Ricky calls the apartment on the first night Lizet arrives from Rawlings. The call is short, but he promises to call back. Three days later, the morning before Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve, Lizet still hasn’t heard from him. Remembering her promise to herself to confront her father over his own betrayals, but not knowing where it is her father is currently living, heads over to her uncle Fito’s house. Fito is her father’s brother, and was the one to take him in directly after the split.
Lizet is determined to confront her father over his betrayals and get her feelings off her chest—but the fact that her father has isolated himself from his family so profoundly makes this a difficult task.
The previous day, Leidy called Lizet a “white girl” after she used a stilted phrase to describe the paint job on the front of Lourdes’s building—now, Lizet wants to do the “most Latina” thing she can do, and feels that showing up at her uncle Fito’s house and demanding to know where her father is living fits the bill.
Lizet wants to do something stereotypically “Latina” in order to negate Leidy’s hurtful comment and prove that she is the same person she once was—even if she doesn’t realize that she’s parodying her own culture.
At Fito’s apartment in Hialeah, Lizet greets her cousins and tells them she’s just gotten back from college in New York. They are impressed by the news, but confess they didn’t even know she was in college—Lizet is sad to realize that her father never mentioned the fact that she’d gotten into Rawlings or decided to go. Lizet considers telling her cousins about her time at college so far, but remembers Leidy taunting her for acting “so freaking white,” and decides not to. She is worried that Rawlings has changed her “in a way that [is] bad.”
The more people Lizet sees during this trip home, the more she is forced to confront the ways she’s changed in the time she’s been away—and the fact that the changes she’s gone through at college have made her strange to her own family and isolated her from them in irreversible ways.
Inside, Lizet greets her uncle Fito, and speaks to him in English as she asks where her father is. Her cousins accuse her of forgetting her Spanish and tease her for not knowing where her own father lives. Fito calms his sons down and gives Lizet the name of the complex and the apartment number where Ricky is living—he informs her that Ricky has a roommate whom he met at work. Lizet finds this funny: she and her father both have roommates.
Lizet is struck by the fact that she and her father—despite being in very different stages in their lives and in conflict with one another—are in fact going through similar things at the same time.
Lizet arrives at her father’s new apartment, in a complex called The Villas. It is shabby and run-down, and is widely known as a place where “trashy” residents throw raucous parties and fight in the street. Lizet parks in a visitor’s spot, and steels herself to approach her father’s unit. After working up the courage, she approaches the door—covered by steel bars—and knocks. A man answers the door, but it is not her father—it is his roommate, Rafael.
Lizet’s father has moved off, sold their family home, and taken up residence in a dangerous and isolating part of town—this frightens Lizet, who realizes that her father is perhaps purposefully trying to keep everyone away.
Rafael greets Lizet warmly, hugging her like she is his own daughter. Lizet looks around at their ramshackle apartment, disoriented by Rafael’s kindness and the disorganization of the living room furniture. Rafael tells Lizet that he has heard a lot about her from her father—he reveals jokingly that he has heard all about her time at college, and how much money it is costing Ricky. Rafael tells Lizet that Ricky is working all day today and won’t be home for a long time. Before Lizet can ask any more questions, Rafael jumps up, goes into the kitchen, and comes back with a Rawlings brochure. He tells Lizet how proud Ricky is of her, and Lizet can hardly believe what she’s hearing; her eyes begin to water.
Lizet, who has been readying herself to lash out against her father for all the bad things he’s done to her and the rest of the family, finds herself touched profoundly by the fact that he keeps a Rawlings brochure in the house—tacit proof that he is in fact proud of Lizet, despite having railed on and on about her “betrayal” in the months before she left for school.
Rafael offers to call Ricky, but Lizet insists she has to go. She asks Rafael not to tell Ricky she came by—she is overwhelmed by the realization that her father is, on some level, proud of her, and upset by the slightly squalid way he’s living as she pursues her own dreams. Lizet prepares to leave, promising Rafael she’ll return tomorrow, though they both know she’s lying. Rafael writes down the telephone number at the apartment so that Lizet will have it. He walks her to the door and lets her out; Lizet runs down the walkway back to her car through the burning Miami heat.
Lizet isn’t sure what she’s feeling—she’s happy and relieved, but also sad and confused. She doesn’t want to make things with her father any worse, and tries to pretend like her visit never happened, even though doing so involves lying—yet another betrayal.