Here’s part of a story I’m working on.
She took a breath. One hand clutched at the metal rail of her bed, the other gripped her husband’s hand. Her nails, rough from constant biting, dug into his skin leaving white crescents. Her eyes were clamped shut as voices urged her on, “One more, just one more big push.” They’ve been repeating that for the past five minutes. Not that Luzmarie was counting as pain rolled over her and her breathing grew shallow. She gave them a push, a big push; it was the last one.
Under the stark fluorescent bulbs and even covered in bloody tissue, Luzmarie had never seen a more beautiful being. The cries pierced through her exhaustion and pain and she reached out for the child. The nurse placed the now cleaned babe into her arms and Luzmarie wept. Her husband John, silently grateful for the use of his hand, laid his arm over her shoulders.
“Good work Luz.” She gave him a breathless chuckle as he brushed the damp hair from her forehead. When her parents walked in, her mother, Josefina, began her examination of the newborn. Supposedly, she had Tio Ernesto’s ears, her grandmother Juana’s nose, and the stubby toes of her father, John.
“She’s beautiful mija,” Luz’s father Innocencio said and kissed her temple. “You did good, Luzy.”
Luz grinned, so sure her face would be stuck in that permanent grin. “Larimar made momma work for it, didn’t you?” The newborn opened her eyes and trained the cross-eyed cool grey eyes on her uncle, Tio Tulio, who stood beside his parents. He was young, still in his teens. Black stained his nails and grease streaked his once blue coveralls that faded to grey from washing. He was leaning over his younger sister’s bed. A tiny tanned hand clasped around his outstretched finger. He shared a look with his father.
“Papa?” Luz checked over her shoulder. Her father was prone to staring off into space or having conversations with himself. It spooked her as a child and now, twenty-four years later she could still feel her skin prickle with goosebumps. It would take another year or so for the four of them to pinpoint Larimar’s eyes. She didn’t get John’s baby blues (no matter how hard she prayed) nor did she get Josefina’s pretty honey eyes. That precious little one in her arms had her father’s eyes. Not the soft brown Luzmarie inherited but they were the same.
The young girl peeked through the curtains. Around her were whispers of excitement but she felt the dread build up inside her as she watched the hands of the clock fall towards the two. She fiddled with her tutu as her instructor moved them into place.
“Remember, smiles.” Their instructor, Ms. Byron said. Larimar didn’t think she could remember. As the curtain split apart, the overhead lights, hot and blinding, filled the auditorium with shadows. The music began and the girls danced. Her limbs felt stiff and her face like plastic. Between turns she peered into the shadowy faces of the audience, some were hidden behind cameras, but they all looked unfamiliar. She scanned the crowd again, but turned the wrong way and slammed into Matilda. The crowd chuckled as the two girls steadied themselves. Matilda’s face was bright red and she shoved Larimar to the side. She fell with a thump on the stage and stared out into the audience. The girls behind them kept dancing. The music kept playing. She couldn’t seem to get up, like her legs were cemented to the stage. Matilda leapt over her slumped form, twirling without a care.
Ms. Bryon whispered, “get up. Smile. Keep dancing.” She pumped her hands up and down, but Larimar could only stare. Tears burned her eyes and the spotlights were like the desert sun. The crowd began to murmur with discontent. She couldn’t make out the words but she knew disappointment floated among them.
The large door in the back of the auditorium opened, and Larimar smiled as her mother waved to her. She looked odd, Larimar thought. Twigs and leaves stuck out in her hair that was bushy and wet with mud. Her clothes were torn and dripping. Was it raining outside? It was a wonder no one complained as she shimmied into the middle of the isle. Her mother gave her two thumbs up and mouthed, ‘I love you.’
Larimar stood, her legs were no longer shaking or heavy. She moved in time with the girls. The smile on her face wasn’t faked this time and she leaped, twirled, and pirouetted. The crowd cheered when they finished. Her mother was the first to stand up and applaud.
After the show ended, the girls huddled around Ms. Bryon who released them to their families. “Larimar,” the woman called. “I’m sorry, honey.”
“About what?” the girl tilted her head, itching to go ask her mom how she did.
“That no one came to see you dance.”
“But my mom came, after we began.” She explained. The instructor glanced at the thinning crowd.
“Where is your mother now?”
Larimar looked over at her mother, who waved to her. She grabbed her hand to stop from waving in return. “I guess I made a mistake,” she said. Ms. Bryon pat her head and said she would phone her home. Once alone, Larimar joined her mother off stage.
“You were brilliant, mami!” Luzmarie bent down and squeezed her daughter. “Oh, if only your dad could have seen you. I forgot my camera, I was afraid I was going to miss the whole performance.” Larimar let her mother continue talking but her tears flowed freely now. “Oh mija, what’s wrong?”
Larimar shook her head. Ms. Bryon called her from the stage, “No one answered, I can give you a ride home if you want.”
“No, it’s alright, I’m Larimar’s mother,” Luzmarie said. Larimar tried not to look at the woman beside her.
“No, it’s alright, Ms. Bryon. My mother’s on her way, she’s just running late. I…she might have forgotten her camera.” Ms. Bryon nodded and turned to a group of parents who wanted to talk to her.
“How rude!” Luzmarie stomped her foot. “I just told her all that.”
Larimar grabbed her mother’s hand. “Let’s go home momma.”
Instead of doing my usual prompt, I fiddled with this story. It has been collecting digital dust for over a year. It has undergone a few changes, which might or might not stick.
My novel, Unbound, is still in the works. It’s about 60-70% done (the story has a life of its own and I can’t tell when its going to end…) I should probably go finish that now….