"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!"