The smell of cilantro and lime still hung in the kitchen, and a stack of Vilma’s textbooks leaned precariously on the corner of the table. Her younger cousin was taking her finals this week and would be graduating next Sunday- the first in the family. The top book on the stack threatened to topple as she shut and locked the door behind her, and she straightened it with a small smile. Pre-Calculus. Once she’d thought that would be her life too- studying, finals, graduations, maybe even college one day.
But life’s not fair.
Por Dios she was hungry. She opened the fridge, removing the milk automatically to pour some out for Xarina, searching for something to take the edge off the Hunger. Nothing really did, of course, she’d have to be very careful these next few days. She would have been in trouble anyway if that payaso Price hadn’t cut his hand, but seeing that bright red blood, smelling its tang…
She was disgusted by her appetites, by the monster she had become. By what her father had made her. She pulled out the grape jelly, then went to the cupboard for the bread and peanut butter and started angrily assembling sandwiches.
It had been two years, but the betrayal of her fath- no, she decided. He didn’t get that name anymore. It had been two years since she had confronted Rutledge, hoping in her naivete for his blessing, for him to recognize her as his own. For wealth, for citizenship, for a chance at something beyond following the harvest and slowly withering under the heat of the sun.
What she’d got was much worse. This hunger. These changes. The constant battle to stay human. She chewed discontentedly on one of the sandwiches as she opened up a can of tuna for Xarina, moving quietly so as to not wake up any of her family asleep in the other rooms.
And now la migra was after her. Zombies and sea monsters were almost an afterthought- the police had her scent. Her estupidez, trying to be a hero, trying to help people, now it was going to get her family in trouble. She should have just avoided the cop- crushing his phone and fighting those things in front of him just made her more of a target.
She was going to have to watch herself. If not for her sake, for Xarina’s. And Vilma’s. For the family that depended on her to make rent so the little ones could go to school. For her mother, her mother who had fought so hard to make it back to the States so Rosario could have a future.
There was a bump in the pocket of her shorts as she sat down. Reminded, she pulled out the fold of soggy bills that Xarina had made running beer. They’d taken an unnoticed dive in the bay when they’d been looking for the mago, but it looked as if they were all still there.
The wizard. She owed him her life. And now he needed help. “A ver que podemos hacer.” she mumbled to herself around a mouthful of peanut butter. Let’s see what we can do.