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Estancia Aldea Norteña 10: Deseos Cumplidos

February 10, 2023 11:15AM
"Wishes Fulfilled," to bring into actuality; effect or make real (Free Dictionary).

Both Enrique and Elena called the next day, at different times, to check in. Hers came in first around midmorning and she was eager to talk even after admitting they might not be able to go out after all. "He took off last Friday afternoon, and of course every time we want to do something else there are more patients. Enrique always wants to help so many people, I can't even complain!"

"I'm sorry to hear but it's good he has so much work," Catalina said, trying to sound sympathetic while also impressed.

"Yes, I know." There was a big sigh before Elena moved on. "But now I have your number and we can talk as much as you want. And this one is mine, so be sure to call whenever!"

Catalina promised she would but warned she might not be able to chat for long. "I'm supposed to use this phone for school, or work, or emergencies."


"But I can call you back on the house line!" Catalina assured her and did just that. The two girls discussed places to go and things to do, up until Elena's Papá called her to join him.

"I have to go, but this has been great, let's talk again soon," Elena gushed, obviously excited, and Catalina agreed as fervently.

A few hours later Enrique called the house number. "I've already been warned by Elena, no talking on Señorita Catalina's phone unnecessarily, so your plan's minutes are safe from us!"

"Gracias. I hope your day's going well."

"So so. I thought I'd stop by and see Señor Aguirre on a break, if he's up for it. How's his foot?"

"Much better. Although he hasn't been wearing shoes or putting weight down, just icing it."

"Hmm, we may need to change that. I'll see when I get there."

He arrived soon afterward, coming into the living room with his bag in hand. "Not long today, I'm afraid, this is just a visit on my own time, no charge!" he assured Tío Ruy, bending down to examine the troublesome ankle. "Looks like that swelling has gone way down."

"I've had a wonderful nurse to help me." Tío Ruy patted Catalina's hand.

"I'm sure," Enrique smiled up at them, hands still feeling around the ankle. "However we should try to get you up and moving again. No pain here, when I press?"

"No, none at all."

"Well, as I said, I've no time today to do much, lots more patients to see. I brought some insoles which I advise you to wear in both shoes. Try slippers or sandals for a while if they're more comfortable. But you need to get up and walking again, or you'll have more trouble down the road. Come on, let's see you try a few exercises."

Tío Ruy flexed his foot, pushing against Enrique's hand, but quickly got winded. "It's hurting some now," he admitted, rubbing his knee.

"That's to be expected. But nothing too bad, yes? Just soreness?"

"When was my last pill, Catalina?" Tío Ruy asked uncertainty.

"Just an hour ago," she answered after checking her notebook. "So no more for a while, unless you want an aspirin?"

"No, no, it's not too bad." Tío Ruy leaned back in his chair. "But I think that's all I can do now."

"How about later this week? I've got an appointment free on Thursday afternoon if that'll work for you."

"Catalina, could you check my planner?"

She already had it in her hand, looking through his neat handwriting. "Your afternoon's free that day between two and five. But we have plans for dinner that night, so earlier is better."

"Dinner plans? Too bad, I was thinking we could invite you out afterward."

She looked up surprised, sure he was teasing, but he only smiled very sincerely with a faint look of disappointment. "We're free the next day," she offered timidly, prompting Tío Ruy to shake his head.

"You shouldn't stay cooped up with us just because Javier's gone away and the Lobos may be leaving soon. I'm sure you'd be much happier with your friends instead of sitting in a stuffy restaurant with the Herreras, talking about old times before you were born." Tío Ruy sounded like he might be happier somewhere else too, but Catalina demurred.

"I already told Tía Lola I would come, and I'd like to see Señora Herrera again." She'd like to want to see her more than she actually did. Nevertheless the good lady had helped them so much when they really needed it. And since she had specifically asked her to report back on what was in the Tilve home, Catalina felt obligated to attend.

"Say no more, I know full well how loyal Señorita Catalina is to her word. I would never ask her to betray a promise given." Something about his voice sounded strange to her, less laughing than usual and more steely, but he kept smiling, so she decided it must have been her imagination. "Friday would do as well for me, and my sister of course. In fact, it might be better, since I've nothing to do the next day, and we can stay out late and see the fireworks in the park."

"That sounds amazing," Catalina agreed, then sheepishly turned to Tío Ruy. "That is, if you're good with that day for your appointment?"

He chuckled ruefully. "How could I not? Lola would never forgive me if I told her I'd kept you from an outing. Fireworks? Perhaps we'll sit on the porch and watch them, if I feel up to it."

"I'll call to confirm later." Enrique stood up with his bag. "And since I won't see you for a few days, I expect you to mind your nurse and practice before that appointment. We'll see you dancing yet!"

"Maybe," Tío Ruy answered, shaking his head and waving. "And gracias. Catalina, don't worry about me, I'm perfectly fine here. Just hand me the remote."

As the financial news came on behind them she walked with Enrique to the door. "I suppose you're very busy today," she brought up, and he nodded.

"Yes, I may have done too much actually, I'm supposed to be somewhere else in fifteen minutes."

"Don't stay then, I wouldn't want you to be late."

He opened the door, but didn't step out, turning back to her. "You're very kind, but Elena would kill me if I didn't apologize for spoiling any potential plans with my work. She was looking forward to it. I'm probably going to get an earful when I see her again."

"Truly, Friday will be fine," Catalina assured him, not wanting to cause any arguments with her new friends. "I'll let her know. Besides, it might be better. I'm supposed to try to interview with some of the clinics in town this week."

"Really?" Enrique looked interested, then glanced down at his phone in annoyance. "I have to leave. Tell you what, I'll call after I get off work, and you can explain to us both. Maybe we can help."

"Sure, gracias," Catalina called as he jogged to his car, waving. "And drive safely!"

"Yes, mamá," he called back with a salute, then pulled out of the driveway.

He was true to his word, and Catalina happily chatted with brother and sister that evening after dinner while Tía Lola glanced through magazines and Tío Ruy worked on his email. After some general conversation about Friday, Elena asked, "Are you really going to medical school?"

"No, no, I'm not that smart." Catalina was better prepared to respond on hearing this crazy idea a second time. "I would be a terrible doctor."

"Yes, very terrible, I'm sure," Enrique said from a muffled distance, the phone obviously closer to his sister this time. "Señor Aguirre would never recommend you to anyone."

"That's just because he's our friend and neighbor, and needed some extra help after his surgery," she explained, not wanting to give a false impression. "I am studying to enter nursing school, though, and I help my parents at the public clinic back home. If I can get licensed, they could request to put me on pay, and I can be an aide for real. Then my next sister Sofia will go to college."

"But why can't you both go at the same time?" Elena asked.

"That would be too much money, since she’ll probably need to buy all different books and things," Catalina answered without shame. "If I can start working, Sofia and Andrea will have enough to both study at the same time when they go, which would be great! And by then Javier should have enough; he's said he'll help Jorge...."

"Just how many Morenos are there?" Enrique interrupted with a laugh. "Or is there an assembly line rolling them out back in Fortuna?"

That took the conversation away from money and onto family, which she adored discussing. "There's only one more, Raquel, and she's just eight, so there's plenty of time for her. Especially since Antonio said he would help when she's old enough."

"But who's Antonio?"

So Catalina started at the beginning, going through each name, and realizing she'd accidentally named a cousin when she got back around to talking about her sisters. "Actually, I have a lot of cousins too, and Yvonne is right between Sofia and Andrea. But Raquel claims she's going to be a supermodel, so we all said she didn't have to go to school later. But of course that was a joke. Mamá didn't think it was very funny," Catalina admitted, wishing she'd left that part out.

She need not have worried, as both siblings laughed with her. "I'm sure not," Enrique said through his chuckles. "Mamás are strict like that. School for everyone!"

"So your Mamá and Papá both work at the clinic?" Elena asked, curious, and so Catalina talked about that too, and how wonderful it was to help people who were sick or in need.

"We should have you on the missions committee back home," Enrique said after a minute. "You make a much better spokesperson than Father Lorenzo."

"Almost anyone would sound better than Father Lorenzo," Elena scoffed. "So you're going for an interview? With who?"

"I don't know yet," Catalina answered, thinking. "I've left several messages, but no one's called me back yet. I thought I might just go and see if I can find someone. Papá gave me a name: do you know a Doctor Figueroa?"

Elena responded instead of her brother. “Even I know him! He and Papá hit the golf course together whenever we’re in town.”

"Come with me to the clinic he works at in the morning, and I'll make sure you get to him," Enrique offered.

"Really? Only, you must be so busy."

"Why not? If you go in cold someone's likely to keep you waiting for hours. We can cut through some of that red tape. I have a very good set of scissors in my first aid kit."

It was so hard to tell over the phone when he was serious or not, but Catalina didn't dare doubt him twice. "Sure, what time should I be ready?"

Again, he was true to his word, picking her up bright and early the next morning. "I'm going to be swamped all day," he admitted as they pulled out of the driveway, "or I'd stick around and help. But Inez will be in, you remember her? She can help if you need it, and we’ll find someone to give you a tour of the place."

"Gracias," Catalina said, clutching her notebook and purse, sitting very straight to make sure she didn't wrinkle her nice clothes. "Truly, you're being so nice, I don't deserve it."

"If I only help deserving people, how will I earn any crowns in heaven?" he asked with a sober face, but immediately shook his head smiling. "Sorry, Elena says I shouldn't tease you so bad. That wasn't meant to be serious."

"I don't mind," Catalina assured him, smiling back.

"Well, I will try to speak plainer, but no promises." He gave her a lopsided grin as they exited a roundabout.

When they arrived, he ran around and opened her door, taking her hand and helping her out like a gentleman in a movie. "Just follow me," he said, walking with authority through the clinic doors into the lobby. She did, and they were soon through the patient area into a hallway, then on to a different desk. "Good morning my dear Señora Mundo, isn't it a beautiful day?" Enrique greeted the stern woman frowning at them.

"I hope you plan to be at your first appointment on time," she grumbled, clearly not happy with him. Catalina gulped nervously, still clutching her things, worried to so much as breathe for fear of drawing the woman's down on her.

"Of course, that is why I am so very early today. Oh, by the way, this is Señorita Moreno, she's here to meet with Doctor Figueroa. Is he in yet?"

"An interview? Why wasn't I told? Who arranged it?"

Catalina almost confessed at once but Enrique only smiled wider. "She left messages, I don't know who didn't pass them on. Oh well, I can take her over to his office myself, plenty of time before my eight thirty. Besides, we don't need to be so formal, Doctor Reyes knows her very well, she's been taking care of one of his patients."

"I see." Sra. Mundo glared at her, looked down at some paperwork, then eyed Enrique with a sharp gleam. "I suppose if you see Doctor Figueroa you can give him the test results that came in overnight, and answer any of his questions?"

Sighing dramatically, Enrique nodded. "I suppose, if I must. And I suppose I could snag one of those pastries the morning nurse usually brings in around this time if you would like."

"No nuts, and plenty of frosting." Señora Mundo handed him a large stack of folders before addressing Catalina. "Good morning. Be sure to check out when you're ready to leave, and turn this badge back in." She handed over a visitor name tag and then went right back to typing on her computer without giving either of them a second look.

Following Enrique down another hall and clipping the name tag to her blouse, Catalina expressed some lingering guilt. "I don't know if anyone actually listened to my messages."

Enrique shrugged. "Probably not. I'll bet someone just deleted them. We get a lot of calls like that, too many to hear them all out. But Doctor Figueroa always has time for students and Señora Mundo doesn't care what anyone does as long as we file the correct forms. So you see, I am handling the paperwork, and everything is copacetic."

Catalina accepted this explanation as part of the mysteries of working in a large city, and was pleased when Dr. Figueroa proved to be very friendly. "Why, yes, Señor Moreno, he was a very bright student back when I was in Buenos Aires, I remember him," he said after Enrique introduced her. "How is he doing now?"

"Very well, Señor, Doctor," she answered, quickly correcting herself. "He said you might answer a few questions for me about applying to nursing school?"

"Yes, of course, we need more nurses, certainly." Dr. Figueroa gestured to a chair. "Enrique, what are these, test results? I don't suppose you know anything about them?"

"No, but I can look them over and get you that info later," he said, smoothly swiping a pastry from the tray on a counter. "I have several appointments this morning. Maybe we could do lunch?"

"Sure, sure, that would be good, I won't see any of these patients today. I say, Catalina isn't it? Are you free for lunch as well? We could take you on a tour and introduce you to a few more people?"

Before she knew it, she had agreed and accepted two more interviews with colleagues of Doctor Figueroa that afternoon. An orderly showed her around the different departments, introducing her to many of the nurses and staff. Around twelve thirty she joined Dr. Figueroa and Enrique out at some picnic tables on the clinic’s grounds, enjoying a very pleasant meal as they talked shop. But he would not let her pay for it.

"Compliments of my sister," Enrique said as they walked back to the clinic’s door, "so you'd better call her later as payment."

"I would anyway," she assured him.

He laughed, less his usual chuckle and more like a throaty purr. "I know. But tell her I said so anyway, so she'll have something to bug me about later. She's convinced I'm not treating you well enough."

Catalina could not imagine why Elena would think so and wondered if he was joking with her again. But she gave off wondering as she went to her afternoon appointments with another doctor and a physician's assistant, both of whom gave her their cards and promised to help with any future interviews she wanted to arrange. "Actually, how long are you going to be in town?" the PA asked as she stood to go. "We could always use some volunteers, especially in the summer when we're short help from the University. You work with Enrique, right?"

"We're just friends," she said, then wondered if even that was an exaggeration. "I mean, he's just helping me out today. We only just met, really."

"Well he said you're aces at nursing and therapy, that's good enough for me," the woman said with a smile. "He doesn't praise people like that often so take the compliment. Do you have time this week? I'd be glad to prep some paperwork if you're looking for eventual work study credit."

"Yes, oh yes, ¡gracias!" Catalina answered, her heart overflowing, and happily filled out the forms provided. "Both phone numbers, I can be reached at either, but I don't have a car," she admitted.

"The tram's good, usually. It's not too hard to get around Mar del Plata, and we can arrange for you to volunteer at the nearest location to your address. We could really use the help."

Catalina didn't even wait to go back to the waiting area before calling home right in the hallway. "¿Holá?" her mother answered. "Is something wrong?"

"No, oh no Mamá everything is going right!" Catalina quickly told all about her new opportunities.

"Well, now, that is very good to hear. See what a little initiative can do?" Sra. Moreno sounded more pleased than Catalina could remember making her in a long time. "Your Papá will be proud to hear, he thought Doctor Figueroa might be a big help. We'll call you later tonight, yes? Now, don't waste any more time, make sure to work hard and make good impressions. I'm sure this will lead to very good things for you, dear one."

"Gracias Mamá I will!"

She was chatting with Inez, the other therapist, asking about how to take the tram in, when Enrique came around the corner to join them. "What's this I hear about a new volunteer at the clinic? You make very quick work."

"Isn't it wonderful?!" Catalina said, barely containing her happiness even an hour later.

"Let's see how wonderful you think it is after transporting patients and lab work all day long," Inez cautioned with a tired smile. "But they're right, we do need the help. Just don't let them work you too hard, yes? Enjoy some of your vacation too."

"Don't worry about her Inez, that's what I'm here for," Enrique grinned and leaned against the counter beside them.

Inez rolled her eyes. "Right, I'm sure you know all about avoiding extra work. Here's my card Catalina. Reach out if you need any help."

"¡Gracias!" She stuck the card in her quickly filling notebook where she'd scribbled as many notes and phone numbers as possible. Turning back to Enrique, she matched his expression, still beyond glad to have gotten so much done in one day. "Wow, I can't believe how friendly everyone's been."

"There's still someone you have to see before we leave," he reminded her. "Señora Mundo expects that name tag turned back in. Don't worry, though, someone dropped her a few snacks, so she's in a fairly good mood."

"That was very nice of someone," Catalina remarked, grateful to this unknown guardian angel. "It's like everything is just going right today."

Enrique eyed her, still smiling as they walked down the hall, then shrugged. "Why shouldn't nice people have nice days once in a while?"

Sra. Mundo barley listened while Catalina explained about volunteering, never taking her eyes off the computer screen in front of her. "So you'll be back tomorrow?"

"Yes, ma'am, Señora Ruiz said she would turn in the paperwork. Is there anything I should bring with me?"

"Not for volunteers. But be early. We open at seven sharp. Lateness is not tolerated." Sra. Mundo looked up then, her glare fixed on Enrique. "You need to take on more patients, there's a backlog we're trying to work through."

"I'll be sure to check it out, gracias for the reminder," Enrique said breezily, signing a clipboard and handing a stack of folders to Sra. Mundo. "And gracias for all your help today, I'm sure you'll be grateful when Señorita Catalina is making everyone's work loads lighter."

"We'll see. Your new name tag will be ready in the morning. Remember, don't be late." With that she turned back to her screen, and Catalina quickly followed Enrique toward the exit.

"Tomorrow, when you've got a volunteer tag, you won't have to go through the lobby. You can use the staff entrance here. There's one at all the clinic sites, and you just have to scan in at the box, like so." He swiped his own ID across and waited until the box glowed with a green light, then opened the door for her. "See? Easy."

"Right." Catalina jotted another quick note in her notebook as she followed him out, eager not to forget a single detail of her new position. "Well, I should find the tram. Inez says it will be easier for me to get a prepaid pass this afternoon than in the morning, and I don't want to be late. Gracias again for all your help, I would never have done so much otherwise."

"I don't know about that. I might have opened a door but you had to walk through. And who wouldn't want to help a friendly, eager volunteer? The truth is you're doing them a bigger favor than the other way around."

"Still, I am very grateful." Catalina tucked her notebook into her purse, and reached out to shake his hand.

He shook with a friendly ease, then gestured to his car. "I can still give you a ride home if you like, with a quick detour to the tram stop."

"Are you sure? I wouldn't want to take too much of your time."

"Why not? Only call Elena on my phone and let her know I'll be later getting back." He passed it over to her as he opened the passenger door. "She's been texting me all day, asking about how things went, so you might as well talk to her as me."

"Sure." Catalina slid into the seat, looking down at the far nicer and fancier device in her hand, slightly puzzled at first how to make a call. She didn't have to decide because the phone rang instead, and she answered with a quick "Holá, Señor Tilve's phone," not wanting to cause him problems as he put the car in gear.

"Don't tell me Enrique has you answering calls for him like an assistant!" Elena sounded horrified and amused all at the same time.

"No, no, I was just going to call you, he lent me his phone. Guess what?" She was so excited she couldn't wait to tell her news. "I'm going to volunteer at the clinic, all week! Isn't that great?"

"It sounds wonderful." Somehow Elena's tone said the exact opposite, but she quickly perked up. "So, things went well, yes? Will that help you with applications?"

"Oh, yes, Mamá was very happy when I called her," Catalina let her know, uncertain how much Elena knew about nursing school and not wanting to brag too much in any case. "But anyway, Enrique's taking me to the tram station so I can get a card, he wanted you to know he'll be a little late getting back."

"Gracias for the info, sounds like you're going to be very busy from now on."

There was such a tone of wistfulness in her words that Catalina immediately said, "Well, maybe not the whole time. I still have lunches free and probably most of the afternoon too; I don't think they said I'll be there past three."

"Oh, they always say that. You'll probably be lucky to leave by six."

Having grown up around a public health clinic, Catalina was well aware how work could stack up. But she decided to be optimistic. "Well, I'm just volunteering, I'll be glad to still come by some time or keep in touch by phone. Maybe we can get lunch? Then I can pay you back for the one you got me today."

"Yes, it was very nice of you Elena, wasn't it?" Enrique said loudly from the driver's seat. "A sweet surprise for Catalina."

"Ask Enrique where my very sweet surprise came from."

Catalina was confused, but dutifully repeated the question. Enrique only smiled mysteriously. "Now that would be telling. Try to guess."

"But I don't know any restaurants here." She didn't know many restaurants anywhere, of course, and she certainly couldn't hazard a guess in so large a city.

"I'll tell you where, since I'm sure Enrique bought enough for himself: it was that little bitty grill on the other side of town he likes so much. But we're not eating there, it's too gross."

"Whatever my sister tells you, it is not gross, it is unspoiled and unpretentious. The food is excellent."

"Tell him I heard all that," Elena said, laughing. "But let's you and I plan to go somewhere else. Call me when you're leaving work tomorrow?"

"Sure thing," Catalina agreed and hung up with a quick adios. She looked down thoughtfully at the phone, then back at Enrique as she handed it over. "So, did Elena buy me lunch, or you?"

Enrique didn't glance at her, caught up in parking the car. "Maybe we both did. Does it matter?"

"Not really. I just want to make sure I get you both something in return. You've done so much for me already."

He turned the keys in the ignition but didn't move. "You don't owe us anything, especially me. I'm just glad Elena has anyone else to speak to." He looked over at her with the most serious expression she'd seen from him yet, not angry or upset or happy. "I suppose someone's said something about the car accident."

"Um, yes. Tía Lola used to know a lot of people, and Señora Herrera said she knew your family well."

"I thought I recognized the name yesterday. What you mean is, she knew my mother well, right? Let me guess, she also told you how tragic it is that my sister's in a wheelchair, how her life is over or something?"

Catalina nodded, not knowing what to say, deciding it was best to simply listen.

Enrique accepted her silence, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, quiet himself. "Maybe it was true for a time, right after the accident. But she's not a little girl anymore, and she's learned to do anything she needs like everyone else. Only some people have a hard time accepting that. So they either think she's the lost princess to be drowned in pity, or just ignore her and pretend she doesn't exist. It’s hard, sometimes, for her to make friends."

"That doesn't make any sense!" Catalina burst out, unable to keep her peace. "She's so elegant, and pretty, and smart. Much more than me. Why wouldn't anyone want to do things with her?"

Enrique smiled again, softly, his dimples glowing in the afternoon sun. "Well, if everyone was as kind as you, maybe the universe would be this great every day of the week. We might actually deserve it then. But no, lots of people don't see things your way. I wish they did."

Catalina thought about that, pondering, then shrugged. "It shouldn't matter, I guess, but I'm sorry people haven't been very nice. I like doing things with her."

"Well, then you'd better get your tram ticket, because I am unfortunately going to be even busier in the next few days. The Tilve cab company may need to hang up for the rest of the week." He took the sting out of his words with a flashy grin, and she laughed in return as he ran around to once again open the door for her, helping her out.

"I hope we'll at least see each other a little, before Friday I mean," she added.

Enrique squeezed her hand, his fingers as full of energy as his expression. "Oh, you can count on that. Just try to disappear if you can."

There was certainly no reason Catalina could think of to try to hide from any of the Tilves.

Estancia Aldea Norteña 10: Deseos Cumplidos

MichelleRWFebruary 10, 2023 11:15AM


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