The cold rain fell from the dark sky above and splashed on my brown ugg boots as we walked down Acequia Road in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ruthie carried her dance bag, and I carried mine. My long brown curls bounced against my hair as I walked, and they stuck to my face as the rain soaked the individual hairs. Individual shapes of windows from the modern, house- like apartments lit up the sidewalk with radiant yellow light as we walked. Ruthie walked next to me, quietly singing the song for her dance solo. She’s always been a natural born dancer, and I followed in her footsteps. We are still different though she was high energy, so she took up jazz and hip-hop, and I am a more emotional, graceful person, so I took up ballet and lyrical.
“Oh my gosh, I forgot to tell you this!” Ruthie gasped. “So, you know how I auditioned to be in the Alvin Ailey dance company right?!” I nodded my head. “Well… I got accepted in!” she screamed.
“Ruthie that's amazing!” I told her. We both quickly hugged each other before running to the apartment, soaking wet.
We met Mamá up on the front steps to the apartment building. Mamá must have been out looking for a job, because her reddish, brown hair was pulled into a curly ponytail, and she had a dress and makeup on. She had been looking for a cooking job lately, because its always been her passion.
We walked inside and I was immediately engulfed in the smell of spicy, savory tamales. Mamá was always an amazing cook, and she could make even the pickiest of eaters like what she makes. Ruthie set the table while I helped Mamá finish up the food. Mamá told me about her job search, and how she hopes she’ll start making more money so Ruthie and I can go to college and we could all possibly move into a larger living space.
“Ruthie, Rose, why don’t you two go get cleaned up before we eat?” Mamá said, realizing we had been soaked the entire time.
Ruthie and I walked into our room. It had grey walls and blush pink curtains. Both of us had small beds that faced the center of the room our dance awards were on a shelf above our dresser, and we had an entire wall covered in polaroids and photos that Ruthie and I had taken. I walked to our white, wood- doored closet and pulled out a light blue t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants. I put them on, along with putting my hair into a bun to keep the wetness off of my face.
I walked out of the room and sat down at the dinner table. Mamá brought the dish of tamales over and set it down in the middle of our white circular table. The phone suddenly rang I didn’t think much of it because Ruthie rushed to answer it. I took my fork, wedged one tamale out from the pile, and set it on my plate. As soon as I picked it up to take a bite, Ruthie ran in, and I could tell something was wrong because her hands were shaking, and her eyes stared intently at us.
“Some dude down at a court office wants to meet with us!” she hastened. I looked over at the clock it read 20 after 7.
“It must be important.” I thought.
Mamá, Ruthie, and I quickly ran out the door and got into the car before driving into the night. Ruthie had calmed down once we were in the car, but we still sat huddled together, like we did as children.
About 30 minutes later, we arrived at Lodge and Cooper’s, a high standard court office in our small town of Albuquerque. Mamá straightened her skirt as we walked through the door. The waiting space was small, with blue walls and an off white leather couch that seemed to wrap around the entire room. A glass coffee table sat in the center of the room, with magazines filled with celebrity drama.
“Are you the Martinez family?” a tall man asked us. He wore a suit, had a bald head, and wore glasses. He looked evil. He looked like a force that did terrible, evil things to innocent people, almost like a villain. “Fuerza maligna” as we say in Spanish.
“Yes we are,” Mamá said calmly. She reached her caramel- colored hand out to shake his. He told us to follow him, and we did until we were all the way back in a small room with only a desk. We sat down in large chairs in front of the desk where the man sat.
“Okay, I have another appointment soon, so I’ll have to make it quick,” he explained. “Because the government is editing the immigration laws, all immigrants that came from any country before 1998 will have to go back to their original country until the laws are amended. The reasoning behind this is, our government was not officially stable with those laws until that time, so all immigrants will have to be re-put through the entry process.”
I looked over at Mamá. Her eyes weren’t as calm as they usually were. They looked hard at the mans face before quietly saying, “Where will my children go? They are just 17 years old they aren’t even legal adults yet!” The man laughed quietly in his seat.
“If you can trust them by themselves, they will not have to stay in the foster homes that will be provided for the younger children. But you’ll have to sign the papers first,” he spoke.
Mamá picked up the papers and read them over quickly. She then took a pen from his desk, and signed her name in the space they had provided. That was it. Mamá was leaving. The whole room felt like it was spinning. My breaths became jagged and uneven, my eyes filled with tears and I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I felt like I was going to pass out, or have a seizure. Ruthie looked intently at me, her eyes were red as tears streamed down her delegate, doll- like face.
“I accept your offer,” was all she said. Everyone sat for what felt like forever and looked at Mamá.
“Well, let’s get going girls. You heard him, he has another appointment,” sighed Mamá angrily, glaring at the evil man.
“Wait, I’ll go!” Ruthie objected. “Please, you can’t take her from this country, she needs to stay and make money she’ll have nowhere to go!”
“Ruth-,” mother started to say before I interrupted her.
“No, I’ll go!” I argued. I looked at both Mamá and Ruthie. “Ruth, you need to stay here, you just got accepted into the Alvin Ailey, and I can’t let you blow that opportunity after you worked so hard for it.” I realized I was starting to cry.
“And Mamá,” I started again, “You’ve done so much for us, I can’t let you go back and have nothing after you’ve done so much to deserve a good job, and a good house, and overall happiness.” Both Ruthie and Mamá looked at me with glossy, soft eyes. The man behind the desk looked at me like I was crazy.
“Rose, you don’t have to do it,” Mamá said calmly. She stood up and walked over to me. She took her hand and wiped the tears off my face before embracing me in a warm tender hug.
“I don’t want you to have nothing, either,” Mamá cried. “I don’t want you to go and have nothing like I did, you’ll have no money, and no house or job!”
“I can contact Abuela,” I said calmly. Mamá always talked about Abuela, and Ruthie and I knew how much she missed her. I looked into the eyes of my mother for what felt like years until her face softened, and her eyes became less hard. In a matter of seconds, she started nodding, giving me the approval that I needed.
We left the court office that night, I signed the papers, and was given a passport to go home.
“Home, what a calming word”, I thought.
That night was hard, Ruthie helped me pack all of my personal items, Mamá called Abuela, and made sure I knew where I was going.
“Why do you have to go?” sobbed Ruthie as we sat in our beds.
“Because Mamá needs her job here, and you need to go dance and have a career for yourself.”
“But I’ll miss you so much, Rose. We’ve never not been together!” she sobbed again. I looked back into my sister’s eyes they were glossy and tear filled as they looked back at me. She wasn’t the same person she was the shattered remains of what was left of her, and I was leaving my mother to pick them back up again.
In the morning, we got up early to drive me to the airport. The ride was silent, no one cried, no one laughed at memories everyone remained in the dismay that was this day of change.
Once we got there, I journeyed through the airport and got my boarding pass, I was guided through security, and then was standing at the gate of flight 138 to Salvador, Brazil.
“Goodbye Mamá, Ruthie,” I whispered. I was trying my hardest to stay strong, hoping it would rub off on them, too.
“We love you, Rose. Please call us when you land,” sniffed Ruthie in reply to me. We hugged for what felt like an eternity before I had to get on the plane.
“We’re proud of you hija,” smiled Mamá. She was proud, I could tell. I was only 17, and I was making a huge sacrifice for our family.
“Welcome!” exclaimed one of the flight attendants. She wore a black pencil skirt and a dainty button up shirt. Her hair was long and curly it reflected nice against her light skin. People shuffled down the aisle, trying to find their seat, and I followed trying to find mine.
Seat 3B, I thought, trying to read the small letters until I found it. When I did reach it, I sat down with this older lady in the window seat. She reminded me of my Abuela, with her caramel skin, her grey hair, and her bright blue eyes. Something started beeping above me, and I realized we were taking off. I put in my earbuds and started listening to music. I didn’t want to look at the photos on my phone, or look back into my old life, worrying it would break me like it did Ruthie. The plane smoothly rolled off the ground, as fate drew me closer, to my new life, which I would have to rebuild soon.