Rigorous
Volume Three, Issue 1



The Cave

Francine Mejia


The bright light that reveals itself from the bottom of the closed door, confirms to Lydia that her kids are still awake. Aware that a full-body mirror is hanging on the wall to the left; she does all she can to spare herself a peek. She picks herself up from the ground and throws a robe over her naked body, tightly securing the ties. She then grabs a towel and hangs it from the top of her head. The towel hangs down the sides of her face, framing and hiding the damage. Jimmy remains on the floor. He is sitting on his wide ass with his full thighs and stubby legs before him. His hands are searching on the bed for a towel to clean up with. After a brief search and no reward, he jumps up and uses her ripped smock from the bedpost and says, "Puta, you took the towel." With an urgency, she drops her head low, like a boxer as he leaves the ring in shame and quickly walks out of their bedroom.

As she takes a step out from the room, the towel that is shielding her face begins to slide off her head. She holds on to the towel and pulls it back over her scalp, and yanks the sides down, nearly covering her eyes. All that can be made out from her profile is the slight peak of her nose.

“Shut the door behind you", he commands. She closes the door and walks straight toward the dining room, aiming for the bathroom. Please God, she pleads, don’t let my kids see me like this, don’t let either one of them be using the bathroom right now. The possibility of her children seeing her face causes her to hastily run for shelter to the toilet.

The light from the television is all that illuminates the home. Lydia’s two teenage children, Tiziano and Yvette sit leisurely on the floor. Each have a pillow and blanket and in-between both are an array of foods and beverages. They are joyfully eating and laughing, while watching television. They do not even notice her. Neither look in the direction of their mother as she scurries past them to the bathroom.

The volume on the television set is blaring. because of this Lydia is confident they had not heard the commotion with Jimmy.

I have to leave him, she whispers to herself as she holds her hand against her face. There are scrapes and bruises near her left eye and the longer she looks the more it begins to swell. She turns the shower on and begins to disrobe. The steam from the shower fogs the mirror. She runs her hand over it, clearing the mist and clearly seeing the damage. Across her shoulders are long exaggerated purple marks, old yellow fading fingerprints can be found above her breasts, the rug burn is now seeping droplets of blood, what blood has coagulated has done so with the help of blue carpet lint. The shower is running only hot water and it is becoming difficult to breathe. She starts to scour through the clothes hamper in search of something to wear.

Tiziano and Yvette are being pulled by their arms. "Get up, get up", Lydia whispers. "Quiet", she pleads. They obey. The three of them are now power walking through the apartments next to their home. They run toward the busy street filled with traffic. Lydia is holding their hands. They witness her face now. A clear account of what has just occurred is evident by Lydia's closed eye. Tiziano cannot stop looking at the profile of his mother's face. He sees the blue lint stuck in the gooey blood that has scabbed over the side of her cheek. The three of them are almost at the road. Yvette looks over at Tiziano and squints her eyes, tenses her brows and shakes her head. Tiziano looks back, just as puzzled as his sister. Where would they go? Then, they hear him. Jimmy is saying, "Yah, mujar, Lydia, slow down. Lydia, stop." And she does, she slows down, right as they reach the curb to the street. Then, she stops, steps away from the road and looks back.

Away from the kids they talk. "Don't act this way", he is telling her, "just come home. It is too late in the night to leave, wait till morning." Tiziano and Yvette are watching them. They are both silent. They fully understand what has happened again. They watch and then are told to return home. Jimmy and Lydia walk ahead. Lydia is slowly walking. Jimmy has his arm around her body. He is caressing her back, calling her soul back to his with words.

Yvette confides in her brother, "Tizi, I should have jumped in front of the cars the minute she looked back." Tiziano is silent. They are walking in the courtyard of the apartment complex now, their small house is next door. They stare at Lydia and Jimmy walking ahead of them and Tiziano says, "Yimmy from behind looks like a drumstick, wide hips, big thighs and short legs, a chicken drumstick, pinche chapparo". The siblings chuckle and smile but do not look at one another.

Once in the house, Lydia tells them to go into their rooms and go to bed. She touches the side of Tiziano's face and says, "yah, mijo". Tiziano turns from her and shuts the front door. Lydia walks into the bathroom and turns the shower off and then walks into the room where Jimmy waits for her.

Yvette begins to pick up the buffet of food and places it back where it belongs, the chips on the kitchen table, the pan dulce in the plastic bag secured with a green tie, and the cups of soda have been poured down the sink. She rinses the cups and turns off the lights. She walks into the living room to grab her blankets and go to her bedroom, when she sees Tiziano has not went into his. She asks him if he is sleeping in his room or in here. "Here", he states and grabs his blanket and falls on the large sofa, covering his entire body in the blanket. Yvette stands staring at him and decides to stay near him. She makes her bed on the smaller loveseat. She pushes the covers underneath her neck, her face is exposed and she watches Tiziano pretend to sleep in his self made cave. She wishes she could see his face and watch him breathe but every inch of her brother has retreated under the blanket. The entire house is silent. Yvette is staring out into the darkness. She whispers his name and when he doesn't answer she doesn't share all the anger that is stirring inside of her. It is ten o'clock at night. It is a Thursday. They have school tomorrow. Hours pass in silence. Yvette remains on the same couch, staring out at nothing, in silence. She can feel a wave of sorrow, an unseen pressure, push itself into the air they breathe and fill the room. She can hear Tiziano now. She moves the cushions from the couch to the floor beneath where her brother is. She places the blanket firmly around the cushions and props the pillow up and makes her bed close to her brother. "It's okay", she whispers, "Tizi, I am here."


Francine Mejia: "I attended Fresno City College and CSU Fresno and majored in English. I review books at Anthem Book Review and facilitate a community book club called, Madera Reads at Madera Library. I have been published in Flies, Cockroaches & Poets, Fresno Undercurrent, Hardpan; A Literary Journal, The Ram's Tale and was a contributing writer/performer at the Rogue Festival 2012. I was also a columnist for Community Alliance and a coffee columnist at The Examiner. I currently live in Madera, California with my family and my nine-year old German Shepherd named, Samantha."




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