In My Daughter’s Eyes

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In a way, Zarah will be certain that she deserves to lose her children. She’ll realize she’s a weak mother. A bad mother. She should have known that Melanie was sneaking out, and what it would mean if she was caught. But she wasn’t caught. If the girl kept her mouth shut…

But when she got home, of course, she couldn’t do that one simple thing Why, why hadn’t she learned?  She got into an argument with Alexandra and Fiona about a boy, of all things. Someone Melanie saw in the park, and to this day, Zarah won’t remember what exactly was said. Something about a prince, and an island. But Melanie took Fiona’s precious wedding-planning scrapbook and threatened to rip it up, saying something about needing her own life. Zarah didn’t know where Alexandra was. Hiding upstairs, most likely.

She never saw her girls argue so much before that day. When Melanie tried to get the scrapbook back, she knocked into the display case, and broke her father’s one and only Blue Jay’s trophy.  

And that’s when Vincent walked in. Of course. Because that’s how things like that always go. Just like when the girls were playing in the garden in Toronto, and found their brothers. Right at the wrong time.

Vincent tried to get them to stop, but Melanie sassed him off. “I’m tired of being ignored!”

She was still pretending to be Lexie. Probably to prove a point to her sisters that they were interchangeable. That they can switch and no one would notice. But Zarah knew her girls. Just like she knew whose necklace was whose.

She’ll know the child beside her in the window seat, just like she’s always known.

But Zarah couldn’t tell Melanie that, not in the moment. Not from her silent place in the shadows. She knew that if she stayed quiet, things would eventually settle down. Except that day, they didn’t. Something in Melanie seemed to snap. She took that display case, threw it to the ground, and started smashing everything.

“I’m crushing the patriarchy!” she screamed.

Vincent didn’t hold back. Fiona jumped in to try and protect Melanie, and then it was like nothing Zarah ever saw. Except that she had seen it. She promised that she would protect her new babies the same way she hadn’t been able to save her boys. She promised to save Mira and Emma’s kids, too. She promised to God that last time would be the last time.

But as the blood drained from the two broken bodies, she sat, frozen, and nobody heard her silent screams.

Nobody except for Alexandra, who peered around the corner with wide, dark eyes, just like Fiona and Melanie’s, just like Nima and Emilia, just like Sakina and countless generations of de la Torre women. Except real de la Torres didn’t stay stuck in the shadows, not like Zarah.

“Where’s Melanie?” Vincent asked after an hour after they put the spade in the garage and stood washing the dirt from their hands at the kitchen sink. The water and soil swirled and danced and disappeared, carried away to some distant place where no one could follow.

And even the one He allowed me to keep

Is a bright, flashing dream when I cannot sleep

The dream will not wait, will not stop, will not slow

Just out of reach! Just a glint! Just a glow!

“P-p-probably in the attic,” Zarah mumbled, still not feeling anything. Not a single thing. “Taking a nap.”

She couldn’t stay up there forever. Eventually, for the second time, the girl peered around the corner. This time, Zarah nodded. Everything was cleaned up. Everything would be fine.

“I just can’t believe Fiona has gotten so defiant,” Vincent muttered as he held the girl on the couch later. “Lexie is a bad influence. But you. My special girl. You listen to your mother. You listen to thePastors. I’m so proud of you. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Your mother and I decided to send your sisters to summer camp in Toronto. It’s nice there. Your grandpa’s going to check in on them. I knew that you wouldn’t want to be so far from home, though. Right, Melanie?”

The girl nodded. She looked so small. So small.

“You’re so beautiful.” Vincent’s smile was soft and indulgent, just like it had been the first time he saw Zarah dancing at her uncle’s club when she was seventeen. He hadn’t looked at her like that for a long time. “You’ve got spirit, which is good, but only if you use it to advance the Kingdom. You’ve got to listen and obey, or you’ll become a whore of Babylon. Like Alexandra. Like your mother used to be, before I rescued her from the pit.”

This is her smartest girl. She knows to only talk when she can’t be heard. Maybe, just maybe, Zarah can save this one. This is her last chance.

Her husband will continue to practice his useless pitches as Zarah watches. It didn’t matter who his grandparents and then father paid off – Vincent was a washout. But he refuses to accept it, even now, as they languish on his trust fund, and hide in this little town. She tried to make their house a home, but nothing was ever good enough, and he was frustrated that he couldn’t provide for them in the way he wanted to, and her body was a tapestry of those failures.

All she’ll have left is her faith. She’ll fiddle with the two necklaces that she put in her pocket. She’s carried them around for so long. Maybe letting them go is a good first step. Now, she’ll take them out of her pocket, and place them on the bench seat next to her daughter. Without speaking or looking up or acknowledging her mother in anyway, the girl will put it into her own pocket, then keep reading her book.  

Everything will be okay. Basso promised that if things go wrong, he’ll protect the girl. Even though Zarah knows what that might entail, she didn’t have a lot of options when she forged the deal. It will be better than life here in Kirkby. Or Andalusia. It’s the secret webs of protection around her children that will give her a small flicker of life. He can’t have it all.

She tried to do it for her other children, but without Basso and Tino, it was impossible. She failed them so spectacularly, without involving Basso, but after all her triplets were killed except for one, she decided she had no choice.

When Vincent found out about the money she was hiding for her, Mira, and Emma, she insisted that she was putting the money away for the boys, for their future, but of course he took that as an insult. “You think I can’t plan for their future?” And then he accused her of consorting with his father. This particular thread of paranoia is an ever-present companion for Vincent Ferami de la Torre.

She went somewhere unreachable after the girls were born. Even now, she won’t be sure that she’s come out of it. The unfairness, the sad horror that her life has been come, will continue to baffle her every day. And no answers are forthcoming from that mysterious Presence above.

Some live a century. Others? Born for the grave.

Just when is a life worth it to Him to save?

He yanks us around, here and there, to and fro.

Just out of reach, enjoying the show.

It’s her fault that Vincent had turned to her daughter for comfort instead. Melanie thought that the “special time” with her father made her so mature, so special, but Alexandra always knew the truth. That’s why he hated her the most. And yet, he never figured it out, to this day.

It’s Zarah’s fault that Mira had killed herself. It was all she could do to keep the middle boy moving and away from his dead-beat father. Zarah knew she spoiled him. But every year that passed when Andre and Roberto should have been older was another year that her heart shrunk, just a bit more.

It’s her fault that her daughter is finding beauty in her life, finding love, finding herself, and they can’t talk about it. Because her father wants her dead, and if he were to find out, that would be the end of everything. Everything they sacrificed would be for nothing.

Zarah sits in the window with her daughter, and they don’t look at each other, because they can’t bear it.  

Down below, just as Zarah puts the finishing touches on the poem she was working on, the secret code that will help her daughter escape if needed, the shadows will move, and before she knows what’s happening, Zarah will be on her feet. “Oh!”

The girl will look up, probably startled that her mother still knows how to speak. “What?”

As the familiar form lunges for her husband, Zarah will inexplicably be moved into action. No. Not another one. Please, God. Take me instead.

“Mom?”

For a moment, they will finally look at each other. No. Zarah will save the boy. This time. Her daughter and Mira’s son will have the happily-ever-after that Zarah never got. “Stay here,” Zarah will croak, shoving the paper at the girl. “Take this. It’s the key, if you ever need it.”

“Mom!” her daughter will put her book down, the poem will flutter to the floor, and Lanie will finally notice what she’s reading: Where the Heart Is. It was one of Mira’s favorites. She always said she should have tried to give birth in a Walmart, and then maybe she could have had a different life for her kids.

“Stay here. I mean it. I can’t let anything to happen to you. Go to the church and ring the bell if you’re ever in trouble. And don’t lose this!”

“Mom, don’t go. Please. Take me with you!”

The cries and huge dark eyes will pierce Zarah’s heart. She hasn’t really given much thought to whether her daughter might love her. She never wanted to consider the answer. But the answer is there, in the rawness and desperation in the girl’s voice.

“I’m going to save, him for you, mi amor. Don’t worry. God will save us.” God, help us all.

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13

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