Once again, as per routine, she slips on her slacks and buttons up her white shirt. The sole of her sneakers are beginning to wear through, and the hem of her pants are fraying. She pokes her faux pearls through her earring holes, and ties her laces. She hates her hair in a ponytail, but it is the only way she can pass. Her long eyelashes beg for attention, complimenting her big round eyes. She glosses her full lips with a light pink tint, though not needed, and grabs the license from her brother’s bedroom. She is effortlessly beautiful, not even comparing to any of her family. She goes downstairs on her tippy toes, careful to not wake anybody. She heads for the front door. Her nephew’s high cry begs her to rock him to silence again, but she does not have the time. When she grabs the keys from the hook, she sighs. A sigh of relief. After today, she will no longer carry the guilt she has been carrying for the past decade. Her life will no longer be a lie.
“Valeria, come downstairs!” Flor shouted to her up the staircase, though she knows she is going to have a hard time hearing her. “Valeria! At once!”
Her light steps pat down the stairs, and she very obviously just woke up from a deep sleep. She is working the night shift tonight. As she neared Flor, the resemblance was suddenly crystal clear. The two could be sisters, even twins. It is baffling, their similarities. They share the same round eyes with high cheek bones, and their coloring is nearly identical. Interesting, how Valeria’s big brother managed to find a woman so similar in looks, but so different in everything else.
“I have decided,” Flor explained, “that Mateo is old enough, and I am going back to work. I no longer need your help, but you are free to continue the way you have been living… Though that would be an interesting decision.”
“Excuse me?” Valeria questioned, “interesting decision?” Flor had a habit of putting Valeria down, and criticizing her every shift of muscle. Flor put Valeria down every given opportunity, out of jealousy of the relationship her husband and his sister had together.
The rivalry between the pair is uncalled for, but change is not seen in the distance.
Valeria and Jorge were best friends growing up. Their family is all extremely close, and the twins are closer than anybody else. Though they are twins of the opposite sex, that didn’t stop them. They did everything together. They were on the same baseball team, they had the same friends, they went to the same parties… they even walked together at graduation. Jorge was always there for Valeria, and Valeria was always there for Jorge. Jorge’s simplicity in life and ability to tackle all obstacles with grace and success was a polar opposite to Valeria’s approach. Even though Jorge always was the ‘better’ twin, he brought Valeria up with him. Not once, in their lives, did he allow himself to win something without her following right behind him. He truly cared and loved her.
When he met Flor in college, it was classic love at first sight. She was beautiful, almost as beautiful as his own sister. She walked with poise and elegance, but a touch of timidity. She was not aware of the perfection Jorge viewed, but he had to find a way to express it. He spent years vying for her affection, until senior year, when they officially wedded. Their marriage allowed his citizenship, and opened opportunities for his family. He invited Valeria to stay with him, and she accepted the invitation.
As Flor and Valeria noted their resemblance, it was an instant realization of options for Valeria, following her green card application rejection. Flor was an aspiring stay at home mom, and was not in need of money, because of her husband’s triumphant income. It was obvious, and immediate, that Valeria would use Flor’s identity, to earn an income and successfully support herself for a period of time. She would apply for a job, as Flor, and work as Flor, and the only barrier was the name in which she responded to. Once she got the hang of it, she would have her new name in memory, and all would go well. Though Valeria needed the money, she could only work until Flor needed to work, to help support her family.
“Did I say interesting? I meant… bizarre. No, not bizarre, just, well, interesting. I don’t know how you might continue to stay with us, considering the sum of money you have made over the time of your employment.” Flor’s distinct and specific choice of words, and poise in her speech irritated Valeria.
“Considering the sum of money I have made over the time of my employment…” Slowly, sarcastically, Valeria elaborated out loud. “Yes, because often do hotel housekeepers earn a great sum of money. Yes.” She knew that she was allowed to continue living with her brother, because he simply couldn’t say no, but he also wanted her living with him. “I’ll quit tomorrow, but don’t act like you’re doing my any favors.”
“Valeria, I am doing you a favor,” Flor genuinely expresses, “there was no way for you to even have a job. I wish I could stay at home forever, and that you could do as you wish, might that be working or not, but for now I need to work, and I need you to allow that for me. I understand you enjoy your job, and you need to earn money. I do. I really do understand, but for now you can take care of the family, and we can trade places for a little while. I know Jorge loves having you around. You mean the world to him.”
“Fine. Thank you, Flor. I do appreciate it.”
The following day, Valeria completed her consistent morning routine, and headed out the door for the very last time, to go to work. It was a bittersweet moment, but she knew the time had come.
When she told her boss she could no longer work for her, and that it was time for her to remove herself from the position, all were disappointed. All of the other housekeepers, the housemen, the desk associates, the managers. She was loved by all. It hurt her to leave her one place where she felt like she had a true family, but she knew it was what was best. She no longer carried the guilt of the lie she had been living, and could live her life, taking care of her nephew, and eventually going to school. All would be well. She knew it. She promised it.