This summer, a Beach Book like no other—a story of rape, revenge, and redemption—will be published online, available throughout the Global E-reader Universe. Be the first to read an excerpt, and have an initial clue on the road to solving the mystery: Who is she, the Unidentified Woman, and what’s her story?
Capirato, Mexico. October 12, 1976
“If life is a garden, women are the flowers. Men are the gardeners, who pick up the prettiest ones.”
I sing this song while jumping rope with Adela, my best friend, before going off to school. I’m only twelve, but Mami keeps telling me I should grow up and stop jumping rope. Do things girls my age are supposed to be doing, like help her in the kitchen and learn how to sew. I hate it when she says that. I keep holding tight to the rope that connects me to my childhood, afraid of losing it, afraid of growing up. It’s as if somehow, don’t know how, I know what lies ahead.
The dirt road to school, that’s what lies ahead. Adela and I run hand in hand there, skipping between the small stones, still singing that silly song a boy at school taught us yesterday, about the flowers and the gardeners. And laughing about it, too, questioning who is the prettiest one: her or me? And this boy, Angelo his name, is he in love with me or with her?
We come off the bend to the only half paved road in our poor little village, happy to bounce on solid ground. Just then a black car suddenly stops near us making noise and raising dust. Never before in my life have I seen such a beautiful, shiny car. I can see myself reflected in it, like in a twisted mirror.
But only for a second. Because the back window rolls down immediately and a man pokes out his head, asking me for my name. “Maria,” I say. (I hate my name, it’s so… so ordinario.) He asks me to come over and show him the way to our school. I don’t know why I didn’t run away at that moment. Maybe it’s because Mami always told me to obey men. Especially older men.
He opens the door when I get closer and grabs me by the hand and pulls me inside. He is strong and he places me in the back between his legs, pushing my head down. I left my schoolbag on the dirt road behind. But why, I will need it soon? No matter, Adela will bring it to school. Of course she would. That’s where we are going, isn’t it? It’s only a game.
The car takes off screaming. I want to scream, too, but I can’t. His stinky hand is on my mouth. It hurts so much so I bite it. He curses bad words and hits me on the back of my head. Now I really scream. He is strangling me. I can’t breathe. His firm thighs clap my hips. I can’t move. I can’t shout. I close my eyes.
When I close my eyes, I’m afraid the world that was promised me—going to school with Adela, meeting Angelo and our other friends there, studying history which I like the most, our daytrip next week to the Mayan ruins, graduation, going to trade school, falling in love, marrying and having children—may be gone and lost forever. And together with the cloud of dust I imagine the speeding car is raising behind as it leaves our village, an evil cloud is falling over me. Covering me with eternal darkness and sadness.