A glass of crazy, p.14
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.14

           Tina Laningham
 
The earth below moved farther away as the plane climbed toward the clouds and that was fine with me considering I hadn't won the lottery. Finding out my magic powers weren't real was a huge let down, but in two hours I'd get to see Dad and I'd be his baby girl again.

  A stewardess served sodas to the people in the seats up ahead and then asked the nun sitting next to me if she wanted anything to drink.

  "Orange juice?" the nun replied, but made it sound like a question.

  "And you?" asked the stewardess, looking at me.

  "Same."

  She looked young for a nun. The nuns in Galveston were old and wore regular clothes, but the one sitting next to me wore a black habit and wasn't much older than a teenager. Maybe nuns went to Galveston to retire and that's why they were old and didn't wear habits.

  The nun took a sip of orange juice and asked, "Who do you see in Mexico?"

  By her accent, I guessed she was more fluent in Spanish. "My dad." I gulped down some juice. "You visiting someone?"

  "Family." She was beaming, probably because her parents were still married, if nuns had parents. "I am with the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration."

  I guess she thought I was being friendly when a huge grin widened my face, but I was really thinking about how Megan and I used to call the triple Ps the Sisters of Perpetual Pandemonium. I clenched the glass of juice on the wobbly fold-down tray. Megan, the traitor.

  "What is your name?" she asked slowly.

  "Abby," I replied without looking up.

  "I am Sister Ang?lica Constantina." She waited a moment and then asked, "Where is your mother?"

  "Back in Galveston." I sighed. "They're divorced."

  Sister Ang?lica Constantina crossed herself and then closed her eyes for a long time. I didn't know if she was praying or going to sleep, but the conversation was definitely over, which was perfectly fine with me. I turned back toward the window to stare at white puffy clouds below and wondered if that's where people lived after they died. If so, they were all invisible, except probably not to each other. Maybe divorced families got back together in heaven. Maybe that's why Sister Ang?lica Constantina was praying. I missed going to Mass with Mom and Dad.

  Two hours later, the plane landed on a runway. The airport was so tiny, we had to climb down steps to the ground and walk all the way over to a building. The dry air smelled fresh and the sun warmed my face. Dad was somewhere in the building and I tried to find him through the windows, but couldn't see him just yet.

  From behind, one of the stewardesses called my name and told me to wait. I completely forgot they were supposed to escort me to my other parent, which was annoying since I wanted to hurry and see Dad. I guess it was for the best though, in case he wasn't at the airport yet, but Dad wouldn't be late, not for me.

  When the stewardess caught up, I showed the guard my passport and we went to the baggage carousel where everyone had to wait. My green bag came in the first group and the stewardess led me to the place where they x-rayed everything, but I still didn't see Dad.

  I had to show my passport again and the stewardess gave the man a piece of paper Mom had filled out at the airport in Houston. In all the other airports around the world, I didn't remember going through all this. Maybe I wasn't paying attention because back then I was a child and my parents took care of everything.

  With my bag in tow, I rounded a corner where I saw a crowd of people gathered at the end of a walkway. I scanned the crowd for Dad and when we got closer, I heard his big Texas voice say, "There's my sugar dumpling!"

  Dad looked thinner and more tanned and at first I wasn't sure it was him until he scooped me up in a big hug and said, "God I missed you, baby."

  I could've stayed right there the whole week.

  "I need some identification, Sir," the stewardess said.

  "Yes ma'am." Dad put me down and reached for his wallet.

  After studying Dad's driver's license the stewardess said, "You're that senator."

  Dad pressed a finger over his lips and winked at the stewardess. "We'll keep this our little secret."

  Mom had said Dad was hiding in Mexico like a criminal on the lam and that's probably why he didn't want the stewardess to tell anyone. The stewardess giggled and that's when I spotted the Kat woman.

  Like Sister Ang?lica Constantina on the plane, the Kat woman was young, but no one would ever mistake her for a nun. Her tight leather jacket with six-inch fringe that she wore like a shirt may have been black as a habit, but I was pretty sure nuns wore undergarments. A denim miniskirt rode low on her hips, wrapped with a wide silver belt that had a huge brass imprint of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the front. Through two circles of heavy eyeliner, fierce green eyes zeroed in on mine like lasers. I jumped when she came at me.

  "I'm Kat." The hug felt awkward and she smelled like cigarettes.

  I smiled weakly at Dad, who picked up my bag and grinned as if things had never been more perfect.

  The three of us walked to a parking lot where I immediately spotted Dad's black SUV. Dad wore blue jeans and a gauzy white shirt with sandals, a straw hat and brown sunglasses, which seemed a lot more normal for an American tourist than what Kat wore. I looked plain in blue jeans and sneakers, but Mom would've definitely stamped Kat's costume: Not appropriate for John Alexander's public image. Seriously, black leather shoe laces snaked all the way up to the top of her legs.

  We got on a road in the middle of nowhere and I wanted to ask Dad where we were going, but he was busy playing with Kat in the front seat. Kat wanted a CD that Dad had in his hand and he wouldn't give it to her, but eventually she tickled him and he handed it over. Staring intently at the back of his head, I wondered if he even knew I was there because it seemed like he didn't want to do the Dad thing anymore. I settled down in the seat and watched rocks and tumbleweeds go by. He had to let me visit because I was his daughter, but I didn't get the feeling he really wanted me.

  Nearly an hour later Dad said, "Look up ahead, baby. There it is." I assumed he was talking to me since he had raised his voice, but I wasn't sure until he turned his head to see if I was looking. I leaned in toward Dad and the most radiant city I'd ever seen appeared.

  "That's San Miguel, baby girl."

  Nestled between green treetops were orange and pink square buildings of various shapes and sizes that spread for miles over rolling hills. In the center of town, a cluster of enormous cathedrals rose high in the air, as if by their majesty couldn't be real. If fairies had their own city, it was San Miguel because it looked like something a fairy would create with the wave of a magic wand. We made our way down a winding road toward the cluster of cathedrals until we reached the inner city with its narrow cobblestone roads that made the car vibrate.

  "You holding up back there?" Dad asked.

  "Feels like that massage chair from your apartment." I smiled, wanting Kat to know Dad and I went way back, like almost fifteen years.

  But what Kat did next was totally disgusting. She practically climbed in his lap, ran her finger over his ear and said, "We had some great nights in that chair, didn't we, honey?"

  I nearly gagged.

  Dad grinned and said, "Baby, you better let me drive or we're not gonna make it home."

  I wanted Dad to turn around and take me back to the plane. When Mom first told me about our apology vacations, I didn't totally get it, maybe because I remembered our vacations as happy times. But this was Mom's reality-the R-rated movie now playing in the front seat-and today it was my reality too. Even if this whole Kat thing blew over and Dad wanted to take us on another apology vacation, things would never be the same.

  We climbed to the top of a hill where a wrought iron gate opened in front of a magnificent stucco hotel with a huge fountain in front. We drove all the way around and parked in back near a tiny guest house that was probably Dad and Kat's apartment. It looked smaller than our apartment in Galveston and I wasn't sure I could take sharing that small of a place with the Kat woman for an entire week. As long
as I had my own room with a door that shut, I'd probably be okay. But when Dad carried my bag to the back entrance of the hotel, I had to say something.

  "We're not all sharing one room are we?"

  "No, baby cakes," Dad flashed a big smile. "You get your own room."

  When Kat hurried by me to catch up with Dad, I shivered. In real life, she was creepier than on TV. We entered through a kitchen with blue and green tiles and copper pots hanging above. Two women washing tomatoes in the sink turned and smiled. The older one said, "Ah, bueno, se?or." She had to be the teenager's mother because they looked exactly alike.

  "Buenos tardes, Berta," Dad said with his Texas accent. "Esta es mi hija, Abigail."

  "Abby," I said, letting her hug me. A little dog sprang in the air and licked my hand.

  Berta kept grinning. "Mi hija, Gabriela."

  "Gabby," the daughter said and kissed both my cheeks. "I speak English."

  "Good." I sounded totally relieved.

  "Abby and Gabby. How 'bout that," Dad said, grinning. He reached down and rubbed the dog's ears. "And this is Fandango."

  Kat moved straight through the kitchen without saying hi to anyone and waited in the next room. Fandango squealed and hid behind Berta. Dad followed Kat and I followed Dad.

  "Nice meeting you," I said to Gabby on the way out.

  "You too," she said.

  The next room wasn't really a room; it was more like an open area with a grand spiraling staircase in the middle. In a dramatic movement, Kat spread her arms and in a super fake voice said, "Welcome Abby. Mi casa es su casa."

  I turned to Dad and said, "I'm really tired. Can I just have my room key?"

  Dad cocked his head as if I had spoken a language he didn't understand. "This isn't a hotel, baby. This is my house."

  Kat huffed at him.

  Pulling Kat close, Dad said proudly, "Our house."

  "Mom said you were broke."

  "Well," Dad said slowly like he was trying to think of what to say next, and then his face lit up. "This is Mexico. You can live like a king on practically nothing."

  I'm sure I looked perplexed because I truly was. Finally, I said, "You should tell Mom. She might want to move here."

  Kat's mouth dropped.

  Dad marched up the steps with my suitcase. "Let's get you settled and I'll give you the grand tour."

  I trailed behind Dad, hoping Kat wasn't coming too. When I turned around to check, she was still downstairs lighting a cigarette. I picked up my pace.

  At the end of a long hallway, Dad pushed open a door and said, "Hope you like it."

  The minute I stepped in, the warmth of the orangey washed walls and hand carved wooden furniture melted my tension. Dad plopped my bag on the lime green colored bedspread that matched all the pillows around the room. It was the kind of room that could cheer up the most depressed person in the world, even Mom.

  Dad pulled an empty drawer from the chest. "For you."

  I had a million questions, but couldn't put one together.

  Next to the bed, Dad opened a window surrounded by vines of yellow flowers. "If you need anything, tell Berta," he said and squeezed me tight. "I missed my little girl."

  "Thanks, Dad."

  "Dinner's at seven." He winked on the way out.

  In the distance, a light pink bell tower glowed in the sun against the clear blue sky. Below, Gabby came out of the guest house with a heavy bucket and handed it to a man, who tossed the whole bucket of sudsy water on Dad's SUV and got busy scrubbing it down while Fandango, who looked part Chihuahua, bounced around, doing spins in the air. I wondered what Mom was doing today. If she knew we could live like a king on practically nothing, or really a queen and a princess, she would want to come.

  It was weird having to wait until seven o'clock to go downstairs, like I had to have an appointment to hang out with Dad at home. Since Mom turned the data off on my phone, I called to let her know I'd made it, that the plane didn't blow up or anything, but there was no answer.

  I pulled out my laptop and sent her a quick email. I told her about Dad's mansion and that we should think about moving here, too. I even shot a few photos of my room and the view outside, and then downloaded them to the computer so Mom could see what I was talking about.

  Finally, I sent Rafa an instant message:

  Abby: Dad's insanely rich, but the kat woman's a freak.

  Rafa: pics! send pics!!!

  Abby: hang on

  I emailed the same photos of my room that I'd sent to Mom and waited.

  Rafa: not the house! the kat!!!

  Abby: OK!!! OMG dad has maids!!

  Rafa: all gringos have maids. I want to see the freak.

  Abby: you're the freak

  Rafa: you wish

  Wandering through the maze of rooms, I heard dishes clinking and found Gabby placing colorful plates on a long wooden table with a black wrought iron chandelier above.

  "Need some help?"

  "No," Gabby said. "Please, have a seat."

  Gabby set five places at one end of the table. I pointed at two and said, "Let's sit here."

  She looked puzzled. "This is not for me."

  "Um, okay then. Who?"

  Gabby shrugged and left the room. When I heard Kat giggling, I figured Dad was somewhere nearby.

  "I love our afternoon naps," Kat said, clinging to Dad like a monkey.

  I wanted to point out I was standing right there and could hear them, but I think they already knew that. From another room, a bell chimed and Dad said, "They're here."

  Kat hurried to get the door.

  "Kat invited some friends over for supper." Dad flashed what Mom used to call his photogenic smile.

  The man and lady were older than Kat, but younger than Dad. Berta and Gabby appeared with four glasses of wine and passed them out to the grownups, who stood around laughing until Dad finally remembered I was there.

  "This is my daughter, Abigail." With his hand on my back, he guided me into their circle. The couple nodded at me and then Dad raised his glass and told everyone to have a seat.

  Dad went to the head of the table and Kat slid in a chair next to him. The couple sat on the other side and I had to take the only seat left, which was next to Kat. I wanted to ask Kat if I could sit next to Dad since I hadn't seen him in three months, but she turned her back to me so it didn't feel like a good time to ask. That's when Gabby came in and placed a plate of bacon wrapped shrimp in the middle of the table. I gave Dad a look of surprise and he winked at me while Berta put smaller plates on top of everyone's bigger plates.

  "Shrimp Brochette," I said to Dad with a huge grin.

  "I knew it was your favorite, baby."

  Kat snapped her napkin open and said, "Broch-ay, not brochette," then turned to me and in a you're-so-stupid voice said, "It's French."

  Dad picked up a shrimp by its toothpick and said, "Abby said it right." He peered at me and added, "I had to teach Berta how to make these."

  "It's broch-ay," Kat insisted. "You don't pronounce the t."

  "Yes you do, babe," Dad argued in his usual sweet way.

  The man across the table had already eaten one and said, "Whatever it is, it's delicious." He drank some wine and asked, "What's in these things?"

  While Dad explained how to stuff the shrimp with cream cheese and jalapeno, "then wrap 'em in bacon and fry 'em up," the lady next to him was doing something on her phone. "It's a Texas tradition," Dad said proudly.

  "According to all the dictionaries," the lady reading her phone said, "you do pronounce the ts."

  Kat tensed up. If she had been a real cat, I'm pretty sure she would've swiped a claw at someone. I felt bad for having started the whole argument, so to change the subject I asked Dad, "How come you're drinking wine? Mom said you were in AA"

  Dad's face turned red and he whispered to the couple, "messy divorce," as if that explained everything.

  "AA's nothing to be ashamed of," said the lady.

&nbs
p; The man cleared his throat as if he didn't know what to add.

  "John doesn't have a drinking problem anymore," Kat said. "I got bored drinking wine all by myself, night after night. I mean, how romantic is that?" She placed her hand on Dad's. "I taught him the art of moderation."

  "Moderation with drinking." Dad raised his glass. "Not anything else."

  Everyone laughed but I didn't get it. I decided it was probably a good idea to keep my mouth shut through the rest of dinner. Even when Berta and Gabby brought out the chicken with rice and Kat made a big deal out of how Dad had requested it just for her, I didn't say a word. I just wanted the night to be over.

  I Skyped Rafa to give him a rundown of my rapidly deteriorating dinner conversation. He loved the part about the shrimp brochettes but was frustrated that I hadn't taken any photos.

  "It's not like I could eat dinner with my phone up in the air."

  "Tomorrow," he said. "I need to see her."

  "Okay! Goodnight!"

  "Sleep with the angels, chica."

  - 15 -

 
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