Outside the sun beat down on concrete and occasionally a car passed by. But for the most part stillness and a silence prevailed. It was the dead of summer, the Santa Ana winds blasted through the Long Beach ’hood and everyone moved slower for it. On a Sunday afternoon like this you could hear the Mariachi pouring out of radios, but today it was as if the energy of the music robbed every one of their last vestige of strength just to listen. The children were all quiet; Molly Morris peeked out between the slats of the blinds to see them listless on the steps in front of her building. They were all intent on sucking the sweet juices from their popsicles before they dripped onto their already sticky fingers. She watched the rainbow of colors as they quickly disappeared. Hector had a red one, Amelia a green and Ramon what looked like a pale yellow. That would be lemon.
Molly stepped back away from the blinds adjusting them to keep the sun’s rays from slanting onto the crib. Stella was fretful but Molly avoided picking her up because she feared the heat from her own body would make it worse. She rinsed out a wash cloth in cool water and wrung it almost dry; just wet enough to bring the infant some relief as she placed it slowly, gently on the baby’s naked back.
Javier was stirring in the other room. His late shift last night gave them the extra income they needed while Molly was on leave from her teaching position. At least he was inside, air-conditioned. He was a good man, proud of his gringo girlfriend and their baby.
Stella’s tiny body relaxed as her mother ran her soft hand over the baby’s head. The cool cloth reduced some of the heat from her body. Molly rinsed another cloth and replaced the old with the new. Javier shuffled into the room, his face flushed with sleep and the unremitting heat.
“Querida. I should buy a fan.” He looked with worry toward Stella.
“She’s okay. It’s close to her feeding time again.” Molly explained Stella’s fussing to him, and he seemed comforted to know all was well. She unbuttoned her blouse and settled into the rocker with Stella who quickly grabbed hold of the nipple and began to suckle. There was a momentary pinprick of pain that eased as Molly felt the milk flow from her. Her love for this perfect little girl overwhelmed her and tears stood in her eyes as the baby’s fingers held on to her pinkie. Getting pregnant had been almost too easy but at forty-one, almost forty-two, Molly cherished the happy accident even more so.
While Stella suckled vigorously Molly revisited her concerns about her mother’s impending visit. Stella was just three months old and Molly still held her mother off because she knew Esther’s will would prevail.
At least she gave me a few weeks’ notice to prepare, she thought. She held the baby and rubbed her back to express any air out of her tiny belly. She didn’t care what the doctor and La Leche League said, even babies that nursed gulped and needed to be burped. The baby had a dreamy look on her placid face. She was almost halfway to a nap when Molly placed her on her side, propped with a receiving blanket. She marveled at this little miracle. Her hair was darkening yet her eyes looked like they were turning green, almost like her own. She shrugged; maybe Javier’s Spanish side had some Anglo to it.
The phone rang at exactly 1:00 pm.
“You picked up on the first ring?”
“I didn’t want the phone to wake Stella.”
“She should get used to noises, you know. Otherwise you’ll be tiptoeing around the rest of her life.”
Molly bit her lip to keep back a snorting laugh, thinking of the noise that penetrated their lives daily; fire engines, fly-bys and drive-byes a street away, and the inevitable LAX traffic as the planes headed toward Inglewood and barely missed the freeway.
“What?” Esther’s antennae were up and in fine form.
“Well, I wanted to give you my itinerary. I’ll be leaving from JFK at 1:20 and will arrive at Los Angeles at 5:00 pm. Still don’t understand how that happens with the time change.”
“The date. What day are you flying?”
There was some fumbling and rattling of papers. She knew her mother made her reservations through Uncle Sol, and was probably going to be the only person on the plane with a paper ticket in its proper blue United Airways folder.
“May fifth. Uncle Sol got me a good deal for arrival on a Sunday.”
There was a pause as Molly let go of the desire to ask her when she would be returning. Her mother could not conceive that Molly would ask. She wondered how it would all play out. Her mother and Javier in the same space. She could even see Esther leave and stay in a motel. Maybe she should start looking for a place nearby, like Hermosa or over on Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach.
“Now where did you say you’d be? I don’t want to get lost or anything.”
“We’ll be near the gate as you come out. Security won’t let us get any closer. Just look for a Mexican and his gringa girlfriend and half-breed baby.”
Silence pervaded the space between her ear and her mother’s lips. “You’re not married.” It was a statement, maybe an expectation, possibly a demand.
“Hey Mom, we’ll be there.” Molly hunched her shoulders to relieve the tension, and said good-bye.
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