Home > Wait for It(8)

Wait for It(8)
Author: Mariana Zapata


“Diana?” my mom called out again, unaware that I was standing right behind her. At an even four foot ten inches tall and with a personality that was nearly saint-like 75 percent of the time—the other quarter of the time she tapped into her inner Napoleon—she didn’t outwardly seem like a force to be reckoned with. Her black hair, shot through with chunks of silver in the last couple of years, was brushed down her back. Her skin tone was darker than mine, almost bronze, her frame stouter, but there was no doubt about it, I might take after my dad more physically, but I knew my pushiness came from her. To give her credit, I also got my loving side from her, too.

“I’m here,” I said to Mexican Napoleon, who I’d barely realized had a Rubbermaid tower stacked up behind her. Where she’d gotten the plastic containers from, I had no idea. Half my set didn’t have lids anymore.

“Do you want me to go with you?” she asked, glancing at me from over her shoulder.

I took my mom in one more time, shaking my head, remembering when I used to go door-to-door selling cookies for my Girl Scout troop and she’d tag along, half the block behind me; it had been her way of showing me she was there if I needed her, but at the same time letting me know what it was like to stand on my own two feet. I hadn’t appreciated that kind of stuff when I was a kid, thinking she was hovering, but now... well, now I understood her all too well. Most of the time at least. In this case, I didn’t want to. “Esta bien. I’ll be right back,” I replied more than a little whiney. I didn’t want to go.

She narrowed her nearly black eyes at me. “Stop making that face. You want them to like you, no?”

And then I wondered where I got my need to be liked from, damn it.

While I got my dad another beer, my mom split the containers into two plastic grocery bags, and I headed toward the front door, yanking on a chunk of my dad’s short hair on the way out as he finished tightening something on the entertainment center. He let out a hoarse “Oye!” Like he was surprised I’d done it.

Not dragging my feet at all, I went ahead and dropped by the neighbors on either side of me first. The younger couple wasn’t home, but the older one thanked me even though I was positive they had no idea what polvorones were. Somehow I managed not to laugh when I first noticed my mom had taped my business card to each of the red-lidded containers along with a Post-it that read in her slanted handwriting FROM YOUR NEW NEIGHBOR AT 1223. She’d also thrown one of Louie’s old markers into the bag. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a red car pulling over in front of the house of the guy who had gotten beat up, but I didn’t pay much attention to it while I talked to my neighbors. His business wasn’t my business.

Once I was done with them, I crossed the street, heading to the house not directly in front of mine but just to the left. When no one answered the door, I left the cookie-type dessert on the doorstep.

Next was what I thought was the most beautiful house in the neighborhood. I’d been admiring the buttery yellow bungalow from the moment I first drove down the street. I hadn’t seen who lived there yet; the old Buick hadn’t moved once from the driveway, and if it had, I hadn’t noticed. The flowerbeds and yard were so perfect, with so many varieties I couldn’t even begin to name them. Everything about the landscaping was well-maintained and thought out, from the stone birdbath to the gnomes hidden within the flower bushes—it was like something out of a magazine. I walked up the concrete steps, looking around, getting ideas for what I’d love to do to the front yard when I had the time and money, so maybe around the time Josh was off to college. There wasn’t a doorbell, so I knocked on the slab of wood next to the small glass window built into the center of the door.

“Who is it?” an elderly female voice, higher pitched and nearly squeaky, asked from the other side.

“Diana. I just moved in across the street, ma’am,” I called out, taking a step back.

“Dia-who?” the woman asked just before the lock on the door turned and a head of perfect, nearly transparent white hair peeked out from the cracked door.

I smiled at the lined, pale face that appeared. “Diana Casillas. I’m your new neighbor,” I offered like that would help.

Two glaucoma-ridden eyes blinked at me before the door swung open wider and a woman smaller than my mom—and thinner too—appeared in a pink house robe. “My new neighbor?” she asked, blinking those milky eyes at me. “With the two boys and the big dog?”

At first glance, her eyes said she couldn’t see well, but her knowing I had the two boys and being aware of Big Mac, told me I couldn’t let this woman fool me. She knew what was up. I could appreciate that. “Yes, ma’am. I brought you some cookies over.”

“Cookies? I love cookies,” the elderly woman commented as she slipped glasses over her fragile nose with one hand. The other rose toward me, thin and heavily veined.

“Mexican cookies,” I explained, picking one of the containers out of the bag.

And the smile melted right off the woman’s face. “Mexican cookies.” Her voice had changed, too. “You Mexican?” she asked, her eyes narrowing at me as if she was barely noticing I had some yellow and tan in my skin tone.

Unease tickled my neck, making me hesitate. “Yes?” Why the hell was I answering like it was a question? I was and it wasn’t some secret. I couldn’t exactly hide it.

Those small eyes got even smaller, and I didn’t really like it. “You look a little Mexican, but you sure don’t sound Mexican.”

I could feel my cheeks start to get hot. That familiar burn of indignity scorched my throat for a brief second. I’d lived in multicultural cities my entire life. I wasn’t used to someone saying the word “Mexican” like the greatest food on the planet wasn’t from there. “I was born and raised in El Paso.” My tonsils tickled, my face getting hotter by the second.

The old lady hummed like she didn’t believe me. Nearly hairless eyebrows went up. “No husband?”

What was this? A CIA interrogation? I didn’t like the tone of her voice before, now the husband thing… I knew where this was going. I knew what she was going to assume considering she was already aware of Josh and Louie’s existence. “No, ma’am,” I answered in a surprisingly calm voice, holding on to my pride with both hands.

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