The ponga floats on the lake silently in the night, with only the sound of the water lapping or slapping at the wooden sides. Flora wonders where the ripples come from out here on this big flat water, a black pool ringed by the distant volcanoes, silhouettes of old gods in the half-light of a young moon.
She stopped paddling moments ago, savoring the silence and the solitude, so different from the jubilant and sometimes horrendous cacophany of her family home where eight people crowd into two rooms each evening to huddle together against the cold of a January night. She wonders if they have missed her yet and how angry her father will be in the morning when he discovers his canoe is gone?
Angry enough, Flora thinks, and lays the paddle on the floor of the boat as she unfolds her legs in order to stretch out at full length on her back, the paddle leaking its tears into the worn cloth of her tightly wrapped skirt.
"Mira," she whispers. "Mira las estrellas."
She has never been so alone in her entire twelve years. The world has never been so quiet. Even the distant burros on the shore have ceased their braying. And the stars have never been so bright or as many--spangled like the bright rhinestone barrette against her sister Anjelica's black hair. Her sister who will never laugh or pout or demand more than her share of atole again, who will never kick Flora's thigh on the reed mat as she turns in her sleep.
Anjelica is gone. Flora cannot fathom it, cannot imagine life in a world so changed by the hole where her sister was--where her sister had been since before she, Flora, was born.
Flora sighs. Her tears are all gone, all gone like Anjelica. Maybe she is, as Mama says, one of God's angels now. But where is God, and where does he keep his angels? In the church up in the dome behind the veil of smoke from burning copal? Somewhere in the flickering light of the candles burning around the wood box Anjelica now occupies, all alone?
Flora floats and tries to count the stars. One falls from the sky, shooting down like a gift she cannot catch.