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The drive to her grandmother's home was not too long. The old family homestead was nestled close to DeLeon. The house was at least one hundred years old. Grandmama's family had come from a small town on the border and moved North when she was a little girl. Amaliya's grandfather was from Abilene and he had fallen for her grandmother at first sight, or so the story went. Her mother's family had been suspicious of the German immigrant at first, but finally let them marry in what Grandmama called a “big Mexican Catholic wedding. ” Together they had Mae, Susan and Marlena, Amaliya's mother. Susan was Sergio's mother and she had died young, too. Only Mae seemed to have their grandmother's longevity built into her DNA.

Sadly, Amaliya wondered how long she would have lived if not for being killed.

The house was immaculate and most of the windows were lit up. The light pouring out of the windows illuminated the well-tended yard full of statues and beautiful flowerbeds. Behind the house was a garden full of vegetables and some fruit trees. Her grandmother's huge statue of the Virgin Mary standing near the fence made Amaliya's eyes burn and she turned away sharply.


She had not considered how very Catholic her grandmother was.

“So, we just tell Grandmama that you were upset by what happened at the campus and that you are heading out on the road to recover, right?”

“Yeah. But I'm sure the cops will make it out here eventually or at least call to question her, don't you think?”

“No clue. They haven't talked to me. Evidently, they just talked to your Dad and our cousin-whore. ”

“He likes to forget that Mom's side of the family exists, except for Mae and Kelly Ann. ”

“That's cause he's an ass. ”

Sergio drove the truck up the driveway. He parked it under the carport that had been added to the old house twenty years before. Their grandmother's Lincoln was tucked away in the garage that was built off to the side. She rarely drove it anymore. Their tiny little grandmother could barely see over the steering wheel, let alone maneuver a car as big as a boat. She still kept it gassed up, the registration current, got it inspected yearly, and did all the regular maintenance on it right on time. Which was ironic, considering she never drove it except to back it out of the driveway, then pull right back in. To keep the engine fresh, she said.

A blue light in the front window showed that she was still up and watching her late night shows. Probably with a bowl of popcorn sprinkled with chili with a dash of lime spritzed on top, and an ice tea, decaf of course, at her side on an end table loaded down with photos, mementos and little knickknacks.

Sliding out of the truck, Amaliya looked at Sergio as he got her bag out of the back. She wanted to tell him the whole truth, but even she was having trouble believing it. Ignoring the Virgin statue with all her might, she prepared herself for what lay inside the house.

Sergio unlocked the front door and pushed it open. “Grandmama, Amaliya is here!”

“I can hear you. I'm not deaf,” came her grandmother's accented voice.

Amaliya suddenly wanted to cry.

Stepping onto the front porch, she steeled herself. She moved forward and found she couldn't enter the house. Startled, she tried to step over the threshold, but could not push her way in. It was as if an invisible wall was in front of her.

“Come on,” Sergio said.

“Come in, come in,” her grandmother said, waving to her from her lounge chair in the living room.

The unseen wall was gone abruptly and Amaliya stepped into the house, feeling a little shaken.

Struggling to get out of her chair, Grandmama slapped away Sergio's attempt to help her up. “Come here and hug me. ”

Amaliya deftly avoided the shrine to the Holy Trinity and the Virgin Mary in the front hall and rushed to her grandmother. Her skin was pricking and she felt nauseous for the split second she was within a few feet of the holy relics. Reaching her grandmother, she flung her arms around the tiny little woman with the black hair shot through with silver and the keen hazel eyes.

Squeezing her tight, her grandmother gave her several hard kisses on the cheek, then drew back to look at her.

“You're too thin,” she decided. “And I don't like your hair black. I liked it blond. ”

Sergio began to laugh and set the bag down on a chair. “Nice welcome, Grandmama. ”

“Shut up, you,” the old woman said with a twinkle in her eye, then drew Amaliya down to kiss her cheek again. “Are you sick? You're very cold. ”

“I had food poisoning,” Amaliya lied quickly as she remember what Sergio said about her grandmother preparing food.

“Ugh. It's that horrible fast food. ” Grandmama headed toward the brightly lit kitchen. She was clad in jeans and a t-shirt with the Texas flag on it. “I made good food. Good healthy food. ”

“Tamales aren't healthy, Grandmama,” Sergio corrected her.

“Who told you to lip off,” came the sharp reply.