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.