05 12 / 2012
What do I want to be? I want to be a black lion.
No, I’ve never seen a black lion. Most of us have never seen a black lion, but we know they exist.
We just do, we just know. I first heard about the black lion from the Northern pride. My cousins also claim to have seen him from a distance.
Black lions are the most special of all lions. Why? They just are! They’re amazing. They’re coats are so sleek and dark that they look like lion-shaped patches of night sky. They are the strongest of lions. What? You didn’t know that? Well of course they are! Black lions are the strongest of all. How do I know? Some hyenas from the east, they say a black lion killed six of their pack all at once, with one giant sweep of his right paw. Oh, that’s the other thing. Black lions are huge, they are gigantic. Everybody knows black lions are giants.
Before I knew about black lions I thought being a yellow lion was the best thing to be. I thought being a yellow lion made me the best. But now even my father says maybe we’d be better off if we were all black lions, if we were all super strong, and giant. Also black lions are the smartest. Everyone knows that.
Albinos? Yes, I supposed I did say that. I was young then, I didn’t know. But yes, I wanted to be an albino lion before I knew about black lions. Have I ever seen an albino? Yes, I have. That’s how I found out white lions aren’t so special. Before I saw the white lion, I thought white lions must be the most special lions of all. Even my mother said maybe we’d be happier if we were albinos. Albino lions were said to be capable of magic, the kind of magic only Man knows. Albino lions could turn desert sand into fresh water during times of drought, and rocks into fresh wildebeest livers and kidneys. Well yes, of course I feel silly now. But I was much younger then. I was bound to be naïve about these sorts of things.
How do I become a black lion when I’m not a black lion? That’s beside the point. I can wish to be something I’m not. Maybe I can even pretend to be something I’m not. And who knows, maybe, just maybe I can really become the thing I want if I just finally meet a black lion, like, in real life. Maybe the black lion will tell me, “I wasn’t born a black lion, I was yellow like you. Bu then I did A and B and a little bit of C and the next day I woke up black.”
I want to be a black lion more than anything, more than anyone has ever wanted anything ever, ever! If I can’t be a black lion I want to see one up close. If I can’t see one up close I want to see one from a distance. If I can’t see one from a distance I want to meet another lion who has fed from the same zebra or waterbuck as a black lion. I want them to tell me all about it. Did he have an accent? Did he have a sense of humor? Do you think if he met me he’d consider me a very fine young lion?
What is that? A hoax? What do you mean a hoax? But there have been eyewitnesses! Hyenas and cousins, and, and…and! But they must exist, they have to exist! Black lions are the finest and greatest of all lions!
They would be?
Yes. They would be. If only?
If only the black lion existed.
It does not.
I am a yellow lion. My father and mother and brothers and sisters and cousins (those lying bastards!) are yellow lions.
I can only ever be a yellow lion. Albinos aren’t anything special and neither are we. Are we?
But wait, if the black lion doesn’t exist, am I, a yellow lion, the very strongest and bravest and biggest of lion types?
Father said he figured as much.
Mother said she had a hunch.
What is a “hunch”?
Father and Mother say from now on we are not yellow lions, we are Gold Lions.
And then I wonder, might there be a silver lion? Could the silver lion be the very best lion of all?
09 8 / 2012
Here’s a short story I wrote several years ago. It needs a lot of work, but it’s one of my “moon babies,” a messy, wailing infant I love to cradle now and again. It’s now in my “needs work so I can send it out again” folder.
Enjoy. Or don’t. The choice is yours.
The Elegant Disgusting
Whenever I mention my stepfather I feel like I’ve said something nasty. I can feel the listener holding his or her breath, waiting for tales of incest and deceit, something V.C. Andrews would write. Each of my breasts is as big as my head and I’m sixteen. My step-dad is a mechanic. He’s disgusting sure, but he wasn’t touching me in my sleep or buying me lingerie for my birthday. His own sloppy body parts, his yellow toe nails, his big hairy gut, and his bellybutton, that smelly eye, make him disgusting.
I’m tired of disgusting people. I want to meet a person who’s been sanded down to elegance. I want to meet someone elegant.
But hold on. Elegant doesn’t mean “good.” Perfection doesn’t equate generosity and kindness. Say I meet this refined, elegant human being, and say she’s standing in line ahead of me at Safeway. The clerk asks, “Do you want to round up your purchase to the next whole dollar for muscular dystrophy?” and she says, “No thank you,” in an elegant manner, of course. Her nails are polished in a way to make us believe they are not polished; to try and get us to think that this is how people should enter the world. Polished. Knowing. Never a bad hair day. Breath like roses. Made of silk. But the rest of us are not made of silk. We are made of mud. Sexy mud people.
Still this doesn’t deter me. I still want to meet someone elegant. Maybe I could teach her a thing or two, like what to do with spare change. Maybe she’d think, “poor clumsy, muddy thing, she still thinks we want her to think,” and it would be a shame, a real shame for her to shake her head, go “tsk, tsk” because like I said, I could have taught her a thing or two. Easy.
I used to think my mom was elegant mostly because I’ve never seen her break anything. I’m not being figurative or metaphorical here, I’m talking dishes, glasses or a vase, anything. Nada. That can’t be right. People break things all the time. That’s what they do. The someone, maybe the breaker, puts it back together or maybe just replaces it with something better. Most things are replaceable I imagine. Again, we are still on a literal track here. This is not an analogy for human relationships. If I wanted to talk about that, I would just come out and say it. Same as matters of the heart, the spirit, the soul, what have you.
Nowadays people don’t say exactly what they mean and you have to pay closer attention. What they really want is implied. As if wants are too dirty to say out loud. Well, maybe some are, but usually not. Like my mother for instance saying, “Oh boy Jenna, just look at all those dishes-sigh-oh boy-sigh-and I haven’t even cooked dinner-sigh-oh well, I guess there is no rest for the wicked is there? –sigh-sigh.” Then she’d look at me like a fat pigeon, the one who thinks you didn’t see him porking out, who hopes you’ll think, “His belly is bloated because he’s starving, like those poor kids in Africa!” If you really were that stupid you’d make sure that the fatso got your whole tuna fish sandwich to himself and you’d walk away feeling so satisfied, like you’d saved the whole world because you’d just fed the fattest, greediest bird on earth. But then you’d see one of those commercials about the starving children, and you’d want to call, but you wouldn’t, because that sandwich cost you your last five bucks, and you’d think about how pigeons will eat just about anything and how pigeons don’t just eat they get eaten and you wonder how much it would cost to send a plane full of pigeons to Africa someday. Then you’d drink, because after all, you’d be pathetic, and you would know it.
So that’s why I didn’t offer to do the dishes for my mom. I don’t want to feed a fat pigeon. I don’t want to be pathetic. I want to be elegant. However if she would have asked me straight out to do the dishes, I would have given a half-hearted sigh, but really, inside I would be ecstatic because finally someone told me exactly what they wanted, they said what they meant, and something about that can be elegant, should you do it with elegance. My mother didn’t do it right. Therefore I deemed her NOT ELEGANT. Sigh.
I wrote an essay for English class, “The Elegant Disgusting” and my teacher told me I was a smart girl except that I don’t know the meaning of elegance and she actually wrote the Webster definition down, word for pompous word. Can you believe it? It may sound like she said what she meant but she didn’t. What she meant was, “I don’t get you. You’re strange.” If she would have said the truth, I would have kissed her, right on the lips and skipped all the way home like an idiot, like someone who likes to be punched in the arm over and over again until it makes a purple and yellow bruise. Disgusting.
Other people besides my teacher make the mistake of thinking I’m smart. It’s pretty unfortunate because I’m not smart, I’m hostile. But I guess a hostile expression can look like a smart one to the untrained eye and apparently I’ve been surrounded by untrained eyes.
Mary got a big, fat D on her paper. Big. Fat. D. Sounds like BIG FAT DICK. But she didn’t get anyone’s big fat dick which was no surprise because I was pretty sure she was a lesbian. What she got was a big fat D on her English paper titled, “Things I Love.” I still can’t remember what my grade was. I was too focused on my teacher’s BIG FAT LIE written with a red sharpie. But the D wasn’t the worst of it. The worst of it was Mary crying because her mother told her, “Oh just face it Mary. You’re just not a smart girl.” I laughed when I wasn’t supposed to and Mary looked at me like I’d made some horrible revelation to her, like that I was only into guys. But how could I help myself? Her mom told her what she thought, what she meant, and there were no spaces to fill with guesses. The truth just stood there bare naked and panting from running so hard.
Mary could not see that. Mary could only see that I lacked elegance.
When I sat down in the living room with my stepfather I could still hear my mom sighing. What a martyr. If only she could tell us what she wanted, she could take the knife out of her fat heart and I could use it to chop cucumbers and carrots for dinner. She wanted me to know what she wanted without having to tell me. So she’d shoved the truth up between her legs, way up in “there.” That “there” no daughter wants to admit her mother has. I guess that faux smart look came across my face because my stepdad asked me, “What are you thinking about?”
“Vaginas,” I said.
He raised his eyebrows and shook his head a little then turned up the volume on the TV. The O’Reilly Factor was on. My stepdad propped his bare feet on the coffee table and I could see that his yellow toe nails had begun to curve like talons. Did my mom wear leg warmers to bed? If he scratched her nice and deep would she have to get a rabies shot? But I cared more about vaginas than nails.
“You know what I was thinking about vaginas? I was thinking how I don’t like to think of mom as having one. I like to think she’s built like a Barbie down there.”
At first it didn’t seem like he heard, but of course he did, because he turned up the volume again, and stuffed a handful of Doritos in his mouth.
I thought about Webster’s Dictionary versus me, versus yellow toenails, versus plastic vaginas. I whispered, “I want elegance,” but no one heard. I knew that for sure. My step-dad cleared his throat, and it sounded as if he’d stored a week’s worth of phlegm. Disgusting. Not elegant. We are all so disgusting with our smells, our orifices and our bulges. Mud people. Splat splat. Crash.
The splats were in my hostile head. The crash wasn’t. The crash was real.
“Oh dear, oh dear!” I heard my mother.
I got up and made it to the kitchen before my stepdad, who had to waddle his way out of the deep cavern he’d created in the couch cushion. Before I could go in, he yelled, “Stop!”
Pieces of broken blue glass were everywhere. My mom zigzagged around the jagged pieces, with her hands over her wide open mouth. She looked like a bee trapped inside a window sill, buzz, and buzz! All that buzzing and still, she couldn’t make a damn thing happen. What a waste.
“Was this a plate?” I asked.
“Yes.” My step-dad had put some slippers on and made his way inside.
“I’ve never seen it before. Did someone leave it here?”
“No. We’ve had it for years.” He made a motion with one hand to my mother, a come on, come on, sort of thing and my mom handed him the broom, tip toeing over the shards of blue.
“Huh. Well I’ve never seen it. I bet it was our best plate. I bet it was elegant and now it is buh-row-kin. I never got to see how elegant it was.”
I crossed my arms, breathed out a little too fast and hard. My mother was crouched down holding the dust pan for my stepdad whose grizzly body moved back and forth, and pushed the glass in.
My mother went unnervingly still for a moment.
“This isn’t our best plate. It wasn’t our best plate. You know nothing about this plate. You don’t even remember it.”
“I just know these things, mom.” I made sure I enunciated each sound; mmm-ah-om.
“Jenna, put your shoes on.” I could see that she had knelt too far and her knees were pressing down on the blue splinters of glass. Tiny buds of red blossomed on her skin. My stepdad couldn’t see on account of his hairy, one-eyed belly. I looked at her face, then at her knees then back at her face again. I saw that unspoken thing. The implied thing.
“Jenna,” she said my name sllllooowwwllly. “Put. Your. Shoes. On.”
“Mom, look, I’m already wearing them.” I lied.
“Oh.” But she hadn’t looked.
“Maybe you should be more careful mommmm. More elegant.”
My mother finally took a good look at my bare, taunting feet.
“Get. In. Here. Je. Nuh.”
“Jenna. Get in here.”
Was it a test? Would I walk across the glass splinters, the ones only her and I knew were there, feeling each tiny poke through my imaginary shoes?
I did. I walked across the tile floor. Same squares my mother had never asked me to sweep or mop. I felt the prick of each shard and wondered if by the end of it, the bottom of my feet would sparkle blue. It hurt.
“I want you to do the dishes. When you are done washing and rinsing, I want you to dry them. When they are dry, I want you to put them away. Neatly. Do you understand? Neet. Lee.”
I nodded. Of course I understood.
My stepfather reached down and grabbed a hold of my mother’s hand, lifted her up. He saw her knees and said, “Damn.” Then the two of them disappeared.
By the time I got to drying the dishes I could hear them. The squeaky mattress. My mother moaning. My mother was not a vinyl doll. My mother had a vagina.
I couldn’t find where the round red platter went. I opened up one cabinet after another until I came to one that should be labeled MISCELLANEOUS, the place where you put things that have no matches, no kin, and no equals. Up on the third shelf I saw them, two blue plates. Two. Not three. This had happened before.
I left the round red plate in the middle of the table, as if to say, “I know something.” I knew nothing. I thought about Webster’s again. And D’s. And Mary’s face.
I’m a fat pigeon.
Send me to Africa.
28 5 / 2012
I forget sometimes that my father was once young and that inside him
somewhere, is a Montana farm boy climbing trees and falling off horses. I
forget that inside him are all the same ribbons and coils that made him,
him. I tell my daughters about Grandpa, tell them how he climbed a water
tower when he was three, tamed a stallion when he was barely five. I tell
them how before Grandma died, Grandpa pedaled a blue ten-speed six miles
a day at age seventy-five, and that he went back to school at age
seventy-eight to earn his GED. My daughters don’t hear much outside their
ipods, don’t see much beyond the abbreviated texts that beep every two
minutes: OMG! LMAO. FML! I touch my four fingers to my belly fat. I take
note of the bumps, the cellulite, the stretch marks that remain even
thirteen years after having carried my twins.
I forget that none of us ever really overcomes loneliness, that it
follows us, and gropes our backs with its sticky fingers. I call my
father to remind him we’re together in this cold, gray vacuum, and that
of all things, it’s our sadness that binds us, not our DNA, not our
family history. But when I hear his fragile voice drowned out by the
television, (Jeopardy, I think) I stop. My father takes his pain on the
rocks. Figuratively speaking, since my dad has never touched a drop of
alcohol. In fact, other than television in the evenings, my father has no
crutch, no vice to dull the senses. His Love has died. He is alone. His
heart beats slower every day while the blue body of his bike collects
rust and other damage.
I forget that everyone has a right to say when they’re done. That
is, without the help of self-pity. I wonder how dad will say goodbye.
Will he be taken overnight like mom? Or will there be other signs, the
giving away of property, final words of advice? I try to decipher the
long pauses over the phone. He clears his throat and I imagine tears. I
feel my neck and throat sink into my heart. But then dad asks, “How old
are the twins?” I look over at my girls, and they’re as clueless as I was
at their age. They won’t know their Grandpa until he’s long gone, and by
then he’ll be nothing short of a legend, the mythos of our family tree.
“Thirteen,” I say, and I tell him, “Tell me who you were at thirteen
dad.” It’s better I think, to talk about the distant past, rather than
this thing we cannot process, cannot accept. His stories take us
somewhere that’s easier to breathe. The words “I love you” are like an
unopened letter or an unpaid bill. But still, I feel us fighting it,
fighting the shadows together.
26 5 / 2012
“Here is what I know:
My name is Budo.
I have been alive for five years.
Five years is a very long time for someone like me to be alive.
Max gave me my name.
Max is the only human person who can see me.
Max’s parents call me an imaginary friend.
I love Max’s teacher, Mrs Gosk.
I do not like Max’s other teacher, Mrs Patterson.
I am not imaginary.”
I am quick to read books with main characters who have autistic traits, i.e; The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime, Me and You, Marcelo in the Real World, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I am also drawn to literary fiction written in the voice of a child. Not everyone can masterfully pull this off, but when someone does you get masterpieces like Room by Emma Donoghue, and now, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend.
My fourteen-year-old son was diagnosed with autism four years ago which is one reason these types of books appeal to me. I especially enjoy books that don’t come out and diagnose the main character for you. Anyone who has autistic tendencies herself, or who is close to someone on the spectrum can instantly relate. It’s because I’ve read several books with characters of this nature that I am sensitive to would-be cliches, the moment when an author is beating you over the head with personality traits to lead you to diagnosis.
In the first thirty pages of Imaginary Friend, I began to worry. Will Max simply become a summary of stereotypical traits, a carbon copy of every other autistic character popularized in recent fiction? Are his parents—a father in denial, an anxious, protective mother who wants to understand why her son is so “different”—going to fulfill all too predictable roles? But then, Green did something I wasn’t expecting, couldn’t expect. Just as you think that the worst evil Max faces is a lonely world, fighting parents, and a school bully, he put Max in danger, serious danger, and he handed Budo, Max’s imaginary friend, the terrifying, and harrowing responsibility of saving his human, his creator. Budo’s journey, and more than that, his inner transformation are what truly made me fall in love with the book, and more so with Budo, Max’s “imaginary” friend.
It is Budo’s humanity, his perspective that sets this book apart. Imaginary friends are far more common, often a relatable childhood memory. So for those of you who can’t relate to someone like Max entirely, Budo is the guide, the guardian angel that transports readers to both the vulnerabilities and limitless imaginings of childhood.
I urged my son to read the book the moment after I finished the last page. I still had a few tears in my eyes when I handed it to him, so hopefully that won’t deter him.
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend will break your heart a little, I won’t lie. But it will also break you open in the most beautiful way. It is a story you will never regret knowing and never forget experiencing.
17 5 / 2012
Too bad for Maribel, God gave her an extra arm. And too bad that her beautiful, olive-skinned mother went into such shock at the sight of her, that her heart shattered, and she died. Not that the arm itself was malformed or grotesque, but the fact that the arm protruded from Maribel’s back and trembled with afterbirth, proved more than Carmen’s heart could survive.
Daniel wrapped his wife in their wedding quilt, after his mother Elena had gently sponged cleaned Carmen’s cold skin and dressed her in her Quinciera dress. Meanwhile, a slight, quiet Maribel slept nestled in a warm nest of fleece blankets Grandma Elena had prepared for her, inside a wicker basket at the foot of the bed.
Daniel and Elena saved their tears, deep inside their pockets. The ceremony—taking place only twenty-four hours after Carmen’s death—was their greatest priority, the grief, the insurmountable loss of Carmen, as well as the ungodly, terrifying sight of Maribel’s dysfunction would have to wait.
Carmen’s funeral took place in the back yard, near a bed of daisies. Carmen’s parents had passed away before Carmen reached adulthood. But Carmen did not want for love. Neighbors and friends of neighbors, and relatives of those friends, attended and let their tears loose while Daniel and Carmen nearly suffocated in their grief.
Only one guest arrived unwanted, Senora Fabo, carrying her healthy, two armed beautiful boy infant. Maribel wasn’t the only child born that day. Miss Fabo gave birth to her son Sammy, not only on that same day, but that same hour, that very minute. That is when Elena knew, without a doubt, that Senora Fabo, had given Carmen, Ojo, the evil eye.
Elena had desperately tried to warn Carmen during her pregnancy that she was much too beautiful. It was true, Carmen’s beauty was both admired and coveted. But Elena was sure, that Senora Fabo desired Carmen’s beauty to the point of hatred. For Senora Fabo was truly the homeliest woman Elena, and possibly the entire neighborhood, had ever laid eyes on. When Elena caught eye of baby Sammy, her suspicions and allegations were laid to rest. Senora Fabo had stolen Carmen’s beauty, and the beauty of her child. Senora Fabo’s envy had killed her daughter-in-law, Carmen.
Sensing his mother’s rage, as only Daniel could, he sent Elena in the house to fetch Maribel. “Wrap her in her mother’s gown. It calms her.” Begrudgingly, Elena left the yard to fetch her granddaughter.
Staring into her granddaughter’s milk chocolate eyes, Elena felt some relief. The girl, after all, had her mother’s beauty. Only she’d been damned by a jealous, cruel woman while still in her mother’s womb. Not only born with a terrifying malformation, Maribel’s disfigurement had literally scared her mother to death.
As Daniel requested, Elena wrapped the pitiful child in her mother’s gown, still thick with her honeysuckle scent. Maribel cooed inside her grandmother’s embrace, her third arm awkwardly hanging over the back of Elena’s forearm. Elena tucked in the third arm, but like a spring, the arm popped over the blanket, as if it had a mind of its own. As if it was saying, “I refuse to be a secret.”
This was Maribel’s debut. Elena gently tucked the third arm in the crook of her elbow. She felt the forceful nudging, but Maribel herself couldn’t have been more content. In fact, Maribel had not yet even cried. She’d come into the world only grateful to be alive. It saddened Elena that someday the child would become aware how unlucky she was.
Elena walked steadily into the backyard, hesitant and sad, her bare feet depending on the earth with every terrifying step. Immediately, onlookers stood on their tiptoes and craned their necks. They’d heard only that Carmen had died giving birth. They knew nothing of Maribel’s third arm.
As Elena approached, her son Daniel approached the bundle with pride. Elena’s grip was firm, but eventually, she gave into her son who took his daughter Maribel into his arms with absolute love. Elena’s heart raced, Be watchful, she thought, beware that wicked arm.
But Daniel did no such thing, for he raised Maribel above his head, her mother’s gown slipping to her belly, her tiny arms flailing, and the third arm, larger, and bolder reaching even higher, making sure to be noticed.
The crowd gasped, some women and children began to cry, others closed their eyes. But a few, mind you, a very select few, managed to smile and blow her kisses.
“This is my daughter Maribel, and she is a miracle,” Daniel spoke.
But Elena kept her eye on Senora Fabo who was desperately trying to quiet her suspiciously beautiful child, Sammy whose lungs sounded as if they were about to burst. Daniel continued introducing Maribel, whom he had named Maribel Carmen Elena Trozco on the day of her birth, the third of March.
Daniel lowered his daughter and held her close to his chest and for the first time since her birth, deliberately examined his daughter’s third arm, even put the fingers to his lips and gave it a kiss. At this, Elena looked away.
Some sighs of disgust, and mild terror saturated the air. But between the loss of the beloved Carmen Trozco, and the arrival of this strange beautiful and hideous creature, the crowd could only defer to mention of food.
Half the visitors stayed for banquet Elena had stayed up all night to prepare. She thanked Jesus that Maribel had slept through the night, a rare, miraculous occurrence for a newborn. You strange, strange little beast, Elena had thought.
One particular visitor knew better than to enter the Trozco home, senora Fabo, her infant still screaming, refusing to suckle from her breast, stood with her back to the front door, moving her body every which way in hopes of quieting her baby. While Daniel occupied himself with Maribel, and the other guests piling their plates with empanadas and tamales, Elena quietly slipped outside to face Beatriz Fabo once and for all.
“Such an unhappy, but beautiful child,” she said to Beatriz, raising her eyebrows.
“He did not sleep last night, not even an hour. I did not sleep,” Beatriz mentioned quietly, the skin around her eyes like deep, dark and wrinkled valleys of flesh.
“Be certain Beatriz, that I will protect Maribel from you, all the days of my life,” Elena threatened.
“Be certain Elena,” she said, “I will do the same for my son.”
This took Elena by surprise. How dare she imply any wrongdoing on Elena’s part.
“Do you think me a fool? Carmen is dead, her daughter deformed, and your baby…” Elena stared down at Sammy’s face, truly the face of in angel, but an angel in hell, and her heart ached.
“My child screams in pain! My child doesn’t sleep! You are an awful woman Elena! To take such violence out on an innocent child!”
It was all too much for Elena. Not only had she lost Carmen, but her granddaughter had been cursed by this frightful woman.
“Get out! Get out and never return! Curse you, hideous woman!”
“Mama!” Daniel shouted, holding Maribel, still as close as before.
“See Daniel? This witch, your mother!” Beatriz accused, and near tears.
Daniel approached her with pity, never believing his mother’s suspicions but dismissing them as superstition and his mother’s habit of thinking the worst of others.
Daniel stood so close to Beatriz, that when he did, Maribel’s independent third arm reached over and petted Sammy’s head, and it was then that yet another mystery was born. Sammy Fabo cried no more. The hand and fingers, closer to the size of a toddler, stroke the small head, once red and sweaty from crying, now back to bronze, and calm and cool, just like Maribel. Within moments, Sammy’s eyelids flickered and closed. At last Sammy slept.
All three adults, Beatriz, Elena, and Daniel stood motionless, after having watched the strange, superfluous arm coax the child to sleep. But Daniel finally broke the silence. He invited Beatriz to stay and to eat. He even asked her to lay the babes side by side in the basket. Beatriz began to smile, but upon looking at Elena whose eyes were still filled with suspicion and threats, Beatriz shook her head no, and quietly slipped through the gate, and when she did, for the very first time, Maribel wept.