A Lucky Discovery
“It will only be for two weeks, mi vida,” her mother told her for the fifth time.
Ten-year-old Marisol stuck out her bottom lip and made puppy eyes. “I wouldn’t be a bother,” she said. “I’m very quiet.”
“I know, mi hija,” her mother said. “But the hospital has rules. No children in the patients’ rooms.”
Marisol bit her lip to stop herself from crying, but it was no use. “I want to see Aunt Carmelita,” she said through sobs. “And this might be my last chance.”
“You’ll see her when we bring her home.”
Marisol looked up. “Home?”
“Yes, home,” her mother said. Marisol detected a tremble in her voice. “Without more money there will be no operation and without the operation…” Her mother took a deep breath. “There’s nothing else they can do for her.”
Marisol nodded. She thought of all the good times she’d had with Aunt Carmelita. Then she thought of the best time of all, their last beach trip before Carmelita got married last year and moved away to San Rosendo, three states away. She and her aunt were walking on the beach, their feet digging into the damp sand. Every few seconds the water would come up and cover their feet.
“I love you,” said Aunt Carmelita.
“I love you too,” said Marisol.
“Look, I have something for you.” Her aunt pulled a silver bracelet out of the pocket of her loose, billowy dress. Marisol looked at it. There was an engraving in the middle of the oval plate of a swirly letter C. “I’ve got one too,” her aunt went on, drawing another bracelet from her pocket. “See, it has the letter M for Marisol. This way we’ll be connected, no matter where we are.”
Now Marisol stood rubbing the bracelet, deep in thought.
“We’ll drop you off with Great-Grandmother Matilde—” her mother began again.
“I don’t even know her!” shouted Marisol.
“You’ll love her. She’s very kind, and she has a beautiful old house. It’s like a museum.”
“Well, if she lives in a museum, why don’t we ask her for money for the operation?”
Her mother sighed. “Because she doesn’t have any money, darling. All the family’s money was lost during the Revolution. All that’s left is the house.”
“But…” But Marisol looked at her mother’s tired, worried face and decided she wouldn’t put up a fight after all.
They loaded up the car. Marisol must have dozed off during the ride because the next thing she knew, her mother was shaking her and saying, “We’re here, mi amor. Unload your things.”
“Mami,” said Marisol.
Her mother looked into her eyes. “It will be okay. Now get your stuff.” She kissed Marisol lightly on the forehead.
Her parents went in with Great-Grandmother Matilde first, leaving Marisol in a huge front room with lilac-colored walls covered with old paintings. The furniture looked like it came from another century. It was made of thick, heavy wood with a velvety lining. There was a coatrack made out of the same dark wood with feet like claws. The air smelled musty, as if no one had entered the room for a long time.
The door opened, causing Marisol to jump.
“Okay, darling, we’ll see you in two weeks. Be a good girl.”
Marisol couldn’t bring herself to look as her parents walked out the front door. Instead she turned to look at the young woman who stood in the doorway. She was tall, with deep chocolate hair and an expression that was sharp but kind. Her eyes were the color of honey.
“I’m your long-lost cousin Guadalupe,” she told Marisol, smiling. “You can call me Lupe.”
She motioned for Marisol to follow her. The house really was like a museum. There were arches and columns dividing enormous rooms full of antique furniture and paintings. On one wall hung a collection of spears and military medals. It was the kind of house she’d read about in her Ghosts of Guanajuato book—a house filled with secrets.
Finally, Lupe stopped at a closed door. “Your great-grandmother’s waiting for you inside,” she said, opening the door and standing aside so Marisol could pass.
Her great-grandmother Matilde sat in a wooden chair with comfortable-looking pillows. She held a long silver cane in one hand. Her hair was pulled back in a braid that curled around her head.
“It’s been years since I’ve seen you,” her grandmother said, squinting at her. “You look a lot like your mother.”
“Gracias, Señora,” said Marisol.
“Call me Great-Grandmother Matilde,” she said. “So many years have passed since I saw you last, but you’re still as beautiful as ever.”
“Thank you, Great-Grandmother Matilde.” Marisol smiled, thinking that her great-grandmother’s eyesight must be going.
After more conversation, Matilde told Marisol that she was free to go about the whole house exploring. If she needed anything, her cousin Lupe would help her.
Now Lupe appeared at the door and took Marisol up the winding staircase to her bedroom. Her suitcase was already there, on the floor at the foot of the bed.
“Make yourself at home,” Lupe told her. “We’ll have dinner in an hour.”
Marisol walked over to the dresser, which was topped with a large mirror surrounded by carved wood. She examined herself briefly and sighed. If only she were beautiful like her great-grandmother said! Then she looked around the room.
The big bed in the middle of the room had an elaborately carved headboard. The lampshade was a mixture of swirling colors. There was a sturdy-looking wooded desk and a bookshelf full of old-fashioned leather-bound books. Marisol thought it was the most interesting room she’d ever seen.
The days flew by. There was so much to do and to explore. So many trunks, paintings, and even clay sculptures to examine. Three days before her parents were going to return to pick her up, she heard a scream from upstairs. She put down the necklace she was admiring and rushed upstairs.
Lupe was in the hallway. When she saw Marisol, she pointed a finger at the wall. It was a big spider. Marisol picked up the broom that Lupe had been sweeping with and gave the spider a hard whack.
She gasped when she saw a hole where she had hit the wall. Peering into the hole, something caught her eye. She peeled back a few remaining pieces of plaster that clung to the edges of the hole so that she had a better view. It was the keyhole of a trunk!
“Open it up,” Lupe said excitedly. “There’s something in there.”
After a few more jabs with the broom handle, there was a hole big enough for the chest to fit through. She pulled it out, waving away the dust that came out with it.
“I’ll go grab a crowbar,” volunteered Lupe.
“Great-Grandma!” yelled Marisol. “Come quick!”
Lupe returned with the crowbar at the same moment that Great-Grandmother Matilde arrived from her bedroom down the hall. The old woman’s eyes grew large when she saw what was happening, and Marisol thought she heard her murmur, “Papá.”
The trunk was filled with necklaces, bracelets, rings, and gold coins.
That evening at supper, Great-Grandmother Matilde told them the story of the missing trunk. “When I was a little girl, the Revolution broke out and we had to flee. My father stayed behind; he said he had something to take care of. He was killed. We never found our things. we thought the soldiers must have raided the house, but my mother always believed that my father had hidden the trunk before he died. And now we’ve found it at last!”
“All because of one spider,” Marisol said, and they all laughed.
“Now let’s call your parents,” Great-Grandmother Matilde said, with a twinkle in her eye. “We’ve got an operation to arrange.”