There is something isolating about being someone no one knows anything about.
There is something freeing about it, too.
Because I don’t have to close my eyes and wait for sleep and hope that, by the grace of some watchful god, I am allowed to dream of being Kitt.
I can pick up a pen, and I become Kitt.
Pear eats her breakfast in a pout.
We didn’t get to the panaderia early enough for her to have her pick of the pan dulce, and she blames me.
“If you didn’t make me go to the stupid island with you, I would have gotten an elote, like I wanted.”
I roll my eyes and wait for her to finish. She never liked going with me. It always made her nervous.
When my parents went missing and we were found, huddled alone and afraid, they made themselves the heroes of a dark tale. Whispers flew around the village the second that we step foot in it, and what seemed like a million variations of our story were formed.
Many thought that some sort of sea monster had guzzled them down. Others thought wild bears or coyotes ate them whole.
But the story that stuck was one of dark magic. Many had thought, before my parents had even built the house, there were spirits, vengeful ones, who cursed Mamma and Papa for claiming the island as home.
The villagers called Mamma a witch, and not with favor. They called Papa a stupid man, who lost control of his wife and her crimes.
They said that in the midst of this “fight” we claimed had happened, the spirits found prime opportunity to strike. They inhibited Mamma, finding easy access through the portals she had opened to others. They led her through the woods and back to shore, where my father sat, sobbing for his wife and his children, asking the Gods what was to be done.
That’s where she killed him.
With what, it’s never clear. But to the villagers, my mother was a murderer and my father was a victim, of all three of us.
We’ve tried our best to cast doubt on that story. “Where did their bodies go, then?” I’d say “Wouldn’t we have heard their screams?!” Pear would add.
But nothing could disparage what they had nailed down as fact. It was taught at schools, it was spoken of at church.
We became legends for the stories created about the worst night of our lives.
The island was closed off and no one was allowed there. Boats seen making their way to it were capsized and confiscated, metal fences were constructed around it’s shores, and we were watched more carefully than we ever had been, like lions in a zoo cage.
It wasn’t until a couple years had passed that I started to suggest we make our way back, for good. But Pear had become accustomed to the couple that had taken us in, and she liked the way that life in the village had treated her.
On top of that, she had begun to believe that something dark was lurking there. How could she not, when it was pounded into her head every which way she turned?
“What if we get caught?” She’d say. “What if they start to think that we had something to do with it?”
“We were nine and six years old. What could we have done?”
But nothing could calm her nerves. So she always threw fits, always tried to stay home and wait for me. But when she did, she’d get nervous that I’d be caught on my own, and “you don’t know how to keep your mouth shut, Kitt.”
So she, begrudgingly, came with me.
Pear denies it, but I know she loves the island too. The way whatever Papa was cooking would fill the whole house, the smell leading just outside to the garden we kept. The garden where Mamma would raise and harvest our fruits and vegetables; Where she sectioned off a bed for Pear to grow her favorite flowers.
She loved the forest, the time it offered with Mamma. But her true love was the water. The shores where Papa would take her beachcombing. The boat and the way the salt smelled against it’s wood. She was scared to death of falling in, of something big and dark taking her in and keeping her there, away from Mamma and Papa and me.
But she went anyways, because she knew how much Papa had loved it. Pear wanted so bad for him to love her just the same.
She used to adore the island. Or maybe just what we had turned it into. One way or another, the island had a special place in her heart, before our parents disappeared. Whenever she speaks ill of it, I remind her. How happy she looked running through the waves. How gentle she was to those flowers, how excited she was about Papa and his boat. But she denies it all.
Still, she comes with me, and I guess that’s something.
“Chris is looking for you.” Pearl had her head whipped around the corner again.
“I know, but I told her I was taking my break.”
“How long ago?”
“You better get going, kid.” I grabbed my apron and wrapped it around my waist, tying it in knots that I’ll deal with later.
“Have a nice break, Cortez?” Evelyn Sanchez. Worst human being in the world, reason I got caught writing at the register the first time, and most likely the reason Chris won’t let it go. Also, won’t stop calling me Cortez. She sucks.
“Wonderful break, Eve. Going on yours?” It takes everything in me to keep my face straight.
“Absolutely!” Even her smile sucks.
“Have a good one!” I hope she chokes on her fruit snacks.
I take my place back behind the drive-thru register. They tucked me in this corner so I can’t talk to Pearl during our shifts anymore. “Too chatty,” Chris said. What solved one problem only made another worse. Whatever receipts customers don’t want becomes paper to write on for me.
I look behind the cash register for some, and see a new sign.
No Phones, Reading Books, Or Notebooks
I pull out my phone and text Pearl anyways.
No Problem- P
Four. More. Hours.