Girl with the Crooked Smile – EXCERPT


The Ah-ha Moment

“She can’t wait to get away from me,” I overhear her cry to my husband on the phone. “No, it’s not like that Mimi,” he assures her. “She just loves to travel and is always looking for the next adventure.”

And then it dawned on me. God, does she love me. And wants me around. But, why?

I’ve been such a terrible daughter for years. Aloof, unaffectionate, and quietly harboring resentments for things gone wrong. But mostly, for the constant rebuke of her ways, ways in which, despite my denial, I was just like her.

Yet, she heroically came through for us back in November 2008, mid-recession, when we arrived bankrupt and full of hopelessness. She opened her home and embraced her bewildered, tender-aged grandchildren upon our abrupt migration back to South Florida after eight years of the good life in Central America.

She helped us out as best as she could have, despite the financial burden seven additional people squeezed into her three-bedroom town home represented, and the emotional toll it took, no doubt, on her marriage.

She spared us from homelessness.

And now, strangely, she needs me. What can I possibly offer her other than grief?

The knot in my throat rises and suddenly transforms into full-blown sobbing. It’s all pouring out in this moment of enlightenment. And, of all times, this awakening comes now that my jaw is wired shut, face still swollen and numb from last week’s two surgeries, and whilst in the throes of a migraine. My sinuses start to bleed from the implosion of emotions.

What’s more is that Joaquin doesn’t even seem to notice my chest heave when I ask him for the hot packs. It is 10:30pm and we’re sort of watching the US Open. I just tell him I am in agony and continue to bawl my eyes out once the big, blue gummy packs blanket my battered face. And he goes on and on about this new job offer and how, for the first time in years, it is an excellent career opportunity—something professionally-challenging that could eventually bring in good money.

I exhale a sigh of relief. Our luck has just taken a turn for the better. I know it because I feel it.

After over five years of struggling, family tragedy, bankruptcy, and me, in and out of hospitals. After five long years of letdowns and false hopes taking us down dead end roads, this is how this breakthrough moment unveils? I had rehearsed this scenario a million times in my mind; it was supposed to be accompanied by fireworks, a camera crew—some larger-than-life announcement written across the mid-day sky. Something epic.

But, no. This is bittersweet. We don’t know where it will lead us. Back to Latin America or keep us in the US?