Below is the fourteenth segment of a new short story, ‘Little Maria.’ While the story is new, it is based on a chapter from my novel, Unidentified Woman, a literary crime about rape, revenge and redemption. I believe it stands alone as is, and will reward you handsomely when you read it.
“It’s all yours, she tells me when I hand the box back to her. I’m too fat as it is, she says and taps on her big belly, as if I don’t see it. As if I didn’t feel it when she hugged me. Now come here, she orders and directs me to the sink. So I do as she says, and wash my hands and my face under her guidance. Brush my teeth for the first time since I was taken away from home. Look at the strange face in the mirror and don’t recognize it. See only sad, tired eyes. See pimples too. See a different girl. Hate what I see.
She brushes my hair gently meanwhile, then puts some red lipstick on my lips. She ties my hair with the red ribbon from the box of chocolates. She turns me around and hands me the box. No work for you today, Little Maria, she says. You earned it. She hugs me again, but I turn my face away when she tries to kiss me. Take the box but don’t move. Afraid she is angry. Go ahead, she waves her hand at me, do whatever you want today. But don’t leave the house. I will call you if I need you.
Can’t believe how lucky I am. So lucky that when I enter the empty sisters’ hall I’m tempted to stop by the icon of the Virgin Mary and say a thankful prayer to her. But I don’t. Not yet.
Lie down on my mattress and stare at the ceiling, at the cracks and cobwebs. Eat another piece of chocolate. Very slowly I eat it. Feel as if the taste of the chocolate in my mouth lifts me off the mattress. Stay suspended in the air above it. Maybe if I eat all of it I will fly all the way to heaven. Or even back home to my family. And to you, Adela. Going to eat it all and see.
But then, on second thought, get up and do something else with it. Place one little piece of chocolate at the center of every mattress where each girl sleeps. I am only one piece short. Hope the last two will share one.
Lie down on my mattress again and place my hands on my chest, over the heart-shaped pendant. The one you gave me, Adela, for my tenth birthday, with the golden necklace. It’s the only thing I still have from home. Close my eyes and see you going to school. You are alone. Call your name. Ask you to come jump rope with me again. Come share a piece of chocolate with me. But you just keep on walking. You don’t hear me at all.”