Families logo


A Daughter of Zyanya story

By Morgan J. MuirPublished 3 years ago 9 min read
Photo by Alexei Scutari on Unsplash

1773 - Maracaibo

Reina pulled herself onto the stone ledge that lined in the flower beds. Her small, bare foot snagged on her skirt hem a moment, and she yanked it free. Catching her balance, she looked back at the main house of the hacienda. The thick wooden door of the kitchen was closed, so Cook wouldn’t be watching. She could hear a horse in the courtyard, but she was alone within the pale walls of the garden. Reina bit her lip and crouched down, reaching her hand toward an orange and red flower. It felt soft beneath her fingers, and she paused. “Tía Emelia says I’m not supposed to pick the flowers.”

Well, a woman’s friendly voice reassured her, I say it’s fine.

A small breeze tousled the little girl’s hair in reassurance. It smelled like rain, even though there weren’t many clouds.

Reina pursed her lips, scanning the little gold and red flowers. “Which one do you think Papa will like best?”

“Who are you talking to?”

Reina spun around, hiding her hands behind her. “No one.”

Tía Emelia walked toward her with a smile. “Is it your ghost again?”

Reina pouted as Emelia took a seat beside her, arranging her long skirts. “She’s not my ghost. She’s my abeula.”

Tía Emelia patted her lap for Reina to take a seat. “Your abuela Alvarez?”

Reina nodded and eyed her aunt’s growing belly suspiciously. Pretty soon there wouldn’t even be any room for her to sit.

“Do you know what I think about stories of ghosts and monsters, my Reinita?”

Reina shook her head.

“I think I’m the monster!” Tía Emelia let out a cackling laugh and lunged, grabbing the girl.

Reina screamed as her aunt tickled her and covered her with kisses. “You’re not a monster!” she finally managed to say.

“I’m not? Drat. Well, I suppose you’d better sit down on my lap then.” Tía Emelia pulled the child onto her lap, and Reina snuggled into her shoulder. “Now, you’d better tell me what you were planning to do with my flowers before I turn into a real monster and eat you.”

“You wouldn’t eat me,” Reina said with all the certainty of a five-year-old. “Besides, I didn’t pick any flowers.” She showed her aunt her empty hands.

“Then what were you doing?”

Reina grinned. “Buela told me that if I picked the gold one and took it to Papa’s grave he’d come back.”

“Oh, mijita.” Tía Emelia hugged her tight.

Reina squirmed. She didn’t like tight hugs.

“I miss Álvaro—your papa—too, but the maravilla won’t bring him back.”

Reina looked into her aunt's face. “Have you tried it?”


“Then you don’t know.” Reina reached over and picked a bright gold one. “Let’s try it.”

Tía Emelia gave her a smile. “If we’re going to visit them, you may as well choose one for your mama, too.”

“And one for Buela, and Buelo and Bisabuelo, and your abuelo, too!” Reina snatched a handful of the flowers and hopped off the short stone wall, her mind spinning with the idea of being surrounded by her family. She could see them all clearly, looking just like the portraits that hung inside, with big smiles and the best hugs.


Emelia watched the girl disappear into the kitchen with her flowers and sighed. Her heart ached for the child. Where had Reina gotten the idea the flowers could bring her parents back?

“And who do you think you are, telling her things like that?” Emelia complained to the ghost of Reina’s grandmother. Álvaro had always claimed to hear his mother, and now Reina said the same thing. Not that the woman had ever spoken to her. Emelia shivered in the humid heat. She didn’t actually want to talk to a ghost.

She glanced at the flowerbed. It would be nice, though, to know she wasn’t entirely failing her sister and Álvaro in raising their daughter. Children were so much harder than they seemed. And so often she found herself asking her sister how she would have handled the child.

“With endless love and patience, no doubt.” Emelia rose slowly from the low wall, her heavy belly making it far harder than it should have been. “But you don’t understand how crazy that girl can be. Just like you. But so much worse!”

She ran her fingers over the myriad of soft petals in the nearest maravilla. “I wish you were still here.”

Her thoughts turned to the letter folded away in her room. She’d received it not long after the news of Álvaro’s death. It said it was from a friend. However, the handwriting perfectly matched that of Álvaro’s dead mother. Emelia had compared them to letters Señora Alvarez left before her misadventure had left Álvaro an orphan.

Or had it? Could a ghost set pen to paper?

Did it matter?

The letter had asked her to grow the maravilla. She’d heard of Emelia’s tragic loss while travelling through Mexico, and had been moved by their legends. She had hoped the flower might bring the family some peace.

Emelia smiled. She and Álvaro had been raised on the native Wayuu stories of their nana, a good friend of his mother’s, and they both had loved native legends. She had promised Álvaro to tell those same stories to Reina, but somehow had never found the time.

Emelia made her way into the hacienda, following Reina’s muddy footsteps. She stopped to answer questions from the cook, and apologized for Reina’s mess. Her back hurt and she could use a rest, but she had so many responsibilities. She ought to spend more time with Reina as she had when she was a baby.

Reina came bounding down the stairs, her handful of flowers now in a basket. “Can we go now? I’ve got shoes on!”

“Reina, I’m exhausted already, and I still have so much to do today.” Emelia’s mind spun with all the things that needed her attention. It would be easier to wait until her husband could come along. “Wouldn’t it be better to go tomorrow when Tío can come, too?”

Reina’s smile faltered. “But Buela says the flowers will lose their magic if we don’t go today.”

Emelia gave a longing look up the curved staircase toward her bedroom and patted Reina’s head. “Then we will go today. Run to the stable and ask them to hook up a horse.”

Reina ran off, her black braid flapping behind her. Emelia made her way back to the garden and plucked a flower of her own; a crimson spray of amaranth.


Reina leapt from her seat before Tía Emelia fully stopped the horse. A few of her golden flowers fell from her basket.

Careful, you dropped some, Buela warned.

Reina paused and looked down, startled to find she had. Quickly, she picked them back up and tucked them away before they could spread their magic in the wrong place. She skipped around the church toward the cemetery, listening to Buela Alvarez tell her the tale of Wale’ Keru, the spider. It was one of her favorites. Buela had told her she couldn’t tell anyone about the stories, even Tía Emelia.

Don’t get so far away from your aunt, chica, Buela Alvarez warned.

“I know where I’m going.” Reina turned into the cemetery beside the church. “Papa isn’t actually here, but Mama is. They would be together if they could. Just like they’d be here with me. If they could.”

That’s right. Buela gave her a hug that Reina could feel in her heart. They would have given anything to stay with you. They love you very much.

“That’s why I brought the flowers.” Reina took a seat on the shady grass beside her mother’s marker. “So they could be close to me.”

“Reinita!” Tía Emelia called from across the grassy field.

Reina waved at her, then looked down at her basket. Worry wriggled in her gut. She needed to pick just the right flower for her mama. What if she picked the wrong one? “Which one do you think she’ll like best?”

You should ask your aunt. She is her sister, after all.

Reina bit her lip. “But you’re Buela. You know everything!”

Buela laughed. If only, chica. If only.

She looked over the red-and-gold flowers, touching them one at a time to see which felt right. The two biggest and brightest ones seemed to feel warm in her hand. These were definitely the ones for her parents, but which one was for Mama?

Tía Emelia neared, breathing hard. “You need to wait for me next time.”

Reina glanced up at her, and held up the two flowers. “Which one should I give Mama? They match, so the other one is for Papa, but Buela says you knew Mama better than she did, so you have to help me pick.”

Reina’s aunt slowly took a seat on the grass beside her, setting her own red flower beside the marker. “Well, since neither your mama, your papa, nor I ever met your Abuela Alvarez, I suppose you’re right.” She pointed to the bigger flower. “I think she’d like that one.”

Reina nodded. “I knew it.”

Reina set the golden flower beside the marker, shoving the stem into the grass so it would stand tall and pretty. Then the other she placed beside it. “For Papa,” she said. “See, they’re together.”

Tía Emelia pulled her onto her lap. Reina squirmed, but her aunt held her tighter. “So, what do we do now?”

Reina thought a moment. “I think we need to be still.”

“I’m not sure you’re capable of being still,” Tía Emelia said, poking Reina’s side.

Reina shrieked and wiggled away, then gave her aunt a cross look. “You’re the one who can’t be still.”

“Fine.” Her aunt leaned back, turning her face to the sky. “I’ll be still and you’ll be still, and we’ll see who moves first.”

Reina stuck out her tongue, then lay down beside her aunt. “Will they really come?” she asked, too quiet for her aunt to hear.

Be still, Buela said, stroking the girl’s hair. And wait.


Emelia sat on the grass of the graveyard, grateful that it had not rained recently. Was she doing the right thing, bringing Reina here? Would it have been better if she’d let the girl forget? Would Álvaro have been happier not knowing about his parents? Was she simply messing everything up?

Beside her, Reina whispered to herself and fell still. What faith the girl had, to believe that just bringing a flower to a grave would help her feel closer to her parents. How Emelia had longed for another chance, another moment to be with them again. To see her sister’s brilliant smile light up the room, or hear Álvaro’s warm laugh.

Tears filled her eyes, and she let them come. How was it that their loss never got any easier? She had done so many things wrong in her life, and now she was failing at this, too. Hollowness filled her chest. She couldn’t even find the time to tell brilliant, precious Reinita a story. The tears broke free and rolled down her cheeks. Álvaro should not have entrusted Reina to her.

A warmth broke through the cold emptiness in her chest as Emelia’s tears pushed harder against her closed eyes. It grew, wrapping her in its tender embrace, until it surrounded her, holding her as though keeping the pieces of her broken self from falling apart entirely.

You’re doing fine, a familiar voice in her mind seemed to say, filling her with a sense of love. Thank you.

Emelia clung to the feelings, and the words, her mind suddenly too calm to find a reply. Beside her, Reina fidgeted. Emelia leaned forward, wiping the tears from her face. She opened her eyes to see the little girl’s radiant smile. And for the first time, she realized it was her sister’s smile.


About the Creator

Morgan J. Muir

Morgan is an award-winning fantasy author. One day she set pencil to paper and began writing down stories and just never stopped.

She lives in Utah with her husband, 3 kids, a dog, and far too many cats. Her books are available on Amazon.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.