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La Don-a: The Rise of the Swan - 1

Updated: Mar 21

Author's Note: Warning this chapter of this Historical YA contains domestic violence, child abuse and mentioned/implications of rape.

1 Shot of Vodka: To the birth and reception of a future Boss

“I was born on a dark and dreary night in East Harlem, just as the 1800s ended and the 1900s truly began. At that time East Harlem, New York was a place that felt more like southern Italy than any neighborhood in America. For an immigrant family it was a great place to live, instead of dealing with Americans bigotry against immigrants the place was filled with hospitable and friendly Italians. They always wanted to feed everyone which helped whenever we ran out of food or spinach [money]. They also had a reputation for being fierce so if you were in with the Italians, you were practically untouchable…well, Italians and Irish but they're a whole other breed. To get in with the Irish you needed to have a strong liver, at least with the Italians all we needed was a big stomach. It also helped that my ma was Italian-American, so she felt more at home there although knowing my father the only reason we were still there was because her father left her the apartment when he decided to retire to some farm in the middle of nowhere America, therefore it was free and that's all my father cared about besides booze.” A woman spoke as she stared at the walls of an office with no windows, lost in the memories of a time long passed. She sat behind a wooden desk that seemed rarely use for what it was intended for if the lack of paper and files but all the scratches and marks were anything to go by. She leaned back on a leather chair and despite the chair dwarfing her there was a power oozing from her and a blaring alarm that screamed danger shined in her dark eyes. The white button blouse and form-fitting vest seemed almost obscene as it plumped up her breast and accented her waist. Everything about her screamed that she was in charge yet the few scars that were visible on her skin said that it was not an easy journey there.

“The streets that were normally filled with so much life and smells, were empty on that night except for the idiots too smoked [drunk] and too far gone to have any self-preservation and to be wary of the loud thunder or rain that felt like little hailstones falling from the sky or the bright flashes of lightning that made everyone wonder when the power would cut off. It was the kind of storm that leaves marks all over the body like the ones the cake-eater [Ladies’ man] next door left on all the chippies [woman of easy virtue] that stopped by to see him. My mother once told me that it had been an easy and quick birth but then again after having four, I'm sure that number five would be duck soup [easy]. Still she says I came out fighting, in the living room of our crappy apartment that due to lack of space and too many children had a bed in the center of it where my mother and father slept. She gave us the only bedroom because we were more, but I later found out the real reason and I appreciated it although it didn't really work…” The woman was silent for a moment a sneer appearing on her face as she though of either the situation or her mother with disdain.

“Anyways, she said that she knew from that moment that I would be trouble. She wasn’t wrong, I did give'em hell but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. To answer your question I have to first take you back to the very beginning, cause to understand a monster you must first learn how it was created. Let’s go back to that night…”

“What?! Another useless girl?!”

In a small room that was mostly taken up by a bed where a woman laid covered in sweat and clearly just done with the strenuous miracle that was giving birth, a man furiously exclaimed. The Midwife by her side held a small bundle wrapped in a blanket that had more holes than actual covering. The child in her arms, a girl by to the man's displeasure, cried loudly unhappy to be taken away from the warmth that had been her home. The room seemed to serve multiple purposes from a bedroom, a birthing room, a living room and a laundry room as clothes were hung to dry like the poorest form of art. The room also served as a dining room with a small rickety table against the wall barely leaving any walking room between it and the bed. The last purpose of the room served as a kitchen which was just a tiny corner with a stove, a sink and one counter.

It might not sound like much but to me it was home, and we made the small space work. My ma always thanked God that we were all girls since she said girls adjusted better and were more accommodating which I never believed was the compliment she thought it was.”

The angry man stood tall, towering furiously over both women as he glared at the short portly older woman before him and at the baby still crying in her arms. “At least shut her the fuck up!” He had soulful brown eyes that at times could seem intense and dangerous but somehow alluring, his wavy black hair was combed back with so much grease that it seemed to shine. He had soft delicate features that made women want to take the risk that those eyes and temper clearly gave off. The man was a blaring siren yet women could still not stay away.

At the very least, in my mother's case, it was worth taking that risk despite all the signs. There is no denying that the bastard was good looking and charming when he wanted to be, which was rare. As you guessed it, that ball of joy was my father, Miguel Agustin Salazar and he was not happy that after four girls, my mother gave birth to another one instead of the most desired son. You would think he was some fucking king or had anything to his name worth inheriting to be so obsessed with having a son instead of just some useless, angry drunk.”

“I’m sorry sir, but the child is another girl…” the midwife confirmed as she trembled in fear before the man despite his almost distracting good looks and exotic accent, there was a darkness that almost poured out of him like a cup under a waterfall. Beautiful yet poisonous much like the Oleander plant.

“You can’t even seem to do this right…” The disappointment in his voice was as clear as water from a natural spring. Miguel wasn’t too surprised by his wife’s failure; the woman had been failing at her duties for years. He accepted the first four girls mainly because he could marry them off and gain something out of them but that was only under the condition that he was given a son. He grabbed his jacket as he stormed out of the apartment without caring about his wife or new daughter’s condition.

The small one-bedroom apartment seemed to shake under the man’s anger that remained even once he was gone like the residue of poison hanging in the air. The midwife passed the newborn over to her mother who finally smiled at the sight of the baby. “Can we see her…?” To the midwife’s side a young girl with big bright dark eyes similar to the man that just left stared up at her, the little girl who was no older than four or five had two big buns instead of the traditional pigtails, her face held firm to the innocence and pure joy that one was only filled with during youth.

“That’s one of my older sister’s Dorothy, she’s a little of a dumb dora [stupid/silly girl] if you know what I mean. Don’t get me wrong I love the girl and would blip off[to kill] anyone that hurt her, but she’s a little empty up top. She gets herself in all sorts of situations in the name of having fun and going on adventures. Which in my opinion is just foolish, but I will say that if you want to have some fun then she’s your girl. Every game I’ve ever played or learned and every toy that I’ve ever had was all Dorothy. She taught me how to play and how to make my own toys when I clearly did not get any.”

“Of course, but…” Dorothy was gone before the old woman could fully speak “ must be careful.” When she finished the little girl was already by her new little sister's side, staring in awe and curiosity.

“Do not worry, we will take care of them.” a stern and far too serious nine year old declared, her much lighter almost honey brown eyes were filled with a maturity that despite being much older than Dorothy seemed almost wrong on her. Everything about the girl spoke of organization and properness, her shoes were neat if not old and worn out, her rags [clothes] while clearly having seen better days had stitching to fix the holes that seemed almost done by a meticulous seamstress and her hair was in a tight and neat bun with not a hair out of place.

“That’s Stella, my least favorite older sister; What can I say about Stella…She's a bluenose [prude]. She’s the boring and serious to our fun and carefree. Where Dorothy taught me everything fun, Stella made it her life's mission to unteach me what she called ‘bad habits.’ She was a strict rules follower and would berate anyone that deviated from them. She has become a real bitch and a thorn in my side but at that time she was just annoying, and we usually just ignored her rants except Dorothy, who’s favorite hobby was to make Stella’s uptight ass explode.”

Another girl younger than Stella followed behind her like a duckling following a mama duck in an effort not to get lost. She hid behind her older sister, bright eyes barely peeking through, unlike her other sister, she was the quintessential American girl next door. Sweet and demure with pigtails and big innocent eyes with a swan-like grace and elegance despite her young age of seven years.

“Now that there is my third big sister Anna, and she was by far the sweetest and kindest person you will ever meet which sucked for her but you’ll see later on why. Anna was a pushover, kind, but a pushover even with us. The good thing was that she could often blended into the background and was safe from a beating just for the simple fact that when Miguel remembered she existed he was simply too tired to give her a serving.”

“Here is the money, there’s a few coins missing but it was all I could sneak away before…” A tall pre-teen no older than ten years old stepped forward and handed the old woman some cash in a tight little roll.

“Do not worry Marguerite, I’ve delivered you and all your sisters, you haven’t failed me yet.”

“And you haven’t failed us so thank you. I swear we will pay you…” the old woman waved the older girl off with a simple kind smile.

“I know, I know...I’ll see you in a few years.” The old woman teased as she walked away

“I hope not…” she missed the almost imploring words from the oldest girl as she thought of how they barely had enough to feed the mouths already present even one more could push them over the edge. This was not even taking into account her father's reaction if once more a girl was born. She stood tall, clearly almost a woman with her chest showing signs of developing into a woman's full bust. She was the only one that had all the dark features of their father instead of being a blend of both parents. There was an air of responsibility around her, it was clear she carried the heavy weight with a loyalty and selflessness that others would clearly take advantage of.

Now that is my last older sister Margarita -the eldest of us all- mainly known as Marguerite by outsiders since that was the version of her name that was most popular and well-known although to Miguel she was and always will be Margarita and anyone who says otherwise -in the house- would get some sense knocked into them. She was by far the strongest and most devoted woman you’ll ever meet. She tackled anything head on with a smile on her face and a faith that was quite frankly delusional in my opinion. When the world knocked her down, she got up and took some more, that doesn’t make her too smart in my book...but definitely strong.”

Once the midwife leaves, Margarita walks over to where the woman laid covered in sweat holding the bundle in her arms with a sweet smile on her face. Anna carried bloody towels and blankets to the small bathroom silently, to be soaked in water and washed later. Dorothy was fawning over the bundle in the exhausted woman’s arms while Stella went about prepping some water to clean them both up. It was almost like a rehearsed dance that all the girls knew by heart and performed flawlessly without fail.

“Margarita, come meet your sister…” Ruth Salazar seemed in great spirits despite the labor and her clear exhaustion. She was a beautiful woman with hair the color of rich warm American whiskey and eyes soft and light like honey. The olive-colored skin glistened with sweat, yet her smile was sweet and her eyes were happy. She was a traditional Italian beauty with high cheekbones, wide eyes, and plump lips yet despite her beauty, humility covered her like a cloak.

“That is my mother, she didn’t deserve half the things life threw at her, but life is all about the choices we make. My mother chose to marry my father despite my grandparents -whom I’ve never met- never agreeing to that union. They never liked Miguel, which is a point in their favor for their great judge of character. Unfortunately my mother did not inherit this trait. Despite her flaws, she was a great mother if not a weak woman but in this time all women are made to feel weak when in reality we hold a lot more power than we think. My mother learned that later on when she was forced to transform from an abused kitten to a fierce lioness.”

“I don’t know what’s to meet, it’s another girl. Father was not happy about it.” Ruth flinched at the reminder of her husband’s anger and Margarita glared at her younger sister for ruining the moment.


“See, what I tell you, a bitch. Stella was the perfect example of a conditioned woman, what men think all women should be. She believes that men are basically a personification of God on earth and as mere mortals we women owe them obedience, reverence and gratitude for simply being allowed to exist in the same space as them. Margarita told me that Stella had felt guilty about not being born a boy so when she was younger, she would do everything to please Miguel even dress like a boy and pretend to be one of them. To me she’s just a hypocrite and you will later see why…”

“What? It’s true, he was.”

“Whether he was or not, it doesn’t matter. This is a happy moment for our mother and us, don’t ruin it.”

Stella pouted and glared at her older sister but kept her mouth closed. She was clearly not in the celebrating and happy spirit that the rest of her family was in, but she respected the hierarchy within their home, meaning that she had to listen to her father first, then her mother and finally Margarita as her older sister. The girls all sat around the much more subdued woman to look at their new sister, Stella’s comment served to knock Ruth’s spirits down but if there was one thing she could do was pretend everything was fine. “What’s her name?” Anna spoke her first words of the night and she was almost drowned out by the thunder and rain, but her mother knew to keep an ear out for the soft-spoken girl so she heard her.

“Geraldine, her name is Geraldine Salazar.”


The streets of East Harlem were empty and desolate except for an angry man that stumbled his way through the puddles and wind with the single focus of a man either on a mission or possessed. His old worn shoes completely lost their battle with the elements as his jacket made a valiant attempt to keep him dry. Suddenly bright lights illuminate his face, it was coming from a sign that read ‘Drunk Fool Tavern’ in big bright letters that seemed to be barely functioning as some of the letters kept flashing off. The brick building was a deep red color, most likely to hide the blood from drunken bar fights or muggings. There was even a cracked window that was covered with a sheet that flapped violently in the wind, dangerously close to being blown off.

“This was the bastard’s home sweet home or at least we wished it was since he spent so much time in it that it kept him away from us. We also all kind of hoped he was killed off by a drunk he managed to piss off. It wouldn’t be too unbelievable since he made enough enemies, I mean the man had a talent for pissing people off and not all of them were weak women. Every night he didn't turn up, we celebrated and hoped only to be let down when he eventually walked into the apartment making demands and swing his hands. The times I prayed that he wouldn’t come back or was just dead in a puddle of his own blood somewhere had been so many that after a while I lost count…”

The building had clearly seen better days with the paint peeling off and the wood in the trims rotting in some places. Yet walking inside it was clear that the people still found enjoyed within it, because the people inside weren’t after fancy or pretty. They were after the sinfully good hooch [liquor] that was sold there and once they had a few, everything became pretty and fancy.

“Hey, there's the man of the hour! Hear hear to my friend who’s become a father...again!”

“Which one is this one…? The fourth or the fifth?”

The tavern was filled with drunken cheers of the eclectic group of men, from Italians to Irish, from Blacks to Spaniards, from Eastern European to the rebellious Jews. It was like traveling the world without leaving America. This was the one place where all the ethnicities, religion, race and ages got along to an extent since alcohol also made them volatile. The question had come from a short stumpy man that seemed so excited and invested that he didn’t notice his drink was spilling although his hand didn’t look too steady so his excitement might not have been the problem. He was surrounded by a group of equally rowdy men composed of Italians and Irish, neither were very appealing to the eye without some hooch to help the vision along yet they all carried themselves with a swagger as if they believed they were.

“So tell us Salazar, have you finally joined the boys club?” Miguel was mirthless, his eyes matched the frightful and wild weather raging outside even the cheerful atmosphere of the tavern could not lighten his mood.

“Shut up! Barkeep pour me one of your strongest!” The men all seemed to piece together what had the man in such a mood. It was no secret that Miguel was desperate for a boy but his wife kept only having girls. In their group, the man was the only one without a son and he was tired of all the teasing he got for having all girls. It was the group’s favorite pastime, just to see how red the Spaniard would get. They had all made bets about the gender of this child although none of them were too confident the man would have a boy after four girls.

“Oh no my friend, not another one.” One of the men spoke in a false tone of sympathy while everyone else laughed not hiding their enjoyment at his misfortune.

“What can be expected from a defective broad.” He slammed his empty cup on the bar top with fury almost making it crack and getting a glare from the barkeep.

“Are you sure she’s the problem?” Miguel turned rapidly to the man who spoke, his eyes almost black as they glared furiously. They were wild and crazed making even his 'friends' step back at the gaze that promised the worse kind of torture.

“I’m only teasing, everyone knows that everything to do with children is a woman's department, we just have to do the fun part.” Every man in the room jeered like schoolboys hearing their first dirty word. Miguel drank three consecutive shots as if they were water and he was a parched man that had been trapped in a desert for many years.

“Hey, look at the bright side, you’ll be able to form a brothel in no time with so many broads,” that seemed to have been the final straw as Miguel put his empty cup down before swinging at the one responsible for that comment. The man swung back and every men in the room took that as their queue, as they got swept away in the emotion and soon the tavern fell into chaos. In no time, one man’s comment had turned into a rumble that had bottles and chairs flying through the room. The sheet covering the window was knocked out by a stool being thrown through it. The wind from outside pushed the rain inside, wetting everything it could reach. The winds howling also joined the symphony of fighting drunk men, creating a loud and tempestuous mix.

In every face he hit Miguel saw his wife and the anger at her failure burned brighter within him. Her failures as a woman and wife reflected poorly on him, it made people believe that he was the one with the problem when he had done his part of sticking it in her. In fact, he does such a good job that he makes sure she winces every time she walks or sits for the days following the act. Everyone that saw her wince and limp had no doubt what happened, he made sure that she would not lie or make something up when asked about. Everyone knew of his prowess, so in his mind he was not the problem, she was. As he continued to swing and strike anyone in his line of sight, Miguel thought of the cursed moment he was brought to America and the moment he met his wife, he had thought she was so beautiful, the sweet Italian-American girl that could get him into what felt like an exclusive club that only those born in the country were allowed in.



Miguel’s first glimpse of America was the dama verde or green lady that stood tall with her crown and arm raised high as if waving them over. He remembered at the time she had seemed so inviting, like a mother waving her children in for supper. But she hid a secret behind her, a mother blocking the messy house inside. It was like being called for supper but getting a beating instead for something you couldn’t remember you did. As the packed ship docked the teenage Miguel stepped off along with many others that cluttered along like disorganized ants coming out of their hill. He glared in disgust at the passengers, some were so old that he wondered what they would do in America except take up space and cause others hardship.

Some were so young they didn’t even know what was going on. To him the worst ones were the babies and women, some babies refused to stop crying and one woman even gave birth on the ship which he found disgusting. Some women were heavily pregnant, and Miguel wondered what was the point of them traveling to America. His father had told him that women were only good for having children, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of men. Miguel sneered as he got off the boat that carried him from Spain to America, the journey had been long and while his mother did not make it -dying from a fever that had taken over the whole ship a few days into the trip- it was all worth it as he gazed upon the majesty that was the beautiful dama verde and the shoreline of New York City. They all disembarked in an island away from the city, and were ushered towards a large structure that looked almost like the palacio real in Madrid except for its bright red color and bulb shaped towers.

Miguel could feel the excitement in the air as those that survived the long journey could finally feel themselves breathe a sigh of relief. He stood by his father’s side although he wanted to rush forward through what seemed like a dark tunnel and into the palace. He wondered if the American monarchs lived there. Miguel was excited at possibly getting to meet the king of this wondrous country. But the teen remained by his father’s side although a lot had to do with the firm bruising grip the man had on his arm. They walked into the tunnel-like structure only to be greeted by chaos as more immigrants were already inside waiting for their chance to be allowed through. There were iron gates keeping them there, some lined up before them while others sat to the side dejected and in tears.

Suddenly Miguel’s excitement turned into worry as he was faced with reality instead of the dream he concocted. He stared at the faces of the crying women and children all begging in their varied languages to be let in, no doubt promising things they could never deliver. The men glared in frustration, some even tried to step up to the agents but were just turned away, some violently. Those in line refused to look at the ones rejected “No lo mires, están malditos y no queremos que se nos pegue. [Don’t look at them, they are cursed and we don’t want it to rub off on us]” His father hissed at him, slapping him upside the head when he looked anyway.

¡Qué te dije…[what did I say…]!” Miguel didn’t understand how the people to the side could be cursed as his father said, they just seemed pathetic and sad.

Está bien, pero se ven más como perdedores. [Fine, but they look more like losers]”

The line was long and since he could not look at the people off to the side Miguel found himself bored. This was not what he pictured when his father gave them the news that they were going to America. The illusion was a little marred by the chaos, the sobbing rejects to the side that looked like the beaten and dirty street dogs he used to throw things at back in Galicia. He had nothing to throw at these dogs so there was no way to pass the time. Thinking about his home made him truly take notice of the brisk American weather and the difference to the warm beaches in Galicia and its clear skies and bright sun. America seemed dreary with its cloudy skies and cold weather.

Part of him wondered what was so great about the country but his father promised that here they could be rich and buy anything they wanted. Miguel was going to buy a house back in Galicia, a big one like the ones his mother used to clean for the Garcia family. He will take trips in his private ship and won’t have to be inspected like an animal in a farm being sent to slaughter. Miguel sneered at the people around him with disgust, vowing that it would be the first and last time he would be at the mercy of anyone or face such humiliation.

As they grew closer to the front Miguel could hear officials giving instructions in English, a language he barely spoke. He was sure barely anyone in the massive space, besides them and maybe the Irish, spoke it; yet they expected everyone to not only understand but follow the orders given. The people all crowded and shoved hoping to be the first to be approved and enter the new country that seemed to hold so much promise. The ones that understood the agents, rushed forward to eagerly follow instructions like dogs following its master. It was the first time Miguel experienced an aching and all-consuming frustration that made him want to scream or punch the smiling faces of all those that got their papers before him.

When it was their turn, Miguel watched as some agents inspected his father like he was a breeding bull. They checked the teeth, the mouth, the eyes, the ears, and the nose and everything they could reach without stripping him. “They will check the rest inside.” He didn’t understand those words but they sounded ominous and he didn’t trust them. Through all the humiliation his father just stood there like a well-behaved bitch, it filled Miguel with fury mainly at his father for behaving like such a well-trained puta.

Miguel’s father sent him a glare that promised pain if he did not stand still once it was his turn. The guard, in Miguel’s opinion, seemed to take great pleasure in his humiliation but eventually he was allowed through, and he made sure to send those rejected a smug smile. Miguel Salazar doesn’t lose, and he doesn’t fail because his father once told him that failure is not in a real man’s vocabulary and he was a real man

Solo maricas y mujeres fracasan, los hombres no. [Only fags and women fail, real men don’t]”

That was why a few months later when he met the pretty daughter of an Italian hash house [cheap restaurant] owner, Miguel wasted no time in winning her attention. She was shy and sweet but extremely naïve which worked great in his favor. America had not been what he had expected, it was supposed to offer him a better life than in Galicia but instead his father worked to the bone and when he wasn’t working he ended up getting drunk and taking his frustration out on Miguel. At least back in his home, he could have played around with his friends as his mother took care of the house and dealt with his father’s temper but here he had become the woman and he hated it. His father demanded that he cook, clean the house and do the laundry “it’s the least you can do instead of being just a useless mouth to feed…” So to get away from the degrading work he did odd jobs around the neighborhood which included making deliveries to different businesses and that was how he met Ruth.

She always sat in the restaurant polishing glass or folding napkins but sometimes she would greet the deliveries. The young girl was clearly a privileged American, leading a charmed life of not only being born in America but also not having to work as her parents were practically rich. In Miguel’s book, if someone had their own business they were definitely rich. He hated her, but he also knew that she could be his ticket to a better life. It wasn’t easy since her parents hated him, her father even threatened him to stay away from her. He was sure the man had ties to the mafia, especially since he was from Sicilia [Sicily] and everyone knew that was mafia territory. The man also spoke in ominous threats that sounded like promises he was sure he would keep. Still, Miguel’s determination and desperation to be and have something more won out over his fear and he did not back down. In the end, they didn’t count on his charm and their daughter’s stupidity because barely a year after meeting they were married and expecting their first child.

End flashback


“Miguel would tell us the story so many times that we had it memorized, he was even more blunt when he had a few drinks in him. Sometimes it felt like he was quizzing us as he asked questions as if we were there. Most of the time he just wanted to rant about how hard he had it and how we should be eternally grateful to him for just standing in line and being a general stronzo [Italian-asshole].”

The fighting had eventually calmed down once the tavern owner pulled out his gun and fired a few shots in the air, damaging the drywall but calming tempers down. The tavern was left in disarray almost as if a storm had passed through, the storm of bruised egos and masculine temperamentality.

“And these were the ‘big strong men’ that called women weak, sensitive, and emotional. Yet when they lose their minds over a simple comment, no one can call them out because they're just being men. It is hilarious how truly weak they are, even more so because unlike women they need to be coddled and told they are strong, or they would go nuts.”

A few men littered the floors like dead bodies while others treated their injuries with their favorite and only pain reliever available. Miguel sat with his friends, the storm within him calming to annoyance and displeasure. The scowl had not left his face, but his favorite form of medication was helping ease his need to beat someone, preferably his wife for failing him once more.

“So Salazar, what are you going to do now?” a man who clearly received the brunt of the hits if his swollen eye and busted lip had anything to say about it, spoke as he winced every time he took a drink although he refused to stop drinking.

“Yea, I mean your wife is easier to get pregnant than a bitch in heat and she keeps giving you only girls, but men have needs…” the short stumpy man made an obscene gesture while wiggling his eyebrows in an exaggerated manner that had all the men laughing as if he told the funniest joke they had ever heard.

“I’m no quitter!” Miguel slammed his hand down at the implication that he could possibly be a marica [Spanish-Fag].

“Damn, relax, no one said you were” The men around the table rolled their eyes as if used to the man’s irrational behavior but also tired or bored of it.

“Who knows maybe sixth times the charm” again all the men dissolved into loud rounds of mocking laughter, Miguel felt the fire within him rise again and he asked for another drink in hopes that it would drown it all out.

“That was my dear old father.” The woman, now known as an adult Geraldine, declared with sarcasm and disgust. “The man that unwillingly had a part in creating me although if it was his choice, he would have drowned me in a lake, witch or not. But believe me, I’m not too upset since I would have done the same thing to him too, maybe even worse…but trust me he deserved it and soon you’ll agree with me.” Adult Geraldine stared as her scar hands with a singular focus, her eyes melancholy yet burning with fury.


Despite what many believed Ruth was not stupid, she might not have seen Miguel’s true colors when they met or when she married him, but she knew now. Over the years she had learned all his ticks and tells, she learned to predict his change in moods, also what and when he was triggered. It was an important lesson that she passed on to each daughter and made sure that they too understood and learned it. She would like to think that some part of her husband actually loves her, and that it was the reason she survived all these years but the truth was that it wasn’t and he didn’t. She knew that she had failed once more and she knew what that meant for her, she just hoped that her husband would have mercy on their girls especially newborn Geraldine. “Margarita, come here” her eldest walked over with a somber air to her, the young girl was old enough to know what was coming. As the eldest she had been present through many of her father’s tantrums whenever a new girl was born. She felt an immense guilt for not being born a boy and she made up for it, taking some load off her mother’s back by taking care of her sisters.

“Margarita was always my mother’s tank. The go-to for all major physical problems around the house. Laundry needed done and Miguel left her too sore to walk…ask Margarita. We needed protection while mother distracted father with her face…ask Margarita. Needed someone to get some food or simply clean…you get the idea. The point is that Margarita was my mother’s enforcer and I think it was mainly because my sister was too noble to really argue.”

“Take Geraldine and your sisters to the room. Lock the door and don’t make a sound and if needed barricade yourselves inside, you know what to do. Do not come out for any reason!”

“But mami…”

“No! I mean it Margarita! Your father is furious, and he will not be very forgiving. Make sure Geraldine does not make a sound...”

Ruth looked down at her little girl softly as she slept in her arms, she found it ironic that the baby looked so much like the father that hated her. Unlike her other girls she had a full head of hair; some even covered her eye, Ruth smiled as she combed the hair back. It explained the tinkle she constantly felt down there all through her pregnancy. Geraldine has yet to open her eyes, but she was sure they would be the soulful and deep brown of her father. She knew that the newborn would wake up soon demanding her next meal, but the child would have to go hungry until morning, if Ruth was still alive by then she would feed her. Ruth hoped that Geraldine soon adjusted to their messed up version of normal like all the girls did, that would make their lives much easier. After being born Anna never cried even when hungry or wet, Dorothy only cried during the day almost as if she knew that her father wasn’t in the house, Stella was by far the best behave if she was told to ‘be quiet’ then her cries immediately stopped while Margarita was the only ‘normal’ baby as her husband had been much more tolerant back then.

Ruth remembers that time when things were different, and she actually had hope for their future. Miguel was never the most doting father, but he would bring little things for her and Margarita, like clothes and little toys for the baby Mi familia [my family] has to always have the best, you’re a representation of me…” The reasons weren’t the most noble but still it had been nice to get gifts from her husband. He would always forget to pay the bills or leave money for supper and that tavern saw more of him and his money than she did but at least he didn’t beat her. His abuse was more verbal and emotional which Ruth could handle. Every time around the holidays he would bring at least one present for her and the girls until Anna was born.

While Ruth was lost in her memories, Margarita got to work and the mother could hear her eldest daughter taking her sisters into their room followed by the sound of something being pushed across the floor, no doubt it was the dresser that had been given to her by her mother, and was now used to barricade the door of the room. Ruth could not help but feel so unbelievably proud of Margarita but at the same time she lamented that it was something that the young girl had to learn to do just to survive. The cries from Geraldine tore at her heart before they stopped, she wasn’t sure if her daughters muffled her or the baby simply understood more than she should and kept silent. The loud banging of the apartment door made her body shake, even after so many years she could not control the reaction her husband’s very presence invoked in her.

“Ruth! You useless broad, where are you?!”

The drunk man barged in as Ruth tried to get off the bed, grateful that her daughters had helped clean her up. The man’s eyes were bright red and even from her place hunched closed to the bed, Ruth could smell the stench of alcohol that covered him like a favored cologne. His face was covered in bruises and blood, she had hoped that it would be one of those nights that he was blotto [extremely drunk] and would pass out on the bed or the floor. A loud boomed made her jump as the sky almost seemed to share her husband’s anger and she could not hide the wince as she was still tender from giving birth less than a few hours ago.

“Miguel, please…” She did not have time to get her words out as he rushed to her like a beast from the deepest parts of hell ready to take a sinner’s soul. In the flash of the lighting, he even looked as demonic as she had grown to believe that he was.

“You have failed me again, you useless bitch!” Suddenly he went off the track [became insanely violent] and she just prayed that the harsh weather covered the sounds of her pain and her husband’s anger so as to not disturb their neighbors and scared their daughters more than they already were. Then the assault began, and she briefly heard Geraldine’s cries almost matching her own when she just could not take it anymore. The dual cries and the sounds of flesh being beaten filled the night joining the cries from the sky like a symphony that was twisted and eerily tragic. At that moment Ruth was sorry that she brought another girl into that life.

“So yes, I wasn’t born in the greatest nights or to the best of conditions but with a father like that, I didn’t expect much. I would say, you might have figured it out already, but my life did not get better after this at least not until I took control and decided to make it better. I scratched my way to the top, I stepped on the balls and backs of all the men that like Miguel Salazar though of me as some dumb dora that they could string up like some puppet to fuck and beat then throw out when too worn.” Geraldine clenched her fist and her dark eyes were almost black yet there was a twisted and frightening smirk on her face as she finally turned and acknowledged the young woman sitting in front of her.

“Yes, but how did you do it?” The young woman was clearly frighten yet her curiosity made her brave enough to push forward and ask for more despite the fearsome reputation of the woman before.

“Oh, that comes much later in the story. First you have to find out why I became what I am and why I got here to really understand the how. My childhood was the catalyst that led me to this road, and it is what drives most of what I do and have done. To understand Mama Swan, you first have to understand Geraldine.”

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