La Llorona's Daughter - Chapter 9: Goodbye


The story so far: Caridad, a Cuban married to a Taoseño, is having trouble adapting to her new environment. To make things worse, a family ghost pays her an unexpected visit. After an argument with her mother-in-law, Caridad agrees to display her mother's portrait on the altar, but she still fails to understand the Day of the Dead ceremonies. Michael and Caridad discuss their future plans and Margarita, Caridad's Puerto Rican friend, arrives. Margarita and Caridad discuss the need for women to have their own money and independence. In a flashback, Angélica, who is still alive, gets into an argument with her mother. Rita concludes that all young women are equally disrespectful. In Chapter 6, Angélica and Caridad have a fight. Angélica threatens to take the baby away from her and give him to La Llorona. Caridad refuses. Michael, who can't see his dead sister, starts to suspect that there is something wrong with his wife. Angélica makes herself visible to her family shortly before midnight and tries to establish contact with them, but Caridad is the only one who can see her. Michael feels threatened by the conversation about his sister and gets ready to leave.

In Chapter 8, Angélica reveals how she died and why her mother blames herself for it. Caridad admits to being a medium and talks about her own mother, who died in Cuba after she left.

It was five minutes to midnight. Angélica stood up and headed for the altar.

"Where are you going?" Caridad asked.

"Where I belong," Angélica answered, with a resigned expression. "I can only return one day a year. The rest of the time -"

She stopped.

"The rest of the time, what?" Caridad prodded. "Where do you live?"

"Well, I don't exactly live," she said. "But I have to be somewhere else."

"And somewhere is?"

Angélica shook her head.

"Don't be so nosy, Cubana," she said. "I can't talk freely about such things. I'm on the Other Side, if it helps you to know that much. They don't just let us come and go."

"Ah, I'm sorry. I was getting used to having you here."

"I'm used to being here, too, but it's like we're on a temporary visa, you know?"

Caridad put her hands to her head.

"Do you mean that there's bureaucracy on the Other Side, too?" she asked.

"Not so much as there is among the living, but they get fussy, too," Angélica laughed. "No free lunches there either."

"Uff. That's not good news."

"I'll come to visit soon," Angélica promised. "I'll also tell your mom to come and see you. What's her name?"

"Julia Perez," Caridad answered. "Thank you. But it would have been better if the idea had come from her."

"I'm sure she misses you, but she may not know where you are," Angélica replied. "Imagine, who will think of looking for a Cuban in Taos, of all places?"

"That's true," Caridad admitted. "Well, next year, I'll make black beans, white rice and ground beef for my mother. Ah, and fried plantains. A real feast so she can't complain."

"Don't worry if, in the meantime, you happen to meet La Llorona," Angélica warned her after a brief pause. "She comes back often and wanders around the Río Grande. Since you can see every ghost in town, you may encounter her. Just don't be afraid. She is harmless."

Rita, who had stayed lost in her thoughts, said suddenly, "Yes, m'ijita, on the Río Grande. That's where it was. I didn't drown her with my own hands, but I let her drown. I acted just like La Llorona."

"And who is that Llorona you talk about so much?" Caridad asked. "What's the problem with her?"

"She was a good mother," Rita said firmly. "She had a boy and a girl. And a drunk for a husband, just like mine, who'd often beat her up. When she couldn't stand it anymore, she ran away with her children. It was so dark and cold -"

"While she gathered wood to start a fire, the children began to play by the river," Angélica went on.

"The kids fell into the water," Rita said, her gaze lost in the distance. "The little boy sank right away, but the girl grabbed onto a branch and cried for help. Her mother heard her. She thought of saving her, but then she told herself, 'What if she ends up like me, married to an evil viejo? She'd be better off turning into a little angel.' And so the girl drowned, too."

Caridad glanced at Angélica, who nodded in agreement. Then she asked, "What happened to the mother?"

"She went crazy," Rita replied. "A few months later, she died, but she came back as a ghost. She's been crying ever since. I've heard her many times."

"Me, too," Caridad said. "But I thought I was hallucinating. Or going crazy myself."

"La Llorona looks for her children, hoping they would forgive her," Rita sighed. "That's why I put myself under her protection every Day of the Dead. I pray that my Angélica, may she rest in peace, finds me and forgives me, too."

Angélica, who was now near the altar, turned to her and said sharply, "Mom, I've told you a thousand times that I don't hold a grudge against you. Every year I try to explain it to you, but you don't listen to me."

She paused and concluded, shrugging.

"As usual."

Rita went on, "I want her to tell me if she thought I was a bad mother."

"We dead people don't come to say disagreeable things to those we left behind," Angélica replied. "We came to be with family once more."

She took a loaf of bread from the tray and said with a mischievous grin, "We also come to eat, of course. Mom makes the best sweet bread in the entire town of Taos. I'll take one for the road."

"See you the next November the second, then," Caridad said. "I'll wait for you here."

Angélica waved goodbye and started to melt into her portrait until they became a single image.

Rita began to pick up the portraits and the papel picado. Caridad hugged her mother-in-law and said, "Wait, Rita. I'll help you."

They started to blow the candles out.

The Spanish version of this story can be found here.