The Woman

Excerpts of the novel 'Rebecca' by Daphne du Maurier used in the story

It was two hours past noon, and the café was still packed with people. A monotonous, loud, yet comforting sound of combined conversations droned around the place, inside and out. Silverware tapped on ceramic plates, and shoes shuffled on the cement floor. Conversations were about work and sex between males, while between women, about family and clothes. Early drinkers sat by the bar, savoring their alcohols in clear classes. The interior of the café smelled of a lot of things – of brewed coffee, whiskey, pesto, grilled meat, cheap perfume, soap, and leather. Outside, under large, brown umbrellas, most men sat alone, smoking, and letting the ice melt on their drinks.

Under one of the umbrellas sat a woman, her legs crossed, her right elbow resting on the tabletop, and her other hand holding a straw in place as she sipped her drink from a tall glass. She wore a wide-brimmed straw sun hat, and a tight blue dress. Her skin radiated youth. A pair of sunglasses with large lenses concealed the upper half of her face. A black leather handbag lay on the chair beside her, along with her coat carelessly hanging on the arms. She looked like a woman on vacation.

She gazed at a man sitting a table away from her, reading a thick book. His sandwich lay untouched on the table, attracting a lone fly. He occasionally, yet absentmindedly, waved a free hand over the food, keeping the fly from landing on it. He kept his eyes on the book, too absorbed to use his full attention on the insect. The young woman smiled slightly, clearly amused at what she was watching. She squinted through her glasses, attempting to read the title of the book. It was a hardbound book, almost a vintage. The words were too small, but she made out one word: Dostoevsky.

The woman stared at the man's face in suppressed awe. She had only read one novel by Dostoevsky, and that was almost four years ago. She dropped out of college during her sophomore year…or that was her supposed story as of the moment. She had never read anything but short articles from newspapers and women's magazines for the past years.

The truth was already irrelevant from her life. The truth was only taken for granted. Lies were given more attention; lies were more important.

Her life was made up of intertwined lies, waiting to be snapped.

She grabbed her purse and coat from the nearby chair, gracefully stood up, smoothed her thin dress, and walked to where the man was sitting. Her mind swiftly concocted a conversation.

"Hi." She flashed her smile, removed her sunglasses, and batted her eyes a bit. She extended her hand toward him. "Katherine du Maurier," she said, using one of her favorite names. It sounded so unlike hers. The name sounded familiar, too, almost nostalgic, but she cannot remember why it was so.

The man stared at her in surprise, his mouth half-open.

"Hi," she repeated, when the man did not reply.

Quickly, the man closed his mouth, and then licked his lips. He smiled apologetically to the young woman and coughed before saying, "Mark Ross."

The woman sat on the chair opposite him, so that they faced each other. She kept her stare on the man, as well as her smile.

Embarrassed, the man attempted to continue reading his book. His cheeks slowly burned, and his ears both turned red as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He faked another cough, to break the silence. He stole fleeting glances at the woman in front of him, as if making sure that she was still looking at him.

Their eyes locked for a second, but the young man was the first one to draw away.

The woman chuckled. Now, now, she thought. This is interesting. This guy is playing hard to get. Or he's too shy. Cute.

He ruffled his black hair, and continued acting to read. It wasn't so convincing, though, as his eyes wandered around every few minutes. He doesn't look so bad, she thought. But he doesn't have much style.

Slowly, she extended her arm towards him, wrapped her slender fingers on the open book, and took it away from his grasp. The man's eyes widened for a moment, but he collected himself as fast as it took. Ha, just like a deer caught in a car's headlights, she thought.

She wasn't used to this type of treatment. Usually, the guys were the one who approached her. They were always the eager ones. They were usually the ones who followed her like a pack of love-deprived dogs, their tongues hanging out their mouths, saliva dribbling down their chins.

"Mr. Ross, how are you?" she asked in her most seductive voice. She closed the book and put it on her lap.

He clasped both his hands together and brought them down on the table. The sandwich lay unnoticed. "I'm fine. You?" he said, showing off an unnatural smile.

The woman laughed, her voice trilling like a bell. "I've never been better!" she exclaimed. "Don't be so nervous. I'm harmless, I promise you. See, I'm new in this city, and I would like someone to show me around," she said.

Take the hint, she thought.

"You picked me to be the one?" he asked, incredulity in his voice.

The woman rested her elbow on the table and cradled her head with her hand. "Obviously," she muttered. Her sleek black hair flowed to the side as she tilted her head, and the ends rested on the tabletop. She used a finger to twirl a few strands of her hair.

The man fidgeted. "Why me? I'm glad you want me to show you around, but I'm not used to…" he trailed off.

Oh, I'm not used to being the one to do all the work, too, if that makes you happy, she wanted to say, but she just bit her tongue and said something else.

"It's because, I want to. That's a valid reason, isn't it?"

The young man swallowed. "I don't know…you're so beautiful, though…"

The woman waved away the compliment. She was too tired of hearing that word. She intimately gave back the book to the young man and stood up. She took her things and looked at him. "Coming?" she asked, with one eyebrow raised. "It's a chance." She started to walk away.

Like a man late for a deadline, he swiftly stood up and collected his things. He slung his backpack over his shoulder and put the thick book in between his arm and torso. The woman watched him as he walked towards her in long strides, keeping up.

A deafening drone of traffic greeted them when they passed the highway. "Where are you from?" the young man asked, keeping his eyes front.

"Aruba," she said. Another lie, but she knew that that would rouse his interest. Katherine Du Maurier, a woman with a French name, twenty-three years old, not a college graduate, and living in Aruba, an island in the Caribbean Sea. It's very imaginative, isn't it, she asked herself.

The young man's ears perked up. He tilted his head so he could look at her. "Wow. What are you doing here in the city when you live in a place as beautiful as Aruba?" he asked, unbelieving.

She tossed her hair back as she walked. "I want to be in a new environment," she said. They reached a pedestrian lane; she tugged at the young man's sleeves when they crossed the street.

The buildings towered above them, blocking the fine light from the sun. Their shadows stretched away from them, blending with the other shadows around them, the faceless creatures trying to run away, but they cannot.

"Daphne du Maurier," the man blurted out.

"Excuse me?"

"Your name, it's also du Maurier, isn't it? Are you possibly a relative?" he asked, almost shyly. "She's the author of 'Rebecca'," he added.

Rebecca. The name stuck to her mind like a tattoo. A breeze passed by, but the gentle wind did not appease to the woman's senses. The numb sentience passed through her whole body, as if everything was bottled up inside her.

At the mention of the name, her head began to spin. The fulminant dizziness made her stomach turn, a threat to throw up everything she ate. Her eyes were open, but she cannot see anything but darkness. Her skin became cold, and she felt a prickly sensation on her face.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

"Ohh," the young woman moaned, almost tripping over her heels. She dropped her bag, and almost immediately, the man picked it up. She swayed to her side, letting her wide-brimmed hat fall on the sidewalk. The man came to her side and supported her. "Are you alright?" the man asked as he held her shoulders to keep her upright. The man noticed some of the people looking at them. His ears turned red in embarrassment. "Do you need to go to a hospital?" he asked the woman, "I can accompany you."

She said nothing, so he let her sit down on a set of stairs nearby and hailed a taxi.

The woman, left alone, drifted on a memory.

The door closed in front of them.

The old woman crouched beside the banister, a black eye hidden beneath her unruly hair. Minute sobs escaped from her mouth, echoing in the silent mausoleum they call home. A small girl stood near the woman, her eyes opened wide, and her arms clutched a ragged doll close. The little creature said nothing. She stared at her mother, her face completely devoid of emotions. She shifted her weight to her other feet; her mother noticed her. The old woman jerked her head and bored a hole through the child with her eye. Still, with those piercing eyes glaring at her, the child stood as still as the doll she was holding.

Another sob, while louder, came out of the old woman's mouth. Her eyebrows relaxed, removing the frown from her face. She beckoned the little girl in her arms, calling her name in soft, caressing cries.

The little girl came near to her mother in short, awkward steps, her body wobbling with every movement. Her shoes made shuffling sounds against the floor as she dragged her feet.

She felt the old woman's cold fingers brush her arms, as she was wrapped in a tight embrace. The little creature with the ragged doll stayed rigid and motionless inside the woman's arms. The woman squeezed her tighter, her arms as cold as stone, until the girl gasped for breath, tilting her head up for air.

The woman gasped and her eyes flew open. Her lungs filled with air, making her body arch forward. She set her palms on the stairs for support as she calmed herself.

The man, noticing her move, rushed to her side. "Are you okay?" he asked, pulling her up from the ground through her arm. The woman staggered as she tried to stand up, pushing her weak knees straight with her free hand. She leant on the wall behind her, tilted her head so she could see the sky, and sighed. She closed her eyes before saying, "I'm fine now. We don't need to go to the hospital."

The man's red face was swept with relief, a gentle smile forming on his lips. "Are you sure?" he asked. He adjusted the straps of his backpack.

She nodded.

"Do you want me to accompany you home, then?" he asked feebly.


The young man wrapped his arms around her body, his ears turning red in the process. The woman leant on his body as they sauntered down the road.

"Where do you stay?"

"Allen Hotel, just a few blocks from here," the woman told him. She massaged her forehead as they walked, kept her eyes down. Her head still throbbed from the pain. When she opened her eye, everything was spinning; everything was a blur of different colors making every inch of her weak and fragile. She forced her eyes shut, choosing darkness over the flashes of colors. Everything was rushing and bombarding in her mind. It was mayhem, and like the colors she saw, every memory was whirling around her head, wanting to be remembered. It felt as if she, her body, was the one gyrating as a whole.

"Remember this. Men are strong, but that doesn't mean that we women can't be," the old woman said as she sat by the fire, her hands clasping the arms of her wooden chair, her eyes on her daughter who was sitting on the floor. The little girl was silently weeping, her arms red and sore. Her right cheek was red, made more evident by the glow from the embers in the fireplace. Everywhere else inside the house was dark. The room where they were lodged the only heat and light inside. Their water and electric bills were long overdue, since the old woman can't pay for it with her too modest of a wage. If she did pay them, they'd starve for a month.

"Strength is relative. Strength does not only pertain to physical dimensions. Every bit of person in this world is strong, given any circumstance. Remember this. Men are strong, but that doesn't mean that we women can't be."

The little girl held her injured arm tightly, wishing the pain to go away. It was just like what happened a year ago. Her father left them, but he injured her mother first before doing so. He slapped her and hit her with every force he'd got while drunk. He never came back, and mother and child never knew what happened to him after.

Now it was her mother who beat her up.

The woman shivered involuntarily, and he jolted in surprise. He looked at her, his face creased with worry. The woman said nothing, so he, too, remained silent and continued to walk, dragging her with him.

The old woman brought a tattered paperback novel wherever she went, like a preacher going door-to-door accompanied by his trusty bible. Like a preacher to his bible, the book was the old woman's words of salvation.

The old woman was a domestic in the neighborhood, hired by every home to wash their clothes, dust their furniture, and do the dishes. This the little girl knew.

When she was finished with work, she would make herself at home, wherever she was, and would open the book. She'd read every passage with complete compassion, savoring every word in the novel. Every small detail she would take to heart.

Every night the little girl and her mother sat by the fire, with the old woman reading the book out loud to her daughter. The little girl, like any person introduced to a new religion, at first had half of her attention to the old woman's 'preaching', and half to her imagination. It was a source of fun for the little girl to see her mother read a book with such devotion. And it was those times when she wasn't too violent.

But as she grew older, and the same words from the novel traveled through her mind day in and day out, her mother reading passages from the novel every night, she felt different. She felt changed. One day came, and her feeling of perverseness against the novel dissipated. It was gone, and suddenly she craved for a word from the novel.

The old woman had created a new religion, and her daughter was her first and last convert.

The young woman removed the arm wrapped around her, letting her legs move on their own.

"Can you –" the man started.

"Just stay by my side," the woman muttered, interlacing her right hand to his left. The young man looked down in abashment, his eyes locked on the cemented sidewalk.

The novel was titled Rebecca.

"What do you think of the second Mrs. de Winter?" the old woman asked for the umpteenth time. They were once again in the only illuminated room, their faces gleaming a shade of red as they looked at each other.

"The second Mrs. de Winter has no sense of grace. She is very much incapable to do anything. She is an odious woman who dooms herself just by existing," the teenage girl stated, the answer committed to memory.

The old woman nodded in assent, his fingers fumbling open the book on her lap. "And of Rebecca de Winter?"

"She was wise. She did not let men manipulate her. She manipulated them," she answered.

"And thus, who is the better woman?" the old woman asked.

"Rebecca de Winter," the daughter answered, almost mechanically. That was the answer her mother wanted, and she knew it.

The young woman started to feel better. The pain in her head vanished, and her surroundings had stopped spinning. She can plant her feet on the ground more firmly, and her stomach stopped squirming.

The Allen Hotel towered on their left, a tall, smoothly carved infrastructure standing in grandeur. Bellhops stood outside, waiting for their guests, their hands positioned behind their backs.

"Thank you," the young woman said, turning to face the man and giving him a small smile.

The man flushed slightly. "It was not a problem at all. I –" he said, but he was cut off. The young woman stood on tiptoe and gently touched her lips to his. The young man was taken aback, his eyes widened; he raised his arms as if to push her away, but the woman was faster. She raised hers, wrapped them around his neck, and kissed him harder.

The young man, defeated, embraced her waist and pulled her in closer. He felt the woman's hair brush his cheeks, and noticed that she smelled faintly of vanilla. The smell consumed him in its depths: his head felt lighter, and his body relaxed to the intoxicating scent. When the young woman pulled away for air, his head impulsively leaned closer to smell her and touch her lips again.

The young woman chuckled. "Too hungry, are you?" she asked.

He jerked his head back, evidently shocked at his nonrational behavior. "Sorry," he mumbled, chewing his lower lip.

The woman laughed again, her voice ringing in the man's ears. Caught in my trap now, the little white rabbit, she thought. "Would you like to come in my room? Have a cup of coffee?" she asked.

The man smiled slightly and nodded. "I-If it isn't too much of a trouble," he said.

Ah, the brave, brave kid, she thought, smirking to herself.

She replaced her hat on her head and her sunglasses over her eyes before taking the young man's hand. "Shall we go, then?" Her hands, warm as they are rewarding, felt soft inside his. Her thin fingers gripped his hands tightly as she led the way inside the hotel.

The carpet made it easier for them to walk faster without attracting too much attention. The carpet muffled every noise produced by their shoes, and they don't have to worry slipping.

Her room looked like it had never been used at all. But the young man did not have the time to look around.

The young woman pushed him to the bed, and he toppled over, the weight of his backpack forcing him down like an anchor. He fell with a thud, his face hitting the delicate bed linen. He laid face down, his feet dangling on the edge.

He felt the woman creep beside him. The young woman leaned close, and whispered. "Do you still want that coffee, or do you want us to do something more…interesting?" she asked, biting his ear. She felt the young man shudder to her touch.

The young man nodded.

The woman stood up and unzipped her dress. The fabric flowed freely, the fabric's color giving the illusion of water. The dress traced her body – every curve, every smooth crevice. Her skin radiated as the rays of the afternoon sun entered through the windows. Giving the woman a sideways glance, the young man admired the woman's perfect figure. He wanted to touch her legs, but his hands just balled to fists as the woman stepped out of the fabric lying on the floor and entered the bathroom. "Wait for me," she told him.

As soon as the bathroom door closed, the young man frantically struggled to stand. He wiggled out of his backpack. With trembling hands, he undressed himself, without much grace as compared to what the woman had done.

The young man heard the shower being turned on. The sprinkling of water down to the drains echoed through the room. With only a wrinkled a-shirt and cotton shorts on, he sat on the bed, looking like an unsightly wound inside the beautiful room, amidst a sea of pelagic flawlessness.

The air inside the room was glazed with tension and awkwardness as the young man waited for the woman to come back. He placed his hand over his chest, feeling his heart as it beat too fast, and his lungs take in more air than usual. His hands stirred slightly in synchrony to the drums in his chest, booming fast and loud he heard every beat inside the quiet room.

At last, after spending minutes which seemed like hours doing nothing, he heard the bathroom door open. At the sound of the knob turning, his body stiffened and his jaw locked in place.

The woman got out, a towel wrapped around her body. She hummed a familiar tune. Her tune sounded so ethereal, so light, that the man's tensed body relaxed. He exhaled.

He was too distracted by the humming that he did not notice the thing sticking out of his neck, until it was too late.

He tried to scream, but the cold metal had already sliced his throat. The tip of the knife broke through flesh and pierced through to the other side.

"This is interesting, isn't it?" the woman whispered, laughing. She grabbed the knife and withdrew it from his neck. Blood splattered on the linen sheets and on her body.

She stabbed him again, harder, on the spine. The man's body arced backward and his arms flailed in opposite directions. He coughed blood, but more stayed inside his mouth, gurgling. His white undergarments stained red stuck to his body.

The young woman forced the knife down, and the sharp metal sliced the man's flesh, carving a large and deep wound that traced his spine. Dark red blood spurted everywhere, drenching the woman.

The body dropped to her right. She took out the knife, and wiped the blade with her towel. She sat close to the bedside table where a telephone sat, the cream white surface wet with blood. She took the receiver and put it near her ear, using her shoulder to let it stay in place.

She dialed a number she knew from heart, her fingers smearing the dial pad.

"Hello?" the young woman heard a croaky voice say. "Rebecca?"

"Yeah, it's me. I've met another one," she said, giggling.

"He's not the one though, isn't he?" the old woman asked. The young woman could tell that she was as happy as her.

"No," she told her. "He's no Max de Winter."

"Such a shame," the old woman said. "But all the same, I've prepared you supper. Will you go home?"

"Of course, Mrs. Danvers. No one can resist Manderley," she said, then hung up.

The young woman stood up, and went to the bathroom.

She needed another shower.

"Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, torturous minds of women would baffle anyone." – Maximilian de Winter, Rebecca