Ixchel worried that her choice had been a poor one, even though it had seemed so sensible a few weeks ago. Women eight-months pregnant should not fly. But, of course, women eight-months pregnant also should not make an eighteen-hour journey in a car. Yet, as an only child whose parents clearly needed her there, what was she supposed to do?
In the end there had been two deciding factors. One was Raul. Fly alone and she would certainly make it in time, only to face her father’s death and her mother’s grief by herself. Drive, and Raul would have to take her. He would be there to hold her hand and hold her mother’s. She wanted him there.
And then there was the second reason. Her secret reason. In the best of cases, Raul and his dependable van could become a vehicle of mercy. For if her father could be made comfortable enough for long enough, Ixchel had every intention of persuading her own mother and her new husband to do the unthinkable. She wanted to check her father out of that horrible cancer clinic in Houston that had only sucked away her parents’ life savings and provided no cure, and she wanted to simply put her father in the back of Raul’s van and drive him home. There he could die in his own bed surrounded by all of his loved ones. There her mother could be comforted and held in her hour of need by her family. And there her father’s body could be laid to rest in its proper plot, buried by his pastor, near to the bodies of his parents and ancestors, as the man surely deserved. And none of that would be possible if Ixchel had flown from Mexico City to Houston.
She didn’t know much about the legalities of transporting a body, but after all the money that the treatments had cost, Ixchel doubted that her mother could afford to fly her father’s corpse home. And Ixchel strongly suspected that in the U.S. one wasn’t allowed to just drive off with the deceased. But, for absolutely free one could drive off with the nearly deceased, now couldn’t they?
In fact, she realized with a sigh, her poor dear father didn’t even have to live through the journey home. He just had to live through getting discharged from the hospital and making the very short journey into the van. After that, getting him from Houston to Brownsville would be easy either way. Eight hours on a good highway. Then crossing the border back into Mexico should not be a problem. Officials were on the lookout for live Mexicans coming in, not dead ones going out.
The ten-hour trek to Mexico City would be more difficult, hot and on bad roads, but she would join her mother in rosaries while Raul drove. It would calm them all, and be good for her unborn baby to hear her pray.
She had not, of course, mentioned this plan to either her mother or her husband. No sense stirring up agitation until she looked her father in the eye and knew that this is what he wanted. If it was, and Ixchel was certain that she would be able to tell, then she planned to persuade all.
Only here they were in Matamoros, halfway to Houston and spending the night at a cheap hotel before crossing into the U.S. in the morning. And she was sure that she was having labor pains.
Raul had the television blaring. She wanted to scream at him. Maybe it was just nerves. What did they call early labor? Braxton-Hicks contractions. Ixchel closed her eyes, did her best to shut out the television, the couple yelling next door, the baby crying down the hall. Breathe, she told herself. Breathe. You have a fine plan and it’s all going to be okay. Breathe.
Unfortunately, no matter how slowly you breathe, both birth and death are notoriously difficult to plan around.
Genre – Speculative Fiction
Rating – PG
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