Present Day, Winter 2019
Luna sits huddled up in her bathtub. Warm, clear water filling the tub to the brim. She clutches her knees to her chest. Her lips pressing against the side of her knee. She stares at the still, clear water. Looking to see the bottom of the porcelain tub.
The information overload of the day had taken its toll. She had expected answers on her birth parents, but somehow hadn’t anticipated finding Marisol had died. Let alone that she died the same day as Monroe Elora. The coincidence was brutal and unforgiving.
Now she was mourning a mother she never knew, along with a child she never had the opportunity to meet.
She rocks back, dipping her hands in the water. Cupping, scooping and pouring out the warm water, like a stalled fountain.
She leans back, resting her head against the rim of the tub. Looking up at the ceiling. Her toes curling around the taps on the other end.
The paint of the ceiling was starting to peel. Another problem she didn’t feel like facing. Why was she even still living in a place that was meant to be a home with Cooper? He found a new home with someone new now.
She shuts her eyes in frustration, exhaling.
What comes after abandonment, an insane amount of love, the worst kind of loss?
What is left to do, except to break it all down and begin again. Start from the beginning.
She had the answers to the missing pieces of her past. Now she could piece together who Marisol was; who Kamil was. What they were to each other.
She opens her eyes, looking at the tattered ceiling. Before she could fix the ceiling, she’d first have to scrape off the peeling paint.
She had to go back to the roots of her mother. And the best person to show her who her mother was, was her Aunt Pilar.
She hops out of the bathtub, wrapping a bath sheet around her middle. She slips her feet into her slippers next to the bathmat.
Waffles trailing behind her, as she walks across the room to her bed. She grabs her mobile and dials Kamil’s number.
The ring tone numbs her for a split-second. She shuts her eyes and inhales deeply.
“Dzień dobry” his voice sounded over the mobile speaker
“Kamil…” she clears her throat, “It’s Luna”
“Luna… hello. Good to hear you”
She smiles at his broken English. “I was thinking… I would like to visit Pilar.”
“She would like dat also I’m sure”
“So, would you be willing to text me the address? Or maybe even accompany me to hers?”
She could hear his muffled chuckle, “I go wid you… dough she may not be too happy to see me. I go still”
“Thank you. So, do I meet you at yours?”
“Send me your house… uhm… adres?”
“Address yeah, I’ll text you.”
“I pick you up what time?”
“Thanks again Kamil, not just for this… but for today. I think I needed this… been kinda stuck of late…”
“Stuck? Wid one boy you lov’?”
She shrugs, running her palm across her exposed knee. “Yeah, a bit… but I feel things will be good again. I know they will.”
She reaffirms with a smile. “Anyway, you have a good evening Kamil. I’ll see you tomorrow”
“Tomorro’, tak… dobranoc”
She hangs up. Staring at her mobile screen for a beat. A sudden rush of emotions set weighted on her chest. A tear drips onto her hand.
Waffles jumps onto the bed, nestling his head in her lap. She smiles down at him, combing through his fawn and white coat. She takes his paw into her hand. Tracing her fingers along his paw pads.
Another tear escapes, dripping onto Waffles’ snout. He sits up, licks her cheek and then across her nose and mouth. She giggles uncontrollably.
“Stop it cariño…” she tugs at the fur along his neck, pressing a kiss to his snout, “It’s okay baby, mama’s just in her feels. I’m okay”
She scratches the top of his head. “You know what we need?”
Waffles barks in anticipation.
“Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream!”
He affirms with another loud bark.
The next morning, Kamil shows on time dressed looking dapper in black slacks, a wine-red turtleneck and his thick, black coat.
He had a driver escorting them in a black Escalade. Luna looks across at Kamil, as they sit side by side in the back seat.
“What do you do… like for a living?”
He chuckles as he runs a hand across his growing stubble, “It is… how you say… dziedzictwo… inheritance?”
“Okay, so you were born with a silver spoon?”
“Seelver… spoon? Hej?”
She laughs, “Don’t worry about it. I just mean you’re rich”
“Tak, my parents… tak, reech…”
“So, you’ve never had a job?” her eyebrows raise quizzically.
“I have job. I worked for mój ojciec…the Wojcik Custom Furneeture. Because I want to come back to Amereeca, he opened branch for me to run in Boston… You need job?”
She smiles, “No… I’m good, thanks. I work at art an art gallery. I’m a curator.”
“Wspaniale! You lov’ art like mama!”
His entire face lit up; his eyes sparkled when he mentioned his mother.
“My grandmother loves art?”
“Tak… bardzo tak…” he reaches out, clasping his hand around hers, “… mama would lov’ you.”
“Even though I’m half-brown”
He lowers his gaze, smiling. He nods, “She is mor’… de word… tolerance?”
“Wait, so she would’ve welcomed Marisol if you’d brought her home.”
“Tak… she want only me to be happy. And she saw, I was not… when back home…” he stares out the car window, “… but…” he looks back at Luna, “… now we get new start?”
Luna nods, “Yeah, we get a new start.”
“I am just sad Mari… she… she would hav’ lov’d dis… you wanting to know us…”
The car halts. The driver lowers the tinted screen window divider. He turns his head slightly, only to display his side profile. He had an aristocratic nose. From the facial hair visible underneath his driver’s hat, he was blonde. Even his eyelashes shone golden.
“Pan, dotarliśmy” he was curt and short.
And up the screen window went again.
Kamil opens the door, Luna follows suit.
As Luna steps on the pavement, she took in a deep breath.
She felt a hand on her lower back, looks up and found Kamil at her side. His nod reassuring and comforting all at once.
“Nie bój się mojej dziewczyny…”
She had no clue what he said, but she knew he was letting her know he had her. He was there. She wasn’t in this alone any longer. She had someone who was unquestionably and unconditionally for her and with her. She felt a sense of belonging.
They made the way up to the stairs leading up to Pilar’s front door.
Before knocking on the door, Kamil smiles down at Luna.
A few quiet moments later, the door opens. There stood a woman in her late fifties. Her skin the most gorgeous tones of caramel. Her eyes, big and brown. She had sable, thick eyebrows, neat though untouched. Her hair braided down the side, a mix of ink black and silvery grey, all the way down to her hip.
She wore an apron over her blue-white floral blouse and brown pleated skirt.
Her mouth drops open when she looks at Luna. Her hands lift to cover her gaping mouth. Tears set in her eyes, which seemed a hazel color now as she stepped forward into the sunlight.
“Oh Dios mío…” a tear finally makes it way down her cheek as she blinks, “… la niña de Marisol…”
She frowns, as she turns to face Kamil. As though she had only noticed him standing there now.
“What are you doing here?”
“Hello Pilar” he clears his throat, “… I come to hav’ you meet… Luna… Jiménez… Tak, she is Mari’s… and mine…”
Pilar lifts her chin in defiance, her nostrils flaring, lips in a straight line.
“Pfft… no tienes derecho”
“Uhm… Pilar…” Luna shakes her head, as she raises the lowered near-whisper volume of her voice, “… tía Pilar”
Pilar’s eyes go round. She turns to look at Luna.
“Mi vida… mi corazón…” she steps forward, cupping Luna’s face in her hand, “te pareces a tu madre”
“Sí… he oído…” she swallows hard, “… I just don’t have any point of reference.”
“Ven…” she grabs Luna by the hand, as she leads her inside, “…Te voy a mostrar fotos”
Kamil sighs, as he stands, hands tucked into the pockets of his slacks.
Luna looks back at him, motioning with her head to follow inside. Reluctantly, he steps forward and inside. Closing the door behind him.
Once inside, Luna’s eyes flashes across the portraits and pictures in the foyer. Not missing the holy water stoup near the door. But Pilar was in such a haste to show the photos, that she’d forgotten to make Luna pay homage to the custom.
She sets Luna down on the sofa with its antique arm rests. The cushions were a pastel floral pattern, with golden seams and thread.
Pilar scurries around the bottom of a cabinet, retrieving stacks of old photo albums.
“Aquí… from when we were niñas…” she hands over the velvet covered albums. Luna smiles nervously.
“Voy a poner el café” she glares at Kamil stood frozen in the doorway, “You sit too, if you must”
“Tak…” he nods and slowly walks toward the sofa. His knees creek as he settles down next to Luna.
Luna pages through the photo album. They were right, she was the spitting image of Marisol. Even as a little girl.
There were countless photos taken at the beach. The girls splashing around in the water or posing on the beautiful sandy beach.
There were stoic posed pictures, with braided hair and ribbons, as all children were accustomed to in the 60s.
Another album of the girls in their teens. Marisol was quite the fashionista, trending the best new looks of the late 70s and early 80s.
“You knew her after this?”
He nods, “We were 20 when we met…”
He reaches in his pocket, retrieving a wallet-sized photo from his brown leather wallet. His hand shaking as he hands the photo to Luna.
There they were the two lovebirds in their whirlwind romance. They looked blissfully unaware of the trouble that was to follow them. They were in love.
She looks up to find that tears had welled up in his eyes. She reaches out and touches his hand, lacing her fingers between his.
“I’m sorry you didn’t have more time…” Luna says.
His smile was sad, “Me? You had non’…”
“You can’t miss what you never had… you were the one that lost her.”
Pilar walks in with a silver tray, 3 white cups in teacup plates and a tidy pile of Torticas de Moron – sugary cookies.
She places the tray on the table, handing a plated cup to first Luna and then reluctantly to Kamil.
“Torticas de Moron…” she holds out the plate to Luna, beaming.
Luna kindly takes one, so does Kamil when offered.
“Muchas gracias tía” Luna responds
“You see…” she points to a photograph of Marisol sitting on a swing, wearing a beautiful pink sundress, “… las la viva imagen!”
Pilar sits down on the one-seater sofa across Luna.
“I am happy you are here Luna…” she takes a sip of coffee, legs crossed “… but why now mi querida?”
“I guess, I was feeling kinda lost… and I’ve always wondered…” Luna flicks her tongue over her parched lips, “… but I was too stubborn before to ask… I was angry.”
Nervous laughter slips from her mouth. She takes a sip of the coffee.
Pilar nods, “Sí, entiendo… Maricita… she was young… and very much alone…” her eyes pierces Kamil’s.
“I’m not here to blame… and I’m not angry anymore… I just want… la familia, el patrimonio”
“Sí… eres nuestra”
Luna looks across at Kamil, “Y la de ellas…”
“Sí…” she adds reluctantly.
“I want to know about Marisol, about Barigua, about abuela y abuelo…”
Pilar smiles, “Sí… Abuelo…” she gives the slightest of shake of her head, sadness in her eyes “… él falleció… uando eramos jóvenes before we moved to the States. Abuela, she stayed back in Cuba. We came to live with tía Consuela… Ella falleció few years after Maricita went back to Cuba. It’s just me now”
“No esposo… niñas… niños?”
She shakes her head, “Solo yo…”
“Y yo… tía Pilar”
They share a smile from across the room.