12. Twenty-Seven Years
“We ain’t staying long so don’t get too attached to the toys your grandma has,” I said to my daughter, Leilani, as we approached ma’s front door. She was excited to see her grandma and had the biggest grin on her face. There was a small bounce to her step and I couldn’t help but shake my head.
I glanced up just in time for ma to open the front door and step outside. She watched me with arms folded, unsmiling with the ever presence of doom surrounding her. Most days she was happy to see me—especially with Leilani with me—but we both knew things were different.
Ever since I read the letter, the letter I found in Marcus’ room, I’d been in a constant state of uncertainty. Still, even in the present day, I couldn’t wrap my head around it all— Muerte was in love with ma. He has been since the beginning of her relationship with his own brother. He’d known that I was his kid and tried to convince her to run away to Mexico where they could be together.
Of course, ma didn’t take his offer. If I didn’t know about my true parentage, did Mateo?
When we were at hearing distance, ma smiled at Leilani, bending to her level so they were face to face.
“Hey, baby girl,” she spoke with a soft tone. “I have toys in the living room. Go play with it while I talk to your daddy.”
Without any acknowledgement, Leilani ran past ma so fast you could see dust settling behind her. I chuckled but paused when ma turned to me. I couldn’t read her at all.
“Come in,” she said, spinning on her heels and re-entered her home. Scanning my surroundings one last time, I followed behind and closed the door.
Ma lived in this house for nearly twenty-seven years—my childhood home. It wasn’t too big yet wasn’t too small either. The peach walls were still the same. The plants, the Jamaican interior was all the same. I remember ma telling me that Mateo wanted her to feel like she was back home and completely caved to whatever she wanted the house to be like. At the thought of Mateo, my mood went sour, sourer than it could ever be.
Don’t react. Hear her out. Hear her side.
I walked into the kitchen as ma pulled out two glasses and a bottle of whiskey. Pouring the liquid in one glass, she pushed it my way and I shook my head.
“Trust me when I say after what you’re gonna hear, you’ll need a drink,” she said, not beating around the bush. I would take one glass; I had to take into consideration that I would be driving home.
I watched as she finished her first glass and poured another. I waited until she finished that one before saying. “Slow down, ma. Talk to me.”
Her throat moved when she swallowed. Avoiding my eyes, she said. “You know?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
Reaching into my back pocket, I pulled out the letter. It was old, surviving nearly three decades with wrinkles and it pale yellow complexion. It was halfway torn and I carried it with gentle care. Placing it at the centre of the counter, I lifted my gaze to see horror in hers. With her eyes glassy with tears, she took a deep breath.
“Where did you find that?” she asked hoarsely.
“Marcus had it in his room,”
She closed her eyes, resting her elbows onto the kitchen counter and covered her face. “Fuck.”
I scoffed humourlessly. “I’ve been saying that for months.”
She looked at me: remorse, embarrassment and fear all rolled into one.
“Ma I just want answers,” I said with a shrug. “Why didn’t you tell me Muerte was my father?”
Tears flowed down her cheeks, so much so that droplets fell on the counter. I saw the pain in her eyes, realising the extent this secret has affected her. “I didn’t think this would get out. Muerte didn’t seem too keen to let you know, even after your father… uh, Mateo died. And…” her head hung low, avoiding my gaze when she continued. “I was ashamed. I wanted to pretend that you were truly Mateo’s.”
I didn’t say anything. What could I say? For the truth to be voiced out loud was uncanny. Almost felt like I didn’t want to believe it. But what could I deny that was right in front of my eyes? When I took long to respond, ma lifted her eyes. They were pleading, beginning for understanding. At my slight nod, she continued.
“The MC was having a club party. I was with Mateo at the time, weeks after he made me his old lady. I was with the other wives, and girls, and Mateo went somewhere. I don’t know, I think he wanted to talk to some of the guys about club business coming up. Anyways, I drank too much and got drunk. It was late into the night and I was tired and just wanted to be with Mateo. I thought I went into his room but when I woke up, I found Muerte and I realised…” she let out a long sigh and covered her face to hide her humiliation. “I wasn’t dressed. He wasn’t dressed.”
Frowning, I shuffled from foot to foot, uncomfortable with her explanation. Her words may be difficult to hear but I needed to understand what happened. I grabbed the whiskey. Fuck driving; I could stay for the night. “Didn’t he tell you it was him?”
This time, ma frowned as if trying to remember exactly what happened. Slowly, she shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. When I woke up, I knew the moment I saw him, it was not Mateo. I think he thought I was drunk from the night before I wouldn’t recognise him but I did. I didn’t even know he hadn’t worn a condom until I found out I was pregnant with you. Thank god I didn’t catch anything.”
Taking in the depth of her words, realisation dawned on me and rage took hold of my body. That fucker didn’t. No, no, no, no, no…
“Ma he ra—” I swallowed. I couldn’t say the word. “He violated you. You know that?”
I didn’t care that I was the product of this fucked up situation. All this time, I thought ma was cheating on Mateo and getting mad for cheating on a man I looked up to. But with her side of things…
She blinked, her frown deeper than it was before. “I never considered it like that but…” she trailed off, letting the silence speak her words.
“You weren’t in your right mind to consent, ma! The bastard took advantage of you.”
She straightened her spine. Snatching the bottle from my hold, she downed the entire whiskey. I was tempted to grab another bottle and do the same. Maybe I should, I didn’t really need to go anywhere. Like I said, I could stay the night. I was sure ma would like to spend more time with Leilani.
Instead of whiskey, I headed for the fridge and grabbed a bottle of beer. Cracking it open with my teeth, I downed nearly half the bottle. Feeling ma’s eyes on me, I turned to her to see her questioning look.
“What are you going to do?” she asked. “And you gonna let him know you know?”
“No. this says it all,” I said while tapping his letter between us. “I’ve got his side.”
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