sulking. In the middle of taking shots of some cheerleaders taking shots (haha), I hear a familiar voice. Oh boy. Pleasenopleasenopleasenopleaseno.

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Girl Code

"Hey, Rae... how are you?"

Dammit. It's him. I turn around as slowly as I possibly can, and face James. He's wearing a clean white tee, holding two red cups. The face that I've been trying so hard to avoid is exactly how I remember it: too beautiful for words. I rack my brain for something to say, but I'm blanking.

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"Do you want a drink?" James says as he raises a cup to me.

"You know I don't drink," I stutter.

"I know... but a lot's changed since then. At least that's still the same," he says softly.

His words feel like a punch to my gut, and I can feel the tears welling up. I walk away as fast as my legs can carry me, allowing myself to be swallowed by the swarm of sweaty partygoers, but not before I hear him call out, "Rae! Please, wait!"

Lissa

Rae just ran off and spilled my drink all over me. She's been on edge lately—at least that's what I hear from Sam when she mentions her sister in passing—and now my dress is ruined. I head for the stairs, figuring I can throw on something from Sam’s closet, when I feel a hand on my shoulder.

"Hey, bar girl," Seb muses.

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"Excuse me?" I begin. "How are you even—?"

"Friend of a friend of a friend... I forget," Seb replies, anticipating my surprise. "Texts go around, and parties like this sort of just blow up, you know? You smell like rum Coke. Want to get out of here?"

Sebastian has the most beautiful eyes. I open my mouth to say yes when Sam grabs me hurriedly by the arm. The moment is gone before it even starts.

Sam

Still no Mike. I guess he's not coming if he isn’t here by now. I pour myself another rum Coke. I've had way too many. My face is warm, really warm. And my body feels so heavy. I grab Lissa: "Let's dance!!!" Whoops, I said that way louder than I intended. She's busy with some guy she just met. A friend of a friend of a friend. Who are half these people in my house? Some of them look like high schoolers. Probably Rae's friends. Where is she anyway? Damn it, I should've asked her to take my photos before things got this messy. Forget it. Some Miley song starts blasting through the speakers and I see my former teammates tearing up the dance floor. God, I love them. I take one last sip of my rum Coke and head overto join them, arms up in the air, not a single care in the world.

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Rae

I go where the crowd takes me, then plop down on the sofa, exhausted and on the verge of tears. To make matters worse, my sister's yelling like a madwoman, telling everyone to dance. Deep breaths, Rae. Deep breaths. I hide my face in my hands and force myself to calm down, until I feel someone sit next to me. Oh. Charlie.

Girl Code

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Charlie

This is pretty awkward. I’m sitting next to Rae right now. After knowing what happened between her and James, and after she saw me with James the other day, I can feel the tension buzzing between us. Oh wait, she just smiled at me—does this mean she doesn't hate me?

Sam

People are starting to leave, my buzz is fading, and I've lost pretty much all hope that Mike is coming. Maybe I was an idiot for even thinking that something could've happened between us. We only had a few lunches with KC, after all. But I could have sworn there was flirting there. We had a connection. Or maybe I'm just fooling myself into believing that. I find Lissa in the kitchen attacking the last slice of pizza and ask her, "Why do I always fall for any guy who shows me even the slightest bit of attention?"

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She raises an eyebrow at me. "Were you not just in a three-year relationship?"

I shrug, frustrated and suddenly sad. "Maybe this crush on Mike got in the way of me really trying to fix things with Ben. Maybe I gave up too easy."

Charlie
It was quite awkward at first when Rae started talking to me. I thought she was just being polite, since she's the sister of the hostess. But after talking to her for a good hour, I realized she's not as bad as I deemed her to be. She's not just James's ex, or someone that caused James so much pain. And she's hurting, too.

I guess I'll never understand relationships until I find myself in one, but all I could do to hopefully make her feel better was to keep things light. And even when we began veering away from small talk, the conversation flowed easily—well, at least I think it did. I hope I cheered her up in some way. Rae is actually an amazing, interesting, and profound person. No wonder James fell for her.

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Rae

I go back to my room after the party has died down and fall face-first on the bed. I don't know what to feel, but I am certain that Charlie isn't the mean girl she’s branded as. In fact, she was really sweet about my sudden word vomit about James and our relationship—or current lack thereof. And, apparently, James and Charlie aren't a thing. They never were. Does this mean... No. I dismiss that thought before it's even fully formed in my head. Thoughts like that just lead to heartbreak.

I reach for my phone to set an alarm and see a text from an unsaved number. Ha. Who am I kidding? I know that number by heart.

"I tried to look for you, but I had to drive Trevor home. I don't know what it is about what I said tonight that made you mad, but I’m sorry. I hope you’re okay. Good night."

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Oh my god. This is not happening. I rush to delete the message and block his number before I start thinking crazy thoughts again, but my phone suddenly buzzes with another text.

"By the way, you looked beautiful tonight. But then again, you always do. —J"

Are you ready to meet Lissa, Rae, Charlie, and Sam? Who do you think they are?

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Lissa, Rae, Charlie, Sam
We're writing for the brand new YA fiction series, Girl Code.
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Today, I am sharing my mother's story. I wish my mother was a constant in my life, like an angel who guards you to sleep and comes right there when you called. But angels come back home too, in heaven where they always belonged, and my mother went back a little early. My mother died when I was 13 years old. My last memory of my mother: Letting go when you are not yet ready is a very cruel thing that one has to ever experience. It is a sudden wave of total sadness and desperation crashing into your very core.

On the 28th of July 2013, we went to a resort in Bataan for the employees’ getaway. My parents own a 7-11 franchise, and it had always been a tradition to give their store clerks a get-together every year. I remember very well the last breakfast I had with my mother. The Sunday morning sky was clear and sunny, and the sea was calm and tranquil as we ate our breakfast on a cottage under the tall palm trees. She shared with us a strange dream she had the other night. She dreamt about an unknown woman holding an ice pick chasing her down on a dimly lit street, then she woke up just before the woman could grab her arm. We never knew what that dream exactly meant and now, I wished I never knew its meaning. After breakfast, my family and our employees decided to take a swim at the beach. The day was nice. The morning air may be chilly but the sun’s kiss on our skins gave us warmth. It was perfect. Everything is fine and the tides are low which made it very enjoyable to swim. We swam a little farther from the shore and we stopped to the point where the water reached our shoulders. We were talking about the good things in life and reminiscing the good old days. Those are the things that I’ve always loved about my family because I never had a meaningless conversation with them.

A few moments later, we heard a panicking call for help from one of our store clerks. It was Rachel. She was struggling to keep her head above water. She was already drowning but the odd thing was, she was only a few feet away from us. At first, we thought she was just playing around until we felt the sand in our toes dissolving like powder. It felt like as if the seafloor submerged deeper. I remembered sighting the shore and it seemed so close yet very far away. We were all panicking at that time. No one knew how to swim except my mother so without having second thoughts she swam towards Rachel and called out to my father, “Yung mga anak mo! Dalhin mo sa pampang yung mga anak mo!” and I never thought I already heard my mother’s last words to my father. I was paddling like a dog, gasping for air, as I say a little prayer to God to take us all back to safety. I felt my father grabbing our swimsuits, trying to lift our bodies so we can breathe even though he was also struggling to keep himself alive. Once I felt my toes touch the ground, there came a veil of relief that covered my whole body. As soon as my father and my sister made it to the shore we started calling out for help. There were no lifeguards on duty at that time, no personnel, nor guards. I saw my mother already floating in her stomach. We sighted a boat sailing nearby, we waved our hands and called for their attention. They almost ignored us because they cannot comprehend what we were trying to relay but the good thing was a passenger in the boat noticed my mother and Rachel in the water.

My mother’s body was laid on the shore. She was unconscious and her whole body was pale as white. My father performed CPR but my mother couldn’t get the water come out of her mouth because the food she ate earlier got stuck in her throat and blocked the passage. A concerned tourist offered his car to deliver my mom in a nearby health center or a clinic of some sort since the hospital was miles away from the beach and she needs immediate care. My father told us to stay in the hotel room and prepare mom’s belongings so that if she wakes up she has fresh clothes to change into. My sister and I finished packing our things and waited for our father to pick us up from the hotel. I was crying and I couldn’t stop myself because I was afraid to lose my mother. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be if I lose her that day. Moments lasted until we heard a knock on the door and it was my father, crying, and apologizing to us. He hugged me and my sister tightly and saying, “Sorry, anak, sorry hindi na uuwi si mommy, sorry hindi ko nasagip si mommy”. And that was the moment I felt sinking into the ground. I never knew what to feel at first. I was numb because my worries were now actually a reality that I have to live in. I was at shock because I am now one of the kids in those cliche teleseryes who lost a mother at an early age. We went to the health center to settle everything. The clinic was very small and it sure did lack equipment. He told us to stay in the car. I wanted to see my mom, but I know he never wanted us to see her like that. I didn’t know what to feel. I was having high anxiety levels that my stomach is churning and I wanted to vomit. I got off the car and entered the health center to find the restroom. When I was finding my way around, I passed by the emergency room. I saw my mother lying in a foldable bed, lifeless, her hands dangling from the side of the bed, she has violet bruises on her skin, and her body was partially covered with a white towel.

That is when it sunk into me that she’s dead and never coming back. My father asked the others to just commute back to Manila because what we need right now is comfort from our family. The drive back home was one of the most painful memory I had as a kid. My father was in the steering wheel crying his eyes out. We drove from Bataan to Pampanga. We went home to my grandmother’s house, the nearest house that we can call “home” because how are we still going to be “home” without her?

Once we reached Pampanga, we stopped over to the gas station and my father made some calls to our loved ones to tell them that my mother passed away. He then called my aunt to help him arrange for the funeral. We got home and my grandmother hugged us and told us to get some rest. Already tired of crying, I went to sleep for a while. I woke up and for a second, I thought everything that happened the other day was all just a dream. That she was there in Manila, sitting on the couch reading some furniture magazine, waiting for us to go home. But that’s how cruel life is, right? I got up and weirdly, I felt sands in the bed. It was gray, just like the ones on the beach. I thought maybe it was just dirt but it was a fair amount to believe that maybe she visited us before she left. - ?

- The part of how I conquered the grief of her passing is shared in my personal blog. I felt the need to share my story with everyone since she's the woman I look up to. Feel free to visit my personal blog too when you have the time. I love writing my stories. Thank You! link: http://qkathreece.wixsite.com/kathreecequizon/post/breaking-waves

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