February 03, 2023 11:30AM
"Change of direction," a quintessential move of el fútbol argentino to trick the opponent that looks and feels like a dance (Unusual Efforts).

There were many plans discussed at the Aguirres’ house for Saturday: going back out in a rental car, heading down to the beach again, maybe even seeing the aquarium. Javier threw that last idea out while looking at Catalina, who since their return had studiously kept to a corner with her textbook and journal, not saying a word during any of the conversations.

"It doesn't matter to me," she said in reply, when they all waited for her to respond. "I should stay here in case I'm needed."

It was good to have that excuse, at least, because she didn't want to go out and do anything on Saturday. Javier tried to persuade her, but she just shrugged, and noodled around with her notebook. She had decided there was only one thing to do in the morning: try to speak to the Tilves in person, and explain herself if they'd let her. Then she was sure she would not want to do anything for the rest of the day. But Tía Lola might ask for company, and watching shopping channels or hunting through her magazines was as good a penance as anything else.

At last they were interrupted by Tío Ruy coming into the living room, looking refreshed, and announcing he had a surprise for everyone. "I have tickets for the match tomorrow against Buenos Aires, enough for the Lobos to attend with us. How's that for a way to end the week?"

There were cheers and excitement, and Catalina finally felt something besides misery. She preferred playing to watching, true, but she had never attended a real professional game. Besides, Javier looked so happy all of a sudden, and he was right, they had barely done anything together. They would be able to enjoy the experience, and she could tell Papá and Mamá about it, and all their siblings, and it would be really fun. She let herself smile and tell her brother she was glad; he looked so relieved she took pity on him, and said she would even sit with Juan to keep him company. It was after all not Javier's fault the car failed. Tío Ruy had praised his quick thinking in seeing to things, then offered to help with the repairs. Juan must feel bad after all that, surely, and so it would be a kindness to be nice to him on his last full day in town, when she had been less than friendly on the ride home.

Javier kissed her on both cheeks, excited beyond measure. "You're so good little Lina," he said, like he used to when they were small. "And you'll have a great time, Juan is brilliant about fútbol. Anything you want to know he can tell you. It's too bad we're leaving just when you two can finally get to know each other."

Catalina thought it was probably best she would only have to be kind for one night, as she wasn't sure at this point whether Juan at a game would be any better than Juan at a concert or a party. But she was willing to try, for Javier's sake, and besides, it was not as if things could really get any worse.

The next day she first asked Tía Lola how to learn where the Tilves were staying, since it was just the sort of gossip the lady was likely to know. "I need to speak to Elena and try to apologize if I can," she explained, with some embarrassment, but Tía Lola didn't chastise her one bit.

Indeed, she only oohed and awed, said how sorry she was to hear it, and immediately set on the project with enthusiasm. "We'll take the car, to make it easier, and you should dress up my dear. Wear some white, it'll be cool, and white always settles people. Look how well Señorita Tilve wears it."

So Catalina let Tía Lola advise her on outfits and accessories before they set off for a drive toward the main square downtown. Fortunately, it looked like the Lobos were once again sleeping in, and Javier was busy looking up information for his upcoming classes, so there was no one to stall their mission. Catalina found her spirits soothed by Tía Lola's friendliness and comfort, and remembered how much she loved the older woman despite how many times she had to hear about fashion and shoes.

"Oh, look, there's Señora Herrera, I'm sure she'll know something," Tía Lola said as their driver slowly turned down another boulevard. Soon they were out at a cafe, sipping tea and catching up with Sra. Herrera, who despite only recently arriving back in town knew a great deal about nearly everyone.

"Their house is in one of the best communities, of course, only the most fashionable style for General Tilve and his family. Oh yes, he’s retired, hardly needs to work given everything he inherited. Do you know them well?"

There was some back and forth among the ladies, with generous discussions about what the latest style in handbags were, but Catalina was prepared to endure it all to find out what she wanted.

"No, no, the mother died years ago, so tragic, in that awful car accident!" Sra. Herrera admitted with a flair of the dramatic, gesturing with her tea spoon. "Oh, the poor lady, she was such a fine one, always dressed like a queen, and such a patron of the arts. The ballet quite mourned her, I assure you, even if the family still keeps sending donations, she used to raise funds for them, just the most wonderful person you understand. And her daughter hurt as well in the same blow, confined to that chair! It is just too tragic for words, when she could have been a real beauty, you know, just absolutely a tragedy."

"But she is very pretty," Catalina said when there was a break in this story, puzzled.

"Well, fortunately there were no scars, of course, so her face is still good, I saw her just the other day and was thinking about her mother, and those gorgeous pearls she used to wear. Do you remember Lola, those pearls we used to admire on Ester, back at school? They were just like them, must have cost so much! And much better worn; poor Ester, with her thick neck, she just couldn’t pull them off the same way. But you always looked better with opals."

"Yes, yes, but pearls are good, I hope the girl has them," Tía Lola answered, smiling, then surprisingly changed the subject back to the Tilve home. "We'd just like to pay a call, you see, and haven't a clue where they live. That young Señor Tilve has been to our house to help Ruy with his therapy. Such a nice fellow, very good looking, and he and Catalina looked so well together dancing. Why, didn't you dance again with him the other night?"

Sra. Herrera immediately looked Catalina over with far more attention, and clucked her tongue encouragingly. "Well, of course you'll want to go over, why didn't you say so? Little Enrique has grown up quite a bit, and he is certainly a very good dancer." The way she said it, and the two ladies laughed, made Catalina uncomfortably self-conscious.

"Oh, but, I wanted to speak to his sister," Catalina protested, not quite sure what Sra. Herrera was implying, but feeling it should not go uncorrected. "Señor Tilve and I only met a few times, we don't really know each other."

"Right, of course, now that is the proper way to go about things. You really are a genius, Lola, and we must catch up some time when things are more settled. And please tell me all about how the Tilves keep their house, I've been thinking of redecorating lately, and I would simply love to hear how they have their dining room laid out."

Catalina tried to again explain that she could not claim any close friendship with the Tilves, desperately afraid Sra. Herrera might say something to them or someone else that would require even more apologies, but to no avail. At least they got the address, and with several parting words and a few kisses between the women, they were back in the car and on their way.

"Don't mind dear old Nina, she's not a cruel gossip, only wants the best for people." Tía Lola patted Catalina's hand. It would have been more comforting reassurance if she hadn't added immediately after, "And you never know, perhaps things will work out. I'd love to see their dining room too."

At least Catalina felt she could warn the Tilves about this new mistake, provided they were even at home. Following their directions, they drove through a very rich neighborhood, the houses twice as large as any back home, some with swimming pools, and all looking out onto the beach with their own private porches. When the driver stopped in front of a residence with a two-car garage surrounded by a huge gate, she almost asked him to turn around.

"Courage, my dear, I'm sure they'll see you," Tía Lola offered a little pep talk. "Just hold your head up high and remember you're dressed very well. Here!" She took off her own brooch, threading it through a ribbon in Catalina's hair to some effect she couldn't see, then smiled. "Oh, you look much better. He's sure to really look at you now."

That was not really the point of her coming, but Catalina smiled at her dear Tía Lola and appreciated the reassurance. She got out of the car and approached the gate, pressing the little button to speak to the attendant inside the house. "Who is it?" a scratchy voice asked.

"Catalina Moreno, from the Aguirre house," she said, trying to sound as confident as she could. "I would like to speak to Señorita Tilve, please."

"One moment," the voice said, then died away before Catalina could say more. She resisted the urge to fidget, realizing anyone could look out the huge windows, and wanting to not waste whatever effort Tía Lola had put into her appearance. She glanced back at the car, just to make sure it was still there, but of course it was. Then she tried to remember the names of the bones in the human body. There were so many, and despite studying the chapter in her book several times, she still stumbled once she got to the arms and legs.

After what felt like an eternity the scratchy voice returned. "Señorita Tilve is not available."

"Oh! but might I leave a message, please?" Catalina begged anxiously. "Or a note? I have something very important to tell her."

"One moment."

Now Catalina could not help pacing if only to keep from sweating so much in the heat. She must look ridiculous in her best shoes and professional clothes, trying to appear like someone she wasn't. Why had she thought the Tilves would let her in? Why hadn't found another way? Why had she ever allowed Isabel and Javier to convince to leave the house yesterday?

"Please call instead," the voice startled her so that she almost jumped.

"Please, I will, just the number sir—" she began, but the voice went dead, and pressing the button again yielded nothing. Catalina stared down at the little box, then back up at the house, and after a moment's hesitation she took her notebook out from her purse and hurriedly scrawled a message. Tearing it out, she folded it carefully and since she could not find a mailbox, stuck it on one of the gate spikes.

She trudged back to the car, where Tía Lola woke up from a short nap to find her charge not triumphantly ushering her in the fashionable house, but with failure written all over her face instead. "Oh, my poor dear, I am so sorry," she said at once, hugging her as the driver pulled away. "He didn't even get to see your nice shoes. Well, we'll have to think of something else."

Catalina didn't bother correcting Sra. Aguirre, only let herself be comforted, especially since as the car drove by she saw movement at one of the doors. Someone was coming out and that someone looked like she was in a wheelchair. Obviously, Elena had not wanted to speak to her, and was determined to answer one snub for another. Catalina was eaten up with guilt, having never offended someone so terribly, and worried her little note would be tossed in the trash unread.

"I'll speak to Ruy, perhaps we can stay home tonight. We could watch one of those movies you and your sisters liked, I'm sure we can find something on the TV. And we'll get ice cream!"

Tía Lola might be taking a little too much selfish pleasure out of Catalina's misfortunes, since she had very little interest in going to a fútbol match, but it was a cheerful idea nonetheless. Catalina almost agreed to please her but then thought of her promise to Javier. "I'm fine, really, and I would like to see Javier again before he has to go. Besides, I'm sure it will be fun."

"Of course, we'll just take a rain check on that movie. But whenever you like. Broken hearts need mending."

If Catalina could really feel herself heartbroken, she might agree. But Enrique, while a wonderful daydream, could not really ever be interested in her, and she was not so smitten as to swear off all joys in the universe because he thought even less of her than before, which was probably not very much. It was the principle of the thing, she told herself, and vowed to find some other way to mend matters with Elena if at all possible.

That night she again let Tía Lola help her dress, even if Catalina insisted on not wearing heels to a stadium and did her own hair. "But the brooch, my dear, you should keep that, it looked so well, I can't believe I didn't think of it before."

"Oh, but Tía Lola, that's your special brooch, I couldn't take it," Catalina immediately refused. "What if something were to happen to it?"

"I have another one, don't worry," Tía Lola soothed her, already threading it through a few more ribbons and tying it round Catalina's braids. "And I want you to look your best tonight. There are more games to play than only on a field, always good to be prepared. You know we would do anything for you that we could."

"¡Gracias!" Catalina exclaimed, teary-eyed, and hugged the old woman like she was a tiny girl again.

Tío Ruy complimented her by saying he was happy to appear with the two best dressed ladies in all of Mar del Plata. "Any fellow who doesn't admit the same is too conceited to mind about," he said stoutly, if somewhat on the nose. It was obvious Tía Lola had told him something about their misadventure that morning, but Catalina could not begrudge them, not when they were being so kind.

"You are looking very well yourself," she said instead, smiling at how well he walked.

"I feel it! Who knows, perhaps before we leave we'll all go dancing together? Think you could spin me around, Catalina?"

"I would be happy to," she said with the first sense of peace that day. Her mood only grew brighter when they stopped at the Lobos'. Juan was driving separately, his car good as new, with Javier and Isabel and his mother, while the other girls rode with the Aguirres. Their joy was infectious and soon Catalina was as eager as them to get in the stands.

The stadium was huge, and because Tío Ruy still had a handicap sticker, they didn't even have to park far away. Catalina went with him to the elevator, letting him lean on her arm as he needed it, along with Tía Lola. Everyone else went up the stairs, but they all met at about the same time. The reserved box was really spectacular: a view of the grounds almost as good as on television and little screens to see closeups on. "With such a big group, I figured a small splurge was justified." Tío Ruy said as they all admired the space. "Not like we do this every day."

Tía Lola actually kissed him in her happiness, and immediately settled into her padded chair to enjoy something completely different on the screen closest to her, the provided earphones letting her happily listen to whatever salesman was talking without being interrupted by the game at all. It was a very considerate thing for Tío Ruy to do, Catalina thought wistfully as she watched the couple sitting side by side, separated by their tastes but united in their affectionate hearts. Perhaps that was a better thing to hope for than sparks or romance. It certainly sounded less dangerous.

Turning back to the others, she saw that Javier and Isabel had sheltered themselves as far from everyone else as possible, chatting and laughing with free abandon. The other girls sat with their mother, pointing to things on the field and taking pictures of everything. That left only Juan, who snagged two seats for them both in the middle of the group. Catalina had to squeeze past a few knees to reach it and was quite trapped once she sat down next to him.

"Well, this is much better than fish, isn't it?" Juan smiled as he draped his arm around the back of her seat. It wasn't exactly pleasant, but at least he was sober and actually talking to her. Catalina was determined to enjoy herself.

"It's very interesting," she admitted, looking around. "Who's playing again?"

With that Juan launched into a lecture on the teams and their players, strengths and weaknesses, who was likely to win or score more. "I've got a lot of money riding on that one, so he'd better play well," he added after bragging about how good one particular man was. At Catalina's shocked look, he immediately asked, "Sorry, should have asked: do you want to place a bet too?"

"No!" she almost shouted, then lowered her voice in concern. "But surely you haven't bet too much?"

"At least 2500 pesos, anything less and you might as well go home," he answered so smoothly Catalina almost thought she'd misheard, then decided she didn't want to know any more after assuring herself that Javier had not been so foolish as to risk his money. "He should though. Why come if you don't mean to make some cash?" Juan threw a disgusted look at his friend, but when Catalina said nothing, turned back to her with a foolish gulping expression. "I mean, sorry, Javier said I shouldn't mention it, forget it. How about some chips?" and he ordered some before Catalina could say no.

The game started up soon, allowing Catalina to concentrate on something else, enjoying the spectacle and plays, even as she no longer felt at all easy in Juan's company. Papá was very, very strict about gambling, even when it hardly mattered at a party, and Mamá often volunteered to man the 800 number people called with addiction. It would be disastrous if either of them ever found out Javier's favorite friend was so mixed up in gaming. No wonder her brother had warned against mentioning it.

Poor Isabel! Catalina felt deep sympathy for her friend. She couldn't know, or if she did, she probably didn't realize how very bad it was. And what if Juan lost all that money, after already paying to get his car fixed and paying for that concert the other night? Catalina found herself feeling sorry for him all over again, even if he didn't appear to know his own danger. Papá had spoken so much about how pitiful it was when men got caught up in gambling, how they needed help. She would need to say something to Sra. Eva, at least, and that would be very difficult. Maybe she should talk to Isabel first.

But that would require getting Isabel away from Javier, or getting herself out from the middle of everyone, and Catalina was not sure how to manage it.

When halftime came, everyone got up to stretch, even Tío Ruy. "Do you need some help?" Catalina asked discreetly, leaning over to speak to him, and he shook his head.

"No, no, you go with those young people and enjoy yourself. There are bathrooms right here I can get to, no need to worry about me dear girl. You're not a nurse tonight!"

So Catalina left with the others for the snack stands, even though they could order something from the screens easy enough. But it was exciting to walk around and see everything from another view, especially when they stood on a walkway below their box and were able to get a closer sight of the pitch. "I'll be right back!" Juan called, running off somewhere, and Catalina made sure to stick with the girls as they bickered over what to buy, hoping not to be stuck on her own again.

"Ooo, look at them!" Angela called, and they immediately began cheering and clapping as a few players came out onto the sidelines, bouncing a ball around.

Catalina leaned forward to peer over the railing, interested in getting a better look even if she wasn't quite interested enough to draw attention to herself, then turned to take in more of the crowd surrounding them. One person in the stands looked familiar, his hair slightly tousled in the breeze, which was the only warning Catalina had when he looked down at their commotion and she stared straight into the eyes of Enrique Tilve!

She felt pinned against the railing, eyes locked on his in alarm and excitement all at once. He looked startled too, maybe, but then only waved and turned back to the other people around him. Nothing dramatic, no sneers or jeers or even a smile, just a polite dismissal. It was to be expected, of course, Catalina could not blame him. She should just accept her fate and return to their seats.

But it was so hard to be so close, and not speak to him! Especially when she followed Angela and Maria back up the stairs and they walked right past where Enrique was sitting. He didn't look over at her, even when she waved tentatively, and so Catalina retreated back to their box that now felt more like a prison than a shelter. She hesitated before entering, eyeing the not so insurmountable distance between their parties, wishing she knew what to say. Then he faced her again and she decided to speak, at once, before she lost her courage.

"There you are!" Juan called, coming up and hugging her, kissing both her cheeks so familiarly Catalina was silenced, face flaming. "Come on, I bought us more snacks, and something special just for you." He held up a pennant, which she took out of habit, still reeling, then looked back to see Enrique Tilve scowling as she had only imagined before. Juan guided her back to their seats, slinging his arm around her, and whispering in her ear as if they were ... as if they were a couple or something!

Catalina shuddered, ashamed and miserable and unable to even show it, for fear it would make the Aguirres feel bad when they were clearly happy all were having such a good time. She couldn't quite see Sr. Tilve from where she sat, which was just as well, she couldn't bear to, he must think her the most stupid girl alive. She certainly felt that way. It was so obvious now, when she thought back over everything, just like in a telenovela, and yet she had not realized at all that Juan was trying to date her! She thought it must be something like at home, when she would tag along with her brothers and their friends, and they would all take turns partnering up. But none of them ever talked to her as Juan was now doing, no one at home kissed her that freely (and in public!) None of them ever bought her so many things. Oh, she felt cheap, and stupid, angry, and then depressed, all at the same time, and barely noticed when everyone cheered at the goals made.

"What!" Juan interrupted himself, scattering food as he flung himself to his feet. Catalina looked up to see a player being taken from the field on a stretcher, obviously injured.

"Oh no what happened?" she asked, feeling stupid all over again but too concerned to care, fear for someone else's health overcoming her self-pity.

"Ismael's been hurt!" Angela wailed, blowing kisses to the injured player. "Oh, Mamá, can’t we go back down? He can't see us from here!"

"But is it serious?" Catalina asked, remembering when her brother Antonio broke his arm at a game and had to stay in a cast for months. "What's going on?"

"Who cares, he's not scoring anymore tonight!" Juan snapped, angrily snatching out his phone, then cursing as his call didn't go through. "Everyone's trying to get in at the same time, what a disaster. Excuse me, I've got to go talk to some people." He shoved his way out, barely apologizing to Sr. Aguirre as he hurried away without further explanation. Javier started to go after him but Isabel grabbed his hand.

"Let's go check out what's happening," she suggested, and the other girls eagerly followed them, leaving Catalina alone with their older friends as the game paused, spectators across the stadium chatting and moving around.

Standing up, Catalina turned almost involuntarily toward where Enrique Tilve had been. He was still there, also standing, staring down toward the pitch like everyone else, talking excitedly to someone beside him. He wore a white polo and khaki shorts, his tall frame showing to great advantage, and looked very animated. She kept watching, nervous but unable to help herself, quietly willing him to look at her as she edged closer to the steps. As if hearing her thoughts, he did turn, looking straight at her. But his expression was too guarded to tell what emotions might lie behind it. Finally he bowed his head just the slightest tilt, a mockery of his previous flamboyant gestures.

"Catalina!" Tía Lola called, dragging her attention away. "Ruy is feeling poorly, could you come here?"

"Of course." She hurried over and helped Tío Ruy swing his leg toward the aisle, and rolled up his jeans to examine it even as he protested.

"No, no, I'll be fine." His wince belied his words, and Catalina saw the ankle was very swollen.

"We must get your socks and shoes off, and your foot propped up, at once!" she said, alarmed, looking around for something to use. "Señora Eva, could you ask someone to bring a wet towel? Or anything we could use to wrap his ankle? I think these shoes were too tight."

"New," Ruy muttered with some asperity, attempting to raise his leg as Catalina helped him. "That'll teach me to be vain."

Tía Lola was crying, and Sra. Eva in hysterics, but Catalina couldn't worry about them while she tried to make Tío Ruy comfortable. She was struggling to keep his foot raised all on her own when strong arms reached down to help. "May I?" Enrique asked, and Catalina nodded in gratitude.

"Deep breaths, sir, nothing to worry about, it doesn't look too bad. I've already asked someone to bring us some water and towels, we'll get you well in no time," he spoke with confidence, easily propping the leg up in one hand while messaging the ankle with his other. Catalina meanwhile untied the other shoe and took it and the sock off out of caution, then found the medication in Tía Lola's bag.

"Here, it's already cut in half, so you can take some more tonight when we get home." Catalina helped Tío Ruy swish down some of his drink and then met the attendant who came in with supplies. She fell into assisting Enrique easily, just like when she was at home with her mother calling orders in the clinic, and before long Tío Ruy looked better.

"Gracias, sir, Catalina, gracias," he gasped, leaning back in his chair with several seat cushions propping his foot up. "That is the last time I wear those shoes, I promise you."

"They do look tight," Enrique said, examining them. "But you might be able break them in with insoles. I have a few samples I can bring over for you to try out; you can see which ones help before buying what you need."

"How lucky you were right there when we needed you!" Tía Lola cried, patting her husband on the arm with affection. "And after keeping away for so long, we had felt so abandoned."

Catalina blushed at this hint, especially when Tía Lola winked at her, and busied herself with tidying up.

"Oh, well, I hear you were taken care of. Didn't Inez come?" Enrique asked, sounding slightly unsure of himself, which Catalina did not attempt to understand.

"Yes, she was very kind," Tío Ruy answered, in more like his normal voice. "But I think my wife liked seeing you dance better." He didn't even glance at Catalina as he said so, which she was grateful for. Then there was enough commotion with the restarted game that any further discussion about dancing was interrupted.

After assuring himself the patient was well, and promising he would come back and check on him within the week, Enrique appeared ready to leave. Catalina had considered what to do and stopped him with a quick word. "Señor Tilve, could I ask about what you did, in case it happens again when we go home?"

"Sure, sure, of course." He sat down in a chair, which invited Catalina to sit next to him. They were given just the smallest amount of privacy, a row back from where Tío Ruy still perched with his leg up, and as close to the stair as possible.

After speaking about swelling muscles and how to treat them, Enrique added, "He should probably keep it propped up tonight, and take a bath instead of a shower, if he can."

"Certainly, it's possible, I've done that before," she said at once, continuing to write notes in her little book, while also noting how much medication he'd had, a habit she'd developed since his surgery.

Enrique glanced at her with a strange expression, smiling lazily. "Does your mother know?"

"Of course, she showed me how," Catalina answered, closing her notebook. "She said it would be good practice for me as a nurse to learn with Tío Ruy. But it's not so hard, after all, I helped her take care of Antonio when he was hurt. My brother, I mean."

He shook his head, smiling and chuckling. "Well what can I say? Sounds like you know everything there is to know, Señorita Moreno."

It was a return to formality between them, and Catalina felt her heart fall back into her own shoes. Swallowing hard, and blinking back her tears, she admitted, "No, I have a lot to learn, about so many things. Sir," she paused, her voice hitching, but she forced herself to be calm. "Please, I am so so very sorry about yesterday, about everything. I can not tell you how awful I feel that I...." She could not think how to continue, how to describe exactly what she had done.

"Drove away with Don Juan on an excursion of great importance, to judge by the speed he was gong? Do not apologize, I'm sure wherever you went was as good a place as any to spend the afternoon."

"But no, I did not want to, not really, except—"

"It’s nothing, you don't owe me any explanations," Enrique cut her off, not unkindly. "And you did very well here. It's good Señor Aguirre has such a capable nurse to look after him."

"But Elena, I owe her an explanation, after she was so kind to invite me!" Catalina was unable to remain professional, certain it was her last chance to make amends. "I know she's angry, and she has a right to be, but truly I did not mean to hurt her feelings so bad. I begged them to let me out of the car, and they told me you had already left and gone somewhere else, and I wanted nothing more than to spend the afternoon with her instead, truly, sir, you must believe me." She caught her breath after this speech, winded and embarrassed, but determined to get her point across.

His smile had melted away, but he was not frowning either, and Catalina took that as a good sign. "You see, my brother came and wanted me to join his friends. I told him I had promised to go with Elena and you instead, but he was so insistent! And then Juan told me you had driven away, everyone said they saw your car. I knew I should have tried to call back, that was wrong of me, I should have trusted instead of being so easily convinced, I should have waited longer. I am so very sorry."

Enrique looked away for a moment, as if toward the stands, but then back to her with a sly grin. "I see. So you were carried away by sharks? How unlucky, to meet them when you weren't even at the aquarium."

"Sharks?" Catalina asked, surprised and doubtful, then realized he was still grinning, and chuckled herself. "Oh, perhaps," she said with a foolish smile, so pleased he was teasing her she could not help showing it.

"And since no one may be blamed for a shark attack, I do not see how either I or my sister could hold you responsible. After all, you were trying to wave at us, I suppose to warn us of the danger?"

"No, no, I was trying to speak to you, only I couldn't get the window down," Catalina started to protest again, then stopped at noticing his steady grin, ducking her eyes at her stupidity. She really must learn to be more wise. "At least, Señor Tilve, will you apologize to your sister for me, and try to explain? I know she must hate me, but at least let her know I would do anything to make amends."

"Now there I am pleased to say how wrong you are, for Elena does not hate you at all." Enrique's words lifted her spirits, so that she was at last able to meet him eye to eye. "And it is my turn to beg forgiveness because it was not her choice to ignore you this morning. My father is very strict about their schedule and since they were supposed to leave soon he did not wish to be interrupted. But your note was very comforting, although she'll be even more unhappy to not be here tonight when she could have explained matters. So let me serve as go between and say she is just as apologetic, and wants as much to see you again."

"Really?" Catalina asked with hope, amazed, and was dazzled when he leaned down to whisper in her ear.

"Absolutely. On my honor."

The roar of the crowd might as well have been in her heart as well. "Muchas gracias for telling me, and for helping with Tío Ruy, you were too kind."

"No problem," Enrique said, starting to stand, so that Catalina stood up too. "What kind of therapist would I be if I did not help a patient?"

Catalina nodded, thinking, wanting to make sure she had covered all her culpability. "But were you very angry with me? Please tell me, don't spare my feelings, I know I was in the wrong."

"Me?" Enrique asked in surprise.

"Yes, you looked so very upset when we met tonight," Catalina began, nervous but forcing herself to speak and face whatever fresh pain might occur. "So you must let me apologize to you, too, because I know how it must have looked, and that was never my intention, I assure you."

"Of course, you don't need to explain," Enrique started to say quickly, and Catalina realized she must have made him more uncomfortable than herself.

"Sorry, sorry, please, gracias for your help, I'll be sure to follow your advice," she spoke just as quickly, almost on top of him, hardly daring to look him in the face for blushing.

A quiet grew between them, so that she felt she'd really blundered, when he spoke again more calmly. "Perhaps you'd like to catch up tomorrow after Mass? My sister will never believe me if I don't offer firmer proof of this conversation. Sometimes she thinks I am very mistaken in how I talk, so I would appreciate any support you may provide." He was so considerate, so patient. Catalina agreed at once. "Gracias, Señorita Catalina Moreno, I am grateful for your kind consideration. I should go, but I'll check back on Señor Aguirre before the game is over."

With that he said adios to the others and left, so that Catalina was encased in a prism of joy for the rest of the game, even when everyone else piled back in and started talking all over each other. Javier was concerned to hear about Tío Ruy and immediately sat by him, talking fútbol and school and anything the old man cared to chat about, not budging even when Isabel tried to lure him away.

She sat beside Catalina, who had very firmly not moved toward the seat beside Juan's, and gushed about how handsome the men on the field were. "But maybe a different player came while we were gone?" she cooed. "Come on, Catalina, tell me all about it!"

Catalina was happy enough to describe what Enrique had been wearing, and how good he had been, but stopped short of sharing all the details. It would not be right to brag while Javier was distracted, and besides, some things she was finding it might be best to keep to herself.

Enrique, true to his word, came by to see them as they were all preparing to leave. "I'll be glad to ask for a wheelchair if you like," he offered.

"No, gracias, I've got a good pair of arms to depend on," Tío Ruy answered as he leaned on Javier, who supported him toward the elevator. At least her brother was not so hostile toward Enrique now that he'd heard about his crucial assistance. He didn't apologize for his earlier brusqueness, but as he was very concerned about getting Tío Ruy home, Catalina forgave him.

"Gracias again Señor Tilve," she said as they walked toward the exit stairwell, trailing the rest of the group.

"It is my pleasure, but please, I shouldn't have to be a Señor if I don't get to charge for it. Enrique is just fine. And here," he handed her a card. "That's my personal number, in case there are further problems. Of any kind." He raised an eyebrow, grinning, and she smiled back as she tucked it in her pocket.

Suddenly Maria shouted, "Juan, come on, Mamá is ready to go!"

Her brother stood near one of the many commercial stalls at a nearby corner, talking earnestly with a familiar face. "I didn't realize your father and Juan knew each other," she said to Enrique, who glanced with some puzzlement in that direction.

"Neither did I. But Papá knows practically everyone, especially when it comes to fútbol. I hope despite all the drama you enjoyed your first game. At least it was a home win!"

"Yes, it was so incredible!" Catalina agreed, though she had barely been aware of the outcome, then hurried downstairs to join everyone else in the parking lot.

The seating arrangements changed, since Tío Ruy needed to sit in the back and Javier insisted on escorting him home. So the Lobos all rode home with Juan while Catalina and her brother crammed in tight together with Sr. Aguirre sprawled on top of them both, and Tía Lola dozed in the front seat. Fortunately they returned safely, and Javier said he would spend the night to accompany them to Mass in the morning. He was far friendlier, and less pushy, than he'd been lately. Catalina, still walking on air from the turn of events, forgot to speak to him about his friend's habits before they went to sleep.

After all, Juan and Javier were all grown up and would be leaving tomorrow. There was no point in quarreling. Surely, it was not that big a deal.

Estancia Aldea Norteña 8: La Gambeta

MichelleRWFebruary 03, 2023 11:30AM


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