Today started with a big bowl of crisp chocolate rice krispies. Mami sat down next to me at the small round table. Her warm hand enveloped mine, and I tuned out the blessing. I'm never hungry in the morning, but mami always makes sure to heat the milk for one minute before she puts in the cereal, and it makes it extra chocolatey. Mami says I should eat breakfast everyday, but she only drinks cafe. Then again, she is always telling me things I should do, but never actually does them herself. "Florita! Where are your manors?!"
I am jerked from my pleasant morning thoughts, and swiftly wave my right hand over my forehead, chest, and shoulders, as though my hesitation had never been noticed. Mami notices everything. I put the metal spoon to my mouth and sigh as the sugar reaches my taste buds and sparks them to life. If my brothers were still here, I would be fighting back my tears as I shoved spoonful after spoonful into my mouth. I remember slurping down every drop of milk in the hopes that I had finally won the race to finish my cereal first. Fran always won. But what does it matter now? He is gone. Mami is mad that he never calls, she says he forgot where he came from. We still pray for him every night though. We pray for everyone.
My belly starts getting really full, and I have to take a break. I know it is disrespectful to put down my spoon, so I sit there with my dark brown eyes down, pressing the side of my thumb into the cold silver utensil. I hate finishing my food. I hate being the baby. I want to be older. I want to have a studio apartment with Ines in Spain, and make pretty art all day. Mami sips her cafe quietly, squeezing the white mug in her soft hands. Her dyed golden blonde hair gentley brushes the collar of her royal blue robe as she glances around the apartment, focusing in on any dust particles that may have formed while we were sleeping.
"Eat Florita, you will need the energy to help me clean today."
From her tone of voice, I know that she has already found something that needs polishing. I finally finish the now-soggy krispies and place my bowl in the sink. I hear the TV come on, and turn around to see mami now standing, tears welling in her eyes. I see images of a corpse. Spanish subtitles run across the screen: Appears to be a ten-year-old girl that may have been drowned to death. Possible suspects have not yet been released. Prickles run up my spine, causing the tiny hairs to push my nightgown away from my bronze skin. I turn ten tomorrow.
My feet are glued to the linoleum floor. Mami sniffs and wipes a tear from her face, and melts toward the door. I hear the door unlatch, and mami's muffled prayers as she baries her face in someone's shoulder. A man's hand gentley rests on my shoulder, and I turn to see Shawn's face. The bags under mami's boyfriend's eyes are SO big. Without having the chance to tell him this, my face is smooshed between mami's robe and Shawn's ugly El Cheapo collared button down.
After what seems like an eternity, I am finally released from the suffocation of his cigarette smell and scratchy shirt. Mami tells me to go brush my teeth and wash my face. I skip out of the small room before Shawn can say anything to me. I leave the bathroom door open so I can hear what they are talking about. I comb out my thick dark brown waves as I listen to Shawn talking about some teenagers breaking a window at his store. I look in the mirror and pretend to pick up a brick and throw it. Why does mami listen to him? He's boring and gross. Then I hear her mention the word "fiesta", and I shut my door. I like surprises.