Manuscript Status: One-month delivery
Mentor Name: Joy McCullough
Mentee Name: Ipuna Estavillo Black
Title: EMPTY GIFTS
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary #ownvoices Puerto Rican-Korean
Word Count: 80,000 words
Blaming himself for his brother’s death, Tristan Sanchez drinks to forget and quits the soccer team. But if Tristan doesn’t pull it together, Mamá’s moving them back to Puerto Rico. One soccer tournament could turn things around. But the girlfriend Tristan shoved away is in danger and Tristan will have to bail on his chance at a scholarship to help her. It’s Mamá or Sarang—either way he’ll lose someone else he loves.
I peered at Mateo, in his Captain Underpants pajamas and soccer shin guards, his breath rising and falling, sweet like candy. But the room was sour. When was the last time he washed his shin guards?
I ducked under Mateo’s bed and exchanged my box for his shoebox filled with grass and slipped out of our room.
In the dark, I closed our door and jumped at the sound of keys. “Just get home from work?” I whispered.
Mamá gasped. “Ay Dios.” Her eyes zeroed in on the box in my hands. Her face went white. “Three Kings Day.”
“I got it covered.” The gift I’d left from the three kings would help Mateo be the best eight-year-old soccer player in Las Vegas.
“Oh, mijo. Did you spend a lot? Been working extra shifts. Meant to grab something for Mateo and you…” Mamá sighed.
“Ma, it wasn’t much.” I lied. “And don’t worry about me. I’m sixteen—past the stage of believing.” I also knew Ma didn’t have the money.
“Tristan, sometimes you act old. You don’t have to play his pa. I can handle both,” Ma placed her hand on mine.
“I played a king. Would never play Papá.” The word Papá shot a ball of fury straight from my brain to my heart. A coward who walked out on his family deserved to be forgotten.