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The Desert

a girl is told her sister is really her mother and runs away on holiday in Mexico with a young man.


“We’ve been here before,” said a voice Mary was sure she recognised. Mary struggled to call out to them. Her mouth, dried and cracked from two days of wandering in the desert with no water, only let out a whimper, too soft for others to hear.

Catherine! she screamed in her head; but she only let out a sound like a sheep’s bleat.

She had thought she had been abandoned in the harshness of the desert.

Her body was not properly evolved to survive the burning sun and cold, cold nights.

If only she had the cold blood of a lizard.

What was she doing here lost in a desert in Mexico?

Her sister and brother in law had taken her on holiday with them to Tampico, Gulf of Mexico. She was very excited to visit a warm country; she hated the coldness of England.

Then everything changed for her forever. Sitting on the beach drinking a cool orange juice her sister had leaned forward and told her, “I have to tell you something. I have waited until you wee old enough to understand and I think now that you are eighteen the time is right.” She took a deep breath. Mary felt her stomach flip over.

“I’m not your sister, I am your mother! Ann, your grandma took over the role of mother because I was too young…”

She could not finish telling the story because Mary had leapt up and run, her feet sinking into the fine sand and pushing her forward away from the situation she was not ready to deal with.

She found herself back at the hotel and locked herself in her room. Two hours later her sister tried to cajole her out to dinner but Mary blocked her ears and sobbed. At nine in the evening she awoke from an exhausted sleep and heard music from the hotel disco floating through the window. She needed to be with people of her own age and lose herself in music.

She washed her face and tugged on a short silky dress and plunged downward to the pulsing music to be a part of a crowd of people who did not know her.

Dance was the way she dealt with her sadness and happiness. She moved easily in time to the music and looked up at a smiling Mexican boy who raised his eyebrows asking if he could dance with her. He looked so warm and friendly. They ended up spending the whole evening together.

When the disco came to an end she burst into tears and told Alfonso her story.

“I don’t ever want to see her again!” she cried.

“Come back to my place. I’ve got a house near the beach. Come and spend some time with me whilst you decide what to do.”

They left the hotel without telling her sister where she was going.

Alfonso’s house was a simple building with 3 rooms with red tiles, opening out of a corridor that stretched the length of the house. The shower room was a simple affair with a shower head and drain on the floor.

The kitchen had a large stone sink, one water tap and a tiny gas hob.

They spent their time in the middle room sitting on floor cushions, drinking lemon water and smoking pot.

Mary found some termite mounds that were three feet tall, in the little yard that had interconnecting tunnels above the ground. She poked a stick into a tunnel and watched with fascination as the soldier ants guarded their fellow termites as they rebuilt the wall with the sandy soil.

Mary was so grateful. After all was not this what she had always wanted, to live in a warm country near the sea, enjoying herself away from the struggle of life in the city? 

Alfonso was really kind and loving to her for the first two weeks, cooking for her, listening to her problems, giving her compliments; she loved being the centre of attention and she never wanted the wonderful experience to end.

Then some of his friends came round and her idyllic experience of just her and this boy and the sun and the sea was finished.

The next day Alfonso and his three friends took Mary with them on a trek to the desert to look for peyote. Mary dragged along after the group of men and became lost in a world of her own, moving through the rocks and towering cacti, taking photos of an amazing three feet long scampering lizard with pebble like markings all over it; reptilian alien to mammals perfectly adapted to its environment.

She had managed to take a photo of the lizard as it froze next to a huge cactus covered in dagger like thorns and stunning flowers; some of them perhaps once in a lifetime bloom... Then she found another interesting cactus and a zig zagging snake that irritatingly hid from her under a rock before she could capture its image. She breathed a sigh of frustration and then stood up straight and looked around. Where were her friends? They had not noticed she was gone. Fool, she thought. I should have told them I was going after the lizard.

She tried to find their footprints or trail but a soft wind was blowing the fine sand over any traces that might have been left by them. She did not know if she was walking in circles. The darkness of night fell suddenly and she began to shiver.

She remembered reading that animals survive in the low temperatures of the desert by slowing down their metabolism.

So to slow down her heart beat Mary breathed slowly, counting to 20 as she breathed in and to 20 as she breathed out. This resulted in her mind becoming much clearer and focused.

As she lay on the ground in a fetal position it occurred to her that her grandmother/mother had striven to make a difficult decision in adopting her as her own daughter. Catherine had obviously been much too young to take on the role of mother and raise a baby on her own. But it was wrong, thought Mary, for the whole family to keep such a big secret from her until she was eighteen. She did not know who she was any more. She had never respected her big sister who had always flitted in and out of Mary’s life, going to different colleges, having one boyfriend after another. But now she had settled down and married. So that's why she has finally decided to tell me! Mary realised.

She shivered and prayed that she would be found in the morning and have a chance to talk to her sister again. She was not ready to die.

Her mind came back to the present as voices became despairing that they were going in circles trying to find her. Alfonso must have gone back to the hotel where he met me to tell my sister I was lost, she thought. Then she had an idea. She took her mirror out of her bag and held it so that the sun reflected a sharp light towards the direction of the voices.

Please, please see this, Mary thought. I don’t blame you for pretending you were my sister not my mother. Just come and find me and take me home.

“Look,” yelled Catherine, “a light behind that rock!”

Mary heard heavy breathing of people trying to walk fast through the sand.

“I’ve found her!" shouted Catherine, tears of relief coursing down her face.

“My Mary," she moaned into her daughter’s ear as she hugged her close.

Mary woke up the next day to find herself lying on a bed in hospital. She saw tubes attached to her arm; then she saw her sister’s face leaning over her.

“I’m so sorry, so sorry,” Catherine gasped as tears coursed down her face. “I didn’t mean to give you such a shock. I do love you so much.”

“I’m still angry with you but I hope over time I can come to an understanding of whom I am and what I am,” Mary whispered feebly.

Then her face light up.

“Where is Alfonso?”

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © 13 August 2011 The Desert; 14 August 2011 Solitude; 15 August 2011 the Gift; 16 August Do not regard me by my age; 17 august 2011 Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night; Hey Diddle Diddle, 17 Aug. 2011; The Dance 16th Aug. 2011; Mother, 19th Aug. 2011; the Mirror, 20th Aug. 2011; whosshing, 22nd Aug.2011; The Blue and White striped Cup, 24th Aug. 2011; The Broken Fall, 30th aug. 2011; Adolescent Blues, 31 Aug. 2011; Taste,The Swan, 08.01.12 09.09.2011;Take Five Oh , 10.09.2011;Chamelian, 11.08.2011;the Coral 13.09.2o11; If only 29.09.2011, Dodging puddles 29.09.11; Mothers Monologue, 3.10.11; Oh, oh, oh, let me weep, 05.10.11, Water, 06.10.11; the flood, 6 Oct.11; Who am I?, 8 Oct. 11; Destiny, 9 Oct.11; Five a.m. Blues, 10.10.11; Three Wishes, 11.10.11; I'm a stone, 14.10.11; Meditation on an Amethyst, 15.10.11; Inheritance,17.10.11; Shorn Child, 20.10.11, Nightmare, 28.10.11; Gathering of the Clan. 27.10.11; That would cause a stir; 26.10.11, At A Crossroads, 28.10.11; Rowan, 29.10.11; My Pumpkin Pie, 31.10.11; A Set back, 14.11.11; Finding peace, 10.11.11; Liquid Lunch, 9.11.11; Out of Body, 8.11.11; Zen 19.11.11;I know why,24.11.11; the Fox, 27.11.11: the Dark, 06.12.11;Be Brave my Love, 9.12.11, The Poet, 17.01.11, New horizons, 11.01.12; New beginnings, 16.01.12; Subconscious Reality,30.01.12; Ruby Lola 03.02.12; Rock a by baby, 09.02.12; Paris, 10.02.12; Valentine chocolate, 13.02.12; the smell of baking bread, 14.02.12; My Father, 15.02.12

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