This is chapter 5 of a series that starts here:
WordPress doesn’t allow css formatting on a free plan so feel free to snatch the pdf from the patreon. If you don’t mind reading it like this. By all means. Read on:
At least a decade and a half ago, one of the first times Rosario had visited New York City, she and her brother had been invited to her Aunt Flor’s house for dinner. They made the mistake of grabbing a late lunch at a restaurant Downtown and weren’t at all hungry when they showed up at Flor’s house for early dinner. She’d prepared a sumptuous feast with chicken, steak, rice, beans, fried plantains, and sliced avocados, and she’d looked so sad when they tried to imply that they wouldn’t be eating much of it. So they ate as much as they could and collapsed in their hotel room when they’d been done. Rosario vowed never to make that mistake again.
That’s why on Monday morning she got up at her usual 7 am but did not make her usual hearty breakfast and instead got by on a cup of coffee. She had planned to get some writing work done but she couldn’t concentrate. She tried to tidy up the flat instead.
When 11 rolled around she took the B train to Manhattan. It would have served her better and been less of a walk to catch the 2 or 3, but she liked taking trains that went over the bridge. She wasn’t in Manhattan very often and she never got tired of the view.
She walked from the Museum of Natural History stop to her aunt’s rent controlled apartment in the Upper West Side. When she got inside both her aunts greeted her warmly. It probably been less than a year since she last saw Flor, but it’d been at least 8 years since she’d last seen Nana. She hugged them each in turn, and was introduced to yet another cousin of hers she’d never met before. They never seemed to run out.
Lunch had been as extravagant as she’d expected, aside from Sancocho, a hearty Dominican soup that one bowl of would make lunch in an of itself, with its 3 different kinds of meat (the full dish calls for 7) and various starchy root vegetables, there was also rice, a leaf salad, fried plantains and avocados.
They had a nice lunch, they caught up, Flor showed her photos from her recent 75th Birthday bash. Rosario knew she couldn’t really broach the subject of faerie magic in front of of everyone, she hoped she’d get some time alone with her Tía Nana later. She kept giving her glances, but mostly she tried to genuinely enjoy the time with her family that she rarely ever saw despite living in the same city.
But of course, such family affairs then to get drawn out, there was dessert (Dulce de Leche), her aunts gave her gifts of cheap jewellery and money. And when it was finally time to go she offered to walk Tía Nana to the subway. She was so exhausted from the socialising and the food, she almost didn’t want to go through with it, but she knew it was now or never.
“Tía?” She said.
“Did you… is it true that you used to do Santeria?”
Her aunt was taken aback immediately.
“No no no” She said.
“Latter Day Saints, I’m a Mormon.”
“Oh she said.”
This was disappointing, to say the least. She thought to herself. One last attempt.
“So you wouldn’t know anything about Ciguapas?”
“I see. So you know.”
“I wanted to tell you. But I was supposed to wait until you were eighteen and by then.”
“My mom wasn’t talking to you.”
“Was it over… this?”
“No No no no, you know what it was about don’t you?”
“All I heard is it had to do with money and Aunt Mindy.”
“Yes, your Aunt Mindy was… reckless, it cost her her job and very nearly cost your mother hers. That’s all it was, it had nothing to do with the Ciguapa, that whole thing was much earlier.”
“Let’s find a place to sit down.”
They walked to the park and found a bench to sit in, then her aunt told her everything she knew.
“I was a Santera” she said.
“And I want to say I was pretty good. I healed a lot of people, I helped people get jobs, I made and broke careers with the help of the Orishas. But I had no reason to touch those creatures, the Ciguapas and the Galipotes, they’re not the domain of Santeria.
“But I knew about them of course, I’d seen them, when I had to spend long nights in the Bosque, and when you’ve developed your sense through the work. They’re hard to miss. We tend to avoid them.
“But one day I was tasked with a request the Orishas and the Saint would not answer. Do you remember. When you were a very small child. Being in the hospital?”
“Yeah, I remember, I must’ve been 5.”
“Yes. You got very sick and the doctors didn’t know how to help you. You were throwing up, dehydrated, they couldn’t get fluids in you quick enough you’d lost them again. Your mother, who’d never asked me anything to do with my work, suddenly asked for my help.
“I tried everything, every remedy, every prayer. I could see the spirits, clearly, walking away. I don’t know if they couldn’t help you, or if they just wouldn’t. But I was out of ideas. In the forest, fasting, she found me.
“She said she could see that I was in great pain, and she said maybe we could help one another. Her own child was sick. But, she said, the diseases of her people don’t easily kill us, and our diseases don’t easily kill them. If we brought you two together, both of you would live. You wouldn’t be the same. Rafi, and back then I still thought of you as Rafi,”
Rosario flinched at the mention of her dead nickname but she didn’t interrupt
“Rafi would cease to be Rafi, and Anacao would cease to be Anacao, but both of you would live on in what you would become. She was very clear that when you reach the age our people consider maturity I was to tell you all of this, and allow you to seek her if you wanted to. She said that is what had been agreed by her people to be the proper thing for these situations.
“of course I never did. And I never touched Santeria again after that day, but it worked. I said yes and the next day you were already a little better, and in a week you went home and you never had that problem again. You didn’t seem different, but I guess you must have been. You are different now.”
“If you’re referring to my gender, I don’t think those are necessarily related.”
“No of course not. The Ciguapa don’t have a gender like we do, they’re all the same. They have long hair so people think them women, but then, the Taino men wore their hair long and had no beards either.”
“I never thought of it that way.”
“I know you think I’m an old lady out of touch, but I’m a little more savvy than that, niña”
“Do you… do you resent what I did?”
“What? Of course not, I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for that right? And who knows, maybe it’s helped me more than I thought?”
“Well, I do magic too, right? Well maybe you didn’t think of Santeria as magic, but I think it’s at least similar. And I don’t do Santeria OR Faerie Magic, but I seem to have a knack for enchantment anyways, and spirit work.” She kept to herself the fact that her favourite spirits to work with were the demons of the Goetia, she somehow thought her aunt wouldn’t approve.
“Oh I never knew that, that makes me really happy to hear, niña”
“It does? I would think you wouldn’t approve. Being as though you stopped practising.”
“I did because I was afraid, I thought I had dug a whole for my family that I couldn’t get myself out of, I never wanted to be in that situation again, and I didn’t know if my Orishas would answer me again. But seeing the confident young woman you’ve become. That gives me hope. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.”
“So will you do Santeria again?”
“Oh no. I don’t think so. I think those days are behind me.”
“Dang, I was hoping you could teach me”
“It doesn’t sound like you need me to teach you, you’re on your own path, and that sounds wonderful. Of course I’d love to help you if I can, but I think my Santera days are well behind me.”
“If I ever wanted to find her, the Ciguapa. Do you know how I could?”
“I suppose, if you did what I did. Fast for 5 days and 5 nights in the mountains north of Santiago, that might be enough. If you need more potency… well.”
“I want you to be very careful.”
“You can try eating some Yucca Leaves. They’re very poisonous so be very careful, but they should let you see the Ciguapa. Anacao’s mother. Her name is Jaca. Remember that.”
Tía Nana looked at her wristwatch.
“I really need to be getting home. So we should go catch the train. Was there anything else.”
“Well, Just one more question I suppose?”
“What is it?”
Her aunt laughed.
“Haha, why it’s safer isn’t it? It’s just people. People can be dangerous yes, but they don’t hold a candle to what an Orisha or a Ciguapa can do.”
“That makes sense, I suppose.”
They walked to the Museum of Natural History station, her aunt took the C and Rosario waited around and took the B. When she finally made it home she was tired and needed to unwind. She hadn’t smoked weed at all since the day after the “revelation”. She thought about rolling a regular joint, and not summoning Plaz, but eventually decided she would really like talking to him. So she did her ritual. She ground the herbs, this time mixing mint and weed, and of course, the sigil. He was there before she was finished rolling.
“Wow you’re eager today.”
“Well what’s your excuse, we haven’t gone this long without talking since like year one.”
“I’ve been processing a lot of stuff, ‘member?”
“Not a very good excuse then.”
She rolled her eyes, and the joint. She offered him the first puff. He took the joint and lit it with his finger. An old trick he didn’t seem to use very often anymore.
“You know, all of my other subjects”
“subjects, hah!” she sneered
“Well the rest of them are. Anyways, they all offer weed, but it’s always worse rolled, worse quality, and even if they mix shit in they never get the ratio right.”
Rosario put out her hands in a generous gesture
“I aim to please” she said.
Plaz handed her the joint.
“So. You speak with your aunt?”
“And what’d you learn.”
“Nothing actionable. I mean she told me where I could go to meet my faerie mother, but like, I’d have to fly back to the DR and I’m not about to do that.”
“You sure? I could take you?”
“We’d have to go through hell though.”
“That sounds unpleasant.”
“I mean a human wouldn’t survive it, but maybe a changeling would.”
“Maybe? the fuck do you mean, maybe?”
“Well, it’s not like it’s ever been tried before.”
“Let us take that option, OFF the Table.”
“Ok, excuse me for trying to be helpful. Do you have a different idea.”
“well my folks always pay for me to travel for Christmas, so maybe I find an excuse to fuck off to the mountains during… yeah that’s probably not gonna happen. Well, in any case, I don’t want to go right now, I don’t think I have to.”
“You don’t want to know about your heritage?”
“I do, but damn, like it’s too much all at once, I can’t just drop everything to pursue it, I still have deadlines, you know.”
“ah yes, your ‘job’ I’ve told you I can make you rich you don’t have to keep doing it.”
“Yeah, and I just have to pledge my soul to your boss in perpetuity, no thank you.”
“She’s pretty nice once you get to know her.”
“I don’t disagree, lots of love to Lucy, but I have different plans for my soul. Also, I happen to like my job. Now can we please get back to the matter at hand.”
“Right, right, so tell me more.”
She relayed the whole encounter to him with only minor interruptions.
“So yeah. I don’t know how I want to play it, but I don’t think I need to run into the forest and look for answers that way. I want to keep exploring, see what abilities I have and don’t have. Maybe journey on it and try to recover some of Anacao’s memories from before we joined.”
“And what about your crush?”
“I… I’m not sure. Fae hasn’t texted me and I don’t want to bother faer.”
“Oh that’s rich, when have YOU ever shown this much restraint.”
“Well this is different, this is the first time someone I’ve dated done… that to me. I’m usually the one in control, even with supernatural creatures, I’m the magician, the holder of the secret. I’ve never had my own secret revealed to me that way. And I’m afraid… I’m afraid fae might see me as a nuisance, especially if I try to talk to faer about the whole changeling stuff. I don’t want faer to think I want faer to take care of me or to teach me or anything.”
“Well why the hell not? Fae seems like precisely the kind of person to help you in this situation.”
“But… I want to be faer girlfriend, not her charge.”
“Girlfriend? Oh this is worse than I thought, I thought you just wanted to boink her.”
“Well that too, but… I don’t know what I want any more and that scares me. I’m not in control…. what the fuck is in this joint, I’ve never been quite so open with you.”
“Well, keep it coming I like it”
“You were the first to ever tell me not to trust a demon.”
“Oh that was then, we’d just met. We’re friends now. We’re not summoner and summonee.”
Rosario smiled at him
“We are, aren’t we.”
“Thick as thieves, you and I. This is cashed by the way.” He put the roach in the ash tray.
“I’ll roll another one.
“So, if we’re friends, maybe you’ll tell me what you’re supposed to be the demon of now?”
“Oh, pfft, I mean sure I guess you’ve earned that. It’s…”
Just then Rosario’s phone rang.
“Oh for the love of Satan.” Plaz said. Rosario reached for her phone.
“Oh fuck, it’s Bren.” She said
“And what does the faerie want?”
“Let me see.”
She answered the phone.
“Hiya! Oh… ok calm down. Ok We’ll head right over. Yeah me and Plaz, is that ok? ok ok we’ll come. In Sheepshead bay. Ok we’ll be there as soon as we can.
“Fae needs our help.”
To be Continued.