At first, Maria didn’t understand why Manuel wanted her to miss her workday at the gas station. But soon, a piece of news that broke revealed something incredible about the little boy’s instincts.
The happiest hours in little Manuel’s daily life were between the time his Mama would pick him up from school until after dinner, when she would leave him home alone again.
“I missed you, Mama. How was your day?” he would ask, with a smile that stretched from ear to ear.
In those few hours, the mother and son would cherish every moment and tell each other every little detail about their day. She would help him with his homework, and he would help her prepare dinner and fold the laundry.
Ever since Manuel’s father left, Maria had been working two jobs. Every morning, she worked in housekeeping at the Wilkins Hospital. And every evening, she worked a graveyard shift as a clerk at the neighborhood gas station.
Every night, it broke Maria’s heart that she had to leave her five-year-old to fall asleep by himself. The friendly lady who lived alone next door would come and watch him while she was gone, but Maria knew how lonely it must have been for Manuel. She would return way past midnight to find Manuel fast asleep, with one foot sticking out of the blanket, and a picture book on the floor or the nightstand.
Working the night shift was becoming increasingly difficult, especially with a bun in the oven. But if she could just pull through another month, things would get better.
“It’ll soon get better, baby. Mama will be hovering around you all the time.”
Maria had found a new job at a private clinic starting in a few weeks. It meant that she and Manuel would have to move to a different part of the city. But the pay was high enough for Maria to be able to quit the second job.
The last few weeks at the gas station were more demanding than ever. Maria had been asked to put in extra hours and train the person who would replace her. She was even working through her second-trimester pains.
Maria tried her best to put on a brave face in front of her employers and, more importantly, in front of Manuel.
She knew he was a sensitive boy who noticed the slightest change in her voice or mood. In all the darkness that life had put her through, Manuel was the one constant source of light and happiness.
Manuel was an old soul in the body of a five-year-old. He was unexpectedly considerate for a boy his age, and there was a friend of his who hadn’t heard him proudly brag about his mother.
“She is the best Mama in the whole world. She is also the best Papa in the whole world!”
Manuel was on top of the world when he learned that he was going to get a baby sister. And ever since, he had been extra caring towards his mother. He would massage her feet every afternoon until Maria fell asleep. Manuel would also take out the trash every day, except when it was too heavy for him to pick.
And whenever he was walking with Maria, he would hold her hand and not let go for even a single step.
He was thrilled about the new life that he, his baby sister, and his Mama were about to begin. And so, even though he felt like stopping her at the door every night, Manuel would put a smile on his face and wave goodbye to Maria.
Except for this one night, when Manuel just couldn’t let her go to work.
Sometimes, it is wise to follow your strongest intuitions, even when you can’t explain them logically.
It wasn’t just that he was going to miss her, but there was an inexplicable voice inside his head, asking him to stop Maria.
It felt like something was about to go wrong that night, and even though Manuel couldn’t explain it, he wanted to protect his mother without taking any chances.
Maria was resting on the couch. In another 20 minutes, she would get up to prepare dinner and get ready.
“Mama, you look tired. Why don’t you take the night off from the gas station?”
Maria was touched by Manuel’s caring intention. “I really can’t, baby. Besides, I’m feeling alright. It’s just a little headache, that’s all.”
“But Mama…you haven’t made dinner yet. And I want my favorite lasagna tonight.” Manuel tried a different excuse.
“Lasagna, huh? Well, let’s see. I do have some time. If I get started now, I can finish preparing it just in time….”
Maria got up from the couch and walked slowly to the kitchen.
Manuel felt deep regret as he had interrupted his mother’s rest time and given her more work.
“No, Mama. That’s alright. You can just make soup.”
Now Maria was concerned. “Soup? You hate soup. What’s going on, Manny? Are you not feeling well?”
That was an excuse Manuel believed would work. “I didn’t want to say anything, but I am feeling feverish and a little weak.”
Maria’s heart melted. How did I miss this? She immediately tucked Manuel in with an additional blanket, made him a hot meal, and called her boss at the gas station.
The conversation was not an easy one. Maria finally put her foot down and said:
“I am willing to work an extra day. But I will not be coming in today. I need to be here for my son. That is non-negotiable.”
Manuel felt a constant pinch of guilt through the rest of the night. However, he still could not shake that strong feeling that something would have gone horribly wrong if his mother had gone to work.
The mother and son were watching television when the overcast weather changed dramatically. The silence of the night was broken by an angry rumble of thunder and repeated bolts of lightning. Manuel was afraid and hugged Maria tighter.
Suddenly, there was a torrential pour of rain, and all the street lights went out. Maria did not leave her son’s side and was relieved that she hadn’t left him alone that night.
Eventually, the storm passed, and the rain quieted down. The streetlights were still out, but there wasn’t anything to fear anymore.
The rest of the night went by uneventfully. Manuel and Maria fell asleep in the living room.
The following morning, everything had returned to normal. Maria was up early and in the kitchen, making pancakes for him. “Rise and shine, sweetheart!” She appeared to be in a good mood.
However, Manuel’s guilt was still eating away at him. He had lied to her and cost her one day at her job.
‘She probably had to put up with a lot of scolding because of me,’ he thought.
He tried to hide his guilt, but Manuel ultimately came clean about his strange feeling.
“I’m sorry I lied to you, Mama. I wasn’t sick last night. I just didn’t want you to go because I felt something terrible would happen. I don’t know why, but I felt your life would be in danger.”
Maria was surprised to hear this and didn’t know what to make of Manuel’s premonition. To her, this was just one of the nights when there was heavy rainfall, and everything was shut down for a while. She didn’t understand why Manuel felt that last night would have been any different.
All of that changed with one phone call.
It was from a friend who previously worked at the gas station.
“Did you hear, Maria? Yesterday’s thunderstorm caused a terrible tragedy.”
Maria’s heart sunk as she listened.
“The power pole next to the gas station collapsed on it. The employee covering your shift was seriously injured. They doubt whether that person is going to make it. Thank goodness you stayed home last night. It is a surprise that the whole place didn’t burn down!”
Maria hung up in shock and turned toward her son. His face was still red with tears of guilt.
“What is it, Mama? Did you get in trouble because of me?” he asked innocently.
Maria walked up to him, wiped his tears, and held back her own. “No, Manny. You didn’t get me into trouble. You saved my life.”