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A Betrayal from Flesh and Blood
I gave my mom the money.
After my dad told me countless of times not to do it, I still gave it to her. Why did I do it? My heart stops and my eyes water as I think, and think, and think about it. How could I be so stupid? I wasn’t supposed to give her the money!
You would think I would learn that when you give my mom money it’s probably not coming back.
“I will give it back in two or three days, don’t worry!” Don’t worry… How could she be so stupid? How could I? To think she would actually pay me back.
“Just… Don’t tell your dad.” Here we go again. Was she really going to make me lie to my own flesh and blood to his face? And how could my father expect me to say no if she’s also a part of me? You know, moms aren’t supposed to be like this. She is supposed to help me, to tell me everything is going to be okay. She is supposed to tell me the truth.
I glanced over at my mom. She sat at the couch, but she wasn’t really there. Her eyes dazed off into the void.
She shed tears.
After stealing several surreptitious glimpses I finally asked, “Mami, what’s wrong?” She seemed startled, “Oh, it’s nothing, dear.” This happened more than once. As time passed it appeared as if a blank gaze and an upside down smile were part of her face.
“Mami, why are you crying?”
“Oh, it’s nothing, dear.”
“Mom! It must be something! Why would you be crying if it were nothing?”
She looked at me; she was hiding something for sure.
“It’s not something you can fix.”
My dad does this thing where instead of giving me an allowance, every time he has spare change, he gives me money so I can save it.
After I gave Mom my money, the amount in my wallet became that of 2,000 pesos.
“So,” my dad said as we sat down out on the porch as we do every morning, “How much money do you have in total so far?”
I looked at him; I really didn’t want to go into this topic.
“Um, in my wallet?”
“Yeah, how much money do you have in your wallet, in total?”
I sighed. I searched and searched for some good excuse. A good lie. It wasn’t a big deal! Lie! That’s all you have to do! Sell some fake words as your own. The thing is that in this situation a “white lie” wasn’t going to work it. I felt that if I told him a lie he would never forgive me… he would find out. Two people whom he loves would have lied to him. Even about the same topic, “What happened to the money?” I knew what I had to do.
And there was a silence.
“What do you mean? Along with what you earned in the summer?” He was stunned with a hint of anger. He knew I had messed up… bad. “What happened?”
I couldn’t look him in the eye. Anxiety built up in my chest. Coldness covered my hands. The fresh morning air filled my lungs. I could hear the birds singing. What the hell were they chirping about?
Before I finished he scoffed, because he knew. He exhaled, “I knew it…” My dad turned away. I couldn’t move. My head wouldn’t make that ninety degree turn, I couldn’t. The knot in my throat would break through my eyes.
“Your money is in great hands,” he said sarcastically. “You lost your money for sure.”
It hurt because I knew it was true. I saw him turn to me from the corner of my eye.
“Maria, I’ve told you…” disappointment crept into his words.
“I know,” I whispered so he couldn’t hear the shaky sound that came along with my words.
“I’ve told you not to give money to your mother, thousands upon thousands of times.”
I looked down at the phone in my hands and murmured “I know,” for a second time. I looked everywhere except him, all but him.
“What was the money for?” I knew that if I spoke any further I would break down. If I were to lie for her that would mean that I was okay with what she did, and I wasn’t. Not then, not now.
“Just ask her.” Keep it short. I wouldn’t be part of this.
“Ask her,” I refused.
“Just… tell me,” he convinced me.
“It was for school,” I said in a sigh.
“For school? I gave her the money to pay for it!”
What? Was she doing it again?
“What did she do with the money I gave her?”
“I don’t know.” And I sincerely didn’t.
We were in the car, my dad, my sister, and I. I was riding shotgun and my sister sat in the back. The radio was on and I was jamming to some song I liked. The music shut off and I looked at the hairy, wrinkly hands with over-showing veins which were now moving away from the volume button. I shot him a look, and he sighed.
“I’m assuming you two know already.” I knew where this was going. I looked forward.
“Yeah, about Aunt Rosa.” I said, cheerless. I could hear my sister’s very confused voice from the back. I knew the story. The cleaning lady at my house was the only one who managed to tell me. Not even my mother, who knew I was starting to notice. I did notice. My dad and mom wouldn’t even look at each other. She wouldn’t go out to the porch to talk like she did every morning until it was time for me to go to school. Not even a hello, not even a kiss goodbye. My mom was less there than she was for years. The cleaning lady talked about a big fight. She talked about divorce, she mentioned my mom uttering the words, “He found out.”
“Your mom did something,” he started, “Nine years ago, your Aunt Rosa went to your mom for help to take out a loan at the bank, because apparently she had made some plans about making money. Your aunt made your mom the guarantor; if your aunt were to fail to pay the loan your mom would be in charge of paying it,” he paused. I knew it was hard for him. “It’s not a question that things didn’t go as planned. When it was time to pay up your aunt disappeared from your mom’s reach; she wouldn’t pick up the phone or retrieve the calls. The money built up, year by year. Your mom thought she could handle it by herself. She used money from her loan business; I started to notice that the money wasn’t growing. I got a call from the bank; they were talking about some debt we had to pay. A total debt of four million pesos. I went up to your mother, and then she told me.”
When I first heard the gossip the cleaning lady offered me about the situation in the kitchen, I wasn’t aware of the gravity of it. I just thought it was like a passing storm. This storm went on for weeks. I was sure they were going to get a divorce. I would have two houses, two bed rooms to organize, two bathrooms, two completely separate lives, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. When my dad said, “I don’t think I will ever be able to trust your mother again.” I asked, “You won’t?” He turned to me and he looked at me, “Not financially.” And I understood why. Sometimes I wonder why at all. She lied, not just to my dad, but to all of us. That is, my dad, my sister, my brother, the cleaning lady, and me. How dare she not apologize? How dare she not bring it up to us and clear things up, about changing the way she is? How dare she even laugh jokingly when she does bring it up? How can she not take responsibility? What she did was wrong. A part of me is holding her in a black corner in my heart, away from everyone I trust, everyone I can tell everything to. I just don’t think she fits the part of someone I can tell everything to. She stole the way I looked at her. The perfect happy family portrait was now crooked.