Chapter Twenty-Five (and it only took me a year and 4 months to write them). Anyone still reading?
Who has a phone that sounds like that anymore? Dee Anna thought, startled. The ringing stifled Phil's laughter and brought sudden silence--as shocking in its way as the laughter had been, except for the phone's jarring summons. For a long moment no one stirred and their expressions stiffened in apprehension. It was Dee Anna who rose and moved to the wall by the back door where a turquoise-hued phone still hung. As Dee Anna lifted the receiver, she felt an odd fracturing in her thoughts. Part of her was cold and still. Another part of her was expectant, almost excited. She also found herself wondering why her mother would redecorate the kitchen yet leave the old phone, rotary dial and all, in place.
It was Nurse Lupita. Dee Anna remembered Lupita as a quiet, pretty girl who did well in school in spite of caring for an ill mother and several younger siblings. She must be working some long hours, Dee Anna thought, remembering that she had been in the hospital the afternoon before. She was glad that the call, whatever it was going to be, was not from a stranger.
In high school Dee Anna, while friendly, had not exactly been close to Lupita. She had refused to engage in the demeaning remarks she sometimes heard and once had slapped a lanky boy who had called their classmate "that beaner bitch." They had both gotten detention. Dee Anna remembered trying to explain to her father why she, for the one and only time in her life, had been required to stay after school. Her father had said little except to pat her on the hand and admonish, "Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, Dee Anna."
Dee Anna had wondered how that applied to an insult given not to her but to someone else. Wasn't justice important? She didn't ask. She had decided to stay silent and consider herself fortunate that her father had been the one to get the call from the principal. He had not spoken of the incident to Bernice.
Lupita was from "a Spanish family" who lived in an area known simply as "the east side." Her father had died in some farm accident, Dee Anna dimly recalled, when Lupita was about ten years old. Lupita's mother had done laundry, ironing, and housework for many of Bernice's friends. She had become ill--was it some kind of cancer?--and her daughter had dropped out of the Drama Club because she couldn't come to rehearsals. They had been preparing for "Hello Dolly." The rest of the cast had felt sorry for Lupita, who had a lovely voice.
"Spanish" people were considered acceptable in Dee Anna's childhood world, at least somewhat welcome in school and the workplace. "Mexicans" on the other hand, were to be avoided, except when manual labor needed to be done. Mexicans were on the low end of the social scale, just above those with even darker skins who lived in yet another part of town. Both groups attended different churches than the white people.
Dee Anna had accepted all this as normal until about age 14 when she began to be acutely aware of how things were in other places. Once when Bernice had spoken of an electrician as "that Spanish man," Dee Anna had scornfully asked her, "Are there actually Spanish people in these parts?"
Bernice had looked at her as if she'd lost her wits and said, "What are you talking about, Dee Anna? You know very well there are. Aren't you listening? I just told you that the Spanish man who works with your Uncle Chuck will be here tomorrow to replace the wiring on the porch."
"Really, Mother?" Dee Anna had questioned with wide eyes, " From Spain?" Her mother had given her a long, hard look and said nothing.
"They are Mexicans, Mother. Or if you want to get with the times, they are Hispanics."
Bernice had snapped, "Mexicans are field hands" and slammed the door as she left her daughter's room. They never spoke of the subject again.
Remembering, Dee Anna felt an all-too-familiar mixture of frustration and regret. She should have tried to understand her mother. She should have been a better friend to Lupita, whom she had genuinely admired.
She suddenly thought, "What happened to Lupita's mother?"
"Is this Dee Anna?" said the voice on the phone. Dee Anna's thoughts jerked to the present as she ran her hand through her hair. She took a deep breath.
"Yes... Is this Lupita? What is it? Is my father...:?"
"Is your mother awake and all right?"
""Yes. We're all up. Is something wrong?"
""Oh no, Dee Anna."
The voice was unchanged from when it's owner was sixteen, and Dee Anna found that oddly comforting.
"Dr Martin is here. Your father is awake and asking for your mother. Can you come soon?"