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           Michelle St. Claire
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My Name is Marisol
My Name is Marisol

  a novel

  by

  Michelle St. Claire

  Book 6 of Beautifully Unbroken™ Young Adult Series

 

  Michelle St. Claire

  My Name is Marisol

  Michelle St. Claire is the author of over 12 novels and other creative works, including Beautifully Unbroken™ Young Adult Series and short stories from the Jesus Miracles Collection. She is an up and coming author with growing reviews and notoriety.

  For more information, visit:

  https://www.May3rdbooks.com

  https://www.facebook.com/cleanteenstories

  https://www.jesusdreaming.com

  ALSO BY MICHELLE ST. CLAIRE

  Young Adult Fiction

  Being Davanté

  The Last Princess of Saint-Domingue

  A Garden for Raina

  The Evolution of Max Fresh

  Cheap Justice

  A Tale of Two Brothers

  Fighting Felicia

  Carlos Solo

  My Father’s Soup

  Fast Punk

  Song of Sonya

  Coming Soon

  Human Trash

  Jesus Miracles Collection

  My Name is Marisol

  ISBN: 9781945891168

  Copyright 2016 Michelle St. Claire

  Publisher: May3rdBooks, Inc.

  Cover Photo: Getty Images

  All Rights Reserved.

 

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  Prologue

  Secrets

  Vega Tomatoes

  Papa Love

  Fire

  General Moreno

  Carmelo

  Diablo

  Señor Pedro Gutierrez

  Papa Speaks

  No Tomatoes

  Señora Rosano

  The Plan

  My Voice

  Chile

  Prologue

  On the road home from Barranquilla, I lost my voice. Papa tried to revive me. “Bella sol,” he whispered affectionately to me, calling me the beautiful sun, hoping that a happy response would release from my pursed lips and reassure him that all was alright.

  But I could not speak. My thoughts raged within me like driving bulls. I did not know how Papa remained so calm. He was so still, so pensive as he maneuvered our rusty pick-up truck slowly and cautiously along the rough terrain leading back to our tomato farm in Santa Elena, Colombia.

  I wanted to talk, I did. I wanted to scream, actually. I wanted to demand of Papa the true purpose behind these monthly trips to Barranquilla. I wanted to reveal to him that I was not stupid, that I knew, that I knew something was not right, that he was not paying taxes to the government as he told me and Mama and his sons. I wanted to bang my fists on the faded gray dashboard in frustration at the vibrant images that kept replaying in my mind, that had replayed in my mind month after month after month: The so-called officials in black clothes carrying shiny black guns grabbing Papa and dragging him into a yellow room and yelling green words to Papa and hitting Papa and emptying Papa’s blue pockets and taking everything he had.

  Then I would scream for Papa. I would cry for him, fearful that his aging body could no longer withstand these monthly blows. But the men with guns would hold me back. They would place their sour hands over my mouth and squeeze my neck. They would warn me that my teen life would be easily taken if I continued to protest.

  And after minutes and minutes of enduring the sounds of Papa’s torture, silence would ensue. Then the vile men would release me and let me run to Papa in the yellow room. And there, I would find Papa gasping for breath but miraculously unbroken.

  Papa would stand up and easily dust off his wounds like an immortal, like something not human. Then Papa would order me back into the truck to begin our journey home as if this was normal. As if this was what his life was supposed to be.

  On previous trips to Barranquilla, I had talked. A lot. I had asked Papa why. Why did they do that to you? Why do we have to go? Why do you bring me instead of my brothers, Luis or Chū-Cho? Papa would always respond by avoiding my questions, choosing to recant silly stories of his Colombian boyhood instead.

  And then my hot questions would fade from my mind as images from Papa’s boyish tales replaced my serious thoughts. Then we would finally come home and Mama would hug Papa tightly, then squeeze me against her soft bosom while her eyes moistened with happy tears.

  Every single month this happened.

  Yet this time, something was different. Something. Indeed, the beatings by the men in Barranquilla were the same. Their angry faces and heavy guns were the same. The boiling Colombian sun was the same. Papa’s soft sighs as he climbed back into our truck was the same. It was all the same.

  Perhaps it is me that was different. I am a teen Latina. A farm girl unusually equipped with all the clever sassiness of an urban chica. A young woman full of questions and tired of receiving the same answers. Maybe it is me that was not the same this time.

  As we passed by our neighbors’ farms, I felt the warm wind shift slightly. My brown hair twirled in an odd way as I gazed out of the passenger side window. For several minutes, I softly listened to the usual late morning cacophony of farm culture: the melodious tunes of chirping birds, the crunch of wild grass under the paws of wild dogs, the grunts of poor Colombian families pulling and pushing and plucking and cutting and slicing and packing, the grinding sound of roving old farm machines….

  In my daze, I suddenly recalled a word that the Barranquilla men had tortured Papa with: Traidor, traitor. I realize that this word had not been used before by the Barranquilla men in our previous trips. And for some reason, during this trip, they had beaten Papa with it mercilessly.

  I turned to Papa wanting to ask him about this word. About why they tortured him with this word. About what Papa did or did not do to deserve such a demeaning slur.

  But when I looked at Papa, I saw his weathered face and I decided against it. I shifted my gaze back to my window, back to my persistent ruminations.

  “Bella sol,” Papa whispered to me again, trying desperately to lure me out of my thoughts.

  I could not respond to Papa because I did not want to talk about his fake childhood escapades anymore. I had no desire to chuckle or laugh at the historical fantasies my father always created to lighten the mood. Traitor: This is what I wanted to ask Papa about, but I knew he would never tell me the truth.

  And that is when it happened.

  Somewhere after the passing of our truck under the old tree that marked the last mile home, I lost my voice.

  I felt the power of my words, my many, many questions, shift from my mouth and flow through my arms then down into my fingers. It happened so smoothly, so suddenly. By the time we reached our farm, I developed an insatiable, irresistible urge to write.

 

  Secrets

  My high school teacher, Señora Rosano, never seemed to sweat. Although she was the best teacher in the school and was always busy with many things, her clothes remained uncharacteristically dry and breezy as if she had just ironed them and put them on that very minute.

  In a way, Señora Rosano was out of place in my school in Santa Elena. Our classrooms were hot and open and sticky with heavy Colombian heat. Our books were torn in many places with many pages missing. Our desks, old. Our chairs, broken. Our principal, always out of breath and apologetic.

  But not Señora Rosano. She was young and fresh. Her clothes were clean and pristine, although they revealed her possession of a very limited wardrobe. She smiled easily and always gave an answer to every question. And despite the lack of luxurious amenities such as air conditioners and te
acher chairs, Señora Rosano’s forehead was always dry.

  One late afternoon, she stood in front of us, scanning the room. Our teacher was looking for a victim, a term she often used when she was about to call on a student. We shifted nervously in our chairs as we tried to avoid her gaze.

  I looked away when she turned in my direction, hoping she would summon the student behind me. But instead, Señora Rosano called on me. It was the first time this year that she called me to the front of the classroom.

  “Marisol Vega, please go to the front of the room,” ordered Señora Rosano.

  I obediently stood up from my rickety wooden chair and walked to the spot that she was gesturing to. There, I remain poised as my classmates quietly drank in my narrow confidence.

  “Marisol,” began Señora Rosano. “I want you to repeat the main lesson for today. The lesson about La Violencia. Please tell the class when it began, who was involved, and why.”

  I cleared my throat before I spoke. My voice was not as strong as it used to be. I did not want my classmates to laugh at me. I suddenly wished that I could just write this impromptu speech instead.

  “Go on, Marisol. We are waiting. School will be ending soon,” said Señora Rosano in a gentle, but exaggerated sing-song voice which elicited anonymous giggles from the room.

  “La Violencia was a period of civil war within Colombia that started in nineteen forty-six or nineteen forty-eight and ended in nineteen fifty-eight,” I began.

  “Very good, Marisol,” said Señora Rosano. “Go on.”

  “It was a war that started primarily between the Colombian Conservative Party and the Colombian Liberal Party. Each party had their own armed forces as well as ordinary people who supported them. The war was very violent, brutal, and painful and it claimed many Colombian lives,” I said.

  The classroom was quiet as they listened. Señora Rosano was leaning against a paint-chipped wall, smiling at me approvingly.

  “The war,” I continued. “The war was ugly. It was like an octopus, like an intriguing but deadly animal that could kill you with just one touch of its tentacles. La Violencia produced so many factions, so many sects, so many tentacles of destruction. Its ugly arms reached into unsuspecting neighborhoods, farms, rural towns, cities and even families. Many people were stung. Many people died.”

  “Eh,” interjected Señora Rosano. “Marisol, just keep to the facts, please.”

  I nodded to Señora Rosano and resumed.

  “It ended with a peace treaty in nineteen fifty-three. The bandoleros, that’s what some of the armed forces were called, were supposed to lay down their arms, the politicians were supposed to return to their offices, and the priests to their masses. The octopus’ arms were supposed to be cut off completely, but several still remained, moving and growing in the back woods of Colombia,” I said.

  “Eh, okay, Marisol. Thank you very much. That was very good. Please return to your seat,” said Señora Rosano.

  “But there is more,” I protested.

  “Yes, well-.”

  Before Señora Rosano finished her response, the final school bell rang, signaling the end of the school day. Señora Rosano shrugged her shoulders and smiled. She called after us, reminding us of our homework as we rushed out of the classroom and began our long treks home to our respective farms.

  As always, my brother Chū-Cho waited for me under the old tree. He was the oldest child and was very good at acting like a little father when Papa was not around.

  I waved goodbye to my friends and joined Chū-Cho. Wordlessly, we began the three mile walk home. Papa had always refused to let me walk home by myself out of fear of danger finding me.

  “How was school?” said Chū-Cho after several minutes of silence.

  “Okay. Señora Rosano finally called on me. The first time this year.”

  Chū-Cho wrinkled his face. “She did? That’s good. How did you do?”

  “Okay. I had to talk about La Violencia. That was the lesson for today,” I replied.

  “La Violencia? Wow. They barely talked about it when I was in high school. I guess things have changed,” said Chū-Cho dreamily.

  “Yeah. It was during Papa’s time. It was really brutal. It seemed like all of Colombia was in chaos,” I said.

  “Yeah, it sparked a lot of family vendettas, Marisol,” said Chū-Cho in a low tone.

  “What do you mean? Whose family? What vendetta?” I asked.

  “Papa told me. He told me about all the fathers of his friends that died. He told me about what his own father had to go through and how he died. It was really bad, Marisol.”

  “But Chū-Cho, I thought grandpa died from a heart attack?”

  “Hah! That’s what we told you so you could stop asking questions. The truth is that grandpa died from a gunshot wound.”

  “Why? By who, Chū-Cho?”

  “I don’t know. Papa said that grandpa had been working the tomato farm and was about to meet this man who was selling insect poison to farmers. Supposedly, the man was an old friend of grandpa’s who secretly hated grandpa. Papa said that he hated grandpa because grandpa was successful and the man was not. So the man arranged to meet grandpa and sell him some farm supplies. Then they got into an argument and grandpa decided not to buy from the man again. Grandpa didn’t like some of things the man said,” explained Chū-Cho.

  “Like what?”

  “I don’t know exactly. Papa didn’t get into it. But he told me that the man said some things that made grandpa scared for his family. So grandpa went to the police and told them.”

  “What happened after that?”

  “Well, little sister, the police didn’t like the man, either. Not because of what the man told grandpa, but because one of the man’s sons had run away with one of the police’s daughters. So the police told grandpa they would take care of it. And they did.”

  “What did they do?” I asked him as we climbed a small hill leading towards our farm.

  “Papa said that they made it so bad for him to operate his farm supply business that the man had to close. He lost his business license and went bankrupt. Years went by before grandpa saw the man again,” explained Chū-Cho.

  “I guess the man wasn’t too happy to see grandpa after that,” I said.

  “It got worse, Marisol. The man and his older sons had formed some kind of a family gang. Mostly stealing. Nothing too crazy, at least not at first. Papa said that some of the man’s son later joined with some really serious gangs and caused a lot of trouble. They were definitely doing bad things. And when he saw grandpa again, Papa said they had a long talk. Grandpa did not agree to what the man wanted and then the man shot grandpa. Just like that.”

  “Wow. What is a man when he cannot live his life in freedom?” I remarked.

  Chū-Cho looked at me and smiled, shaking his head. “Marisol, you and your philosophical babbling! You’re something else, you know.”

  “But it’s true Chū-Cho. Grandpa Vega was just a man. A man trying to work his own small tomato farm with dignity and pride. He was not a man of vendettas and grievances, but a man of the land. And still, his freedom was seized from him.”

  “Marisol, he wasn’t killed because he was a little farmer. Grandpa was killed because his old friend thought he was a traitor.”

  “A traitor?” I asked, suddenly feeling goosebumps emerge on my arms.

  “Yeah. Papa remembered the man calling grandpa a traitor before he shot grandpa.”

  “Do you…do you think those people are still alive?”

  “Oh, little sister. Don’t be afraid! That was in the past. No one has ever bothered Papa since he inherited grandpa’s farm. As long as he sells where he’s supposed to and pays the monthly taxes, nothing will happen. That was all in the past.”

  I did not respond to Chū-Cho. It was obvious he did not know that Papa was paying much more than taxes every month. Chū-Cho, recog
nizing my sudden reclusiveness, abruptly stopped and reached into his pocket to pull out some pesos.

  “Here,” he said. “Your old friend, Señor Gutierrez’s store is just up the way. You can go in there and buy some ice cream. I’ll wait for you. Go on.”

  “Okay,” I muttered, taking the money from him.

  I gave Chū-Cho my book bag and ran up the dirt road, taking a sharp right near an old farm house. Soon, I bounded into Señor Gutierrez’s makeshift convenience store that was housed in a former dilapidated horse stall.

  “Señor Pedro!” I said as I came in.

  Señor Guiterrez, who had long ago ordered me to call him by his first name, Pedro, appeared older since the last time I saw him which was only three months ago. Although he was Papa’s age, his hair was completely white. It seemed permanently disheveled with unraveled curls standing on end. His old clothes hung looser on him then they ever did. His large calloused hands still bore his wedding ring despite his wife’s passing many years ago.

  Señor Pedro’s kind eyes smiled at me as he talked. “Mija [mee-hah], my daughter! It’s been a long time! How’s school, eh?”

  “School’s fine. We have a new tenth grade teacher, Señora Rosano. She’s really good.”

  “Oh, Bueno! Very good, very good. How about some ice cream for my mija?”

  “Sure. Here’s the money,” I said, placing the coins on the wooden counter.

  Señor Pedro looked perturbed. “No, no. No money. Just smile, that is enough for me.”

  He reached into a small freezer sitting on the counter. It was hooked up to a gas powered generator, similar to the one we have at home. Señor Pedro pulled out a fudge icicle pop and handed it to me.

  “Señor Pedro?” I asked while unwrapping the treat.

  “Yes, mija,” he responded.

  “Do you know anything about family vendettas?”

  Señor Pedro’s eyes widened. He softly wrung his hands before responding.

  “Mija, what is this? What are you asking?” he said.

  “I don’t know. We were talking about La Violencia in school. And when I told Chū-Cho about it, he said that there was an old vendetta against grandpa Vega by some man,” I said.

  Señor Pedro looked intently at me.

  “Did he say who started the vendetta?” he asked me.

  “No,” I replied with increased curiosity. “Why?”

  “Ah, well then, it is just folklore, Marisol. Don’t worry about those things,” said Señor Pedro, appearing relieved.

  “Señor Pedro, please. Don’t treat me like a child. Tell me. Tell me what you know about grandpa Vega,” I pled.

  He sighed as he began to speak. “Mija, there are so many things that men do without thinking. And the consequences are not always good. Sometimes people suffer,” he said.

  “Is that why Papa suffers?” I asked.

  Señor Pedro raised his eyebrows. “What do you mean? How is my friend suffering?” he asked me a bit too sternly.

  Just then, a customer walked into the little store. It was a local woman with a baby. The woman smiled and waved to Señor Pedro as she walked to a row of shelves.

  “Marisol,” whispered Señor Pedro. “I want you to promise me something. I want you to promise me that you will protect your father the best way you can. I want you to tell me the minute any harm comes to him, okay?”

  “But Señor Pedro, what about Barranquilla? Papa hasn’t told you about Barranquilla?” I asked.

  “What about Barranquilla?” said Señor Pedro.

  But our conservation swiftly ended. The woman with the baby had chosen her item and was now standing closely behind me, patiently waiting for her turn to pay.

  “Go, mija,” said Señor Pedro, louder. “Tell your father that I just received a shipment of the new work gloves he wanted.”

  “Okay!” I said, waving at him as I turned to walk out of the store.

  I tried to walk slowly before rejoining Chū-Cho. My mind worked frantically, hoping to decipher the mystery behind Señor Pedro’s admonition to me. It was clear he knew much, much more. But why did he ask me to protect Papa? Did he not know that Papa was already receiving horrendous mistreatment? And if he didn’t know, why? Why hadn’t Papa told Señor Pedro, his best friend, about Barranquilla?

  When I reached Chū-Cho, I found him sitting on the grass, staring at the cloudless sky.

  “Feel better?” he asked me.

  “Yeah. But I’m not a little kid, Chū-Cho. I don’t need ice-cream to make me happy. I’m sixteen years old, you know,” I said gruffly.

  Chū-Cho laughed while he stood up, dusting off his pants.

  “Little sister, you will always be little to me. I remember when you used to live for ice-cream. Every time Papa took you on a trip somewhere, he always had to give you ice-cream just to keep you from acting up. I bet he still does, eh?”

  “Is that why you think Papa takes me to Barranquilla with him?”

  “I don’t know. I guess so. You were always his favorite, Marisol. You’re his only daughter. I think he just likes to spoil you.”

  “That’s not exactly what happens when we go to Barranquilla, Chū-Cho.”

  “What do you mean?” he asked me innocently.

  I was a little stunned at my big brother’s naiveté. It just could not be that he never questioned what Papa did on these monthly trips or that Papa never bothered to tell him.

  “Chū-Cho, do you think the people that were after grandpa Vega were after Papa at some point? Like another gang or like the F.A.R.C.?”

  Chū-Cho stopped and turned to me. He looked at me intently with furrowed brows and clenched jaws.

  “Marisol, don’t ever ask something like that again. Don’t ever say that! Papa would never be mixed up in something so dangerous. That’s not our family. I know you like to ask questions, but you better keep this one to yourself, okay?”

  Shocked by Chū-Cho’s sudden aggressiveness, I nodded my head yes.

  “Okay,” I muttered.

  “Good. Let’s get home now. There’s work to do.”

 

  Vega Tomatoes

  Night fell softly in Colombia. Like black mist. It gently blanketed the sky until all was dark and quiet and asleep. We laid in our beds, waiting patiently for the next day to wake up and toil again.

  I was the only one in the house who slept alone. My small bedroom, a former pantry, fitted me perfectly. It sat on the far end of our house, behind the kitchen and next to the back door that led to the fields.

  Sometimes I listened to the stillness. The crickets. The fireflies. Even the delicate creaking of beetles’ feet on the tomato vines. Papa grew bananas, too, and often I heard the pitter-patter of racoons stealing a midnight snack.

  On this night, my mind was restless. I stared at the ceiling wondering about everything. Wondering about Papa, about grandpa, about our farm. After several minutes, I sat up and searched for my book bag. Remembering that I left it in the kitchen, I got out of bed to get it.

  Heeding Papa’s constant warnings to conserve electricity which was powered by our gas generator, I quickly lit a candle and walked around the small kitchen, searching for my book bag. I found it laying carelessly on the edge of the kitchen table.

  As I reached for it, I suddenly heard a sound, like something falling. I turned towards the sound and realized that it was coming from outside, from the fields. Shoving my bare feet into Mama’s sandals that she always left near the back door, I took the candle and walked outside.

  I heard the sound again. And again. It was a thump. Then another thump. Then a deep smack.

  My heart began to race. I crouched low behind a row of hedges. Blowing out the candle, I remained still and listened.

  “Traitor!” is what I heard. The word was spoken with such venom, that I shuddered involuntarily. Then more thumps. Then a whack.

  “Traitor! That is
a Vega! A Vega is just another name for Traitor!”

  Whack.

  “I cannot cover for you anymore, Vega. Every month your payments get less and less and your debt grows higher and higher. Who do you think I am, eh? A bank?”

  Thump. Whack.

  “You are worthless, just like your father! “

  Whack!

  I tossed the candle and ran towards the voices. They were emanating from an old barn on the far corner of our farm. Papa used to house pigs in it until the last pig died and he converted it into a farm machine warehouse.

  “Hey!” I yelled as I boldly flung the barn gate open and thrusted myself into the dangerous scene.

  I saw Papa tied to a post by his wrists. He was wearing only pants and his back was bloodied beyond recognition.

  “Papa!” I yelled, falling to my knees in horror.

  Some masked men grabbed me roughly and threw me on the crude floor. One kicked me in my side. Another stepped on my hair.

  “Papa!” I screamed again.

  “Bella sol,” Papa said, spitting blood. “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be okay. Go back - go back inside.”

  The man stepping on my hair did not move his foot, causing my head to pulsate in pain. As my heart broke in sorrow, I cried unabashedly.

  “Traitor!” said the masked man standing behind Papa. “You have not fully paid your father’s debt, Señor Vega. No more waiting. No more!”

  “I will pay. I - I will pay. The farm. Take the farm,” pled Papa.

  Some of the masked men laughed. They threw their heads back and laughed like wild Spanish jackals.

  “This farm is nothing but spoiled tomatoes and a handful of black bananas! It means nothing to me,” responded the masked man.

  Papa whimpered. “Please, please. I will pay.”

  The man reached for a long wooden stick and raised it high above his head.

  “No!” I yelled.

  The man ignored me and whipped the stick against Papa’s back. Papa did not scream, but grunted sadly instead.

  “No!” I said again.

  The man pinning me down by my hair suddenly bent down and quickly wrapped a black cloth around my mouth. I tried to fight him, but he was too strong and smelled of malicious anger.

  They beat Papa again and again. When the man holding the stick finally grew tired, he dropped it. Then he snapped his fingers for someone to bring him something. I saw another masked man obediently roll a keg of propane gas into the barn.

  “No!” I mumbled through the cloth around my mouth, fighting, trying to sit up, trying to claw at the man’s foot on my hair.

  The man who was pinning me down finally lifted his foot, then quickly grabbed my arm. He dragged me out of the barn and through our field. He dragged me far away from the barn.

  He dragged me like a rag doll. My legs scraped against the worn grass. I clawed at his death grip on my arm but it resulted in dislocating my shoulder. The man finally stopped and flung me into a neighbor’s pig trough, triggering dog barks and frantic pig squeals.

  I screamed out in pain. I was distorted and badly bruised, but I did not care. I pulled the cloth from my mouth and struggled to stand up.

  The masked men, three that I could make out from where I stumbled, worked very quickly. They opened the keg of propane gas and then ran out of the barn and through our open field, disappearing somewhere on the dusty road leading away from our farm.

  In horror, I ran towards the barn. I ran like the wind or at least I tried. My spindly legs carried me like a gazelle in Africa. I was almost there. Almost.

  Just as I reached out my arm to open the barn gate, it exploded. The entire barn exploded into a fireball made of hay and wood. I was immediately thrown back and knocked unconscious.

 
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