Elu’s mother finally had enough of their drunken dad and told him to move out. There was a big scene, lots of screaming and yelling, but finally, he went. Elu breathed a sigh of relief. However, just for meanness, her father, a construction worker who made good money, would dole out money to her mother like a miser. She had to beg for every dollar. Eventually, her mom got a job working in the store on the res as a cashier. Elu quit school to work there as well, stocking shelves and doing home deliveries to the old people who couldn’t get out.
She still got out to the river but more on weekends now. She missed the sounds of the bullfrogs and crickets at night and watching the skiers on the river. They always looked like they had no problems at all and more importantly…lots of money. Elu had no money but she certainly knew what it was. Getting money started to consume her thoughts.
What could she do to earn money, lots of money? Since she had dropped out of school, there was no high school diploma. What could a girl like her do for money? Elu still had the long hair and she had grown up tall and straight. She looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. Pretty? Not really. She started to experiment with makeup when her mother wasn’t looking. If she used mascara and some lipstick, it did make a difference. People at the grocery store started to compliment her on her looks. Especially the men.
One day her mother yanked her into the storeroom.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Elena spoke in a low voice, tersely to her daughter.
“I saw you was flirting with that man,” was her mother’s response.
“You were,” her mother’s face was close to hers. “You save that stuff for marriage, you got it?”
“Yes, mama,” Elu’s face dropped and flamed up.
“Okay. I don’t want to see you doing that again. You be a good girl.”
Elu started to cry.
“Don’t cry, girl,” her mother scolded and gave her a hug, “it’ll run your mascara.”
Elu jerked her head up. Her mom smiled and winked at her and went back into the store.
The girl went to the bathroom in the back. The cheap mascara was running. Damn it. She grabbed a little tub of Vaseline off a shelf and dabbed it under her eyes. Then, carefully, with a square of toilet tissue, she wiped away the black and patted the skin. From the back of her jeans, she pulled out the mascara wand and put more on. Finished, she smiled at herself and went back to work.
Elu was almost eighteen and wanted to get off the res in the worst way. Elena’s grandfather still lived in New York and she wanted to go see him. After nagging, begging and pleading for almost six months; she got her wish and the old man agreed to let her come to visit.
“You can go if Daniel goes with you,” her mother was stern.
“Never mind that,” Elena snapped, “he had been talking about going to school forever. He got accepted to the junior college there. You both go, stick together. Maybe you can go for that nursing we was talking about.”
Elu sulking reluctantly sent in her application for the pre-nursing school. It was the same junior college as Daniel’s. To her surprise, she got accepted. She kind of wanted to be a nurse, sort of. She had been taking care of people her whole life. It was what she knew. Still… she sighed, planned to accept her fate and go with it. Anything to get off the res and out of here!!
Eli and Daniel packed their belonging in one suitcase and boarded the train. Mama had packed them a bag with jerky, cokes, sandwiches, peanuts and apples.
“Don’t talk to no strange men,” Elena warned her daughter. She turned to her son “And you tell me if she does.”
Daniel grimaced, shrugged, and hauled the bulging suitcase into the rail car. Elena gave Elu a big hug. “Be good and write.”
“I will, Mama. I promise.” Elu caste her eyes down and let herself be hugged. She smiled and turned to pull the enormous bag of food bag into the car. The two sat together. Elu waved to her mother as they pulled from the station. Daniel already had his head buried in a new/old book he had gotten at the library sale of old books. Slowly the train pulled from the station.
New York was something else entirely. Neither Daniel nor Elu could stop gawking from the moment they got off the train until they got to their grandfathers apartment in the Bronx. Never had they ever seen such tall building, so much traffic, so many people! It was utterly amazing. They got to grandad’s apartment, dropped their stuff, and demanded to be taken on the tour. So, tour they did.
Continued Pt IV