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Isabel hears some harsh words

Estrellita stood at the kitchen door making a face at the food her mother had prepared.

“Come, eat something,” Isabel beckoned her into the room.

“Leave me alone,” Estrellita told her mother. “I don’t want any of your food. I can get something later at school. I have to go now.”

Isabel moved to the front door blocking her daughter’s path.

“Do you honestly think this is going to get better with you dreaming of some fantasy life in America with this boy who is only vacationing here? You call him a man, but what do you think his parents will say if you show up at their door, begging for them to take you in?” Isabel asked.

“I am not begging for anything,” Estrellita answered. “I have to go.” She tried to squeeze past but Isabel stood her ground.

“Lita,” she began. “You cannot do this. To think of following this boy to America … ”

“I will go with him,” Estrellita muttered. “He has agreed. He will take me with him soon. Besides,” her eyes narrowed and she glared at her mother, their faces not a foot apart, “You did the same thing, didn’t you?”

“Ay, Lita mia, this is not the same.”

“No, it is not the same at all,” Estrellita whispered to her mother. “Because I did not let a disgusting old man with money take over my life. I did not abandon my love for money and fame. I am not ever going to be a whore who answers to her pimp.”

Isabel was so stunned that she could only gasp in horror at what her daughter had said. She imagined her own hand flying up involuntarily and slapping her daughter across the face, even as she conjured this scene and her open palm moved across the air in front of her, she seemed to hear the whap as her skin met the flesh of her daughter, and it seemed as if she were watching a movie in slow motion. She could hear the smack, see her daughter’s head reel to the side, hear her cry out in pain, and then see her daughter’s hands rise in automatic reaction to soothe herself where the blow had landed. All this she saw in that second of rage and pain. All this she would see in her mind for months after, as if it had truly happened. All this she would cry about later.

Isabel fell back against the wall as if she had been struck and Estrellita took that moment to brush past her. Isabel could smell her daughter’s skin and reached out to hold onto her.

“Lita, please,” she begged, “for my sake. Do not do this. I love you. I only mean to protect you from . . . ” She stopped.

At this Estrellita spun around. “Protect me from what?” she asked. “What really happened all those years ago? You think I am a stupid child like you were? No Mamita, I am smart. Why do I not have his last name if he married you? Did you think I would never ask such a question? You told me once it was to make it easier on me. Easier? You think it has been easy? I tell you this, no man is going to leave me alone in a strange country with a baby kicking inside of me and promises that he does not plan to keep. I am not you.”

“Lita,” her mother begged again, holding out her hands, palms open as a street beggar might. “What are you saying?”

“That I know your secret,” she said. “I found your papers. I know you were never married. I know he left you alone. That I am a fatherless girl. But no one will ever know. It stays here, Mamita. And the man I marry will take me away from this shame. From this town. From this life.”

She looked at her mother, stared into her eyes to be sure what she said was understood, then picking up her book bag, she turned and left the house.

Isabel, Episode Twelve

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