by Claire Bennett
“Charlotte! Dinner!” her mother’s piercing voice rang through the house.
“Coming mum…” mumbled 11 year old Charlotte.
Downstairs her mum; Guadalupe, was busy with preparations for dia de los muertos: a mexican celebration. Her mum had been doing nothing else for the last three weeks. Charlotte’s rickety, old traditional house had been transformed; it was now laden with beautiful flowers adorning the ceiling and doorways, the wonderful smell of cooking food wafted through the peeling rooms. Her family had lived in this house for generations, Charlotte had never felt her mum’s connection to the house; she hated sleeping under a leaky roof.
To Guadalupe, dia de los muertos was the most important time of the year! And with it only 2 days away Guadalupe was working hard to keep the tradition alive, Charlotte received a daily lecture about how important it is to remember her ancestors and celebrate their lives; otherwise, their memories would fade from existence: their whole lives gone. Charlotte, however, felt quite the opposite about dia de los muertos; she would much rather hang out with her friends.
Charlotte reached out to some delicious looking food.
“No”! Her mum exclaimed and quickly pulled her arm away. “Those are for your aboulo! pozole were always her favourite.”
Charlotte huffed. What good was food to dead people?
Charlotte had her dinner; it wasn’t nearly as nice as the pozole. Then she got ready for bed, after brushing her teeth she popped the question: “You look very pretty tonight, Mama”
“Thank you my hija, but get to the point.”
Charlotte sighed her mother knew her too well. “All right. I was… well… I was wondering if I could skip dia de los muertos this year…?”
Guadalupe stared at her daughter as if she had just suggested pigs could fly! “But querida… dia de los muertos is about family, it is a trad-”
“A tradition I know”. Charlotte stammered “but i want to hang out with-”
“Enough Charlotte!” her mother’s tone quickly became angry. “Us mexicanas have had this tradition for over 500 years. I will not break it for you to play with your friends!”
Charlotte’s eyes welled up and tears rolled down her cheeks. She ran upstairs to her bedroom; she buried her head in her pillow and wept.
When suddenly from under Charlotte’s bed sprung a silky black cat… Just then, her mum burst into the room, she opened her mouth to speak, her face flushing red but before she spoke Charlotte fled the room…
Charlotte had nowhere to go to. she ran and ran until she reached a cemetery; she collapsed on a cold stone bench and cried…. She had no clue why she was so upset over stupid dia de los muretos, then it hit her. She was just upset at her mother, angry, annoyed… What had she done? She cried even harder. There was a chill in the air. Charlotte shivered in the cold.
“Don’t cry dear” a soft voice called from behind her.
Charlotte was too shocked to scream! Standing right behind her was a figure of a person, not quite alive but fading softly, the shell of the person she; whoever she was, once was. She had grey hair and wrinkles, dimples appeared on her cheeks when she smiled.She had warm almond shaped eyes,which somehow seemed familiar.
Charlotte stumbled backwards into the tree. “Wh… who are you?” muttered Charlotte
The ghost studied her. “Why am you aboula carino.”
Charlotte now knew where she had seen those eyes before; she saw them staring right back at her every time she looked in the mirror.
Just then, Charlotte saw the silkey black cat slink by completely unaffected by the ghost.
Her grandmother knelt down to pat the cat. “Good gata”. The cat purred “Alma is very faithful, she led you here after all.”
Charlotte began to trust the old lady…
She explained all her problems and answered all her aboulo’s questions about the future and what had happened to her family after she left.
As they talked Charlotte forgot about being miserable.
The more time they spent together the more color came back to her aboulo. The color came back to her milky brown eyes.
They talked for hours until Charlotte looked at her watch.
I have to get back! She thought desperately, her mama would be worried sick!
“Aboula I have to go!” exclaimed Charlotte
“All right neita. But I want you to go back and celebrate dia de los meretos with your familia. Remember me… if there is nobody in the world left who does I will simply fade from existence.”
So that was why you were fading, thought Charlotte.
“I will aboula I won’t let you die twice.” but somthing else was on her mind… “will I ever see you again?” Charlotte asked.
“I never left you,” replied her grandmother.
Charlotte sighed “I’ll miss you all the same.”
“Goodbye Abuola”. And with that Charlotte turned and left.
She glanced behind her waving; expecting to see her grandmother’s cheerful face waving back… but she had disappeared into thin air.
Charlotte broke into a run.
There was so much to think about. If this was possible what else was? The spooky stories she and her friend told at sleepovers? The thought gave her shudders.
By the time Charlotte got home to her rickety old house her mum was on the phone with the police.
“Querida!!!!!” Guadalupe squealed as she hung up. Her mother grabbed her and pulled Charlotte into an enormous, bone-breaking bear hug “I was so worried!”
“I’m so sorry, mama! I should have listened to you!”
Charlotte would have said something else, but her words were drowned out by her mother’s tight embrace.
So, Charlotte celebrated dia de los muertos with her familia but something was on her mind…
Just then, a silky black cat slunk past, Charlotte could have sworn it winked at her…