Chapter 1


Angela's heart raced upon hearing her daughter's soft voice. Before she turned to face her, she pulled her wavy brown hair to cover the sides of her neck. She also made sure that her cardigan entirely covered her inner clothes.

"Yes, baby?" she asked with a kind smile. "It's too early to be awake already."

Her six-year-old daughter, Aleli, rubbed her eyes. "I had a nightmare, Mommy…"

Angela kneeled in front of her child and cupped her face. "What is it, Aleli? Tell your mom."

"You left me in the middle of the night," she began, tears beginning to sting her beautiful eyes. "Mom, please don't leave when I'm asleep. It scares me."

Angela heaved a sigh. She held her daughter's small hands and gave it a massage. "Aleli, if I won't go to work, how am I going to buy our food?"

Aleli pressed her lips together, trying her best to fight her tears from falling. "Do you really have to work at night? Why not during the king sun is still up?"

She reached to touch her daughter's cheeks. "If I'm going to work in the daytime, we're not going to have more time together. Who's going to bring and pick you up in school?"

Aleli pouted her lips. "But… I want you to be with me when I'm sleeping."

Angela brushed her daughter's hair. "Okay, I'll sleep with you tonight."

"My chest hurt last night," Aleli said and started crying. "I'm sorry, Mommy…"

"Shh… it's okay, baby. Don't cry…" Angela hugged her daughter. "I'm not mad…"

"Angela…" Meera's bothered voice called her attention. "We're running out of stocks of Aleli's meds. Because she often cried at night, more than to what is—"

"I'll go to her doctor after I send her to school," she cut off and looked at Aleli. "We're going to the mall after your classes."

Aleli's face lit up. "Really? You'll buy me a new dress?"

Angela nodded. "And a new pair of shoes," she opened her purse and showed her the gift certificates that she got from her customer. "Look, this piece of paper can buy a lot of toys."

Aleli's eyes widened in amazement. "Wow!" She took the tickets from her hand and looked at them. "I promise that I will never cry again at night, Mommy."

Angela smiled and gave her daughter a peck in the cheeks. "Go with Auntie Meera and eat your breakfast. I'm just going to change my clothes."

When Aleli was busy with her breakfast, Meera went to her. Based on her expression, Angela already knew what she was about to say. And she will give her the same answers.

"When are you planning to quit on that kind of job?" Meera asked, brows furrowed. "Aleli kept looking for you every night, and you know that it's bad for her heart to cry at night."

Angela heaved a sigh. "I can't just quit, Meera. This is the only job that can support Aleli's medications."

"But, it can also worsen her situation," she countered. "Angela—"

"I'll find another job, Meera," she cut off and turned her back at her. "But, not now."

Angela Rodriguez works as a pole dancer in an after-hours club along Recto's busy streets, Manila. She'd been in this kind of job for three years. Luckily, every time there's a police raid, she was out of the club for some extra service. Thanks to her friend-slash-admirer PO1 Ricardo Netanel that gave her hints whenever their troops were planning to raid the illegal bars in their area.

Angela went inside their bathroom and stared at herself in the mirror. Before tears could sting her eyes, she fought it back with a deep breath.

"Come on, Angela. Don't shed tears with the decisions that you made," she told her reflection in the mirror. "This is your destiny. And you have to face it."

She took off her jacket, and there she saw the marks that cost a thousand dollars. Tears pooled around her eyes as she started to take off all her clothes. Angela felt filthy, immoral, and lowly. But, it doesn't matter, as long as she can support her child's needs, everything was fine.

"Angela? Aleli's going to use the toilet," Meera's bothered voice pulled her from what seemed to be a nightmare at daytime. "Are you done?"

"Y-yeah…" She put on her robe and opened the door. Meera's frowned expression welcomed her. "What?"

"Did you cry, Mom?" Aleli asked.

Angela wiped her face immediately. "No… I washed my face, and I haven't used the face towel."

Meera shook her head, not convinced of what she said. "Aleli, go and use the toilet."

Angela stepped out of the bathroom. She was about to go into their room when Meera called her. She looked over her shoulders but avoided her eyes.

"Yes, I had a night with a stranger," she said in a low voice, careful not to hear by her daughter. "And guess what? That stranger gave me dollars that can support Aleli's meds for two months."


"Meera, let's not talk about it now…" she trailed off and walked towards her room.

She met Meera when she was a stray downtown girl in the city. She was an angel in disguise that saved her from miseries and death. She adopted her and gave her shelter in this world full of misfortunes and abusive people.

Where is she and Aleli now if Meera didn't find her? Angela sighed. She might be dead now.

"Am I not dying every day?" Angela asked herself. She rolled her long wavy hair into a bun on top of her head. "Am I not putting myself in danger every fucking night just to survive?"

Tears stung her eyes. Her chest tightened until it's hard for her to breathe. Every night, she's putting herself into that stage, dancing naked around the pole, exposing her private parts to the sea of people shouting for more than she can give.

But, there's nothing that she can't do for her daughter even if it means that she will dance naked all her life.


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