Note: I asked my Facebook peeps to suggest starting sentences for a Kiki Lowenstein short story. There were so many terrific ideas that I have decided to try to incorporate more than one –and write a progressive short story. You'll be reading this as I create it! Wish me luck!
Note: This short story comes before Ready, Scrap, Shoot—and Kiki is six weeks pregnant.
In last two weeks’ installments—Kiki walked into Time in the Bottle only to discover papers scattered everywhere. Detective Chad Detweiler arrived to pronounce the store “safe,” but Kiki’s still wondering what’s up. Her co-worker Margit has shown up and reminded Kiki that she needs a great idea for a crop in May. As she’s pondering what to do, Teresa Alvarez stops in to drop off a gift for Kiki. Teresa is planning to become a US citizen on May 5.
“Yes, do open the gift,” said Teresa, but her smile faltered just a little. Her lovely brown eyes swam with tears. As always, she dressed simply in inexpensive jeans and a colorful knit blouse. But large gold hoops swayed in her ears and a silk flower caught her hair so that it was pinned up over one ear. Her distinctive fragrance was vanilla, so warm and wholesome that I couldn’t help but breath deeply and enjoy it.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“It is nothing.” She brushed away my question with a tiny gesture of her hand.
As tempting as it was to open the bag and dive right into the gift, I hesitated. “Come on, Teresa. What’s up? Come on over and sit down. Would you like a Coke?”
“A Diet Dr Pepper?”
I laughed, “You know that we stock those, although I’m envious because I’m drinking water these days. Have a seat at my work table.”
After we’d had a sip of our drinks, I tried to steer us back to the topic at hand. “So what’s bothering you, Teresa? I know it’s been a long road to citizenship. You’re almost there, and we’re all very happy for you.”
“Si, but my sister Juanita planned to apply with me, and she can’t. The cost of the application has gone up. So much! It is now $680! And if it is denied, she cannot get it back. Instead, she thinks she will only renew her green card. That will cost her $450 and those are almost never turned down. She says she cannot afford to gamble so much. I say, but you could be sent back to Mexico! Yes, she says but if she goes, at least she will go take a little money with her to her family. Her husband has diabetes and has not worked in two years.”
I had no idea it cost even to apply for citizenship, so I sat there feeling stunned and sad. My own sister Amanda had recently re-entered my life. I counted her a great blessing. She and I had both grown up in the years we’d been semi-estranged. We realized that we’d harbored mistaken impressions of each other’s life. Of course, my mother had been particularly unhelpful in reuniting us.
I blinked and my mind flashed on a vision of my cute cop-of-a-boyfriend, Chad Detweiler.* I remembered something he’d said just two mornings ago, “I only have five socks here.** But knowing you, you’ll take that odd one and make something wonderful with it. That’s what I love about you, Kiki. You always make lemons into lemonade.”
“That’s me. Trouble follows me everywhere, so I’ve gotten a lot of practice at turning frowns into smile,” I’d said as I stood on tiptoe to kiss him. *** As I looked into his eyes, I could feel that he was just as in love with me as I was with him. ****
“Good old Mom. Even if it was a dark and stormy night, she’d find a way to be happy about it.***** These days, she’s a regular Suzy Sunshine,” my daughter Anya had chimed in and we all laughed.
“Yes, I do think I’m all that!” I’d yelled as I slammed the door and started my shower. ****** I could hear Chad and Anya giggling on the other side, and it pleased me to no end.
But a soft hiccup from Teresa brought me back to the here and now as she shed a few more tears. I patted her hand, a totally useless gesture, but what else could I do?
“And my sister? She is expecting. It makes me so sad because my children will not grow up with hers if she is sent back.”
Call me hormonal, because I am, but I burst into tears at that.
“You better open the bag,” she said as she wiped her face. “Because you need to cheer up. I did not mean to upset you, Kiki. Your little baby will suffer if you worry too much, my friend.”
“Okay.” I never needed much coaxing to tear open a present. This time I lifted one crumpled sheet of tissue paper after another out and set them carefully on my work table. They formed a happy rainbow at my elbow. Near the bottom of the bag, I found a small tinfoil packet that I unwrapped carefully. Inside were a dozen white chocolate tamales.” I squealed with delight. “Love these!”
“I know you do! There is more.” She clapped her hands together in shared delight.
I lifted out more crumpled pieces until I found a Styrofoam egg carton taped shut.
“Open it!” Teresa laughed.
I did. Inside where a dozen brightly colored eggs.
“Hard-boiled?” I asked.
MORE TO COME and thanks to my co-authors--
*Elizabeth B. Jensen
**Bette Jaker Barr