The Woman Who Married Her Own Son

The Woman Who Married Her Own Son

Magdalena biked almost to the end of her graveled street to spy on the sunset pink house of The Woman. She looked through the wrought iron bars and the jungle of vines around the porch. She wished her own house was sunset pink, although hers was magenta and that was next best. She studied this house to see what gave it a separate sense. She and the little girls called it the house of The Woman who Married Her own Son.

"In the Reparto Playa Nueva all the houses are the same except for the color and the secrets". Her dog Lasi looked at her with yellow eyes, and smiled her dog smile. Magdalena smiled back and when Lasi jumped up she kissed her back. Lasi, with the face of a shepherd and a collie's white chest, fluffy tail and floppy ears, was the best surprise Papi ever brought back from a preaching trip. He couldn't wait to wake her up when he got home in the middle of the night from an evangelism campaign in The Interior. He handed her the tiny zippered bag. In the darkness she'd smelled the salty puppy smell.

Lasi was a better surprise than all the costumed dolls the little girls loved; better than all the ceramic roosters and frog whistles and painted dishes Mami was always grabbing off the wall and smashing on the floor. Even so, she wished Papi never went away. One time when they first moved to Reparto Playa Nueva, before the little girls had moved in, Papi had come back a day early. Magdalena was sitting on the edge of the front lawn, playing with a nice clay she'd discovered in a puddle after a big rain. She kneaded the fine wet dirt and was forming the letters of her name on the driveway. Missing Papi made him appear. But only that one time. She sensed a presence, Lasi jumped up from her slumber, and there he was, happy to see Magdalena. He'd squatted beside her, kissed her on the top of the head, and shaken his head side to side with admiration. "Look at that. Your name." Everybody was supposed to have a person that was all theirs and Papi was hers.

"What will Papi bring us when he gets back next week?" Lasi turned her head to one side and fixed her gaze on Magdalena who got herself still and gazed back. If she paid attention she would learn to speak dog the way she saw babies learn to talk, by just being around people who talked. Now that school had been out for months she had her chance to learn to talk dog by spending night and day with Lasi. The dog brought her chest to the ground and raised her butt. This meant it was time to bike away. As she pedaled her mind filled with the mystery of The Woman.

Magdalena got the story from Cristinita before the schools closed two months ago and Cristina went all day long to teach old fishermen from Playa Vieja how to read. Cristina was allowed to do anything she wanted and her Mother was happy to see her when she came home. When The Revolution closed the schools so that students could teach analfabetos Cristina's mother let her go. Magdalena begged and pleaded but her own Papi said, "Nunca. I'd rather see you dead." Late that night when they were fighting she heard Papi tell Mami the Revolution had used the church. "They got us to teach them how to do literacy and then told us there would only be one literacy campaign allowed, theirs." Mami smashed the best of the turtle clay whistles. "Don't you care that at last millions are finally learning to read? Who's making you turn against our revolution? Who's la Otra this time? Who's the Diantre? Tell me, who is she?"

Cristina got The Woman's Story from Mayra, her older sister, who was allowed to do anything she wanted. Of course she had joined the Milicia, and now she got to go all over Playa Nueva and Playa Vieja and knew the story of every house. Mami wanted more than anything in the world to be a Miliciana, but Magdalena heard Papi tell her late one night in his preacher voice, "If you join, there's no more marriage." Mami had thrown the big red clay rooster and screamed, "What marriage, you're never home. I do everything. Go to my job. Keep the house. Raise the girl. Pay the bills. Buy the house. I'm married to myself. You should have been a priest instead. You don't have time for a family."

Magdalena came to the paved portion of the street close to the avenue, whistled, and Laci took off running. She biked as hard as she could letting her mind fill with images of The Woman's wedding. Lasi sped ahead. She won every race and waited for Magdalena at the avenue. Cristina said Mayra showed her El Suceso with the headline WOMAN MARRIES HER OWN SON right on the cover. Mayra had seen the wedding with her own eyes. They'd all stood right in the living room of the Sunset Pink house with the house door wide open.

The wedding couldn't wait because the woman was pregnant although she barely showed. The disgraced priest who did the ceremony wore a blood red guayabera. Magdalena pictured him in the middle of the living room, empty of guests who didn't come. What incantations did he recite to The Woman facing him, beside her husband to be, her own son? The bride wasn't very tall and wore red high heels and a too tight black dress and a small black veil, just a hat. The tall thin brown son with a big jaw and big elbows and big knees wore a black suit. Behind the couple stood the woman's father who was taller than everyone, and dark, with blue white hair and a black moustache, like her Papi. Mayra told Cristina The Woman's mother, round-faced, hair dyed jet black, had cried and cried.

Only two months later, Dona Francisca, the midwife from Playa Vieja, had been called late at night for the birth.The baby had hooves and a tail and tiny horns.Mayra said the baby was born dead. Francisca wrapped it in the sheets it was birthed on, and right then, at one in the morning, she raced with the bundle to the river.It was a moonless night, but as she set off there was a sudden flood of stars. This starlight was from angelwings. God, Mayra said, didn't leave the devil all the room. It had been enough light to walk the pebbled street to where it gave way to dirt, and then maneuver without cracking an ankle the potholes carved into the dirt by tires during the rains, and enough light to get all the way downhill to the Rojo river. Dona Francisca tossed the devil's baby into the eye, where the river spins into itself. She flung the bundle and just as it was about to hit the spinning eye a hand shot out of the water and grabbed the devil's child.

Magdalena caught up to Lasi at the avenue separating the Reparto Playa Nueva from the old fishing town of Playa Vieja and stopped to let the traffic by. "What did the devil do with his baby?" Lasi tilted her head.

As they crossed the central island of the avenue the dog barked at the young militia women on their break from their training. Cristina's older sister Mayra waved to Magdalena from where she stood in the middle of a group of young women. "Ven aca." When Magdalena stopped her bike Lasi jumped up, Mayra kneed her off and pointed to the sky. "A Contra just flew away. Maybe that's his plane. He stole it right here, across the road, from the Rebel Air Force Base. He may bomb us so we're being mobilized." Magdalena balanced on one pedal, ready to push off. She took one last close look at the way Mayra had taken in the waist of the men's olive green pants to show her tiny waist and told Lasi, "I can't wait until I'm old enough for the Milicia."

She sped past the Milicianas, made it to the other side of the avenue, and turned onto the narrow street to the center of Playa Vieja where tiny wooden houses had been built long before the Reparto Playa Nueva was even a thought. She found the blue house. She studied it. The deep front garden had become a meadow. She slowed down, then stopped. Lasi plunged into the mass of tall wild grasses. Magdalena watched the bees work their way from the pink to the yellow to the white clumps of tiny flowers. The air over the wild garden swarmed with tiny bugs.

Only last week she had glimpsed the gray haired old man through the side window. Last month she had seen the long-haired, brown young woman standing at her porch gate. She and the little girls called her The Girl, short for The Girl who Married her Own Father. The Girl held the old man's baby right at the front door and was making Juan the viandero show her lots of yucas and malangas and fronds of cilantro, just like any other housewife might have done, as if marrying your own father (and Mayra told Cristina this girl had) happened every day. But today the house was closed. Maybe both The Woman and The Girl had joined the militia her Father wouldn't let her Mother join. Or was today some kind of devil unholy day, and all of them were at a secret ritual? Back on the corner, the milicianas were lining up, ready to go back to their drills. She stopped, held Lasi's collar, and watched for cars.

She saw Cristinita break away from her sister Mayra and bike toward her. She waited until Cristina pedaled up beside her. "I kissed Chucho." Magdalena looked away. "How is kissing Chucho news?" One afternoon last week after she and Chucho got home from alfabetizacion Cristina made Magdalena stand in Chucho's kitchen looking out for his Mother while they necked on the back porch. Through the window right over the sink she'd had to watch Cristina and Chucho lying down on the porch floor, kissing for minutes at a stretch just like in American movies. Cristina leaned closer. "Yes, but I kissed him and I felt his thing." She brought her lips to Magdalena's ear. "Last night Mayra told me that when a man kisses you, or sometimes even when a man thinks about kissing you, his thing gets big and hard. She told me because I was asking her, exactly what do they mean in the novelas when a girl loses her honor? She told me that's when you aren't married and the man puts his hard thing inside you anyway. Like The Woman and her Son!" She pedaled off, back to her fishermen.

Magdalena stood motionless letting the cars go by, holding on hard to Lasi's collar, thrilled by this new horror Cristina had revealed. Hadn't she seen this phenomenon just yesterday when Chucho stopped his bike to tell Cristina his Mother had just left their house? Yes. She'd seen the bulge in his shorts. Could such a thing have happened to her own Bebito, Chucho's cousin, her almost novio, when he talked to her? And now that Bebito had moved away from Playa Nueva back to the Capital, could it be happening to him with some new girl he'd met in his new barrio?

She biked back to the Reparto along the street behind her house until Mami's screams reached her on the afternoon breeze blowing in from the sea. She could tell Mami came home angry from her job as secretary to the Argentinians installing microondas at the Rebel Air Force and then got angrier because even though Magdalena had nothing at all to do all day she was late again for her cafe con leche afternoon merienda. She didn't want Mami's milk with the scum on top but she pedaled home as fast as she could, swerving to avoid the deep holes in the dirt stretch of the road. She could already see the graveled street that had been waiting for the entire three years her family had lived here (ever since Mami talked the contractor into a bargain for being the first buyer, and pulled together the down payment by not paying bills for three months) for the concrete and asphalt the contractors had promised in their sales pitch.

Senora Alvarez, the contractor's very big wife, stood at the doorway of the their shack just before the gravel started. "Magdalena, so good to see you!." It was easy to see she was always happy to see her. She waved Magdalena over, bent down to offer her cheek for a kiss, then kissed Lasi's snout. Mami was calling, screaming, but Magdalena leaned her bicycle against the Alvarez' shack. She'd get a better merienda here. She couldn't take her eyes away from the woman's hugeness. Alvarez, the creator of the Reparto Playa Nueva, stood at his tall work table looking at his enormous blueprints, eating Chocolatina cookies, the best merienda there was. He was big too. How did he look just like his wife except with a thin, brown moustache? Maybe Mayra would know if the Senora was the sister who married her own brother? Maybe they had no children because their babies were born dead with hooves and tails. Alvarez' pale green guayabera stuck to his back, sweaty despite the fan constantly turning, and despite the shaded coolness of their shack built under the one old tree his bulldozers had not yet ripped up.

Senora Alvarez poured Magdalena a glass of sweet tamarindo drink from her big thermos. She took from her husband's table the box of Chocolatinas in their colored tinfoil wraps, and handed it to Magdalena. She'd never held an entire box. Senora Alvarez didn't care if Magdalena ate them all. She took a handful. "More, take more." She took another green one, unwrapped the shining foil, and slowly nibbled off the outside layer of chocolate and then bit into the thin crisp cookie.

Senora Alvarez didn't have a little girl but she had a pair of shepherd dogs.She was saying her female was not well, and maybe she was pregnant.Did Magdalena want a puppy? She gave Lasi pieces of white cheese she brought from home for her. Magdalena unwrapped an orange Chocolatina, licked and chewed.Senora Alvarez said her mangos would soon be ripe. They were just like bizcochuelos.She would bring her some. She bent toward Magdalena and studied her face."If you don't take care you will be getting pimples. A girl your age has to start washing her face with rice water. I'll bring you some from home. Holy remedy." Magdalena nodded.

The big woman drew closer. "You must be very careful. There are older women who like to get too close to little girls." Suddenly, Magdalena clearly heard her mother's screams, now very angry, rising over the fan's whir, and over the groaning of the concrete mixer behind the shack. She drank down the tamarindo, unwrapped the red cookie, the last, put the whole thing in her mouth and put the shiny papers into her shorts' pocket.

She lunged the bike onto the hard, packed mud of the dirt path and sped away. She turned around to call for Lasi who lagged behind because Senora Alvarez was still feeding her white cheese. Her front wheel hit a rock inside a pothole, swerved. As she fell face forward her chin hit the pedal. The big woman ran toward her but Magdalena was gone, gone. With Lasi right behind her she pedaled as fast as she could past the identical Alvarez houses, each with its own brilliant coat of paint: fuschia, lizard green, blue, sunset pink. She reached her own magenta house, the very first in the row, the very first the Alvarez' had sold, the only one still without an iron gate around the porch. She ran inside. She had one instant of comfort in the scented cool shade of the mariposa vine. She caught sight of her mother waiting at the door and for one instant she could tell Mami meant to love her, but she just couldn't figure out how.

Magdalena approached with Lasi at her heel, went inside, watched her mother slam shut the door. Pieces of green ceramic were scattered on the brown and white floor tiles. She braced her feet and clenched her fists and never once looked up while her mother hit her full force with her open hand on the ass then gripped her with both hands on the shoulders and dug in her nails. She called her Diantre. Diantre was her Mother's way to not say diablo because saying devil was a sin. How could it be that to Mami Magdalena was a poweful force to be vanquished? Diantre was what Mami called "La Otra" she accused Papi of having. When she was done Magdalena walked slowly to her bedroom with Lasi at her side. She saw in her dresser mirror that when she had fallen the bike pedals had made two little cuts under her chin. Two trickles of bright red blood still flowed from the little wounds. "My secret tears." Lasi tilted her head and moaned.

She followed Lasi under the bed and curled herself around her dog. "She hates me because she knows Papi loves me more than he loves her." Lasi made a tiny whine. "I know. Who would love her?" Magdalena stared at the mesh of wire that held up her new mattress Mami had bagained down and bought. For one moment she noticed the ache on her ass and on her shoulders,then she forgot. A tear began to well. It stopped. A scream began to rise, but didn't.She clutched Lasi hard. Just then she heard little fists pound on the glass panes of her window. Her little girls! Magdalena rolled from under the bed. She stopped in the bathroom and scrubbed off the dry blood on her chin and neck. She ran to the living room door and let in the three little girls.

Small dark Gloria with her short curly hair took Magdalena's hand. "Wait till you see what I have." Tall blonde Silvia with agua de violeta scented braids skipped ahead. Plump brown haired Miriam with her boy's haircut ran both hands up and down Lasi's rump. When Magdalena went to the Evangelical Campamento in the interior and Lasi refused to eat what Dona Francisca fed her, it had been Miriam who got Lasi to eat. The girls trooped ahead into the bedroom, past the table with the tiles Magdalena found in the Alvarez' dump and painted herself, each with it's own fairy tale scene, to the doll cabinet Magdalena painted right over the termite sores using leftover sunset pink paint Senora Alvarez gave her when she asked. She took the Indian boy doll and sat down on the tiles by the bed.

Gloria pulled out from the pocket of her shorts folded up pages she'd torn from the last El Suceso. "Read this." Magdalena took the papers. Whatever the little girls asked of her was important. She could show grownups, especially Mami, just how children should be treated. She was glad to be the only big girl who liked playing with the little ones. The pictures from El Suceso printed in brown ink showed a man with a huge belly, and then a monster dead infant with a beard. "They say he ate his own brother in his mother's belly before he was born." Magdalena read on. "And then he was pregnant with him his whole life." They looked at each other and held back laughter. She pointed to the monster baby photo. "And then they cut the creature out of him." She turned the page over. "And then the man died." The little girls laughed, pretended to cry, laughed more.

Gloria knelt by the sunset pink cabinet, studied the many dolls Magdalena's Papi brought her from his evangelism travels, and took everybody's favorite, the tall, white haired princess doll. She put the doll's clockwork heart to her ear then kissed the doll."Hola Princesa."

Silvia took the second best blonde ballerina.

Miriam waved her Indian, the only boy doll, who was the Prince.

Magdalena took the cellophane nurse doll given to her on one of her rounds by Francisca, the curandera and devil's baby midwife from Playa Vieja. She held back the urge to squeeze the tiny Fairy Godmother flat.. Why had the old woman given her the doll? Why was she afraid to play with any other? If Papi really made them go North, she'd have to take this ugly doll.

The little girls looked up at Magdalena and sat in a circle on the cool floor tiles. Lasi stretched beside them with her head on her paws. Magdalena sat in their midst like their queen, or their comandante, because right then, although not one of them bothered to look, the militia was marching past the house.

She handed the girls the colored tinfoil Chocolatina wrappers.

"Mira, mira, mira." Gloria grabbed the red one to drape around her Princesa then waltzed her to the center of the ballroom. "My Papi said this morning that he saw shooting in the Capital." She stood the Princesa close to Miriam's boy doll.

Miriam made the Prince a crown with the green foil. "Today a contra took off in a plane from the airport right across our road."

Yesterday the girls had argued, and today it was Silvia's ballerina's turn to be discovered as the real Cinderella by Miriam's Prince. She made golden Chocolatina slippers for the ballerina and moved her toward the Prince. "I wish they wouldn't fight any more."

"May I have this dance." Miriam spoke in the deep voice that turned the Indian boy doll into the Prince. Magdalena considered telling the little girls the phenomenon that happened to men when they saw a woman they liked. She decided to keep the secret. A good mother protected her daughters. Magdalena danced the Fairy Godmother along to protect the ballerina. Gloria set down her doll and pushed Silvita's hand until the ballerina doll's face touched the Indian boy's. "Cristina kisses my cousin Chucho with her tongue inside his mouth, I saw it." She held the doll's faces together for a long doll kiss.

After the kiss was done Gloria set down her doll. "Take us to the river." Magdalena could hear her Mother making corn meal with brown sugar, their usual supper when Papi wasn't home and she didn't have to make carne con papas. The secret to being good to children was to remember to almost always say yes, like Senora Alvarez.

Walking softly so her Mother in the kitchen didn't hear, Magdalena walked out the front door with the girls. There were still two good long hours before a silent dinner without Papi. The four girls bicycled with Magdalena at the lead, and Lasi trailing after them, down to the Rojo river. They hid their bikes in the bushes and walked to the flat wide rock. From that spot they could watch both the bikes and the red water rushing many feet below. Two boys jumped feet first one after the other into the smooth water pool not far from the drowning remolino. Gloria pointed to the whirlpool. "That was where the hand came out of the water and took the Devil's baby. Cristina showed me."

Gloria grabbed Magdalena's hand. "That's the boy." She pointed to the tall boy. The short boy was just jumping into the river knees to chest.

"I don't think it's the same boy." Miriam squatted and tossed a stone just behind where he was standing. He turned around and waved.

"It is the boy. It is." Gloria waved back. Lasi ran down to where the boy stood and sniffed him. He tossed Lasi a stick and watched her chase it. The short boy made his way up the steep river bank and together the boys played tag with Lasi.

"The Devil's boy? He was born dead." Magdalena began to edge the girls back to their bikes. "Don't throw stones. Don't stare. Don't make them come up here."

"No, the boy who feeds his crazy mother. Mayra told Cristina he lives on the other side of the river." Gloria pointed to the trees on the other shore. "See the smoke. He's cooking her a pig. His mother is so big she can't get out of the house, or cook. Mayra says that all day long he has to go out to pick mangos for her, or to kill a whole pig for her and cook it in a hole in the ground. She eats a whole pig in one sitting. Even the liver and the blood pudding." Gloria walked closer to the edge of the lookout rock. "Look, now he jumped right into the eye where the hand came out of the water to catch the Devil baby." Magdalena gently pushed Gloria toward the bikes. At last the little girls set off to walk the bikes to the dirt road. Magdalena held back. She waited for Lasi and watched until the boy surfaced and climbed uphill with his friend. She waited to see whether or not the long, flat, green rocks by the water turned back into crocodiles. Just as Lasi reached her Magdalena saw one of the rocks stir. She ran as fast as she could to her bike.

"He will never come back up," Gloria said.
"That's the bottomless spot," Miriam said.
Magdalena, who'd seen him walk away, said nothing.

She bicycled Miriam to her door on the street behind her own. Next she dropped Gloria off at her turquoise house next door to Chucho's lime green house. The little girl's house was exactly the same model as Magdalena's but very clean (her mother didn't work outside the house) and had an enclosed garage for her father's fancy car. She bicycled past her own magenta house, in the direction of the avenue, and dropped off Silvia at her sand colored house built by a different contractor. It had two stories, but until recently, no Father. He'd gone into exile not long after the house was finished, and only recently come back, after the Triunfo de la Revolucion.

She waved to Silvia and bicycled the few remaining yards to the avenue. Lasi stretched out on the road, ready for the long wait for a break in the flow of cars coming home to Playa Vieja from the Capital. She looked up at the sky now empty of contra planes. Soldiers in green camouflage and milicianos in olive green marched along the avenue's central island. Mobilized.

At last she crossed the avenue and rode all the way to the street where the blue house stood. She bicycled past the jungle garden of the moonblue house of the Girl who married her own father. She was standing at her door holding her baby. Lasi ran right up and sniffed her. Magdalena didn't mean to catch the Girl's eye. She shuddered. It was a coal black pebble. She sped away. Close to home she slowed down to pass the sunset pink house of the Woman who married her own son. The gate was locked, but she saw through the open front door the woman bent over her mop, sweeping it in big circles and dancing to a loud mambo on the radio. She biked as fast as she could. Was the green car behind her following her? She went faster, faster, faster. Papi had said if any man ever followed her in a car she was to run into any house and ask for help. She pictured herself knocking at the door of the very house of the man who was chasing her.What door could she possibly knock on, when all of these houses held so much danger?

Magdalena plunged into the river's eye. She lay limp in the grip of the current. Red water swirled around her. She let it carry her to a red riversand bank. The bank was in the center where four rivers entered the Rojo. She sat, waist deep in water, her eyes washed red, the whole world red. The river was not so bad. This red world was not so bad. She heard a rumble, a rising drumming, a laugh! Just before the first tongue of river exploded a wall of rushing water, the river laughed! Magdalena let her body lie limp as the wall of brown water hit her, swirled around her. The next water wall came from just behind her left side; another from just behind her right. She let the red foaming water push and turn her. The waters rose and came upon her from the right, pushing, burning her with bits of glassy red sand and blinding her whole world red.

Mami's voice pierced her sleep. She woke up.
"Who have you been talking with? Who's changed you?"
Papi had gotten home in the middle of the night.
"We're leaving." He spoke in his preacher voice.
Mami got louder. "You leave. I'm not going to go."
"It's decided."
"I'm not going."
"I'm leaving. You're leaving. We're all going to go. I'm not going to raise my daughter here to be indoctrinated and taken from me."
"That's not the way it's going to be. I'm staying and tomorrow I'm joining the milicia."

Magdalena trembled in the blue light of her bedroom. She had tossed off her sheet fighting the dreamwaters. She curled into herself against the dawning chill. She had to pee. She set her feet on the cold brownswirled tile and almost wet herself. Coffins! She felt a wave of nausea when she saw Papi's two enormous suitcases in the hallway.

Dona Francisca, the fix everything curandera from Playa Vieja, showed up on time, no matter how hard Magdalena had willed her not to come. Magdalena rolled from under her bed. Lasi crawled out behind her. Magdalena let her into the house. Mami was never home now that she was in the Milicia. Francisca wanted some cola and then she said, "We have to go." In the sunlight Magdalena studied through the woman's starched threadbare housedress the mystery of her breasts. They drooped in one huge round mass down to Francisca's waist.

Francisca walked a few paces ahead along the edge of the gravel road still without the Alvarez' promised sidewalk. She pulled Lasi on a rope. Magdalena waved to Silvia who sat on her porch with the ballerina doll Magdalena said she got to keep. Gloria had gotten Princesa, Miriam the Indian Boy Prince. Francisca walked fast. Magdalena lagged behind. Lasi followed, wagging her innocent tail. They passed the sunset pink house of the woman who married her own son. The gate was padlocked and the door was shut.Francisca didn't even sneak a look. Had she forgotten? As they crossed the avenue they heard bits of the militia's afternoon drill skimming the wind. Mami was with them.

Heading for the center of Playa Vieja they turned into a narrow street and walked past the weathered wood houses once as brilliant as the houses of the Reparto Playa Nueva. Francisca didn't look when they passed the blue house, not at the baby sitting smack in the middle of the mane of grass, in the swarm of gnats, in the devil buzz of bugs; not at the mother, a skinny cinderella, mopping the narrow porch. Magdalena stared right at the woman's face, looking for the coal hard eyes.

The bodega, made of plastered, white washed brick, stood high off the ground on a corner and had doors on both streets. Magdalena stood outside while Francisca took Lasi up the steps into the men's door. Three men at the counter drinking pee colored beer in bottles turned to stare. Two women climbed down the other door with their week's rice and beans. Francisca walked past the drinkers, and handed the bodeguero the dog's rope. Magdalena saw Lasi tilt her head to one side. Francisca had to yank her hand to pull her away. When they turned the corner Lasi began to howl.

On the way back, just past the blue house, Magdalena doubled over and screamed. Francisca sat her down on a big rock by the side of the street. She clutched Magdalena's hand. Magdalena pointed to her lower belly. The pain was too terrible to speak. It took an hour to walk home, stopping every few feet to wait out the pain. "Now you're a Senorita." Francisca kissed Magdalena and went away.

Alone in her own bathroom she leaned against the bathroom door, pulled down her panties and saw two lipshaped stripes of blood. More secret blood tears. Here was one thing Mayra and Cristina hadn't been lying about after all.

Magdalena lay under her bed with Lasi, eyes closed. Cristina's Ouija had said Bebito would come to see her. But it had been her own hands making the Ouija move. Did she believe her own hands? She wasn't like Cristina or like Mayra, teaching analfabetos, mobilizing, kissing boys. She was The Girl Nothing Would Happen To. She recognized Gloria's fists pounding on her half shut glass windows. "Come out. He's here."

Magdalena slipped into her sandals and met Gloria by the gravel street. Besides being the Man Magdalena Should Marry, beautiful brown Bebito was Gloria's cousin. "He's waiting for you behind Silvia's." She made her way through the shoulder high flowering weeds. This moment so often wrongly divined by the Ouija, a moment she had longed for since Bebito's family moved back to the Capital months ago, now felt like it wasn't happening at all. There he stood, at the end of the path the girls had worn in the lot between Magdalena's house and Silvia's, the lot where Magdalena, Cristina, Chucho and Bebito had played revolucion when they were still children and still played. For a second she didn't know him in the olive green militia uniform. "Look." He stretched out his hand. The gun he held was enormous. She stepped back.
"Is it true you are going North?"
She nodded."My Papi and I. My Mother's a miliciana. Tomorrow she's going back to her family in the Capital."
He put away the gun. They walked in step around Silvia's concrete fence.
She swallowed hard. "Some girls my age have novios."
He shook his head. "I'm only going to have one novia. The one I'm going to marry." He holstered the gun. "I'm going to engineering school. I won't be getting married for a long time."
"You're not going to be a doctor after all?"
"The revolution needs engineers."
They stood in silence. Behind him she could see the deep pink of the sun setting over Playa Vieja. He started to walk away, stopped, came back, leaned forward, kissed her on the lips and ran. She watched until he reached the avenue and turned and she couldn't see him any more. Now she was a girl who had been kissed.

That night she was wakened by scratching on her windows. Lasi. She ran to the front door and let her in. The rope she had broken to run away from the bodega hung shredded from her neck, mudblack. Magdalena cut if off. She let Lasi in her bed. She smelled of bacalao. Tomorrow she would have to pay for this with a beating but now she nestled into Lasi's furry neck. Everyone got to have one person who was theirs and she was Lasi's. (Others failed at this. Others disappointed. But she, Magdalena would not disappoint Lasi and her little girls. She sobbed. That had been her pact and she had failed. That pact had beenher onlyh power and she had betrayed it and now forever she was powerless. )

As the coffin suitcases were loaded into the white Plymouth, the black Chinese lacquered furniture was being loaded into the magenta house. Magdalena didn't look closely at the short plump woman directing the movers, or her two teenaged girls who would now be sleeping in her room, on her new colonial bed, because the buyers had gotten most of the furniture.

She stood out in the empty lot glad that it was early in the morning and up and down the block the houses' windows were shut. Francisca who was going to keep Lasi, waited on the porch. Magdalena knelt by Lasi, hugged her hard, and sobbed. She walked the full length of the driveway never once looking up and then took Mami's old place on the front seat.

She watched her dog chase after the car, past the sunset pink house of the woman who married her own son, and the blue house of the one who married her own father. Lasi chased the car the way she did every time the family drove away. Magdalena knew there was no way Lasi could know this time was the very last.