- Vol. 05
I remember the day I found out.
Dusk was approaching. Mama snatched my doll and threw it into the house. Papa pointed to Pablo jumping over the fence.
‘He is not to come here again,’ Papa said.
Mama told me Carmen would wash me and make me presentable for Abuela’s visit. 'Young girls should be inside, not out in the sun browning like peasants,' she said.
I didn’t know what a peasant was. Was bring brown bad? Carmen was brown and I loved her.
Why they didn’t like Pablo? Was it his dark skin or the way his mouth never closed? I had gotten used to the drool that escaped down the side of his chin. He couldn’t help it. It was how he was born.
He told me his father was a pirate who was always away at sea.
Carmen appeared at the door way and swooped me into her arms. They were strong. Much stronger than Mama’s. She was smiling, but her eyes looked sad. I watched as she gazed across the field to where Pablo disappeared.
My parents turned and went inside. I wish I were a boy. Papa would prefer a son, I thought.
‘Come, conejo – time to be clean.’ I followed Carmen to my bedroom. She knelt and looked me in the eyes.
‘You need to stay away from Pablo. I’ll tell him not to come over here.’
How did she know where he lived? I wondered.
‘I like him. He’s my friend.’
‘I know Maria, but your father – he wants to keep you safe.’ Safe? From what? Pablo would never hurt me. He was the only one that played with me in the fields. He made me puppets from cut grass.
Carmen held me in her lap as she gently placed my feet into the warm water.
I didn’t want to see Abuela, she was mean. She always pinched my face and forced my mouth open so she could see my teeth. I wanted to bite down on her bony fingers.
‘How do you know where Pablo lives?’ I asked. If Carmen knew, then maybe she could take me there one day in secret and I could play.
‘I just know. That’s all.’
I dried and put on my dress.
We sat around the dining table. The ache of Abuela squeezing my cheeks remained. I rubbed my face.
‘Keep her out of the sun,’ she told Mama.
Abuela glared at me. 'Your father would spend hours in the sun making puppets. He used to come home filthy, darker than Carmen. I had to scrub him to make him white again.’
‘You used to play with Carmen?’ I asked him.
‘No,' he muttered.
Carmen stood still, face towards the floor.
That’s when I knew.
Pablo’s father was not a pirate.