“I dare you,” my sister told me.
“Isa, I don’t really want to go-”
“I double dare you.”
“But cemeteries are creepy and-”
“I’ll give you all my chocolate candies.”
This made me pause and reconsider. “All of the chocolates? Including the peanut butter cups?”
“Only if you come, Ana,” Isa replied.
“Fine, I’ll do it, but only for the chocolates,” I conceded.
So I was bribed by my younger sister with chocolate. Sue me. I will do anything for the stuff, even spend the night in the Cemetario de los Angeles, the Cemetery of Angels. So, on the night of November 1st, Mamá allowed me and Isa to sleep in the cemetery.
Oh, I should probably introduce myself. I’m Anabelle, but I go by Ana. I was names after my grandmother, and I'm 14 years old. My sister, Isa, short for Isabella, is only a year younger than me, 13. She was named after my mother’s sister. We are super close. Our grandparents were from Mexico, but my parents, Isa and I were born in the U.S. Every year, we celebrate Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It is a fun Mexican tradition, and Isa’s favorite holiday. She loves the decorations, making ofrendas, decorating our family’s gravesites, and, of course, eating the sugar skulls. Isa and I do go trick-or-treating on Halloween, but Día de los Muertos is also an important celebration to us.
When we got to the Cemetario de los Angeles, Isa immediately headed for the far back, where the oldest graves where. No one was there to decorate any gravesites, the bodies and names long forgotten. Isa laid down the blanket while I placed our sleeping bags on top. On our left were graves, and to the right there were some woods.
Isa started to say something when she was interrupted by a loud crash from the woods. I glanced at Isa and took off to find what had caused the sound. As I ducked under branches and avoided poison ivy, I wondered why I had decided to try to find the source of the crash. That was something someone in a horror movie would do. Too late now. My arms and legs were already scraped up. I might as well keep going.
I saw a clearing ahead and ran towards it, running out of the woods and into a golden retriever. We landed in a pile of limbs and struggled to get off each other. When we were both finally freed, the golden looked at me and I at her. No doubt we were wondering what the other was doing here. I looked around for Isa, surprised I didn’t hear her laughing at me and the dog, or making some joke about a dog pile. I couldn’t find my sister anywhere, and cleverly deduced that she hadn’t followed me into the woods. Okay, fine. Just me and the dog, then.
“What’s your name, girl?” I asked the dog. “Do you mind if I check your collar?” I had to check. I didn’t want the dog biting me after I ran into her. I inched closer, and the dog didn’t growl or bark, so I continued. I touched her nametag, and it read ‘Bella.’ I snorted. Anabelle, Isabella, and a dog named Bella? You have got to be kidding me.
“Well, Bella, I’m Ana. Where do you live? The collar didn’t say.” Bella barked and brought me a rock. I sighed, took the rock from her and slipped it in my pocket. “Some dogs like sticks, some tennis balls, yet you chew rocks. That can’t be good for your teeth.” I guess we start by heading out of the woods. Bella and I followed my path of broken branches and crushed leaves back to the cemetery and where Isa and I had set up our sleeping bags. To my surprise, I couldn’t find the spot.
I called, “Isa! I found a dog! I’m not sure what crashed, but I ran into a golden retriever. Literally. Her name is Bella.”
“Isabella! I’m sorry I left you! Can you come out please?”
“Okay, I’m going home, and I'm taking the dog with me!”
I looked at Bella. “Do you know where she is?” Bella started crying and sniffing the ground. I followed her back to the entrance of the cemetery. I passed our family’s graves. Past Jorge Rívera, Sofia Rívera, and José Rívera. Jorge and Sofia were my tíos, my uncles and aunts. José was my grandfather. I continued onto the next gravestone and read María and Diego Rívera. Wait. Those were my parents! They aren’t dead! Bella whined again and pointed with her nose at the next grave. It read Anabelle Rívera. What? That’s me! I wondered if I was somehow seeing the future, or a different universe. But why was Bella still here? I heard a noise and looked up to see an old lady walking up the path towards me. I hid with Bella behind a nearby gravestone. Very heroic, I know. But for all I knew, I was in an alternate universe where the elderly could kill you.
I might have a wild imagination.
The lady stopped at my family’s graves. She pulled some marigolds out of a purse she had on her arm and spread them all over the five graves. She got out some candles and matches, placing the lit candles on the gravesites as well. Sugar skulls and Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead) followed. I think I began to understand who this lady was. I stepped out from behind the gravestone I was hiding behind and into the woman’s line of sight. Bella stayed hidden. I said, “Are you Isa Rívera?”
The lady startled and stammered, “A-Ana? Is that really you? You look just like you did years ago!” She shook herself and said, “I’m sorry. You reminded me of my sister, who died when she was 14. Yes, I am Isabella Rívera.”
Should I tell her that it really was me? What would that do? It appeared I was dead anyways. How did I die? “Isa? I'm Ana. How are you older than me? You were 13, last I checked. And I was still 14. We were camping at the Cemetario de los Angeles. I ran into the woods and found Bella. I came out and you were gone. Now we are having this conversation.”
My younger/older sister stared at me. I could see her brain processing. With my luck, I probably just broke it. “So you really are Ana, then?”
“Good question. We’re not really sure.”
“There’s more than just you?” Isa looked like she had just seen a ghost, which I guess was possible, since I might be one.
“Oh, this is Bella. Come here, girl!” The golden retriever came out from behind the gravestone, holding the rock I had put in my pocket in her mouth. “How did you get that?” I asked her and took the rock back from her, pushing it deeper into my pocket.
“¡La perra es muy bonita! She is a very pretty dog! Hola, Bella. Why are you eating a rock? That can't be good for your teeth.”
Great minds think alike. I asked a plethora of questions at once. “So, what are we going to do about this? Am I in the future, then? How do I get back to the present? Am I actually dead? How did I die?”
Isa answered as best she could all in one breath. “I-I’m not sure. My brain is still processing. Do you know what made you come here? Maybe Bella is the key. You said she was there when you ran into her, so how is she then here? If she was from the past, then how did she come to the future? A normal dog wouldn’t do that.”
She had a point. “Well, Bella, what do you know about this?” I demanded of the golden. Bella just laid down and started eating grass. “Should I eat grass? Is that the solution?”
Isa quickly said, “Um, I doubt it. Let’s call that Plan B.”
I agreed, because I didn’t want to eat grass.
Bella got up and walked over to the pocket with the rock in it. She whined and nudged the rock. “I’m not eating a rock either, Bella,” I told her. But I took the rock out anyways and put it on the ground.
Isa said, “Maybe there is something about the rock?” She sounded like she couldn’t believe that a rock could fix this. I couldn’t either. “What if there is no solution?”
Bella started running towards the woods. I picked up the rock and ran after her, Isa walking fast behind me (For all of you who are asking, ‘Are you sure she is following you?’ Yes, I am, thank you very much. I checked, double checked, and triple checked. Isa probably thought there was something wrong with my head). Bella slowed down so that we could follow her, and she led us to the clearing where I had met her. I slipped and fell, and everything went dark.
I woke up to a dog in my face, licking my forehead. “What- Bella? Where’s Isa?”
“Right here. Are you okay? Why was your first reaction to run into the woods to find the sound? I entered the clearing just in time to see you run into Bella. You have been out for a solid eighteen minutes now. Another two minutes and I would have called Mamá.” She walked out from behind me so I could see her. When I saw her, I gasped.
“You’re 13!” I shouted in surprise.
“Duh. Were you expecting me to be 60?”
I decided not to answer that.
“Well, anyways,” Isa continued, “I see that you found a dog, and that her collar didn’t have an address. Maybe we should put up some lost dog found posters?”
I started to sit up. I was still confused. I didn’t know what just happened. Maybe I was dreaming about seeing my name on the gravestone? So, did that mean that this was real? Already the details of the strange dream were fading. But that usually happens when I wake up.
“Hello? Ana? You okay? Did you hit your head harder than I thought? Here, how about we go back to the gravesite. I mean, you’re sitting up. I guess that means you can walk.”
I shook myself out of my thoughts and answered my sister. “Yeah, I’m fine. I think going back to the sleeping bags is an excellent idea. Then we can see if my name is on a g-I mean my sleeping bag. Come on, Bella!”
I led the way as the three of us walked in a line back to the gravesite (I did check- Isa IS behind me).
When we arrived, I saw that the sleeping bags were right where we left them. There was no way I would have missed them unless they weren’t there. “I'm going to go to the family gravesites! I’ll be back!” I darted out of there before Isabella could say something. Bella followed me.
As I approached the graves, I saw only the usual family graves; me and my parents weren’t on there. I relaxed. I guess it really was a dream. I looked at Bella. “Isa’s right; we need to find where you live.” Bella wagged her tail and brought me a stick. “At least I imagined the part where you chewed rocks. Come on, let’s go back to Isa.”
When Bella and I went back to where Isa and our sleeping bags were, I saw that Isa had her back to me and Bella. I saw a great opportunity for a Halloween scare, but Bella ruined it when she saw Isa and barked. I walked over.
“I think we should sleep here tonight and try to find Bella’s family in the morning. It would take a while, and it is already getting dark.”
Surprisingly, the night was uneventful. Everything happened like it was supposed to. We climbed into our sleeping bags, told creepy stories, freaked out when we heard a wolf howl (Bella howled back and the wolf was silent), woke up in a panic over an owl, and finally fell asleep around midnight, and woke up two hous later because of the cold. Bella slept between me and my sister. I didn’t dream anything creepy or out of the ordinary, unless you include dancing marigolds and floating tamales.
Isa woke me up at the crack of dawn. “Ana. Ana! Rise and shine! We have to help Bella!”
I groaned and mumbled, “I am not here.” (Isa will claim I also said something about singing sugar skulls, but that is false. I am sure of it. Well, at least 80% sure).
“Come on, Ana!”
Once I woke up, we rolled up the sleeping bags and started towards home. We were on our street when a little boy came running up to us.
“You found Bella!” He cried. Bella, hearing him, ran over and jumped on his shoulders, knocking them both down. A father came out of a nearby house and called out to the boy.
“Nico! Get out of the street!”
“Daddy, the girls found Bella!”
The father ran off the porch and towards Nico. “So they have. Thank you...”
Isa introduced us. “I’m Isa, and my sister is Ana.”
“Thank you, Isa and Ana. I’m Carlos. We lost Bella a few days ago, and we were about to plaster the town in lost dog posters. I know Nico appreciates it too. What do you say, Ni-”
“¡GRACIAS, ANA Y ISA!” Nico shouted.
Carlos looked mortified, and we laughed.
“De nada. You’re welcome,” I told him. “Bella is a very pretty and nice dog. Bye, Bella!”
Nico ran into the house, Bella chasing him.
Carlos turned to us. “You have just made his day. ¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!” With that, Carlos ran after Nico and Bella.
I looked at Isa. “You owe me your chocolate candies, including the peanut butter cups.”
Isa looked at me innocently. “Did I? I have no memory of that.” I glared at her, and she sighed. “Fine, I do owe you.” She got a devilish look and her eyes and said, “I’ll race you home! First on gets the chocolates!”
I took off after my sister, wondering just how many chocolates I would get when I won.