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La Dama

“Ya eres una dama,” they told her. Cielo was now a lady and she had to act like it. La quinceañera was her grandmother’s idea.  Her mother obliged and all the tias and tios were called to be padrinos. The day of la quince tias y primas from near and far flocked over her to curl her hair, do her makeup, and polish her nails. Cielo sat there quietly. Legs spread wide over the velvet pink accent chair that on any other given day would rest in the corner of her mother’s bedroom. I sat on the bed and admired her. Cielo loved the attention. She always had. Even as little girls, she’d be at the center of any group while I stayed on the sidelines. I was happy to simply be near her.

Tias y primas moved so she could stand. It was time to put on the dress. She looked at me and signaled the door. I made my way out of the room and to the backyard. Red balloons and red roses adorned the wooden fence and the tables set up for the guests. The air smelled of cut grass and homemade tortillas. I joined our friends at a table near the back. I felt my dress drag on the grass.

The mariachi walked in through the gate playing “Cielito Lindo.” Cielo hated that song. Algunos clapped, others sang along. Cielo’s mom opened the back door. Tias and primas helped Cielo push her dress through it. She picked up the sides of her red tulle skirt and made her way toward the middle of the backyard. Cielo smiled big and wide as she looked around. Her dad walked up to her and they danced.

Cielo leaned her head on his shoulder as they waltzed around the makeshift dance floor. Cielo’s dress swayed to the rhythm of the song. The jewels on her bodice caught the rays of the sun. She twirled and she laughed. We sang and we clapped.

Cielo made her way through the long list of relatives squeezed in her backyard waiting to kiss her and congratulate her and advise her on being a dama. I never stopped looking at her. At the end of the night, when the crowd had thinned and her parents were busy thanking everyone and her tias y primas cleaned, I followed her into her room.

She smiled at me. I pulled her close. Her skirt made it difficult for us to stand too close to each other. She rested her head on my shoulder.

“What are we going to do?” she whispered.

“I don’t know,” I buried my face in her hair. I could smell the Aqua Net her tias used to get her hair to stay. “We’ll figure it out. Ten fe.” We held each other tight and we waltzed in her room.

I sang softly. “Ay, ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores.” I pulled her closer, wishing we could stay us forever.


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