Coco looked up from her dolls to see mamá’s angry face. That face was never a good thing for papá, it meant mamá was gonna take off her shoe. She giggled, it was always funny when the shoe hit papá. Both her padres looked down at her, surprised. She squealed when her papá lifted her up with a spin.
“Ay, mi amor, what's so funny,” he asked, a smile on his face.
Coco giggled again. “Mamá’s gonna take off her zapato!”
“Oh, is she now,” her papá laughed.
Coco nodded. “Mamá tengo angry face!”
“Tiene,” her mamá corrected. “Mamá tiene angry face.”
Coco nodded. “And papá gets hit with a zapato!”
“Ay, mi amor, you laugh at my pain!” Coco giggled along with her papá.
“Give me my daughter, Hector,” her mamá said in a tone she had never heard before.
“Our daughter,” her papá corrected in another tone she had never heard before.
“Mi hija,” her mamá yelled.
Coco shrieked before hiding her face in her papá's shoulder. “Mija,” her mamá said softly. Coco chanced a peak at her mamá, who now seemed less threatening. “Come to your mamá,” she said, holding out her arms and taking a step forward.
Her papá quickly took a few steps away from her mamá. Coco looked at him with wide, curious eyes. He usually loved mamá’s hugs. But her papá wasn't looking at her, he wasn't even looking at her mamá. He was looking at his shoes. “Let me just say goodbye.”
Her mamá didn't say anything for a long time. Then she sighed. “Hurry up.” Her mamá headed towards the kitchen as her papá took her to her room.
He sat her down on her bed and took a step back before getting down on one knee. He picked up his guitar and Coco started swinging her legs in excitement. When papá brought out his guitar, it meant he would sing. She loved that! She smiled brightly as he strummed the guitar and started to sing.
Hoy me tengo que ir, mi amor
No llores por favor.
Te llevo en mi corazón y cerca me tendrás,
A solas yo te cantaré,
Soñando en regresar
Coco always looked at her papá in awe when he sang to her. To her, there was nothing more amazing than music. Especially if it was her papá playing it. Her excitement raised as her Papa stood up.
She giggled as he came closer. “Papá!”
Aunque tenga que emigrar
Si mi guitarra oyes llorar
As her papá went down on one knee again, she sat up on hers, shaking in excitement as her papá brought himself closer. She reached for his face as she sang along.
Ella con su triste canto te acompañará.
Hasta que en mis brazos estés
Her papá started pulling away from her.
They finished the song together. Her papá’s eyes were shiny, they always were when he sang that song. He set down his guitar before picking her up with a spin and holding her close. She hugged him back with a giggle. “Papá!”
She felt her papá shaking. “Te amo, Mija, te amo mucho.”
“Te amo tambien, papá!” She giggled as he set her down. She looked up at him, curiously. The shiny in his eyes was falling out. “Papá, por que llores?”
He only smiled at her before picking up his guitar. He grabbed her hand and they both walked out of the room. Her mamá was waiting for her right there. She crouched down and opened her arms. Coco immediately ran into them, giving her mamá a hug. When her mamá stood up, she smiled and waited for her papá to giver her mamá a hug. She watched as they both only stood still.
“Hector,” her mamá finally spoke. “If you leave, don’t come back.”
Her papá smiled. She didn’t like that smile. It meant her papá was actually sad. “Mi amor, I will come back, I promise. This is the last time.”
“That’s what you said last time!”
Her papá still had that smile as he gave her mamá a kiss on the cheek. Then he knelt down and gave her one of the forehead. He walked to the door and turned to them, the smile she loved now on his face. “Adios, mis amores. I will come back, I promise.” He wasn’t looking at her when he said that, he had been looking at her mamá. Then he turned around and walked away.
Coco ran up to the door to watch him go, just like she always did. She watched as her papá’s figure faded away into the distance.
The next few days went on as they usually did when her papá was away. Her mamá cooked and cleaned and did errands. Then they would go to her Tíos’ home and she would okay with whichever one had her. When they got home, it was time for her mamá to cook and clean again. Her mamá always kept looking at the door and Coco always wondered why.
There was a letter every week
While her mamá’s world was all about errands, her’s was stuck on her papá. Especially the letters he would send her. Her mamá would read them to her and he would write about his shows and how a certain city had something she might like. Sometimes there had been poems. She loved the poems the most, she imagined him singing them to her when he finally came home. Her mamá made a face every time she saw one, a face that let Coco know that she wasn’t happy about them, but would tolerate them anyway. Her mamá would be smiling at the end of the letter, but it wasn’t a happy smile.
Just like now.
“Te amo much,” her mamá read. “Love, your papá.” Her mamá made that smile again.
Coco looked at her curiously. “Que paso, mamá.”
Her mamá set the letter down and lifted her in her arms. “Nada, mija.” She set her down. “Are you ready?”
Coco nodded, now was their daily trip to her tíos’ house.
Her Tío Felipe was showing her how to make different animal noises as her mamá talked with her Tío Óscar.
“Its been three months,” her mamá said. “He's never been gone this long.”
“He's sending money, at least?”
“Of course he is! I’d find him and kill him with my bare hands if he didn't.”
Tío Óscar laughed. “I have no doubt about that!” He looked to her mamá and found a worried expression. “Imelda, you don’t have to worry. He wouldn’t have fought so hard only to leave you in the end.”
Her mamá nodded. “I hope you’re right.”
The letters stopped coming.
A week passed by with no letter.
Then two weeks.
Then a month.
Coco was still too young to understand the concept of time, but she knew that it had been a really long time since her papá had sent her a letter. Before, when there was no letter, it meant he was going to surprise them. Which meant he was coming home. So she stayed by the door whenever she could so that she would be the first person he saw when he got back. Sometimes she would stay there all day, no matter how boring it was. Others, she could only be there for a few minutes because her mamá had errands to run. On those days, she would look around at the people, hoping to see her papá. But it never happened.
She had been staring at the door ever since she woke that morning. She jumped when her mamá slammed the door. “That no good músico!” Her mamá smiled down at her before picking her up with a spin. “Let’s get you out of tu pijamas, mija. Tus tíos estan esperando.”
Walking to her tíos’ house was always fun for her. Everyone would always say hola, the stray gato that mamá seemed to love always walked with them, and she knew that at the end of the trip, she would get to see her tíos. Their house was a lot smaller than hers and mamá’s, but her tíos didn’t seem to care since they always invited them over. At home, it was always silent since her papá wasn’t there to sing. But at her tíos’ home, they were always talking and laughing.
Not today, though.
They, all sat in silence after mamá sat her down with her doll. Finally her mamá spoke. “He’s not coming back.” Her tíos said nothing. “He stopped writing. He stopped sending money a long time ago.”
“...What are you going to do,” her Tío Óscar asked.
Her mamá shook her head. “Yo no se. There’s not much I can do around here. And washing clothes doesn’t bring in enough money. And I can’t keep leaching off of you two.”
“What about making shoes,” her Tío Felipe suggested.
“You’ve always liked shoes.”
Her mamá took a second to look at her feet. “I don’t know, Felipe-”
“Señor Nava offered it to you a few months ago, didn’t he,” her Tío Óscar asked.
“He offered it to that no good musico!”
“Maybe he’ll take you once you tell him your, um, position.”
“We’ll do it too,” her Tío Felipe said. “Make it a family thing!”
It took a while for her mamá to agree, but, in the end, they were all headed to La Zapateria. Right now, as they entered the Zapateria, she sat on her Tío Óscar’s shoulders as Tío Felipe kept poking her side and making her giggle.
“Quit it, Felipe,” her mamá ordered without turning around. “Hola, Señor Nava,” she greeted the short, old man.
“Hola, Señora Rivera,” the man greeted her mamá. “What brings you here, mija?”
“Do you remember a few months ago-”
“Mija, I hardly can remember anything nowadays,” he interrupted with a smile. “I can barely remember mis nietos names.”
Her mamá smiled sadly at him. “Do you think you can remember how to make a shoe? I was hoping you could teach me.”
“Teach you ?! I thought I offered that to su esposo?”
“And mis hermanos,” her mamá went on. “We would love to learn how to make shoes. You know, before you and your family leave? Santa Cecilia won’t last without a decent shoe maker.”
The old man didn’t say anything for a while, only continued cutting some black stuff. He put his tool down and turned to her. “I’ll teach you three.” Her mamá smiled brightly.
After that, her mamá’s life was all about shoes. Coco’s, though, was still all about her papá. She still waited by the door every morning and would look through her letters again. She didn’t know what they said, but they were comforting. Her mamá had thrown everything else of him away. His clothes, his suits, his music !
There was one thing she couldn’t get rid of, though.
When she saw her mamá grab the family photo with an angry face, she walked over to her wondering what would happen. Her mamá ripped a part of the photo off and let it fall to the floor. Coco picked it up while her mamá was busy. It was her papá! She smiled at the photo and hugged it to herself.
While her mamá was busy doing whatever she was doing, Coco went to her room and brought out a box from under her bed. Its where she kept all his letters and poems and it would now be where she kept a picture of her papá that her mamá so happily gave her.
She pushed the box under her bed again right before her mamá came in. “Lets go, mija! Your shoes are waiting for you!
Coco jumped up enthusiastically. Her mamá had been telling her all about how she had made some shoes for her and now she was going to be able to try them on. All the way there, her mamã kept telling her about how amazing her shoes were going to look. By the time they got there, Coco had extremely high expectations. Señor Nava was talking with a customer when her mamá sat her down and took out a pair of botas. Coco gasped. They were pretty! She eagerly waited for her mamá to put them on and when she did, Coco stood up, amazed. They were comfortable! But one test remained. She leaped off the chair and landed expertly on her feet before she started twirling and dancing. She looked down at her feet. The shoes were still intact and she heard her mamá sigh in relief. “Come on, mija,” her mamá said, standing up. “Let’s go show them to Señor Nava.”
On her fifth birthday, she started to worry.
“Mamá, when’s papá coming home?”
Her mamá almost dropped the small cake she was carrying. It was the first time she had ever asked that question. Her mamá gave her a smile that she now knew was a forced one, one you wore to pretend you weren’t mad or frustrated or sad. “Oh, who knows, mija. Maybe he’ll be back soon.” She set the cake down at the table.
“You think he’ll bring me back everything he promised?”
“Who knows, mija! Your papá doesn’t really know how to keep his promises.”
“Whatta you think he’s doing right now?”
“Probably playing his guitar,” her mamá started cutting the cake. “To some women. Right by Ernesto’s side as he forgets everything about us. Forgetting everything he left behind! Leaving us just a little experience in his life! Like the stupid, no good musico that he is!”
Coco stared at her cake with wide eyes. Her mamá had completely ruined it!
Her mamá looked down, surprised. “Dios mio! I’m so sorry, mija!”
“It’s ok,” Coco dismissed. “I was gonna ruin it with my face.” Her mamá laughed. Coco started laughing with her. “Papá shoves my face in it!” Though Coco kept on laughing, her mamá had stopped.
“Mija,” her mamá said, setting the knife down. Coco looked at her sad face wondering what was wrong. “There’s something I have to tell you.” Her mamá picked her up before sitting her on her lap. She hugged her tightly and started shaking. “Your papá isn’t coming home.”
“What?” Not coming home? But he promised. “Why?!”
Her mamá did something she never thought she would ever do. She started to cry. “I don’t know, mija. I don’t know.”
“But he promised.”
“Yo se, mija.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Yo se, mija.” Her mamá pulled her closer as more tears kept falling. “Yo se. Yo se, yo se, yo se,” her mamá repeated into her hair.
Her Tíos barged through the door not a second later, each one holding a cake. “I brought the cake!” They yelled in sync. They looked to each other, surprised. “Oye! I was supposed to get the cake! No you weren’t!” Her mamá sniffed and both turned to them again, their eyes wide. “Imelda!” They both came running to her mamá. “What’s wrong,” Her Tío Óscar asked.
Her mamá didn’t even look at them.
Coco looked at her for a second before looking to her Tíos. “Papá promised he would come back.” Coco gasped as her mamá suddenly stood up and handed her to her Tío Felipe. There were still tears running down her face, even as she wiped them. Her mamá didn’t say anything as she walked out of the kitchen and into her room. She turned to her tíos. “Papá promised.”
“Mija, sometimes people say things,” her Tío Felipe started.
“That they don’t really mean,” her Tío Óscar finished.
“But papá promised.”
“We know, mija.”
“But not everyone-”
“-keeps their promises.”
Coco still didn’t understand.
Not even ten years later.
Her mamá had completely banned music from the house. She used to be able to get away with a humming or whistling a tune, but each year her mamá got more strict because of that stupid gato. Her mamá took in the kitten years ago, naming it Pepita. What Coco once thought was an adorable little animal turned out to be a complete soplón! Coco used to sneak out of the house in many costumes she made herself to go listen the music at the plaza. There was no way her mamá could recognize her! But that stupid cat knew her scent, so her mamá found her every single time .
Now, she couldn’t even make a noise that sounded anything remotely close to music. And she didn’t even try, her mamá’s shoe was always an arm’s length away. Technically, any shoe was an arm’s length away, her mamá’s shoe business thriving and all. She couldn’t complain too much, her thriving business was the only reason she was getting a quince…
She looked at herself in the mirror, her makeup professionally done, her hair in perfect curls, her earrings shining with their pink crystals that matched her dress. She thought it very stupid that her quince would be the only one in history to happen without music. How was she supposed to do any of the dances, how was anyone supposed to have fun?! She guessed she would find out soon enough.
Her damas and chambelanes were waiting for her outside of the house. Along with Pepita. Coco rolled her eyes.
“You ready,” one of the damas asked. That was her best friend, Nathalie. A lively girl with light brown hair that she always kept in a braid. Except, today, they were in curls because today was important.
Coco nodded, smiling brightly. “Ready than I’ll ever be.”
Nathalie held out and arm before any of the chambelanes could. Coco laughed at their annoyed expressions. Looks like Nathalie was getting all the glory escorting the Quinceañera to the church.
“You’re shaking like a chihuahua,” Nathalie whispered. “You told me you were ready.”
Coco let out a nervous laugh. “Yeah, when I said that-”
“Let me guess,” she interrupted. “That was a lie?”
Coco let out a chuckle at how accurate she mocked her. “You know me too well, prima.” She looked ahead. They were getting closer to the church. “I’m ready for this, just not for later. Seré muertos when mi mamá gets her hands on me.”
“Well, forget about that for now. You’ll worry about that when she gets her hands on you. Tonight you will have fun.” She made a dramatic pause. “With music!”
“Sssh! Don’t say it so loudly, she’ll hear you!” Coco glanced down at the gato. For some reason, she was completely sure that she could understand them. Soplón.
Nathalie only giggled as they made it to the church and finally let her go.
As she walked up the steps, her mamá smiled at her so lovingly as she handed her the bouquet that she almost felt guilty of what would happen later. Almost. “You look so beautiful, Mija,” she said, her eyes becoming watery.
“Thank you, mamá.”
Her mamá brought her into a hug before pushing her up the last few steps, where her Tíos waited for her. Her Tío Felipe went behind her and she stood up straight as he put the pendant on her. He gave her a hug when he was done before lightly shoving her towards her Tío Óscar. They both gave each other smiles before she slightly bent her head, allowing him to put on the tiara. It had pink crystals, just like the earrings. He gave her a hug before shoving her through the doors of the church.
Now that she was alone, she sighed in relief. Everyone was going to be treating her like she was special for the rest of the day. It felt nice, but there was only one person that ever truly made her feel special. She walked down the aisle and towards the altar de Virgen de Guadalupe. She slid down to her knees and bowed, placing the bouquet on the altar. Then she brought her hands together and prayed. “Virgen de Guadalupe, escuchame, por favor. I’m not asking for anything big today. I just want my plan to go well. I just want to hear some music without having to hide it from my mamá. I’m hoping you can make that happen. If you can’t, I understand. Gracias.” She signed the cross on her body before standing up and walking towards the exit. Everyone cheered as she exited the church.
Now, the festivities could begin.
Despite there no being music, people actually were enjoying themselves. They talked and ate the treats set out for them. They danced with only laughter as their music. They congratulated her on her womanhood. Her Tíos shared stories of her little mischievous days. And her mamá watched everything from a corner, Pepita on her shoulder and a satisfied smile on her face. Coco had barely spoken a word to her all day. In fact, she was sure that thanks she gave to her at the church had been pretty much it. After rejecting another dancer, she walked over to her. Her mamá didn’t look at her, just kept staring at the party.
“This is a great party,” she said.
Her mamá nodded. “All for you.”
“Tío Óscar and Felipe telling my stories, the children stuffing their faces with treats, the elders dancing to nothing but their laughter.” She chuckled. “Who needs music anyway?”
She felt more than saw her mamá glance at her. “I hired a mariachi.”
Coco turned to her, surprised. As did Pepita. “Que?”
“I hired a mariachi to play during your dances. Pero solo tus bailes!” Her mamá turned to her with a glare. “You are not allowed to request anything else!”
Coco didn’t really care about that. She was so overfilled with joy that she brought her mamá in a hug, scaring Pepita off her shoulder. “Oh, gracias, gracias, gracias, mamá! Te amo mucho! Te amo mucho!” She broke the hug and smiled at her mamá with tears in her eyes. Then she ran. “Nathalie!”
Her amiga turned to her, her face surprised and covered in chocolate. “Guh?”
Nathalie swallowed the chocolate in her mouth. “Que,” she repeated.
Coco got her excitement running all over again. “Mi mamá hired a mariachi for the dances!”
“Si cierto! Ella dijo! I’m surprised as you are!” They both squealed.
“Espera, espera,” Nathalie stopped her jumping. Coco looked at her, confused. “Is later’s plan still a go, though?”
Coco gasped. She hadn’t even thought about that. “Dios mío, yo no se! I mean, mi mamá hired a mariachi, pero…”
“Pero merezco que cantar la canción de mi papá.”
Nathalie nodded at the determination in her eyes. “I’ll tell the others the plan is still on.” She laughed. “Try not to die, though, ok?”
Coco laughed as well.
The first dance didn’t happen and it broke Coco’s heart that her papá wasn’t here. Her mamá, though, made no hesitation to tell everyone they were only doing the family dance. Coco smiled. That’s what she thought.
It was weird, seeing her mamá dance. She looked so focused, so confident, so... happy ! How could música be so terrible if it brought a smile that big to her mamá’s face?
Everyone cheered when the dance was done. Her mamá smiled at her before dusting her dress off and going to stand at the same corner she had been at the entire party. Coco just knew that if anyone complimented her on her dancing, she would tell them she had no clue what they were talking about. But Coco didn’t have time to laugh at that, Nathalie was already leading her mamá away with a fake problem. And Pepita was following. That stupid gato better not ruin this.
Once Coco knew she was gone, she ran up to the mariachi. “Perdoname, Señor, pero can I borrow su guitarra para la canción?”
The Musico smiled before nodding and handing her the guitar. She stood in the middle of the plaza before loudly strumming the guitar. It got everyone around to quiet down and soon the entire plaza was quiet, even her Tíos, who started looking around frantically. She didn’t pay them any mind though. “I will be playing a song that mi papá used to sing to me every night when I was just a girl.” And so she sang.
Hoy me tengo que ir, mi amor
No llores, por favor.
Te llevo en mi corazón y cerca me tendrás,
A solas yo te cantaré soñando en regresar.
Aunque tengo que emigrar,
Si mi guitarra oyes llorar.
Ella con su triste canto te acompañará,
Hasta que en mis brazos tú estés,
Though that had been all her father had sung to her, over the years she decided to add her own words. And so she kept singing.
Si en tu mente vivo estoy,
Mis sueños yo te doy.
Te llevo en mi corazón y te acompañaré,
Unidos en nuestra canción, contigo ahí estaré
Si sola crees estar
Y mi cantar te irá a abrazar.
Aún en la distancia nunca vayas a olvidar,
Que yo contigo siempre voy,
She finished the song with the last strum of the guitar. She smiled as everyone cheered. But when she opened her eyes, she saw that not everyone was cheering. Her mamá was walking straight towards her, her face covered in rage and Pepita by her side. “Pinche gato,” she muttered before realizing what danger she was in.
“Que estas haciendo,” her mamá yelled, ripping the guitarra from her hands. The audience was silent in an instance.
“Mamá, it was just one song,” Coco tried making it sound like no big deal.
“It wasn’t just a song,” her mamá yelled. “You think I don’t know what song that is?! Do you think I’m stupid?! And when did you learn to play the guitar?! Have you been keeping secrets from me?!”
“No! I mean, si, pero-”
“Pero nada! You know how I feel about music! Music is a curse. A careless indulgence that almost tore this family apart! I kept it together, not him ! He abandoned his family! He abandoned us! He abandoned you !” Coco was sure that shiver that went down her spine was the result of her heart completely shattering. Tears started falling before she even knew it. “And yet, you still remember him as some kind of hero! Pues, el no es! If he were one, he’d be here! Pero, el no es! El no es, el no es, el no es! How many times must I repeat myself before you understand that he didn’t care about us! He cared more about music than he ever did us!”
Her mamá finally stopped yelling and took a deep, shaking breath. When she looked at her, Coco thought she saw guilt in her eyes, but she didn’t wait around to find out. She took off running, finally letting her sobs out.
She didn’t hear her mother sigh. She didn’t hear her yell to everyone that the party was over. She didn’t hear her say, “What am I going to do with her?”
Coco ran as fast and far as she could. Thank God that they never got to changing her shoes, she wouldn’t have known how to run in heels. She ran to the only other safeplace she had. The attic was too close to her pris- Casa, her casa. It felt more like a prison, though. Now more than ever. She just couldn’t go there. The dark, empty forest looked more inviting, even if her dress kept getting caught on bushes and her hair on low branches. She lost a few strips of the skirt of her gown and her tiara, and her curls were a complete mess. She was sure her makeup was ruined from all the tears. And the closer she got to the river, the dirtier her shoes and the hem of her gown got.
She fell to her knees when she was finally at the river and let out a deafening cry. Her mamá was lying. Her papá loved her. Those were some of the last words he had said to her. So it had to be true! He loved her! He loved her, he loved her, he loved her! “He loves me, he loves me, he loves me,” she repeated to herself. Yet, it didn’t make her feel any better. Her mamá’s words were getting to her, filling her with doubt. Each point she had made felt like a jab to her heart.
What if her mamá was right? What if he had abandoned them? What if he had cared more about music than he did them? That would explain why he had left without hesitation, why the letters had stopped coming, why he had never returned ! Each realization made her cry harder. “He didn’t care about us,” she sobbed. “He didn’t care about me !” More sobs came out. “But he promised! He promised, he promised, he promised!” Repeating his lie only made her cry harder. She ripped out damp grass from the ground and threw it in the river, her entire body filled with anger. “Pinche mentiroso! Traidor! Desertor! Cobarde !” With every insult she sent to her papá, she grew weaker.
Soon, she could only sob into her knees. She wasn’t sure how long she stayed there, but la luna was high in the sky by the time she finally stopped. She took a shaky breath. “Why would he say something he didn’t mean?” Her Tíos had told her that, she remembered. After she had asked when her papá was coming home, her mamá had said he wasn’t. But she didn’t believe her. Because he had told her he promised to come back. Even when her mamá told him not to, he looked her in the eye and said he would.
It hit her like a ton of ladrillos.
Her mamá had told him not to come back. Those were her exact words, she remembered now. “ If you leave, don’t come back. ” She had said that! Coco wiped whatever tears she had left and started laughing. “She told him not to come back! But she didn’t mean it!” She crawled towards the water and looked at her reflection. She looked like a bruja, but a happy one. Then she looked up to the sky. “He doesn’t care about music more than me! He didn’t abandon me! He loves me!” She let out another laugh before splashing the water in glee. “He loves me, he loves me, he loves me,” she yelled, this time with no doubt. The only reason he wasn’t here was because he had taken her mamá’s words too seriously. He wanted to come home! She could feel it now! He was just too scared! “I-I-I have to find him,” she resolved. “I have to tell him she didn’t mean it! I have to tell him that he can come home!” She laughed in joy at how easy it was. “He can come home!” She let out a few more giggles before realizing a flaw in her plan. How would she find him? She didn’t know where he was, she didn’t have money to travel. All she had were his letters. And her mamá didn’t give nearly enough allowance to be able to travel.
Her eyes widened in realization. She had just solved her problems. She had his letters! From all the cities he had been to! Someone was bound to remember him, her papá was unforgettable! And if she wanted more money, she would actually have to start working in the shop. She would work just until she had enough money. She would play along with her mamá just until she could get away. She nodded, accepting her plan. “I’m going to find you, papá, y te taeré a casa.” She stood up with newfound hope. Convincing her mamá was going to be easy.
As she got closer to the town, she could hear people yelling. “Socorro!” “Coco!” Were people looking for her? She rolled her eyes at herself. Of course people were looking for her. She heard a couple of children calling her name nearby.
Still in the shadows, and in a good mood, she waited until they got closer before jumping out. “Donde estan mis niños?!” She wailed, causing them to scream and drop their lanterns.
“La llorona,” one yelled in fear before they all ran off, screaming.
She let out a few giggles and chortles. She was sure one of them peed their pants. She felt a bit guilty, but she still laughed. She decided to head to her home. She walked with her head down, she didn’t want to look like she was in a good mood.
“Coco!” She snapped her head towards the familiar voice that was her mamá’s. Coco ran towards her and buried her face in her shoulders. “Mija, I was so worried!”
“Lo siento, mamá,” she wailed. “I’m sorry! I should have listened to you!” She forced tears out of her eyes. “You’ve always been there for me! It was you who put a roof over my head and food in my stomach! Not him! He’s nothing! I’m sorry I didn’t believe you!”
“It’s ok, mija, it’s ok,” her mamá soothed, petting her hair. “It’s not your fault. You were just a girl, you didn’t know any better.”
“Mamá,” Coco started, calming down.
“Quiero aprender a hacer zapatos.”
Her mamá gasped and pulled away from the hug. Probably to get a good look at her. “De verdad?!” Coco nodded and her mamá pulled her back into a hug. “Ay, mi hija! Una Zapatera!” Her mamá broke the hug again and started covering her face in kisses. Her mamá seemed so happy that she almost felt guilty of what would happen soon.
Pretending to give up music was hard. Though it looked like she couldn’t care less about it on the outside, she was dying on the inside. Every time they walked passed a mariachi, or a simple guitarrista, or even just a person whistling a tune, she forced herself to ignore it. ‘For papá,’ she would remind herself. The surge of pride that would flash through her mamá’s eyes didn’t make her feel any better.
Pepita, though, still always kept a watch on her. Every time she would ignore music, her mamá praised her and she would have a reason to gloat at the damn thing. That stupid gato had been getting her in trouble for years, now she couldn’t do anything. It filled Coco with glee.
“So, when are you leaving,” Nathalie asked her while they both shopped.
“Next payment,” she answered while picking up some peppers. She could make mole tonight with the chicken. “I’ll have more than enough for what I plan.” Tomorrow night, she would be leaving.
“And what exactly are you planning?”
“I’ve already told you-”
“That you’re gonna go find your papá, yo se, yo se. Pero, how is that gonna work? You don’t know where he is. How are you even sure anyone from any of these cities are gonna remember a nameless musico from thirteen years ago? And what happens when you run out of money? There are flaws in your plan, prima. Huge ones.”
Coco sighed. She didn’t expect Nathalie to understand, her father was still in her life. “I’ll find a Zapateria and work there. I’m make beautiful shoes! I made yours!” She watched as Nathalie glanced down at her beautiful boots. Coco squinted at them. They needed a polishing. But that was for later. “I’ll find a way to make out there, there should be hundreds of Zapaterias in Mexico City.”
“Is that where you’re going?”
“It was the address on his last letter.” She looked at the table full of pan dulce. A few cochinitos couldn’t hurt. She paid for some before turning back to Nathalie, who had her arms crossed. “Que?!”
“No me gusta. I don’t like it! You, going off alone, to a city you’ve never been to before, trying to find a man you haven’t seen in years! What if- what if something happens to you?! What if you don’t find him?! What if you don’t like what you find?! There’s too many what if’s, Coco.”
“You are completely prepared to have your child,” Coco laughed, looking at her friend’s round belly. She had gotten married shortly after the quince and the little one was close to it’s due date. “You’re already acting como una madre.”
“Coco, you need to grow up!” Coco rolled her eyes, hearing this before. “I was with you on this a year ago, but this has gone too far. You’re making great money making shoes, you’re successful here! And you’re gonna give all that up?! For a man you barely know?!”
Coco ignored her as she looked at the types of yarn. “I’ll send Rico a scarf when I finish it,” she replied to her friend’s worries.
Coco smiled as she heard her grunt, knowing she was rolling her eyes. “It’s a girl,” Nathalie corrected. “Her name is Alma!”
Coco laughed, knowing siding with her esposo irked her. “I don’t know, it looks like you’re holding a boy.”
Nathalie rolled her eyes again. “People don’t know that. I feel that it’s a girl. So it’s a girl.”
“And if it’s a boy,” she asked, a mischievous glint in her eye.
“Bah! I’ll love him anyway!” She gave Coco a pointed look. “Like a parent should. Not abandon him just because he wasn’t what I wanted.”
“My papá didn’t abandon me, Nathalie,” Coco reminded, paying for the yarn. “He wants to come home. He’s just too scared of mi mamá.”
“You should be, too.”
“I am, pero, just like mi papá, I hide it well.”
“Oye, Coco!” They both turned to see a young man coming towards her. That was Jorge Garcia. He had the voice of an angel and a body that made women quiver, almost all the unmarried women Coco’s age were drooling after him. Not Coco, though. She gave him a blank expression as he finally made it to her. “I remember you promised me a dinner with you tonight.”
Coco sighed. “Jorge, that was a lie. And I apologize for that. But, I don’t have time for silly dates with stupid men.” He gave her an annoyed look. “I have groceries to buy. So, adios!” She locked arms with Nathalie and walked right passed him.
Nathalie gave her a look once they were a good distance. “I cannot believe you keep turning him down. Do you know how many girls would love to be in your shoes?”
Coco rolled her eyes before looking over her groceries. She had everything. “El no me quiere. He wants what’s between my thighs.”
“That’s very specific.”
“Muy verdad, también. I don’t see myself with someone like him. I see myself with someone who truly loves me.”
“What do you know of love?”
“You don’t know it, you really don’t,” Coco explained. “But when Enrique looks at you when you’re not looking, he has this face.” Coco smiled brightly. “It’s the same face my papá would give to mi mamá.”
“Oye, don’t worry me like that,” Nathalie joked. Then she made a face. “Ugh! She’s kicking! I’ve been standing too long.” She brought Coco into a hug. “I’ll see you later Prima.”
“Adios, Nathalie,” Coco said before breaking the hug and watching her go. She smiled. Her friend was going to be a madre soon. It was a shame she wouldn’t be here to see that.
“ Un poco loco-o-o-o-o-o!! ”
Coco snapped her head towards an alleyway. She knew that song. She watched as a mariachi passed by on the other side singing lyrics she could barely remember her papá singing.
Chiflado tú me vuelves
Y eso está un poco loco.
Tu mente que despega,
Tú siempre con ideas,
Con mi cabeza juegas
Todo es un poco loco-o-o-o!
She looked at them, memories spinning in her head. A song he used to sing to her mamá. A song she once tried to sing to her too, but got scolded for. A song that was his. He had done it, people were singing his music. Her papá was a musico! She wanted to scream, laugh, jump in joy, something! But she stood there, frozen. If he was famous, he would now be easier to find. If she asked them about him, she could find him faster!
She took a step towards them before stopping herself. No, she couldn’t ask anyone in Santa Cecilia. Word could get back to her mamá and everything she had worked for would be for nothing. She slowly turned away from them, determination on her face as she walked the opposite direction. Once she got to Mexico City, she would start her search. Someone was bound to know where her papá was.
She walked away so quickly that she didn’t see her mamá across the courtyard. She didn’t see the shock on her face after witnessing what just happened. She didn’t see the look of pride a second later. Nor did she hear her mamá say, “She’s rejecting music on her own!”
Coco started dinner the second she was done making shoes for the day. She always started it alone ever since she turned fifteen. That had meant she was a woman and could cook on her own while her mamá stayed in the shop for a bit. She didn’t understand what the big deal was about making shoes. Sure, the end result was beautiful, but the process was a complete bore. She smiled through the day though, making it seem like she was enjoying herself. She only truly enjoyed herself when it was a personal project, like making Nathalie’s wedding shoes. Those had been fun. And then the boots she made for her seventeenth birthday, those had been fun as well. She knew Nathalie so well it was easy to think up a pattern for both pairs of shoes.
Other shoes were another story. She never put her heart into other projects, not like her Tíos, who invented all types of shoes. They once made a pair of shoes with bristles on the bottom so that one could clean with their feet, but once one would put them on and stand, the bristles went flat. She often laughed at them when her mamá scolded them for “wasting perfectly good cuero!” Coco never felt the need to tinker in the shoe business outside of payment. She made them like they wanted, followed the rules, the instructions, the plan. She never added any surprises or twists like her mamá or Tíos, but people still loved the shoes she made.
She had started making the mole when one of her Tíos walked in. “Hola, Tío Óscar,” she greeted brightly, ready for the banter they both gave her every day.
As expected, her other Tío came in with a smirk. “How do you know I’m not Óscar?”
“Because you two are completely different,” she answered, adding the peppers to the chocolate.
“We are,” They asked, just like they always did.
“Yes,” she smiled.
“As different as boots and sandals,” her Tío Óscar started.
“As buckles and laces,” her Tío Felipe went on.
“As heels and flats!”
“As scissors and saws!”
“As wood and rubber!”
“As left feet and right feet!”
Coco looked between the two each time they spoke, dizzying herself. She rubbed her temples with a laugh. “Dios mio, you two are gonna give me a headache.” She heard them laugh as she turned to check on the mole. It would be done in a few minutes.
“Óscar, Felipe,” her mamá yelled as she barged in, Pepita by her side. “What are these?!” Her mamá held up a pair of shoes with wheels on them.
Coco looked at them with just as much surprise as they did. “Are those- are those,” she squinted at them. It looked like the new invention from the Estados Unidos. “Carros?”
Her Tíos looked proud for their invention, seeing that she could recognize them. Her mamá gave them a glare and, suddenly, they didn’t look so proud. “We thought they could be used as toys!”
“For children,” her Tío Felipe explained.
“How many times must I tell you not to waste perfectly good cuero?!” She slammed the shoes on the table. “Find some use for them!”
As her tíos scrambled to find some use for them, her mamá came up to her and brought her into a hug. “I got it from here, Mija.” She smiled at her hija. “Go take a break before Señor Chavez comes for his shoes.”
Coco looked at her mamá, confused. “He’s not supposed to pick them up until tomorrow.”
“No, that’s today.”
“He said viernes.”
“Hoy es viernes.”
Coco gasped. “And they’re still at the shop!” She gathered up her skirt and started running. She stopped a few seconds later before heading back. “Mamá, llaves, por favor!” Her mamá tossed them to her not a second later and she took off running again.
She opening up the shop when she heard a man call. “Hola, Señorita Soccoro!” She turned to see a tall man with a big, white mustache and a straw hat.
“Hola, Señor Chaves. I was just about to get your shoes from the shop.”
“That’s funny, I was just about to get my shoes from su hacienda!” He laughed at his own little joke and Coco couldn’t help but chuckle.
She opened the shop doors up. “I’ll just be a moment.” She loved the look of happiness on his face when she came back out with what had to be the most amazing shoes he’s ever seen, if she had anything to say about it.
“Ay, gracias, Mija! They’re amazing!” He took them as he handed her a small pouch of pesos. “And knowing your family, I won’t get any blisters! Gracias, Mija,” he said once more before taking his leave.
Coco smiled at him before lifting up the pouch of pesos, smiling like she won la loteria. In a way, she had. She was finally going to be able to leave. She turned to walk back to the hacienda…
...and screamed at the sight of Pepita. “Pinche gato,” she yelled after getting over her fear. “Que quieres?!”
The cat only meowed as she crawled behind her. Coco skeptically followed her every move until she stood at the shop doors and used one paw to push them open. Coco’s eyes widened. She almost forgot to lock the shop! She glared at the cat as she brought out las llaves.
“At least you’re good for something,” she muttered. She turned to the cat with the glare. “You've been in a pain in mi culo todo mi vida.” She gave her a smile. “Pero you won’t have to worry about me after today.” Now that she got paid today , she could head to the train station in the morning. Not without a disguise, though. One she already had. She swore she saw the cat give her a questioning look. “Bye, pinche gato.” She smiled at the cat as she walked passed it and to the hacienda.
Coco woke up before dawn. If she could even say that. She hadn’t slept a wink. First, she wrote the letter to her mamá, telling her everything except where she was going. Then, she started packing. Dresses, skirts, shoes, money . She kept getting up to double check that her money was still in her suitcase. It was. She just could not afford to leave it behind.
So she checked it once more before putting on her disguise and heading out.
On her way to the exit, she saw the zapatos carros her tíos made. She stared at them for a second before grabbing them. They would probably come in handy.
The station opened by the time she got there and she ran to the booth to buy a ticket. “I would like a ticket to Mexico City, please!”
The man looked at her like she was crazy. “Uh, s-su pelo, señorita.” Coco felt her wig to see that it was out of place. She adjusted it. He gave her a wary smile. “A ticket to Mexico City, si dijiste?”
Coco adjusted the naranjas hidden in her bra after feeling one slipping. The man looked at her like she had grown a second head. “Yes, please,” she answered getting out her money. “When does the train leave?”
“Una hora, señorita.” He scribbled something down on a small piece of papel and handed it to her as she handed him the money. “So this is a boleto de tren,” she muttered to herself. “Gracias,” she said to the man before heading towards the train. She showed the next man her ticket and he let her on board.
She wasn’t sure how long she had waited on the train. Asking someone what time it was didn’t help either since there was hardly anyone in here and she had already asked the same person twice and they’d become annoyed with her. Maybe she should’ve taken one of her Tíos’ pocket watches. No, they wouldn’t know which one she’d taken and be fighting about it for weeks. Just like the needle.
She shuddered at the memory. Then the conductor walked in. “The train will be starting it’s departure in 10 minutos. Then he left and Coco sighed in relief. The train would be leaving soon and her mamá still hadn’t found her. Maybe she could actually get away with this.
Then, what seemed about five minutes later, she heard a woman yelling outside. “Doña, por favor! You can’t go in without a ticket!”
“Let me go, you hijo de puta! Mi hija is in there!”
Coco’s color drained from her face. She knew that voice. For some stupid reason, she ran to the window to see her mamá trying to fight off security. They locked eyes for one second and Coco knew, she just knew, that her mamá had recognized her. If she didn’t want her mamá to get arrested, she would have to stop this. She threw off her wig, which confused most people, and took out the naranjas, which disgusted others, and headed towards the exit. “Mamá,” she yelled to her without getting off the train.
“Que te pasa,” her mamá yelled, her voice getting louder with each word. “You told me you were over this!”
“That was a lie, mamá! I’m sorry! But I have to find him!”
“How many times must I tell you that he abandoned us! He didn’t care about us! That’s why he’s not here! Pero no escuchas! Get down from there, now!”
Coco shook her head, drowning out her mamá’s claims. “He wants to come home, mamá! He’s just too scared. He took you too seriously!”
She wasn’t sure what happened when a train started, never having been in one, but she was sure that noise meant it would. She looked to her mamá, whose face was etched in confusion. “Mija, what are you talking about?!” She tried taking a step forward, but security stopped her. She glared at the man, but made no attempt to move any further.
“Mamá, it’s ok.” She smiled at her. “I just have to tell him you didn’t mean it! That he can come home!” Someone tapped her shoulder and she turned to see the ticket inspector. He motioned for her to come inside, the train was already starting to move. She turned to her mamá one last time. “Voy a traerlo a casa, mamá. I promise!” She yelled the last part as the train started moving. She went to go sit down after that.
She didn’t see her mamá try to fight off security on last time. She didn’t see when she fell to her knees giving up. She didn’t see her mamá crying at the loss of her daughter. Porque the only thing she could see at the moment was a happy future con su papá.
I AM SO SORRY FOR UPDATING SO LATE!! But, I had a little surprise I had to make for you all commenting on how you wish Hector was in the story and I finally finished it. If you wanna see it, it's in chapter one! Love you guys! Until next chapter!
Coco looked at everything with amazement. The city was filled with busy people and tall buildings, even bigger than her church! There were men carrying what seemed like millions of baskets on their backs. She bought one, amazed. There were vendors upon vendors along the streets and she couldn’t help take a look at each and every one of them. They sold clothing or food or flowers. One she found really interesting was one filled with saddles. Did people still ride horses in the city.
She barely got out of the way of the horse that came up behind her. “Ah!” She looked at it with wide eyes. Most of Santa Cecilia had toros or burros, it was a sight to see when a horse came by. Especially if it was a black one like the one before her. And her family had no use for animals, only that pinche gato.
“Can I pet him,” she asked the man that had come down. He yelled and tripped at the sight of her and Coco let out a yelp before helping him up. “I’m so sorry!”
“No, no,” He yelled, accepting her help. “You just startled me!” After grabbing his hat from the ground and putting it on, he finally turned to her, both of them finally getting a good look at the other.
Coco didn't know what the guy was thinking. She didn't know that he thought she was the prettiest woman that he'd ever seen. She didn't know that he hoped she would say yes to possibly seeing him again. She didn't know any of this. She did know what she was thinking and that was that his shoes need some mending. She then scolded herself for letting shoes be the first thing she noticed. As she traveled up, she found the man to be really tall. And not too hard on the eyes. That was the least of her concerns, though. “Are you alright?”
“Si, si, I’m fine.” He gave her dashing smile. She was not impressed. In fact, she was more interested in the horse. “You can pet her, in you want.”
Coco smiled before placing a hand on her snout. “She’s beautiful.”
“Which is why she deserves the best sillín. I’m here to buy one, actually,” he informed. “Mine’s all cracked and dried up.”
When Coco looked at the horse’s back, sure enough, she saw the poor thing. “Dios mio. What a waste of perfectly good cuero.” She turned to him, a slight glare. “Do you take care of su sillín as well as su caballo.”
“Try to take care of the new one you’re getting. A good way to keep su sillín nice and healthy is to clean it with aceite y vinagre. But not everyday, that’ll damage it.” She didn’t notice his impressed face as she kept on petting the horse. She turned to him with a smile. “Also, you won’t want oil stains on your pantalones.” She laughed at her own little joke.
The man smiled at her. “You know a lot about leather. I assume help make these.”
Coco shook her head. “Yo hago zapatos.”
“Oh, I’d love to see them!”
“No, I don’t make them here.” She thought about it. “At least, not yet. I made them in my old town, I was hoping to find a better market here,” she lied, not feeling comfortable telling a total stranger the whole truth. “Do you know where I could find a shop?”
Coco watched as the man thought about it. “I know a place.” He smiled at her. “But, first, I gotta get me a saddle.” He took off the one from his horse and headed to the vendor. Coco watched them exchange a few words before the man handed the vendor his old saddle and a pouch of pesos. He picked out one that didn’t look too different from his old one.
“Me llamo Gabino, by the way.” After securing her luggage, he quickly mounted his horse and held out his hand.
She took it and he helped her up on the horse.
“Me llamo Socorro. Pero mis amigos me llaman Coco.”
“That’s a beautiful name,” he complimented.
“Gracias! Mi papá named me.” She had found that out by accident when she once asked why her name was, well, her name. Her mamá had absentmindedly told her that she wasn’t the one who named her. When Coco had asked who did, she didn’t want to answer. There was only one person in the world her mamá didn’t talk about anymore. She smiled. “So, tell me about the Zapateria. Is it a good one?”
“It’s the best in the city. To me, at least. They made me these boots.”
Coco laughed. “Then they are going to love my help.”
“Oye, don’t disrespect my shoes,” he joked. “I’ve had them for three years.”
Coco nodded in appreciation that the shoes only had so little damage in such a long time. “How far is it?”
“Not too far. Just have to get Angelita to go a bit faster. Hold on tight!”
She quickly grabbed his shoulders as he flapped his reins, causing who she now knew was Angelita to go faster. “This is amazing,” she yelled in glee.
“Your first time riding a caballo?”
Coco wasn’t sure how long they had been riding, but it seemed to be over too soon when they stopped. She unmounted with all the grace of a disabled burro and landed on her but on the dirt road. The man didn’t laugh, only helped her up. “Gracias,” she said.
He gave her a smile before pointing towards a building. “This is it.”
Coco looked towards the building and almost gasped. The building had the last name NAVA printed on it in cursive letters. Underneath it was printed “Familia De Zapateros.” Coco let out a breathy chuckle. “So this is where they left,” she muttered to herself. She was suddenly filled with glee. She ran inside before Gabino could ask what she meant. “Señor Nava! Arianna! Tío Pedro!” The people in question stopped what they were doing and snapped their heads towards her. Probably wondering who on earth this crazy girl was.
“Uh,” Arianna started, turning to her papá then turning back to her. “Can we help you?”
“You look familiar,” her Tío Pedro said.
“You know the Navas,” Gabino asked, astonished.
Coco nodded, excited. “Señor Nava taught mi mamá to make shoes.”
Her Tío’s eyes widened in recognition. “Socorro!”
“Socorro?” Arianna looked at her, surprised.
“Socorro?” Señor Nava squinted through his thick, tiny glasses.
Her Tío stood up and went to bring her into a hug. “It’s so good to see you, mija! How’s the shoe business!?”
“It’s going great back in Santa Cecilia! Mamá’s made a name for herself! In fact, business is the reason I’m here. I kinda need a job while I’m here in the city.”
Arianna set down her tools and walked over to her. “Why are you here in the city? Is your mamá with you?”
Coco shook her head. “I’m here for personal reasons, actually.”
“I thought you were here to find better market?”
She turned to Gabino with a sheepish grin. “That was a lie. I apologize for that.”
Her Tío Pedro laughed. Coco had no idea that the reason he was laughing was because that was something her papá used to say. “So, you came for a job, ay! Can you make shoes?”
Coco showed them her boots. “Hijole! Those are cute!” Arianna went down to her knees to inspect them. “I love the calavera designs, they’re so you!”
“Gracias, prima!” The designs had actually been inspired by what little she could remember of her papá’s guitarra.
“Let her work here.” They all turned to Señor Nava. Coco couldn’t believe he was still alive. “We need more help, anyway.”
Coco smiled. “And I’ll be her first customer,” Gabino spoke up. He gave her a smile. “I expect nothing short of perfection.”
Coco laughed. “Of course they’re gonna be perfecto! I’m making them!”
They all laughed before Coco grabbed Gabino by the shoulders and shoved him in a chair. Then she went down on his knees and pulled off his boots. She got some measuring tools from Arianna’s workspace and started measuring his feet. “Oye, I can just tell you my size!” She didn’t know how uncomfortable he felt at the moment.
Coco held up a finger. “I don’t care what size you think you are, I care about the size you actually are.” She went back to measuring.
Her tío and prima laughed. “Eres la hija de tu mamá,” her tío said.
Coco froze at the words. She really was acting like her mamá right now. But, then again, this project was personal. A way to prove to the Navas that she was just as good. She forced a smile at her tío. “Ay, I got her looks, too!” That caused them to laugh harder. After measuring his feet, Gabino decided it was his time to leave.
“I’ll walk you out,” Coco offered. “Thank you so much for showing me this place, I never would have found it without you.”
“It was no problem helping a pretty thing like you,” he joked. Then, his features softened. “You think I could see you again?”
“Well, of course,” Coco said, stating the obvious. “You can come to check on your boots any time you want.”
She didn’t notice his crestfallen face for he covered it up in a second. “I’ll be sure to do that!” She didn’t know that he was planning on coming in every day to get to know her. She did know, though, that he was a bit too showy with his horse as the beauty reared before galloping off. She smiled and shook her head. She knew he liked her, but she didn’t like him back. She was, however, truly grateful that he got her here.
“Dejamé en paz!” Her head snapped towards the sound of an irritated girl. There was an adorable girl that looked like she ate too many tamales, but it worked in her favor. Her hair was in a beautiful, braided bun that had gorgeous, pink flowers in it and a dress that matched. She carried a basket full of even more of them and was using her matching shoes to try to kick some drunk idiot away from her.
“Me quieres, Yo se, señorita!” He tried grabbing her arm again and gave him a look of disgust as she tried pulling away.
Coco pursed her lips. That poor girl. Then she chuckled. Not on her watch. She pulled off her zapato as she walked over to them and landed her zapato on his face. That got him to sober up a bit. He looked at her, confused. “You heard the girl. Dejala!”
He laughed in her face as the girl looked at her like she was una diosa. “And what are you gonna do if I don’t.”
“Mi hermano te va a disparar if you don’t leave me alone,” the girl threatened.
The man laughed again. Coco was about to slap him again when she saw a policía walking their way. She smirked as she put on her boot and turned to the girl. “Gritas.”
“Que,” she and the drunk asked in unison.
“Gritas,” she repeated, more urgent glancing as she glanced at the policía.
The girl took a glance and her eyes widened in realization. As did the drunk’s. But it was too late for him to do anything about it for the girl was already screaming. Coco wasted no time taking off her shoe again and smacking the drunk with it. It was time for her acting skills. “Ay, mi hermanita!” She brought the girl into a hug as the policía ran over to see what was wrong.
“Que paso, señoritas,” he asked, looking between them and the drunk.
“That man,” Coco growled at the drunk. “He groped mi hermanititita!” She hugged the girl tighter to give it affect. She looked to the officer with pleading eyes. She didn’t always use her beauty to get what she wanted, but when she did, it had amazing effects. “She’s not even a quinceñera yet!”
That was enough for the officer to turn abruptly to the man. “You’re coming with me, señor.” He turned to the girls. “Las autoridades will take care of him, señoritas, you won’t have to worry about him again.”
“Gracias, oficial, gracias,” Coco thanked with just enough emotion to make it seem genuine. “Let’s go, hermanita,” she said as she pulled the girl along by her shoulders. Once they were out of earshot, she asked. “Are you ok?”
The girl practically squealed in response. “That was amazing! Gracias!”
“De nada! I hope he stays away from you from now on.”
“Oh, he will! Thanks to you!” She smiled up at her. “And I actually am fifteen.”
Coco chuckled. “Well, the oficial doesn’t need to know that.” They stopped in front of the shoe shop. “Would tu hermano actually shoot him?”
She nodded. “He’s very protective of me. Not many people take him seriously, though, porque he’s kind of short. Maybe an inch or two shorter than you.”
Coco giggled. “That’s saying something, porque yo soy muy baja.”
The girl giggled before holding out a hand. “I’m Rosita.”
Coco took it. “Socorro. But my friends and family call me Coco.”
The girl sighed happily. “Ay, to have a family! I wish I had one. I mean, I do have my brother. But he’s not really mi hermano.”
“Really?” They stopped walking in front of the Zapatería.
Rosita nodded. “He was supposed to be my husband, an arranged marriage getting me out of the orphanage cause I was ready to leave.” Coco gave her a look of sympathy. “But, he didn’t see me that way. So he just took me as his hermana.”
Coco smiled. “That’s very kind of him. What’s his name?”
“Julio! He is the sweetest mayor hermano ever! He did my hair today! Isn’t it beautiful!” Looking at the braided bun, Coco nodded in agreement. “He used to help out at the orphanage, that’s how I knew him. The Hermanas knew I wanted to leave, so they arranged the marriage so that I could leave safely. We skipped our own wedding, though, and ran away to here. And, ahora, he’s mi hermano!”
Coco had no clue how to respond to that. Does that mean she ran away from the orphanage? And Julio was her accomplice? She chuckled. She had heard stranger things. Like a family in Mexico who hated music. “That’s gonna be a fun story to tell the kids.”
Rosita laughed. “If he ever finds a woman! Siempre está trabajando!”
“Coco, I thought you were supposed to be designing some boots!” Coco turned to look through the door, her prima giving her a knowing smile.
“Speaking of work,” she turned to Rosita. “I have to get back to it. It was nice meeting you, Rosita. Hopefully I’ll see you around.”
“It was nice meeting you too, Coco. I hope I see you soon.” She waved as she backed away.
“Get home safely,” she called to her one last time. With one last wave, Rosita turned the corner.
Coco went back inside with a smile.
“We close in an hour,” Señor Nava said from his gorgeous singer. “Get done what you can, mija.”
Coco sent him a smile and got to work.
She thanked them all before parting ways for the night. She didn't hear her prima ask her papá, “Should have asked her if she had a place to stay?”
Coco didn’t worry about finding a place until it was too late. At first, she was blinded by the pretty lights and all the vendors and their merchandise. And, most importantly, the music ! It felt so nice to be able to listen to music without having to worry if her mamá was around. Though the music was distracting her from her worries, she couldn’t properly enjoy it. She only knew the bailes from her quince and those had taken weeks of preparation. She’d stop by a group every few minutes and plenty of men had asked her to dance. She shook her head with an apologetic smile before dragging her luggage to the next group...and the next group...and the next group…
When the sun was truly down and she felt her feet aching and yawn escaped her mouth it hit her like a ton of ladrillos. She had nowhere to stay the night! The music was still playing from a distance, but, here, where all the haciendas were, it was mostly people having one last conversation with their neighbors before bed.
She couldn’t go back and ask the Navas to spend the night because she didn’t know where they lived. She also didn’t know where any of the posadas were.
That gave her an idea. She opened her mouth and started to sing.
En el nombre del cielo
os pido posada,
pues no puede andar
mi esposa amada.
Everyone within earshot turned to look at like she was crazy. And maybe she was. Just like her papá. She moved closer to a family with laughing children.
No seas inhumano,
que el Dios de los cielos
te lo premiará.
The grown ups gave her apologetic smiles before beckoning their children inside and closing the door.
She went up to another group, they all seemed her age. Maybe they’d take pity.
yo soy carpintero
de nombre José.
They only laughed at her before saying goodbye’s to their amigos and heading to their own haciendas. One told her she had a good voice. She thanked him before going on to the next couple.
Posada te pide,
por sólo una noche
la Reina del Cielo.
They slammed the door in her face.
She sighed before looking back at the rest of the haciendas. All the lights were out. She turned behind her and found those haciendas had their lights out too. All except one. She took a deep breath, praying to the lord, before walking over to it with determination. She sang loud and proud.
Mi esposa es María.
es Reina del Cielo,
y madre va a ser
del Divino Verbo.
She heard voices for a few seconds before some shuffling. Soon a door was opened to her by short man with a hat that was probably bigger than she was. She gave him an apologetic smile. “I know this is crazy, and I know I’m a stranger, but I only need a place to sleep for the night! I’ll be gone before you even wake up! I promise!” She waited patiently for the man’s answer as he opened his mouth, but, unfortunately, someone interrupted him from inside.
“Who is it, Julio,” a familiar voice asked before a familiar face popped out from underneath his arm.
Coco’s eyes widened and she smiled. “Rosita!”
“Coco!” She barged passed the man and brought her into a hug.
“You two know each other,” the man finally spoke, confused.
“She’s the one I was telling you about,” Rosita explained. “The one that got that guy arrested!”
The man was looking at her something akin to admiration. “That was you?!”
Coco nodded, somewhat sheepishly. Then she straightened her stance. “And you must be Julio, the sweetest mayor hermano ever.”
The man- Julio laughed. “Si, I guess I am.” He suddenly swung the door wide open. “Anyone who helps my sister is welcomed in mi casa. You can stay as long as you want!”
“Oh, I don’t want to be that much trouble-”
“Nonsense,” he interrupted. “You wouldn’t be trouble at all! Rosita needs more girl friends, anyway. She can’t be hanging around me all the time.”
Coco laughed when Rosita stuck her tongue out at him and laughed harder when he did it back. They were adorable! She started singing the last verse of posada.
Dios pague señores
y que os colme el cielo
To her surprise, Julio started singing as well.
Dichosa la casa
que abriga este día
a la Virgen Pura
la hermosa María.
Coco wasn’t sure why she was surprised, she had heard plenty of people singing before. Pero Julio tenía la voz de un ángel. She had no time to think about that because Julio gestured behind her with a smile. “Will your cat be staying with us too?”
She turned around to see a grey and white cat with golden glowing eyes looking up at her. Pepita .
I'm really sorry about such long waits for updates, I really am. This chapter is a bit boring, it's just to move the story along, but I hope you like it anyway. You learn a bit more about Julio, though, so that's nice. The next chapter will have some drama and laughs, though.
She woke up not knowing where she was. The walls weren't a bright yellow like her room should be. Instead, they were an aging white. The sheets on the bed weren't pink, but, again, an aging white. She sat up and rubbed her eyes, yawning. The only things in the room were the bed, a drawer, and her luggage.
She was suddenly wide awake. She was here in Mexico City, in a stranger-turned-friend's guest room, finally away from her music hating family, on a journey to find her papá. She smiled. She was actually doing it!
She felt some shuffling behind her and turned to see a grey and white cat sleeping next to where her head would have been on the pillow. Pepita. She grabbed the end of the pillow and flipped it over, rudely throwing Pepita to the floor. “Wake up you pinche gato.” Pepita hissed at her from the floor. She hissed back.
After getting dressed, she walked out of the room. The house was silent except for some snoring she heard from one room. Had she woken up too early? Her mom always made them wake up at dawn. ‘Nunca es demasiado temprano para trabajar,’ she would say. And then they would all work on shoes until el sol went down. They would repeat the process the next day and the next day and the next day. But she wasn’t in Santa Cecilia anymore. She was here, in Mexico City, trying to find her papá.
She looked up and saw Pepita on the counter, next to a basket of eggs. Well, she couldn’t find her papá on an empty stomach. “Good thinking, Pinche Gato.” She smirked at the annoyed look the cat sent her. She had been completely afraid the second her eyes landed on Pepita. When Pepita was around, it meant her mamá couldn’t be far behind. She had been antsy the entire time she talked with Julio and Rosita, waiting for the loud knock that would pound on the door. But it didn’t come. And when she was in the room Julio had offered, she had turned to Pepita. “Did you come alone,” she had asked. Pepita had only meowed before getting on the bed and curling up on the pillow.
She had been flipping a tortilla when she heard someone behind her. It was Julio. Unlike the blue, comfortable shirt with matching pants, today Julio wore a white, button up shirt with beige pants that looked like they had been through a lot. “I, um...I’m almost done,” she said quietly. She had no idea what to say to him. Last night, it had been Rosita leading the conversations. Now that it was just the two of them, her mind drew a blank. “I’m sorry I cooked without your permission,” she added.
Julio only smiled at her. “Oh, don’t apologize for that! It smells great.”
She let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. “It’s just huevos,” she said.
“Trust me, if I had made them, they’d be burnt.”
Coco let out a laugh. “Never learned how to cook?”
“No, they don’t teach much at the orphanages.”
Coco took a glance at him as she served his plate. “You’re from an orphanage también?”
He gave her a confused look before it turned to understanding. “Rosita told you?” She gave him a sheepish nod. “I grew up in the same one she did. That’s how we knew each other. I’ve always seen her as a little sister. When they tried making her my wife, it just felt...weird.” He laughed. “I didn’t know she felt that way too until our wedding day. I was going to marry her so she could be happy. But when she told me, I felt so relieved. We got out of there quicker than a child in a forest.”
Coco almost dropped one of the plates of huevos, remembering her quince. She chuckled as she handed him a plate. “Rosita told me she’s already a quince. How long ago was this?” She set the tortillas down before sitting. She waited for Julio to grab one before doing so herself and digging into the eggs.
“It’ll be a year in dos meses,” he answered, ripping a piece of the tortilla and grabbing some egg with it. “I don’t know what to do for el aniversario. I’ll probably buy her some new perfumes. She loves getting dolled up.” He shoved the food in his mouth.
Coco glared as he absentmindedly started petting Pepita. How was he not angry at her for being on the table. “Speaking of Rosita, is she gonna wake up for breakfast?”
Julio laughed. “She’ll wake up when el sol is high in the sky.” He shook his head thoughtfully before looking to her. “So what brings you to the ciudad?”
“I’m trying to find someone,” she explained, glaring harder as Pepita abruptly turned to her. “I thought he might be here.”
Coco shook her head. “It’s just someone I need to see.” Someone she had needed to see ever since the day he walked out. “I’m hoping someone knows him, or, at least, of him.”
“What’s his name?”
“Héctor Rivera.” She didn’t feel like adding that he was her papá.
“Well, I know a few Héctors, but I don’t know if their last names are Rivera.” He smiled at her as he reached for another tortilla. “But I’ll ask them if they know a Socorro.”
“Gracias! That would be very helpful!”
Coco almost jumped out of her chair at the noise. “What was that?!”
Julio laughed. “It’s just my ride,” he explained, getting up. “Thank you for the breakfast, Señorita Coco.”
“De nada,” she said as she followed him to the door. When he opened it, she gasped. “Is that a caro?!”
Julio turned to her with wide eyes, probably surprised that she had followed him.
“Si, it is,” he nodded. “It’s my friend’s truck. He drives me to work every morning.”
“Can I see it?”
“I- wel- I don’t know, it’s not my truck.”
“Apúrate, Julio,” a man yelled, getting out of the car. Coco watched as a man with a small mustache and curly brown hair, which was hidden under a straw hat came up to the door. “Tenemos muchos envíos hoy, cabrón! Let’s g- Hola!” The man’s annoyed expression turned to one of delight upon seeing her. “Julio, who is this?” He quickly held out a hand to her. “Me llamo Marco.”
She took it with ease. “Coco. Mucho gusto.”
“El gusto es todo mio,” he said with a huge smile, showing some missing teeth. He turned to Julio. “I didn’t know you were busy this morning, my bad.”
“I wasn’t busy ,” Julio said. She heard a trace of annoyance in his words. For what? “Es una amiga de Rosita. She'll be staying with us for a while,” he explained. “She's actually looking for someone. Do you know any Héctor Riveras?”
“I mean, I know a few Héctors, but I don't know their last names. Sorry.”
Coco smiled through the disappointment. “Its OK, its a huge city, he's bound to be here somewhere.” Coco had a great idea. “Maybe you know one of his canciones?! He’s a musico!”
Coco nodded enthusiastically. “Un Poco Loco is one of his canciones! Es una buena canción!” She frowned. “I don’t have a guitarra to play it, though.”
“It’s fine,” Marco said. “I’ll be sure to look around, bella, no problema!” He was giving her one of those stupid looks that most drunk men would give to her. She didn’t feel like she was in any danger though.
“But we really gotta go,” Julio announced. “We do have a lot of shipments today. Abuelo did want us there early.”
“Our boss,” Julio explained. “He’s a really nice guy. Pays us well. And now have to go.” He started shoving Marco towards the truck. “Have a nice day, Señorita Coco,” Julio gave her a wave before turning back to Marco, who was waving at her too.
The car started and Coco watched them leave in awe. “Wow,” she whispered before heading back inside. She jumped at the sight of Rosita petting Pepita.
“Buenos dias, gato bonito.”
Coco rolled her eyes. “It’s a girl.”
Rosita looked up at her with tired, surprised eyes. “Oh, really?” She turned back nuzzled her face into her fur. “Buenos dias, gata bonita. And to you, too, Coco. How was your sleep?”
“It was great!.” She went to the stove to serve Rosita a plate. “Slept like a baby.”
“Is Julio still here?”
“He just left, actually.”
“Oh.” She then gave Coco a weird smile. “Isn’t my brother handsome?”
Coco gave her a look. Where was this coming from? “I guess. Why?”
Rosit chuckled. “No reason! So what are we doing today?”
“Whatta you mean?” She handed Rosita the plate.
“Well, we’re friends now! We should spend all day doing what friends do!”
Coco smiled at the sweet sentiment. “I actually have work today.”
Coco felt her heart shatter at the hurt look Rosita was sporting. “Why don’t you come along,” she offered before she could stop herself. “I can teach you all about making shoes! I made these ones.” She held up her boots. They were brown that had pink calaveras on each side.
Rosita’s eyes widened. “You made those?! How long did it take you?!”
“Counting everything, two months. But making the shoes hand on, less than two weeks.”
“I’ll show you at the shop! Hurry and eat so we can go!”
“So this is la gata de tu mamá,” Ari asked as pet Pepita.
Coco nodded and rolled her eyes as she grabbed the pieces of cuero she had cut yesterday. That pinche gato.
“And this small thing is Rosita,” her Tío asked.
Coco nodded again. “She wanted to see how I make shoes.”
“Oh,” Ari yelled. “A zapatera in the making!”
Coco smiled as Rosita blushed. “Ok,” she said to her. “First thing you’re going to learn is how to case cuero!”
“Case...cuero,” she repeated.
Coco nodded as she set the cuero down at the table. “We have to dampen the cuero so that we can carve on it. Don’t make it too wet, though. It’ll take forever to dry.” She sat down with with Rosita and handed her a rag. “Dip it in the water and then squeeze out most of it.”
“How do I know when I’m done?”
“Look at how thick the cuero is.” Rosita did so. “When half of it is wet, then you stop.”
“Your mamá taught you well,” Señor Nava told her from across the room, ridiculously huge glasses on.
Coco sent him a smile before looking back at Rosita. The casing went on for a few minutes before Coco showed when she knew she was done. They waited for it to dry a bit before tracing on the sketch. Coco nodded in appreciation at how steady Rosita’s hands were. “Try not to rip it,” she instructed. She started to explain that it takes shoes a long time to make due to designing and measuring and getting the right cuero.
Everything went silent after that, with Rosita still carving.
“What song is that,” Ari asked.
“Que,” she asked, breaking from her trance.
“The song you were just humming?”
Coco’s brows furrowed. “I was humming?”
“Yes,” Rosita answered. “It went something like…”
Coco smiled at the tune. “Oh! El Mundo es Mi Famila! It’s a song my papá used to sing to me.”
Though Rosita kept on carving, everyone else in the shop went still. She looked at them, confused. Even Rosita stopped, noticing the silence.
“Uh, did he, uh,” her Tío started. “Your papá. Did he, um, ever come back?”
Coco noticed Ari giving him a look at the corner of her eye. Coco felt very...uncomfortable at the moment. “Uh...No, no he did not…” She turned back to Rosita, who was giving her a worried look. She gave her a pained smile before grabbing a different tool. “Here,” she handed it to Rosita. “You use this around the lines.” Rosita must have seen the pleading in her eyes for she grabbed the tool without a word and waited for instruction. It became silent again. The awkward silence was killing her. “That’s why I’m here,” she blurted. “In Mexico City.” She could feel all their eyes on her as she stared at the cuero. Even Pepita was staring at her “Para encontrarlo.”
She heard some shuffling before turning around to see her Tío coming towards her with a bottle and two shot glasses. She watched him, confused, as he poured tequila in both of them before handing one to her. She took it, skeptically. She raised it up with her tío. “To finding him,” he cheered before taking his shot.
Coco smiled. “To finding him,” she cheered before taking her own.
“Sing us a song,” Señor Nava suggested.
“Yeah,” Rosita agreed. Coco guessed she was probably tired of the awkward silences. “The one you were humming!”
“Yeah,” Ari agreed. “I think I remember that one! Something about el mundo…”
“El Mundo es Mi Familia,” Coco corrected. She took a deep breath before singing.
Señoras y señores, buenas tardes, buenas noches
Buenas tardes, buenas noches, señoritas y señores
They were all listening to her as they worked, swaying and tapping their feet. Even Pepita was bobbing her head.
Esta noche estar aquí es mi pasión, qué alegría
Pues la música es mi lengua y el mundo es mi familia
Pues la música es mi lengua y el mundo es mi familia
Pues la música es mi lengua y el mundo es mi familia
Pues la música es mi lengua -
She suddenly turned when she heard a bell ring. “Did I hear singing,” Gabino asked, a smile on his face as he walked in.
“You sure did,” Ari answered. “We have our own little musico for the shop now,” she joked as she gestured to Coco.
Coco laughed. “I wouldn’t call myself a musico, I’ve never written my own song!” She turned to Gabino with a smile. “Hola, Gabino.”
“Hola, Coco,” he greeted. “How are my boots coming along?”
“They’re coming along great,” she answered. “My student seems to have a talent.”
Gabino gave her a look. “Student?”
Coco almost laughed when he jumped at the sight of Rosita too close to him. She was giving him a piercing glare. “Quien eres tu?” Coco’s eyes widened at how...rude she sounded.
“G-G-Gabino Hernandez,” he answered. His mood suddenly shifted and Coco believed it was because he was wondering why he had to be scared of a young girl. He gave her a dazzling smile before holding out his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Señorita…” He trailed on, waiting for an answer.
Instead of giving him one, she turned to Coco. “He’s not tu novio, is he?”
“No,” Coco laughed, choosing not to notice the small flinch Gabino did. “Es solo un amigo.”
Rosita was suddenly back to her old sweet self and took the hand. By the look on Gabino’s face, Rosita was probably stronger than she looked. “Rosita,” she answered. Then she promptly turned around and headed back to her chair.
Coco shook her head in amusement, wondering what that was about. She turned to a very confused Gabino. “Rosita’s sort of my student,” she explained. “Would you like to see how your boots are coming along?”
“That would be nice, si,” he answered before following her to the table.
She gestured to Rosita working. “Rosita’s actually muy bien at carving cuero.”
She saw Gabino nod in appreciation. “She is.” He then turned to her. “So, Coco, I was wondering, you know, if weren’t busy tonight-”
“I am,” she interrupted quickly...and loudly. Gabino was looking at her, wide eyed. “Ahem, I mean, yes. I am busy tonight. Rosita and I are going to be doing some girl things. Right, Rosita.” They both turned to the girl in question.
Rosita must have noticed the look on her face for she went along with the lie. “Si, si. It’s a bit of girl’s night.” She turned back to carving the cuero.
“Oh, well.” Coco hated the rejected look on his face, she hated making people feel bad. Good people anyway. And she knew he was a good person, but she didn’t like him the way he did her. He gave her a forced smile. “Maybe next time!”
“Maybe next time,” she lied. She would always be busy when it came to him.
“Well, my boots are turning out great,” He complimented. “So, I guess I’ll be going.” He gave her a slight wave before turning to the door.
Coco felt a bit bad that she felt disappointed when he stopped in his tracks when someone walked in. It was delaying his departure. But the feeling she felt most was surprise when it was none other than Julio who walked in. “Señor Julio?”
His eyes widened. “Señorita Coco?”
“Oof,” he let out when Rosita practically tackled him. “Rosita? What are you doing here?”
“This is where Coco works! She’s teaching me to make shoes!”
Julio turned to her, his eyes still wide. “You make shoes?”
Coco nodded, not really proud. Making shoes was still a chore, even if she knew how to make them. “I’m teaching Rosita some things.”
Julio smiled before rubbing Rosita’s hair. “Now you can get a job and help your big brother!”
“Oye,” she yelled, pulling away from him. “Not mi pelo! Coco worked hard on these trenzas!”
Julio chuckled and Coco felt her heart melt at the relationship these two had. They were great hermanos. “Anyway,” he looked to her. “Do you know who’s in charge around here?”
Coco pointed to the eldest man in the room. “This is Señor Nava’s shop.” He gave her a quick gracias before going over to him. She didn’t know she was still smiling at him until he glanced back at her with a smile of his own. She could feel her face heating up just a bit.
“So, how do you know this Julio?” She turned to Gabino, surprised that he was still here.
“Que? Oh,” she yelled before he could repeat himself. “Well, I-”
“She lives with us,” Rosita cut in. Coco wondered why she sounded so...proud. “Solo me, mi hermano guapo, y la Coco bonita.” She sent a sweet smile to his annoyed face before turning back to the cuero and continuing to carve.
Coco shook her head in confusion before turning back to Gabino. “Well, your boots are in good hands! I think,” she muttered. “Hasta luego, Gabino.” She sent him a smile and went to go instruct Rosita, secretly hoping he would leave already.
She sighed in relief when she heard the bell ring. And then turned in confusion when she heard it again. “Oye, Julio, can we bring it in or- Hola Señorita Coco,” Marco greeted with a huge smile and an enthusiastic wave. “Que estás haciendo aqui?”
“Well, I work here,” she answered. “What are you two doing here?”
“We accidentally got your shipment of cuero,” Julio answered behind her. “Abuelo told us to take it here, rather than bother a Peter Nava.”
“Que generoso,” Coco commented.
Julio nodded before looking behind her. “How’s Rosita doing?”
Coco smiled. “She’s doing great. Take a look!”
And he did. Only for Rosita to say, “Your ugly face is distracting me from my work.”
Coco laughed as Ari snorted. “I like this girl,” Ari commented.
Julio was not amused, though. “I’m not buying your favorite flowers next week.”
“Yo lo sabía,” Rosita yelled, slamming her hands on the table. She pointed at Julio accusingly. “You’re always finding reasons not to buy them!”
“Mentirosa! I didn’t buy them that one week because you ruined your shoes!”
“They only had a little mud on them!”
Coco giggled as they bantered. “Do they always do this?”
“Si,” Marco answered. “There’s only one way to stop it.” He went over to the entrance and opened it. “Julio,” he called, causing the siblings to turn to him. “Lets unload the cuero!”
Julio sighed as stopped his bantering with Rosita. He rubbed her hair, causing her to smack his hand. He chuckled. “I’ll see you at home, hermana.”
“I’ll see you at home, hermano,” she called after him happily before going back to her carving.
‘Gracias,’ she mouthed to Marco as Julio explained that Señor Nava wanted them to just throw it in the back. “So what should we do tonight?”
“We should go dancing,” Rosita suggested. “I know a place where they play all the good music.”
Coco nodded. “That sounds great. Wanna join in, Ari?”
Ari shook her head. “My favorite suitor is coming over for dinner. I can't miss that.”
“Your favorite,” her tío asked his daughter. “I'll have to stop inviting him over.”
“I'm just kidding!”
Coco smiled fondly as the two continued to banter. Maybe when she found her papá, they would act the same.