Our Lady of Light

“Luz, he totally likes you. Go talk to him,” Jenna says in her stupid valley girl accent. Where did she even pick that up? We grew up in the same barrio.

“I keep telling you, he doesn’t love me. He loves the idea of me being the girl in all the internet videos.”

“Well let him believe it was you. If I was you I would be all over that. You’re like the only one who hasn’t given up that cookie yet.”

“Ugh, no. I’m not trying to end up on teen mom like you sluts. I’m trying to pass Mrs. Edwards English class so I can graduate on time. Then I’m going to become a lawyer and set my people free like Moses. Then I might have some babies. Until then, this cookie stays in the jar.”

“Oh, nuestra seƱora de la Luz,” she says mockingly.

“Soak in my light, for I shall guide the way,” I say while executing the perfect curtsy.

She doesn’t know that I am the lady of light she speaks of. It was me all over the internet. My big brother told me I needed to help our people, so I did what I could. I was tired and passed out but he scooped me up before anyone could get a good look at my face. I don’t even know how it happened. One day after school I just started getting really hot and next thing I know, my hands were on fire. I tried to control it on my own. In the end my big brother found out about it. He should have turned me in for testing like people were doing the others. Instead he helped me control it and get back in charge of my own life. I had been missing school afraid that I would burn up the school or something. I’m still a few credits behind but I should be fine in time for graduation.

A horn blasts across the school yard and I know my big brother is here to pick me up in his busted drop top Chevy. He swears it’ll be the best lowrider I’ve ever see but so far it’s just a flat gray dented piece of junk that doesn’t ever start the first time. I pick up my backpack and waive bye to Jenna as I rush across the yard to get in.

“Think about the cookie jar,” Jenna yells out as we drive away.

“What’s she talking about,” Miguel asks me looking confused.

“They’re just doing a bake sale, she wants me to bake some cookies.

“Well are you gonna bake them?”

“No, since when do I bake cookies?”

“It could help your grades,” Miguel takes my schooling more seriously than I do.

He really has been playing big brother and parent for the longest. Dad died during a shootout with police. That’s what the police say anyway. Witnesses said he was sitting in his car when police ran up and started shooting. He didn’t even get a chance to shoot back. Crazy how he got shot over thirty times and not a single one of them got shot. That’s just the way it goes. Everybody wants to do something about the crooked police, but nobody knows what to do or how to do it. Most people just talk a big game or use our pain to make money. Nobody actually does anything to the police.

Mom raised the two of us up until about three years ago. She got really sick and she can’t really work anymore. Most days she just sleeps all the time. Other days she’s awake, but crying. Every now and then, she’s the woman I remember working three jobs to raise her two kids that couldn’t stay out of trouble. Miguel joined a gang and I couldn’t help but stealing. She worked hard to give us everything she could, but I always wanted more back then. Now, I just want my mom back.

Miguel and his gang are the ones that sent me out to fight that night. The fighting was getting close to where we lived and a lot of the older folks were getting worried. The gang was going out that night and Miguel thought I would be of some help. As of right now, Miguel and his gang are the only ones that know about my powers and they’ve kept quiet just like they promised that night. I know Miguel has done some things with them that he didn’t want to or isn’t proud of. I was afraid they were going to force me into the gang or something, but Miguel made sure that didn’t happen.

“You’ve been spending a lot of time with your gang lately, what do y’all even do all day,” I ask Miguel. He looks at me like I’m crazy.

“I’m not in a gang, I’m in an urban social organization,” he says with a smile.

“I’m 18 now Miguel, I know what you do.”

“You know, being 18 doesn’t make you a grown woman. You don’t even have a job and you still go to school, probably for another year,” he says with a laugh.

“I’m more mature than you think,” I say while cutting my eyes at him.

“Don’t pout, lets go get some ice cream,” he offers a truce, that’s all I really wanted.

Reymundo’s is where we always go for ice cream. Mom and dad used to take us here when were kids. Those are some of the best memories of my life. Dad always looked so tough when we were growing up; at least out in public he was. But, when we would get ice cream he would joke and laugh like a little kid. Mom would just keep smiling and staring at all of us like the moment was perfect. Dad would always get chocolate, then tease mom for getting rocky road. He’d ask if she liked eating rocks. Miguel always got the special, didn’t matter what it was. He said he wanted to try a different flavor every time we came. I always got strawberry, on account of pink being my favorite color. I would give anything to go back to those days. When dad wasn’t a memorial in our living room, when mom was herself, Miguel wasn’t a banger and I wasn’t shooting fire out of all my pores. Sometimes I tear up just thinking about those moments.

“She’ll take a large strawberry cone, and I’ll have the special,” Miguel says ordering for us. Some things never change.

We sit on a picknick table and think about the old times, laughing about the past. We both miss those days before we had to grow up way too fast. Sometimes it seems like time is just moving too fast around me. Everything is changing and nothing is staying the same but I still don’t feel different. I still feel like a little kid lost in a world that keeps getting even bigger. I still want to be that kid but every day I wake up, I’m getting older and things are changing more and more.

Gunshots ring out and people start screaming, at first I thought they were in the distance but they were right here in front of us. Miguel slammed me from the table to the ground in a hurry. My shoulder felt like it was stabbing down into my arm. He yelled something I couldn’t make out. He pulled his own gun and shot back. I couldn’t even see who he was shooting at. He empties his clip before I could make out Hector’s face. Miguel yells at me again to get my head down, shoving me lower. Hector was from the same gang, why was he shooting at us. Who were the people with him. There’s a pause in the shooting and Miguel grabs me by the arm. It feels like it’s being pulled off.

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