24 comments

   A little girl sat on her family’s doorstep scribbling furiously in a notebook lying across her knees. She was a small girl of the name Elizé Pena, clearly full of energy as her hand quickly finished a line and zipped across the page to start another. Despite being only eight years old, she was very good at writing in both English and Spanish, and she enjoyed it immensely, even if she didn’t always get every comma correctly placed or every word correctly spelled.

     The house behind her back was the homestead of the Pena Farm and it was small: only two bedrooms and the kitchen, dining room, and living room practically all one room. Yet, it was home to Elizé’s older brother and sister, younger sister, and parents, Elizé herself sleeping in the same room as her teenaged brother and sister, and her two-year-old sister in a crib in the master. The land behind and in front of the house, however, was anything but small. In front, it stretched for nearly a mile towards the settlement of Rosario de Coyaguayma and the multi-colored hills and mountains of the Andes to the north and west. And behind, it stretched even farther, hosting the land for the Penas’ crops and llamas, as well as Elizé’s pet, a baby vicuna, nearly half the size of a lamb.

     For a moment, Elizé stopped scribbling as she took in a large waft of her father’s asado sizzling on the parrilla in the back of the house. She let out an involuntary “mmm…” at the tasty smell of chorizo and morcilla, empanadas, dulce de leche, and her mother’s perfected provoleta streaming through the window next to her. Dinner was going to be ready soon and all the Penas’ friends from the settlement would be coming over to share in the conversations and food. Remembering this, Elizé put her head back down to the paper and kept writing. She wanted to finish before her mother called her in to help Delfina and Benicio set up the tables in the back.

     The baby vicuña came wandering unsteadily around the corner of the house towards Elizé, making small noises of delight at seeing her.

     “Ven aqui niña,” Elize said, holding out her hand to the vicuña. “You getting hungry, Agnese?” she said as the cria came sniffing at the open hand before trying to climb onto the step next to Elizé and lie down in her lap. She giggled as she stroked Agnese and wrote simultaneously. A few minutes passed as Elizé finished writing before Delfina opened the front door and nearly tripped over Elizé.

     “Elizé! ¿Qué haces sentado en el escalón delantero de la pasarela? Everyone is going to come over soon and you know how Mama likes everyone going inside first to say grace,” Delfina exclaimed, slightly irritated but trying to not let it get the best of her tone of voice.

     “Sorry, Delly. The doorstep was the only nonchaotic place to finish writing—” Elizé lowered her voice so that her mother couldn’t hear through the open window— “my book.” Delfina’s eyes brightened in excitement. She had been the only one who’d known about the book as the sisters were very close, despite Delfina being twice her sister’s age.

     “¿Seriamente? You finished it?” Delfina whispered as she sat down next to her sister. Elizé nodded happily. “So, are you going to share it with everyone tonight?”

     “No. Not everyone. I’m going to share it with Mama first, then Papa and Beni before sharing it with my friends.”

     “Then you’ll ask Papa to see if he can help find a publisher for it?” Delfina asked excitedly, stroking Agnese.

     “No, hermana. This is just a story for friends and familia, no one else.” Elizé scratched Agnese under the chin and rubbed behind her ears. Delfina shook her head.

     “No, your book is far too good to be kept in Rosario de Coyaguayma, Elizé; far too good.”

     “In your opinion, but will a publisher think so?” Elizé asked quietly. Delfina nodded enthusiastically.

     “Absolutely, Elizé.”

     “What about HarperCollins? I heard it was really hard to persuade them that a book is good.” Delfina smiled,

     “Of course! We would just have to give it enough of a platform on social media to be able to get it in.” Elizé looked up, a little surprised.

     “Really?”

     “Si.”


3 years later…


     Elizé opened her eyes from her nap as she lay in her hospital bed. She blinked in the brightness of the sun sending its loving arms into the multi-colored room. She turned towards the clock next to her bed: 5:33 p.m. Mama and Delly should be coming in with food soon, Elizé said to herself happily. Just then, a blonde nurse from the States came in to check Elizé’s vitals before going out again. She’s new. I wonder who she is, Elizé thought. Then Delfina came in carrying a bowl full of dulce de leche, and Señora Pena came in behind, holding the hand of now five-year-old Belette who was holding a pink teddy bear. Elizé’s eyes lit up at the sight of her little sister, and they lit up even more when Benicio and Señor Pena came in, too.

     “¡Hurra! Everyone’s here!” Elizé said excitedly, sitting up to greet and hug everyone. As Delfina came towards the bed to set down the dulce de leche and embrace her sister, kissing the top of Elizé’s bald head, their parents exchanged sad smiles at their daughter’s enthusiasm. Once they’d all given her hugs, they made themselves comfortable and talked for a few hours about everything Elizé had missed while in the hospital for her leukemia.

     By 8:30, Señor and Señora Pena had left with Belette and Benicio for the night, but Delfina stayed a little longer to keep Elizé company until she finished the dulce de leche.

     “I have a surprise for you, hermana,” Delfina said softly.

     “¿Que pasa, Delly?” Elizé asked, her mouth full of her spoon and the dessert. Delfina pulled out her phone and showed her sister an email from the editor-in-chief of HarperCollins. Elizé held the phone and read through the email, got to the bottom, and read it three more times in disbelief before looking at Delfina in amazement, her jaw dropped, and the dulce de leche sliding down her tongue.

     “Elizé!” Delfina exclaimed in disgust at her sister’s ill manners. Right before it could fall out, Elizé snapped her mouth shut, swallowed, and let her jaw drop again.

     “Are you serious?” Elizé squeakily breathed excitingly. Delfina nodded, an enormous smile replacing her look of disgust.

     “Your book is getting publicando! I’ve done a lot of promoting for your book in the last three years so that I’d be able to send it in to HarperCollins—”

     “Just like I wanted!”

     “—and I was finally able to two weeks ago. They got back to me literally this mañana, Elizé! And they love it!” Elizé just stared at the opposite wall, amazed and open-mouthed. Just then, the nurse from the States came back in to say that visiting hours were over. Delfina thanked her and turned back to Elizé to give her a hug. “I bet you that you’ll become a very famous author, Elizé.” The little girl smiled brightly as Delfina went to the door, said good night, and looked at her sweet little sister for the last time.


Several years later…


    “Mama, Mama! Look at this!” a six-year-old girl called to her mother in a bookstore in Buenos Aires. The girl’s mother put down the biography of Scott Hamilton and his journey through cancer and stepped over to the children’s section to see what her daughter was so excited about. She found the little girl pointing at a familiar book. “Mama! This person shares my name!” the girl said excitedly. “My name’s Elizé and so is hers. The only difference is that she has a different last name: Pena instead of Santiago.”

     “So, she does, carino,” the mother replied, smiling.

     “Why is that, Mama?” little Elizé asked. The mother squatted down next to her daughter and whispered,

     “Because she’s your aunt.” And Elizé looked up into Delfina’s face in delighted wonder.

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

24 comments

Zilla Babbitt
12:46 Jun 21, 2020

You asked me to read, so here I am: How cute! I've never completed a slog for book publication, having given it up because the book in question was too short and was chock-full of deus ex machina, but I know how exhilarating the product is. You have good dialogue and some good character-building. Two things. One, why is Elize in the hospital? You could address this really quick. Two, the mix of languages is a very delicate balance. There's a fine line between combining Spanish and English and it being elegant, and then having so much (li...

Reply

Ranya Navarez
22:36 Jun 21, 2020

Thank you, Zilla! Yeah, I'm not bilingual, so thank you for the advice on that. I did tell why Elize was in hospital: leukemia, aka cancer in the bone marrow. I actually took that part from one of my favorite shows on Netflix: Alexa & Katie. It's a cancer most common in children, and I thought putting that in would help give it the bittersweet ending I wanted. Glad you liked it! Thanks for the critique!

Reply

Zilla Babbitt
22:54 Jun 21, 2020

Nice! You're welcome.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Sophia Rose
10:31 Jun 21, 2020

I love the whole Argentina setting. It feels good to read a story that is tapping into the waters of another culture. It's a wonderful story.

Reply

Ranya Navarez
22:40 Jun 21, 2020

Thanks! Glad you love that it was in Argentina. I wanted to do a modern story in another country and I already liked Argentina. Thanks again!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jasmine Navarez
23:41 Jun 20, 2020

That was amazing! Another wonderful story by a wonderful author!

Reply

Zilla Babbitt
12:51 Jun 21, 2020

I wonder, Jasmine... are you related to Ranya? Same last name and everything.

Reply

Ranya Navarez
22:41 Jun 21, 2020

Yes, she is. She's my younger sister.

Reply

Zilla Babbitt
22:54 Jun 21, 2020

That's awesome!

Reply

Jasmine Navarez
03:06 Jun 23, 2020

Yes, I am her sister. Nice to meet you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Ayomide Ajayi
23:46 Jun 18, 2020

Nice one. Interesting, just that the names are strange to me. keep it up.

Reply

Ranya Navarez
00:41 Jun 19, 2020

It does take place in Argentina, so I looked up names commonly used in Argentina to make it feel a little more authentic. Glad you liked it!

Reply

Ayomide Ajayi
12:07 Jun 19, 2020

You are welcome.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
02:06 Jun 27, 2020

Awww...Such a sweet and cute story! Loved it! Keep writing and have a great day Ranya! :))))

Reply

Ranya Navarez
02:24 Jun 27, 2020

Thank you! You, too!

Reply

03:36 Jun 27, 2020

:))))

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Nandan Prasad
09:33 Jun 26, 2020

Very heartwarming story! The characters are well-fleshed out, especially Delfina. Also, would you mind checking out my story, if it's not too much trouble? Thanks and good luck!

Reply

Ranya Navarez
14:29 Jun 26, 2020

Thanks so much! I'm glad you liked it! To be honest, though, I didn't feel like Delfina or Elize were as well-fleshed out as other characters I've made. But I'm glad they came across as well-fleshed out! I would love to check out your story! Which one do you want me to read? I also have two other stories, if you want to check them out, too. "Two Sides" is the newest one.

Reply

Nandan Prasad
15:05 Jun 26, 2020

I will definitely check out your other story. As for mine, any one would do, thanks!

Reply

Ranya Navarez
17:10 Jun 26, 2020

Thanks! And will do!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Sarah Kaderbek
22:12 Jun 24, 2020

Hi, Ranya! Nice story! I was lucky enough to get it for this week's Critique Circle. I really loved the ending---it's super sweet! The setting and bilingual elements also helped make the story extra special. My only critiques would be minors ones. Firstly, the time gaps between sections feel a bit arbitrary. Three years seems too long between the first two, and "several" years suggests two or three, not enough for Delfina to have a six-year-old girl who doesn't know about her aunt. Maybe this is just a personal thing, but I find ...

Reply

Ranya Navarez
22:54 Jun 24, 2020

Thank you so much, Sarah! This was a very, very helpful critique! I completely get what you're saying and it makes sense. I guess I felt like the specific time measurements were necessary as I was writing the first time, and I had a feeling something was wrong with it. But I couldn't put what was wrong with it into words, so it stayed in the final draft. Same with mentioning HarperCollins. Unfortunately, the deadline for this story's prompt is already past, so I can't edit it. But I will definitely keep all this in mind for my future stories...

Reply

Sarah Kaderbek
22:58 Jun 24, 2020

So glad this was helpful, and thanks! Looking forward to reading your future stories

Reply

Ranya Navarez
23:15 Jun 24, 2020

Thank you! And you're welcome!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply