As we drove home from the station, I refused to let go of my mother's arm. I cried uncontrollably at the thought of her in prison, fighting toothless tattooed convicts, having to use a plate of franks and beans as a weapon. I deeply inhaled the smell of Aqua Net on her now dilapidated bleached curls, not knowing if it would be the last time. Meanwhile, my uncle teased his two sisters for their greed. Bashia cried louder than I did, making me feel more hate for her than I'd already had before the arrest.
My mother seemed unfazed by the incident. In the same enthusiastic tone one would use to describe a trip to Disneyland, she explained the foolproof plan she'd devised in jail.
"Don't worry. My friend told me that if you are arrested in one state, the other state won't know about it, so you are free. All you have to do is get a new social security number and move. I know a guy downtown who got my friend a green card. No big deal. I was thinking of going to Las Vegas, anyway. Los Angeles is too expensive," my mom gleefully explained.
I didn't ask my mom, "What friend?" I was just hopeful that there was a way to keep my mother.
My sixteen-year-old sister Maggie took the news less enthusiastically. "I can't move. I won't. I have friends here. I'm moving in with Charolette," Maggie said.
"You can do what you like when you are 18, until then, you're moving to Vegas," my mom said.
"I hate you," my sister said.
"Good," my mom replied.
The day after the arrest, my aunt bundled up the loot she'd accumulated through thievery, and, like a beaver working backwards, she took apart the structure she had built, made up of stolen bubblegum, Adidas and Levis that occupied half of our dining room. She hopped on the first flight back to Poland, an unsuspected fugitive. We fled, too—packing all of our possessions (or at least as much as would fit in a ten-foot thrifty mover U-Haul) to find our fate across the desert in Las Vegas.
My mom assured us that our impromptu relocation was actually predestined because, only a few weeks before, her friend Marisha, who was born with psychic abilities and had moved to Vegas a few months earlier, made the prediction. The only thing I thought Marisha was an expert at was how to achieve leathery skin by spending all day by the pool sipping vodka on-the-rocks, but I must admit that I, too, was intrigued by the riches she had foreseen.
"Terena," she began in her heavy Slavic accent, "tell me how it makes sense to pay more for your run-down apartment in Los Angeles, than a beautiful house with a pool in Vegas? Plus, you get a job as a black-jack dealer like me, and you'll be making twice as much as you do sewing for those lazy American bitches." She noticed that the mention of a pool peaked my interest, so she winked at me. Then, she rattled the ice in her empty glass prompting me to refill it. As I poured from the bar, she provided us with a glimpse into my mom's future, "I see a fresh start for you and even a rich, handsome man, who isn't a son-of-a-bitch bastard like the last one."
When my mom woke me at two o'clock in the morning to leave for Las Vegas, I didn't mind. We relocated at least twice a year and were long overdue. Besides, I hated Culver City. Most of the kids at my school spoke Spanish to each other, so I never understood what was going on. Worst of all, they had crushes on the boys from Menudo, while teasing that the members from my favorite group, Duran Duran, were maricons.
So, I gladly packed my possessions—the knock-off Jordache chords my mom made and my one generic Barbie doll. I decided to leave the only two pictures of my dad, since I had blacked out his teeth, and also wanted a new start with no more son-of-a-bitch bastards.