The Lady in Red Pt. 2

She began her bereft walk from her penthouse to the courthouse. Fortunately her work had provided Luella with the funds to buy a luxury apartment located in the heart of downtown Detroit (her most beloved city). This allowed her to walk freely around the city without the need of a car and provided her the ability to quickly make her way between the courthouse and her home. Walking freely around the city allowed Luella to develop her cognitive map; helping her find the correct walkways to move around the city. It also helped that she lived on Woodward Avenue (Detroit's Main Street), where everything Luella needed happened to be close at her disposal: food, clothing and other necessary merchandise. During her months at home, she ordered groceries from Whole Foods Market to avoid going to the grocery stores; she was allowed to continue her work remotely and meet with her clients through zoom; if she got sick of cooking she could order from a plentiful of restaurants located on the street.

Every time Luella stopped at a crosswalk, she couldn’t help but think of her family. Recalling her mother, Toscana Meschina-Zavala: a woman who was hot and cold throughout Luella’s development. She was a small Italian woman, who immigrated to the United States after marrying her father, Alan Zavala. Alan met Toscana when he was overseas in Italy during one of his Army tours. Trying to find his way to the vineyards, Toscana-who worked at a local café in town-helped him understand her mother’s tongue. Alan was immediately charmed by Toscana and decided to flirt with her by talking Spanish. Toscana of course did not understand his tongue but found herself attracted to the black hair, sunkissed man with the gracious accent. Either one understood the other, yet they still continue to communicate in their own familiar way: gestures and well-spoken English.

The two of them spent a year together, before Toscana became pregnant, Alan (a respected Christian) quickly married Toscana in what the south would call a shotgun wedding. Though unfortunately no shotguns or rednecks were present for the couple’s wedding, as they got married in a small church with only a priest and God as their witness to the union. Three months later, Alan’s tour came to an end and Toscana-as Alan’s wife-joined him on a flight back to the states. A place that Toscana never dreamed she would travel to, much less live!

In the early days of their marriage, Luella was told by her father that her mother had loved Alan dearly but then Toscana’s birthed their son, Tonio-named after Alan’s deceased first wife. What Alan did not understand and what Luella was told by her mother is that Alan never got over the death of his first wife, Tonia. When Toscana had first opened the door to her new home, she described it as a shrine. Black and white photos scattered across the walls. Tonia’s talent was her ability to create wonderful pottery made of fine Spanish clay. So on various shelves, Tonia’s pottery was displaced, chalked in the colors of yellow, red and white to represent her Spanish heritage. When Toscana got to the master bedroom and opened the closet, it was full of Tonia’s floral maxi dresses. Everywhere Toscana looked there was Tonia: smiling that picture perfect smile; dancing around in her old dresses or imagining her crafting pottery on her pottery wheel-using her foot to press the pedal and using her hands to smooth down the ridges in the clay.  It made Toscana sick to her stomach, seeing another woman in a home she now considered to be hers’. It also did not help that Tonia’s and Alan’s daughter, Carmen, still lived at the residence. Carmen Zavala smiled just like her mother and inherited her mother’s talents of creativity in the arts. Though unlike her mother, Carmen did not care for pottery and mainly spent her time doing sketches in the binded blank page notebooks her father had gifted her. Carmen spent hours outside in the little gated backyard sketching the birds in the trees, flowers that blew in the breeze and butterflies that flew through the light-blue sky. Carmen would lift her head up and down to create the scenic image, trying to capture the image. Then she led her hand to lead her across the page-the pencil creating curves and straight lines to match the image in her mind. When she was finished with her work, she showed her finished project to her dad who always gave her an impressed smile and would pat her head lightly in approval. Of course with his daughter’s talents growing he enrolled her in a private high school that specializes in art and would help her improve her artistic abilities. Carmen succeeded well at the school and always brought her projects home to her father-who hung them on the walls as if they were awards. When Toscana arrived Carmen had already graduated from high school and had enrolled in College of Creative Studies, determined to get a degree in art. Though her father said she could stay home to save money for her studies, Carmen reasoned with her father it would be better to rent an apartment in the city. She explained to her father she wanted to save gases, but actually Carmen knew that Toscana would not be too happy with seeing her step-daughter constantly around the house. So when August came around the corner Carmen and her fellow classmates moved into an off-campus apartment that was only a 30 minute walk from their respected college. Meaning that Toscana would see little of Carmen expected for the holidays and the summer, when the lease on the apartment was up.

Without her husband’s wishes, Toscana spent a full year pulling all the pictures (burned), clothes (donated) and pottery (smashed) that belonged to Tonia. When Toscana thought she was finally free of the woman, she was displeased to hear-that after the birth of their son-Alan wished to name the boy after Tonia. “Tonio, isn’t it a great name!” Her husband said excitedly, as he jumped around the room. Before Toscana could respond her husband told the nurse and immediately the nurse wrote the name done on the birth certificate. “Welcome to the world Tonio Marco Zavala!” The nurse replied in an upbeat tone and she handed the birth certificate to Alan. Toscana only sighed at hearing her son’s name, at least she was happy that she got to choose his middle name. Though secretly as she cursed out her husband for coming up with the name. For it felt that Tonia’s spirit was once again back in Toscana’s life: haunting her for the hold she bewitched on Alan.

The affairs had started after Luella was born. For when Luella was only four months old, Alan discovered a used condom in their bedroom and demanded that Toscana explain herself-as Alan flashed the condom in her face. Toscana told her husband that she did have an affair, but it ended after the man found out she had children. It was a lie. But it avoided Alan having to take the children to the clinic to get a paternity test, thinking that the mysterious man was the father of the children. Though the children were left unscathed, Alan demanded that his wife get a tubal ligation. Alan’s reasoning was that if his wife was going to sleep around at least she should not end up pregnant with another man’s child. However, Toscana already had a tubal ligation after giving birth to Luella. Not wanting to end up with more children. Toscana wanted to sleep around, but avoid the possibility of having to deal with another pregnancy-something she never enjoyed.

Luella had found out about her mother’s various affairs after being in her mother’s office. Luella was studying for midterms and asked her mother if she could use her office. Her mother agreed, thinking nothing of what her daughter might find. When rummaging through the desk to find some loose leaf paper. Luella found, hidden in her mother’s shutout drawer: a notebook. Thinking that the notebook had spare paper, Luella flipped through the pages of the black spiral notebook and discovered a list of names written in her mother’s handwriting. Beside each name was a description of the person like in a police report. The mens’ addresses were listed, their physical appearance, a line indicating if the relationship ended and a full out paragraph or two explaining what the partner liked/wanted in the bedroom. Appalled at her discovery, Luella quickly shut the notebook and placed it back in its original spot. Luella was mentally affected by the contents of the notebook and so Luella physiologically reasoned that her mother’s office wasn’t a place she could enter again.

There was only one more crosswalk before Luella reached the Theodore Levin U.S Courthouse, where her hearing would be located for the trial. Across the road, she saw a man running down the street parallel to her. Luella would have thought nothing of the shirtless man wearing the Nike track shorts, but her mind thought overwise. Seeing the runner reminded her of someone familiar: her hermano. The runner had the same sun kissed complexion, her brother’s chestnut brown hair and thought he seemed a little shorter than Tonio, the runner was without a doubt 6 foot (the same height as Tonio). As the runner passed by, seeming to be heading his way towards the Detroit Riverwalk, Luella brushed the stranger out of her mind. “It’s impossible,” she whispered under her breath. It was only a coincidence that this stranger possessed the same physical appearances of her brother. Besides she saw him at a distance, a few familiarities didn’t mean anything.

As the light turned and Luella persuaded her way across the sidewalk to the next road. The runner-though out of her mind-got her thinking about her brother. That even all these years of being apart, she couldn’t stop forgetting about him. He was the only person, other than her father, she truly missed.