Dominicana by Angie Cruz Read Online (FREE)
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The first time Juan Ruiz proposes, I’m eleven years old, skinny and flat-chested. I’m half asleep, my frizzy hair has busted out from a rubber band, and my dress is on backwards. Every other weekend Juan and three of his brothers show up past midnight all the way from La Capital to serenade the good country girls in the area who’re eligible for marriage. They’re not the first men to stop by and try at me and my older sister, Teresa.
For years, people stare at me, almost against their will. I’m different than other girls. By no means pretty. A curious beauty, people say, as if my green eyes are shinier, more valuable, to be possessed. Because of this, Mamá fears if she doesn’t plan my future, my fate will be worse than Teresa’s, who already has her brown eye on El Guardia, who guards the municipal building in the center of town.
That night, the first out of many, three of the Ruiz brothers park their car on the dirt road and clang on Papá’s colmado’s bell as if they’re herding cows. The roads are dark under the cloudy sky and the absence of the moon. The power outages can last fifteen hours at a time. There’d been some chicken stealing, and our store had been robbed twice in the past year. So we keep everything under lock and key, especially after Trujillo was shot dead. In his own car! After being El Jefe for thirty-one years! This amuses Papá. All his life he had to look at Trujillo’s photograph, along with the slogan: God in Heaven, Trujillo on Earth. No one could help laughing at his mortality. Even God had had enough. But Trujillo didn’t go in peace. La Capital is in chaos. A tremendous mess. No law or order to speak of. Full of crazies. Visitors from the big city tug their lower lids, warning us to remain vigilant. So we’re vigilant.
Mamá, Teresa, and I huddle near the house while Papá walks toward the darkness with his rifle in shooting position. My brothers, Yohnny and Lenny, and my cousins, Juanita and Betty, are asleep.
It’s us, it’s us, Juan yells out in the dark. Everyone knows who the Ruiz brothers are because they travel to and from New York, returning with pockets full of dollars.
Behind Juan the two other brothers wave their instruments in the air and laugh.
Come, step forward, Mamá yells, and soon they sit in our front yard, beers in hand, talking about New York, politics, money, and papers.
When Juan proposes, he’s drunk. Slurs, Marry me. I’ll take you to America. He trips over himself and pushes me against the wooden fence. Tell me yes, he insists with his lit breath and his thick sweat dripping over my face.
Papá doesn’t care for politics, and he knows not to trust a man in a suit. He goes for his rifle, and Mamá stands between them, laughing it off in the way she does where she shows all her teeth and dips her chin to her neck, then flirtatiously looks away. She grips Juan’s shoulder and guides him back to the plastic lawn chair to sit with his brothers, who have all had too much to drink.