I roll over. I slowly open my eyes and notice the kitchen light coming through the small crack in my door. I am so warm and cozy that I don't want to move. I roll back over and close my eyes again.
A warm hand runs down my back and up through my thick hair. "Come on Florita," I hear a a voice whisper "wake up mi amor." I slowly push myself up, and feel Mami's breath on my face. I give her a quick kiss on the cheek, and pull my pink nightgown out of my armpits. "Morning Mami." My mouth feels gluey and my eyes are puffy, the skin around them raw and sore. I remember how much I cried last night, and it all comes rushing back to me. We prayed for Alice last night. We prayed that she was with God now, and that He would take care of her better. I picture her stringy blonde hair and bright blue eyes, hooded with tiny blonde eyelashes. I had let her borrow my pencil just last week, and now she will never be able to write again.
I gulp down my water and breakfast. As I'm brushing my teeth, I think about why some of the other kids are starting to say they don't like school. I don't understand them. I love to learn. I relish the sound of pages turning and teachers hushing the class. All the other kids remind me of my brothers and sisters that I miss so much. I stare into the mirror, studying my milk chocolate eyes. I think of how my brother would do this before he went to a game. He would stare into the mirror, telling himself to focus on what lay ahead of him. It gave me chills to think about Francisco. He was playing one of the most deadly sports in the world. Why would he move back to Cordoba? I knew he was doing what he dreamed of, and that made me happy. Why wouldn't he call though?
"Flora, you will be late!" Mami startles me out of thought. I grab my SpongeBob backpack and jog out of the room. Her hand wraps around mine and leads me out the door. "You need to learn to comb your hair properly before you leave the house."
I put my head down as she finally fishes her keys out of her small purse and locks the door. I follow her down the stairs. As Mami pulls me out the door, a tired looking lady pushes past me and runs to her car across the parking lot. I wonder where she is going. As I am led down across the cracked tar lot, I stare at the lady. She places a metal thermos on top of her car and unlocks the door, which she has to kick to open. Once she sits down on the old cloth seat, she slams the door and starts the car. For one moment our eyes meet, and the stone cold line of her thin lips turn slightly upwards. I point to the coffee on her roof, but as Mami and I reach the sidewalk on the other side of the lot, I turn to see the tan liquid slosh across the top and side of her car as she pulls off. The shiny container smashes into the ground and rolls down the hill.
"Pay attention!" I look up, only to see the back of my Mami, stepping intently into the street before another car comes. I hate crossing roads. We reach the bus stop on the other side walk, and I notice a frail bald white man with dark spots covering his skin. He is setting up some sort of stand, and he catches me staring at him. He looks up at me and smiles, and I notice Mami's grip constrict around my delicate hand. Why does she do this around men? She's not like this around Shawn. But then again, this man does look peculiar. He reaches into his back pocket silently, and draws closer to me. He breathes in a deep breath and blows into his hand. A massive pink balloon separates our proximity. I hate the sounds balloons make. I wince as he contorts the balloon into an extravagant shape. He holds it out to me. I reach my hand out to take it, but he pauses and looks into my eyes a moment before he releases the pink figure. All of the sudden, I remember La Boca. Tears blur my sore eyes, and I smile. "Gracias, Señor." I don't know why, but I am compelled to speak in Spanish. "De nada," he smoothly returns. I smile and look up to my mother. Tears run down her face as the bus pulls up. "Do not worry Florita, this is not our home," my mother whispers as the halo of light from the metro bus surrounds our bodies and I am lead to a seat.