"Papi, what are you doing?" I look up at my father. He is putting a piece of wood over my bedroom window. It's a beautiful, warm sunny day, and I want him to play with me. Today is Saturday and our day to play.
"Go inside. There's a storm coming, and we have to get ready."
"A storm, why?"
"Go ask your mother."
"Mami, Papi says there's a storm coming. Is that true?"
"Hush, the baby is sleeping. Come on, let's get ready."
"Where are we going?"
"We are going to go stay at Juana's house during the storm."
I don't ask why. I don't care. I love the idea of going to Juana's house, no matter the reason. I hurry to my room. My mother had already pulled out my little roller bag, but she had only filled it with clothes. I pack my favorite blanket with my old pacifier sewn in. I don't use a pacifier anymore, but Mami sew my old one to my blanket, so I could sleep with it next to my nose. I know I'm too old to use it anymore, but some nights when everyone has gone to sleep, and I get scared, I suck on it through the blanket. Just one minute, and then I'm fine. I put my jacks in the bag. Juana and I love to play jacks. I'm better than her, but sometimes I'll let her win, so she will keep playing with me. I also put my book in the bag. We are all reading the same book about a girl who gets lost in the woods. I'll carry my rag doll, Ana, with me. She goes everywhere I go.
The house gets darker as my dad continues to put boards over every window.
"Why is Papi putting boards over the windows, Mami?"
"There's a storm coming, and the wood will protect the house."
"Protect it from what?"
"Don't worry. Everything will be fine."
"When will we go to Juana's house. I'm ready."
"Not yet. We'll wait until it starts raining."
I'm confused because when it rained, we weren't allowed to go outside. I didn't ask because I saw my mom was busy emptying the refrigerator. It's such a strange day.
"Can I go play with Sara?"
"No, they're busy getting ready to go to Juana's house too."
Sara is my neighbor. She lives next door, and we go to the same school, but she's a year older than me. She, Juana, and I play together all the time. I go sit by the door, waiting for when it's time to leave.
We didn't walk across the street to Juana's house until after dinner. Juana's house is on top of a hill and has a great big yard with horses and cows. It's the biggest and tallest house in the neighborhood. I wonder if Juana's dad put wood over their windows because there are so many, and the ladder wouldn't have been big enough to get to the ones on top. I couldn't see because it was already dark. The wind is blowing hard. My dad carries my little brother, and my mother pulls me by the hand. I don't like walking in the dark, and I'm afraid to trip and fall.
There are many people already there, and more kept coming throughout the night. They put all of us kids in a big room so we could play and stay out of the way. The adults all seemed to be worried and upset. I couldn't understand because we've had storms before, and it hadn't been a big deal. This is a big party, but with no music, I thought.
I went over to where Sara, Juana, and Teresa were playing. Although we don't always play with her, I like Teresa and enjoy playing with her. Miriam and her sister are also there, but they never want to play with us. They think they are too good. We don't care because we don't like them anyway. Several boys from the neighborhood and Juana's brother are there. Juana's brother is supposed to watch over all of us because he is older. I hope he isn't going to boss us around too much.
After a while, Mami and two other moms bring us milk and cookies and tell us we have to be quiet and sleep. We could hear the wind howling outside and the rain hitting the roof. I'm scared and want to be with my mom and my baby brother, but Mami said I have to be brave and stay in the room with the rest of the kids. I put my blanket next to my face making sure no one sees the pacifier.
The next morning, I wake up before all the other kids and quietly open the room's door. I peek out, and there is no one around. I walk downstairs and can hear the adults whispering. Some ladies are crying around Juana's mom. I wondered what happened to her. Then, my mother saw me.
"Go upstairs. We will have breakfast in a minute," my mom says, and she pushes me towards the stairs. Her eyes are red and her face wet.
"What's wrong, Mami? Why is everyone crying?"
"Don't worry. Just go upstairs and don't wake up the other kids."
I reluctantly go back to the kids' room. I look around. Sara and Juana are still sleeping side by side. Everyone is still sleeping, but I notice that Juana's brother is gone.
Soon all the kids wake up, and without Juana's brother's to keep order, we all get excited and start screaming for our mothers. We are hungry too.
One of the mothers comes and takes us downstairs. Something is definitely wrong. Why is everyone whispering? Someone comes to take Juana to be with her mom, and we didn't see her for a long time. Sara, Teresa, and I played jacks the rest of the day, but it wasn't the same without Juana. I was worried about Juana and kept wondering where her big brother had gone. We found out what had happened when Juana returned.
Juana's brother had sneaked out before dawn to check on his horse. He must have tripped and fallen into an open well near the barn. The well had been dry for many years, but it had filled up with water because of the storm. I didn't know what to say to Juana. We hugged and patted her hands like I had seen the women do to her mother.
"Let's play jacks," I suggest. I knew we would all let Juana win today.