THE BABY TRAP

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 By: Cecille Tan

Apple San Juan was  only 19 years old when she found  out she was pregnant.  She and her boyfriend Rob were naturally aghast. They were both in College and had so many plans for the future,  including going to the United States after graduation and hopefully, landing a job there.

“What are we going  to do?” Apple sobbed, as she showed Rob the results of the  early pregnancy test.

Rod said they were going to do the right thing and get married.  “But first, we have to tell out parents. It’s important to let them know that we  are still serious about pursuing our studies, we just got sidetracked,” he reasoned out. Not surprisingly, both sets of parents were disappointed but the young  couple assured them that Rob would continue  with his studies while Apple would take a leave of absence from her Fine Arts course and go back after she gave birth. They allowed the couple  to live together,  but marriage, the parents  urged,  would take place after college graduation. Reluctantly, Rob and Apple agreed. Rob’s  parents said they would provide the couple with an allowance so  that they could rent a small house or apartment and learn to be independent.  Apple’s mother agreed provided that they would  find a house  in the same subdivision where she lived.

It was Apple’s family  who found the cute Mediterranean-inspired bungalow two blocks away from  the San Juan residence. It had two bedrooms, one bath and a  maid’s room. As added moral support, Apple’s childhood yaya,  Manang Tasing, would stay with the couple and help the two settle down.

On moving day,  Manang Tasing, noticed they were getting strange looks from the neighbors.

“Bakit  kaya tayo pinagtitinginan  ng mga kapitbahay? Kilala niyo  ba sila? (Why do you think  the neighbors are all looking at us? Do you know these people?)” She asked Rob and Apple.

“Hindi (NO).” Apple replied, looking  around. But nobody was minding them. At  least, nobody she saw. The neighbors were busy going about chores, watering plants, washing cars, taking out the garbage.

“Hayaan mo na sila Manang.  Huwag mo nang pansinin (Let them be, just don’t mind them),” she told her yaya,  all the while  thinking  her nursemaid was getting a bit  paranoid.

The first week in their new abode proved uneventually. Except that, as the  day wore on, Apple would  often feel like  somebody was watching her, but when she’d  check, no one  would be there.

Strange, she’d think. Initially she simply passed it  off as  settling-in jitters.

“Namamahay lang siguro ako(I’m just feeling unsettled,),”she’d shrug. Once, she asked  Rob  if he felt the same way and  he remarked that she  was just  being imaginative. “Lungkot lang yan (It’s  just loneliness),” he replied, “Why don’t you go out  more? Go visit your mom or go to  the mall with your friends.” But the  feeling of dread wouldn’t  go away.

What Apple didn’t  tell Rob was that at night,  she couldn’t  sleep because she  was scared of something she didn’t know about or if she did manage to fall sleep,  she’d wake up in a cold sweat.

Finally, Apple asked Manang Tasing if she felt something strange in the  house.  “Naku, parang laging may nakatingin sa akin. Hindi rin ako makatulog sa gabi dahil pakiramdam ko,  may kasama tayo sa kuwarto. Lipat na lang tayo sa Mommy mo.  Hindi ako mapakali dito ( I have this feeling somebody’s constantly  watching me. I can’t  sleep at night because I feel a presence inside the room.  Let’s just move back to your mommy’s  place,  I can’t seem to settle here),” Manang Tasing entreated.

But Apple was determined to prove that she and Rob  are ready to make a life for themselves.

In any case,  all their fears  were forgotten as Apple’s due date drew near and  the couple got ready for the birth of their firstborn.

With the help  of their parents, they bought  a beautiful  wooden crib,  a mobile to hang over it,  baby bottles and clothes and some stuffed toys. Manang Tasing said She’d be glad  of the baby’s  birth because she’d be busy  and not think of her fears about the  house.

When the time came,  Apple  delivered a 6-8 pound baby  boy without much difficulty, and after two days in the hospital  the mother and son, who they named Peter, were ready to go home.

But although Peter was very healthy in the hospital,  he became  a fussy baby at home. Even Manang Tasing, who practically brought  up Apple,  her two  sisters and one  brother were perplexed.  “Ang ligalig ng batang ito ( This baby is so fretful,” She remarked.  The young mother made  numerous visits to Peter’s pediatrician  to make sure  that nothing was wrong  and she was assured that her baby was in perfect  health.

One morning, after a particularly  troubling night  when Peter  refused  to nurse  but continued to cry,  Apple was  pleasantly  surprised  to see her son sleeping soundly on  his back. She thought she’d let him sleep one more hour before walking him  up for his  morning feeding. An hour later,  Apple was screaming and Manang  Tasing  was rushing  to the room.  Manang hindi na siya humihinga! Tumawag ka ng Ambulansya (Manang,  he’s not breathing! Call an ambulance)!” Apple shouted.  At the hospital, Peter was proclaimed dead on arrival. The medical report, issued a few days later, listed the cause of death as “crib death.”  Rob was sad at his son’s death but Apple was inconsolable. She’d spend many starting out the garden and thinking what she could have done wrong.  One afternoon, a woman who looked like she  was in her 30s approached  Apple  and offered her condolences.

The woman,  who introduced herself as Stella, said something surprising.  “Maybe now is the perfect time to move out of this house,” she suggested.  “Why?” Apple asked.

Stella then told  Apple about the tragic history of their residence.  According to Stella, the original owner of the house,  who became drug  dependent and one night,  killed his wife and seven-year-old son and  smothered his four-month-old daughter before shooting himself in the head.

Horrified by the story, Apple was convinced that the evil presence  that she and Manang Tasing felt was  this man’s malevolence. This evil  also took her son’s lifeshe was convinced. Apple immediately told Rob  about the  bloodbath in their house and they both decided to leave the rented house and move in with her family.

Today,  the couple and their three children live happily in a townhouse far,  far away from that tragic bungalow where they lost Peter. Last thing Apple heard   was that the house had been gutted down and the lot stands empty.

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