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A 14-year-old girl (Eréndira) is living with her grandmother when she accidentally sets fire to their home. The grandmother forces Eréndira to repay the debt by becoming a prostitute as they travel a road as vagrants. Men line up to enjoy Eréndira's services and eventually after several years, Ulises, one of her clients, falls in love with her. She returns his affection and eventually he becomes willing to help her to freedom; he formulates a plan to escape with her and live off a fortune from oranges which contain diamonds smuggled by his Dutch father. The only obstacle lies in her grandmother, whom Eréndira convinces Ulises to kill. Not being the homicidal type, he attempts poisoning and an explosive, but must eventually resort to stabbing her while she sleeps. After he regains his composure following the murder, Eréndira runs off into the night alone leaving him in the tent with the grandmother.
Eréndira and her grandmother make an appearance in One Hundred Years of Solitude, another book by García Márquez. Also included in this story are characters from other Márquez works, such as the spider with the woman's head from "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" and Blacamán the Good from the story "Blacamán the Good: Vendor of Miracles".