A teenage girl meets her her biological mother after living in a foster home with her two sisters. She battles interacting with her while trying to understand the identity of the woman who sourced her own.
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“Amen.” Tante said.
“Amen.” we followed.
Nea and I sighed subtle frustration from our boredom absorbed in the humid summer equinox. The main room took a pink shade in its dusty television and plastic-covered couch. I thought that when she called us to pray, she meant some brief appreciation for the food and the clothing and the roof but I was mistaken and dragged into skimming every gracious clusterfuck Jesus returned. She cosigned a huff through every psalm with awakened awe. I only tried not to lazily hunch my clasped palms over the throw pillows as every thought of this one-hundredth time surged through me. I sacrificed episodes of Oliver Beene and assignments by overtime-working teachers for Him. Not to mention the last four years of my life. She signaled the session to be over, hauling her knees up and back under her muumuu, and I did the sign of the cross. I hoped my summer-wasting paper wasn’t spontaneously wiped out by my absence.
“Can I use the computer when you’re done?”
The energy-burning A/C filled the room with a greatly appreciated breeze. Our collages and posters of IMX and Whitney Houston fluffed in the central air. The cost was wet towels to hold the drip and loud speech unfit for the setting. And I wanted so badly to climb into the cold sheets, basking in the temperature like it was laundry day in winter.
“Whatever.” I told her.
The screen only took forever to arrange its pixels from my slideshow screensaver. Nea’s bright smile chipped away to reveal a sun setting 4:10 at the blue right corner of the screen. That weekend at Saint Birgitta’s retreated us from court cases and custody worries even though I still dreaded their plummeting highly wrought stairs. I sat, glowering at the PC as she gave her bodyweight to our princess-quilted bed. She huffed as if she finished climbing a set of stairs and I smelled apple pie, which meant she was probably pinching at the last piece meant for me. She asked when I was was going to be done. I told her it was going to be a minute.
“Well, I need to check the Bible Verse of the Day before dark.”
“The sun won’t be down for another hour or so.”
“Well, be quick. You know how she is about Sabbath.”
The television and the stereo were off already so the Seventh-Day-Adventist-day had been given a head start.
“Ferme.” she called anyway.
I did so, shutting the bill-piling air and replacing it with the ceiling fan. I returned to my frozen work, sighing the aggravation out of not getting that last paragraph back. I doubted I saved it, and then hoped I did before holding the power button down. Whoever had designed the Dell kludge could have inserted some type of software to make restarting it faster, or God could have given me one chance to just let the motherboard flow so that I could conclude my essay and clock out for the night.
It hummed then coughed then hummed again. The ceiling fan slowed its spin, and then slowly reverted to revolving. A 4:13 clicked somewhere else unfrozen. I sighed, risking the thought of forgetting about the assignment in all. If I did, I couldn’t hold the corollary back. I doubted anyone would care about my third course in English, anyway. One taken after the original course, at that.
“When is Matia coming home?” Nea asked.
“Well, I know since I carry her in my back pocket all day.”
“Seriously, Christina. It’s getting a little dark.”
“I hadn’t even noticed she left.”
“Of course,” she said, “She’s never here. But it’s getting later and later everyday.”
“Where did she go?”
“I don’t even know but she had enough for a train ride.”
Always a train ride to 25th Street and back. We never knew whom she smiled for before the tiny web-cam for her to temporarily hang posters of Joe and 3LW up. We never knew who was so special for her to be hanging around that never-ending sidewalk beneath a buzzing, flickering light. We never knew who would pick her up in case she missed the last train. But she knew so well since she knew she had to work around it before Tante did. I detested her success at the last hour, tapping on a window so I can unlock it and she can slip in without trouble; quietly dragging the back door open before sleepily retreating to her bed. I wanted her to permanently have this shield over her to sustain her safety but I partially wanted something partially drastic to happen to her in the streets and in the traffic zones of New York, as well. Her state of mind needed to change. I would immediately pray the thought away. She was only a teenager and so time would heal her, or distract her from yet another phase. A knock came to the door.
“I’ve got it!” Nea said.
The bed exhaled and she tried to beat our visitor’s patience but it was just old Rudy. He’d come by twice a week, vending knives or school supplies. This afternoon, he was giving pastries away. Fresh ones I bet.
“Don’t fight over them, now.” he said setting the Styrofoam on our table.
“Yeah, Christina. Relax yourself,” Nea said from the kitchen.
I shut my door and then thought I probably shouldn’t have with the era out guest was born in and all. But I was already back at the illuminating desk, clicking on Word, so I did another sign of the cross, hoping Rudy wouldn’t be aroused by the locale of this house and the apple smell of Nea. If channel twelve ran a story about a young girl being hurt with her older sister in the next room by a neighborhood friend who ran off to hurt other little girls, I would just self-destruct. I opened document “Do Not Delete” for the third time that day. The remote sheet displayed my last action to the keyboard. Random keys interrupted a point I was trying to stretch before the processor froze up. The cursor blinked once, twice, then three times. I backspaced the extra letters, waiting between each pause, letting the leisured technology reassure me that the Word application wouldn’t get frazzled in its job again. Then, just as all hope built up in me, the screen became still. I exasperated with vulgarity. I reached down and held the power for the four-count when Nea called me like she helplessly needed me.
“What?” I said.
“Where are the flashlights?”
I sat up in the orange room, suddenly hoping I defied the air conditioning on.