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The Weight of Flight

Described as “vibrant, fresh and novel” by acclaimed novelist Carlos Fuentes, THE WEIGHT OF FLIGHT is a compelling tale about three generations of women, a deadly family secret, the pain of displacement, and finally, of forgiveness. 

Spanning the life of three generations of women, The Weight of Flight is the story of a family torn apart by a deadly secret. Elena, an American-born foreign correspondent, has lived her life on the edge, fulfilling her need for adventure by covering the famines and civil wars in Africa. But after a decade of chronicling so much sorrow and suffering, Elena returns to the only place that ever gave her solace–Santa Cristina, a crumbling hacienda deep in the sugar cane region of Mexico where her beloved grandmother Luisa lives. Luisa, the German-born matriarch, arrived in Mexico in 1931 in the tumultuous years after the country’s violent revolution. Now in the twilight of her life, Luisa passes her days in Santa Cristina, confronting the ghosts of the past and the threats of modern day Mexico’s narcos living next door. It is here in Santa Cristina that the terrible secret about Elena’s beautiful and fragile mother, Charlotte, emerges. Elena discovers why her mother fled Mexico as a teen ending up in Boston and how the traumatic event of leaving behind her family and country shaped all three of the women’s lives.

Prologue

The smell of roses never faded.

Everyone who knew her understood that the flower repelled her. How strange and sad it was that such a beautiful flower sent her into such a tailspin, creating a sickening and swirling sensation in her stomach that brought her to her knees. Roses always reminded her of him…

It happened so fast. She was only 15. In a flash she was inside the dark, smoke-filled car. It took several seconds for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. The windows were tinted and she was placed in between two big men. Suddenly, a low, hollow voice like a villain from one of those soap operas that her nanny used to love, floated from across the car and entered her like a chill. She could make out a silhouette sitting in front of her in the limousine. A cloud of smoke cleared and suddenly he appeared like a fiend. He had a balding head, with a flat forehead and bulging gray eyes. His hands were manicured and polished. He stared through her, as if she were an insect. She had never seen him before. He looked at the man with the moustache, the one who had grabbed her off the street as she was walking home to her tutor’s house, and told him that she was prettier than he thought.

She could feel her heart thumping wildly, the adrenaline and confusion clouding her brain. Where were they going? Who were these men and what did they want? Her mouth was dried shut. They rode in silence until the man next to her moved abruptly and gave off a whiff of body odor that woke her up from her stupor. It was a putrid smell of sweat, alcohol, garlic and cigarettes. Suddenly, she knew she had to get away. Her voice cracking, she demanded to know where they were going. They ignored her. She gathered all her strength. She told the ugly bald man, who was obviously in charge, that he was very rude. He was making a big mistake. Her father was a very important man.

But then a satanic wind roared out of his mouth, shutting her up for good. Her daddy would not be able to help her here.

And neither can that bitch mother of yours,he said.

They arrived at a mansion very soon after that. Two men ushered her in. Her patent leather shoes echoed on the marble floor. The house seemed empty, not lived in. She realized she was alone with these men and suddenly she could not breathe. It felt as if the floor caved in beneath her and she fell, begging them to take her home. The man with the moustache grabbed her arm and jerked her up violently. Her shoulder and arm ached as the man held her up.  The bald fiend walked in and ordered the men to get her cleaned up. He stared at her, came close to her face and grabbed her by the chin.

Tell your mother that everything I do to you today, is for her. You look like her, with those green eyes. Be sure to tell her I never forget a promise. Today I will fulfill it.

He turned and walked away, bowlegged and stout. The men allowed her into a black and white tiled room with a large chandelier and closed the door behind her. There was a small window, large enough for her to crawl through, but it was too high off the floor. She pulled out her necklace with the Virgin of Lost Souls and tried to pray. But there was no time because suddenly she heard a woman’s voice behind her. She turned to see a short, brown skinned nurse with peroxide blond hair, pink lipstick and a smooth voice explain to her that she needed to be cleaned up. She grabbed her with calloused hands and led her into a bathroom. The tub was filled with steaming water and the vapor filled the room with the scent of roses.

Rose was his favorite scent on a woman, the nurse said. The hot steam of the bath and strong rose scent made her groggy. As she finished bathing, the nurse handed her a towel. She stepped out of the tub and the nurse handed her a rose scented lotion. She stood there, naked, tears streaming down her face, not knowing why she was here or how it happened. The nurse told her not to cry, gave her a tissue and wiped her tears. She told her to do whatever he told her to do and she would be fine. The nurse dressed her in a silk nightgown, which clung to her skin from the rose lotion. She served her an amber colored liquid in a small shot glass and told her to drink it. The fumes from the liquor cleared her nostrils. And then as she gulped it down, it seared her throat like a liquid fire.

It will relax you, the nurse said.

Satisfied, the nurse rubbed her face with her calloused hands.

It’s time, she told her.

She rubbed the medallion of the Virgin of Lost Souls and the necklace broke. She watched it fall to the floor and she realized the Virgin could not help her now. She was on her own. She took a step forward, following the nurse and did not look back to recover her medallion. It would stay in that house forever, the place where she lost her innocence and her faith.

As she walked up the long staircase she realized it could not end this way. She would not just be delivered to this man and make it easy for him. She would resort to her instincts, the instincts of a trapped animal, and she would fight. She would remember all the lessons her mother had taught her on those weekends in the country in Santa Cristina. She would fight—like her mother. She was her mother’s daughter, after all.

She entered his darkened bedroom, her eyes led straight into the light—only a sliver by the window. And then she saw something glimmering in that light, beckoning to her on the nightstand. And as she stood there, in the seconds she had to make a decision, she discovered the darkness of survival. She would do whatever she needed to escape.

How could she have known that the scent of roses would never go away? Secrets eventually find their way out.