In Which Luca is
Stuck at Home
uca sat with Abuela in the sitting room, arms crossed and pouting, wearing the mask El Ciclón had gifted her.
“See, m’ijita, how I push the needle with the thimble?” Abuela said, demonstrating a few stitches with remarkable nimbleness, and ignoring Luca’s ill humor.
“It’s not fair that Félix gets to go and I don’t,” Luca grumbled, refusing to even look at what her grandmother was doing. It was late Friday afternoon and the match at Deportes Angélico would be starting at any moment. She still couldn’t believe she was going to miss it, all because of that stupid radio report from the day before.
When Luca’s mother had heard that the luchadoras in the capital were causing a great stir, she had expressly prohibited Luca from going anywhere near Deportes Angélico, and had enlisted Abuela to teach her how to sew.
“Soon you’ll be a grown señorita,” Mrs. Morales de O’Reilly had said. “It’s time you started behaving like one.”
Félix obviously did not understand the severity of the situation. “Wow! You get to learn to sew?” had been his only response when he stopped by before heading to Deportes Angélico. “I wish I could learn to sew!”
“Oh yeah? Want to trade places?” Luca had answered with more bite in her tone than she’d intended. Never again would she offer to help her mother at the hostel!
“Luca,” Abuela said gently, bringing Luca back from angrily replaying the injustice over in her head. “Your mother is only trying to do what is best for you.”
“How can you say that, Abue?!” Luca answered, suddenly feeling like the whole world was against her. “You’re the one who told me girls can wrestle and not to listen to the opinions of others! And what about all your stories about the Revolution? Didn’t you tell me that you helped with the fighting, too? Why are you taking Mom’s side?”
Before she met Luca’s grandfather, Abuela had been an Adelita, or soldadera—one of the women who helped with fighting, cooking, nursing, and other tasks during the Mexican Revolution. Luca even had a picture above her bed’s headboard of Abuela with two cartridge belts across her chest and a rifle in her hand.
“Yes, chiquita,” Abuela said. “Everything I said is true. Those were extraordinary times and many women bravely pitched in and were essential to the cause. I’m not saying your mother is right, but she’s doing what she thinks is best for you. She’s worried about your future and she wants to make sure you have the skills you need. And sewing is a very useful skill, you know. Let me tell you, it helped us during the war as much as or more than the guns did!”
Luca cocked her head to one side and gave her grandmother a “give me a break” look.
Seeing Luca’s skepticism, Abuela elaborated. “How do you think we made bandages? Or made and repaired uniforms? Or gave the wounded stitches?”
Luca’s defensiveness dropped a little when she realized Abuela wasn’t patronizing her.
“I have an idea,” said Abuela. “Your mom needs a little time to get used to the idea of her daughter being the Chiquita Picosa she is. Why not make the best of it?”
Abuela reached over to her sewing basket and started sorting through her collection of cloth. After holding up a few swatches to Luca’s mask, she laid out a silky, bright blue taffeta. Luca suddenly understood.
“We can make a suit to match the mask!”
“Sí, chiquita,” Abuela said, winking at her. “Don’t you think a special mask like that deserves a whole outfit? There’s even enough of this blue for a cape. How about it?”
Luca’s defensiveness melted and she jumped into Abuela’s lap and put her arms around her.
“I’m sorry I was being difficult, Abue,” she said.
“It’s OK, honey, I understand,” Abuela said. “I know how important wrestling is to you.”
When Luca’s mother returned from the hostel to prepare supper, she was surprised to find Luca was threading a needle in deep concentration, even though Abuela had dozed off in her rocking chair. To Mrs. Morales' further bewilderment, the merienda went by without a word of complaint. Luca was still wearing the mask, but her mother didn’t dare press her luck by commenting on it.
“Did you have a good time with Abuela today, chiquita?” Mrs. Morales de O’Reilly asked Luca.
“I guess it was O.K.” Luca answered. She didn’t dare mention the new sewing project, but she and Abuela shared knowing smiles across the table.
When Luca went to bed that night, she stood on her bed before getting under the covers to get a good look at Abuela’s soldadera picture by the light of the moon. It was hard to believe Abuela had been that young, but there was no mistaking her strong, proud look. Luca wanted to grow up to be just as brave and wise and skilled as Abuela. Abuela could cook and play guitar and fight and sew, and she knew how to make medicine and cast spells, too.
Suddenly, Luca noticed the black and white picture of Abuela started to glow with a blue light. Startled, she leaned in to have a look. As she got closer, the picture glowed even brighter. Luca moved her head slowly side to side. The blue glow moved side to side, too.
The mask! She had entirely forgotten she was still wearing it.
Jumping off the bed, Luca went to look at herself in the dresser mirror. The mask’s soft, blue leather was giving off a faint, but unmistakable glow.
The hair on the back of Luca’s neck stood on end. This could only mean one thing.
The mask was magic.