I dodged through the busy streets of Queens, hoping to make it home before it became too dark and the skies let loose the rain it had been holding in all day. It had been a long day for me and I was tired. Today I had school and when I got home, I had lessons from my mother on Native American traditions. Late at night I practiced the flute. My mother taught me how to play her Native American flute, but in secret I played flute in a jazz band in a vaudeville theatre in Manhattan.Dodging one last person, I arrived at my family's town home just as the skies let loose. Castel met me at the door with a towel in his hand and a scowl on his face.
"Papa's angry," he told me in Spanish. "He fought with Mama again. She still doesn't want you going to that school."
I used the towel to dry my face and long black hair. "I don't want to go to school. I hate it. I just want to play flute."
Castel nodded in understanding. "Do you still have trouble with reading and spelling?"
I nodded back. "The other kids tease me something fierce." I walked into my room and fell backwards onto my bed. Castel followed and sat on the floor like Mama, grabbing my pillow to sit on.
"You're the best flute player I know. Bet you'll be famous one day. Mi hermana, the famous flute player."
I smiled at the thought. "I visited a theatre today. A woman named Medda owns it and she lets bands play there. Real bands! Oh Castel, it was wonderful being there! I could see myself on stage, playing in a real jazz band!"
"Lenmana, is that you?" Mama's voice softly rang out in her native Hopi language. She only knew a bit of Spanish; not enough to speak fluently like Papa and Castel and I.
"Yes Mama," I called back in Hopi. "I'm in my room."
"Hello Lenmana," she said as she bent down to kiss my head. She sat next to Castel and kissed his head. "Hello Cha'akmongwi. How are my children today?" She listened carefully as we told her about our days, nodding at the right times. Just as I finished telling about being laughed at when I had read out loud in class, Papa entered my room.
"Mis hijos." He sat down next to me on the bed. "Mama and I have been talking and we have something very important to tell you." Castel and I looked at each other. This couldn't be good news for either of us. "Starting tomorrow, Castel will be working with me. Allegra, you will continue with your studies. Your mother also wants to teach you in her ways. It would be wise to return straight home from school. No more of this silly flute playing. I am expecting both of you to do well in your studies." With that, he got up and left the room. Mama moved next to me on the bed and pulled me into a hug.
"I love you, my daughter. I will keep some time in our studies together for you to play your flute." She kissed my head once more before leaving, leaving Castel and I alone again. We looked at each other, anger on both of our faces.
"I know this is unfair," Castel said quietly, before I could speak the words myself. As my twin, Castel often knew what I would say before I could tell him.
"I hate school! Mama knows how hard it is. I hate it! And Papa doesn't listen. I don't want to go to school! It's unfair! Why should I have to go? You want it more than I do." I continued to rant at my twin, who sat in silence until I ran out of energy to keep ranting.
"I want to keep going to school as much as you want to play flute all day," he said once I fell silent. "I need to keep going. There is much to learn, especially if I am to become a lawyer." Castel's secret dream was to become a famous lawyer one day. He had once told me he would be a doctor if he had to, but he didn't want to be a doctor like Papa. Papa was a doctor that used only herbs and things from nature in his practice. He wanted Castel to take over his business one day, but Castel wasn't interested. Mama stayed home and kept house for us. I guessed if I was to take lessons with Mama, I would end up getting married young and keeping house like her one day. I didn't want that. I wanted to be free and play my flute all day.
"I say we should do something," I told him, jumping up and pacing the room.
"What can we do? Papa's word is law in this house."
"We can run away. We can rent out a room and you can go to school. I'll find a job that doesn't require reading. Castel, we can do it!" The words started coming out faster, a mixture of Spanish and Hopi. I got up and started pacing as I talked. "We can leave tonight while Mama and Papa are sleeping. They won't notice until morning and by then we can be far away. Or maybe close by, because they won't think to look so close to home. But we can do it!"
"Na-Na, stop and think about it." I paused at the sound of my nickname. My twin had called me Na-Na as children because he couldn't say my name. It was a special nickname because only he called me that. "If we ran away, where would we go? I would need to be here for school. You can't read well and most jobs require you to read. Even if you could, we don't speak English well enough to get by. We would have to place to live because we would have no way of getting money. It's a nice idea, but it can't work."
I sat back down on my bed, disappointed. I hadn't thought about that too well. Turning the idea over in my head, I thought about what Castel had said and tried to think of ways to make it work. "We could go to Manhattan. That's where Medda's place is. I can find a way to get hired there and play my flute." I started getting excited again as I thought more about it. I got up and started pacing again. "That would take care of the job. I wouldn't need to read anything except music, and I can do that. We might have to sleep in the streets for a few days until we find a place, but as soon as I get a job we can start looking. A job playing flute would also take care of the language barrier for a while. We can learn English as we go."
"You really don't want to go to school, do you?" Castel asked.I shook my head. "I'm not going. You can stay if you want, but I refuse." He looked thoughtful for a long time as I started piling things on my bed to take with me. Finally he went into his room and came back with his own bag. "Okay, what do we need to bring?" he asked. I smiled and hugged him.
Silently looking into Mama and Papa's room, I could see both of them in bed, fast asleep. I snuck back to my room and nudged Castel. "Mi hermano! Wake up!" I hissed quietly. "Wake up! Time to go!"
Castel jumped up and grabbed his bag. I grabbed mine and we opened the window leading to the fire escape. Dropping our bags over, we silently climbed out and shut the window again before climbing down the stairs.We ran quickly through the silent streets until we were out of breath. Stopping under a nearby streetlight, I looked around, hoping to see a clue as to where we were. I recognized nothing.
"I think we're lost," I whispered to my twin in Spanish. He leaned on his knees, panting heavily. A shadow fell over us and I looked up to see two boys standing in front of us. The taller one said something in English. I didn't know what he had said, but the look on his face suggested it wasn't something pleasant. I felt my brother stand up and look at the boys. Turning around, I whispered, "I think we should run."
He nodded and grabbed my hand. We both started running as fast as we could. Hearing footsteps behind us, I saw them running after us. "They're coming after us!"
"Split up!" he called out.
"Do it! See that bridge ahead? Meet there in 20 minutes! We can figure out our plan after that!" Castel dropped my hand and took off in the opposite direction. I stopped running and called after him.
"Castel, come back! Don't leave me! Castel!" The boys had looked surprised to see my twin run past them, but were recovered now as they came towards me. They looked happy with the fact that I was now alone. I felt scared as I looked at them, nothing around for me to defend myself with. Out of nowhere came a blur that started attacking the people in front of me. It fought them off and stood there, yelling at them as they ran away. Once they were out of sight, it turned back to me and I could see it was a boy about my age. He spoke something to me that I couldn't understand. Not knowing what else to do, I started to run away. "Gracias!" I called back as I ran over the bridge, leaving the boy standing there alone and scratching his head.