Maria pushed the wood planks, opening the food stall for the day. She noticed a group of people gathered with solemn face nearby. She frowned

"What is the matter?"

Juan was troubled.

" Renzy, the street kid, is dead.."

Blood left Maria's face. She was just teaching Renzy how to do fractions at the store last night.

"What happened?"

Ana shrugged her shoulders

"He was caught stealing money and brought to the police station. I guess he did not stand the SPO1 Cruz's interrogation style. Serves the rascal right. Nothing good comes from dirt!"

SPO1 Cruz? Maria remembered the first time she met Renzy. He came over asking if she needed any help and he would do it for a free meal or even just a free bread. The policeman came to accost the child. She could not help but intervene even if she hated having anything to do with the rogue man. Cruz fancied her to be his mistress and she refused flat his intentions.

" Excuse me, Officer. But the kid came to be my helper. Please let go of his hand.

SPO1 Cruz scowled but saw a group of people watching and listening curiously

"Okay. But I warn you, nothing good comes from dirt! "

That started a warm friendship and she enjoyed each day Renzy comes to help. Cleaning, washing dishes and doing other errands for her. In exchange, she makes sure the boy has full three hot meals and pleased to see the boy gaining weight in just few weeks. She often wondered then where the kid's parents are and how was his schooling?
Renzy shrugged his shoulders.

"Dad left us when I was still a baby and Mom died just last year. No, don't be sorry. I'm glad for no one is hitting me anymore if I can't bring money or whisky back home every night. I want to go to school again and become a policeman like my dad. But our neighbor who enrolls me every year moved out to the province with his family.

They are still accepting students in the public school three blocks away, but I can not enrol myself because I am still of minor age to do so, they say. Told them it's not fair, since I will be the one studying not the adults."

That very next day Maria went to school with Renzy signing in her name as his new guardian. So grateful the boy was he didn't mind helping out at store after class and sitting for hours while Maria tutors him on his school tasks. And a deep friendship grew between them, that is frowned upon by the religious Ana and enraged SPO1Cruz.

"They're just jealous and think I don't deserve to be your friend because you're  pretty and I'm just a dirt."

 Maria's heart felt a deep stab as she watch him shrug his small shoulders about the gossips going around.

 Juan broke into her musings.

"Ana reported  P1000 stolen from her store about 9last night. Cruz found P500 in Renzy's pocket and beat the boy to shell out the rest. Boy will not tell where he got the P500. "

Last night she has to force Renzy to take the P500 bill to pay the PTA and other charges the teacher wrote on his notebook. The poor child has been keeping those notes from her, taking side jobs in the market to save and pay his school expenses.

Maria is sure Ana saw that as she kept her watched on the two of them every night. Always trying to finding a reason and seize a chance to tell at everyone's hearing that Renzy is a Devil's child and Maria will be cursed for having been too close with the dirt boy.

" But Renzy was in my store until close to midnight! I had to move the stacked boxes around to make a room for him to sleep instead of getting wet at the sidewalks every night. I also have given him the  P500 last night for his school bills.  It's written on his notebook!

Shocked Maria swept her eyes on the people gathered around her.
Who among them really care about a dirt child and his dreams? ...




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