“Wow, that’s…different,” Isidora remarks, trying to keep a straight face and not exposing her, what-the hell-were-you-thinking look. Catriona was one of those individuals who went left when everyone went right. “It’s so…you couz.”
“It feels authentically me. I’m sure everyone will hate it but it’s my day and I don’t care if it ends up on somebody’s worst dress list.”
“Do you need help with your hair?” Isidora asks, noticing Catriona’s indecision as she twirls her black, straightened hair in a messy bun.
“So…who’s taking you…,” Isidora hesitates, wishing she could take back her words and bury it in the part of her brain marked stupidity lobe.
“Uncle Edgardo’s filling the vacancy left by my dad when he upped and left.” Catriona smiled but the words hit hard.
There’s another knock on the door. It’s her Uncle Edgardo checking to see if she’s ready.
“Ready couz?” Isidora asks, twirling two curls at Catriona’s temples.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
Her Uncle’s face beamed when she opened the door. He had one of those smiles that took her straight into his soul.
“Wow…Caitriona. You look beautiful, chica.”
He hooked his arm into hers, nodded and they walked towards the top of the staircase. Catriona and her Uncle paraded down the stairs to music. The crowd boisterously cheered. They paused for a few seconds when they reached the last step.
‘Everyone is here…no, not everyone.’ One person’s unaccounted for. It’s Mateo, Uncle Edgardo’s son. ‘Probably late as usual.’
A gust of wind blew into the house as Grego Mendez burst through the front door nearly tripping over his own feet as he rushed towards Uncle Edgardo.
“How? What happened?” Uncle Edgardo stood horrified. He turned to look at
Catriona apologetically, squeezed her hand and left.
“Ella es la que…ella es la que!” she bellowed and pointed without hesitation straight at Caitriona. Her eyes locked onto her granddaughter and her crooked forefinger aims point blank like a weapon of destruction. Hit by a wave of fear and uncertainty, Catriona watched her grandmother rock in her wheel-chair, whaling in Spanish and wheezing like an asthmatic.
‘How I wish I understood Spanish. I rebelled when my mom wanted to teach me to speak my native language. No, that’s an understatement. I flat out refused. I picked up bits and pieces but not enough to fully understand.
“Mama…what’s Abuela saying?”
During the struggle Catriona’s dress hooked onto a nail at the bottom of the staircase. It clawed onto the dress and slashed off a piece of fabric as she tried to loosen it. Tears streamed down her face. It was ruined! The tear ripped right through her heart. She nearly lost her footing as tears clouded her vision. Horrified by her mother’s anger she dropped to the floor.
“Mom stop…please stop!” she pleaded, trying to counter her mother’s forceful yanking. Her mother had the strength of seven men and pulled her across the floor into her room.
‘What have I possibly done to cause this much chaos.
“Mama…por favor hablame…mama!” She tugged at her mother’s dress, who momentarily stopped. She calmly knelt in front of Catriona and stared at her with an unwavering gaze.
“Where were you last Friday?” her mother asked, her shaky breath brushing past Catriona’s flushed skin. Catriona’s baffled by her mother’s question and her heart drummed against the inside of her chest. Her mother’s jaw tightened, sweat beads dotted across her hairline and a bulging vein in her forehead throbbed as she waited for a response. Catriona realized the seriousness of the question. Her mind raced, trying to retrieve and sift through the information of her cobwebbed gray matter. A fiery slap across her cheek pulled her back to her mother’s inquisition.
“Where were you two days ago?” The questions kept coming.
“I…I…” Her mother yanked her arm, urging her to focus. A shooting pain jolted up her arm as her mother’s long, artificial nails pierced into her skin. “…Babysitting at Mrs. Morales. Mama you’re scaring me.”
“I was helping Mateo with his homework and…”
They drove down the road and her mother sat silently not once looking in her direction. She stared out the window and saw people outside happy and carefree, oblivious that her world had come to a halting end. The woman seated next to her had become a stranger.