One Earring
Ursula Villarreal-Moura

When our house was burglarized, the culprits broke our toilet seat and stole the streusel my mother had baked the evening before. Of course, they also overturned every piece of furniture in our two-story house and left with the oddest amalgamation of objects. Our prehistoric crap TV was left behind, but our equally junky VHS player was stolen.

As she absorbed the torrential disarray around us, my mother’s shock transformed itself into a series of journalistic questions. “Why did this happen” eventually switched into “Who would do this?” Even our whirling ceiling fan could not disperse her sorrow.

From the kitchen we called the police, then my dad, who was obliviously hard at work in his office across the highway. Over the phone, my father’s chain of cusses sounded like measured instructions he expected us to follow. Thanks to him, at age eight, I already knew a thousand combinations of expletives.

When the cops arrived, they searched our house for clues. Our windows were dusted for fingerprints, though our busted backdoor was irrefutable proof of a forced entry. One policeman stayed with us as we sifted through the rooms while the other drove off in his shiny cruiser.

Unoriginally, our own pillowcases were used to carry off our prized belongings. I discovered the busted toilet seat—my mother lamented the loss of her pastry. Later that night we puzzled over the fact that the burglar or team of thieves had stolen a single earring from each of the pairs resting in her jewelry box.

Upstairs, my room was the only one not demolished. Although my pillows were bare, my stuffed animals had been rearranged with careful hands. The plush creatures faced forward, mute witnesses vaguely smelling of strangers. Under a stack of my ugliest t-shirts, my heart-shaped diary remained locked and insignificant.

When my dad eventually arrived, I sprinted outside to greet him and unexpectedly exploded in tears. The policeman followed close behind me.

“Good evening,” the officer said to my father. “How’re you doing today, sir?”

My father’s face scrunched up with frustration as he spit out his reply.

“Great—until I learned my family was fucking burglarized. Now my daughter’s hysterical. Pretend you’re here to help, would you?”

Only as my father guided me through the foreign labyrinth of our house did I start to grasp the gravity of the attack: our home, possibly my family, had been targeted. The neighbors claimed to have seen nothing yet they were not the least bit rattled by the prospect that they could be next. They were, in fact, never next.

That night my father slept in front of our busted door with a wooden baseball bat. He swore the thieves would return, but they did not. The next day my mother drove me to school in a sensitive silence. She had forgotten to apply lipstick or pack me a lunch, but I mentioned neither.

In homeroom I contemplated telling my teacher about the burglary. Midway to her desk, I turned back around. My hot cheeks meant I might sob soon. I knew the confession would not excuse me from P.E so it would be for nothing; I would have to run laps all the same and exhaust myself with endless jumping jacks like everyone else.

During lunch while my classmates ate, I gulped water from the water fountain in the library until my stomach sloshed like a full canteen. Alone on the playground, I slipped off one of my gold unicorn earrings, fingering its tiny, twisted horn.

It made sense to examine things while they were still intact.

Ursula Villarreal-Moura is a writer, editor, and book reviewer. Her writing appears in CutBank, Emerson Review, NAP, Lunch Ticket, and elsewhere. She tweets at @Ursulaofthebook.