Lana closed the bedroom door firmly behind her, but it didn’t block out their noise. Even in the elusive moments when screams and screeches and sobbing stopped bouncing off of every solid surface, the reverberation remained. No stranger to self-sacrifice, Lana had done what she was expected to do, until, of course, she discovered the Bruja. Then she did what she was instructed to do. Waiting twenty-three days for the arrival of the quarter moon, then watering the tree with the fruit of forty-two days of her labor—tears, blood, sweat, urine, saliva, all collected from each of them. And for the last eight and a half days, she sat and waited, staring out of her second floor window, watching for something to blossom from the roots of the tree in the front yard. Waiting for the reprieve promised by the Bruja. Two squabbling gray squirrels rolling around the base of the oak tree reminded her of the two squabbling creatures outside of her bedroom door, so she concentrated further up the oak’s trunk. She was forced to look through a translucent version of her own somber face. It was fall, and the leaves were in transition. They were the most brilliant shade of—Lana couldn’t name it. The Crayola crayons smashed irretrievably into the berber carpet lining the basement playroom did not offer a fitting reference. The leaves moved stiffly against the wind, stunning in their state of decay. She thought it an uneven tribute that death should hold such beauty; continued evidence of the universe’s sense of inequitable distribution. A banging on the bedroom door reminded her of what she couldn’t forget. Somebody needed something from somewhere that only she could find/buy/make, he said, through the small opening in the door. The crack closed shut and Lana shut her eyes and wished the wish that she’d wished everyday since she’d become just one part of a whole filled with noise and smashed crayons and obtrusive dependence. But this time when she opened her eyes something was different. The Bruja’s promise finally fulfilled. Her perspective was now of one on the outside looking in. A lightness that she had not felt since the years before she was just a part of a whole surrounded her. Her view was fuzzy from where she hung, but she could see the window out of which she’d spent hours staring. Funny, she thought, the noise has stopped. She could just capture a reflection of her autumn brilliance in the minivan’s windshield. But before she could maneuver her new lighter form into a position in which she might be able to spend a few moments in full self-adulation, noise spilled out of her former front door. Oh, Lana remembered, he is taking them to the park. She hoped they would walk quickly. Surely she didn’t have long, and she was unwilling to share her newly acquired separateness. She had known since an hour after her lifetime commitment that sharing was overrated. Look how pretty, screamed the one who had come first. They are pretty. I want one. The shorter one put her finger to her cheek in a move that always rendered him objection-less and pointed directly at Lana, who was hanging peacefully and brilliantly from, she now realized, a too low branch, and said, that one. It’s so pretty. Pick that one. His hand came quickly. Lana started to scream as he yanked her away, but, like all the screams she had attempted to start for the last seven years, she stopped herself. I’m going to save it for Mommy, the older one said. I know. Put it in your shoe to keep it safe while we play, the other one said. Yes, he agreed, it will be safe there. Lana’s view grew fuzzier as the sun completely disappeared, and her new fragile self began to crumble under the foot of the one who had come first.
COLE LAVALAIS writes fiction. She is a fellow of the Kimbilio Center for Black Fiction, VONA, and the Callaloo Writing workshops.Her work has appeared in Warpland, Tidal Basin Review, Aquarius Press, and others. She has taught writing for over ten years and currently teaches community-based writing workshops on the south side of Chicago where she also hosts Colored People’s Time, a bimonthly literary salon featuring fiction writers of color. Her debut novel, Summer of the Cicadas, is forthcoming from Willow Books Press in April 2016.