veintiocho | mamá

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Translation for Spanish words used in this chapter—

Espera/ espérate — wait/hold on
Ahí está — there he is
Manos arriba — hands up
Rata — rat

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Jeon Jungkook felt the very world slip beneath his feet.

Your mother's been dead for twenty years.

He didn't know why it hit him so hard. Didn't know why it mattered.

"How...Why..." Jungkook hitched in his breath, clamping his lips before he could say another word.

Tía Maria, on seeing his reaction, grimaced. "You would have been a little boy when she passed away. Too young to even realise it."

Even with the noise around him, the sniffling, the murmuring, he felt so alone.

As if it was just him, and his mom, decaying six feet underneath his boots.

"How..." every word was an effort, a toiling experience. "How did...did you even know her?"

Dry dirt scraped against her wooden cane. "I first saw her about 25 years ago," she answered, eyes upon the little gravestone. "I came across her upon the streets of central Granada, shivering from the winter cold. I offered to bring her inside, but the look in her eyes, the absolute terror..."

"Terror of what?" Jungkook pressed. "What happened to her? Did something like—"

"¡Espera, hijo, espérate!" Tía Maria cut off. "I'm telling you, do not worry.

"Anyway," she continued, "I took her in, regardless of her resistance, because I knew if she didn't have even a slice of bread within the next hour she was going to die. Thankfully, she ate what I gave her, and more, so she realises I'm not a demon of her past that's come to collect her debts."

Helpless. His mother was helpless and he never even knew.

Did Papá know? Of her misfortunes?

"She was a cynical woman, your mother," Tía Maria admitted, eyes on the little grave. "The first thing she told me about herself was when she stayed in my house after a month straight, and only because she felt as if she owed me for the roof over her head.

"I asked her how she ended up in such a state, who was responsible..." the old crone then met Jungkook's stare. "What her real name was."

The tip of her pointing stick scraped against the head of the worn out stone, against the words engraved on the ancient rock.

Understanding, Jungkook lowered to a squat, careful of the dirt, and squinted his eyes to see the name etched onto the grave.

Saraia Jeon.
1824 — 1849
A beloved mother.

The boy nearly fell from his position.

"Saraia..."

A pretty name. Such a pretty name, only to have it written on ugly surfaces.

And that age—

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