Naomi stood outside her two-story house, shuffling awkwardly as she saw her mother cleaning the kitchen for her arrival through the window. Because of the blazing sun, Naomi was wearing a white sundress that matched the summer’s light. The warm breeze was blowing her curls all over the place and as she tried to control her hair, her skin started to sweat. Feeling the strong heat waves, Naomi remembered that day, a stuffy, sweltering day just like this one that changed her life forever. Her mother sent her to rehab due to the fact that she was diagnosed with MDD, a major depressive disorder, after her father’s death.
Rehab was not a great experience for her because of all the pitiful looks and fake, ‘caring’ voices. Because of her struggles in the beginning, she had to stay in rehab for a little more than a year. It wouldn’t have been an exaggeration to say that it had been a nightmarish experience for her. The restrooms weren’t clean, and they had that stale smell that required more than a good scrub to get rid of. The food looked expired and tasted like dust. The girls there always started at least one fight each week. After getting out of that place, she felt that she could finally breathe in the air of freedom. Freedom, she thought, was something she had surely missed when she was locked up.
Before Naomi was sent to rehab, she remembered that she had bumped into Luis Cintron, who was part of a gang named Tiburon. What she saw was not all that surprising, since Tiburon would always break the rules with reckless dares. The only thing Naomi saw was the police handcuffing Luis and forcing him into the police car before she was pushed into a black van. Naomi never thought of the possibility of Luis going to jail. He must have had guts to do something horrible enough to get caught.
Tiburon, which meant “shark” in Spanish, was a gang of guys who harassed the local authorities. The rules were to dare each other to do something dangerous, such as breaking into someone’s locker, not to steal, but to prove that they could do it. To join the group, Luis Cintron was the one that controlled the “jobs.” The jobs were so daring that most of the people couldn’t even join. Besides the boys, the girls were interested also. They were a notorious group, well-known for their recklessness and disregard for authority and the law.
Naomi remembered how Kenny Matoa had borrow a few “souvenirs” from her best friend, Anita Robles’s, locker. However, Anita caught him when she was lying about her cramps in gym and her furious screams were heard throughout the school. Anita told the principal, Mr. Williams, about the gang. However, Luis somehow convinced Mr. Williams that it was just for the talent show. Naomi herself didn’t mind them, since they didn’t bother her.
After a few minutes of spacing out, she noticed that her car was missing a wheel cover. Naomi slapped her hand to her forehead out of frustration, because now she had to go to “Jorge Cintron & Son, Auto Parts and Salvage” to buy a new one. Her car was about twenty-five years old and she hoped that they could find the missing piece. Even though the car was ancient, it drove perfectly fine.
Naomi looked through her contacts, knowing that Jorge Cintron’s number was in there since he and her father had been good friends. After calling and telling him about the situation, she drove her car to the junkyard quickly before her mother could catch her.
Naomi drove into the junkyard, following another car. After she parked, she noticed Jorge Cintron getting out of the other car she had seen and heading toward hers. She then got out, her gold bracelets flashing everywhere. Noticing Jorge’s dark, tired eyes, Naomi guessed that he was probably going to retire soon.
Looking past Jorge, Naomi saw Luis staring at her with his piercing, brown eyes. She shifted uncomfortably before walking with Jorge towards him. She stared at Luis, observing his facial features discretely. His hair looked floppy and wasn’t combed this morning. Naomi also noticed that he was sweating, and his hands were soaked from washing all the materials. Naomi snapped out of her gaze when Jorge said, “Come look on this side.”
Then she spoke up, “Actually, I took a drawing of the wheel a while back. It’s somewhere in the car trunk, so I will just go get it right now.” She turned herself around and quickly walked to the trunk, opening it. After shoving some useless junk aside, she found the picture that her father had drawn for her. Naomi closed the trunk and walked back. She gave it to Jorge Cintron and said “Actually, I need to go home. Call me if you find the missing piece. It really means a lot to me. Thank you.” Naomi smiled slightly as she held out her hand for a shake.
Jorge smiled warmly before shaking her hand, “Si senora, we will call you. Just give us a few days.” Naomi thought a few days was a bit too long, but since her car was more than a generation old, she knew finding the missing piece for her car was harder than finding a piece for a newer car.
“Just call me Naomi. You know my parents because they are the directors of the funeral home…” Naomi trailing off as she realized that she had made a mistake by saying that. Naomi noticed Jorge’s quick change in expression, from surprise to sadness, and felt a pang of guilt. She reached over and grabbed his hand, squeezing it, before whispering a quick goodbye. As she walked away, she could feel Luis staring holes into her back. She quickly got into the car and drove home, with Luis on her mind.
After pulling into her house, Naomi unlocked the door and stepped inside. She could smell the air freshener and the wonderful homemade chicken from the kitchen. Her mother came running in, pulling Naomi in a bone-breaking hug. Naomi shoved her off and walked into the kitchen. She still hadn’t forgiven her mother for what she did, making her go to rehab. Before Naomi walked through the kitchen door, she caught a glimpse of her mother’s hurt expression, but willed herself to ignore it.
During dinner, there was a long awkward silence between her and her mother. They made a few attempts at small talk but never brought up the topic of rehab. At the end of dinner, Naomi asked her mother if she could go for a drive to the park. Her mother replied, “No, you are not allowed to go anywhere. I’m leaving to go to work soon.”
Naomi was confused, “I always go to the park at night. You let me go many times before I went to rehab.” Naomi was wondering why her mother didn’t give her permission to go, since Naomi’s mother had always let her go before.
A flash of guilt flickered in her mother’s eyes as she solemnly said, “Yes, before you went to rehab. I don’t trust you now.” She looked down at her food so she wouldn’t see Naomi’s angry eyes.
Naomi glared at her mother and retorted, “And you trust me to stay home alone? What if I did something?” Naomi scoffed, threw her silverware down on the table and stood up, so violently that her chair fell back to the floor. Looking at her mother, Naomi could see the crushed expression on her face. Naomi felt guilt building up inside her, but would not back down. “Mom, I’m not a little kid anymore.”
Her mother stared into her eyes and shook her head firmly. She went to get her purse to leave to work. After she got her stuff, she opened the front door and replied, “I’m putting an alarm on the house. Nobody can come over.” Before she closed the door, she whispered, “I’m sorry, Naomi.”
Naomi glared at the door before stomping upstairs to her room. She opened the door to her room and slammed it shut before she lay down on the bed, not bothering to turn on the lights. She looked up and saw a portrait of her father. Naomi started to weep and cried out into the emptiness of her room, “Father, why did you leave me? I miss you so much.” After a few minutes of quiet sobbing, Naomi dried her tears. The silence of the house echoed hauntingly in her ears. After a moment, she heard a car motor outside her house and quickly ran to the window. She pushed the curtains back a little and bore her eyes on someone walking through the graveyard.
Naomi then noticed who the mysterious person was. It was Luis, visiting his mother’s grave. Naomi knew that Luis’s mother had died from an illness. She attended the funeral, but hadn’t made any attempt to comfort Luis. Naomi knew that he wanted to be left alone, because she had wanted the same thing when her father died.
Memories of her father’s death went through her mind, as vivid as if she had witnessed them just yesterday. Her father died from a sickness that had no cure. It was an unknown disease and her father was the first to get it. Naomi’s father had always been proud of her, even when he had no reason to be. She had been daddy’s little girl, but not anymore. Before her father died, his last words to her had been, “Don’t ever forget how much I loved you.”
Naomi saw Luis bending over the grave, crying, and before she knew it, she started to draw a picture of Luis sitting on a mountain. After sketching it, Luis suddenly looked up and met her eyes. A flash of anger and embarrassment was apparent on his face. Naomi stared at him, trying to send him a message, telling him to come closer. Luis understood and, after a moment of hesitation, climbed up the tree to reach her window. After Luis climbed and got comfortable on one of the branches, he stared at Naomi with a curious look.
Naomi showed Luis the sketch and a slow smile bloomed on his face. Naomi couldn’t help but return the smile with a grin, and Luis tapped on the window as Naomi mouthed the words, “The house is locked with security.” Luis asked for permission to go in, and it was difficult for Naomi to decline because her mother wasn’t home. Instead, Naomi and Luis started to communicate through the soundproof window. After a while, Luis signaled Naomi to wait for him to come back.
Luis climbed down the tree and left. Naomi watched him drive off before closing the curtains and sitting down Indian style on her bed. Naomi stared at the picture of her father before drawing him in her sketchpad. Approximately fifteen minutes later, she heard a sound outside the window. Naomi closed her sketchpad and placed it under the bed.
She opened the curtain and saw the missing piece of her car. It was the first time anybody had given her something that worth meaningful since her father’s death. Luis was sitting on the tree, smiling at her. She returned the smile before breaking the rule, and letting Luis into her house. Not only did he find the missing piece of her car, he also found the missing piece to her heart.
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