I run from, you I have always run from.
You are that which would swallow me whole.
If I let you,
but I won’t.
I know inside of me,
that it is your blindness to me
which saves me.
I am happy to stay unseen .
It was time for Luis to return to San Antonio. Janie had invited Josh to come and eat with them before they had to leave. He arrived holding a huge bouquet of yellow and orange chrysanthiums.
“Mrs Rivera, I’m sorry, I hope these are okay. I thought since it was October I’d go with a seasonal choice. It was this or a bunch of decorative corn.”
“Don’t be silly, these are lovely. Mums are actually my favorite type of flower.”
“No, they’re not. Are they really?” Josh looked sceptical.
Lucy smiled,“She’s seriously not kidding. I’ve never heard anyone else say that, but mom loves mums, always has. Here let me put them in water for you mom. Josh, this was sweet. “
Janie took a big whiff of the bouquet’s spicy scent before Lucy took it from her and left the room to find a vase.
“Hey Lucy, thanks. And thank you for inviting me today Mrs. Rivera.”
“Of course, we owe you so much for bringing and taking Luis back. Come in, let me take your jacket and just make yourself at home, okay?” Janie gestured for Josh to come further into the room.
Josh shifted uncomfortably and rubbed the back of his neck,“Okay, um Mrs. Rivera, I’m very sorry for your loss.”
“We are getting by, thank you. Go sit, Julian should be in the den, right through there.”
“And Josh, please call me Janie, okay?”
Dinner had been Janie’s specialty, chipotle enchiladas, spanish rice and beans. Everyone had eaten until they couldn’t eat one more bite. They all sat back in their chairs and looked at the empty casserole dishes fondly.
“Wow, Mrs… I mean Janie, you sure can cook. I couldn’t eat one more bite but if you had more I think I’d try.”
“Thank you Josh, Lucy worried it might be too spicy but it’s one of our favorite dishes, we wanted to share it with you.”
“No, no I like spicy anyway, but I think those enchiladas had a very nice heat to them. It didn’t shock and it lingers for a while afterward, that’s my favorite kind of heat. The sauce went really well with the cheese, it’s queso blanco isn’t it? They were very good.”
Lucy laughed “Josh I think if we didn’t already know that you wrote restaurant reviews for a living, we’d be able to guess it from that.”
“Sorry, professional hazard, I guess. But really these were fantastic.”
“Okay Josh, quit sucking up. “Luis grinned as he said it though, he was happy that his friend fit in so well with his family. His first year in the big city would’ve been a nightmare without Josh. They had met through an ad Josh had put up looking for a roommate, but they had clicked right away. Luis already counted Josh as one of his very best friends.
“So Josh, how did you find the state park after all?”
“It was great. I’m definitely going to try camping out there next time. The hiking trails are really something, Lucy you do not know what you are missing.”
Julian laughed and looked from Josh to his daughter who blushed slightly, “Camping, hiking? Not our Lucy, she’s not really the outdoor type.”
“Dad! I could camp or hike as well as any of you guys could!”
“Ha, that’s not saying much. No, but it really is fun, we’ve gone hiking and camping in the small towns near San Antonio a couple of times. I like it better than I ever would have thought I would.”said Luis
“When I bring Luis back you should join us Lucy.”
“When you bring Luis back?”asked Lucy
Luis threw Josh an annoyed look, “I’ve been thinking about it and I’m going to move back here for a while.”
Janie’s lips tightened, “Luis, no, you can’t do that you need to finish school.”
“Mom I will finish school, don’t worry about that. I just think I should take a little time off until things go back to normal, you know.”
“Luis, you will not be coming back home, I am sorry. We would love you here again, but your education is very important, I couldn’t let you do this.”
“No. You two come back and visit on your next break, I’ll even send you some gas money, but you will go back to school.” Janie’s word was final, there was no point discussing it further.
“Promise me that you will take care of mom.” Luis handed a dish to Lucy as he spoke, he had volunteered to do the dishes and Lucy said that she would dry them.
In her mother’s bright kitchen it was hard to remember that everything in their lives was cheerful and good. She could hear Josh in the front room cracking jokes and her mother’s clear laughter answering them.
“You know that I will take care of momma the best that I can.”
Lucy didn’t have to say that Luis questioning her about this made her feel hurt, he knew right away.
“Lucy, don’t get all defensive, I know that you will. I just think that mom is feeling all of this more than she lets on. Maybe you can’t see it but I was shocked when I saw her, she looks like she’s aged ten years since the last time I was here.”
Lucy looked up at her brother; he himself looked to have done a lot of growing up this past year. He had always been taller than her but he was no longer lanky, his shoulders had become broad and his face had filled in. She wouldn’t have called him buff exactly, but he looked healthy, he looked strong. His new physique suited his olive skin color and jet black hair. The changes in him made her feel further divided from him, he had turned into a man and she felt like a frightened little girl.
“It’s been a hard year on her Luis, but she’ll pull through it all and I will look after her, you don’t have to worry about that.”
“I know, now hurry up slow poke you have a pile of dishes to catch up on!” Luis ruffled her hair with his wet hand and left the kitchen chuckling about it before she could retaliate.
Lucy felt divided. She knew what her mother had said was right but she also knew that she missed her brother a great deal. She had felt like a part of herself had been missing ever since he moved away. Their parting from each other was bittersweet. They all hugged a great deal and promised that it wouldn’t be too long at all before they were together again, Janie tried to not cave though she kept feeling like she could at any moment.
“Lucy, it was nice to meet you.” Josh came over to her while Luis was finishing up his goodbyes with their parents.
“It was good to meet you too, Josh. We are lucky; I mean Luis is lucky to have you in his life.”
“Hey, I meant what I said, okay? You better try camping out with us if the weather doesn’t get too bad, yea?”
“Yea, okay. Hopefully I won’t slow you down.” Lucy had to look up at Josh as she spoke to him and he had to look down at her. It was cozy inside the arch they formed and they were probably closer to one another then they necessarily had to be.
“I’d love to have you there, Lucy.”
As her brother and Josh drove away Lucy looked after their car. Josh drove up to the stop sign and then stopped and honked three times. Lucy waved and smiled.
“I’d love to have you there.” Josh had said.
She hoped this wouldn’t be trouble.
“Luis, I’m just so happy you are here!”
“I was planning on coming this weekend anyway, I had planned on visiting Grandma.” The last sentence was accompanied by a deep sigh.
The two had hardly visited with their grandma while she lived, but she had always doted on Luis whenever she did see him. In a family prone to having girls, boys were treated as a treasure. That was probably to do with her being part of the older generation too, but it was true that besides their Uncle Nate’s son Thomas, Luis was the only boy grandchild in the family, the only living boy child, anyway.
“Where is mama anyway?”
“She’s in her room with Stella, Luis, she’s not herself. The doctor had to give her something to calm her down last night.”
“Yea, well that’s to be expected, poor mama. Hey, how are you doing by the way?”
“I’m okay. Stella and Sandra have been over a lot since it happened and Dad keeps by mom’s side pretty much, I wish I knew what to do. I don’t know how to help and it makes me feel useless.”
Luis gave her arm a squeeze. “You’re okay. Mom will be up soon too, and then we’ll figure out our next steps together. Hey, I know. If you really want something to do how about being useful and making me a sammich?”
“Oh you din dong, I can’t believe that you are still hungry. I guess that you’re still eating enough for two. Remember when dad used to say that we must’ve been triplets and that you must still have our brother inside of you?” Lucy tried to swat Luis with a pillow but he ducked out of her room with a laugh and it hit the frame where he had stood instead. She thought for a bit and then walked through the door and called after him, catching him just as he walked into his old bedroom.
“Luis? What do you want on your sandwich? But don’t get used to this!”
The funeral was a long, drawn out blur. There were tons of relatives that she didn’t know and tons that she only vaguely remembered. They had made her and her siblings sit near the front of the funeral home, a row behind her aunts and her uncle. It felt weird to have everyone wishing her condolences and all she could do was to wish them condolences too. Luis leaned close to her and whispered, “Lucy, just nod, smile and shake hands.”
So that’s what she did. Then everyone starting from their row on had to stand up and view her grandma in her coffin. She had never had to do this before and it unnerved her. She had watched her sisters lean into the coffin and peck Grandma’s forehead, but she couldn’t bring herself to do that. She felt less guilty when she saw that Luis was not going to kiss their grandma either. Grandma Margarita didn’t resemble herself at all, her skin had lost it’s powder like softness and she seemed a stiff mannequin of herself. To make matters worse, someone had colored her lips and cheeks in with a garish shade of red that she would have never worn in life.
Afterward they gathered at the cemetery and stayed by their mother’s side only moving when it was their turn to lay a rose upon the pearl colored casket. They returned to their mother’s side and although the air turned cold and they felt chilled in their dress clothes, they all stayed until the casket was lowered into the ground.
Usually they would’ve all met somewhere to talk about Margarita while they ate little sandwiches and drank large amounts of sweet tea but Tia Maria had decided against this. Most of her mother’s insurance money had gone on the funeral; whatever was left over could go to the poor. That would be what her mother would’ve wanted. Janie knew that her mother had always cared a great deal for the poor, but she also knew that family was important to her as well. She couldn’t help but think that her mama would have wanted all of the siblings and cousins to come together and reconnect. She had even offered to put something together and pay for it herself. Maria had been enraged at the suggestion. “We don’t need your help now, Juanita. You come in here with your fancy clothes and your nice cars, now you want to sweep in and throw your money around. It won’t make anything better and it won’t make you a good daughter.”
So after the funeral everyone left in their separate cars and met in small groups all over town or headed back to their homes or towns, it felt so wrong. If Maria was the new family spokesperson than any delusions that Janie had of becoming close to everyone again were quickly disappearing.
Luis got there the next day. He had been lucky to get his roommate, Josh to drive him home. San Antonio was only a four-hour drive away, but Abel’s car was a clunker and he didn’t trust it to make the drive.
Lucy drove to the hotel that Josh would be staying at to pick up her brother. Josh seemed like a nice guy. He was tall and blond with sun-kissed skin. She wouldn’t say that he fit her type per say, but there was something about him that interested her. There was a great deal of kindness to his eyes, a gentleness that reminded her a little of her father. She suddenly felt guilty for checking out her brother’s friend two days before her grandma’s funeral. She stopped her mind’s wanderings and managed to say hello and exchange pleasantries hopefully without giving any of her attraction away. They ate lunch together at a restaurant nearby and then said their good byes in the parking lot outside of Josh’s room.
Josh said he would be okay to sightsee a bit on his own which made Lucy laugh. “I would think so; the town takes about an hour to see altogether.”
“Hey, it doesn’t seem that small. Anyway, you have been here your whole life, right? A town always looks interesting to someone seeing it for the first time. It’s your state park that I’m really interested in. It’s supposed to have an awesome hiking trail and your lake is supposed to be great for fishing. I’m sorry, I don’t want to make this sound like I’m on vacation. I just figured that you wouldn’t want me in the way during this time. I did some research on your town before we made the trip.”
“No, of course you should get a little fun out of having to come here. I really don’t know too much about the hiking or camping areas at the state park, but I think they are supposed to be good. My family isn’t really great with nature stuff.”
“Well, that’s too bad. I like to explore, so don’t worry I should be able to find my way.”
Lucy smiled and extended her arm. “Josh, thank you for bringing Luis again, we really do appreciate this.”
“Hey, no problem. Luis is a good friend, Lucy; there was no question about me helping him when he needed me to help him out. It’s how we do, right Luis?”
“Yea, sure Josh because we are so down like that.”
The three laughed and then parted ways, Luis and Lucy getting into Lucy’s red Honda and Josh walking to his room’s doorway. He let them drive out of view before going inside to finish unpacking.