Immaculate Mother

by Melody Sinclair

 

 


_     
The Virgin Mary was Lin-Lin’s third mother. First was her birth mother, who had grown Lin-Lin 
from scratch in her enormous tummy. Lin-Lin had accidentally killed her on the day she was born. Babies can be killers too. Lin-Lin liked to squint into the cracked bathroom mirror after tub soaks because her fogged reflection more resembled the killer she was. Her reflection became scarier, unknown, and more capable of dark deeds than the smooth girl face that usually looked back. 

       She didn’t remember her birth mother, but because Row was older, he always bragged about special memories of her. He made most of them up, Lin-Lin could tell, because he was always the perfect child, and Lin-Lin was the villain who took their innocent mother too soon.

       Her second mother was Lupe. Dad was so sad all of the time after birth mom’s murder, he had taken Lupe in to help raise Lin-Lin and Row. She had spent nine years doing what Dad could not—cooking, cleaning, and hugging. Lupe was a hurricane of gentle noise, filling the empty background with soft lullabies, whispered Spanish, and humming. 

       Without Lupe, Lin-Lin’s ears were naked. During the day, she heard the lash of wind ripping at window screens, which peeled off of the house like old scabs. At night, the cries from stray animals haunted her dreams along with the moaning of the bones of the house.

       The Virgin Mary had become Lin-Lin’s mother the summer Lupe left the eastern plains of Colorado and went back to Mexico. The morning Lupe left Lin-Lin woke in a sweaty tangle of sheets in her sun-scorched room. Paul Harvey’s voice whined through the static of her broken clock radio: “Hello, Americans, this is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news!” Lin-Lin hated him. He seemed like the kind of adult who had to hold back from laughing at his own unfunny jokes. She walked toward the living room, wiping the sweat from her face with the back of her hand, and stopped in the hallway; something was wrong. The house felt stunned into silence, just like Lin-Lin was whenever she was in trouble. She flapped her arms in a stroking motion to see if she could swim through the tension thickened air, crawl stroke into the kitchen where she would ask Lupe for pancakes. Instead, she had to use her boring legs to move around the corner.

       Lupe was wearing her best outfit, the orange Denver Broncos t-shirt with no holes. She was standing next to a cardboard box. Row sat in a corner chair shading his face from sun that wasn’t there—it was how he tried to hide the tear streaks on his dirty cheeks when he didn’t want to show that he’d been crying. He wasn’t fooling anyone. His entire body was shaking with sobs. Dad was home on a weekday. He stood behind Lupe and shifted his weight from one booted foot to another, like a piece of worried furniture. He reached a hand up to touch Lupe but stuffed it back in his pocket. 

       Lupe was never this quiet, never this still, never like the immovable Immaculate Mother. When Lupe had finally moved, she was bumbling and floppy, like a cloth doll that had come to life. She fell to her knees and hugged Lin-Lin too tight, held her at arm’s length, then looked into her face. “Mi Sol,” she whispered and pushed her lips into one quivering line. Tears dropped down Lupe’s face, down her neck. 

       “Lupe, are you sick?” Lin-Lin wiped Lupe’s tears with her hand. “We have some nurse crackers in the Lazy Susan,” she said, referring to the off-brand Saltines that the school nurse handed out to every child complaining of a stomachache. 

      Lupe stood and pushed the box toward Lin-Lin with her ratty tennis shoe. “Su Virgen Maria,” she’d said. Lin-Lin dug into the box of Lupe’s treasured Virgin Mary figurines, including the fragile statues that no one was allowed to touch. When she looked up, intending to ask why she’d been given such a gift, Lupe was gone. She’d vanished without the angry screech of the screen door giving her away.

      The year that had passed after Lupe left felt longer than normal, stretched out and flat. With a statue for a mother, everything was different.

       “Mother Mary burned the waffles again.” Lin-Lin held up a charred Eggo as evidence.

       Outside a gust of wind rattled the loose siding. Lin-Lin jumped at the noise, crushed the waffle in one fist, and tightened her grip on the Mother Mary figurine in her other fist. Devil wind. Not all of Colorado was made of mountains, not even most. Dad said that on the eastern plains there was nothing but fields of fresh dirt for the devil wind to tear apart. 

       Dad wedged a matchbook under the crooked leg of the pitted Formica table. “Now you won’t tilt,” he said. He returned to his torn kitchen chair, put on his coat, and snapped the Rocky Mountain News into place, creating a paper wall between his face and the world. “I told you, Lin-Lin, keep an eye on that toaster or someday it’ll start a fire.”

       Lin-Lin set a plate of burned waffles in front of her older brother and used the small Virgin Mary figurine gripped in her hand to push the winter hat off her forehead. When Lupe left a lot had changed. For starters, Lin-Lin wore a winter cap all of the time because she didn’t want to take care of her curly hair. The cap hid her growing nest of blonde rats, no combing or washing needed.    

     “Sorry, Row, Mother Mary’s not the best with the toaster. Maybe I should take lunch duty instead?”

      Lin-Lin cooked breakfast now that Lupe was gone. Cereal was simple, but Eggos were impossible because of the old toaster with the scary, frayed cord. Row made lunch, which wasn’t fair. Slapping together a PB&J with some chips was easy. For dinner, Dad heated up the 99 cent packaged foods that came in plastic serving trays. Dinner must have been a hard meal to master too because part of the food was always burned and part was icy cold.

          Row made a sucking noise with his teeth that Lin-Lin hated. She pushed her winter hat into her ears. The hat was good for muffling harsh noises that Lupe had covered with her voice, singing “Mi Sol,” in a million different ways whenever Lin-Lin had entered the room. Lin-Lin’s face burned at the memory of yelling at Lupe as she gently untangled Lin-Lin’s hair. Lupe had nuzzled Lin-Lin’s neck and crooned the made-up song where the only words were Mi Sol, over and over. 

          “What does that mean?” Lin-Lin had asked. “It sounds like you are calling me measle, like I’m some rashy disease.” She broke out of Lupe’s embrace and turned to face her. 

          Lupe had sat straight and twisted her thick hair into a bun, making Lin-Lin wait before she answered. “It means you are my sun.”

          “I’m not a boy!” Lin-Lin shouted.

          “Not son. S-U-N. You are my star, my warmth,” Lupe had said, and pulled Lin-Lin back into her arms.

            Lin-Lin shivered; the house was cold this time of year. Now the house was dirty too, sticky, fuzzy, and crunchy in all of the wrong places. No more walking barefoot. Dust had invaded, and the counter clutter started families of papers, bottles, crafts, empty boxes, and unsigned permission slips. It grew and spread in the small space until it mounded on top of itself and worked its way to the leaky windows. She would never find the cleaning wand.

           “Goddammit! Again?” Row asked, picking up a burnt waffle to examine it.

           “Row, language,” Dad said, “You’re not old enough to talk like a trucker.”

            “I’m old enough to know that Jesus isn’t my half-brother. Stop acting like a moron, Lin-Lin.”

            “Don’t talk naughty, Row. I’ll tell Mother Mary.” She rubbed the face of her Virgin Mary figurine with the pad of her thumb.

            Row threw down his waffle. “Mom died when she had you, genius. Lupe got deported. Deal with it. I’m tired of playing Mother Mary with you.”

          “What’s reported?” Lin-Lin asked, hugging Mother Mary to her chest. 

          “DEPORTED!” Row yelled. “Do you hear this horseshit, Dad?” 

          Lin-Lin’s eyes blurred with tears. She opened her mouth to see what argument would fall out, but Dad appeared from behind the newspaper with the look of warning that made Lin-Lin fall silent. “Rowland, one more time with the bad language, and you’re grounded.” He lowered his voice to a fierce whisper and added, “You let Lin-Lin believe whatever she wants. A girl needs a mother, even if she is a …statue.”

          Row slapped the table. “Dad, I’m all for a little imagination, but this is creepy. I can’t bring any of my friends over because they’ll think I’m a freak. The Blessed Mother is a squatter in every room of
our house!”

          “You can’t bring any of your friends over because you don’t have any friends,” Lin-Lin said in a singsong taunt. “It has nothing to do with Mother Mary.” 

          Row ignored her, stared at the back of Dad’s paper. She picked at her burned Eggo. Row talked about her like she wasn’t in the same room; he acted like he was such an adult, worrying about Mother Mary. He should worry about Dad’s cocoon. 

          Lin-Lin had learned about cocoons last year in 3rd-grade science. They watched a twitching worm build himself into an ugly brown sack, disappearing from the world to do some mystery work in private. Weeks later a moth fought its way out. It was still a dusty brown thing, but it had wings. As it flew around the classroom it seemed lighter, happier. Dad’s cocoon probably grew the day birth mom died. Row said that was when Dad became different, hard to reach. Lin-Lin wasn’t stupid; she knew Dad wouldn’t have wings, but someday he would burst out of his cocoon changed for the better. Nine years was a long time. This would be a huge metamorphosis. 

          She crunched her blackened waffle between her molars and stared at Row. Dad’s growth inside his cocoon was important, but Row didn’t understand that. He tried to pull Dad out early by being loud or using bad words.

          Dad’s cocoon cracked the spring before Lupe was deported. During the mild winter, Lupe and Lin-Lin had cleaned up Trash Alley, the side yard filled with junk and next to the burn barrels in the alley. They roughed up the cold ground and planted patches of daffodils, crocus, and tulips that the neighbor gave them. They trimmed the overgrown lilac bushes, and Lupe painted the rusty bench white. She had renamed it the Spring Garden, but Lin-Lin confused the names and called it the Trash Garden.

          That day, the sunset had lasted for years and colored everything pink. Lin-Lin wandered into Trash Garden, meaning to ask Lupe about dinner, but stopped at the edge to inhale lilac and stroke the smooth flowers on sturdy stems. She jumped at the foreign bark of Dad’s laughter from the bench, his arm around Lupe. His laugh was so big that Lin-Lin saw the spot where his tooth was missing in the back of his mouth. She crouched behind the lilac bush to watch. With both hands, Lupe touched Dad’s dimples; she’d probably never seen him laugh like that either. He stopped laughing, grabbed Lupe’s hands and kissed her the way movie stars kiss on TV. Lupe exhaled Dad’s first name, made it long, “Jooohhhhnnn.” They laughed again. 

          The days after the kiss, a lighter version of Dad emerged. He whistled. He smiled so often that Row had asked what was wrong. He walked upright instead of shuffling. At dinner, he talked more than Lupe did. He talked. Best of all, his eyes shined like they were new. Lin-Lin didn’t realize the color before, deep blue with skin that wrinkled in the corners when he laughed. 

          She had believed his metamorphosis was complete, and for the beginning of the summer, it appeared that was true. But when Lupe left Dad turned inward again, dull eyes, and flat voice muffled by his cocoon. It hadn’t been a real metamorphosis after all, just a crack.

          Lin-Lin tapped Mother Mary against the dinette table. “Dad, do you think your cocoon is made of sadness?” Her classmates had laughed when Lin-Lin raised her hand and asked if cocoons were made of sadness. No one had answered her question. “I bet it’s made of loneliness too.” 

          “What the hell?” Row asked. 

          Dad didn’t move his newspaper. Lin-Lin looked through the gritty window glass at the front of the house. She still wasn’t good at reading the clock on the wall; there were lines where there should be numbers, and Row said it was always wrong. To figure out the real time she looked for the mud-caked buses full of farm kids that rumbled passed just before school. That meant it was time to start walking. The school wasn’t far. Nothing was far in Stratton. She could walk from the brown golf course all the way to the brown football field on the other side of town probably since she was five-years-old. No buses were in sight, just dirty devil wind that puffed the curtains through closed windows. 

          Row left his breakfast to made the sack lunches, which reminded Lin-Lin that the lunchbox notes signed Love, Dad had stopped after Lupe left. Now it seemed the messages had been too happy, the handwriting a little too neat, a bit too curly.

          Lin-Lin tapped on Dad’s paper. “Dad? Did you write—” 

          “—so, Lin-Lin, are you a Virgin birth, too?” Row interrupted as he settled back into his chair at the table, “Or, did Mary start letting dudes down there?”

          “Down where?” Lin-Lin asked. 

           Row laughed and looked at Dad’s newspaper cocoon. He laughed again, loud and fake. Dad didn’t move. 

           Lin-Lin crossed her arms over her chest. “Laugh all you want, idiot. No one knows what you’re even talking about.”

          “Ask Dad to explain my joke,” Row said. “Seriously, Lin-Lin, normal people don’t have a Kitchen Mary, Living Room Mary, and Garage Mary. They have maybe one, and they keep her in the Nativity Scene, and pull her out only for Christmas.”

“You collect whatever you feel you need to, honey.” Dad rattled his paper.

           Row tore the last of his Eggo into small pieces and scattered them around the plate. If they didn’t finish their breakfast, even the burned bits, Dad would put them back in the freezer for tomorrow. Lin-Lin reached across the scarred Formica, grabbed more syrup, and spilled Row’s orange juice.

          “What the hell? My binoculars!” Row yelled. 

           He grabbed his binoculars off the wet table and dried them on his shirt. He secured them around his neck with the shoestring doubling as a binocular strap, and Lin-Lin rolled her eyes. Since hearing about the return of Halley’s Comet, Row had obsessed over the sky. He’d researched it for his sixth-grade science fair and was convinced the comet brought bad luck. Day and night since Lupe left, Row had worn the binoculars around his neck for use in an emergency Halley’s sighting.

          “Dad? Halley’s Comet is supposed to be easier to see if we go south. Maybe…” Row fiddled with the shoestring around his neck before continuing in a louder voice. “Maybe we can go to Mexico? Stay with Lupe for a while?”

          Row spent a lot of time trying to convince Dad to take them to Mexico to see a comet that brought bad luck. Didn’t they have enough of that here? 

          “I’m not going,” Lin-Lin said, trying to make her voice robotic like Dad’s. “I want to see Lupe, but she’s probably busy. I bet she’s married and has ten kids. She wouldn’t even have a spare arm to hug us, or to hold Dad’s hand.” 

          Dad lowered his paper, and his eyes weren’t dull anymore. They were electric blue marbles, swimming with tears. Lin-Lin thought she might die if a tear streaked down Dad’s stubbled cheek. She had never seen him cry.

          “I’m lying,” she blurted. “I’m trying to sound like a grown up with a cocoon, but I do want to find Lupe.” Lin-Lin stroked the Virgin Mary in her hand, pad of thumb across blessed face until it burned. “Let’s go get her. You can kiss her again and be happy.”

          Dad sighed, and the paper cocoon drifted up to cover his face again. Row continued his one-sided Halley’s Comet conversation, rushing his words out before the newspaper blocked Dad’s face again. 

          Lin-Lin half-listened to Row’s continued complaints. She stroked Mary’s face and wondered if Lupe had known she was going to leave. The idea seemed impossible. Lupe had snored with her bedroom door wide open and even peed with the bathroom door cracked. She couldn’t have packed her bags and planned a new life in secret. How could she live without her Sol, her star? Maybe Lupe had a metamorphosis, sprouted bright wings and rode the devil wind to a new universe with a more powerful sun.

          Lin-Lin rubbed Mother Mary until her chest stopped aching. She remembered her morning prayer and shouted it aloud over Row’s talking. 

          “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou in a house full of men and blessed is the fruit in the room. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Oh, also I know my birthday is the anniversary of first mom’s death, but can’t I have a present and cake like everyone else? I promise to still be sad for first mom while I eat the cake, really sad if it’s chocolate. Who would want to be dead for chocolate cake? Also, I’m NOT wearing a sweater to school today, and you can’t make me. Amen.”

          Lin-Lin was less interested in salvation than having a mom to hear her complaints.

          “Lin-Lin,” Row said, “Bless the fruit in the room? You’re the only fruit here. Also, newsflash, we aren’t Catholic, idiot.”

          “I wish we were,” Lin-Lin said. 

          She missed the Mass she’d attended every week with Lupe. At the sit-down parts, Lupe had run her hand through Lin-Lin’s clean, soft curls, gently separating them and tickling her neck. Lin-Lin closed her eyes to inhale Lupe’s soap and the smoky air of the church. Dead Jesus watched from the cross at the end of the blood red-carpeted aisle, but Lin-Lin didn’t care about him. She was most taken by Mother Mary’s kind face overseeing the service. There was nothing more appealing than Mary’s permanent half smile. Was she holding back a sob because her son was dead, or was she about to laugh because giggles happen even when people die? Mary’s smile said it all:  it was hard to know how to act when you had a
dead relative. 

          Lin-Lin remembered one mass in particular. Like always, she had followed Lupe’s lead, kneeling, chanting, and crossing herself almost better than a real Catholic; she knew how to do these things because she’d spent some parts of Mass not participating, just watching the other people in the church. It was amazing how Catholic rituals turned ordinary townspeople into something organized and beautiful. Everyone had moved together, like a practiced square dance, and the PE teacher, Mr. Lang, wasn’t even yelling at them. Mrs. Morris, the most boring teacher from school, was angelic while she sang. Mrs. Serif’s boobs weren’t even the main attraction when she genuflected. Even Scooter, the drunk guy in the wheelchair, had come to service. He probably spent a night on the street near the church. He smelled like a dirty diaper, and couldn’t do the whole sit, stand, and kneel routine, but he said the prayers and got every word right, Lin-Lin had watched his lips to be sure. 

          Lin-Lin had started using her hands as binoculars to spy on the congregants and rank them from best to worst. Lupe knew this game.

          “Sit, Mi Sol,” Lupe whispered. “You can’t tell the best people by what is on the outside.” 

           Lin-Lin ignored her. She had cracked the code. The people in the front pews were the best. They were huge farm families with two parents, four grandparents, and loads of brothers, sisters, and cousins. They wore the itchy clothes from the JC Penney catalog—suits, ties, dresses, and heels. They arrived early in Cadillacs and stayed late talking to Father Harnley. When the collection plate passed the front rows, the best people put in a layer of twenties. 

           Next best were the other families that lived in town, the teachers, bankers, and business owners. Sometimes they walked to mass. Their clothes were from the Walmart at the Kansas border, but they were tidy and seemed less itchy than the best people’s clothes. They sometimes greeted Lin-Lin and Lupe, but Lupe gave her Virgin Mary half-smile because she was embarrassed to use her English. They filled the collection plate with ones and fives.

          After that, where Lupe and Lin-Lin sat, were the families that were missing a parent from divorce or death. Old people who were not married sat back here too along with seasonal workers and farm hands like Dad. This section wore jeans to mass and put change at the top of the collection plate, sometimes
only pennies.

          Lin-Lin wished that Dad and Row would come to Lupe’s church, then they could move forward a few rows because they’d look like a complete family. Lin-Lin knew that some people thought Lupe was her mother. She also knew that some people believed Dad hired Lupe. Either way, complete family or hired help, they could move forward. The truth was that Lupe got a room and food in exchange for helping Dad part time with Row and Lin-Lin. Sunday was one of Lupe’s days off and Lin-Lin was supposed to leave her alone, but Lupe always found Lin-Lin and brought her to along to whatever she was doing. Dad once said it was a horrible deal for Lupe, because she fell in love with us.

           Lupe rubbed Lin-Lin’s back, the signal that it was time to turn around and sit down. Lin-Lin studied the wooden confessional closets before she obeyed.

          “Lupe,” she whispered, tugging Lupe’s arm until she bent her ear to Lin-Lin’s mouth. “I should go to confession, don’t you think?”

           Lupe slipped her arm around Lin-Lin, cushioning the back of her head from the hard pew. “What could you have to confess?” Lupe asked.

          “Row says I’m a killer, even if it was an accident. You know…my birth mom?”

           Lupe hugged Lin-Lin into her soft side. “Mi Sol, that is not true. Your brother lives to tease you. Don’t listen.”

           Lin-Lin looked at the Virgin Mary’s confused smile. “What does immaculate mean?” she whispered to Lupe.

          “It means that Mary was free from sin…” Lupe fidgeted. “She didn’t need a man to make the baby Jesus.”

          “If Mary were your mom you wouldn’t need a dad?”

          “Of course,” Lupe answered, whispering from the side of her mouth, “there is God.”

          “God could be a woman,” Lin-Lin said. Lupe faced the front, and Lin-Lin tapped her scuffed Mary Janes against the back of the pew. “God’s probably a woman,” Lin-Lin whispered louder. Lupe didn’t answer.

***

          Without Lupe, Lin-Lin had to go back to the Protestant Church next door to their house. Father Harnley didn’t allow non-Catholic kids to come to Mass without an adult—that’s what Dad said whenever Lin-Lin asked for a ride. She could’ve walked, but if Father Harnley wasn’t going to let her in there was no point in trying. 

           Row licked syrup from the side of his hand and looked at Dad’s paper. “Dad. Dad!” he said. “Lin-Lin stole the Virgin Mary figurines out of the Christmas displays at the drugstore last week. Are you listening? Mister Jones asked her not to come back.” 

          Lin-Lin’s tummy churned, and she burped her burned breakfast. Lupe’s Mother Marys were so soothing, Lin-Lin thought having more would make her feel even better. Stealing was wrong but leaving the wooden Mother behind in the drugstore to cradle a stiff baby Jesus had seemed wrong too. At night as she tossed and turned in the tangle of sweaty sheets, she thought she heard Mary’s splintery voice calling for help. 

          After a sleepless week, Lin-Lin couldn’t ignore Mother’s suffering. It wasn’t shoplifting; it had become a rescue mission. On her family’s last visit to the drugstore, Lin-Lin stopped at the year-round Christmas display and slipped the three dusty Virgin Mary figurines into her furry coat pocket. 

          She’d made it as far as the greeting card aisle before the heavy weight of Mr. J creaked the floorboards behind her. She turned to see him holding out a beefy paw. He’d asked her to “give it back.” Lin-Lin had clearly heard Mr. J ask for only one of the three Marys. She handed one back, mumbled “sorry,” and left the store with the other two. 

          At home, one Mary had become Coat Closet Mary and one TV Mary. Mother liked guarding parkas, mittens, and a crooked antenna more than cradling her dead wooden son. 

          Row flicked the back of Dad’s paper, and his binoculars rattled against the table. “Dad! Listen, Dad! There’s even a Bathroom Mary now. She undressed Eleonore and made some robe from a pillowcase. She looks like a Ku Klux Klan Cabbage Patch Kid. I only figured out it was a Bathroom Mary because I live with a girl who has some religious disorder.”

          Lin-Lin smiled. Bathroom Mary had been one of her better ideas. Play-Doh Mary had ended up looking like a man. Row ate Cookie Mary’s face. Butter Mary melted before she properly formed. That’s when Lin-Lin had decided to dress her dolls in Mary robes made from pillowcases. She anointed them in a ceremony complete with holy water from the bathroom. Her Cabbage Patch Kid, Eleonore, had volunteered first.

          Row made that face –the one where he wanted to talk to someone besides Lin-Lin. His brown eyes squinted, and his lips pressed together which created wrinkles in his chin.

          “I don’t need some KKK Cabbage Patch Bathroom Mary watching me every time I take a dump! Find her a real mom, John,” Row said, his chest puffed forward.

          The burnt air of breakfast pressed heavy on Lin-Lin, pinning her to the ripped dinette chair. Dad crumpled the sports section in his angry fists. Row shrank. 

          “Wow, great idea. I’ll just go out into this bustling city that’s teeming with single women my age. Let’s see, bet Joyce down at the bar wants to move in here. She knows creative ways to open beer bottles, and rumor is she grows her own pot. Think you’ll call her mommy?”

          Lin-Lin squirmed. Joyce was always at Super Savers even though she didn’t work there, looking up and down the empty aisles with her fish eyes like she was expecting someone important. Her perfume burned Lin-Lin’s nose and trailed the entire length of the canned food aisle. Joyce wore tank tops and short skirts, even in cold weather. Lin-Lin didn’t want Joyce with her bruises and gray teeth surrounded by fluorescent pink lips.

          “I didn’t say you had to marry someone from town,” Row said.

          Dad sighed. “I’m tired of this. I know you’re only twelve, but it’s time to learn that it’s the three of us.”

          “Maybe I don’t need a mom,” Row said, “but you need some company. You don’t have to date people from here. Go meet a lady from Vona, Seibert, or Burlington.”

          Lin-Lin listed all the little towns dotting Interstate 70 on her fingers in the order she memorized them from the car, going west:  Vona, Seibert, Flagler, Genoa, and Limon. They mirrored Stratton, dusty and devil wind-torn, noticeable from the highway by their hulking grain bins and water towers, empty metal arms reaching up to God. Maybe a Vona Joyce or a Seibert Joyce existed. Lin-Lin didn’t want any of them either. She wanted Lupe back.

          “You could hire help,” Row said.

          “Nope,” Dad shook his head, “You know we lucked into Lupe. George’s wife’s cousin set it up for room and board. Besides, someone in town turned Lupe in; they’d do the same to someone new.”

          “Get Lupe back,” Row said.

          “I’m trying,” Dad said. 

          “You’re not doing anything at all. You’re hiding!” Row yelled. A fine spray of spit flew from his buck teeth. He brushed Dad’s paper off the table and hid his eyes from sunlight that wasn’t there.

          “I’m trying,” Dad repeated, softer. “The right way, legal way. She left in a hurry, and it was a weird situation between us. I’m not sure where…” Dad sat straighter focused on Lin-Lin and Row as if realizing he was talking with children. He cleared his throat. “It probably won’t work out. I had my shot. I loved your mom. Hell, I loved Lupe. No one could take their place; I don’t want some desperate replacement.”

          Row clenched his jaw. His eyes glossed with tears, and Lin-Lin leaned forward to hear him whisper. “I don’t need a mom. You don’t need a wife or anything to distract you from your paper. What’s going to happen to Lin-Lin—the girl so motherless she’s stealing and pretending she popped out of a
Virgin’s crotch?” 

          The yellow buses rumbled past, rattling the windows. An itchy thought wormed into Lin-Lin, but she pushed it out. She hugged Mother Mary to her chest. She would not worry about stiff Mary’s wordless mouth and glassy stare. The Virgin needed a daughter, and she needed a mother—a mother made of something less delicate than a beating heart, papery skin, and sad eyes.

 

 

 

©2020 Melody Sinclair

 

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Melody Sinclair graduated In 2019 from the Mile-High MFA in Creative Writing program at Regis University in Denver, CO. She has been published at Prometheus Dreaming, Donnybrook Writing Academy, and 303 Magazine.  Melody has also won first prize in the Denver Women’s Press Club Unknown Writer’s Contest. She is on the Fiction Reading Committee for Carve Magazine and working on her first novel.

www.melodysinclair.com

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