Dance of the Butterflies (Part One of the Golden Key Series)
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Log in and start reading and clicking on the purple bar to do Learning Sessions. Points and Learning Stars will display. Click Classic literature at the top. Or, type a word like Frankenstein into the search box at the top. One is of a landscape of a beautiful Mexican village. Little houses are scattered alongside a lake, with a fisherman casting a butterfly net in the middle of it. The mural on the other wall is of a beach framed with straw huts on one side and large puffy clouds in the sky above. The multicolored track lights on the ceiling shine on the murals.
Every time the color changes from blue, to red, to yellow, the time of day in the paintings changes, too. It goes from being a sunny afternoon to twilight, and the little lights inside the houses turn on, and even fireflies appear among the reeds on the lakeshore.
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In the other mural, the moon peeks from between the clouds, and the rays of the moon make the ocean water shimmer. The kind of place one could live in and be happy. What special technique did he use to have his murals change from morning to nighttime? I want to believe the little village is real. I feel the alcohol warming me. The mariachi come out to the stage and begin to set up. I check out the guitar player, the one who looks like the Mexican singer Pepe Aguilar.
Nice ass. I imagine myself in his arms, or him holding my hand and blowing my worries away as if they were dandelion seeds. He would look at my body, my sagging breasts, the wrinkles on my face, and the magic of his words would make me feel like a girl of sixteen, not a woman in her early forties. In the murals, time stands still. Morning and night come and go but the town never changes.
Nothing changes. I wonder about the artist again. Adriana is looking at me with eyes half closed, leaning back against the chair, every bit of her succumbing to her third beer. Adriana shrugs. So what? You, for instance. Stop going to his house. I open my mouth to say more, to make Adriana realize the man she calls father is an abusive asshole who treated her like an animal. But the mariachi begin their first song. The music enters my body and makes me tremble. We sing along with the mariachi, Adriana and I. But who cares?
Our food arrives as we finish a song about wanting to go back to the arms of an old lover. One of the men sitting at the tables nearby gets up and walks up to the band. The musicians nod and the man takes the microphone and gets on the stage. My God, this guy makes me wish I were deaf! But no. When the song is over he takes out a huge wad of money and hands several bills to the guitar player with the cute ass.
Y no te puedo olvidar. Te traigo en el pensamiento constante, mi amor. The customers shake their heads in disapproval.
She looks at the bucket on the table. She picks it up and looks back at the guy as if seriously considering throwing the ice water on him. She puts the bucket back down and heads to the stage. I stand up, fearing Adriana will do something rash—like slapping the man or kicking him in the balls. Instead, she grabs the microphone from him and begins to sing. If only she could dance as beautifully as she sings. I sit back down, mesmerized by her powerful voice, so strong and yet so tender, so full of something that makes you want to bare your soul to her. If you saw us walking side by side, you would think we were just friends.
No, not even friends, maybe two people who know each other by chance.
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My mother was no saint. An Aztec princess. Born of Mexican illegals who came to this country to have a better life. Just long enough for Dad to get her pregnant with Elena. Or long enough for Mom to pin the pregnancy on him. In my mind I can see the water shooting up like a geyser, while inside the car my mother lay with her head against the shattered windshield. She was thirty-three years old when she died. Nine years older than I am now. I inherited her name. Since my car broke down on me again, I take the bus. I start feeling light-headed as the 81 bus speeds up Figueroa Street.
As soon as we pass Sycamore Park my hand reaches out to ring the bell to request the stop. Avenue 50 gets closer and closer, but my feet are stuck to the floor. The front door swishes open. People look around the bus for the person who asked for the stop. The bus driver looks at his rearview mirror and, when he sees that no one is getting off, closes the door. He merges back into the traffic and I exhale. I look out the window, see the familiar shops pass by.
She had it easy. She was already eighteen, in her last year of high school. And she was only there for three months before the summer ended and she took off for San Jose to go to school. Because of us, Dad was thrown in jail. I yank my feet off the floor and dash out just before the doors close. The bus pulls out into the street and leaves me standing by the curb. For a moment I feel like running after it, but the light has already turned red. Just get it over with, Adriana. Why should you be afraid? I make my way to Avenue 50 and cross the street. Up the street I go. Then I see the beige house on the corner.
I cross to the opposite side of the street, not wanting to be seen. What would Grandma say if she saw me standing outside her house? What would Dad say? Would he welcome me with open arms, or would he yell at me like he did the last time I had the guts to knock on the door and ask for him? As I get closer to Granada Street I can see someone standing outside the house, in the yard. No, not standing.
My father. Look at me, Dad. I can picture him looking at me, then tossing the hose to the ground, walking to the gate, and sprinting across the street, calling out my name. Adriana, I love you! Things like that only happen in Mexican soap operas. I remember feeling a stinging on my neck, and then Dad froze; the belt he was hitting me with was suspended in midair. Elena screamed. I touched my neck where I felt the stinging and my fingers got wet with something sticky.
Dad tossed his belt on the floor and just stood there staring at me. Elena rushed to the phone, but when Dad yanked it out of her hand she ran out of the house. A white woman walked alongside me, and Elena walked on the other side, holding my hand. I knew that the next day I would be black and blue everywhere. I bruise easily, like Mom. They told me the cut on my neck where the belt buckle sliced through the skin needed seven stitches. The artery got slightly cut. Cops are such damn liars. Nothing was ever right again. Not with Dad, not with Elena. It was just a little blood.
We would still be a family. Sometimes he would be nice, too, especially to me. I told her it was my birthday and how could she make me ride them by myself? We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening just sitting at the entrance of the park waiting for Dad. She spied on me constantly, especially when I had finally gotten Dad to teach me to play the guitar.
She would be there, sitting on the couch pretending to be reading while I sang and played guitar with Dad. He would sit me on his lap and tell me what a beautiful voice I had, and Elena would sit up, the book forgotten, and look at Dad as if she hated him. When I look at her, I remember. Dad is oblivious to me. Grandma comes outside and says something to him. I notice she walks much slower than she used to. Dad waters for a few more minutes and then turns off the faucet. He looks around the yard, as if satisfied with his watering, and then looks across the street.
At me. I hold the metal post of the bus stop and wait. My fingers reach up to touch the thin scar on my neck. It was Elena who called. Not me. Just like I knew he would, Dad turns away without seeing me. He goes inside his childhood home without knowing I was there. The bus pulls over in front of me and I jump, startled. But now it looms above me, its doors wide open like the mouth of a great beast. I step inside and let it swallow me. Today is the worst. Even if Elena thinks I dance like a damn horse.
I told him it was strange for him to live in Boyle Heights, an area full of Mexicans. But he teaches art to kids with emotional problems at a hospital here in East L. He likes to paint, and once in a while he also makes sculptures and clay pots. The day we met, I was standing in the middle of the street yelling at my ex-boyfriend Manuel as he took off in his old Mustang. He left me without a ride, standing like an idiot in the middle of the street, weighed down by my costumes inside the garment bags, and the duffel bag with my hairpieces and makeup and shoes.
I walked over to my piece-of-shit car and kicked it. Damn car had broken down on me just when I needed it. Ben was outside watering the plants by his door. I asked him for a ride. Ben walks into the apartment carrying a bag full of medicine. He says I like to suffer—what was the word? Come look. At first I thought he was gay because besides me he only has one friend—Dave, who he met in grad school. Perfect—for money, but I tell myself that she owes me anyway.
The Golden Key
Soledad Solitude. She says it was my destino. She was born on December 22, on the day of Santa Francisca Javiera. But no, Ma named her Stephanie Elizabeth. Not one but two American names, so that everybody knows her youngest daughter was born in America, with all the privilegios and rights of a U. My mother was born on February 14 and has the name Valentina. His name is Lorenzo. Did she feel in her heart I would never be held by the arms of a man, feel his lips on my lips, hear the latidos of his heart whenever I rested my head on his chest? Tell me, Mother, why did you give me that name?
The alarm clock rings in the living room where Ma and my stepfather sleep. Ma turns off the alarm. I can speak some English, but I understand it a lot more than I can speak it. Ma enters the room and turns on the light. I cover my face with the blanket. The light hurts my eyes. Today is Saturday. This day and Sunday we go to sell at the Starlight swap meet in Montebello. Tuesdays we go to the San Fernando swap meet. Wednesdays and Fridays we go to the swap meet in Pomona.
Serhat (singer) - Wikipedia
I shake Stephanie to wake her up. I take off my pants at night because I sweat too much. I see the cellulite on my thighs. Ma sees it, too. She shakes her head and goes to the bathroom. I lift up my shirt, look at the balls of fat, the purple lines Stephanie calls stretch marks. I let my shirt fall down. I look at my face, see the red birthmark that covers my cheek and part of my neck.
I brush my teeth and braid my hair. Ma looks at me. I follow Ma out of the apartment. I sit on the floor and hold the crates stacked up next to me, scared they might fall on me. The van goes side to side on the street. She needs to rest so that she can be ready for school. My little girl works so hard. God knows what He is doing. She gives a bigger kiss to the finger my English teacher says is called index, and she tells Stephanie that is her lucky finger. She makes her right hand back into a fist and hides the lucky finger away.
The doctor by accident cut off the tip of her finger when he was cutting the umbilical cord. Thanks to that little piece of finger, my sister will receive a fortune. We get to the Starlight swap meet and I thank God for getting us here okay. Some sellers have already finished setting up their booths.
Others are putting together the metal frames or unloading their merchandise. The lady next to me sells parakeets, doves, canaries, and little turtles and goldfish. We get to Line 14, where they take out my boxes, the metal tubes, and two tarps. I watch the van leave. Go to Tijuana, then! Soon, things are going to change. Eduardo and Yesenia paid for the cake. I made Stephanie her dress. Everybody said she looked like a princess or a queen. But what I really want is to have my own dress shop, make my own designs. He lives in Huntington Park with his parents. His industrial grade sewing machine is in the corner next to a garment steamer.
By the door is a bookshelf with fashion design books and a basket full of magazines. He takes me to the mannequin by the sewing machine. He takes off his pants in front of me. I feel my face get hot when I see him in his underwear. When I see the bulge between his legs I want to close my eyes but at the same time I want to keep looking. He stuffs the cups of the bustier with scraps of cotton fabric and then puts on the bolero jacket. He hates living here, but he needs to cut down on expenses to pay for therapy sessions. He says the fire that burned down the apartment building where he lived traumatized him.
Arena is an awesome club. Besides, he has a lot of friends he goes out with. They make him sad. He cries and tells me he hates his life. How can you even step outside your door with nothing on? Not even a little lip gloss? I close my eyes and let him do what he wants. He has offered to help me with the dress shop. Johnson about the lease? When the apartment building where he lived burned down a few years ago, all his things were lost in the fire. All the tenants got money. A stranger with seductive, smoky eyes and red lips full of promises.
I grab a tissue and start to wipe off the red lipstick. Come and eat dinner and cut it out with that nonsense. What kind of example are you giving your brother? They wish he was already married and had children, like his sister. I rub off the eye shadow before we leave the garage. On Wednesday I go pick up Stephanie at dance practice after my English class. I sit in the practice room in a little corner and wait. The women move their shoulders so sexy, their hips side to side.
I see how the men look at them. Like he wants to marry her and have children. See how Angel looks at Stephanie? Stephanie says that Angel is a joto. Gay, she says. And Laura, the way she moves her shoulders and smiles at Memo. Then the song ends, and the men run after the women, wanting love. Eduardo shakes his head and tells them to do it again. I think the dance was beautiful. When practice is finished, I drive Stephanie home. In the backseat are dance dresses and charro suits Eduardo asked me to fix. Some of the silver buttons running down the outside seam of the pants fell off.
Some of the pants are torn at the crotch. These pants have to fit really tight on the men but they tear sometimes. The men look so handsome in their charro outfits—white long-sleeve shirts, the silk tie in butterfly style, the black jacket and pants decorated with silver embroidery and botonadura. Stephanie talks and talks about the dancers. He just likes Laura. I stop listening to Stephanie. She always says bad things about the dancers. I think they dance good. I wish I could dance, too.
I wish someone would hold me in his arms, hide me under a big sombrero, and kiss me. But I look like the mother of my father. She died when she gave birth to my pa. She suffered much. Her name was Dolores—pain, sorrow, grief. I schedule the appointments in the afternoon because I still have two more weeks of work before I officially go on maternity leave. Richard, my husband, says I should go on leave now. I teach remedial English at a high school. Not an easy age to teach.
Once, the principal asked me for my hall pass before realizing I was part of the faculty. My next checkup is today. Blood pressure is fine. Blood sugar level is excellent. Soledad squeezes my arm in anticipation as we follow the receptionist down the hall. Franco says as soon as she places the transducer on my belly. I tell her I felt the baby kick this morning during nutrition. After that I felt nothing. Maybe the baby was sleeping. Franco I was ready to burst into the main office and ask the secretary to call in a substitute so I could go to the clinic right away, but Richard said I was overreacting.
My appointment was that afternoon, and it was probably nothing to worry about. She asks me to get dressed and to come to her office; a coldness envelops me. Soledad steps out of the room, and as I get dressed I tell myself nothing is wrong. I knock on Dr.
But now she tells me she has something serious to discuss with me and asks if Soledad should wait outside. Soledad brings her hands up to her mouth and gasps. Franco says. She tells me that if I notice any bleeding or cramping I should go to the hospital immediately. But for now, I should go home and rest. I hold on to Soledad as we leave the clinic.
We sit on the bench outside, and she asks me if I want to call Richard. Then she walks me to my truck and takes the keys from me. What did I do wrong?