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Estancia Aldea Norteña 7: Estar Remando en Dulce de Leche

January 30, 2023 12:30PM
"To be rowing in dulce de leche," a popular caramel milk-based sauce; a sticky situation (Language Answers, LLC).

The promised call came the next morning after breakfast. The housekeeper answered the phone, and surprised Catalina by saying it was for her. She was overjoyed to hear Elena. "How did you know the number?"

"Oh, Enrique has all Señor Aguirre's information from his medical charts. Speaking of, he has patients right up until noon. Then he'll want to come home and change out of his scrubs, he hates them."

"They looked very nice to me," Catalina said, thinking Enrique appeared neat in everything she'd seen him wear.

"He thinks they make him look bigger," Elena admitted, giggling softly. A voice could be heard in the background on her end of the call. "Sorry, I'd love to talk more, but Papá just came in. We'll come by around one thirty, yes?"

"Sure, I'll be right here."

"Great: chau."

Catalina was able to focus that morning on her studies much better than the other day, with the promise of so much fun that afternoon. She went up to change after helping Tío Ruy with his exercises and a light lunch, and had just come down again with lipstick and blush (but only a little), when who should come in but Javier.

"You're just in time! They'll be here any minute," Catalina said happily, hugging him.

"Who will?" he asked after kissing her cheek.

"Enrique and Elena. You remember, the aquarium? They said you could come."

Javier frowned. "But Juan and Isabel are waiting outside: we're all going south to that little market villa, right now. Don't you remember? We talked about it last night on the way home."

Catalina had studiously ignored most of what was said on the way home, so she admitted she might have not heard. "But you were there when they invited me, you heard them," she reminded him gently as they walked outside. "If you don't want to go, that's fine, but I've already talked to Elena on the phone."

Juan's car was parked on the street in front of the house and Isabel rolled a window down as they approached. "Come on Catalina, you can sit with me today! Just us girls and more shopping!"

Catalina waved back. "I can't come. Have a lovely day!"

"What!" Isabel was out of the back seat and up the walkway immediately. "But, Catalina, it's all settled. And we have to leave soon, before it gets too late and the shops all close."

"Why couldn't you leave earlier?" Catalina asked, puzzled, since none of them had to wait for an older brother who worked.

"Oh, I overslept, we were up all night talking!" Isabel smiled at Javier like a cat, and he coughed like he used to back home when trying to speak to a girl on the phone.

"I'm so sorry, but I've already agreed to go to the aquarium. Maybe I can go some other day."

"You know we have to leave on Sunday afternoon," Javier pointed out. "We can't go any other day; tomorrow's all booked up."

Catalina worried momentarily about what they had planned for Saturday, but decided not to let it trouble her just now. "I really am sorry, but I can't leave now. The Tilves are going to be here any minute. Please, go without me, I'm sure it will be a fun trip."

Juan stepped over from where he'd been leaning on the side of the car, fiddling with his phone. "You mean the guy you were dancing with last night, Señor Thinks-He's-Hot-Stuff? He passed us on the road driving over here, and I guarantee he's not going to any aquarium nearby."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I saw him and that crippled sister of his, riding north toward the freeway. They're probably halfway to the next city at this rate. You remember Bel, that fancy car we passed?"

"Oh, that was the Tilves’ car? Yes, of course, I remember it. How awful, Catalina: I'm so sorry he stood you up like that."

"But, but, he just finished working, he had patients today!" Catalina couldn't quite believe what was happening. Surely this kind of thing only happened on television?

"Some people are just so rude," Isabel said, hugging her and patting her on the back. "And after all that flirting. I'm just glad you found out what a jerk he is before getting your heart broken."

"We don't have all day, you know," Juan called, looking down at his phone again. "I have to be back in time for the race tonight."

Javier instantly urged her to join them. "Come on Catalina, there's no point in you sitting by yourself all afternoon, not when we can go out together. We've barely seen each other these last few days."

"And you know, the town we're driving to isn't just famous for its shops," Isabel said, rubbing her back and guiding her to the car. "They actually filmed some movie there, and we can take a tour."

"Really?" Catalina asked, hope blossoming in her heart.

"Of course!" Javier assured her, opening the door. "We'll do that as soon as we get there, then hit the shops."

"Now doesn't that sound better than seeing some old fish?" Juan asked, running back to the driver's seat.

Catalina hesitated at the open door, looking back at the house. "Maybe I should call them back ..." she began, then realized that she had failed to ask for the Tilve number during her earlier chat.

"Just to be told some lie about how they were busy?" Isabel snorted. "No, Catalina, I think you should ignore them. They've treated you so horribly."

"You're sure you saw them?" she asked again, looking at Javier, begging him to admit it was all a big joke.

"We saw a big car pass by," he said, after considering it. "I don't know who was in it. But come on Catalina, you heard us talking last night. Wouldn't it be better to go out with us, your friends, instead of someone you don't really even know?"

"I guess so."

"Great!" Isabel pulled her into the car, holding her close. "Don't you dare try to listen to us, señors, we're going to have some quality girl talk on the way. Now, tell me, was he as charming up close as at the party?"

"Oh yes, definitely," Catalina answered, then saw how tense Javier looked and changed the subject to Isabel's clothes. Immediately the other girl started going on and on about the shopping they would do, and Catalina was able to sit and listen without saying very much at all, giving her plenty of time to think.

It was just too bad. Elena had seemed so very nice, and Enrique! Nice did not even begin to describe how fun it had been to dance and talk with him. She couldn't understand why they would be so kind to her at the concert, and then even call her today, if they didn't mean to actually do anything with her at all. What if she had sat there in the Aguirre's living room all afternoon waiting?

Of course, maybe something had come up, like a patient. But why didn't they call? Or maybe she should have asked Elena for more details that morning. They might be going back to their ranch; maybe they had only been in town for Carnaval, and the other therapist had said Enrique disappeared a lot.

Juan slammed on the brakes with a yell when they didn't make it through the stop light. Traffic was heavy and there were plenty of pedestrians who parked at the corner market rather than squeeze and wind through the narrow lanes peeling off the main road, even the ice cream truck she'd seen drive through the neighborhood on other days. Catalina leaned against the window, sighing and watching without much interest, then sat bolt upright as she recognized a face looking back at her from the sidewalk. She started to roll the window down, attempting to wave, when Isabel said, "What are you doing?"

"It's Elena!" Catalina exclaimed, pointing, "and ...." Sure enough, there was Enrique right behind her. They were both looking at her so strange, and then the car raced forward again. "Stop, stop!" Catalina called. "Please, let me out, I have to go talk to them!"

"What is it?" Javier asked, turning around from the front seat, and Catalina reached for his sleeve.

"Please, stop the car, I have to get out!"

"No way!" Juan said, gunning the engine. "If I pull off now we'll never get to the highway in time."

"But that was the Tilves: they didn't leave at all, they were on their way to see me, please, you have to let me out right now."

Juan only turned the radio on and blared music over her protests. Catalina turned to look out the back of the car, and could just barely see the familiar figures in the distance. "Isabel, please, get Juan to pull over," she begged to the only person able to hear her. "You saw them, how they looked, they must think I was intentionally snubbing them!"

"They did look annoyed, but that's their own fault for not coming sooner. Rude people have no right to complain when the shoe's on the other foot."

"But—" Catalina tried to explain that they were right on time, that it was she who had not waited, and yet the music drowned out even her thoughts as they zipped onto the freeway. She reached into her pocket for her precious phone, supposed to be used only for emergencies, but decided this occasion qualified as she dialed the Aguirre household line.

"Who are you calling?" Isabel asked, leaning over, but Catalina turned away to the door, shielding her conversation as much as possible.

The housekeeper eventually answered, but it was all for naught: she had only just seen Sr. Tilve leave. He asked after Sr. Aguirre then left without another word. No, she did not see the sister. Did Srta. Moreno want the clinic phone number, if she had questions about the health treatment plan?

"No, gracias," Catalina answered, depressed and annoyed as she hung up. It would not matter if she saw 100 beautiful sights on this proposed tour, or found treasures unbelievable among the shopping, not when it began so terribly. Worse, she could not even fully blame Juan. Catalina had let herself get talked into something she knew was wrong, and here was the price to be paid.

How would she ever be able to face Sr. Tilve if he came back to the house? He would certainly never dance with her again. He would probably still smile, because he always seemed to smile, but it would not be the same when he looked at her. He would just pass her by, ignore her, like Catalina had seemed to ignore them just now. Certainly, that magic twinkle of his eyes would not shower down on her again. If it were a telenovela, at least she would have the comfort of a commercial break to get her through to the next story moment, where she might meet with the Tilves to explain everything. But instead they just kept driving interminably, the radio and general chatter all combining to give her a headache, and the scenery passing with alarming speed away from Mar del Plata.

Suddenly there was an unpleasant lurch in the car, and everyone was tossed around. Javier immediately turned the radio off. "What was that?" he asked the question Catalina wanted to.

"Oh, probably one of the tires," Juan casually remarked, not even slowing down. "One of them's low on pressure, but don't worry, we're still making good time. I'll get it looked at when we arrive."

"We should check it now," Javier said firmly. "There could be a real problem."

"I'm telling you, it'll be faster to get there at this point. What are we supposed to do out here in the middle of nowhere if there's a problem?"

"Better to be sure and not risk more trouble."

The friends bickered until Isabel finally cut in, "Come on Juan, just pull over, Javier must know what he's talking about."

By now the car was bumping along instead of rolling smoothly. Muttering, Juan pulled over onto the side of the highway, and they all got out of the car. It soon became clear that one tire was flat, and another on its way toward the same condition. There was some arguing at this point between the three over what to do, with Catalina silently watching and feeling miserable all over again. So they weren't going to even be able to go on this trip, and meanwhile she had forfeited any right to enjoy the Tilves’ company ever again.

Finally Javier pulled out his phone. "I'm going to call a tow: even if we replaced one tire, the other would probably go bad before we got back. None of us would be safe driving like that at high speeds."

While Javier made his call, Juan stomped around in a foul temper. Isabel ignored him with consummate calm, and after Javier had finished speaking on the phone, immediately snared his attention in a frantic whispered conversation that quite excluded Catalina.

She found a rock to sit on, patiently waiting for the entire episode to wind down. For one brief moment she considered calling the clinic and asking for Sr. Tilve's number, but then was not at all certain what she would say if he actually answered. How could she possibly explain herself? Would he even give her a chance? And if he did, would he tell his sister, who Catalina was sure could never forgive her and whom she was likely never to see again?

"Your brother's an idiot," Juan interrupted her thoughts as he came over to her side, fiddling with his phone again. "We don't have much farther to go, and it would be so much easier to get there than turning back now."

"He just wants us to be safe," Catalina pointed out after a moment, annoyed on her brother's behalf.

"Safe? Ha! I'm a very good driver. No reason we wouldn't be safe. If he had a car of his own, he'd understand better." Juan snapped his phone shut, then smiled at her. "Che, you look pretty sitting there, let's get another picture together!"

"No gracias," Catalina said quickly, pulling away.

"Oh come on, it'll be funny. We can post it online and get tons of comments: we'll be famous."

Worse and worse! "I should go speak to Javier," Catalina mumbled, almost running up to her brother to get away from Juan and his phone and his online friends. But unfortunately, Isabel thought a picture was a fabulous idea, and Javier was convinced, so before long Catalina found herself in dozens of group shots around the car. At last Javier noticed her embarrassment and said they had taken enough.

"Don't worry, I'll call Papá and Mamá and explain things," he said to her as the tow truck arrived. "Besides, you know they don't check anything online beyond news and work email. So no need to be so anxious."

"But what will anyone else think, seeing them?" Catalina asked, too nervous to even mention the Tilves by name at this point.

Javier shrugged. "Who cares what anyone else thinks? You shouldn't be so concerned; probably only friends of mine and Juan's will look at them, and you don't know them. No one will be looking at you anyway."

It was the type of oblivious comment she should have expected from her oldest brother, who probably only thought of her as a school girl still, but it hurt all the same. For he was right, she decided as they all piled into the truck cab for the ride back into the city. Probably no one would look at her again, and she would be stuck with Juan for as long as they stayed in town.

Much as she loved her brother, and would miss him when he left on Sunday, she hoped that day would hurry up and arrive. She could not bear having to pretend to be friendly to Juan after this disappointment.

Estancia Aldea Norteña 7: Estar Remando en Dulce de Leche

MichelleRWJanuary 30, 2023 12:30PM

Re: Estancia Aldea Norteña 7: Estar Remando en Dulce de Leche

NN SJanuary 30, 2023 10:26PM

Re: Estancia Aldea Norteña 7: Estar Remando en Dulce de Leche

MichelleRWJanuary 31, 2023 03:19AM


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