"Please doctor, come inside, we do not know what else to do." Francisco's cousin, Julio, explained. "For the past two days, Francisco has been coughing up black mucus, and having night sweats. What is this?" As the doctor examined Francisco he said, "I don't think it's black lung, he's too young. Although, he has been working at the mines almost ten years, it's hard to say." Second guessing himself, the doctor again responded, "I wouldn't be surprised though if he has black lung, you never know. This is a mining town, and most of our boys who start out early in the mines are lucky not to get gravely ill before fifty." "Let me see what I can do."
Julio rushed to Francisco's parent's home to bring them over to discuss Francisco's illness. His parents cautiously kept track of the doctor's words, and Don Ruperto asked, "Do you see any signs of improvement for my son soon?" The doctor responded, "I cannot assure anything at this stage of his illness as we do not know how long he has been sick before exhibiting symptoms. His fever has not gone down, and I've given him a sedative to sleep and antibiotics to help with any infection." Doña Rocio gave Don Ruperto a worried look and cried, "What are we going to do now? I pray that we do not lose our son, Ruperto!" The only response Don Ruperto gave was, "I do not either but if my son dies, he will die a man. There is only one thing we need to do now."
Mauricia woke up early Saturday morning to clean the patio before heading to the market with Cipriana. The cleaning girl, Lucia, met her outside as she swept and watered the plants. "Good morning Mauricia, how did you sleep?" Mauricia responded, "not well, for some reason I feel bad, not sick but just down." Lucia laughed and said, "Oh, it's only because Francisco has not come over to see you! You will be fine tomorrow, you'll see." "Your right," answered Mauricia, "tomorrow I will see him and hope he is in a better mood to talk. I'm off to the market to catch up with Cipriana. Eduardo and she should be opening up by now, and today is a busy day for business." Before Mauricia left, she ran back to her room to kiss Teresa goodbye and give her daily blessing.
The day passed quickly as customers flew in and out picking up their orders of meat. Mauricia can only think about Francisco and why he acted so strangely the other night. While Mauricia scrambled to clean up behind Eduardo and pass orders to the front, Cipriana stopped her and told her, "Mauricia, there is something I need to discuss with you tonight." Puzzled but cooperative Mauricia said, "Whatever you say Cipriana, I'm available when you need me." Cipriana hobbled back to work at the front. "Hurry up woman! Your as slow as a mula!" Eduardo yelled out to Mauricia. "Who are you calling a Mule?" Mauricia snapped back as she slings slabs of fat off the floor towards Eduardo.
Later that evening, as Cipriana and Mauricia entered the house, Lucia is sitting in the patio crying into her apron. Mauricia rushed over and said, "What's wrong Lucia? Is Teresa alright?" Lucia cried out, "Yes, she's fine! I received terrible news that my mother is dying back home and I need to see her!" Mauricia began to feel old emotions brewing inside of her. She could sense the fear and sadness in Lucia; something Mauricia knew very well. Mauricia hugged Lucia tightly and caressed her hair in hopes of calming her down. Cipriana said, "Take her to the church to pray for her mother, and to provide Lucia strength for this change in her life." In order to soothe her state of shock, Mauricia knelt down and told Lucia, "Yes Lucia, let's go to the church, and we can pray for your mother. Early tomorrow morning, you can catch the first train out to see her." Cipriana agreed to stay with Teresa and the two ladies rushed over to the church.
Upon arriving at the church, Mauricia and Lucia chose to sit in the back of the church as the candles provided good lighting. Mauricia began to tell Lucia, "I think life gives us good and bad things to make us better people. When I was younger, I thought I was being punished for something I did. As I grew older, I realized that's how life is; babies are born and people die, we can't escape this. We have to prepare ourselves for life's changes when they come." Tears began to stream down Mauricia's face as she concluded, "Unfortunately, some of us are thrown into those changes."
Lucia wiped away her tears as she finished praying, and she began to notice people standing at the front of the church. Their shadows could be seen by the flickering candles off the alter. Lucia asked, "Mauricia, look over there, what is that?" Mauricia squinted and said, "It looks like this couple is getting married. I cannot see from here, let's get a closer look." "No, no!" Lucia cried as she tugged on Mauricia's reboso, "I don't think that would be a wise thing to do." Lucia advised, "It looks like they do not want to be bothered and it doesn't look like a happy wedding either." In the distance they overheard the priest say "I now pronounce you man and wife." The groom began to fall and two men captured him before he hit the ground. Mauricia heard a woman yell, "Francisco!" Mauricia jumped up and, holding her reboso to her face, she scurried to the front to catch a better view. At that moment, Don Ruperto jumped out to stop Mauricia and said, "What are you doing here? Can't you see that Francisco is now married, and he did not take your relationship seriously?" Mauricia yelled out, "He's been sick! He doesn't know what he's doing! Francisco! Francisco! What are you doing?" The priest jumped in to hold Mauricia back as Don Ruperto went to help Julio hold up Francisco. As the families walked out of the church, they yelled obscenities at Mauricia. Ana darted to Mauricia and said, "You meant nothing to him! Go find someone else. He knew there would never be anything with you. You were just his last adventure! He bought me the house, not you."
Mauricia didn't understand what her eyes were seeing or what her ears were hearing. Why didn't Francisco protect her when they yelled obscenties at her, or defend her from Don Ruperto and Ana? All Mauricia could think was "Francisco looked and acted drunk! What in the world is going on?" The priest grabbed on to Mauricia and shook her saying, "You need to control yourself Mauricia, there is nothing you can do. They are now married by the church and that is a sacred thing." The priest was right; Francisco was no longer hers to love. He made a commitment to Ana before the church and that is not to be taken lightly. "There is no way I will come between a marriage." Mauricia whispered. Lucia ran up to Mauricia and held on to her arm as they left the church crying; both crying for lost loves.