This was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives. But somehow, as Frida and her daughter Molina stepped out of the holding facility, hopelessness still ravaged their souls. Frida stared into the horizon trying to suppress the horrors of before. Six-years-old with the weather look of an ancient woman, Molina grasped her mother's hand which she hadn’t touched for what seemed like an eternity.
She searched for some type of affirmation in her mother’s grip, but it was not there. Her words fared no better.
"Your aunt will be here soon,” Frida faintly said.
It was a phrase, Molina knew, that usually started with "Don't worry." The omission caused Molina to do just that. But then she remembered the night she was pulled from her mother's arms. The tears that fell as a strange man yanked her away violently. And she remembered the resolve in her mother's eyes that night. How she had magically transformed from a fretful mother screaming in broken English to a serene vessel -- almost soldier-like. Molina did not have time to realize it then, but at that moment, she idolized her mom as she had said, "Peace, Molina. You are a big girl now. You can handle this and I will see you soon."
And as Molina stood in front of the facility, thinking back to her mother’s words, her worry faded and her patience extended. Moments later, a red Volkswagen rolled from around the corner. The pace was deliberate, not intimating a rush of any sort. It stopped right in front of them and the door crept open as if of its own volition.
"Well," said a fancily dressed aunt Penny, revealing herself on the other side. "are you two going to get in, or are you going to keep wasting my gas?"
As was usual, there were no words exchanged between her and Frida. Frida just placed Molina in the back seat and took her spot in the passenger side. The closing of her own door meant, "Let's go.” And they drove away.
Aunt Penny always struck Molina as a cold human being. She was never quite sure if that was a good or bad thing. She did know her aunt really liked her. As for Aunt Penny's relationship with her mother, that was what adults called a bit more complicated.
As the ride progressed, Molina could see her mother move around uncomfortably in the seat while Aunt Penny had a crisp smile transfixed on her face.
Finally, it was obvious that Frida had no choice but to let Penny know what was on her mind. Being silent about a thing wasn't in her nature.
"Is it true?" she just said.
Aunt Penny, once known as Penelope, lifted her smile three inches. She knew the question Frida was posing, still, her twisted sense of wit caused her to stretch things out a bit.
"Many things are true," she said. "What truth is it that you are looking for?"
Frida folded her arms and rolled her eyes, "You know what I mean, Mija."
Molina knew that her mother only called aunt Penny “Mija” when she was in serious trouble. Usually, this was the part where Molina left the room, but having no doors that led anywhere but to a fast-moving road, she was left to sit there and listen as her mother posed the question.
"Is it true that you voted for him?"
Though it had not changed form, Aunt Penny's smile took on a sneaky quality to it as she explained, "America is a wonderful place. A place I fought hard and long to get to without taking shortcuts."
The words stung Frida as they were meant to as Aunt Penny continued, "And one of the greatest things about America is the right to privacy."
Her voice turned raspy with disdain as she concluded, "How I vote is my business."
But silence is it's own betrayer. By this silence, Frida knew Penny had voted for the man who had stiffened penalties against undocumented immigrants. She knew she had voted for the man who implemented child separation policies at the border. She knew her own sister had cast a ballot for the demon who put her through the torture of seeing her only child ripped away. The torture of having to feign certainty in her voice as she said they'd be together soon.
Realizing all this, Frida crumbled into tears that rolled down upon cheeks warm with rage. She had never felt an emotion that was so unmistakable but felt something like confusion. This balance between hopelessness and outright fury.
Penny's unwarranted words chimed, "Oh, this is why we don't talk politics at the dinner table."
"It may be politics to you! It's life to me!"
"You are so dramatic. Maybe you should get your own miniseries."
Forgetting her daughter was even there, Frida snapped, "This is no joke!"
And the outburst snatched the smile right off aunt Penny's face.
Aunt Penny glared back at Molina as if checking to see if the scene had negatively affected her, but Molina was a big girl and had seen much worse while in the facility. She sat, eyes forward, unaffected by what she merely saw as grownups talking. Still, this sudden turn had changed Aunt Penny's tone, and with a scowl she began her own tirade.
"I voted for him because he believes in law and order. I voted for him because he respects those who immigrate the right way. I voted for him because he keeps illegals like you out of our country."
She breathed and concluded, "But I also voted for him because he is merciful and because of his mercy he is giving you a second chance."
And of all the things aunt Penny said, this burned her up the most, "You're a fool! The only reason I was released was because of a court order and that your leader tried to overturn it!"
"Where'd you hear that! That's a LIE!" Penny snapped. But soon her anger subsided and she managed to change the subject. "Regardless of what you feel, you should enjoy your newfound freedom. Find yourself a good Christian man and give your mother the grandson she always wanted."
Now, it was Frida's turn to be cold. She looked out into space with vacant eyes as she said, "She won't be getting a grandson."
"That's nonsense," Penny said. "You're just delirious right now, but once you get on your feet, you'll --"
"They sterilized me, Penny. The men in the concentration camp -- they sterilized me and I won't have kids ever again."
And for the first time in forever, a look of concern fell onto Aunt Penny's face. This was not Penny. This was Penelope before the fancy cars and faux furs -- it was little Penelope holding her sister, guarding her against their father who had too much to drink.
Any other tone and it would have come off as judgmental as she said, "Why didn't you tell anybody?"
But the tightness of her voice intimated genuine dread. Frida answered truthfully as if the terror of the predicament still sat before her, "Because they had Molina."
She lowered her head as if to recharge and then she raised it again with determination in her voice as she said, "But now that I am free, I can turn them in."
Penny listening was all she needed at this moment, so it came as a surprise when she heard the words, "I will help you..."
And so that night, a call was made to the government. About the informant. Men showed up to take care of the situation because Penny knew who she loved.
She loved her President.
And she would be damned if any “illegal” would ruin the progress of his administration.
Molina still remembers her mother being taken away by strangers. She, like her mother, had thought her Aunt changed -- but maybe had changed but not so much that she would betray her sister. But as Molina cried back to her mother being dragged away by large, faceless men, she hated herself for not seeing the truth. Why the best day of their lives felt so much like a death march. Because she was a big girl and had seen the worst of men. Knew their capabilities.
As the door slammed shut and her mother left forever, she realized the evil she had seen had infected the whole world, including her Aunt and by then it was too late.