Below is the fifteenth 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.
Day of the Dead:
Hear shouts and orders all day. There is a big celebration tonight ahead of Dia de los Muertos. We work all day to prepare for it: clean the big barn for hours. All the girls—no factory work for them today. We fix up the whole place, the farmhouse and the yard too. The pariah dogs are chained already. Lambs and pigs are slaughtered and are spinning over the fire. When the sun goes down torches are being lit everywhere. Paper skeletons and sugar skulls, some real ones too, are hanging now in every corner for decoration. We even splash water on the dusty ground.
Mariachi band arrives at sunset and starts playing and singing. How strange: forgot there is music and singing in this world. Cannot move, just standing still on the balcony and listen to them. How beautiful it all sounds. Almost like home.
All the girls take shower and get new dresses. They look very nice. Not me—I stay in my dirty old sackcloth. Dumb Little Maria, damaged forever. Just watch the guests arrive, that’s al. Never saw so many nice shiny cars before. Police cars too. Can see policemen in uniform coming out of the cars. El Meya and Mario greet them. They shake hands with the policemen and lead them to the barn, where the music is merry and the smoke is heavy. Can see it rising from the roof up to the sky.
Big Mamá is wearing a real dress. Her hair is arranged high and she wears lipstick. Never saw her like that before. She orders me to stay inside the sisters’ hall and not dare go out. She takes all the girls with her but me.
Think of you, Adela, as I lie down on my mattress. Can see you in your beautiful white dress you used to wear. Remember how we decorated our houses together? How we led the procession to the cemetery once, holding hands, our proud parents and all the people of our village behind us? Can still hear the gunshots. The way I hear them now.
Hear music and singing voices too. Hear laughter and giggles. Breathe the smoke and smell the meat being cooked. The only one not invited to the party is me. Stay alone in the sisters’ hall, so big and empty now.
But it’s difficult to fall asleep. Think more and more of what I would do to them if I ever get the chance. Those men who raped me, I mean. Imagine very ugly things. Feel like I can kill someone now if I ever get the chance. Like Mario or El Meya. But just thinking about it frightened me also. Don’t recognize myself anymore, Adela. Don’t know what is happening to me. Hope you don’t hate me. Hope you would still be my friend when I come back home one day. You were my only true friend at school.
Maybe I should run away now. What do you say? But where to? Close my eyes and try to imagine it: running away into the desert, into the hills where the coca field is. And farther away even, into the high mountains. Keep thinking about, just as I feel I’m falling asleep.