Emilio’s hair was thinner than Rina remembered, but he still had Papi’s smile.
“Will you be in town long, hermanita?” he asked as they stood outside the funeral home.
“Just until the burial. You know how it is owning a business. Thanks again for the loan.”
“Please, I’m happy to help family. You seem happier owning a coffee shop than you did in an office. And much happier single than married to that cheating sinverguenza.”
Rina smiled. “Thanks for having my back. That’s more than some people did.”
“Speaking of which…”
“No, don’t bring up Angi, Emilio. Mami’s death was hard on all of us with Papi being gone less than a year. Her trying to spin my marriage problems as trivial next to one mediocre college grade was bullshit.”
“That was a long time ago. She’s married with a child now. Look.” He took out his phone and showed her a picture of Angi’s family. “Anna should know her aunt.”
Rina saw the concern in his eyes. “Is everything OK with them, Emilio?”
“Angi and Fernando are fine. It’s just—Anna reminds me a little of you when you were young.”
Ah, the Gutierrez gift for understatement. Rina couldn’t resist pushing. “In what way?”
Emilio reddened. He darted a look back at the funeral home. “Magdalena Fuentes helped when you were having a hard time.”
“According to Angi she’s why I got ‘spooky’.”
“You were always spooky,” Emilio whispered. “But you’re family. Anna needs someone like you. Please think about it.”
Rina sighed, but promised.
When Rina returned to her hotel room, Magdalena’s ghost was waiting for her. “You're far from home, Rina.”
“That’s the reoccurring theme of my life.”
“So is finding ways across improbable divides. Call your sister.”
“I miss you.”
“I miss you too, but Angi’s alive and I’m dead. Call.”
Rina picked up her phone and dialed.
Song Choice: Family is Family by Katie Musgrave
Liner Notes for this Groove: This short story was created for Art Flash 55 over at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads. The image of Life and Death in balance made me think of Rina, a character that appears in my short story collection, The Trouble with Wanting and Other Not Quite Faerie Tales. Rina has always had to live with an internal balance between the two. Sometimes that pushed her family away, and sometimes, like in this case, it helps her find her way home. More about her and her gift can be found in the the short story, "Her Homesick Spirit", in my collection. I am also linking it to Pantry of Prose, Telling Tales with Magaly Guerrero at Poets United.