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Delia's Crossing

V. C. Andrews


  “Take her and that filthy suitcase to her room, and show her what her duties are.”

  “Yes, Mrs. Dallas,” said Señora Rosario.

  “I won’t tolerate another lazy Mexican in my house or on my grounds,” my aunt said, and started to turn away.

  I quickly spoke up in my newest English words.

  “Thank you, Mrs. Dallas. I’m pleased to be here and grateful for all you are doing for me,” I said.

  She spun around, her eyes wide. I held my gaze. I would not be treated as if I were no better than a cucaracha, something to be crushed and swept away. Then she marched out of the living room, her high heels tapping the travertine floor in a rhythm of rage. It was as if my very presence infuriated her. If this was so, why did she send for me? If she still hated her family so much, why did she want a living reminder of it right under her nose?

  Something told me that I had seen only the tip of the flame. There was quite a fire burning in her chest, a fire started years ago back in our village. Would it consume me, or would I snuff it out before it could?



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  Delia’s Crossing

  Pocket Star Books

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  Following the death of Virginia Andrews, the Andrews family worked with a carefully selected writer to organize and complete Virginia Andrews’ stories and to create additional novels, of which this is one, inspired by her storytelling genius.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2008 by the Vanda General Partnership

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

  V.C. ANDREWS® and VIRGINIA ANDREWS® are registered trademarks of the Vanda General Partnership

  POCKET STAR BOOKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-9407-9

  ISBN-10: 1-4165-9407-8

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  It was my grandmother Anabela who came to get me at school. Through my classroom window, I watched her charging up the broken cobblestone street, occasionally coming down awkwardly on a crumbled section, nearly twisting her ankle and struggling to keep her balance, her roller-pin arms out as if there were an invisible person on each side of her to keep her steady. She was, after all, close to ninety.

  Age had not diminished mi abuela Anabela as it had so many other elderly people in our Mexican village. Time had shrunken most of the grandmothers and grandfathers of my classmates. They were now not much heavier or larger than their grandchildren. Some were not much taller. I sometimes thought of them as children who had aged quickly far beyond their years. Many younger than my grandmother and far less fortunate with their health had to be wheeled about and fed like infants. They sat with empty faces on their tile patios, staring out blankly as if they were stunned with the realization that they had suddenly grown old. It was as if they had gone to sleep at eighteen, and when they awoke, they were eighty. It put them into a daze.

  But not Grandmother Anabela. Her stubborn body refused to weaken or acknowledge time. She had thick ankles and calves, wide hips, and a rear end that ballooned out and kept the hem of her skirt an inch or so higher in the back than it was in the front. Despite her age, she still had strong shoulders and arms, first from a lifetime in the soybean fields and then, after she was married, from vigorous housework in her own home and in the homes of rich people. No one got down on her knees and scrubbed tiles as clean as my grandmother scrubbed them. My father always said she could easily sterilize a hospital operating room all by herself. From the way mi abuela Anabela described it, hard work had been her steadfast companion from the day she could wash a dish or sweep a floor.

  “Childhood is a luxury only the rich can enjoy,” she told me. “When I was barely eight years old, I was working alongside my mother in the fields and was expected to do adult work and not complain or cry.”

  Maybe that was why most of the people in our poor village looked older than they were. They had little time to be children. Tiny shoulders bore heavy weight. Ten-year-old boys had calluses on their palms and fingers as hard and as big as those on their fathers’ and grandfathers’ palms and fingers. Laughter and giggles were lost and forgotten like memories too deep to be found even in sleep.

  Grandmother Anabela would look at her old friends, shake her head, and say, “Lo que pronto madura poco dura,” which meant “What ripens fast doesn’t last.”

  “I have seen too many pass on before their time, Delia, like oranges dried out in the hot sun.”

  Watching her now through the classroom window, mi abuela’s round face with her puffy cheeks reminded me of the face of a doll on a spring in the rear window of a car. It bobbed and shook as she took her choppy steps. Ho
wever, nothing seemed capable of discouraging her from moving forward. She never left our casa with her silky gray hair loose and untied, and she never stepped out into the village streets still wearing her apron. Something very serious was propelling her along and making her move like a woman half her age.

  Grandmother Anabela’s wrinkled skin was leathery, and she had some age spots sprinkled on her cheeks and forehead and down the right side of her neck, but the only place I found she really looked her years was in her eyes. No matter what time of day, those dark pupils were tired, and those eyelids hovered so close to shutting that it was sometimes hard to believe she could see. I used to think the world surely looked so narrow and small to mi abuela Anabela that it must be like peeking at it through a keyhole.

  I was about to learn why the world looked horrendous to her today, as it soon would to me as well, even though just yesterday my family had celebrated my quinceañera, my fifteenth birthday. We had begun the celebration with a misa de acción de gracias, or thanksgiving mass. My mother had tailored one of her most beautiful dresses for me, and my grandmother had created a matching head-dress for me to wear at the mass. With my parents beside me, I had sat at the foot of the altar through the entire service, and at the end, I had placed my bouquet on the altar. Following that, we had a fiesta at our casa.

  Abuela Anabela had cooked all the day before and early in the morning had created an orange-almond cake so moist it melted in your mouth. We had a wonderful party. My mother sang for us. Everyone, especially my friends, wanted her to sing. Abuela Anabela always said, “Even the birds are jealous of your mother’s voice. Ella canta como un ángel.”

  “No,” my father said, looking lovingly at my mother. “She doesn’t sing like an angel. She sings better than an angel.”

  My mother was always embarrassed by compliments. She was modest, even though I felt she was the most beautiful woman in our village. I know my father believed that.

  “El sapo a la sapa la tiene por muy guapa,” she would say whenever he heaped compliments upon her. “The toad believes his woman toad is beautiful.”

  “Never mind toads. I know what I know,” my father insisted. “And don’t call me a toad.”

  “What should I call you, then?”

  “I’m sure,” he said, smiling, “you can come up with a better name.”

  How my mother laughed. Watching the two of them fence with their eyes and their lips, hold on to each other when they walked and blew kisses across a room or a street whenever they were to be apart even for only a short time, made me feel witness to something very special.

  After my fiesta, my mother took me aside. For us, the quinceañera was a cross between a Sweet Sixteen and a debutante’s coming-out party. I knew for most it signified reaching maturity and being of a marriageable age. However, my mother had other ideas for my future.

  “You know, Delia, you are now no longer a child. You are a woman, but I do not see you getting married quickly and having children. You are a very good student. I want more for you. I want you to have more than I have. Do you understand why this is so important to me?”

  “Yes, Mama.”

  “I know you do,” she said. “You woke up a child, and now you go to sleep a woman, but you are a woman with a bigger future. I am sure of it.” She said it with such certainty that I believed her, and for some reason, it frightened me. I was afraid I wouldn’t live up to her expectations. The greater the love, the bigger the expectations, I thought.

  I went to sleep every night thinking I was very lucky to have such a family, especially the night of my wonderful birthday. I went to sleep under a blanket woven of kisses, hugs, and good wishes. I was content. I felt safe in my wonderful fortress of love.

  Now I wondered, can you really be punished for being too happy? Señora Porres, one of mi abuela’s friends, believed in the ojo malvado, the evil eye, some dark power that watched for people who were too happy or bragged too much about their good luck. She actually searched the streets, windows, and alleyways looking for signs of the ojo malvado. Her face, with her wide and deep black eyes always looking shocked and surprised, haunted me in dreams about the evil eye. In them, she was hurrying down the street and periodically pausing to look behind herself as if she were positive she was being pursued by the ojo malvado. She had me on the lookout for it sometimes, especially when I was very happy. I’d stop and freeze a smile, hold my breath, or abort a laugh.

  I was thinking about all that this day as mi abuela Anabela stepped into the schoolyard. Something had to be terribly wrong. She had never come to the school. I saw her pause, hold her hand over her breast, look up at the sky, mutter a short prayer, take a deep breath, and head for the entrance. A thin, high-pitched ringing began in my ears. It sent an electric alarm down to my toes and through my hands to the edges of my fingers.

  Señora Cuevas turned abruptly when mi abuela opened the classroom door without knocking. Our teacher hated any interruptions. We had no doubt she would ignore an earthquake if she were in the middle of giving instructions or asking questions. Her long, thin face seemed to stretch around the corners of her mouth as her thin orange lips leaked into her cheeks. Her eyes, the color of cajeta, a caramelized brown candy, brightened with hot fury like the tips of candle flames and were usually enough to bring the class to attention with, everyone becoming as quiet as a sleeping burro. Even the flies stopped buzzing.

  The sight of my grandmother standing as firm as a statue in the doorway took Señora Cuevas by surprise, however, and her anger quickly subsided. Her shoulders, which had been hunched up like a hawk’s in preparation for her pecking snappy, angry words at the intruder, sank.

  “Buenas días, Señora Yebarra, how can I help you?” she asked.

  My grandmother simply shook her head and searched the room until her eyes found me.

  Then she started to cry.

  Even without knowing why she was crying, I began to cry myself. All of my classmates were staring at me, their faces now filling more with fear than curiosity. Abuela Anabela held out her arms toward me, beckoning with her long yet still full fingers.

  “She must come home right away,” my grandmother said. “Venga, Delia.”

  I looked at Señora Cuevas, who was now overwhelmed with curiosity and concern. She nodded at me, and I rose slowly, afraid that the fear seizing my body would turn my legs to jelly. I scooped up my books and only then ran to my grandmother’s arms. She clamped them around me as quickly as a tarantula seized its prey and held me in the doorway, pressing my body to hers as if she thought I might run away. My heart was pounding. I didn’t know what to do or say. Had she gone mad? I had heard that older people could wake up one day and be so unhinged that they didn’t know who they were or where they were anymore.

  “What is wrong, Señora Yebarra?” Señora Cuevas asked. “Why must you take Delia from her classroom before school is finished for the day?”

  “There has been a terrible truck accident this morning, Señora Cuevas.” She paused to draw in a deep breath and then said, “Only a short time ago, el policía came to mi hijo’s casa to tell me Delia’s madre y padre están muertos.”

  It was as if the whole class, Señora Cuevas included, had one mouth and together uttered the same gasp. My grandmother turned me with her, her right arm clasped tightly around my shoulders. In tragedy and grief, we indeed had become attached. She led me away. I glanced back once and saw Señora Cuevas make the sign of the cross and then close the classroom door slowly, as someone would close the lid of a coffin, her head and shoulders weighed down with sadness.

  I did not know it yet, but I would never enter that classroom again.

  This walk I began with my grandmother was the start of a long journey that would take me from my home and my friends in ways I could never have imagined.

  I was kidnaped by cruel fate and condemned to be a prisoner of destiny beyond my control. Even the simplest choices would be denied me. I would lose everything, todo que poseí, including m
ost of my meager wardrobe and one pair of my two pairs of shoes. Essentially, when I left here, all I would have would be my name, Delia Yebarra, and even keeping that would become a challenge.

  It was truly as if I had been in the pickup truck with my parents and had died as well.


  A Message

  As we walked away from the school, I clung to mi abuela Anabela’s hand like someone afraid she might drown if she let go. It did feel as if we had been tossed into a sea of sorrow. She had stopped crying, but she was chanting, “Oh, Dios mío, oh, Dios mío,” with every step she took.

  When we reached the town square, she paused as if she had heard God’s voice. Our church loomed at the center, its tall, slender bell tower never looking more important to me. I had to confess that as a little girl, and still today, I believed that all of the prayers uttered and all of the songs sung inside the church traveled up through the ceiling and through the tower directly into the ear of God.

  Perhaps Abuela Anabela wanted to go inside and pray that what had happened did not happen, I thought. She lingered and gazed reverently and hopefully at the church, gazed past the curious eyes of those who had not yet heard the terrible news, the elderly sitting on benches in the shade of our immaculately pruned ash trees supposedly as old as the village, reading newspapers, drinking coffee, and talking softly. No one seemed to raise his or her voice in the presence of the church, but later in the early evening, there would be music and laughter and dancing. Street vendors would come out to sell their tacos, grilled meats, and steamed tamales.

  I couldn’t help looking covetously at Señora Morales, who was eating a chocolate-dipped churro. She pushed it into her mouth like someone pushing a carrot into a grinder and then licked her fingertips. In the middle of all of this misery and shock, I was hungering for a fried strip of chocolate-covered dough. The irony didn’t escape me, nor did my sense of guilt. I shifted my gaze quickly to the church, as if I expected to see Father Martinez in the doorway shaking his head and waving his right forefinger at me, making me ashamed.

  Our meditative moment was crushed by the loudspeakers on the truck passing by, announcing a sale of washing machines. It stirred little interest. I gazed at my grandmother. She crossed herself again and muttered a quick prayer before putting her head down and continuing our journey through the village.