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.
“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.
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.