Aimee Campos



Aimee Campos is an MFA Creative Writing student at Mount St. Mary's University in Los Angeles. She is a Mexican-American SoCal native and enjoys writing about the strange and sentimental. She dedicates all her work to her family.

The niñas started going missing in the Summer.  Nobody cared because they were brown girls, their big gapped smiles taking up the entire screen during every news report. The reporters shook their heads, looked down, looked up, smiled at the camera, and carried on with their lives after their segment ended. It wasn't them or their children. Not their problem. Boohoo, the little brown girls were going missing, and in all honesty, who cared besides their Mamas?

Mama started to keep the twins and I from going out alone. Even if it was just to walk down to La Superior down the street from the complex for a bottle of Coke and some pan dulce. Mama trailed behind us, gripping an umbrella under the harsh sun. It was hard to catch the attention of the handsome bag boys when Mama told me to dejar de quedarme parada. I jutted out my hip, squeezed in my stomach. Mama would yell at me to move. “Muy guapos, pero bien fregados para la escuela.” I grumbled until I was home, but it was hard to throw the huge teenage tantrum I wanted. The twins and I shared a room. Mama took up the living room, blasting merengue while she did her sewing jobs. Mama had magic hands; the whole complex knew that.

The twins were too young to go anywhere on their own anyway. It’s not like Rodrigo had anything to worry about, either. It was only girls going missing. Adilene was starting to get impatient and wanted to pretend she was older, which I could tell was getting on Mama’s nerves and making her worry. Adilene liked to smear my eyeshadow on her lips and went through my clean laundry as if any of the clothes would fit her little eight-year-old body. During that infamous summer, there was an incident where Adilene had used up an entire pot of one of my precious eyeshadows. I’d pinched her neck so hard a red welt formed. Mama had grounded me for weeks. It didn’t make a difference; I hadn’t left the house since the news reports had started.


School was starting in two days. Summer consisted of staying in with Mama doing her sewing and me looking after the twins. The twins played who could bother me the most, and I ignored them and went on our shared family computer, making playlists to listen to when we went to do laundry or La Superior. Nights meant Mama’s stories after dinner. Before that, the news. Usually, we ate dinner in front of the tv, Mama too distracted to tell us to go sit at the table. Girls missing, Papas questioned (because of course everyone thought it was their fault), and Mamas running their hands against their reddened bare faces with trembling mouths. The same scene played out on the television. The cameras zoomed in on the same dilapidated tan walls, the same square window with Christmas lights around it and a framed Virgin Mary pictures. All the reporters couldn’t get enough.

Mama would wring her hands and then flick the television off. “Don’t go out alone. And if a stranger tries to talk to you ignore them.” Mama had stopped letting Adilene hang out with the other little girls who loitered at the front of the building, so Adilene was always grouchy after dinner. In no time, Mama would reel her in with a story. La Llorona and El Cucuy were the twins’ favorites. I preferred to listen to the one about the dead boy whose whistle warned you about your impending death.



School started. Nobody made a bigger deal about the girls missing, than the other girls.  The faculty only cared during the first assembly of the year. We were left to our usual school routine. I was glad to see Alicia and Melissa. They were my best friends. Alicia didn’t really mention the girls, but that was all Melissa and I could talk about. We began walking home together to ease our Mamas, and I was thrilled when it was just Melissa and I. Alicia didn’t care about the girls like we did. She was white. Melissa and I would always stop by the usual fruit stand set up on the street corner from our school. It was always set up, even it was cold, or the fruit wasn’t in season.

“What do you think happened to them, really?” Melissa looked ahead, the watermelon crunching around in her mouth.

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe they all planned to run away together.” A car honked. “Maybe it was a pact.” A chunk of mango was too bitter. I continued to chew it. I thought of the group of missing girls huddling together like a football team before their big send off, bringing their hands on top of each other’s and cheering, finalizing their pact to disappear together.

“A pact between twenty girls? No creo.”

“Did your mom ever tell you the story about the isla de las muñecas?”

“Yeah sure, the haunted dolls?”

“Yeah, maybe all the girls are on an island right now.”

“You’re trying to make it sound like it’s a good thing.” I ate the last slice of mango, beginning the laborious task of removing the strings from my teeth.

“So would you rather imagine them dead or something?”

“Do you ever think about what would happen if we were taken?”

Melissa crushed her cup with her hands, “We’d be on the news. Imagine.”

“Yeah.” We crossed the street toward my building. I thought of Mama standing in front of our complex, gripping a picture of me while the news cameras rolled, her face red and wet. It made my stomach hurt. But me? Maybe on a secret island with all the other girls, like Melissa said. Thousands of miles away. Or maybe just hiding out here. Then I would be found, and Mama would be so happy to see me, she’d forget about all the regañadas and she’d never ask me to take care of the twins again.


It was mid-October when I started to know the girls. Luz Aparicio, Melinda Agustin, Angie Perez. Angie and I had worked on a project on el baile Folklorico for Mrs. Marquez’s Spanish class. I watched as Angie’s mother collapsed in the middle of the front office. I didn’t want to see them carry her out. Melissa was with me, and as we walked back to our lunch table to Alicia, I glanced at every girl we walked past. I knew the reason why nobody cared if the brown girls were going missing. There were so many more to replace them with. We could all mold into one person and it wouldn’t make a difference.





When Melissa and I got closer to the entrance of the school the next morning, we saw the patrol car sitting by the front of the school. “That’s strange.” Melissa spoke for both of us.

Lany Marshall was missing. She was in our class. She was not one of the girls that was supposed to go missing. “And I was wondering what had made the police come around here now. And so quickly, too. Of course, it’s for a little rich white girl. Meanwhile the school told Angie’s Mama that it wasn’t their problem because she’d gone missing off school grounds.” Melissa rolled her eyes as we said our goodbyes and went to our respective classes.

Now maybe it’s a creep. It’s definitely a creep.”

Have you seen the custodian? He looks like he kidnaps kids.”

No, because I literally saw Lany being grabbed by that homeless guy that lives near that one laundromat. You know, the one with the red cap and the grocery cart missing a wheel.”

Now the theories swirled and collided against the hallways as Melissa, Alicia, and I made our way to our final class together. “I just think it’s scary is all.” Alicia finally said.

“Yeah, sure, now it is.” Melissa didn’t let up on Alicia.        

It didn’t matter anyway. The mystery was over the next day when it was announced that Lany Marshall had shown up in her front yard like nothing had even happened. And then it got out that all she’d done was sneak away to sleepover at a friend’s house without her parents knowing. “She did that on purpose!” Melissa was furious during lunch. “Wanted to be special. Wanted to get all the attention.” 

“Why? Why would she do that?” Alicia didn’t meet our eyes.

“Because she’s an idiot and thinks this is something good or special happening. And she wanted to be a part of it.” Melissa licked her lips, looking around the schoolyard. “Güera loca.”

“Are you guys gonna stop coming to school one day? You’d tell me, right? I don’t want to eat lunch alone.”

Melissa crumpled her Hot Cheeto bag and placed the ball neatly in front of her. “Don’t be a drama queen, Alicia. We should be more worried about, you know, being kidnapped.” Melissa rolled her eyes, still looking at her trash. “My Mama used to tell me this story my Abuela told her. If you go to a dance and see a handsome man, who asks you to dance, don’t look at his feet. They might be horse hooves and he might be the devil.” Melissa scratched her head. “Maybe whoever’s taking these girls has hooves and the girls see them too late.”

“You’re weird.” Alicia ate the crust of her sandwich, the tension gone for now. “My grandma told us about Cinderella and Humpty Dumpty, not fairytales about the devil.”

“Whatever whitey.” Melissa wrinkled her nose, then let out a laugh to show she was kidding.

Walking to class, I thought about the devil’s hooves tale Melissa had mentioned. I pictured a pair of high heeled feet next to loafers. The hard floors, multicolored lights splashing on the wall at one of those old dance clubs from Mama’s favorite movies.  I thought of the music, the songs Mama played every night while she cooked. Loud drums and saxophones. The same high heeled feet and the loafers replaced by a pair of furry gray hooves peeking out of the pant legs.

         Melissa waited until we were out of earshot from Alicia on our way home before exploding. “Can you believe her? Let me know if I need to find someone else to eat lunch with. You’d think we’re playing hide and seek or something.”

“You know how she is. Besides, she’s just scared.”

“Scared? We’re the ones who should be terrified.” We skipped the fruit stand. I didn’t want to go home just yet. I was beginning to feel like the walls in that apartment were closing on me. Melissa brought a hand to smooth down her skirt. “You know Alicia would probably love to...nevermind.”


“She’d probably love to see one of us disappear. Go around telling everyone, I was friends with one of them boohoo.”

I laughed, even though it didn’t seem like a joke. “No, she wouldn’t.”

“Yes, she would.” 

“I don’t want to go home yet.” I said, looking at my glossy black shoes. I knew Mama would kill me for even thinking of going anywhere else.

“Me neither. All my Mama wants to talk about is who took the girls. Who do you think it was Melissa? How am I supposed to know? I swear everybody thinks we share the same brain or something. Donde iría una niña como tu?”

“Let’s go get some ice cream.”

Melissa lit up. “Only if you pay.”

“Fine.” There was a moment where I couldn’t take a step. Maybe going home was the best option. But Melissa and I needed one moment where we could exist and not have to worry about everything else.


Melissa crunched down on her ice cream. I’d gotten a shaved ice, but my stomach was rolling. Call it intuition. The little ice cream spot was right in the shopping plaza a few streets away from my complex anyway. I could just tell Mama we’d gotten overheated on our walk home and needed to cool down.

The shop was playing music. The shop owner, a short woman who looked like a tía on Mama’s side, continued to look over at us. “Shouldn’t you be tucked away at your casa?”

I felt the water droplets begin to pool together on the edge of the plastic cup. Melissa continued to eat her ice cream, eyes narrowing at the woman. “Si señora, right after this helado!” But the way her eyes glanced at me told me she wanted to answer in something that didn’t sound polite. I let the artificial cherry taste melt on my tongue before finally getting up from the chair.

“Let’s go.” The little bell chimed when we opened the door. Melissa followed me, but she slowed down right against the outside of the shop.

“Can’t even eat ice cream in peace now.” She let out a maniacal laugh and slumped against the shop window. Her eyes went past me. “Weirdo.”

“What is it?” I turned around but didn’t see anything.

“Nothing, just some homeless woman. Maybe the people at school are right. Maybe it is just some creep taking them.” Melissa huffed out a breath.

When we got to my complex, at the foot of the stairs, Melissa stopped again. One of the neighbors was blasting music, the exact song we’d heard in the ice cream shop. Melissa whistled to the beat. It was a song no doubt her Mama played when they cleaned the house. This song was on Mama’s cleaning playlist as well.

Y tú te vas

Y tú te vas

Y tú te vas

Their stereo must be broken.” I tried to ignore the eeriness of the echoes that seemed to sound through the whole building. We were standing right in front of the mailboxes. Someone had scratched off the number on ours. Usually there was someone hanging out here, even if it was just a bunch of kids bouncing a half-deflated soccer ball against the wall. “Do you want to come up?” I didn’t want to admit to Melissa that I didn’t want to hang around here to wait for her Mama.

“No, it’s alright.” She looked outside. “Do you see her?”

“See who?”

She didn’t respond. The music died down and then started again. Melissa wasn’t looking at me still. “Diana, why don’t you go upstairs? I think I see my Mama walking up.”

“Are you sure?” I took a step forward and finally she turned back. Her eyes were bright.

“Yeah, of course. She has her big red umbrella for the sun. You know how she is. I’ll see you tomorrow, alright?” Her hand squeezed my arm before she shoved me away. I turned to walk up the stairs, but I looked back to make sure.

I didn’t see her outside. I went upstairs and Mama was waiting. “Adeline and Rodrigo are working on their homework in the bedroom. How was school? And wasn’t Melissa supposed to come up with you?”

“She saw her Mama. Did you hear the music?”

“What music?”

Later, I begged Mama to tell us a story, but she wasn’t in the mood. I got in my bed and watched the twins toss and turn in their bunk beds. I fell asleep and dreamt of hooves sprouting from my arms and it hurt. The physical pain made me wake up and jump out of bed. Cramps ran up my legs, hard knots that I couldn’t rub down.


When I got to school, Alicia stood by the entrance to the office. Mama squeezed my hand, but I jerked it out of her reach, embarrassed that Alicia was looking at us. Melissa hadn’t shown up to the complex. I heard someone moaning near the office. I recognized Melissa’s Mama.

Mama made me go home. Without the twins, it was easy to lay down in the room with nothing but pure quiet. Right now was the worst time to be surrounded with so much quiet. I knew that I was the last person to see Melissa. I knew she’d been acting weird, but I couldn’t tell this to her Mama without feeling like something was squeezing my throat. The worst part is that I didn’t know if Melissa already knew what was going to happen and wanted to save me or just have the moment for herself.


The girls stopped disappearing out of the blue after Melissa. They were never found. Alicia and I sat together for lunch until eighth grade ended but stopped talking before high school started. I thought about Melissa sometimes, when I saw a girl with curly brown hair or caught a whiff of Hot Cheetos.

We moved to a bigger apartment. I started junior year. The big homecoming dance was what everyone talked about the first month. Mama let my friends come over to get ready and told me to be back by eleven.

The gym was done over nicely. Strobe lights moved against the walls, loud music playing. My friends and I danced, laughing. I kept an eye out for Jacob, a cute guy in my Chemistry class. A warm hand on my shoulder.

“Wanna dance?” I turned around and came face to face with Jacob. I said yes but scratched my cheek and glanced down. Two shiny black shoes. One dance. I sunk into my chair and watched my friends move to the music. I bent forward and reached a hand under the tablecloth. One hand against my knee then down. The hoof felt like velvet. I caressed it and then it was just my heel pressing down against the hard floor.

The stories have it all wrong. Sometimes it's not the handsome man with hooves. Sometimes it’s the beautiful woman with a full skirt. But no one’s ever looking at her feet. Her partners always look past her, searching for the next beautiful woman to dance with.

© The Acentos Review 2021