Friday, December 4, 2009

Hand in Hand (19)

"Congratulations brother on your graduation," Mauricia said to Andres as she hugged him. Carmela complimented, "Andres, you look very handsome in your shirt. The tailor did a good job." Mauricia could not help but try to ignore that comment as it brought memories of Francisco back to mind. The family held a party at the house for Andres' graduation. All their new friends and neighbors were invited. Maria Guadalupe came with her daughter Lisette to visit for the occasion. Maria Guadalupe seemed happier since her daughter's adoption although her husband was not as receptive. Lisette was a dainty little girl with almond shaped eyes, tiny lips and fair skinned. Lisette was everything to Maria Guadalupe and she showered her with toys and clothes. Mauricia was happy to see Maria Guadalupe in a better mood and enjoying her life with her new daughter.

As the evening went on Mauricia excused herself and went to her room with Teresa to go to bed. Mauricia was not in a festive mood and felt she needed to finally take care of her concerns face to face with Francisco. "I have to go to the railroad company and find Francisco", Mauricia stated aloud. "What is wrong with me? I need to get this off my chest and maybe I can finally move on. That is what I will do. Once I say what I need to say to Francisco I think I will feel much better."

The next morning Mauricia was sick to her stomach from nervousness about going to Francisco's job to speak to him. After breakfast Mauricia was getting dressed to go to the railroad company when there was a knock at the front door. Mauricia scurried to the door to see who it was and found Estella standing there with a huge grin. Estella leaped over to Mauricia and hugged her stating, "Cousin, it has been a long time since we've seen each other! How are you and Teresita?" Mauricia answered while in embrace, "We're doing well, thank you Estella. Where are you staying?" Estella waved her arm in the air and said, "Awww, I'm staying with a comadre from Zacatecas that now lives here in San Luis. When are you able to sit down and converse? I have some information you may find important about your family lineage!" Mauricia reluctantly answered, "Well, I was about to go and see someone," as she scratched her head. "If you're busy I can come back another day or do you mind if we walk and talk? I know you will want to know what I know!" Estella said as she shook Mauricia by the shoulders. "Alright, let's go Estella. If it's that urgent come with me." Mauricia motioned Estella to come inside and soon they were heading out of the house. Teresa enjoyed Estella's company as she was more playful than Mauricia and abides to Teresa's requests to be swung around and carried.

"Well, what is this news you have to tell me that is urgent?" asked Mauricia. Estella asked Mauricia, "Do you know the name, Aurelio Manrique?" "Yes, I've heard of him on the radio or somewhere, why?" Mauricia looked at Estella. ""In speaking with the elders on your mother's side in Zacatecas they repeatedly mentioned he was your mother's uncle, which makes him your second uncle." Estella jumped in elation. "Do you not understand? This man was governor of the state of San Luis, a politician in Mexico City and Director of the National Library of Congress in Mexico City! This is a huge piece of your puzzle." Mauricia looked at the ground as they walked and focused on Estella's face and said, "How sure are you of this? His last name has no z." Estella responded, "Oh Mauricia, everyone is dropping a letter or changing their last names now a days. Some people in the pueblo's don't know exactly who's father is who or take on another family surname due to issues. Mauricia laughed and said, "Your right Estella, I was only a Manriquez for many years until I met my real father. Regardless, I'm happy for his accomplishments and proud that we come from such a strong lineage. This helps me answer a lot about myself and my mother."

As the women continued their walk, Estella asked Mauricia, "Where are you going? With the news I have given you, your still in a daze. What's going on?" Mauricia looked at Estella and asked her not to mention anything and began to tell her the encounter she had with Francisco. Estella told Mauricia, "You have struggled since your mother's death and I can only say follow your heart. Talk to the man. Remember, he accepted you with your daughter and respected you like no other. I think he deserves a moment to explain his side of the story. Anyhow, who else will put up your stubbornness woman?" Mauricia smiled and said, "Your right, that is why I am going to the railroad company to look for him." Estella hugged Mauricia and said, "No one is perfect Mauricia. Some men have problems and some men have no shame. The only way to tell the difference between a dysfunctional man and a descent man is when problems arise the dysfunctional man will always quit and run away. A descent man will fight against everything, put their family first, and love their companion through all hurdles. No marriage is perfect but if life has brought you together every time, I can tell you, God is trying to give you a message. You are meant for each other. Why don't you put your problems together and support each other? Ha ha ha, Estella laughs boisterously as she slaps her leg." Mauricia sternly looks at Estella, "Don't make fun! Do you know how long I have suffered for this man?" Estella looks at Mauricia and tells her, "Learn to laugh at yourself Mauricia. If you cannot laugh at yourself, you will spend the rest of your life crying. Now go and find him! I will wait here with Teresa at the front of the company building." "Thank you Estella, I will try not to take long." as Mauricia touched Estella's hand. "Don't take too long or else I will have Teresa asking for handouts!" Estella yelled as Mauricia went through the door. Mauricia winced as she heard Estella's comment.

"Can I help you Senorita?" asked a man as he approached Mauricia. "Yes, I am looking for Francisco Alvarez. I need to relay a message to him please." Mauricia nervously responded. "Oh, Francisco! You can find him in the back by the dock station. He works loading trucks. Go through this back door and down the stairs. Make a right and walk to the next building by the tracks and he should be there." "Thank you sir." Mauricia said as she hurried to the back door. Mauricia hesitated once she hit the bottom of the stairs. Her heart was racing and her palms started sweating. Mauricia could not understand why she was so nervous but knew in her heart she had to go through her plan.

As Mauricia approached the building she heard whistles and comments yelled at her, "Hey sweetie, are you looking for me? You've found me!" In an instant she heard someone say, "Shut up!" Everyone turned around and Francisco stood there and dropped the load he was carrying to the ground. He walked over to Mauricia and said, "Thank you for coming. I'm sorry you had to go through this." Mauricia blushed and said, "When do you have a moment to talk?" Francisco looked at her and said "my lunch hour is coming up and we can talk then." "I'll wait in the front of the building with Teresa and Estella." "Estella is here? How is the old maid? Feisty as always?" Francisco chuckled. "Francisco!" Mauricia said as she hit his arm.

Mauricia waited patiently in the front of the railroad company as she and Estella entertained Teresa. Moment's later, Francisco walked out with his lunch pail at hand and approached the ladies. "Hello Estella, nice to see you." as he shook her hand. Estella shook Francisco's hand and said, "Doing great! Visiting family and came to see what Mauricia is up to. Now can you two talk and get this straightened out?" Francisco walked the ladies and Teresa to the nearest Plaza to sit at the park benches and talk. Mauricia heard about Francisco's illness, the wedding, his marriage with Ana and the problems that followed. "You have two children Francisco?" asked Mauricia. "Yes, Francisco and Beatrice." answered Francisco. "Mauricia, I love my children very much. They are the only thing I care about in this world aside from you. They live with their mother here in San Luis. I see them on occasion to make sure they are fine. These are not words I am saying to you. I mean them. Everything that happened was not what I wanted for us. The house was supposed to be ours, I wanted to marry you, my life was to be with you and I feel like a failure that I let you down and I have nothing to offer. I want to be with you. I understand my situation is not good and with my divorce it may take time to finally get it approved but I know I want that done even if I have to die doing it. I want to marry you Mauricia. When I am with you I feel at peace and do not have to worry about you hurting me. We've been hurt enough by life and other people. I want to protect, love, and live with you for the rest of my life." Mauricia had tears in her eyes and had no words to say as she was overcome with emotion. She knew Francisco made her feel safe and respected her when everyone else shunned her in town. Mauricia held Francisco's hand and said, "Together, these hands will accomplish and overcome many things. I am willing to go through it all with you Francisco." Francisco stood up and picked up Mauricia in elation as he hugged her and thanked her profusely. Embarrassed, Mauricia kept saying, "Francisco! Your causing a scene, put me down!" Francisco said, "I'm putting you down now, but today your coming home to stay with me forever!" Mauricia stood in shock and thought, "What are my brother's going to say about this?"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

To Sin or Not to Sin? (18)

Once Mauricia regained her thoughts after seeing Francisco, she walked back to La Iglesia del Carmen where she met with Padre Vicente about teaching on the weekends. Unfortunately, Padre Vicente had plenty of people assisting him in religion classes and Mauricia was disappointed. "Is there anything I can help with aside from the classes?" asked Mauricia. At this point she needed to get out of the house and find a distraction from Francisco and the confines of the house. "Senorita Delgado, I will inquire within the church and see if your services can be utilized elsewhere." responded Padre Vicente. "Thank you padre, I will return in a week to check again." Mauricia graciously answered as she kissed his ring finger out of respect.

Upon her arrival to the house a letter was waiting for her on the kitchen table. Mauricia's cousin, Estella, was coming in from Zacatecas to stay for a month. Mauricia appreciated Estella as she understood Mauricia's yearning about her past and her extended family. Mauricia and Estella were never very close but Estella always provided some information about her family or background when she had found some new information. Estella was a free spirit who was several years older than Mauricia. She had long black and gray hair which she wore in a braid with brightly colored ribbons. Mauricia admired Estella as she was not afraid to get up and venture to unknown places. Mauricia called her "La Gitana" (the gypsy).

As Mauricia folded Estella's letter and placed it in her pocket another thought came to her mind. "What is going on with Carlos? I haven't heard from him since the move and the last letter he sent indicated he was on his last year of service in the military." Teresa ran into the room and hugged Mauricia's leg, "Mama!" "Did you enjoy yourself at the Plaza? asked Mauricia. "Si! Uncle Miguel bought me peanuts and we fed the birds seeds. There was a lot of birds mama!" Teresa explained as her little hands motioned frantically showing Mauricia the extent of birds at the plaza. Mauricia picked up Teresa and took her to the kitchen to get dinner ready.

A couple of days later Mauricia could not stop thinking about her encounter with Francisco. She was angry at herself for not being able to forget him and continue with her life. "I am going to the church for a confession. This is worrying me so much I cannot concentrate on my responsibilities." Mauricia told herself as she was brushing her hair. She dressed Teresa and headed out of the house by mid-morning to the closest church by the house.

"Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been one month since my last confession." Mauricia began at the confessional while Teresa sat on the pew next to her. "What brings you to confession my daughter?" answered the anonymous priest behind the screen. By now Mauricia wanted to remain anonymous as the situation with Francisco had perplexed her so much she did not want anyone to know. She felt if anyone was aware, especially her brothers, they would not approve and give her a hard time. "Father, I still have feelings for a married man. I know it is a sin but our relationship was interrupted by another woman who married him while he was close to death." Mauricia blurted out and held her breath anticipating the priest's response. "Well... If he is married there is nothing else to say my child." he responded. "I understand, but can I explain what happened in order for you to understand my situation and help me put my thoughts in order?" begged Mauricia. "I will pray 200 rosaries if I can have a moment of your time to hear my story and tell me if I am wrong or what I need to do." Mauricia blurted. Nothing came from the other side of the screen for almost 10 seconds, then a sigh came out and said, " I will entertain your thoughts and will give you the best advice I am able to provide through the help of our Lord. I must request we meet in my office as this may take longer than the confessional permits." Mauricia was content with anything at this point and followed the priest to the back of the church in a small office behind the altar.

Mauricia began to tell her story to the priest. Thirty minutes into the conversation the priest gets up and tells her, "My child, I feel you have suffered tremendously in the lifetime you have experienced to this time. What keeps you motivated to continue?" Mauricia did not fully comprehend his question but to the best of her ability responded, "Well, I keep hoping and praying I will have a good seat in heaven waiting for me. I've certainly been through enough and when it is time for me to go I will follow." The priest chuckled and accepted her response as he sat back down. "Now, you say Francisco had paperwork indicating he was coerced into marriage under duress?" asked the priest. "Yes, he indicated he had paperwork and was in the process of a divorce." Mauricia confirmed. "You are aware this is a difficult task to accomplish through the church young lady? Are you willing to wait and go through the time it will take to get this done? I am not approving you to live in sin. I am only explaining this will not be an easy feat. This will not be completed in a year or so, we are dealing with the Catholic Church, and there are several steps that need to be approved." Mauricia sat in the chair wringing her handkerchief and said, "I am now aware this will be a great deal of time and work involved to accomplish. Thank you for explaining the steps and reality of Francisco's situation to me." Mauricia kissed the priest's ring finger and began to leave his office with Teresa in tow when he said, "my child, if you ever need to talk again please come back." Mauricia smiled, nodded her head, turned around and headed out the door.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Full Circle (17)

"Look at all the dust! This place needs a good cleaning." Miguel shouted from the back of the house. Mauricia walked in and as she inspected their new home she put her hands on her hips and knew she had a lot of work ahead of her. Thankfully, the new home was only a single story and smaller than the old house in Salinas. Carmela looked around and slowly walked and smiled as she inspected the house. "I like it", Carmela said. Miguel and Andres were pleased that both ladies approved their taste. "We're glad you like it." Andres said. "Mauricia, we'll help you with the cleaning before the boxes are unpacked. Where should we start?" Mauricia eyed the house from floor to ceiling and said, "Let us start from the back and work our way to the front. We can sweep everything out of the front door as we work our way down." Mauricia had not felt this content in a long time. She missed her father and Maria del Carmen deeply and felt she could not stay at the house any longer if they were not there. Mauricia looked at Teresa and said, "Teresa, grab the bucket and walk with me, we are going to get water to start at the back of the house." The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning and finally unpacking their belongings. Luckily, they arrived in Colonia El Meson on a Friday morning and had the rest of the weekend to accomplish this large task.

Within a couple of weeks both Miguel and Andres continued their studies and worked part time to earn wages to maintain the household. With selling the family business and the house they were able to purchase the home in El Meson and have money left over. Mauricia assisted the family by taking care of the house as well as cooking and running errands. Carmela began to come out of her depression slowly and made new friends in San Luis. Her time was taken up by her outings and trips back to Salinas to visit Maria Guadalupe and her newly adopted daughter, Lisette.

Mauricia appreciated her brothers' intentions about her well-being but became resentful after some time as she felt she was utilized the same as Maria del Carmen. She did not want to fall into the same pattern and told her brother's she needed space to go to church and begin participating in the religion classes. One morning as Miguel and Andres were preparing to leave to school Mauricia stopped them at the front door. "Wait!, I need to tell both of you something." "What is it Mauricia? We are going to miss our bus, hurry!" exclaimed Miguel. "I am going to the church to speak with the priest and ask if I can teach religion classes." Andres blurted out, "Okay, okay, tell us more about this tonight. We must go! Don't forget to pick up my shirts from the tailor and iron them before graduation." "Do not worry brother, I will be more than happy to get your shirts." Mauricia assured Andres. Mauricia dries her hands on her apron and with a mischievous smile knew they could not say no if she approached them when they were pressed for time.

Throughout the day Mauricia cleaned the house and made a list of items she needed to purchase at the mercado. Mauricia looked down at Teresa while she played with her doll. "Are you ready to go to the mercado Teresa?" "Si mama." answered Teresa as she stood up and grabbed onto Mauricia's hand. Mauricia heard footsteps from the front door and was surprised to see Miguel walk in. "What happened? Are you alright?" asked Mauricia. "I am fine, sister. The professor was called away on an emergency and classes ended early. I thought I would take Teresa to the plaza to watch the dancing monkey and feed the pigeons." Mauricia looked down at Teresa as she gleamed a large smile. "Alright Miguel, but watch her and do not let her stray away too far. This will work perfectly as I will meet with the priest after going to the market." Mauricia picked up her straw bag for the grocery items and her list as she headed out the door.

Everything in San Luis moved faster and was more crowded than Salinas. Mauricia could not help but turn around and look at everything twice in amazement as she walked down the avenue. The buildings were large and people walked as if they were in a race to get somewhere. "My life here will definitely change." Mauricia whispered to herself. Later on, Mauricia picked up the groceries at the mercado and arrived in time to pick up Andres' shirts as the tailor just finished the alterations.

Mauricia was carrying a heavy load and could not avoid bumping into people. "Excuse me. I'm sorry. Oh, I didn't see you." were the words Mauricia offered after each personal intrusion. In an instant Mauricia felt a jerk from Andres' shirts and soon realized someone stole the shirts and was running down the street. Mauricia began to run after the man yelling, "stop him! help! my shirts!" As Mauricia was running down the second block she knew she had to catch up to him to get Andres' shirts. All of a sudden the man made an abrupt stop and Mauricia bumped into him. She attempted to grab the shirts and the man turned around. "Francisco!" Mauricia yelled. Mauricia did not know whether to hug him or grab her shirts and run.

"Hello, Mauricia." said Francisco as he grinned and stared at her. "Give me my shirts!" Mauricia demanded as she swiped her arms in the air to grab the shirts. As Francisco was taller he moved the shirts from one side to another to avoid her grasp. "What do you want? You ought to be ashamed. Your a married man!" Mauricia protested. Francisco started to walk again at a fast pace and Mauricia ran behind him again. "What are you doing? Francisco where are you going?" Mauricia asked again. Francisco blurted, "Mauricia, the only thing I can say at this moment is that life has brought us together! I have looked everywhere for you and I am not about to lose you again! "You are married! There is nothing else to do Francisco!" Mauricia shouted at him. Francisco turned around and said, "I am in the middle of my divorce Mauricia. The witnesses at my wedding have written letters on my behalf acknowledging that my parents forced me to get married while heavily medicated. My so-called wife, Anna, has been terrible. She disappears, when I am at work, and goes to bars and leaves our two children behind. While I am at work the authorities call as my children cry because of hunger and the neighbors report she has not been home for hours to tend to them. I tried to make this work as we were married by the church but there is no way this relationship will work as she is not a wife! Do you see the scar on my forehead? She threw a rock at me when I told her I was going to leave her. I did not hit her, I left the house. Mauricia I came to San Luis to look for you as I finally had the courage to talk to Cipriana and tell her my situation. The only thing she advised me was to pray to God and whatever was meant to be will happen. She directed me to San Luis and to hope for the best but did not tell me where you were. Do you not see? We are meant to be together." Francisco stepped towards Mauricia. "Stop it! Stop it! Don't touch me", Mauricia backed up and waved her bag of groceries at Francisco. "Do you not understand how much time it has taken me to forget you?! Many nights I've cried myself to sleep only to wake up and realize my heart still ached. Stop talking! I do not want to hear you anymore. Please give me my shirts and I will be on my way." Mauricia puts out her hand and Francisco hands over the shirts. "Mauricia, please give me some time to explain my situation. If you ever have time you can find me at the railroad by downtown. I work there; just ask for me by name." Mauricia tells Francisco, "I will pray for you and hope you find a solution to your problems." Mauricia turned around and hurried back down the street gripping her grocery bag and shirts.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Change of Direction (16)

The seasons changed and the Delgado household remained the same. A sullen atmosphere penetrated over the family since Maria del Carmen's death. Carmela tried to sustain the family business with Juanito's help but did not quit her spending habits. Unfortunately, with her spending the family business dwindled along with it. Andres and Miguel sat at the kitchen table deciding which route to take and get the family out of this situation. Mauricia ran in after running errands at the market with Teresa in tow. Both were wet from the storm.

"Mauricia, you and Teresa are soaking wet, come in and dry off immediately!" Andres commanded, as he pulled out a chair and brought towels to dry them off. Mauricia panting told Andres, "Thank you. I thought I would beat the downpour before I arrived but it came without warning by the church." Miguel patted the table and said, "Mauricia we were discussing options to save whatever business is left and move to San Luis Potosi." "San Luis? Why there?" asked Mauricia. Andres interjected, "Well, both Miguel and I have heard the city is growing and with our education and experience we should be able to get on our feet quicker than here. Mother, Teresa, and you would come with us of course. What do you think?" "What about the family store?" asked Mauricia. Miguel commented, "Ha! Whatever is still left of the family business we will consolidate, sell, and take whatever earnings with us to invest in San Luis. Unfortunately, mother thought she knew what father did and was surprised that she did not. Now the business is falling apart and we cannot go down with it. We must act now." "Do you know where we will live?" she asked. "Not at the moment, but we have begun to look around at different areas that are beginning to build up." answered Andres. Mauricia smacked the table and said, "Well, I go where my family goes. Count me in."

The following days both Miguel and Andres traveled to San Luis Potosi to find an adequate area to live and follow leads on jobs. Both brothers were anxious to start their lives in a new environment and leave Salinas and the recent tragedies. Andres commented on the bus ride home to Miguel, "Miguel, I hope with our new move to San Luis we will find peace and start our lives again. I pray Mauricia will find someone that will care for her and Teresa. She deserves a good man. It is up to us to protect her and take care of her and mother." Miguel responded, "I agree Andres, now that father is gone, it is our obligation to watch over the family. I know Mauricia and mother will be pleased with our finds."

Upon their return, both men explained the new home they found in a newly built area of San Luis. Andres told Mauricia and Carmela, "Miguel and I have found jobs while we continue finishing our studies. We both have one more year and will begin our careers." Miguel intervened, "Yes, along with the money father left behind and what earnings we make from selling the family business the new house will be paid for. Mauricia, you can stay and look after the house." Mauricia interrupted, "I can get a job if necessary, do not exclude me." Andres put his hand on her shoulder and said, "we know you are capable of assisting us with work but we need someone to tend to the house and Teresa needs your undivided attention. Agreed?" With nothing else to add to the arrangement, Mauricia acknowledged "Agreed."

Several weeks passed while the family packed up their belongings and sold whatever items they would not be able to take with them. Maria Guadalupe came by more often as the boxes piled up and the moving date came closer. "Mother! Mauricia! Is anybody home?" Maria Guadalupe yelled as she looked around. Maria Guadalupe heard someone approach and she waited to see if it was Mauricia or her mother. As Maria Guadalupe concentrated on the walkway she heard a scream, "AAAHHHH!!!!" and Teresa jumped out in front of her from behind the boxes and waved her arms in a mad dash. Startled Maria Guadalupe yelled, "Mauricia, come get your daughter, she scared the life out of me! Teresa, give me your hand before you decide to hide again!" Teresa giggled as she grabbed a hold of Maria Guadalupe's hand and they both walked down the walkway to the kitchen. Maria Guadalupe found Carmela sitting at the kitchen table looking at the floor in a daze. "Mother! Mother?" Carmela looked up slowly and said, "Hello Maria Guadalupe, how are you mija?" Maria Guadalupe sat next to her and told her, "You need to stop taking so much medication mother. The pills are making you crazy, you must leave the pills alone to live again."

Mauricia walks into the kitchen with herbs from the garden and greets Maria Guadalupe. "How long has she been like this again Mauricia?" asked Maria Guadalupe. Mauricia responded, "She is doing better. She does not spend as much time as she used to in her room. Hopefully, the move will do her some good and she can begin to respond more." Maria Guadalupe whispered to Mauricia, "She feels so guilty for everything that has happened with father and Maria del Carmen." Mauricia looked at Maria Guadalupe in the face and said, "I still grieve and hurt as much as she does but I am not God to judge her. If she repents she needs to take the appropriate steps for forgiveness for her actions. I am no one to tell her this. She will eventually have to do this herself. I will gladly help with whatever is needed of me, including with your mother." In an effort to change the subject, Mauricia asked Maria Guadalupe, "What has the doctor told you about your condition? Can he help you conceive a child?" Maria Guadalupe's face tightens up and she responds, "He said I cannot carry a child. My body has gone through many miscarriages and he feels I should not try anymore. My husband and I are in the process of adopting a little girl." Mauricia hugs Maria Guadalupe, "God has not forgotten you, he has just led your life into another direction." "Thank you Mauricia," Maria Guadalupe says as she slightly accepts Mauricia's hug.

Miguel and Andres storm into the house and greet Maria Guadalupe and Carmela. By then, Carmela came out of her daze and was more alert. Miguel tells the ladies, "We are going to pile the last of the boxes and drive over to San Luis to drop them off. We will be back in the morning to pick you up and head out to the city." Mauricia feels happy about moving but is still filled with sadness in knowing she is leaving behind both her father and Maria del Carmen. Mauricia understands they are no longer available in a physical sense but the thought of not being able to visit their graves makes her feel irresponsible.

Carmela returns to her room to gather the remaining items and pack. Mauricia takes Teresa and heads down the hall to the parlor to make sure everything has been taken care of. As Mauricia walks around the parlor she notices how the silhouettes of the picture frames still inhabit the wall from the years of display. She runs her hands over the wall and bumps into a box marked storage. Mauricia kneels down and says, "Teresa, what is this doing here? The storage boxes were taken out days ago." She opens the lid to see there are photo frames, figurines and old linens. As she pulls out the photo frames, she notices the glass on one is broken. "Oh, this should not be in here like that, let me clean this up." While Mauricia shakes the glass in a trash receptacle she turns it over and it is Maria del Carmen's photograph. Her heart breaks to see that someone broke the photograph and damaged the picture. Mauricia wonders aloud, "Everything that went to storage will not be taken to San Luis and left as forgotten. Why did no one claim Maria del Carmen's photograph?" Mauricia takes the photograph out of the frame and gingerly protects it within cardboard scraps and wraps it in one of the old linen cloths from the box. Mauricia stares at the contents in her hands and says, "You may have left us in the physical world but I will always remember you, Maria del Carmen. I cannot forget my sister. Wherever I go, you will go too."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tell Her I Love Her (15)

Carmela ran into Maria del Carmen's room, "What is going on? What is it?" Carmela grabbed Maria del Carmen's body and shook her vigorously. "Wake up Maria del Carmen! Wake up! Oh my God, no! Please God, please." Andres pulled her away and yelled at Carmela, "Do you see what you did mother? You insulted Maria del Carmen's dignity in front of Mario and forbade her to marry! You knew she has never given you a reason to doubt her or to deny her the one thing she dreamed of." Carmela responded, "I never thought she would do this! I only wanted her to stay home longer to help me with the house!" Teresa ran into the room crying from the commotion. She latched onto Mauricia's skirt and she picked her up. Miguel jumped in front of Carmela, "Well mother, are you happy? You always looked after your needs before your own children's. Look at her! Look! This is the way we will remember Maria del Carmen; heartbroken and dead!

Dr. Lazaro came into the house after Mauricia asked Juanito to find him. "Please, excuse me, I need some space!" Dr. Lazaro commanded everyone in the room to step away. Dr. Lazaro checked Maria del Carmen's vitals and noticed she had liquid coming out of her mouth. He asked everyone to look in the room for anything that may look suspicious. Dr. Lazaro felt Maria del Carmen ingested something that killed her. Miguel and Andres looked under the bed, and other furniture. Mauricia looked under her covers, in the closet, at that moment she remembered where Maria del Carmen kept the rat poison. Mauricia scrambled her way on top of the roof to find an empty can of rat poison and a small cup thrown to the far corner of the rooftop. "I found it!" Mauricia announced. Dr. Lazaro asked, "why was the rat poison on the roof?" Mauricia responded, "I do not know, the bottle was usually in a hole in the wall next to the ladder. Maria del Carmen felt it was a good place to keep out of Teresa's reach. Dr. Lazaro accompanied Carmela to her room to give her a tranquilizer. Miguel and Andres placed a sheet over Maria del Carmen's body and stayed in the room sitting next to her bed. Dr. Lazaro came by moments later and advised them he would contact the appropriate authorities to document her death and for the family to start making funeral preparations.

Mauricia walked over to Maria del Carmen's body and said, "Why Maria del Carmen, why?! She pulls the sheet down to Maria del Carmen's chest and strokes her hair. Mauricia whispers, "We would have been able to work through this. Why didn't you come to me? I know I had no authority over your parents but love is stronger than any evil. I know you had a lot of love in you and now your gone. I will never forget you Maria del Carmen, never." Mauricia hugs Maria del Carmen and buries her head crying uncontrollably. At that moment, Maria Guadalupe walks into the room after being notified. "Oh my sister, my sister! Oh my God!" Maria Guadalupe falls to her knees in front of Maria del Carmen's body. For the first time since they have known each other Maria Guadalupe does not say anything to Mauricia. She and Mauricia both grieved over Maria del Carmen's body without any argument.

Mario arrived later on that same day. He is surprised to see everyone there as he was not aware what had transpired. Andres opened the door and Mario asked for Maria del Carmen. Andres brought him into the hallway and told him she had committed suicide. Mario stood dumbfounded, "What? That is a lie! A lie! Maria del Carmen would not do that! Take me to her! Please." Mario walked into Maria del Carmen's room. He slowly made his way to her body and saw Mauricia and Maria Guadalupe over her body. "Maria del Carmen?" asked Mario. Both women move out of his way. Mario leans over and cannot believe what he is seeing. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I did not open my mouth to defend you. I am sorry I doubted you! Maria del Carmen, I should have never questioned you. If I could take this all back I would, God please, help me! I love you Maria del Carmen, God tell her that I love her!" Father Eduardo appeared at the door and told Mario, "Don't cry for her anymore, she no longer suffers. We need to cry for ourselves for we will still experience pain and suffering. At this moment, we need to pray that God accepts her into his kingdom for taking her own life. Please, let us gather together and pray for her soul." Everyone stood together and prayed over Maria del Carmen's body and asked for God's forgiveness for her sins.

The next day everyone was dressed and ready for Maria del Carmen's rosary. Carmela walked in the parlor and asked Maria Guadalupe and Mauricia to help her dress Maria del Carmen. Carmela chose the dress Maria del Carmen wore to Maria Guadalupe's wedding. Mario walked into the parlor holding a large box. Mario's face was pale and swollen from crying. Carmela asked him to come back later as they were going to dress Maria del Carmen. Mario told Carmela, "I will come back later, but I needed you to have this first before you prepare her body. This is my wedding gift for Maria del Carmen. Several months ago when I knew I wanted her as my wife, I asked her to marry me and she agreed. She was secretly fitted for her dress and I have it right here. It arrived yesterday morning and once I saw her dress I remembered everything we had gone through and the love we professed for each other. Everything else you told me about Maria del Carmen and any doubts drifted away. I looked at the dress and my heart beat from elation. Elation that I wanted to make her happy. When I arrived yesterday I found out about her death. I was too late. I regret not standing up for Maria del Carmen, she might have been alive today if I did. Nonetheless, even in death I will love Maria del Carmen. I want her to be buried in her wedding dress, since I could not give her anything else." Mario broke down and fell to his knees as the contents fell out of the box. He sobbed profusely as he tried to gather the items. Mauricia and Maria Guadalupe assisted in picking up her dress. Maria Guadalupe pulled out the dress and exclaimed, "Mother, let's put this on Maria del Carmen instead." Maria Guadalupe stood in silence admiring the dress, "Oh Mario, this is beautiful! The beading, the workmanship on the train is elaborate but classy. My sister deserves this." Everyone agreed Maria del Carmen would be buried in her wedding dress.

Many of the townspeople came to Maria del Carmen's funeral. No one could believe this family had suffered two deaths in such a short time span. The wedding dress fit Maria del Carmen perfectly. No alterations were needed. Carmela continued to take tranquilizers and spent most of her days in her room. If she came out of her room she looked terrible, she did not care about her appearance. Within time, Don Leopoldo and Maria del Carmen's deaths took a toll on the household as nothing there would ever be the same.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Living a Nightmare (Ch. 14)

"Hello? Who's out there? Can you help me get out of here?" Mauricia yelled at the brush as she waded through the murky water. Mauricia could not remember how she ended up in the lake but she felt a desperation to get out. The water was dirty and made her feel out of control. She saw no one in sight. She continued to wade through the water to get to land when she felt her leg get pulled. Mauricia fell back and she screamed, "Aaaahh!" Mauricia opened her eyes and looked around. She had a nightmare. "Mauricia are you alright?" Maria del Carmen asked as she was awakened by her screams. "I'm fine. I had a terrible dream that I was wading through a murky lake and no one was in sight. I was alone and felt so much fear." Maria del Carmen said, "It sounds like your going to go through a lot of misery, problems, and heartache. Dirty water symbolizes problems and the fear you began to feel means the sadness that is the outcome to the problems." "Hush Maria del Carmen! Don't say that, it was only a dream! I think it is only normal under the situation we are under.", whispered Mauricia. Maria del Carmen responded, "I know how you feel Mauricia, I miss father too. Let's try to go back to sleep, tomorrow will be a long day."

The mood in the house was dark and somber. After Don Leopoldo's mass and funeral, family began to pour into the house bringing food and paying their respects. Carmela sat in the parlor dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. Andres and Miguel remained in the corner of the parlor acknowledging family and friends but could not move from their places. Mauricia placed Teresa next to her uncles while she and Maria del Carmen walked around greeting everyone. "Thank you for coming. Thank you for the food. We appreciate your thoughts.", were the words that flowed out of both womens' mouths. Mauricia wondered, "How much longer can I do this? I want to run to my room and lock myself up. God give me patience and strength." Several minutes later, Mario walked into the room and immediately approached Maria del Carmen. She felt relief upon seeing Mario and put her head on his shoulder for a moment. Carmela approached Maria del Carmen and slapped her on the shoulder, "Maria del Carmen! Such acts of public affection are not appropriate! Stop this immediately!" Maria del Carmen straightened up and Mario patted her hands reassuring he was still there.

A strange man approached Carmela amongst the crowd and whispered in her ear. Both Maria del Carmen and Mauricia noticed this from afar. Carmela gave half a smile and nodded in agreement while she escorted him back to the door. She slipped her arm around his and the ladies overheard her telling him "Of course, I will meet you tomorrow afternoon, but do not forget your part. I expect you here around noon to talk to the family." This unusual encounter left Maria del Carmen and Mauricia suspicious.

The next day Maria del Carmen and Mauricia waited for the arrival of the mysterious man while they finished cleaning the parlor from the previous event. "What do you think this is about Maria del Carmen?", asked Mauricia. "I have no idea what it could be about, but I do not have a good feeling about it.", responded Maria del Carmen. Andres and Miguel remained in their rooms and Carmela made her way into the parlor. "Ahhh, I'm glad you both cleaned up the parlor, I am expecting a visitor in a moment.", she announced. "Who is coming over mother?" asked Maria del Carmen. Carmela strolled by reviewing the furniture for dust. "Oh, Licensiado Martinez, he is handling your father's will" Mauricia interjected accidently and said, "I thought father consulted Licensiado Tomas about his revised will?" Carmela approached Mauricia and said, "There is only one will, and Licensiado Martinez is now handling it. He consulted Licensiado Tomas and retrieved your father's will from him, any more questions?" "None, I apologize for interrupting you Doña Carmela.", Mauricia pleaded. There is a knock at the door and Carmela sends Maria del Carmen to answer it. Licensiado Martinez walked into the parlor and Carmela introduced him to Maria del Carmen and Mauricia. She excused the boys for not accompanying them. Carmela told the ladies, "Don't worry, Licensiado Martinez will make this brief. Let us have a seat." Licensiado Martinez took paperwork out of his bag and placed it on a table in the parlor and read through the document, "In the event of my death, I, Leopoldo Delgado, hereby leave all my assets, the house, and my business to my beloved wife, Carmela." Maria del Carmen and Mauricia looked at each other puzzled. The remaining words that came out of Licensiado Martinez' mouth were not perceived as they were still mesmerized by what they had heard. Mauricia recalled the conversation she had with her father before his attack in which he mentioned an inheritance for her. Maria del Carmen whispered in Mauricia's ear and said, "I cannot believe what I am hearing, this is an injustice!" Mauricia whispered back, "I know, you and I know father would not leave everything to her." Maria del Carmen said, "I am relieved, Mario is coming today to talk to mother about a wedding date. I cannot wait to get out of here!" Mauricia began to think when Maria del Carmen left she would not be far behind in leaving too. Carmela walked Licensiado Martinez out again. They both laughed as they strolled to the door, and Carmela said she would see him later. Mauricia was disgusted by Carmela's behavior with Licenciado Martinez and the day before she scolded Maria del Carmen for leaning on Mario. "What a hypocrit!", Mauricia said under her breath.

Maria del Carmen approached her mother and informed her, "Mario will be coming shortly mother. He and I need to discuss an important matter with you." "Very well," scoffed Carmela, "but I do not have all day. I need to get ready for this evening." Mauricia stood guard by the front door waiting for Mario's arrival. She could not wait to witness Carmela's reaction to Maria del Carmen and Mario's proposal about their wedding date. Mauricia pretended to broom the sidewalk in front of the house as Maria del Carmen watched from the upstairs window. Mauricia saw Mario walking down the sidewalk approaching the house and she started to cough loudly. Maria del Carmen was not too far to hear, she knew it was her cue to run downstairs and greet Mario. Once Mario was in the parlor, Maria del Carmen went in search of her mother to meet them. Carmela made her way down and greeted Mario vaguely. She took a seat and asked him, "Well, Mr. Acevedo, what can I help you with?" Mario began to inform Carmela, "Previously, I had asked your husband for permission to befriend your daughter and court her. I completely respect Maria del Carmen and am ready to make a commitment to her and would like to ask for her hand in marriage." "You what?!" laughed Carmela. "This must be a joke. She is not ready for marriage Mr. Acevedo. Maria del Carmen does not attend social functions and most of the time she stays in this house. I have more use for her than you!" Carmela looked at Maria del Carmen and asked her to leave herself and Mario alone to speak. Maria del Carmen stepped out of the parlor but remained in the hallway to overhear the conversation. Mauricia stood further down the hall anticipating Carmela's reaction but could not make out what was happening.

Carmela walked over and sat next to Mario and said, "Mr. Acevedo, please understand my position. Don Leopoldo is no longer here, and as the new head of this household I must make decisions for the best interest of this family. Maria del Carmen hardly left the house for one reason." "What is that reason Doña Carmela?", asked Mario. Carmela sighed and placed her hand on her chest, "It hurts me to tell you this but Carmela is no longer a lady. She befriended one of our helpers at the grocery store and Don Leopoldo found them upstairs in bed." Mario's eyes widened and at that same moment, Maria del Carmen gasped and clasped her hands over her mouth to avoid from being heard. "Mr. Acevedo, that is the reason my deceased husband was in a hurry to marry Maria del Carmen off. I feel she needs more time to mature and do not think it would be fair to you to not know her secret. You may befriend her, and if you agree to continue courting her that is your decision but I feel I cannot approve or stand behind a marriage for her at this time." Mario sat bewildered at what he heard and could not make out what Carmela said to the feelings in his heart for Maria del Carmen. "Thank you for this information Doña Carmela. I will think about this." Mario responded. Mario stood up and excused himself from Carmela as Maria del Carmen and Mauricia had hidden in the kitchen.

Carmela made her way upstairs to her bedroom and as Maria del Carmen heard the bedroom door shut she raced to the front door. Maria del Carmen began to run down the street in a frenzy and caught up with Mario. Mauricia was right behind Maria del Carmen when all three were standing at the street corner. Maria del Carmen said, "You cannot believe what my mother just said in there Mario! How could you sit there and let her say those things about me?" "What was I to do Maria del Carmen? You heard her, she said she would not agree to our marriage!" Mario yells back. "That does not matter, you said you loved me! If you loved me you would have defended my honor!", responded Maria del Carmen. Mauricia tells Mario, "Please Mario, don't let Carmela's words taint your heart, I know she can sound convincing but Maria del Carmen is not a whore!" Mario yelled at both ladies and said, "Stop it! I do not know what to think at this moment! This is too much for me to handle. Maria del Carmen let me have a couple of days to think." Maria del Carmen asked, "What couple of days? You believe my mother don't you!? Look at me! You doubt me?" Mario stands in silence. Maria del Carmen confronted Mario, "Your silence is enough for me. Remember, your silence ruined this relationship!" Mario interjects, "Look, Maria del Carmen, I will see you tomorrow." Maria del Carmen stood there with a blank look on her face as tears ran down and replied, "Of course Mario, you will see me tomorrow, I promise you that!" Maria del Carmen turned around and began to walk away. Mauricia caught up to her consoling her and immediately took her to her bedroom to clean her up.

Back at the house, Mauricia cleaned up Maria del Carmen and put her in her pajamas. She asked her how she was feeling. Maria del Carmen had been silent for a long time and it worried Mauricia. "I am fine sister. My heart breaks to hear my mother speak of me like that after everything I have done for her. I only want to be married and be a good wife. I have always been a good daughter, sister, and one day I wanted to be a mother. I feel like my life has been taken away from me. Mario has deceived me. My father is gone and my mother betrayed me. Mauricia, can I please sleep alone tonight? I promise you I will be fine. I love you sister, all this time you have stood by me. I will never forget that." Mauricia responded, "I will always be there for you sister; till the end. Get some rest, tomorrow will be another day and we can put this behind us." Mauricia kissed Maria del Carmen as she laid down to sleep. Mauricia cannot help but hurt for Maria del Carmen too. Mauricia's own heart still felt pain after two years and understood it would take a long time to heal Maria del Carmen's heart.

The rooster crowed loud and clear early in the morning. Mauricia woke up to prepare breakfast for the boys and let Teresa and Maria del Carmen sleep in more. Andres and Miguel walked in and greeted Mauricia. They asked her where was Maria del Carmen. Mauricia told her brothers the scenario from the day before and Andres pounded the table and said, "Maria del Carmen will get married! Mother has no reason to stop her. Mario is a good man and now mother has made him doubt her virginity? That is uncalled for! My poor sister." Miguel said, "I am going to check on Maria del Carmen. I feel awful. Let me wake her up with a big hug. She needs cheering up." Miguel tip toed to Maria del Carmen's bedroom. Andres and Mauricia are left standing in silence when they hear Miguel scream, "Nooooooooooooooooooo! Maria del Carmen!"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Till Death Do Us Part (Ch. 13)

"Maria Guadalupe, you have my deepest sympathy. I hope your holding up well." Julia told Maria Guadalupe as she saw her at church. Maria Guadalupe responds, "I'm doing well, thank you. The doctor told me to take it easy after this last miscarriage. I will be up and running around in a short time. I have to, mother and her friends are hosting a gathering for the upcoming holidays. I need to get in shape to wear my new dress and shoes." Julia responded," you should not rush your recovery, you need time to heal." Maria Guadalupe waved her hand in the air and said, "Oh, what does the doctor know, I'm young and will be able to have another child." Julia asked, "How is Don Leopoldo doing after his attack? Does the doctor think it was his heart?" Maria Guadalupe said, "The doctor does think it was related to his heart. He's doing much better now and is back at the store after only a month off. He cannot stay at home for long, he goes crazy. Such a hard headed man!" "I'm glad to hear he is doing better. I will keep praying for his well-being, send him my best please" Julia says goodbye to Ma. Guadalupe and leaves the church.

Mauricia, Teresa, and Maria del Carmen are waiting outside the church as Ma. Guadalupe makes her way to meet them. "Hello ladies! My, My, what are you two doing here? Is it not too early for you both to be here this lovely Sunday morning? You two should be at home cooking, cleaning or whatever you like to do." At that moment, Mario walks up and greets Ma. del Carmen and Mauricia. Ma. del Carmen introduces him, "Maria Guadalupe, this is Mario Acevedo, my suitor." "Oh dear! My sister finally left the house to meet other people! No wonder your at church. " Maria Guadalupe says as she laughs and places her hand over her mouth. Mauricia pinches Ma. Guadalupe on the back while she is pretending to hold her lovingly. Ma. Guadalupe glares at Mauricia and says, "I have important things to do today. I must go, it was a pleasure to meet you Mr. Acevedo." Mario does not know what to make of the introduction but is not interested as Ma. del Carmen is there and that is all that mattered to him.

Mauricia and Teresa make their way back home as she leaves Ma. del Carmen and Mario at the Plaza in front of the church. She knew they wanted to be left alone to talk. A block down into her walk, Mauricia decides to go to her father's store to check on him. "Father! Hello?" Don Leopoldo answers, "I'm in the back packing!" Mauricia makes her way to the back of the store and sees Don Leopoldo placing heavy parcels on the top shelf. "Father! Now the doctor said you need to take it easy at this time! Where is Juanito?" Don Leopoldo says, "I sent him to run an errand to pick up more packing paper. Mauricia do not worry, I'm fine," as he pats her on the back. Teresa puts up her hands and says, "Buelo!" Don Leopoldo hands over a tiny cup of gelatin and a small spoon to Teresa and tells her, "Here is a gelatin for my princess." He turns around at Mauricia and says, "Mauricia, I will come in as soon as Juanito gets back, agreed?" Mauricia agrees and says, "We'll meet you inside father. Lunch will be waiting for you."

The day passed calmly, aside from Ma. Guadalupe's rude remarks, Don Leopoldo came in and ate lunch and Mauricia sent him upstairs to rest in his room. Ma. del Carmen comes back home and says goodbye to Mario. Both Ma. del Carmen and Mario are smitten as Mauricia can see. Mauricia greets Ma. del Carmen, "Hello Ma. del Carmen, did you enjoy yourself today?" Ma. del Carmen grabs Mauricia's arm and says, "Of course sister, I had a wonderful time. Mario and I can sit for hours and discuss many things. He is very smart and has a kind heart." Curiosity kills Mauricia and she asks, "I remember you ordered your wedding dress. Is Mario planning on asking for your hand soon? I cannot see you buying a dress for nothing." Ma. del Carmen grins and whispers to Mauricia, "Mario is planning on asking for my hand tomorrow!" Mauricia tells Ma. del Carmen, "That is enough for me! Let's make dinner!"

Carmela comes home as she had a headache and asked that her dinner be brought to her room. Don Leopoldo and Carmela have not shared a room in years and they each slept in different living quarters. Ma. del Carmen races upstairs to take her mother's dinner. "Knock, Knock." she knocks on the door. "Come in" answers Carmela. Ma. del Carmen tells Carmela, "I have your dinner mother, where would you like it placed?" Carmela had a cold wet cloth over her eyes to alleviate any discomfort. She told Ma. del Carmen, "place it anywhere, I don't care." Ma. del Carmen places her mother's tray on her dresser and sneaks out of the room.
Later that night, Mauricia is brushing Teresa's hair in Ma. del Carmen's room. "Ma. del Carmen, can I ask you something?" asks Mauricia. Ma. del Carmen turns around from putting up her clothes and says, "Of course, go ahead." Mauricia clears her throat and asks, "When you get married to Mario, can Teresa and I come to visit?" Ma. del Carmen smiles and says, "I would love to have you over as much as possible. Mario loves you and Teresa as much as I do." Mauricia laughs and says, "I should be mad at you. You're leaving me alone to cook and clean for everybody. That is not the real problem, I am more afraid of Carmela." Ma. del Carmen responds, "As long as father is here, mother has no say so about you and Teresa. He takes care of everyone, including my mother. She will act rudely but do not listen to her, she is a bitter woman who enjoys material things instead of family." Mauricia gives Ma. del Carmen a mischevious smirk and says, "Thank you Ma. del Carmen, you have given me a bit of hope after you move out. Teresa and I will miss you, but if anything happens with Carmela we are moving in with you." Maria del Carmen hops into bed beside Mauricia and says, "I am not married yet, stop kidding around Mauricia. Do you want to sleep in my room tonight?" Mauricia likes the idea and agrees to stay in her room. They both stay up talking about childhood experiences and Ma. del Carmen's wedding preparations until they doze off to sleep.

Mauricia sits up immediately in bed the next morning as someone is knocking on Ma. del Carmen's door. Ma. del Carmen opens the door and Andres and Miguel tell the girls they overslept and to get up. In a hurry, Mauricia gets herself and Teresa ready and meets Ma. del Carmen in the kitchen. "What happened to us?" asks Mauricia. "We stayed up too late talking and we overslept." Ma. del Carmen answered. Mauricia wonders aloud while counting on her fingers, "Andres and Miguel prepared coffee for themselves this morning. Poor father did not have anything. I'll take something for him to eat at the store." Ma. del Carmen begins to prepare some egg sandwiches for Don Leopoldo and places them in a pail for Mauricia to take to the store. Carmela appears at the door, disheveled, and pale. Carmela asks Mauricia, "Where are you going with that pail?" Mauricia looks over at Carmela and freezes in place and says, "I am taking father breakfast as Ma. del Carmen and I overslept. I'm sorry, it...." Carmela interrupts Mauricia and says, "Don't bother going to the store, call the doctor, I think your father is dead." Mauricia tells Ma. del Carmen to run to the room while she tells Juanito to find the doctor. Juanito races away in search of Dr. Lazaro. When Mauricia returns to the house she runs upstairs to find Ma. del Carmen sobbing over her father's body on the floor. Carmela says, "It looks like he might have had another attack and tried to get up for help." Mauricia kneels down next to his body with Teresa wailing in the background. Mauricia's thoughts begin to race and she wonders, "God why him? I know I should not ask, but was I too happy for too long that he had to be taken away?" Andres and Miguel arrive shortly after as Juanito found them on their way to their bus stop. Andres yells as he shakes Don Leopoldo's body, "Father! Father! Don't leave us. Please!" Dr. Lazaro runs in and immediately moves everyone out of the way to take Don Leopoldo's pulse. He pulled out his stethoscope to check his heart then looked up at everyone and said, "I am very sorry. Don Leopoldo is dead."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Beginning or The End? (Ch 12)

"Can you find me Teresa?" Andres yells out. "No, Teresa can you find me, don't listen to Andres!" yells Miguel. Teresa giggles as she is looking behind doors and plants in the patio. Teresa follows the voices around the parlor and looks behind the curtain and finds Andres. Andres scoops her up and gives her a lollipop. Miguel runs out rubbing his knees and says, "I'm glad she found you first, I did not think I would last another minute crouched under the table. I think we're too big to be playing las escondidas (hide and seek) with her." Andres nods and says, "I couldn't agree more, but if it keeps her entertained for a while, I'll do it. Would you rather play with dolls?" Miguel smacks Andres on the back and says, "alright, you've made your point."

Mauricia and Maria del Carmen are in the kitchen putting up clean dishes when Andres and Miguel walk in. "Mauricia can you show your daughter another game, please?" Miguel exclaims, "all Teresa wants to do is play las escondidas." Mauricia responds, "There is no other choice, that is the only way I could keep her entertained for hours while I cleaned the house. Teresa would hide, while I counted aloud, and spent some time cleaning, then ran out to find her. We would start over as soon as I found her. The problem with you men is that you are playing it backwards." "Backwards?"asked Andres. "Yes, backwards." answered Mauricia. "Teresa is the one that needs to hide and you count out loud. Of course, you show her the easy hiding spots in the house. She will only hide in the designated spots and Teresa will be easy to find." Miguel lets out an intense laugh and points at Andres. "We have been playing las escondidas backwards with a three year old!"

Don Leopoldo walks into the kitchen carrying a bag full of groceries and places it on the table. "What is all the laughter about?" asked Don Leopoldo. Andres looks at his father while laughing and says, "Miguel and I have a lot to learn about children, father." Miguel and Andres leave the kitchen cackling down the hall. Mauricia and Ma. del Carmen look at each other smiling when Don Leopoldo says, "Well, Licensiado Tomas turned over the certified documents stating your a Delgado, Mauricia. Everything is now official." "That's wonderful father." says Ma. del Carmen.

Someone rang the bell at the front door. "I'll go see who it is," Ma. del Carmen states. In the meantime, Don Leopoldo takes advantage of the moment to whisper to Mauricia, "Tomas helped me redo my will and both you and Teresa are included. I want to make sure you are taken care of if something happens to me." Mauricia puts her hand on his mouth and tells him, "Do not say such things. I have lost too many loved ones and do not want to lose you too." Don Leopoldo gives Mauricia a hug as Ma. del Carmen comes in the kitchen. "Father, do you have a moment to come to the parlor with me?" Don Leopoldo responds, "Yes I do, I left Juanito tending the store, I have a couple of minutes."

Don Leopoldo walks down to the parlor, and upon entering the room Mario stands up to greet him. Ma. del Carmen introduces her father to Mario, "Father, I would like you to meet Mario Acevedo." Mario extends his hand to greet Don Leopoldo and firmly shakes his hand. Don Leopoldo is immediately impressed at his grip and asks him to sit down. "What can I help you with Mr. Acevedo?" asks Don Leopoldo. "Well, Sir, I have come to your home to request to socialize with your daughter, Ma. del Carmen. I have come over to talk to her on occasion and I would like to take her to the park or any event that may come up. I felt the need to formally request this from you as I am very interested in your daughter, and have the upmost respect for her." Don Leopoldo sits back further in his seat and examines Mario and looks over at Ma. del Carmen. Don Leopoldo waits a couple of seconds and sits upright with his arms crossed and says, "Mr. Acevedo, thank you for being responsible enough to ask me as a gentleman. I see no problem in you socializing with my daughter, just remember, she has two older brothers, eh?" "Of course, I am aware of that." Mario immediately thanks Don Leopoldo and shakes his hand again in nervousness. Don Leopoldo says, "Your welcome Mr. Acevedo, but remember to respect my daughter. On another note, I would like to invite you to dinner this Friday with the family, please come, we can get to know each other at that time." "Of course Don Leopoldo, thank you. If you will excuse me I need to go back to my house to tend to family matters and I will come back on Friday." Don Leopoldo accompanies Mario to the front door with Ma. del Carmen following shortly behind. Mario waves to Ma. del Carmen as he is leaving and she waves in return while closing the front door.

Maria del Carmen hurries back to the kitchen to tell Mauricia what just occurred. Before Ma. del Carmen is able to start the re-enactment, Don Leopoldo pops his head in the door and tells Ma. del Carmen, "I like that young man, I really do. I have a good feeling about him." Ma. del Carmen blushes and tells him, "Thank you father, I do too." Don Leopoldo tells them he is going back to tend to the store and restock. In excitement, Mauricia jumps up and down and hugs Ma. del Carmen almost knocking the table over. "I smell a wedding, I smell a wedding!" Mauricia sings. "Shhhh! Don't say that too loud." Ma. del Carmen whispers. "Why do you want me to be quiet?" asked Mauricia. "You promise not to tell Mauricia?" Ma. del Carmen looks in Mauricia's eyes with a serious stare. Mauricia assures Ma. del Carmen, "Of course, what is the matter?" Ma. del Carmen informs her, "Mario has secretly proposed to me and he ordered my wedding dress under a false name." Mauricia's eyes almost bulge out of her head and says, "Really? Ma. del Carmen! You sneaky thing!" and slaps her arm with the washcloth. Mauricia hugs her again and says, "I cannot be happier for anyone else in the world at this moment. You deserve it." Both ladies decide they must start preparations for dinner and stop the conversation in case Carmela comes home or one of the boys overhears them.

Several hours later at dinner. "The chicken soup was wonderful! My compliments to the chef!" Andres wipes his mouth with a napkin and pats his belly. Miguel is working on his second helping of soup while Ma. del Carmen, Mauricia, and Teresa are eating. "We're glad you enjoyed it" Ma. del Carmen responds. "Mauricia and I make a great team as cooks. Mauricia, we need to watch the boys and make sure they leave enough for mother and father."

The bell for the front door begins to ring over and over. Miguel exclaims, "Let me see who that is!" and runs to the door. A loud scream is heard in the distance and then the heavy pounding of footsteps can be heard in the distance and become louder as they get closer to the kitchen. Juanito, instead of Miguel, runs in and yells, "Help! Don Leopoldo has collapsed in the store and we need a doctor! He's unconscious!" Everyone immediately runs to the store to their father's aid.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Reunion (11)

"Tap, tap, tap", Maria del Carmen knocks on Mauricia's bedroom door. "Tap, tap, tap", sighs Maria del Carmen, "Open the door, I know you have been crying again, don't hide." As Maria del Carmen looks away the door creaks open. "I did not want to go to breakfast with a puffy face" said Mauricia. Maria del Carmen maneuvers Mauricia's chin upward to get a good look at her face. Mauricia's eyes are bloodshot. "Tia Calmen!" Teresa shouts with open arms. Ma. del Carmen picks up Teresa and kisses her on the cheek and carries her. "What have I told you about remembering the past, Mauricia? The past hurts, especially thinking about Francisco. You know he is married, who knows he's probably dead, and your still not over him?" Mauricia walks towards her bed and Ma. del Carmen follows her into her room, "Ma. del Carmen, you don't understand, he was my support. No matter what I did to get rid of him, he withstood my childish acts and insults. Francisco is the only man that knows the real me, not the labeled, single woman with no past, money or family. He never judged me for the things I went through, he loved me for me, and yet I let him come into my closed up world and he let me in his with open arms. My heart tells me not to forget Francisco again. For some reason our lives kept crossing paths and now in my dreams I am lost and hear his voice." "Sister", Ma. del Carmen strokes Mauricia's hair, "it's only a dream, don't keep up hope, as you and I know he is a lost cause. Let's get you ready, we cannot be late for today's reunion this afternoon."

The last time Mauricia and Teresa wore new clothes was at Maria Guadalupe's wedding, two months after Carlos rode into town. The wedding was a sight to see. The plaza was completely decorated with white flowers and the church was full of white flowers and laced ribbon tied into bows. Ma. Guadalupe rode into the plaza in a carriage. Carmela wanted a traditional wedding from the beginning to the end. Carmela almost killed Ma. Guadalupe as she had gained weight and the dress that was shipped from Mexico City fit too tight. Mauricia could not help but laugh remembering Carmela ordering Ma. Guadalupe to be on a liquid diet for three weeks. Mauricia and Teresa enjoyed themselves as Ma. del Carmen did not leave their side and she felt secure. Today was a special occasion as well, Don Leopoldo ordered a family reunion ceremony and dinner. Mauricia did not know what a family reunion ceremony involved but she knew it must be special if everyone was directed to wear their best attire.

While everyone meets at the patio, Carmela strolls by and asked Don Leopoldo, "How long will this reunion be? Do I have time to go to Antonietta's house tonight? She is having a gathering and I cannot miss what everyone is going to wear, supposedly Antonietta shipped her dress from Mexico City and I am dying to see what that wench bought. They probably did not have enough material for her." Don Leopoldo sternly looks at Carmela and said, "Carmela! You will have time for what you need to do, do not ruin this moment with your nasty comments!" Carmela rolls her eyes and walks towards the front door. Don Leopoldo excuses Carmela with Mauricia and picks up Teresa as they make their way to the front of the house. Andres and Miguel look very handsome in their suits as Ma. del Carmen and Mauricia both wear their new striped matching dresses they wore at the wedding. Don Leopoldo bought Teresa a light pink dress with ruffles on the bottom, a white bow for her hair, and white patent leather shoes.

Don Leopoldo stops two cabs as he, Carmela and Andres travel in one, and Miguel rides in the other with the ladies and Teresa. Mauricia whispers to Ma. del Carmen, "Where are we going? What is this family reunion about?" Ma. del Carmen giggled and said, "First, father has some business to tend to at the Municipio, then we'll make our way to the restaurant, any more questions?" Mauricia nudges Ma. del Carmen and she nudges her back as Teresa is slapping the back window of the taxi.

The cab driver jerks them back and forth and side to side until they arrive at the municipio. The family get out of both cab's and Don Leopoldo orders everyone to follow him. "Let's hurry before they close, I have some important business to complete before we eat. Licensiado Tomas is waiting for me." Mauricia is wondering, "Why is Licensiado Tomas waiting for father? what legal matter does he have pending?" Everybody is panting as they make their way up the front stairs of the municipio and once inside they had to walk up another flight of stairs to get to the second floor.

"Don Leopoldo!" a young man announces from down the hall, he walks up to shake his hand and gestures to the door he needs to go to, "Licensiado Tomas is ready for you, please come in. "Hello, Doña Carmela, how nice to see you", as he kisses her hand. Mauricia is awestruck as she has never entered such a large building. A large, heavyset man, with gray hair and a long gray beard stands up and grins. He looks very distinguished in his suit and vest. "Tomas, my friend how have you been?" Don Leopoldo hugs el licensiado and Tomas is equally pleased with his presence. "Very well, thank you, Leopoldo." Licensiado Tomas claps his hands loudly and asks, "Is everyone ready?" Mauricia looks around and asks, "what does he mean by ready?" Don Leopoldo walks towards Mauricia and takes her hand and says, "this is our special family reunion. I understand there are no words for the suffering you went through at such a young age until God led us together at this time. I have carried so much guilt for many years not knowing where you were or being there for you in your time of need. Mauricia, you were always a Delgado in my heart, and my family knew that for many, many, years. Today, we are legally recognizing you as a Delgado." Ma. del Carmen along with Andres and Miguel huddle with their father and Mauricia and hug her tightly. Mauricia is overcome with emotion and cries hugging Teresa tightly. Carmela walks up and quickly kisses Mauricia on the cheek and sits back down. Ma. del Carmen starts to wipe Mauricia's tears with a handkerchief and says, "don't start crying again, you do not want to walk around puffy faced.", at that moment, everyone begins to laugh. Don Leopoldo raises his hand and swears before the court that Mauricia is his legitimate daughter and legally recognized as Mauricia Delgado Manriquez. Once the licensiado and judge go over the paperwork and sign their parts, Don Leopoldo is ordered to sign acknowledging what was said is true. Licensiado Tomas presided over the meeting and afterwards excused himself from the family before going on to his next appointment.

Don Leopoldo summons another set of cab's to take them to one of the nicest restaurants in town, "La Media Luna" (The half moon). Mauricia is so overjoyed she feels she is walking on air. Everything in her world seems right for the first time in her life. They eat to their hearts content and listen to music played by the local pianist. Maria Guadalupe did not come to the reunion as she is in her first tri-mester of her pregnancy and she cannot keep any food down. Carmela excuses herself and leaves towards the end of dinner. Mauricia doesn't care if Carmela leaves, she is hardly around the house, and without her dinner seemed better.

After dinner, the night comes to an end, and everyone makes it back home. Teresa is deep asleep, Mauricia says goodnight to everyone, and walks to her room to go to bed. "Tap, tap, tap" someone is knocking on her bedroom door. Mauricia opens it and Andres hands her a letter, "Here, it looks like a letter came for you and since we were not here, the postman gave it to the neighbor, Adelita." "Gracias Andres," Mauricia responds and he walks away. Mauricia opens the letter and it looks like Carlos responded to the letter she wrote him a couple of days after their encounter. "Dearest Sister, I am excited to know I am an uncle and to have seen you after so many years. I feel terrible about the experiences you explained in your letter and now understand we both have suffered tremendously. You will be happy to know I am planning on ending my military career in another year as my contract is up. At this moment, I am at the border keeping order after the bracero program has taken place again. There is one question I have wanted to ask all these years. What is the name of the damn woman that made us orphans? I am going to hang her by the nearest tree when I finish my duty and make my way back home to Pinos. She deserves a just punishment for what she has done to us. She took away our mother, our protector, the woman we should be taking care of now. I wait for your immediate response. Your loving brother, Carlos"

Mauricia crumples the letter in a ball as she thinks about the times she saw Anabel in the street after her mother's death. Many times Mauricia held her tongue and the tears as she crossed paths with her on many occasions. "I cannot tell Carlos who it was, it would not help to tell him, he would only get her blood on his hands and now take the role of the punisher." Mauricia pulls out a sheet of paper and writes Carlos back. "Dearest Brother, I am glad you are with life, health, and work. I am excited to know you have decided to leave the military in a year. I pray God continues to watch over you and protect you from any harm. In regards to your question, I cannot reply. I will not give you the name of the woman that made us orphans. I do not want her blood on your hands, I could not live with that. Carlos, leave it up to God to judge her. She will get her day, we all will, but until then please pray that God provides peace in your heart to let it go and love to understand we only have one life. You are not a bad person Carlos, and I do not want you involved in such matters. Please write back. Your sister, Mauricia" Mauricia clears the tears from her face as she folds the letter and places it in an envelope. As Mauricia lays down in her bed, she whispers, "No one will ever know her name."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Visit X 2 (10)

Several months into Mauricia's new life proved to be a challenge but she felt welcomed by her half brothers and sisters. She understood not everyone like Maria Guadalupe or her mother would receive her with open arms but she respected everyone's difference of opinion. Mauricia was content with having a home, family, and being close to her father. Mauricia did not take long before she began to volunteer at the church in Salinas de Hidalgo giving communion classes to 40 children every weekend. Aside from teaching, Mauricia sang in the choir, when time permitted, as she also had to tend to Teresa. Many times Maria del Carmen would accompany Mauricia to church to help her with Teresa or participate with her in classes. Both sisters grew very close and formed a bond they both knew would be lifelong.

"Mauricia!" called out Maria del Carmen, "Julia is at the door!" Mauricia ran to the door to see what was the matter. Julia worked at the church with Mauricia on the weekends. Julia asked, "Mauricia, Doña Inez is ill, and will not be able to sing in this afternoons choir to sing the Angelus in Latin and your the only other person that can do it, will you be able to go?" Mauricia responded, "Of course, let me make arrangements to go and I will be there this afternoon." Mauricia turns around to look at Maria del Carmen and said, "Maria del Carmen, would you go with me to watch Teresa while I sing and then we can walk around in the Plaza?" Maria del Carmen was hesitant as she rarely left the house only to go on errands or to church on the weekends. "I don't know Mauricia. I can watch Teresa here in the house." "Ay Maria del Carmen, you never know. Maybe God is your matchmaker. You will never find your future husband sitting here in the house instead of going to church with me!" Maria del Carmen throws Mauricia a washcloth and tells her to get ready and says, "You think you know everything. Lately, Mario from the choir has been coming by to visit me when no one is around. Of course, we sit out here on the bench and converse." Mauricia anxiously wraps her arm around her sister and asks, "So do you like Mario?" Ma. del Carmen responds, "I think so, he's a gentleman, and we have much in common." "Wonderful!" Mauricia yells out. "Now I do not feel bad leaving you here. Let me get ready."

Mauricia bathed and after getting dressed ran by Ma. del Carmen to confirm she was leaving and to kiss Teresa goodbye. Five o'clock mass was about to begin and Father Eduardo did not like anyone to be late before mass. Mauricia makes it to the church with six minutes to spare as the house is several blocks away from the main avenue. Everyone in the choir took their places and mass began. Many things ran through Mauricia's mind at that moment while she was listening to mass. She said a prayer thanking God for a roof over her head, food, family, and a healthy daughter. The moment for Mauricia to sing the Angelus came along and she stood up to sing. Mauricia had a beautiful voice and everyone enjoyed listening to her sing. Meanwhile, outside the church in the plaza a military troop begins to ride into town.

"Whoa! Stop your horses! I said Stop!" as the comandante ordered his troop. The comandante gets off his horse and said, "Am I in heaven? It sounds like an angel is singing. Who is that and where is it coming from?" A farmer passes by with his cart and he asked the man who was singing. The man shrugs his shoulders and asked if he could leave. A woman approaches the comandante, "I know who is singing!" The comandante asked her to come to him and she said, "It's Mauricia Delgado, she just moved here a couple of months ago." The comandante stands in silence then orders the woman to find Mauricia and bring her to him. The woman shocked and scared does as he says and runs to the church. She whispers in Mauricia's ear about the request and Mauricia goes with her to see what the commotion is about. The comandante remains standing by his horse and his troop behind him waiting for orders. As Mauricia approaches him she stops before him and says, "My name is Mauricia Delgado, who is looking for me?" The comandante answers, "It is I that requested for you, Carlos Manriquez, your brother." Mauricia screams, "Mi Niño!" (my boy), as they hug.

Carlos orders his troop to rest in the plaza as he sits at a bench with Mauricia. While holding hands tightly, she caresses his face with the other hand and asks him how he has been. Crying, Carlos begins to tell Mauricia about the death of the woman who took him from his mother's home. After the woman passed, after moving out of state, he was sent to live with an uncle who owned a ranch. His uncle was a passive fellow but his wife was always beating him and asking him to do hard labor around the house. "Mauricia, all I ever wanted to do was get an education. They never sent me to school. My uncles wife said you did not want me or else you would have found me. I ran away at the age of twelve, angry at the world. I walked for three straight days through the mountains and came along a circus. I joined them and stayed for three years. After the circus, I found the military and lied about my age to get in." Mauricia gasps, "Carlos I do not agree with you being in the military. We have finally found each other and I do not want to lose you now." Carlos nods in agreement, "Please understand sister, I did not care what happened to me. I felt I belonged to no one. I thought no one loved me and till this day do not believe in friends and the only thing I believed in was myself. By joining the military I felt if I died no one would care if I was here or gone. Some days I wished for death." Mauricia tells him, "Carlos, how can you wish for death if God does not grant wishes, he answers prayers." Carlos laughed and continued to tell Mauricia, "I have completed the most difficult assignments in the military as I feared nothing and no one, that is why I'm a comandante. Now I have a reason to live sister." Carlos looks around to determine the time and tells Mauricia, "I must go, my troop is heading north and we must continue before nightfall." "Carlos" Mauricia interrupted him and said, "I need somewhere to contact you, do you have an address?" Carlos wrote down the address she could use to send him correspondence. Carlos digs in his horse's satchel and pulls out a small photograph. He hands over the photograph to Mauricia and said, "Here, we had these made to send out to our loved ones but as I had no one to send it to I've carried it with me all this time. Mauricia, please keep it as a remembrance of me." "Of course Carlos, and we mustn't lose contact, please." Mauricia says as she hugs him goodbye. Carlos gets back on his horse and yells for his men to follow. Mauricia stands in the plaza clutching his photograph as he rides away to whatever destination is in store for him. Mauricia thinks to herself, "Was this a dream? She looks down at her photograph and realizes they found each other. Elated she goes back to the church to light a candle to her mother and many other deceased relatives she thinks may have led to their reunion. As Mauricia is running to the church she thinks, "I hope I have enough candles!"