"Felicia..." He took a deep breath and paused to control the shake in his voice. "Hermana, she's gone."
"Gone? Gone where? What do you mean gone? What does that mean? Pepe, answer me!" Suddenly she found it hard tobreathe. He couldn't mean what she knew he meant... could he? "Pepe!" she cried.
"Hermana, she's dead. She's gone. Please, come home to us."
A hundred and one feelings swarmed her at once, all of them bad. Her breath caught so hard she choked, her chest was tight,her eyes unfocused, her body paralyzed. How could this be? How could this be?? She hadn't been to see her mothersince she left for college, and here she was, still in her Liberty apartment, crippled with regret. She closed her eyes and forcedback the tears as she tried to stay upright. "Felicia? Felicia are you there? Are you okay?" Her brother's voice was distant andmuffled. Felicia nodded dumbly and mumbled, "Yes, yes I'm here."
She knew wanted to say more, to make sure he was okay, to ask how it happened, but coherent thought evaded her. Why...why didn't she take a weekend and visit her mother? Why didn't she pick up a phone and call her to tell her she loved her?How cruel that she could think of all these questions now but was still somehow unable to say them aloud. She wasn'tinnocent to death, she always knew it came too quickly, she always knew she had to take advantage of the time she had.God, how she knew this. Still, she supposed she'd never really learn her lesson.
"You will be with us, right? At the funeral?" By then she'd almost forgotten she was on the phone at all. After a silence toolong for her brother's patience, he continued, "you owe it to ma, hermana. You owe it to her." Felicia nodded once again; notto her brother, but to herself. She did. She did owe it to her mother. She'd be on the next flight from Liberty to Vice City assoon as possible. Her mother deserved to look down and see the love she had so earned. Felicia deserved one last goodbye,and by God she would get it.
Three days later and now, all of a sudden, here she was standing in front of her mother's casket. Her mother's casket...the words still didn't make sense. Her mother's beautiful face, though made up lovely, looked pale and cold andalmost unrecognizable; bloated, marred with worry, aged in a way she didn't remember just a few short years ago.
"You came." Felicia turned around to see Pepe's somber face watching her through sunglasses. He must have beencrying, and damned if any Cuban be seen crying - even at his own mother's funeral. She wasn't without guilt -- she had a sort of disguise of her own, but one that was utilized more on the inside than the out.
"Of course I did," she said quietly. "Mama deserves every bit of love she gave, even if it's too late for her to see it in life." Pepe nodded. Before Felicia could say anything more, Pepe leaned forward and wrapped his sister up in a tight hug. As she relaxed into his embrace she felt tears drop onto her face and quickly wiped them away, pulling back and making quick work of composing herself. I will not cry. Not here, not now.
"You know... pop is here," Pepe said gently. Felicia heaved a sigh, preferring not to see him today. "You know that youmade a mistake with ma, hermana. Please, don't make a mistake with pop too." Sometimes she hated how her brothercould read her mind; then again, there were times when she appreciated it more than anything in the world.
"Nieta!" called a gruff voice from behind her. "Nieta, usted esta aqui." Felicia took a quick swipe at her face, just to besure, and turned to greet her gray haired grandfather with the best smile she could conjure. He came to her with arms outstretched and heart wide open, as always. His old, smiling face was the warmest welcome she could imagine; from childhood Felicia had been attached to her grandfather, especially once she discovered the atrocities of her father's... profession. He'd always been kind, never hesitated to show them love, and held a patience that she imagined no other Cuban possessed. She allowed him to wrap her up in a tight hug, and even allowed herself comfort in his presence.
"Si," she began as her grandfather pulled away and held her at arms length, assessing her, "por supuesto, abuelo." Her grandfather, finally, nodded and smiled. They chatted away merrily for a while, catching up in their native tongue until a small group of men in the shade of a palm tree several feet away caught her eye. She said her goodbyes to him and slipped away to a food table, pretending to pick as she watched them with hawk eyes.
It seemed as if they were exchanging something, and as they dispersed she made out the large, round figure in themiddle. Blood pounded in her head and her fists clenched so tight and sudden that she crushed the paper plate in her hand and sent the food on it flying. A few groups of people turned to look at her but she hardly noticed -- her eyes were set on the fat bastard waddling across the lawn.
She was losing her battle with control as she watched him chat merrily with a group of men like nothing had happened. He was acting like nothing had just happened! Every beat of her heart rushed in her ears as she started toward him, until she felt firm hands on her shoulders and turned her head to see her brother behind her, holding her back.
"Nothing fucking changes," she spat through her teeth. She knew what he was doing, and she wanted to resist so bad...
"Not today, hermana. Don't let your temper get the best of you. This is ma's day." She grit her teeth but nodded complacently. He was right, he was always right. She wanted to tell him to fuck off and let her do what she had to do, but just as she owed it to her mother to come today, she more than owed it to her to not cause trouble with the man she loved until the day she... she...
Hours after the funeral had ended, only a few relatives remained scattered over the grounds. Felicia and Pepe had busied themselves with cleaning up and sending off their guests -- or, more accurately, Pepe busied Felicia by sending her to clean up and say goodbye to guests. She never took her eye off her father, watching him even as she did otherthings.
Disrespectful. Disgusting and disrespectful.
Felicia sat alone with her back to the nearest wall and laid her head back against the bricks. She hardly even recognized her home anymore -- or perhaps she had remembered it differently. It had only been 3 years since she left, but everything seemed so out of place. Maybe it was because she was happy in Liberty, away from the Cubans and the Haitians, the killing and the crime. Granted, Liberty City was by no means a paradise, but at the very least she wasn't wrapped up in the middle of it. Sure, there were drive-by shootings every once in a while; you'd see the occasional pimp with his whores, the drug deals in the shady confines of the inner-Staunton park -- all of those things paled incomparison to watching her father cohort with his gang in the shadows at her mama's funeral.
Perhaps best of all, she didn't have to know anything going on in Vice City and her family. She loved them, of course, but some small, irrational part of her wished Pepe wouldn't have called her. She could've just gone on living her life in Liberty, none the wiser. Ignorance was bliss, right?
No, she was wrong. Of course she was wrong. She didn't want to be excluded, she would never have not wanted to know -- logically, at least. Illogically, impractically she believed she'd have been happier not knowing. The bottom line was that she did not want her mother to die, she didn't want anything at all to change. She wanted everything to be the way she left it until she was ready to come back to it -- whenever the hell that may have happened, if ever.
Of course, she didn't want anybody to die, not on the behalf of what so many men, and women, were: money, hatred, envy, revenge; the reasons were as endless as they were frivolous, and the body bags piled high. She hated every inch of it, every God-forsaken second of it. Looking around, this was what made her feel that she never wanted to go back; not the hot, sticky weather, not the recklessness of Vice City's sheep, but the soulless shepherds and the dankness of death that poisoned... everything.
"Ahh," groaned an awkward, burly voice above her. Felicia's jaw tightened and she tensed. Dear God, not right now, she pleaded. Slowly her eyes rose from the floor to the face of the husky man in front of her. She felt as if shestared hard enough she could burn a hole right through him. "Felicia..." the voice began. "Daughter." Felicia's skin burned at the word. You dare call me that...
"How could you?" The words escaped her lips before she had the chance to choke them back. "How could you do that? Is nothing sacred to you at all?" He said nothing, just watched her, face unreadable except for the sad knit of his brows."How could you love her and do the very thing that killed her at her funeral?"
"It was a stroke, daughter..."
"A stroke," Felicia repeated and snorted. "Maybe that's what technically killed her, but we both know, father," she spat, "we both know what really killed mama, don't we?" Felicia felt her heart soar at the pained expression he tried to cover with a hand swiped down his face. She wanted him to hurt like he hurt his family. The emotion rushed her like an avalanche, too powerful to stop once she recognized it. She covered her face with her hands and cried into them, hating herself... despising herself for breaking down now. "You killed her," she cried, a low whine through her tears. "You did it, you know you did it, oh God...."
She sniffed hard and long, refusing to uncover her face, mortified and furious and devastated. She could hear her father mumbling and rambling, but she could neither understand nor care to try what he was saying. She felt huge, rough hands on her arms and shrugged them off twice before she jerked away and thrust her body out of his reach.
"Don't touch me! How could you?! You couldn't even give her one last day of peace, could you? Could you?"
"I... I don't... you, you don't talk to me like that hija! I... am your father! You do not forget that!"
Felicia snorted, a panicky, manic look in her eyes. "Mama is dead because of what you are and what you do and I caught you... for Christ's sake I watched you with them! And you have the audacity to demand respect of me? Are you kidding me?"
"You do not understand!"
"And I have no desire to! That is what you fail to understand, father. You assume that I give a fuck about any of this, or that mama did. She loved you, never this," Felicia paused, feeling another rush of emotion bubbling up, "I'm not sure I'm willing to make that mistake."
"You say that now... YOU SAY THAT NOW! But one day, hija... one day you might have to do what I do."
"Never," she hissed, shaking with the effort of restraint. "I will never be what you are." When his eyes flashed -- he hadthe nerve to be mad at her?! -- her control slipped. She took three sweeping steps forward and thrust her face up into his, all contempt and fury and disgust. "I promised myself years ago, when you let Felipe go, that I would never, ever... you will not ever suck me into this like you did Pepe. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have come back, and I mean that with all my heart. You can think about that later while you're out getting trashed and dealing drugs with the ones who are important to you."
She stayed just long enough to see her father's eyes widen and fill with tears. Felipe was a forbidden topic, but the truth was the truth. She rushed off into the dark, not even entirely sure where she was going, but anywhere but there was preferable.
Her father just watched her go, heart aching and stomach tight, until he stomped off to the Café Robina, where hewould have a long talk with his father.