by Jason Velázquez
“¿Mamá?” Esperanza’s question reverberates musically in the back of the Econoline, “¿Will I get to meet my papá?”
Dolores strokes the 11-year-old’s hair with one hand as the other glides reflexively to where, under her oil-stained work shirt, a circular pattern of raised, and occasionally sensitive, skin is a lighter color than the surrounding flesh.
Esperanza’s features are so fine, her frame so delicate and unlike her own, Dolores considers, that she might actually be able to identify the father. He will certainly introduce himself to Esperanza. The barest hint of curve, disguising the bony angles of fifth grade, will not escape their notice. ¿How long—weeks? Maybe just days after the pair is deposited in a town she hasn’t seen since she was still Lolita.
“Yes, bebé,” Dolores quietly decides as the van sails through the darkness. “You are going to meet your papá,” she reassures the figure cradled in her lap that is so graceful, even now, in its stillness.