Friday, October 27, 2006

La Gritona, Part Three

This is my Halloween ghost story. Please go back to Part One if you're just starting it. I'm publishing it here in five (5) parts since it's kind of long.

“Did you see Mr. Santiaguillo at the chapel?” Lillian called her sister as soon as she got home that night.

 “Yeah, that was nice of him to come,” Jill said.

 “Yeah,” Lillian hesitated.  “You know what?  That last week before she died, Mother made me promise not to let certain people in to the funeral.”

 “Really?”

“Yeah.  And he was one of them.”

“Are you serious? Oh, for God's sake!” Jill paused.  “Well, but what were you supposed to do? Kick him out? You can't kick someone out of a chapel.”

“I know!  I couldn’t,” Lillian paused again.  “But I guess it doesn’t matter now.” She tried not to let it sound like a question.

“No,” Jill said dryly, “It really doesn't matter now.”

“Yeah.”  Lillian ended the conversation and made her way through the darkened apartment to the sofa.  It was past eleven and she was determined to be in bed within minutes, so she didn’t bother to turn on lights.  By the kitchen stovelight she went through her mail.  Several envelopes were sympathy cards. Lillian smiled as she read words like "Our prayers are with you." Even clichés could be comforting. 

She stopped reading when the room suddenly went freezing cold.  She put down the cards and looked around for an open window, but the windows and doors were closed.  

“What the hell?” Lillian started towards the hallway to check the thermostat, but when she had walked only a few steps, she felt warm again.  Puzzled, she returned to the pile of mail on the sofa where the cold overtook her again.

“How could you do this to me?” a voice hissed at her and Lillian felt her bowels twist.  A cupboard slammed in the kitchen, then another.  Lillian froze in the cold spot, her eyes scanning the room frantically, her breathing shallow.

“Mother?” the thought formed in her head, underneath the fear, but she couldn’t bring herself to say it.  After a few more seconds, the cold evaporated and the room returned to normal.  Lillian left the mail on the coffee table and slowly, full of dread, walked towards the kitchen. No one was there. She forced herself to check the dining room, bedroom and behind the shower curtain. Nothing. Her nerves tightened to an unnatural pitch, she finally moved towards the bathroom to get ready for bed.

She stepped in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to steady herself.  “I’m fine,” she told herself. “It’s just me here.”  As usual she avoided looking at her image for too long because as she moved into her forties it was getting easier to see her mother’s features in her own.  

She bent to brush her teeth, trying to get that cold air off her mind.  Again she reviewed the situation:  Mother would have been furious to imagine Mr. Santiaguillo at her funeral, but Mother would never know now because she was dead.  Dead, dead, dead, Lillian tried to reassure herself.  She rinsed her mouth and straightened before the mirror.

It now reflected two faces . Lillian shrieked as she stared in the dim light at Eulalia’s piercing eyes, her drawn face contorted with fury.

“How dare you do that to me?” Eulalia’s voice boomed impossibly in Lillian’s mind.  “How dare you betray me!  You let that son of a bitch come to my funeral!  Do you know what you’ve done?” The voice swelled and Lillian saw the reflection of that thin, bony hand reaching towards her.  Unable to take her eyes off the mirror, she watched those talon-like fingers start to sink into her arm as Eulalia shrieked “DO you?”

“No!” Lillian cried as she pulled away from the hand and whirled to face the figure, but there was no one there.  She turned back to the mirror and saw herself still in her mother’s grasp. What the hell was going on?  Lillian ran into her bedroom.  Damn the wall-to-wall mirrored closet doors, they surrounded her with images of her mother’s rage.  Was she going crazy?

"You are not going to get away with this! You get back there and you tell Mr. Santiaguillo he can rot in hell! ¡Liliana! Liliana, so help me God!" Lillian fled to the living room, doors independently slamming shut as she passed them.  In the living room there were no reflective surfaces and the yelling and slamming suddenly stopped.  Panting, she listened for any noise.  The air felt normal, so slowly, she lowered herself onto the sofa.  Should she call someone?  What could she tell them?  Lillian cowered on her sofa for a long time before she fell asleep.

The next day was dominated by memories of her nightmares:  Eulalia shrieking and clawing at her, furious that her own daughter had been nice to that viejo cabrón who had tried to kill her.  All this because of a clean window? At one point Lillian saw Eulalia on her deathbed as she had been at the end, “¡Liliana!  ¡Liliana, ven aquí!”  Lillian dream-watched as her mother cycled through anger, cajoling, begging and condemning.  Eulalia wanted Lillian to return to Fresno, find all her "enemies" and exact revenge for stolen recipes, minor accidents and imagined insults.

“¡Liliana!  You tell those cabrónes I hate them!  You tell them nothing’s forgiven!  And you get it right this time.  For once in your life, don’t screw it up!”

Parts Four and Five on the way...

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