Guanajuato City, summer of 1900
Nayeli Antoinette Catalina Rivas Lara Cervantes was fourteen years old when she married James Franklin, a rich young man from an important American family, who at the time was recently done with his college education at Harvard. They met at a ball organized by President Díaz, to which both their families were invited. James showed immediate interest in that beautiful young girl with chestnut hair and blue eyes who looked around the ballroom with a bored expression. For her part, Nayeli did notice James noticing her, but she just didn’t care—she had better things to think about, like trying to figure out where the hell her father was. Nayeli and her mother were extremely bored and tired, they wanted to go home as soon as possible.
Then, like an outworld coincidence, both her father and James started approaching the two women at the same time. The young man introduced himself and used his charisma and his perfect Spanish articulation to win the mother’s interest, while the mention of his family name and nationality caught the father in an instant. In a matter of weeks, Nayeli was married to this stranger, which, almost four years later, remained a stranger.
The couple had traveled back to Guanajuato City on the insistence of Nayeli’s parents, who eventually remembered they had a daughter. The four of them were visiting the famous Mummy Museum, accompanied by Nayeli’s former personal servant, Xochitl, an orphan indigenous girl who was the same age as her. Nayeli liked Xochitl: she was shy, quiet, and humble. She knew how to move around the city and was acquainted with the owners of some of the most prestigious stores, who genuinely liked her. Only Xochitl knew how Nayeli liked her hot chocolate and always did her hair in pretty ways. To leave her behind when she moved with James to the United States was a painful deed, but she knew well that Xochitl would otherwise die of homesickness. She didn’t have the heart to do that to her.
“Mother, Father,” said Nayeli to her parents while they were looking at the Tragic Deaths section of the museum. “Please let me go for a walk to the park with Xochitl. It’s been ages since I’ve been here, and I miss the sight of the city from the kiosk.”
“A young woman shouldn’t be walking around by herself,” said her father.
“I will not be by myself, I’ll be with Xochitl. And besides, if according to you a young woman should not be walking around by herself, why do you always send Xochitl to run errands and get groceries alone?”
Nayeli’s parents looked at each other. Her father sighed.
“Very well. You may go to the park with Xochitl. Be careful… both of you.”
Nayeli managed to hide her excitement and then forced herself to reassuringly hold her husband’s hand for a second before taking the other girl by the arm and walking out of the museum.
The drastic change from darkness to light made both girls close their eyes for a second after stepping outside. They then started their way to the park Nayeli always liked. She got the two of them some guayaba ice cream and then they went to the big kiosk at the heart of the park. Nayeli stared silently at the busy city. She missed living there. She missed the colors, the food, and all her loved ones. The eerie city of Salem, Massachusetts, where James’s family was from, was a wonderful place to live. She was highly interested in the history of the witchcraft trials and liked the gothic style of the house they lived in, but it just didn’t have Mexico’s unique charm.
“I am really happy that you came back to visit, mi señora,” said Xochitl, cutting off Nayeli’s flow of thoughts. “Your absence is painfully noticeable at the house.”
Nayeli looked at the other girl with surprise. She and James had been there for over a week, and not even her parents had said to her that they missed her. She guessed that they had invited them just to keep up the appearance of a united family, something they had never been. Nayeli smiled.
“I am really glad to be here again,” she said. “I miss enormously living here. I miss you.”
Now it was Xochitl who looked at her with surprise. “Me? You miss me?”
Nayeli looked at her with a hurt expression. “Of course, I miss you! You have always taken care of me and my vain needs. And you are my only true friend.”
“But…what about Miss Rosaura, or Miss Paulina, or—”
Nayeli rolled her eyes. “Those two are as fake as President Diaz’s claims of French ancestry. I was forced to be friends with them, so my father could do business with their fathers. Xochitl, don’t look at me like that. I’m not lying to you. I care about you. I love you.”
The two girls looked at each other intently.
Itzel Campos lives in the United States and is currently pursuing a B.A. in English Literature. Since a very young age, she has been an avid reader and started writing her own stories when she was 15. She lived in Mexico most of her life and likes to write short stories based on different historical events.