Princess Mae knew little about the secrets of magicians, and while she had seen it with her own eyes, she could not reckon how the forty dollars ended up in Jinky's old coat. The very coat Mae had been wearing to school every day. To Jinky, this was not magic at all, but treachery of the highest order. Jinky had found it there; her hands so coincidentally meddling in those very pockets when the money reappeared.
"I told you she was a thief," Jinky said to Victor. "I told you from the start she couldn't be trusted. It was you who said we could trust her, but I knew we couldn't. I knew it the whole time."
"Why did you do this, Princess? Why is the money in your coat?" Victor asked his daughter sternly.
"I didn't do it," Mae stuttered.
"Of course you did it. It's in your pocket," Jinky said, holding up the coat and displaying the out-turned pockets; like a prosecutor presenting the murder weapon, for all the courtroom to see.
Mae shot back at Jinky. "Maybe it was you who put it there? You've been wanting to blame me and now you can."
"Ha!" Jinky blurted. And then again, "Ha!!!... You think I would steal my own money? You think I would take this money, then put it in your pocket just to prove a point?"
"That's exactly what I think."
"Victor, this girl is a liar and a thief. I cannot live with a liar and a thief in my house!"
Victor stood with Jinky, telling Mae, "I'm very disappointed in you, Mae. I cannot believe you anymore. You lied to your mama, and worse, you lied to me."
"But I didn't take the money! Why was she in my coat to begin with?"
Jinky stuck a finger out at Mae and crowed at her own cleverness, "I went through these pockets to see exactly where you hid the money. Yes, you didn't think I would look for this money. You think I would just forget about? But no, I've gone through your drawers and under your mattress and in your school books. I just didn't know you would be so careless as to leave it so easily found in this coat, or else I would have gone through these pockets first. You think I wasn't go to look for that money? You think I was just going to accept your words?"
"She put the money there, papa. I swear."
"Stop lying, Princess. She didn't put it there and don't you dare say that again. Your mama would not do something so dishonest. I can't believe you anymore, Princess. Go to your room, while I think about what should be done."
"Yes, that's right, just send her to her room. Up there, she can plot and scheme against me further. First the money, then what?" Jinky bellowed. "Chores are what she'll be doing. I've got enough chores to pay the forty dollars a hundred times over."
Mae marched up the stairs, yet again holding back the tears. It seemed each day worse than the last. It was only a few hours earlier she was told of Ernesto's disappearance. It was then she saw the fear on the faces of her family. Longing to be there, in the search with Wilma. Praying silently and alone as the minutes, then hours passed. This accusation was but a trifle compared to the worry of Ernesto.
On the way to her room she passed Omar's room. He was on his bed with one knee up, his phone in hand. A half-smile on his fleshy face.
"It's a shame about your brother," he said to her, almost like a compassionate human being might. "Do you want to send a message and see if they've found him?"
Mae was a-tumble inside. She wanted nothing more than to get the news from home and she had become a defenseless bug in the green house. There was nothing left of decency, and wrong was but a safe harbor. And here was the serpent, holding forth the apple of knowledge. The snake beckoned and she was drawn beyond the threshold, into his very den. Just a little closer. A little closer, for here is the phone. Here is the knowledge you so desperately seek.
"You're not going to hurt me, are you?"
"Why would you say that? I would never hurt you, Princess. I am your friend... I am your only friend."
"Why are you doing this?" she asked. "You don't like me."
"Of course I like you. You just have to like me back and we can be good friends. I think you need a friend here, right?"
"I didn't take the money," she said for no particular reason.
"I don't care about the money," Omar said. "Do you know how to send the message? Here, let me show you."
Omar showed her how to open the app and send the message. As he did so he stroked her back and then up her leg, petting higher upon her thigh. She squeezed and he recoiled, but only to tease and delight in the thought of the blood he would soon be tasting.
"You can wait here for the reply. It's all right." And he kissed her cheek as she turned her lips.
"Papa said I have to go to my room."
"Just stay until we hear about your brother. It's all right," Omar coaxed.
"I have to go to my room," Mae said again and got up to leave.
"I'll come and let you know if they answer."
"No, don't. I'll come to you," she said firmly.
She was in a trance, skirting the edge of reality. Bewilderment tugging in all directions. Danger in every corner. In her room she closed the door and slid the chest of drawers across it. She searched for something, anything that could be used to draw blood. Finally prying a wooden bed slat from under the mattress. She lay atop the covers, clutching close the stick. The tears had been spent and there were none left to spill. Oh, how she hated this room.
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Princess MaeGeneral Fiction
Princess Mae lamented many things about her life; hunger, poverty, struggle, and sleeping altogether in the crush of their two-room tenement. For these things she blamed her mother and the poor choices which had left her the sole provider of four c...