Limon y Sal

Limón y Sal

A Dia de Los Muertos Short Story

The fragrant aroma of pork stewing with garlic and chiles stirred me out of my deep sleep. The best kind of mornings started like this. My stomach grumbled just imaging myself devouring a bowl of steaming pozole and munching away on a crunchy tostada.

I lay in bed for a few more moments allowing my eyes to blink and adjust to the morning light before I kicked the covers off and rolled myself off the bed, feet first. Ama always said I must have been a cat in another life because despite, flinging myself off my bed, I always landed on my feet. I felt a soft hum vibrate against my feet and I glanced down at my cat Gabriel, who lay curled up in his small bed on the floor. I had startled him out of his nap.

“Sorry, Gabriel but I smell pozole,” I apologized to my friend. I skipped in a hopscotch game all the way to my dresser and grabbed my socks. Normally I wouldn’t have bothered with covering my feet as I preferred walking around the house barefoot, but we were in deep fall and mornings sometimes felt more like winter. Touching my bare feet onto the cold hardwood floor felt like walking on melted ice.

I padded my way over to the kitchen in my pale pink socks and by the abundance of sunlight, already streaming in through the open curtains, I realized morning had come and gone; and I had continued sleeping. Just the way I liked it. Behind me, I heard the soft tip-tapping of Gabriel’s nails on the wooden floor as the ball of fur followed me. Given that he had a stronger sense of smell than I did, it was odd that he hadn’t bothered to escape my room until now.

I made my way over to the altar Ama had set up next to the window. Although Dia de los Muertos was a two-day celebration at the beginning of November, my mother liked to set up the altar at the beginning of October that way we could pay our respects for the whole month.

“Hola Abuela!” I waved at the framed picture of my grandmother. Ama liked to keep the altar right by the window claiming the natural sunlight was better for the abuelos something to do with crossing over into our world. I had tuned out the conversation when she had explained it to me preferring to contemplate what I would eat for lunch the next day instead.

Our altar was set up on a small table covered with a red knitted blanket Ama had created years ago but never finished. Ama had knitted it with two bundles of yarn before she had called it quits and decided the blanket was long enough. It wasn’t long enough to even qualify as a throw blanket, but we continued to use it to protect our tables during holiday altars.

On top of the fabric sat a framed picture of my abuela next to a tall sunflower. The picture had been taken shortly after her marriage to my grandfather, in the small town where they married. Ama said this town was particularly known for all the patches of wild sunflowers. Although, the official flower of the dead was la flor de cempasúchil, an orange marigold, sunflowers were abuela’s favorite, so it was only right to add a sunflower to her altar. The candle Ama lit for abuela was a dark purple as that had been her favorite color. It had been burning on the altar since Halloween. In case abuela decided to come early. And a bowl of salt in case unwelcome spirits tried to enter our home.

“Buenos días Selena,” Next to abuela’s frame was a picture of Selena Quintilla who was not a related to us at all but since Ama always played Bidi Bidi Bom Bom on Saturdays mornings, when my brother and I helped her clean I thought it was pretty rude not to invite her to our celebration this year since she always filled our home with sweet melodies.

The odd thing about our altar today were all the lemons surrounding the images of our loved ones. Some lemons were sliced open and placed on a plate with pan dulce while others were on the floor in front of the altar in a semi-circle.

“A fin ya te despertaste mija,” Ama scolded as she watched me from the stove. She stood peering over a large metal pot and with the lid in one hand and an equally as large wooden spoon in the other. “I need you to go down to the panderia, the one next to the library, and go buy some more pan dulce,” Ama reached into the pocket of her blue apron and pulled out a wrinkly twenty-dollar bill.

“Me? What about Ángel?” My brother was an early raiser and more functional in the mornings. In the mornings I sometimes got lost on the way to the bathroom which was right next to my room.

“I had to send Ángel on an errand. Your tio asked if we could pick up Luisto from soccer practice.” Luisto was our only younger cousin who lived in the same city as us. Tio Omar had put Luisto in soccer when he realized our primito was too full of energy and could never be satisfied with a coloring book. Now our uncle was hoping that his son would become the next Lionel Messi. Although after watching his game last week I wasn’t sure whether tio’s dream would ever come true. Luisto preferred to throw the soccer ball with his hands into the goal post rather than kick it. But Luisto was still young and had time to improve.

“Oh. Well, how did we run out of pan dulce so fast? You bought so much for tonight,” she had bought huge boxes of Pan de Muerto from the supermarket a few days ago, they were big enough to feed multiple families. Additionally, she had also bought a lot of colorful conchas too so the tia could drink with their cafe and chisme.

Ama clicked her tongue and let out a disappointed hiss. “AAH pues tu pinche gato,” she gave Gabriel the stink eye who in response swished his tail and continued to eye the pot of pozole as if everything was right with the world, “ate the pan de muerto I had set up in front the altar. So I had to put the ones I was saving for the party on the altar.”

Fucking Gabriel, he was the kind of cat that didn’t beg and preferred to swipe and run. Although we had both fallen asleep early last night, he must have escaped out of my room and gone to pick at the altar.

“Okay, Ama let me just go put on a sweater and some shoes. Is that why you put all those limones in front of the altar?” Gabriel, the cat, was not easily spooked but, for some reason, he was not a big fan of lemons. I had a theory, that he had stolen a lemon from the kitchen and stashed it under my bed for safekeeping thinking it was sweet like mangos but after sinking his teeth into it, he was disappointed by the bitter fruit. There was some truth to this theory because I had found a moldy lemon under my bed once with suspicious-looking teeth marks in the flesh.

“Apurate mija, I let your brother take the car, and the bus is coming soon.”


I ran to the bus stop, which wasn’t too bad of a distance when you were walking. But when I hadn’t taken a single PE class in over a year, the sprint left me out of breath and sweating in my warm hoodie.

            The bus driver gave me a sly smile as I dropped my quarters into the collection box. He was laughing at me on the inside I knew it. Things could have been worse though. If I had put in a bit more effort and put on makeup, I probably would have sweated it off by now. Although, I might have scared a few people with mascara running down my face.

            The bus was a bit full already as it was lunch time speaking of, I was going to have to steal some pan dulce since Ama had sent me away without breakfast. She never did this but given the preparations for the party I understood that feeding me might be a bit far from her mind. However, she had handed me a small plastic bag of salt before I left, for the espiritos, the spirits, she had told me. Which made sense since it was day of the dead and one could never be to careful. The salt was for my own protection and would act as a barrier between me and any unwanted spirits. I patted my pocket for the baggie of salt and swore quietly when I did not feel it. It must have fallen out of my hoodie while I was running. The bus jerked away from the curb at that moment making me lunge for the nearest handle before I fell face first onto the floor.

            I was able to find an empty seat on the left side of the bus. A young man was sitting on the aisle seat with his hoodie pulled up and his head down he was currently looking at an iPod. That’ s weird. I hadn’t seen a single person carry around an iPod since middle school. Did they still make them?

            “Excuse me,” I whispered to the guy. His eyes snapped away from his iPod, eyebrows creasing into a v as if I was some celebrity in disguise and he could not place me. Geez, this dude must not have a lot of experience talking to other human beings or something.

            “You can see me?”

            “Well yeah,” what a weirdo. Just because you’re wearing a hoodie didn’t make you invisible. I learned that the hard way in 9th grade when I tried to sneak into the library with my lunch box. I squeezed myself towards the window seat and settled in the lumpy cushion.
            “That’s not possible! I am dead.”
            My head rolled towards the guy sitting next to me. His jaw was more defined than the statue of the founding pilgrim in the town center. Was he cut from the same stone? His eyes were brown like mine and nothing about his skin looked blue or pasty it appeared red and warm. Either someone was still in denial that Halloween was over, or I was having a spiritual encounter. Given the iPod, in his hands, I was assumed the latter.
            “Well, it is that time of year.” I rolled my head back towards the window. Ghost encounters were nothing new in my family, especially today of all days. We weren’t a family of mediums or anything similar. But for some reason, almost all of my family members have had a ghost encounter. Last year my tio Omar had called Ama on the day after Halloween to tell her he had felt the spirit of their younger brother who had died back in Mexico. Ama recounted the story to me and apparently, tio had caught his son Lusito talking to someone while playing with his toy car. When tio had asked Lusito who he was talking to the kid had simply stated my tio Edwardo. Ever since Abuela had passed on abuelo says she continues to visit him on late nights to scold him into calling his children.
            It was not a big deal to sit next to a ghost. I would have been more worried if the ghost I sat next to was wearing all white and looked very pale, like la Llorna, but this ghost didn’t give me bad vibes.
In my head, I was trying to mentally calculate how many stops until we reached the bakery.
            I would have to get off at the stop in front of the library and cross the street to arrive at the bakery. I wonder if Ángel was still at Luisto’s practice. Maybe I could get a ride back with him.
            “You don’t think it’s weird that you can see me? Have you always been able to see the dead?”
            My head rolled back to the dead teen next to me. For a split second his face flashed between human and bone-like. He resembled one of the teens who went partying in the cemetery for Dia de Los Muertos. They painted their faces to make the other spirits feel comfortable as if they were around friends.

            “No to both questions and beside it’s Dia de los Muertos. Looks like someone lit you a candle on their altar,” I wagged my finger at him. The ghost just seemed overall confused, which confused me as well. “Have they never done that before?”
            “I don’t remember crossing over last year.”
            “Maybe your soul was in purgatory,” I shrugged my shoulders taking a peek at the iPod in his hands. He had Queen’s greatest hits playing, but his earphones had fallen from his ears when I had spooked him. I daintily picked one up and blew on the outside before putting it in my ear earwax and dust tended to cling on to earphones. “This song is so good.”

            “Purgatory? Is that a thing? Like in Dante’s inferno?”
            “I don’t know, haven’t read it. I saw it on Supernatural.” The teen snorted muttering something about no respect for classic literature. A small strand of his hair fell in his eyes. It was a straight lock, something I always admired amongst my straight-haired family members. I had ended up with my abuela’s loose curls. The ghost boy ran a hand through his medium length hair effetely moving the stray strand out of his face.
 

“So, who lit my candle then?” He exhaled, a frustrated breath, I wonder if he’s lying about his first time back in the land of the living. So, who lit my candle then?” He exhaled, a frustrated breath, I wonder if he’s lying about his first time back in the land of the living. I was told that at least.

            “You’re chatty for a ghost, what’s your name ghost boy?” I was suddenly hit with an old memory of my abuela.
“Spirits love to talk. Mija, If you ever see one and they realize you can see them they’ll never leave you alone. It’s best to just ignore them.”
            Oops.
            There was something else about that conversation with abuela. Something important, but the details of the conversation escaped my mind. I shook my head no use in dwelling on it now.
            “I’m Miguel,” the tight grip he used to hold onto his iPod loosened, as he stuck out his hand towards me. His other hand lingered in his hair, and I started wondering if ghost hair was the same soft texture as living hair.

            “Amelia,” I reached out my hand to take his when the bus lurched forward in an unbalancing turn leaving, both of us gripping the bottom of our sits to right our balance. The driver apologized, but everyone seemed to sit a bit straighter in their seats. “I think one of your family members might have lit your candle.”

            My statement was more of a hint than a suggestion. Although Miguel looked like he had Latinx blood, I wasn’t sure how in touch with his culture he was or if he even knew at what I was hinting at.
            “You mean for Dia de los Muertos?” His Spanish was a bit clumsy on his tongue, but I smiled anyways at the effort.

            “Yeah.”

            Miguel’s lips pursed, and his brows once again dove into the valley between his eyes. “No, I doubt it. From what I remember, my family wasn’t big on that particular holiday.”

            “Well, from what my mom told me spirits are guided towards their candle through instinct. Do you remember where you use to live? Maybe we can at least rule out your family.”

            I hadn’t slipped up when I said we because this day just turned from boring and chore filled to adventurous. Plus, I had this feeling I couldn’t explain like I was supposed to help this lost soul.

            “By that old looking high school. It had a weird name. Saint-“

            “Saint Paul?”

            “Yeah that’s it. I used to go there before I died.”

            The bus rolled to a smooth stop and the doors opened with a hiss.

Saint Paul was a co-ed catholic school in our small town. It had been here since probably the beginning of this town’s formation. It was further than my house and hidden in a deep residential area. Occasionally, I would see students in the school’s uniforms hanging out outside of the coffee shop. They were nice for the most part, but I heard some horror stories about their attitude. My friend Lupe liked to joke that they were spoon-fed hate along with their morning prayers.

            “It’s a bit far from where we’re going we would have to get off this bus and take another one just to get to that side of town.”

            “I don’t know what house it was…wait what do you mean we?”

            Some people passed us as they made their way to the front of the bus. There was one man in particular who stood out among the rest of the riders. He was dressed in a black suit and a red tie a little too dressed up. He gave the bus driver a one-handed salute as he hopped off the bus. The bus closed its doors and pulled away from the curb, but from the window, I noticed he was holding a bouquet of orange marigolds. The strange man eye’s locked on mine, and he didn’t look away until the bus forced us to break eye contact. I shivered. Unlike Miguel, that man-made me regret dropping the salt.

            “Yeah, I’m coming with you. Do you know how many ghosts are probably wondering around today? Not all of them are nice, Casper.” I thought back to that suited man who had locked eyes with me moments ago. “Did you forget where you lived?”

            Despite his initial surprise a small smile made its way onto his lips as I informed him he wouldn’t have to be alone.

“I know what the house looks like, but the address is kind of hazy.”

            “That’s probably going to a bit of work. But you’re a ghost so you can probably walk through walls. Just sneak into a house until you see something you recognize.”

            “Do you think that will work?”

            Well if that didn’t work I didn’t really have a plan B. So, I lied.

            “Yeah!” Well, I had nothing much to do today. Homework was more of a Monday morning kind of thing, and Ama probably wouldn’t let us have pozole until the evening, so we could break tostadas with the rest of my family. I should be back by then. “I could help you look. I just need to get this pan dulce for my mom, but after that I’m free.”


When I got back home, the family car was in the driveway, and the front yard was set up with plastic tables and clean seats. Ángel must have set up the tables when he came back with Luisto.

            “I’m back Ama.” The smell of pozole still lingered in the air, and the music from the little stereo in the kitchen was turned up to party level volumes. The vibrations made the windows tingle. I didn’t find Ama in the kitchen this time, but Lusito was there fluffing up a vase of Marigolds. Probably cut fresh from the neighbor’s jardín. Our neighbor Rosa spent a lot of her time out in her garden and, she grew the most beautiful flowers in the neighborhood. Ama must have given her pozole in exchange for the flowers. I set the pan dulce down on the counter and went to drop a kiss on my younger cousin’s head. His hair smelled fresh, so I knew my mom must have made him shower before the party. “Where’s my mom Lusito?”

            “She went to shower.”

            I walked over to the bathroom and knocked before raising my voice, so I could be heard over the running water “Ama it’s me. I brought back the pan.”

            “Gracias mija! Can you go help Lusito set up outside?”

            “Ángel already did that. I came to tell you I ran into an old friend while I was out and I’m going to hang out with them before the party. I’ll be back to try the pozole so don’t worry.”

            “Okay mija, but hurry back because I don’t know how much will be left after your tios start eating.” Shit. She was right. My tios were pros at clearing plates and tables. One time Tio Fernando ate the guavas we had put on the table as decorations. They were not even ripe, but tio ate them anyways like it was no biggie.

            “Alright mamá. Te miro.”

            “Take your gato! All he’s done is get in the way all day and try to steal more of the offering I left on the altar.”

            “Which street do you want to start at. The nice houses, or the nice houses?”

            Miguel studied the streets for a minute, considering all the trees and tire swings before he decided to go with the street on the left. Gabriel kept meowing in my arms, demanding to be put down, so he could explore the new neighborhood.

            “I can’t believe your mom made you take your cat,” Miguel’s smile is full of amusement as he glances at Gabriel in his harness and then at me who is holding his leash.

            “After all the treats he’s been eating, it’s probably better he walks off all the sugar.” An old friend of mine used to give her dog all of her leftover food and a year later her dog was waddling around the yard and out of breath on walks. Although I never gave Gabriel any leftovers, he was a travieso and tended to serve himself. “Let me know if you see anything familiar, I don’t want you to suddenly become inspired and end up leaving me here walking my cat in front of these rich peoples’ houses.”

            It didn’t take long to clear the street, but after the third row of houses, I was getting impatient. There must have been some way to speed things along. I always thought the spirits would instantly know where to go on Day of the Dead as their candle and their family should have been an easy indicator. But that wasn’t the case with Miguel. I was about to suggest we try going to his old high school maybe something in the school records would give us his address. Even though he no longer went there, I knew schools held onto records for some time after a student graduated. Perhaps they had held on to Miguel’s record as well.

            “That house right there looks familiar I’m going to check it out wait here,” Miguel pointed at a white house across the street that had a very Juliet-esqe balcony on the second floor. It was a nice house, big with a rose garden out front. I watched Miguel disappear through the door as it was nothing more than thin air. Huh. Well, looks like he had mastered that secret power. If I could be invisible like that, I would probably eavesdrop on all the conversation around school. Like Gossip Girl. Xoxo Amelia.

           Gabriel took a particular liking to the tree on the sidewalk and began to rub his fur against the bark. With each movement, new pieces of bark fell into his fur. I shook my head at the silly cat. I was going to have to pat him down before we got in the car again. I caught a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned to look, it was just Miguel passing through the window of the Juliet house. He must have gone deeper into the house because I lost him after that.

           Five minutes, later he walked through the door again and met up with me on the sidewalk. His face looked a little less happy. Perhaps this hadn’t been his family’s home.  “No luck?”

            “I didn’t live here. But apparently my girlfriend did?”

            “Girlfriend?! How do you know?”

           Miguel’s frowned deepened, and he ran a hand through his hair. It seemed to be a habit of his when he was frustrated as he did the same motion while we were on the bus. “There were pictures of me with the girl who lives here. Intimate. The kind couples take and post on facebook.”

            I wasn’t about to tell Miguel Facebook had died long ago. So instead I suggested our next location be the school.

           The school proved to be more useful than our home detour. For one, it was empty since it was a Saturday afternoon and the different sports team practiced in the early morning. The next thing I learned was that breaking into the office to look for school records wasn’t hard to do when you had a ghost sidekick that walked through doors and could unlock them for you. Once I was inside Miguel, went back to searching behind the counter.

           “This office is way nicer than the one at my school.” While the school office at my high school seemed to be focused on necessity, this one didn’t shy away from style. The ceilings were high, which allowed a crystal chandelier to dangle elegantly from the ceiling. The chairs in the waiting area weren’t plastic but vintage looking as if they had been there since the school first opened. Gabriel squirmed in my arms, demanding that I put him down, so he could investigate his new surroundings.

            “Whoa” Miguel exclaimed from his position at the filing cabinet. I didn’t think the school would have his information in there since everything seemed to be digital these days, but I guess that didn’t apply to students who had passed on.

           “What did you find?” I leaned over the desk to try to sneak a peek at the papers he was holding, but the text was too small. Plus, my ribs were starting ache from crushing them on a hard surface. I braced my hands on the counter, testing its sturdiness. When I was satisfied that it wouldn’t break under my weight, I pulled myself up with my arms and swung my feet over, so I was facing Miguel.

           “My grades were horrible. I was failing everything. But there are so many pictures of me in this file look,” Miguel walked over and dropped the file on the counter allowing the pages to spill between the two of us. There was an absurd number of pictures of him. A lot of them which had been printing from the school’s newspaper. There were pictures of Miguel at football games, soccer games, the women’s tennis team, there was even a picture of him with his arms around the students from the choir.

            “Whoa looks like you were busy,” and popular too. I passed the picture of Miguel with the choir students to him since he was staring at it intently. I picked up his transcript instead my eyes scanning for his home addresses. Behind me, I could hear Gabriel’s soft meows as he scurried in and out of all the different offices. I found Miguel’s full name before I found his address, and the discovery made me giggle. “Your parents named you after the singer?”

            “Huh? Oh, Luis Miguel yeah, they did. A lot of people didn’t pick up on that though.” He was still looking down at the photo I had tossed him, but it looked like his cheeks were reddening. Huh, I didn’t think the dead could blush. But anything was possible on Dia de los Muertos. Miguel looked up then, his eyes meeting mine, “I’m much more comfortable with Miguel.” There was an edge to his tone, which meant don’t even try it, Amelia.

            “I named my cat after Juan Gabriel.” Whatever hostility had come to his face was gone now. Replaced with a wide smile that made his eyes light up.

            “No way.”

            “Yep. But I’m too embarrassed to admit that to my friends so I just tell everyone his name his Gabriel.”

            “I bet you secretly call him Juanga at home,” he teased.

           The truth was I did sometimes. Whenever Gabriel was feeling particularly affection, I would scratch his ear and call him by the late singer’s name. I could feel my cheeks reddening, so I changed the subject.

            “I found your home address it’s not that far from where we were looking at by the houses.” I snapped a picture of Miguel’s information and started to tidy up his folder again. When Miguel thought I wasn’t looking he pocketed the choir photo. I didn’t comment on it.

           “Cool call Juanga and let’s go.”

            “I wish I hadn’t told you that” I groaned.

            “Calmete, Gabriel,” I told my cat, but he continued to resist until he twisted free from my hold. As always, the cat landed on his feet and swerved to a locker that was on our left. There wasn’t anything special about this locker. It was painted the same olive green as the other and stood just as tall. Perhaps someone had left their lunch inside, and Gabriel wanted a snack. “I knew I should have put his leash back on.”

            Miguel didn’t look like he was listening to me. He walked towards the locker in a sort of dazed, and his fingers started to spin the combination without a second thought. I don’t think he was conscious of what it was he was doing. This must have been his old locker, I thought.

           The locker swung open, and Gabriel started to sniff the nicely polished oxford shoes that were at the bottom. The locker had been reassigned to another student because it was clean and had textbooks neatly lined up on the top shelf. Miguel let his fingers glide across the textbooks lost in a private memory.

            “It feels weird,” He turned to look at me over his shoulder, fingers still on the book spines, “coming here but knowing you’ll never walk these halls again, never see the same people, never have to rush to open another one of these dumb lockers.” He turned back to the locker this time moving his hand to shut the door.

            I didn’t know how to respond to that or even if I should. I stayed quiet and let him have his moment to say goodbye. Just as he slammed the door shut a picture came fluttering down to the floor. The owner of this locker must have wedged this photo between the slit in the door.

           “Just slip it back in.” But once again Miguel wasn’t listening to me. His eyes were trained on the photo. He reached into his back pocket for the photo he stole from the office and put them both side by side. His hands unsteady.

            “I know whose locker this is, look” Miguel held both of the photos up, “This was my best friend Adrien, and this is his locker.”

           Adrien’s locker was so organized it didn’t take us to long to find his address amongst his papers. Adrien lived even closer to the school than Miguel did. His home was one of five that were visible from the top of the football stadium a detail that came back to Miguel once we had found the locker. Since he lived so close, we decided not to take the car and walk over instead. Miguel was quiet on the way over his eyes were more focused on the way Gabriel pulled me along with him as he slinked his way through the sidewalk. There was a heaviness in the air that wasn’t present when went to visit his ex-girlfriend, or when we went to the office. Back at the locker, things were tense but not like this.

            “I remember him. I remember hanging out with him on weekends and telling our parents we were doing homework when we were playing baseball in the park.”

           I didn’t know how to respond to that either, so I didn’t.

           “Is it weird that I remember Adrien more than my family, more than my girlfriend?”

           “I think it’s normal to remember someone who was that important to you,” clearly Adrien was very important to him. I kind of understood it. There were secrets I gave to my best friend that my family or my ex-boyfriends had no idea about.

            “I think he might have lit my candle,” I paused in my tracks, partly because Gabriel found a tree to smell and another part because I was a little shocked. From the pictures Miguel showed me of Adrien, a blonde hair, blue eyed, choir singer he looked like a regular America kid and not someone who celebrated day of the dead. I had assumed it had been his family but not everyone’s family was comfortable with the tradition.

“My family was never into the whole day of the dead thing. They like to keep death separate from their lives. We only visited the cemetery once a year to see my grandparents on their anniversary. I thought that was normal until I learned about day of the dead in middle school, and I realized their once-a-year trip were their way of dealing with it. I thought maybe that had changed when I died, but if that were the case, I would have remembered coming back last year as well.”

Everyone dealt with grief differently. For some people, it was easier to not think about death to compartmentalize it as something that couldn’t touch you. Until it did. For others, it was easier to accept it as part of life and to honor it.

           “Miguel I’m sure they love—”

            “I know they did. I don’t doubt it, but it’s nice to come home.”

            I never doubted that once I died, there would always be a light to guide me home. Someone would always light my candle, but this was the first time I had realized what it was like when you didn’t have that. How confusing and lonely that could be.

            “Miguel,” He glanced at me from the corner of his eye, “if things don’t work out with Adrien…You can come back to my house. My mom made pozole. And my family usually spends the night dancing.”

            “Thank you.” And for the first time today, his smile was a little wavy. It reminded me of the smile Lusito gave me when he hurt himself and tried to convince me he was fine.

           The sun was starting to go down, soon it would be blinding, and I’d have to drive with my sunglasses over my eyes. We had stopped walking, although Gabriel continued to tug at the leash Miguel let out a shaky breath before turning around to face the house we had stopped in front of. I thought it was just a random stop, but nothing about this day was random. It was like it had been meant to happen like I was supposed to meet a ghost today.

            “If I’m not out in 5 minutes you can leave. I don’t want you to be late for dinner.”

           Rather than watch Miguel walk up the driveway, I focused on the candle, visible by the window on the porch. Perfect. Just the way I had the altar set up at my house so the spirit would feel welcomed. Miguel’s hair caught my attention in the way that the setting sun streaked through the dark strands and dyed the color into a rusty brown. There was a kind of funny thing about it. The way the sun could illuminate the living and the dead in the same way.

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