The test of survival depended on Darwin’s theory of natural selection: the fittest ones lived and passed on their genes to their offspring. In effect, these traits were more common in certain populations. What would I pass on to my future offspring if I had any? Would I even live to pass anything along?
          At first, I thought simply. How hard could life be? I just needed to fulfill my basic needs: food, shelter, and some services. I forgot, however, that my necessities used to be full of grandeur and luxury. Poverty was unassociated with my previous neighbourhood, but now, it was living with me.
          My mother and I lost everything, but we watched everything go away. We watched as the bank sealed away our mansion and all our prized possessions. We watched as our friends vanished from our sides. We watched as people spoke of our failures, vowing never to manage a company like that.
          Everything seemed so surreal, especially my father’s funeral. Actually, there was no funeral. We just witnessed his corpse in the morgue and received his ashes, which my mother tossed into the trash, leaving the janitor to dispose to the dumps. I couldn’t watch anymore. I retrieved the filthy box of ashes from the trash can and brought it home. After that incident, she refused to speak to me. If I recalled correctly, her last words to me were: “You’re just like him, a traitor!”
          “Are you all right, Renelle?” As expected, it was Brett, the manager of my favourite café, which couldn’t be my favourite anymore.
          I could still recount how I was offered this job as a waitress. After my father’s funeral, I had wandered around the streets, not wanting to return home. I wandered wherever my feet led me, and there I had been, standing in front of the coffee shop, thinking about everything that had happened. I must have been gazing too long at the chalkboard that hung on the store’s wall.
          “Let’s get the green tea latté,” he had suggested.
          “Why? I don’t even drink coffee.” I had wanted to try the cinnamon flavoured apple tea, not some bitter, caffeine filled drink.
          “Oh, come on, try something new for once,” he persisted to argue. “You’re always sleepy anyways. The caffeine will keep you awake, guaranteed!”
          Lies. Those were all lies. Whatever word he had said meant nothing now.
          I remembered Brett, who knew me as the girl who ordered a medium green tea latté, lulling me into the store. As I sat in a stool close to the counter, I could hear him wiping a glass clean. Brett had opened this café for years and I had become a frequenter after Thayne had insisted on having dates with coffee on the side. It “helped to pull all nighters”, he used to say.
          “Here.” Brett had handed me what I had used to order, but once I saw what it was, I pushed it away.
          “No thank you.”
          “I thought you liked—“
          “You thought wrong.” I arched my head upwards just to glare at him.
          “Then, what would you like?”
          Yes, what would I have liked to order? Honestly, I never asked myself that question. Whenever it was with Thayne, he would already have my answer. He would have decided that I would have green tea latté and then, I would never think about that cinnamon apple tea. Even if I were to request for it now, there was that other issue at hand.
          “Do I have to pay?” I had asked.
          Brett had chuckled and patted my head. “No, it’ll be on me.”
          “Yes, now what would you like?”
          I had used my best smile. “I would like a job.”
          “Renelle, are you all right?” Brett waved his hand in front of my face. “You’ve been zoning out these days and even . . . fainting?”
          “I’m sorry.” I shook my head left to right. “I’m just tired. That’s all.”
          “Well, don’t overwork yourself,” Brett harked back. “It won’t be good in the long run.”
          What he didn’t understand was that I had to work harder. I had to earn extra cash by collecting cans and juice boxes to trade at the recycling centre. I had to take on night shifts at a bar and use the early mornings to distribute newspaper. Why? It was all because my mother was unsatisfied. She wanted her old life.
          “Mom,” I had yelled too many times, “did you go shopping again?”
          She had flaunted her designer clothes in front of the bathroom mirror. She only had to smile and that was all it took for me to know her answer. Her guiltless, toothless smile had told me everything. My constant fury towards her splurging had become habitual. No matter where I hid my money, she would always manage to find them, just like how she could easily detect my cell phone. She even knew the password to my bank account or was able to convince the bank to let her access it. In the end, I always lost and whoever said that there were no losers in life was utterly wrong. There were definitely losers, especially when it came to money.
          “Yes, Renelle, a young girl like you shouldn’t be suffering so much,” Brett repeated while filling a cup of coffee for another customer. “I’ve overworked myself before and—“
          “Renelle! Renelle!”
          I could hear his voice calling for me.
          Where are you? Where did you go?
          I wanted to tell him that I was here, but I couldn’t even open my mouth.
          How long do I have to wait for you?
          His voice had become too distinct, yet his face had always been blurred. It was like my nightmare, though I was never sure how that began. I was sure of how it ended . . . always with a petrifying scream. A man’s scream.
          You promised me . . .
          I looked to my right to find Brett’s worried face. “Where am I?” I pondered.
          “You’re at the hospital. The doctors have told us that you need more sleep,” Brett clarified.
          “No, I’m fine.” I lifted the blankets from my body and tried to hop off of the bed. “Now, can we please leave before I’m charged some price?”
          “Renelle, you shouldn’t be worried about the money,” Brett uttered. “Your health is more important, and I can lend you some money for now.”
          If it were before, I would have accepted, but now, I couldn’t. I couldn’t rely on anyone anymore. “No, thank you.”
          “Well, we . . . did call your mother.” Brett’s mutter was almost like a whisper.
          At that word, I wanted to sigh. How she had become this way was partly my fault. I never truly stopped her splurging for I always forgave her, thinking that some day, she would realize the aftermath of her actions and change. Optimism was for fools and I was one of those fools. She was my mother though. What else could I have done?
          Nothing. Nothing could have changed her.
          “Actually, I tried to find your mother at your place, but there was no one there,” Brett continued to explain. “Your mother . . . did leave you a note.”
          Brett stuffed a crumpled piece of lined paper in my hand, but I pushed it away. “I don’t want to see it.”
          “You sure? It might be something important,” He urged.
          “If you think it’s important, then why don’t you read it out?” I viciously eyed her.
          “Okay, then,” Brett sighed while rolling his eyes. “Dear Renelle, I made some breakfast for you. I will be home soon.”
          I erupted to laughter, clutching onto my stomach. Breakfast? What was she even thinking? Trying to win the best mother of the year award? What a joke. I couldn’t even believe that she dared to say that she would be home soon. Soon? How soon was soon?
          Then, I thought I heard his voice again, 
          Soon, we’ll meet . . . and you’ll remember. 
Chapter 1                                                                             Chapter 3