KITT (5 YEARS LATER)
On the boat ride back home from the island, everyone is silenced by intoxicating bliss.
Five years ago, we were small children, lost and looking for home. What we found instead was something resembling it, and we’ve learned to live as it’s imposters.
Now, we truly had become the same to each other. Something resembling home.
I sleep soundly in that bliss until the boat hits the sand, and Elias speaks. “Get out, before any of the others know we’ve been gone.”
“Too late,” a voice calls from the cherry tree.
We all swing our heads over to look at Dolores, who looks more like a pouting little sister than the disappointed mother she’s trying to emulate. She’s got her dirtiest apron on, and her hands are on her hips, but her lips are lined in a frown, and her eyes are sadder than they should be.
“Sorry, Lori,” the younger ones chime. Elias and I shrink into the boat, like the planks will let us slip between their cracks just this once.
“Don’t Lori me. Why do none of you ever invite us back to Paraíso? It’s our home too.”
“It’s not safe, over there. Pear, Pen and Milo are stowaways,” Elias rushed. He tripped over their names, and Dolores let go of a heavy breath before turning around and folding her arms. She was going for her pout in the woods.
“You better show her what else found its way into the boat, before she steals something else out of your drawers,” I called, loud enough to turn her around and come pacing back.
“What else found its way into the boat?” She craned her neck over our heads and searched each row of the boat for something. Something big.
But Elias shoved his hand into his pocket, searched through gods know what, and pulled out a small, clay pot. It had white dahlias painted on vines, crawling all over the sides of the pot, and little girls with brown skin and dark hair, dancing with smiles all over the lid.
The squeal that she let out was something we hadn’t heard from her since we were little.
“Abuela,” she giggled, clutching the pot to her chest.
“We found it in your house, we’re sorry for going in,” Milo whispered, still looking down into the gaps between the boat like he wanted to crawl in.
Dolores walked over, her squeals silent and tears ready to pour over. She stepped over the edges of the boat and stood in front of Milo. She grabbed his hand and, with her own thumb, rubbed his over the textures the paint left when they dried, and the chip in the lid that she’d been circling.
“This is a pot my Abuela made me when I was about six. She said she made it so small so that I could learn to cook in something more my size. I dropped it’s lid the first time she handed it to me. That’s where this little chip came from.” She took her hand off and we watched Milo trace the chip in circles, then the painted girls by the hands that connected them, and then Dolores’ hand.
Her chin started to shake, after hands did just the same. She looked over all of us, and softly whispered, “Thank you.” She started walking away, her apron in her left hand and the tiny pot in her right. She stopped and turned her head just slightly to say, “Breakfast should be done by the time you guys head inside. And you better have brought something for Ricky, or he’ll try and smash your head in again.” She smiled just with her eyes, and sunk behind the door of her new home, back with a tiny piece of her true home.
Elias and I looked at each other, and sighed.
“We’re gonna go and see if she needs help,” Pear said for the four of them. “We’ll call you when it’s ready.”
Pen clasped hands with Milo and Pear, who was dragging Arlene close behind, and they all shuffled and bumped hips, happily dazed in the direction of the Galindo’s.
“Sometimes, I wish it was just us, still. I wish we could stay in that first week, where we didn’t have to worry about leaving anyone out of going back home.” He looked at me, probably to see me nod or show some sort of agreement. But I shook my head and kept my eyes on our siblings.
“I don’t.” I turned my head toward him with a smile. “You were simply insufferable.” Beside himself, he gave me a grin, and rolled his eyes in the other direction.
“Come on,” he sang, grabbing my wrist and pulling me toward the little green house that everyone had found themselves in. “We can’t leave Dolores alone with all of them. That little pot will end with more than just a chip.”
After breakfast, I left them all to clean. I told them I’d go hunt, and then I ran off into the woods. Elias asked to come, but Dolores whined about the mess he’d made, and I ducked out as she scolded him.
That was usually how it went for us. Pear and I always woke up first. We grabbed firewood and reloaded the piles everyone kept by their backdoors. We cleaned the fruit, sliced and prepped vegetables, and seasoned the meat before Dolores got up and took over all of that. Usually, she greeted us with a, “Good morning, beautiful” ‘s and criticisms about the way we washed and sliced everything. We never stayed long enough to listen to them. “They’re uneven,” she’d shout over her shoulder.
“Just for you,” we’d shout back.
We’d frolick in the woods, collecting flowers and leaves for temporary crowns, and soaking every inch of sun that the canopy of trees would allow us to catch.
Pretending that we were home.
And then we’d come back, to the people and the pieces that we had left of it. Our brand new home.
After those first two weeks alone on the new island, people from Paraíso started to trickle back into our little family.
Oscar and Ezekiel Flores -the family that used to help my Tía down at the pig and turkey pens- arrived first, on a small boat that their family had come to Paraíso in. The week after that were the Galindo sisters; Dolores, Dahlia, and Daniela. They arrived on the island after their ship wrecked and the waves carried them to shore. It took days to convince them that they weren’t dead.
The last to arrive were the Sales family, almost a month after we’d left behind the purple flames. Three brothers; Ricky, Alex, and Julio, all paddling different directions on a tiny raft, barely clothed and sickly thin. Their skin hugged their ribcages and the smallest one, Julio, huddled in a ball, barely pushing against his paddle.
Their arrival meant a challenge. The Sales family had always challenged the proper ruling order of Paraíso, under the Cariño and Escalante families. Mine and Elias’s family.
Growing up, it created somewhat of a rivalry between the heads of all three households. Our grandparents hated their grandparents, and their children hated their children, hated their children. We were born to aim for the targets our families placed on each other’s back, and we followed those instructions well.
Day after day on Paraíso, we fought each other for what we all claimed was ours, Elias and Ricky more desperate to keep it up than the rest of us.
The day they crawled on shore, Elias shoved everyone else inside and pulled his spear out.
“Woah, what do you need that for,” Milo had asked. Him and Elias were barely on speaking terms, but it was an urgent question. We never took more than our hunting knives when someone came ashore.
“Sales blood,” was all he said as he marched toward the three boys.
I caught up with him and tripped him down, catching his flying spear and tossing it toward the fire pit, where it sunk into old ash and disappeared.
“Those rules don’t exist anymore.”
I ran to shore, planning to pick the boys up one by one, getting Julio up first. “They need food, water.” Pen and Pear were standing in the door of our house, watching in horror as Ricky collapsed into the waves.
I handed Julio to Elias, who had gotten up almost as quickly as he had gone down. “Get him into the Galindos’, have them ready a spot for now. That last house won’t be ready anytime soon.”
“What about-” he started to complain.
“I’ll deal with that. They’re not much of a danger this close to death.” He stomped of toward Dolores, who was ready with open arms for Julio.
Him and Milo were the same age. I couldn’t imagine what would have happened to him and Arlene had we gone that long.
I rushed to pick Ricky up by his underarms, and dragged him out of the water and onto dry land. I tripped back and his head landed in my lap, his eyes flying open wide.
He stared at me like that for what felt like hours, eyes wide with fear and confusion, before coughing up the water he’d been holding in his lungs. He spewed it all over my legs.
I jumped up in disgust and let his head hit the sand. I tried my best to dry up the liquid with a cloth I had in my back pocket, but nothing would come off. I was soaked in acidic salt water.
I heard Ricky groan.
I walked over to him, and lightly kicked his shoulder.
The kick was like the flip of an invisible switch, jump starting his brain and giving him inhuman strength. Ricky rolled over and started crawling rapidly, almost running on all fours. He pulled a knife I hadn’t noticed out of his pocket, and was stabbing at the ground near my feet, keeping perfect pace with my sprint backwards.
“Elias,” I could hear our three screaming. Pear was grabbing the spear that leaned against our front door, and heading over. Pen was rushing to shove Milo and Arlene back inside.
“Pear go back inside,” Elias yelled back, and I could hear the loud crunches against the sand that his boots were making as he ran toward me. He dropped to his knees just before the fire pit, and dove his hands into the ash, no doubt in search of the spear. “I told you,” he almost growled, pushing his voice so ridiculously low that mid-murder attempt, I almost laughed.
“Not now,” I gritted instead.
I turned back to Ricky, running backwards as he slowed his pace, still stabbing inches from my feet, but aiming higher, for my ankles.
“I need that spear, Elias,” I shouted. My lack of vision for where I was going finally caught up with me, and before he could respond, my ass hit the sand and my head hit the ash, and something hard just below it.
I lifted my head and reached my arm just below it, grasping the handle just under the spear head, and whipping it around in front of me.
It nicked Elias on the chin and sent him flying back, much more dramatically than it deserved, I’m sure. He’d keep it as something to guilt me with later.
It traveled in the air with a quick whistle before making contact with Ricky’s temple. He toppled over, his knife getting the scratch out of my arm that it had been thirsting for before he completely collapsed on the ground, eyes closed and his mouth wide open.
Elias was still on the ground, facing up at the sun with one hand over his eyes and the other nursing his chin, moaning and groaning in pain that wasn’t really there.
I sat upright, panting, wrapping my cloth around my arm, and waited for Ricky to get back up.
He didn’t, and I decided to tie him up, just incase he changed his mind.
“Pear,” I half-panted. She shot out of the door immediately. “Something to tie this dumbass with. And something to tie him to. Now.”
“Okay,” she said, and sprinted back, just past Milo, who had returned to the doorframe.
“You,” I pointed to him. “Get your brother up and to Dolores’s. Maybe he can find someone to baby him over there.” He nodded and grabbed Arlene’s hand, walking them over and kicking Elias in the side of his stomach.
He stood slowly and held onto Arlene’s hand, glaring my way quickly before continuing in the direction of the sisters.
“Oscar, Ezekiel,” I called to the brothers that stayed in their house with the door locked for the whole show, staring out from the window.
Ezekiel unlocked the door and peaked his head around the way, looking between me and Ricky, as if he would rise like the dead at any moment.
“Take Alex in with you,” I started. “Get him some clothes, some food, some water. He’s going to sleep with you guys tonight.”
“Are you crazy,” Oscar asked, shrill. “He’ll suffocate us in our sleep!”
“If he feel murderous,” I shouted back, “He’ll head on over to mine or Elias’s. You’re not the people he wants.”
They exchanged a glance, and Ezekiel looked back at Alex again before nodding and walking toward him. They each took a side, and dragged an unconscious Alex Sales to their house, shutting and locking the door behind them.
Pear finally came over, running with some extra sheets that we had and a chair he probably couldn’t break, so long as he remained tied to it. “This is all I could find,” she was already apologizing.
I nodded as I pulled him up with her, and sat him on the chair. “Hold his head up, and I’ll tie. Do not let him go.”
“Okay,” she nodded and held him upright just under his ears, looking between me and him with the same wide eyes of concern.
“Pen,” I called over just as I was tying the final sheet. She shuffled over quickly, scarping sand against her heels that she’d drag into my house later.
“On three, we lift .”
“Where are we taking him,” Pen chimed.
“Into mine,” I sighed, already waiting for Pear’s complaints.
“You mean, ours,” she nearly screamed. “I’m not sleeping with someone who wants us dead, Kitt.” She let go of his neck and stood up straighter, folding her arms and inching closer to Pen.
“He doesn’t want you dead. Just me. Now, on three.”
They both stood still, and I let go of the chair’s bottom. “Fine, then. I don’t need your help.”
I walked around and behind the chair. I’d drag him on my own, then.
I didn’t get very far. I didn’t move, at all.
“This is sad. Go back to the other side,” I heard Elias call from behind me.
He returned with cloth wrapped around a completely fine chin, and the judgmental eyes of the Galindo sisters on his back.
“I’m not-” Pear tried to continue.
“You are. At least until we get that last house going for them.” He grunted as we lifted Ricky up.
“That will take forever,” Pear whined. She might as well have added a little stomp of her foot.
“Then you better get moving,” we cracked, and she grabbed Pen’s hand to properly stomp off to the little green shack at the end of the row.
Elias turned back to me and watched as I struggled to keep from slipping. My palms were still sweaty from almost being murdered, and my heart was far from slowing to it’s normal pace.
“Too close to dying, huh,” he asked as we set Ricky down in front of my door.