Lights flickered annoyingly as Rey sat in the waiting area. She stared at the ceiling watching the lights flicker on and off. She counted the seconds between each flicker. Ten seconds the first time, four seconds the next. It wasn’t as consistent as she thought it was.
Rey did this to keep her mind off everything that was going on. Her father was in the other room, talking with the immigration lawyers. Rey was worried that her father was going to be taken away from her.
Since her mother died eight years ago, her father has been the one constant and stable thing in her life. She was about to turn fifteen. They were planning her big Quinceañera when a knock came on their apartment door.
Rey’s father answered. There was a woman standing in front of him, wearing a pantsuit. He was handed an envelope. He was flabbergasted. Rey kept hearing her father say that he was a citizen, over and over again.
The woman didn’t say anything but, “You have to turn yourself in.”
Rey’s father shook his head and refused. That’s why they’re at the immigration lawyer’s office. Rey’s father doesn’t want to get wrongfully deported.
“Are you really a citizen, Papí?” Rey asked her father as they drove home.
“Yes. I came here with proper papers. I even have a permanent resident card. They got the wrong person.”
“Are you going to be deported?”
“No, mija, I will never leave you. The lawyers will get things sorted. Don’t worry.”
Rey sat in her seat in silence. She was too worried. She was scared that she would come home from school tomorrow and her father wouldn’t be there. A student at her school had that it happened to them. They came to school the next day crying and in the same clothes they had on the day before.
Miss Hawthorne, her principal, took in the student and gave them a temporary home until they sort out what happened. The student is still living with her.
Rey didn’t want that to happen to her. She knew if her dad were taken away, she’d be put into someone else’s home. She had no other family here. Her parents were the first to move out of Mexico.
She was irritated with that woman that came to the door. Her parents did everything by the book. The only thing her father said he hasn’t done was become naturalized… he said he was saving up his money to do so, but he wanted to give Rey her Quinceañera first.
She felt guilty that all this was happening because of some stupid party.
“We don’t have to have a quince. We can get you naturalized and then have a party afterwards. Double celebration.” Rey suggested. Her father shook his head and smiled at Rey. His eyes watered up.
“Rey, please don’t worry about this. Everything will be sorted out. I promise.”
Rey nodded as she tried to put her mind somewhere else. It was hard not to think about it. Especially since that student coming in crying memory keeps popping into her mind like a broken record. Rey couldn’t shake their words from her head.
“They took them away. I didn’t know what to do. There was no food… I had no one to call…”
When they finally got back to their apartment Rey tried working on some homework as her father sat at the table filling out paper work. He was also talking her grandfather.
Rey could barely understand what he was saying. She never really spoke Spanish. They used to speak it a lot at home, but after her mother died, her dad only spoke in English. Her mom didn’t take the time to fully learn English. She was too stubborn. But since her dad worked as an engineer, he had to be able to communicate in English with everyone. He learned to speak it fluently within a month.
Rey only remembered a few phrases, but that was it.
Her father sounded exasperated. He slammed his fist against the table a couple times. Rey watched as he ended the call on his cellphone. His shoulders slumped.
“What’s wrong, Papí?”
“Oh, it’s nothing.”
“Abuelo wanted some extra cash. I told him about the situation I’m in and that I couldn’t afford to send him anything. He just scolded me for being a terrible son.”
“Doesn’t he understand what’s going on?”
“He does. He’s just being selfish. I guess I was also enabling him a bit over the years. Your mother was right.” He chuckled.
Rey sat at the table with her father.
“She always used to say that I was too much of a pushover with your abeulo.”
“Are you sure… we’re okay?”
“Stop asking me that. I’ll start to doubt it myself!”
“I just…” Rey’s tears broke through the barrier she was trying to build up. “I just don’t want to end up alone.”
Rey’s father took her in his arms and squeezed her tight. He let her cry into his chest for a few seconds before finally speaking.
“Reina. Believe in this system. There’s a reason why things run they way they do. If we cannot trust the system, then there would be complete chaos. This was just a case of mistaken identity. I assure you… I have the best lawyers… and a great boss who is willing to advocate for me. We will not be torn apart. Okay?”
Rey nodded into his chest. She always felt safe in his arms. She trusted everything that he said.
That night, she went to bed with her worries pushed aside.
Rey said goodbye to her father as she hopped out of the car to go to school. She took a deep breath as she entered her building. Her previous worries crept into the back of her mind.
“Hey, Rey!” Her best friend, Mallory greeted as she approached her locker. Mallory’s smile and energy was enough to wash away any doubts in Rey. “What’s up?”
“Did you ask your dad if you could have the party?”
“Yeah, he said that he’s been saving for it.” Rey smiled.
“No way! See, you were so worried.” Mallory’s eyes lit up. “I can’t wait to help plan it with you. I get to be a part of your dancers right?”
“Of course! It’ll probably just be you since you’re my only friend.” Rey chuckled.
“You should come over after school, we’ll start practicing.” Mallory danced a little beside Rey as they walked to their first class.
Rey laughed. All the worries she was thinking about before has disappeared… and then suddenly came back when at lunch, her principal came to talk with her.
“Reina, honey, I need you to come with me to the office.” Miss Hawthorne had a smile on her face but her eyes told a different story. Rey looked up at Miss Hawthorne and knew exactly what she wanted to talk about.
They took her father.
Miss Hawthorne sat tall in her chair as she read through paperwork sat in front of her.
“So, your dad’s lawyers faxed this over to us.” She handed the papers over to Rey. Rey looked them over. It was a letter written to her from her father.
It explained that even though they’re going through the court process to prove mistaken identity, he has to be detained. He said they do have funds to make bail, so to not worry about him being gone for long. Their family friends, the Johnsons will handle it and in the meantime she will stay at their house.
Rey’s tears fell down her cheeks as she kept reading. Her dad said how sorry he was that he had to be gone for a bit and that he loved her and will see her soon. He also apologized because they won’t be able to do the big quince they were planning. Rey shook her head after reading that part. She didn’t care. She just wanted her father home.
“Mrs. Johnson is coming to pick you up. We agreed that it’ll be hard for you to concentrate with all this on your mind today.” Miss Hawthorne reached across the desk and placed a hand on Rey’s. “If you need anything during this, don’t hesitate to come to me, okay?”
Rey nodded and wiped her tears.
“Can I wait in here?”
“Yes, hon, you can stay right here. I’ll send someone to grab your stuff for you.”
Miss Hawthorne walked out of the office and left Rey alone with the papers. Some were full of legal terms that Rey didn’t understand, but they were important and her father said to hold on to them.
Mrs. Johnson showed up a few moments later. She came into the office and immediately wrapped Rey in her arms. Rey started crying again.
“Sweet girl, everything will be okay. Let’s get you home and we’ll discuss everything you have questions about.”
Rey nodded and followed Mrs. Johnson out to her car. The drive was silent. Rey didn’t know what to really say. She had a thousand questions running through her head.
The main question was: Will he be sent to Mexico?
Mrs. Johnson shook her head while she took a sip of her sweet tea. Rey sat curled up in her favorite chair at the Johnson’s house.
They’ve been close with Rey and her father since her mother died. Mrs. Johnson worked with her mom and every weekend they would spend Sunday dinner at their house. It helped that Mrs. Johnson spoke Spanish; she was the only person that was close to Rey’s mom at the nursing home they worked at.
“Craig and I will do whatever we can to help your dad. He’s already got great lawyers. It’s just a matter of due process. Craig is over at the bail bonds place right now working out getting your dad home.”
“Trust the system, he said.”
“Yes, we have to put faith.”
“What if… What if they don’t believe us?”
“Then we’ll give them hell.” Mrs. Johnson smirked as Rey eyes widen in shock. Rey chuckled a little.
“Thanks for letting me stay here, Mrs. Johnson.”
“Child! How many times do I have to tell you to call me Henrietta?” Mrs. Johnson poured some more sweet tea in her glass from the pitcher that sat in front of them.
“Mamá always said to call you Mrs. Johnson.” Rey looked down at her lap. Mrs. Johnson got up from her chair and wrapped Rey in her arms again.
“Call me whatever you like, Reina. I’ll still love you.”
Rey started to feel tired and made her way into the guest room. Mrs. Johnson said they’d go by the apartment later to grab her a set of clothes to change into. She still insisted that Rey wasn’t going to stay there too long.
After walking through her empty apartment she was hit with a crashing tidal wave of the unknown. She didn’t know how much clothes to grab or if she should grab some of their invaluable things from the apartment for safekeeping.
She wanted to take all the pictures from the walls. She wanted to have everything from that apartment and move into the tiny guest room at the Johnson’s.
In the end she grabbed a few days worth of clothes, her books, and computer.
Mr. Johnson came back from the bail bonds place with bad news. Immigration had already moved her father.
Rey cried herself to sleep that night.
She tried talking with Mallory before going to bed, but Mallory wasn’t able to understand what was going on. Why should she? She was white; her parents were born in the United States. She didn’t have to worry about her dad being taken away and sent to his home country.
She cried so hard that she couldn’t speak the next morning.
Rey walked around the Johnson’s home as she waited for Mrs. Johnson to be ready to take her to school. She saw a picture of Rey, her mom and her father in front of the Christmas tree at her mom’s work.
Rey remembered that was the day when she told her mom that she wanted to be called Rey instead of Reina. Her mom was dumbfounded.
She was six years old. Santa had just told her that since she was a good pretty girl, she would get a doll for Christmas… Rey wanted a soccer ball.
“No, mija, Rey means king! You are queen, Reina.”
“But I don’t wanna be a queen. Queens are just pretty girls. I wanna be strong like a King!” Rey flexed her arms and roared like a lion. Her mom laughed. It was one of the last memories she had of her mom before she got sick.
Rey lay down on the guest bed staring up at the ceiling. She didn’t feel like a king. She felt weak.
Thanks for checking out this excerpt!! This is my final short story for my compilation/anthology. I can’t wait to put everything together for you guys. 🙂
Don’t worry, I’ll still post the full story… but you will only get access to it if you subscribe to the Exclusive Access tier on Patreon.