whispered to the floor. “I’ll take care of it for you.”
Marla felt stupid that she hadn’t come up with the idea herself, felt guilty and sad that it had taken her so long to fix things. Deep down she knew Jose would forgive her. True, ithad probably been really hard for him to reach her dreams all the way from Hell, especially since there wasn’t much room in them now with all the worries filling up her head—Papa and Mama always crying, the move to the other side of Raleigh, the new school, the new catechism class, and the new church—not to mention all the space taken up in her head from missing him! Oh yes, sometimes Marla’s head felt even more crowded than the place they’d moved into; it had
worries than her uncle’s two-bedroom apartment had people. Nine altogether—people, not worries—well,
if you counted her cousins’ cat Paco.
Marla didn’t like her cousins very much, and she certainly didn’t like having to sleep on the floor with her brother in the same room as Mama and Papa. But Marla had to admit that she liked living with Paco, who always slept on her pillow even though Diego was right there beside her. Marla could tell that Paco didn’t like Diego very much; and even though Marla didn’t like Diego very much, either, she still felt guilty for wishing sometimes that he’d gotten killed instead of Jose.
I must remember to tell Father Banigas that, too,
But I bet if Father Banigas ever met Diego, he wouldn’t like him, either.
Whereas everybody used to like Jose, it seemed to Marla that the only person who liked Diego was Hector, the oldest of her three cousins. Hector was thirteen, two years younger than Diego, and Marla could tell that Hector thought Diego was
because he could freestyle faster than anyone. Her other two cousins were just little boys and too young to give a crap about Diego’s flow, but even Marla had to admit that sometimes Diego’s rapping was pretty cool—but that didn’t change the fact that she didn’t like him! No, her big brother Jose had never called her names or pinched her arm when he wanted to use the iPod the three of them had shared back in their old apartment.
However, after Jose died, as soon as her family moved into their cousins’ apartment, her father bought Marla her own iPod and stuck Diego with the old one. She hadn’t expected
even though her father had picked up another job in addition to his one as a janitor at the Crabtree Mall. Marla had heard him and her mother arguing about the iPod late at night, but at least Papa wasn’t crying anymore before he fell asleep. Marla could never tell her Papa that the iPod didn’t make her stop crying, though—didn’t make her like her cousins or their apartment any better, either. But at least Marla could admit that things were quieter outside now: no cars revving up and down the parking lot; no bottles clinking and gangbanging
yelling at each other late at night. And best of all, there were no gunshots to wake her up from her dreams of Jose.
“You can ask God for an iPod when you get to Heaven, Jose,” Marla whispered to the floor, and the boy sitting next to her elbowed her.
he said. “You’ll get us in trouble with Sister Esperanza.”
Marla elbowed him back, and the boy let out a squeal that made Sister Esperanza get up from her seat across the aisle. All the children froze, but when Sister Esperanza passed by Marla without a word, it suddenly occurred to her that maybe the reason Jose was finally able to speak to her in her dreams was because it was so much quieter now at her cousins’.
That had to be it! Yes, maybe there was something good about living there, after all. For even though Marla would never be able to ride in the car Jose had been saving up for while working at Best Buy, she would much rather just be able to talk with him like they used to when he was alive.
However, once she and Father