Chapter 12: Love Like You
A/N: fkjlkjdkhg the happen with every fic I write where there's a gap before the last chapter 'cause I just can't bring myself to finish things. Also I had finals and stuff, (I finally got my degree!). And I've been working on drawing the Coco Tarot cards so that's been eating up a lot of my time.
Anyways, without further ado, the final chapter.
Everything, everything, about this night had felt like a dream; a happy, fantastic, wonderful dream. From finally getting to cross the bridge with the whole of his dead family, hand and hand with his wife and daughter, to getting to see his living family with them, Héctor had felt on top of the world!
Of course he hadn't started out like this, in fact he had felt quite sick at the beginning of the holiday, paranoid and worried that he wouldn't be able to cross the bridge. Coco had done more than her share of reassuring him that he would, in fact, be able to cross. She had given his photo to Miguel, who had almost immediately put it up on the family ofrenda. She had reassured him again and again, but the final remaining anxiety that fluttered through him hadn't gone away until he finally, finally heard the cheerful dinging from the scanner. Yes, his photo was up and he was allowed to cross.
He took a peek at the picture as it was shown on the scanner before he walked over to join his family, curious to see the family photo and the state is was in. It had been reframed, something wider, though just as beautiful, his head had been taped in and the photo had been unfolded so he could see his guitar once again. That was a last remaining photo of him in the living world.
There had been another photo he had on him when he died, one of which he had tried many times before to get to the Land of the Living years ago before he had lost it, it's counterpart in the living world likely buried in some unknown place and having rotted by now.
His wedding photo, however, had somehow made its way back to the dead Riveras. Unannounced, it had showed up at the front door not a month after Héctor had finally started to stay with the family permanently. A neighbor had come, waving the photo in the face of Imelda, who answered the door ready to scare off another person who came to bother them with questions about Ernesto, and asking "this is you isn't it?".
The neighbor, someone who had known Imelda for a short time when they were both alive in Santa Cecilia, happened upon the picture when it was being passed around a circle of people sharing dying stories. Apparently it had been passed from person to person, one neighborhood to the next, over the past few months following Dia de Muertos; each trying to find the original owners by asking around for people they thought looked similar. Though, even with Ernesto in the picture, it took a while for the photo to finally make its way into the Santa Cecilia neighborhood in the Land of the Dead. And now it was back with the Riveras, a little more worn around the edges then when Miguel had originally lost it, and now with half a boot-print on its back end, but they had it.
Imelda wanted to immediately rip out Ernesto, forget that he was ever associated with them, but something about that didn't sit right with Héctor. So much of his strife had been because his face had been ripped out of a photo, because of trying to forget the past. Certainly, this was a vastly different circumstance, but the fact of the matter was that they couldn't just forget the past and how it happened.
Upon Héctor's insistence, they left the photo intact, framing it and putting it up with a handful of other photos they had collected over the years on top of a sideboard. They had, however, elected to hide the part of the photo with Ernesto behind another photo of the dead family all grouped together and taken a few years ago. Héctor was fine with that, while he knew they couldn't forget the past, he didn't need a blatant reminder of what his life once was every time he happened to look over at the picture.
But that didn't stop him from staring anyways. There was a certain spot he could stand, where when he looked at the picture he could see Ernesto. Sometimes he would stand there purposely, staring and thinking over his life until someone would come along and happen to break him out of his trance.
But that didn't matter now, what mattered now was being with the family, spending the whole time with them and not hiding at any point, what mattered now was gushing over his new teeny-tiny great-great granddaughter, what mattered now was seeing that he suddenly had more offerings this year than he knew what to do with. And along with those offerings were letters to many members of the family from Miguel, thought Héctor couldn't help but find it confusing and disappointing that there was neither a letter for him nor Coco, of all the family to exclude.
They didn't take too much time to dwell on it though when Miguel came out dressed in a pristine little charro suit made just for him. They all watched, interested and curious, as Miguel ran over to the ofrenda and grabbed Héctor's guitar before being dragged over to stand with his cousins, Rosa and Abel each with their own instruments, and having a multitude of pictures excitedly taken by the adults of the family. The dead Riveras all gathered around, were they going to play music? Most of the dead family didn't really know the state of the living family when it came to music, Coco had been able to tell them a little about the changes that were starting to take place, but even she hadn't been able to see what had changed in the past few months.
There were excited murmurs amongst the living Riveras and curious ones amongst the dead before Miguel began to gently strum the guitar and sing along. It was a sweet song that gradually built in energy as Rosa and Abel joined in. They couldn't have been playing for more than a year and yet they did a fantastic job with the instruments they played and with keeping up with Miguel. Héctor couldn't help but beam with pride at all of them as they played this fantastic song he'd never heard before, dancing with Imelda and even taking it upon himself to grab a copy of his guitar from Miguel and play along.
It wasn't until after the song was finished, with an excited cheer from everyone as Miguel was hoisted up onto the shoulders of his papá and tío, that Héctor overheard that Miguel had actually written the song himself. Pride swelled through Héctor as he watched Miguel go into some other song. There was something exciting in hearing that his great, great grandson was turning out just like him. It was something that he had certainly hoped for Coco when she was first born, as so many parents do, and while most of the family turned out like Imelda, Héctor was still excited to see someone turn out like him.
They spent much of the rest of the night just singing, playing and having a wonderful time. The excitement of the holiday quieted as the night wore on and the youngest began to doze off. They were tucked in and the rest of the family began to clean up or get ready to return to the Land of the Dead. Héctor and Coco lingered back, intent on singing their song for Miguel alone before actually heading back themselves.
"You want to stay back?" Imelda asked looking between the two of them.
"Just for a bit," Hector said.
"Secret song, you know?" Coco added with a wink.
"Alright," Imelda sighed, "We'll bring your offerings back so you don't have to carry them all."
"Thank you mi amor," Héctor said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
"Make sure you two stay together, and make sure you come home before sunrise," she said, giving a very pointed look at Héctor.
He laughed lightly as Coco gave Imelda a hug, "We shouldn't be more than an hour," she reassured.
They watched as the family gathered up their offerings and headed off back to the bridge. Héctor and Coco took to sitting under a tree in the courtyard, watching the rest of the family clean up and quietly talking between each other. It was just like before, only this time Coco could actually talk back to him and hear everything he was saying, and Héctor liked that immensely more than talking at her.
When the cleanup was finally done, and everyone had headed into their beds for the night, Héctor and Coco headed to Miguel and Abel's room. Dante perked up from where he lay next to Miguel's bed as they calmly walked over to Miguel and stood ready to sing and guitar poised to play their song for him, but Miguel was awake, and watching Abel closely, just like last time. Héctor waited for him to do something.
"Papá?" Coco whispered over to him, "Shouldn't you start playing?"
"Just a moment m'ija," Héctor responded looking closely at Miguel, "He did this last time."
Coco gave him a perplexed look that was quickly wiped away when Miguel slowly climbed out of his bed without a sound. They both backed up and watched as Miguel quietly pitter-pattered over to the door, brushing his hand over Dante's head and causing the dog to stand up and follow him.
"Come on m'ija, I think I know where he's going," Héctor said, slinging the guitar on his back and following after Miguel.
The three of them trailed after Miguel as he headed to the ofrenda room, grabbed the guitar off the ofrenda once again, and slung it over his back before crossing the courtyard towards the hidden attic, just as suspected. He grabbed a ladder this time, thank goodness, and placed it against the side of the building. There was a moment before he started climbing where he scanned the area, making sure no one was behind him, he looked over to Dante panting behind him.
"You're loud," he whispered matter-of-factly. Dante's panting didn't slow but he wagged his tail at the acknowledgement, "Are they with us?"
Dante swallowed, stopping his panting for a moment and moving his head forward as an answer while wagging his tail even faster.
Miguel smiled and looked up. He was a little off, looking over Coco's right shoulder as opposed to directly at them, but they understood that he was supposed to be looking at them.
"Follow me," he said with a smile, as if they weren't already, and scrambled up the ladder.
Dante waited for them to go up after him before following after.
"This is my old hiding spot," Coco mused as she watched Miguel climb under the shoe sign.
"Your old hiding spot? Hector asked as they squeezed into the attic after Miguel.
"Yeah," She hummed gently, "With mamá's ban on music, this was the only place at home that I could sing or do anything like such," Héctor smiled a sad smile at the far-off look she gave with the memory, "Why did he bring us here?"
"He used it as his own musical hideout as well," Héctor answered, looking around the area and noting the distinct differences, "He used to have a shrine to Ernesto, over there," he pointed to the back of the attic, the curtain pulled back to reveals it's now empty contents sans the TV, "That's where he put the wedding photo, the one we have on the sideboard, that allowed me to cross the bridge and see you."
The shrine and much of the other contents of the attic were gone now, leaving a wide open space for them, a half circle of candles and cempasuchil petals and flowers sat around the edges of the attic, their ends flanked by small envelopes. Miguel sat down in the center of the half circle, the candles glowing behind him as he shifted the guitar to his front.
"Uhh, if I'm guessing correctly it's just Papá Héctor and Mamá Coco with me, right?" He looked around the room before turning to Dante who had settled behind him, the dog gave a huff in confirmation, "I, um, if you noticed I didn't put your letters on the family ofrenda, they're right here, so, um, so you'd know to follow me."
He shook his head at the explanation as they sat across from him, grabbing the letters nearest to them and trading each for the correct names. Neither open the letters right then as they waited for Miguel's next move, Héctor move the guitar around to his front in guessing what Miguel would do next.
"I'd like to sing another song for you," He said quietly with a sheepish smile on his face as he held up the guitar in his hang, "…Sing along if you know the words."
He didn't waste another moment before he jumped into the first notes of "Remember me", strumming slowly, gently. Héctor and Coco shared a smile and joined him, plucking along on his guitar and both singing along with the words along with Miguel.
This feeling Héctor had, being here, singing along with his daughter and great, great grandson was such a wonderful feeling. There was no more vile with the song when he sang, there was no more reason to worry about what was to come for him, there was only a peaceful feeling left in him. Everything about this night was good, everything about him felt good. The last notes of the song hung in the air with warm reverberation, Héctor couldn't help the smile across his face.
"We love you m'ijo," Coco said, Héctor nodded along.
"Goodnight," Miguel said, with a little nod of his head.
"See you next year," Héctor replied, watching as Miguel got up and crawled out of the attic with Dante following quickly after.
Héctor and Coco sat there for a moment, quiet and smiling, taking in the happy feeling on the moment and holding their letter between their fingers.
"Let's head home," Héctor said gently, shifting the guitar to his back once again as Coco looked at him curiously, holding up the letter, "We can open them once we're back."
She nodded and took his outstretched hand, letting him help her up and out of the attic, both of them taking a deep breath, enjoying the fresh air of the outside as they stood on the roof before making their way back to the bridge. They chatted quietly the entire way home, finally greeted with the cheerful open arms of their family and getting ready for bed.
In his and Imelda's room, Héctor leaned his guitar against the wall, sitting on the bed and opening his letter.
"Oh, you did get a letter from Miguel?" Imelda asked, peeking over his shoulder as she undid her hair.
"I did," he confirmed, "He hid mine and Coco's letters in a special place for us to find."
She smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek before turning and curling up in bed, leaving him to read his letter privately.
As you can probably see things are going great for me. Music isn't considered a curse to the family anymore, I'm allowed to play and practice the guitar as much as I like now. Having music in the family has really brought us all closer together, you were right, music is supposed to be shared with those you care about. Socorro is lucky, she'll get to grow up with music in her life, I'll make sure of that.
I hope you enjoyed the songs I played, I wrote the first one myself!
Héctor smiled, again that proud feeling bloomed throughout him.
I hope that Mamá Imelda and the rest of the family liked it too, and that music is more accepted in the family on your side as well.
Mamá Coco and I shared your stories with the rest the family, I'm sure she already told you that but I just wanted to let you know. You're not going to be forgotten, your story is being told.
I love you Papá Héctor, I'll be waiting for you for the next holiday.
Héctor calmly folded the letter as he finished, the smile on his face growing wider as he placed it on the nightstand next to the previous letter. He changed into his pajamas before curling up next to Imelda.
Until next year, He thought, drifting off.
Done! I do hope you all enjoyed this fic, and feel free to check out my other stories or even my tumblr where you can just… like… talk to me and see what I'm doing next!