"Ya Francisco. I'm ready." as Mauricia checked the room for items that may have been forgotten.
Teresa and Leopoldo fit perfectly in between the boxes. Teresa looked up at Mauricia and said, "Mama, where are we going?"
Mauricia knelt down and caressed Teresa's face and said, "We are going on an adventure. I need you to help me with the little ones and keep Leopoldo safe. Agreed?" Teresa grinned and nodded in agreement as she put her small arm around her brother.
Francisco and Mauricia quietly left the poor stricken area of shacks and dirt roads and headed North to find a better opportunity. Francisco led the way by following one of the routes he was instructed to take.
"Francisco, is this route safe?" Mauricia asked as she nervously trekked behind him.
"It should be. Juanito said many of his friends have been through this route and would be safer for the children. Don't worry Mauricia, I have my knife and machete in case anyone wants to bother us." Francisco turned around and showed Mauricia the items under his shirt. We should reach the border by nightfall and determine where to cross."
Night fell and everything was pitch dark. Mauricia feared the darkness and whatever unknown creatures roamed at night. She walked quickly along the higher grass areas and cursed as she lost her step on a bulging rock that she did not see on the path. They could not be seen from the main roads as they would immediately be spotted and brought back to Mexico.
Francisco turned around to make sure the children were okay and to see if Mauricia was keeping up. The constant movement lulled the children to sleep. Mauricia was grateful they were undeterred by the commotion and prayed to God for safety. Mauricia did not want to go to the United States. She quietly told Francisco as they walked, "I feel like I'm walking away from my home. I have a sense of guilt Francisco and I cannot imagine going to an unknown place where I do not even speak the language. How will we live?"
Francisco turned around and looked at Mauricia and whispered, "We will do what everyone else does, which is manage. This is a necessity not only for us Mauricia but for our children. I want them to live like I have never lived. I want to give them other opportunities. We cannot let fear determine our future. We have nothing woman! What do you want to do? Go back to a country that at the moment is going through its' own financial issues? We are a mere drop of water compared to the thunderstorm that is going on in Mexico today. We need to act now; right now! If they cannot guarantee us a better life, then we need to make one for ourselves in a place that unfortunately is not our native land. I know you love Mexico, Mauricia. I promise we will return once we get back on our feet."
Mauricia sighed and whispered, "Alright, I'll try this for now but I am not excited. Go on Francisco, I cannot remain standing still waiting for the snakes to crawl across my feet. I will certainly wake up the children with my screams."
Francisco responded, "Hush woman, what you will do is frighten the animals more than you are of them. We are close to the river. Can you hear it?"
As they approached a hill, Francisco looked over and said, "There it is, el Rio Bravo."
Mauricia stood in awe of the river and wonderment that on the other side was another country. A country that could open the door to more possibilities as parents than what they currently had in Mexico.
The bushes began to move and Mauricia cringed expecting a coyote to lunge out. As she and Francisco huddled to the ground they spotted two men coming out. They were Mexican like them. Both men were large in height and dark. One man carried a knife in his mouth, gripped down with his teeth while he held another in his hand. The other man shouted, "Who is there? Come out! If you don't come out we will attack!"
Francisco stood up and said, "It is only myself, my wife and children. We mean no harm. We are trying to get across the river."
Both men looked at each other as the knife wielding one nodded at the other. "We do not cross for free! We take any money you have."
Francisco responded, "We have no money! That is why we are trying to get across!"
The man with the knife said, "That is fine, we will take whatever you are carrying, clothes, shoes, jackets!"
Francisco looked at Mauricia and her look was enough for him to answer, "Well we will go on our own! Thank you!"
Both men laughed as one said, "To hell with you! You will all die trying! We must warn you, if you decide to sleep here the night, you will not live to see morning!"
Francisco said, "We'll see who is right tomorrow!"
Both Mauricia and Francisco retraced their steps several yards back and followed the course of the river closer to the road. Francisco felt they may risk being seen but it was a better option than risking his families lives. Half an hour later, Francisco found an area comfortable enough and hard to spot by anyone around. As Mauricia and the children slept, Francisco woke up several times to check for predators keeping his machete in his hand.
The morning began to set in and Francisco felt it was the best time to cross the river. He woke up Mauricia and explained he would cross the children first and then come for her. Hesitant Mauricia did not like the idea and said, "I do not know Francisco. What if one of them falls in?"
Francisco answered, "That is why I made the sled Mauricia. Teresa can sit on my shoulders and Leopoldo and Maria de Jesus will ride on the sled with the boxes. Do you understand?"
Mauricia was overwhelmed with fright. She gingerly placed Maria de Jesus next to Leopoldo as she told Teresa to tightly hold on to Francisco while crossing.
"Francisco please be careful!" Mauricia yelled as he plunged in the water and held onto the sled while Teresa mounted his shoulders.
Teresa looked back at Mauricia and she could tell she was frightened, "Mama? I'm scared."
Mauricia could not think of words to appease her child in this moment, "I know mi reina. Francisco will get you across and I will follow."
Mauricia swallowed the lump of fear in her throat as she held back tears.
Francisco carefully pushed the sled with the younger children and the boxes as he waded with Teresa on his shoulders.
Teresa started to scream as water began to soak her. Francisco told her, "We are almost there! Hold on!" The water was moving faster than Francisco anticipated as it jerked him back and forth. He lost footing and was able to regain his stability with one foot. Francisco could see Leopoldo look at him with fright as he was crying from watching Teresa. He pushed the sled with all his weight to get the children across.
Mauricia was watching from land as she was crying from fear of seeing the current move Francisco and the children harshly. The idea of her losing her children was too great to bear as her heart was racing and she concentrated on Francisco's every move. Mauricia began to say, "Mama help me! Please I cannot lose my babies!"
Teresa screamed, "Mama!" as Mauricia was watching Francisco place her and the children on land.
Mauricia breathed a sigh of relief as she watched Francisco make his way back to her. Once he reached Mauricia he yelled, "Jump in!" Mauricia lunged in the water as she held on to Francisco's shirt. She followed his lead as he guided her across the strong current. Mauricia coughed as she swallowed water and in an instant felt a force suck her under. Mauricia lost grip of Francisco and she frantically was reaching for anything to hold on to. She tried to open her eyes but all she saw was murky water. She swallowed water as fear consumed her. Mauricia thought to herself, "I don't want to die!"
Francisco began to swim down with the current in hopes of seeing Mauricia. He could not see her. He reached in the water with his long arms and as he submerged himself in the water. He suddenly felt something. He pulled with all his strength and prayed, it was Mauricia. He was able to pull her by her hair and keep her from drowning."
He pulled Mauricia back out onto land as she coughed up all the water. As she lay on the ground she regained her thoughts as everything kept spinning. She tried to get up. Francisco only held her down as he hugged her and told her to stay on her side. He knew she was dizzy and needed some time to be okay.
"I will be right back, I need to get the children." Francisco went and pulled the children and Teresa over to her. Mauricia hugged everyone and thanked God she was able to make it out of that ordeal. Francisco kissed her forehead and told her, "I'm sorry I messed up your braids." Mauricia leaned her face on his hand and said, "Thank you."
"We continue on this course heading to San Benito, Texas." Francisco answered.
"Why there?" asked Mauricia.
"I liked the name. I had a good feeling, that's all." Francisco answered as he placed the children back on the sled with the boxes and waited for Mauricia to re braid her hair to begin their journey again.