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I started picking at the wooden bench. I don’t know why, but I suddenly felt guilty. “I thought, these States, they are nothing like people said. My little boy died for them. In Florence, he would have been warm and fat and happy, but not here. Here it’s damp and dirty. When Maria Elena got sick, I knew we’d made a mistake. We’d come to a terrible place and God was punishing us for abandoning our family for your father’s greed. “But Maria Elena lived. Then I had you. I had your sister. And I would have had many more children if I had been able to. But that was not God’s will.” She took a deep breath. “Sometimes, I think I know what God is saying, and I am wrong. But I still listen. Carlotta, I am listening. Is this what God is telling you to do?” I looked into her heavy-lidded brown eyes that were just a shade or two darker than my own. I didn’t know what to do. If I wavered now, she’d never believe me if I said I wanted to come here again. I had to be certain, so I was. “Yes, Mama. God is calling me here.” She nodded and looked down at the dirt. “When the little boy died, I wanted to take everything back. I begged God to bring me another chance. But there is no going back. You have to keep going.” I wanted her to tell me that she made the right choice staying here, having Margaret and me. I wanted her to tell me that in the end it had worked out alright. I wanted her to smooth my hair, to say that she was glad we were here, that I existed. But that wasn’t my mother, that was Jeannie’s mom. My mother stood and walked back toward the bus station, mumbling about whether she could still make dinner in time for my father. I found out that day that Agnes had never so much as visited St. Cecilia’s. I made sure to ask while my mother was in the restroom. Agnes’s name wasn’t in the register; no one had even heard of her. It wasn’t until years later that Margaret would find her living in the city, married to a Mexican boy, and working in an office. Margaret found it endlessly scandalous, but I figured it was none of my business how she lived her life or whom she loved. Her choices had led her away from St. Cecilia’s, as my choices had led me to it, but whatever the Kramer 41

Profile for Red Cedar Review

Red Cedar Review Vol. 54  

Red Cedar Review Vol. 54  

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