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I'm scared. Some gangsters hid their stuff in my backpack while I was having lunch. The stuff disappeared, and they think I took it.

Those were the words of teenaged "Maria". She was explaining to her parents that her life was in danger. Her parents listened and told her they'd come to her school and speak to the school officials. The girl said, "no, don't do that. The cholos may find out I've told you."

The next morning, everybody went their own way. The girl left to school, and her parents went to work. Maria's words remained in the minds of her family members. Was it just another day?

The hours passed. The sun had vanished, and Maria still hadn't arrived home. Her older brothers and sister waited on the porch for their sister to come. A yellow school bus approached their home. It kept going, it did not stop, it wasn't hers. In the distance, they spotted Maria's boyfriend heading toward their house. They wondered if he knew where she was. He arrived and was immediately asked. He said he didn't know. He joined them in their vigil.

The clock kept ticking, and Maria still hadn't arrived. The phone rang. Maria's mother picks it up anxiously hoping it was her daughter. No, it wasn't her. It was Maria's teacher and she had news. According to the teacher, Maria had gotten off the school bus in the morning and was seen getting into a (low-rider) mini-truck. The truck was seen cruising around the school. Maria never showed up to class.

The days passed, and nothing was heard from Maria. Her disappearance had been reported to the police, but they had nothing to say. Everyone was worried. Everyone showed a degree of restlessness. Everyone but her boyfriend. Although he'd still come to look for her every afternoon, he showed no sadness. A thought crossed Maria's mother, "could he be involved in her disappearance?"

The second week approached and Maria was nowhere to be seen. The thought of Maria's boyfriend being involved in her disappearance grew in the mind of her mother. A suspicion partly fed by a recent visit the mother made to the boyfriend's neighborhood. She went to the different stores in the area and showed the many people working there a picture of Maria and asked if she had been seen. More than one said yes, they had in fact seen her.

Her daughter's absence was a constant thought in this poor lady's mind. One day she was at the park with a relative and she spotted two police officers. She approached them and told them of the recent development in Maria's case: Maria had been seen in the boyfriend's neighborhood. Feeling compassion for the lady, the officers asked her to get in the patrol car, they'd go pay the boyfriend a visit.

They arrived to the apartment building where the boyfriend lived. They spoke to the manager and asked where so and so lived. The manager pointed to the apartment. The police men proceeded. They knocked on the door once, twice, thrice. Nobody opened up. They identified themselves, still no response.

Suddenly, the door-knob rattled. The door opened. It was the boyfriend's sister. The police officers asked permission to come inside. They looked in the apartment's two rooms. No signs of Maria.

Later that day, Maria's mother received a message; Maria had called. According to Maria's sister, she sounded angry. They awaited her next call. It came. Maria told the mother where she was.

Two police officers accompanied Maria's parents to the address she had given them. They knocked on the door and were invited inside. There they saw four people: Maria, a couple in their 50s, and Maria's boyfriend. The mother's suspicion had been well grounded. The boyfriend had been involved.

After it was all said and done, Maria admitted that she had made up the story about the gangsters. She also said that her mother had been close to catching her that day she arrived to the boyfriend's home accompanied by the police. A neighbor tipped them that the police was near, so they hid inside another apartment.

Five years after this incidence, Maria and her boyfriend are no longer involved. They have found other people to love. What brought them apart? The boyfriend's inability to keep his promise. A promise assumed by every couple. The promise to remain faithful. Only one thing remains as symbol of the love Maria and her boyfriend once claimed for each other: a 3 year old child.

The girl from this story made the mistake of ignoring the trauma her family members would experience as a result of her running away. She thought only of her needs and those of her boyfriend. Her family members are still around, and no matter how many headaches she may cause them, they love her. The last time her former boyfriend called was to ask for the return of a gift he had made to her. That's the same guy whose motto was, "I'd give up my life for you".

Young people out there, don't give up your life for love. Go ahead and love, but always keep in mind that love comes without a warranty. One may have someone to love today, tomorrow may be a different thing. For that reason, make sure that whatever decision you make DURING your lover-days will not engender consequences that would last BEYOND your relationship. That goes for those of you who are thinking of putting aside your education to "meet the needs" of your heart. Don't. Remember, love bears an expiration date.

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