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Estancia Aldea Norteña 26: Hay Revelación

April 07, 2023 12:00PM
"There is Revelation," making something known that was secret (Cambridge Dictionary).

It was a full, beautiful weekend; freed from doubts and suspicions, Catalina was able to enjoy everything much better. The three of them wound about the grounds, sometimes in a vehicle, sometimes at a more leisurely pace. Catalina actually got to pet the little colt up close, feeding him a treat. They all got in the pool and continued the fun as it got darker with games inside. Elena had a gigantic puzzle they dumped on a table, and Enrique brought his PlayStation out, teaching Catalina how to manipulate the controls to a game she had only seen advertised on TV.

Catalina had prayed fervently during Mass for the right time to confess her deeds to her dear friend. That afternoon presented an opportunity as the girls looked over art books and picked out designs they liked in one of the studios.

It was all rather anticlimactic since Elena didn't believe her at first. "You went upstairs to find, what, a map?"

"I don't even know anymore," she admitted, no longer quite so disturbed. "It seems so stupid now. I just wondered — well, I wanted to apologize, for not being fully honest with you."

Elena laughed then, not at all the reaction Catalina had anticipated. "You weren't honest? Oh Catalina, you are the most truthful person I have ever met. Your feelings are always plain as day for anyone to read. But gracias for telling me." She traced the outline of a portrait in the book on her lap, her delicate fingers barely touching the page. "It's like having a real sister, to cause trouble and fight with. Only I didn't even get to be angry with you!"

"You still can, if you like," Catalina offered, trying her hand at teasing, and Elena smiled back in mock astonishment.

"You've been around Enrique too much with that kind of talk." She leaned forward, tilting her head with a smile. "But now I know why you and he were hanging out at the pool so long the other night, yes?"

Catalina didn't answer this obvious dig for information although she couldn't help her cheeks flushing the tiniest bit. It was well she had this reminder to keep a firm handle on her imagination, and get back in a professional mood for Monday.

For whatever reason, Enrique kept her company over breakfast in the mornings the entire week instead of getting on the phone or hurrying out to the car. She hoped it meant things were not so far behind anymore; at least she was making better progress in the office. Sra. Costas could not handle the computer system at any greater proficiency than before, but between the two of them they worked out a rhythm where the lady prepped and organized files while Catalina typed. Then, when the computer froze, they would both work on setting more of the office to rights.

They were still without a proper file cabinet. However, there was a large supply of cartons, and Sra. Costas was very good at writing neat little labels to go on all of them. It took time, since she was also prone to get distracted by whatever popped into her head to discuss, but Catalina was perfectly happy to listen to her as they worked, and little by little things began to look more as they should.

Enrique was able to spend more time at the clinic itself after that first week, and began seeing some people in the one examining room. She heard his warm voice through the door, inviting and encouraging, always with a cheerful word for all. Many of the old ladies hugged and kissed him, calling him "Little Enrique" and asking after his family like relatives themselves.

"Yes, they know us very well, practically watched me grow up," he said over a salad when she asked about them. "In al honesty, some probably only made an appointment to come see me."

"Couldn't they come over for a visit?" she asked, sipping from her thermos.

He speared a few more greens, and chewed a moment longer before answering. "None of them have been on the ranch in ages. We don't often have guests from the villa, not since the accident."

They had been able to bring up the topic a few times in casual conversation since Friday, and Catalina was grateful there was no longer any lingering tension as they talked about the rest of the day's activities. However, with such a reduction in concerns, she was struck every day with the reminder that Isabel had yet to call her back. Catalina left several messages, and wrote a few emails, but heard nothing from her other friends. The Aguirres returned home just in time for Holy Week, so it was not surprising they were both be far too busy for chit chat. Her older brothers were so caught up in their schooling it was unlikely either would speak to her much at this time of year regardless. She talked to Mamá briefly, to let her know about the package mailed for Raquel's birthday. But despite all Isabel's promises to keep in touch, she sent no word at all.

Catalina took to checking her phone more often, worried she might have missed a call or text, and even asked Enrique one day if it was possible the number was blocked. "Not unless you did so yourself," he answered. "But I can check it, if you like." After pressing a few buttons, he handed the phone back, assuring her that if Isabel called it would come through.

Toward the end of the week the sky grew darker, appropriate for Good Friday. Catalina helped Elena make a blanket fort in the rec room the night before, and they stayed up late talking and laughing. For the first time since her arrival Catalina slept later than her friend. When they got up to eat breakfast, a surprise awaited them.

"You're cooking!" Elena squealed, rolling enthusiastically up to the low counter as Enrique maneuvered a frying pan over the built-in stovetop.

"You needn't sound so surprised, little sister, I cook for myself a lot," he answered, tossing some perejil into the delicious-smelling scramble.

"Yes, all by your lonesome back in your tiny apartment," Elena smirked, leaning forward on her elbows to take a deep smell. "So, what are we having with it?"

"There are also medialunas warming in the oven, although before my sister tattles on me, I should add that I did not make those. Señora Rosa was waiting until you lazy bones got up to bring everything in here."

"Then I'll go to tell her we're ready!" Elena wheeled herself backwards and around in a circle, shooting through the archway toward the kitchen and calling out for the housekeeper with glee.

"Are there plates I can get out?" Catalina asked, looking around, realizing she only knew where the bowls and spoons were kept.

Enrique tossed his head back toward a cabinet and pointed with his spatula. "Up in there, second shelf."

She soon found them, and set out silverware, napkins, and cups. "Did you want more café?" she asked, noticing he already had a mug nearby.

"Sure, gracias, this is almost finished," he answered, turning the heat lower and sprinkling paprika in, attention focused even as he took the drink back from her. But then Enrique looked up suddenly after taking a sip, an odd expression softening his features.

"It's not too creamy, is it?" she asked, pouring herself a cup. "I know you only like a little, and no sugar."

"No, no, it's perfect, gracias." He took a deeper drink, smiling, then set the mug down with a sigh of satisfaction. "Now if you will please bring another plate over, we can get this thing off the stove."

She grabbed one from the shelf, and held it carefully as he picked up the frying pan and expertly scooped the scramble out. Catalina found a large serving fork while he ran water over the hot pan. Elena rejoined them, carrying a honey crock in her lap while pushing into the room, the housekeeper following with a steaming basket of pastries and a bowl of salsa golf. Everything was laid out and served, and they had just taken their first bites when a digital ring interrupted their conversation.

"Oh no, Enrique!" Elena groaned. "Turn it off, please? It's a holiday."

"It's not mine this time, I promise." He swiveled his stool and reached over to the counter under the cabinets. "I believe you left it over there when you got the plates," he said, handing the phone across to Catalina.

It had been so long since she received a call that Catalina hadn't recognized the sound, and she eagerly opened it to see who was on the other end. "Javier! Do you mind if I answer? I'm sure he won't talk long."

"Go ahead,," Elena encouraged her.

"¡Gracias!" Catalina pressed the button, and immediately burst into a happy greeting. "How are you doing?"

"Hi Catalina," he said quietly, so low that she barely heard him. "I guess you're still with the Tilves?"

"Yes, we're enjoying breakfast, here, say holá to everyone, one moment," and she fumbled with the buttons, finally turning on the speaker mode. "Here they are."

"Good morning!" Elena called with Enrique.

"Holá." Javier sounded almost sick over the line, and Catalina quickly switched the back to her ear, concerned.

"Is everything good?"

"Who's in the room with you?"

"Just me and Elena, and Enrique," she answered uncertainly. "But don't worry, we can talk if you need to. What's up?"

"So their brother isn't home at all?"

"No. How is everyone? I haven't heard back from Isabel, are you going to be able to get together this weekend?" She picked up her cup, downing more of the café as she listened.

"No. No we're not." Javier's voice rose, strained and hollow. "We broke up."

"What!" Catalina choked on her café and started coughing. She took a large breath, swallowed, and walking toward the window, certain she couldn't have heard right. "What do you mean? When, I mean, why?"

"It's a long story. But I'm glad to hear you're doing fine, I've been worried about you ever since — I haven't seen them in a few days, and I was afraid maybe they were heading there. You're sure he isn't coming?"

"No, no, I don't think so, let me check." She put the phone against her shoulder, turning back to face two concerned people, neither of whom had taken another bite of food. "Do you know—" she began when Sr. Tilve marched in, far overdressed for the relaxed breakfast scene.

"Ah, smells good," he said, seating himself at the last empty plate and serving himself the entire rest of the scramble.

Catalina was torn, good manners requiring her to hang up but every other instinct screaming for her to finish this very important conversation. She sat down again, still holding her phone, not wanting to risk missing anything else Javier might need to tell her. The plate looked too full now, and she wished she could slink away quietly without anyone noticing. Elena eyed her in concern, barely eating. Then Enrique asked Sr. Tilve about the polo match he had watched the night before, firing off questions about players and horses, so that the two men were soon completely preoccupied.

"Go on, I'll save your plate for later," Elena whispered to her underneath this discussion, subtly pointing toward the archway.

Catalina realized then that Enrique had moved to block his father's view of that side of the room. It was the work of a moment to slip away unseen.

"I'm still here, are you?" She darted without thought from the kitchen to the dining room, and from there into the hallway.

"Yes, what happened?"

"I had to leave the room, one minute." Catalina recognized her location, and made for the place she thought would be the warmest in the house. Entering the sunroom, she was disappointed to find the overcast skies obscured most of the view, but nevertheless curled up on a couch, gripping the phone. "Now we're alone. Please, tell me what's going on."

"I wish I knew. Just last week I thought everything was going great. Her family came back home, we were going to see each other more, plan things out." He sounded wistful, uncertain, and so very sad. "It's such a mess. And the worst part is feeling like you're stuck in the middle. Has she called you at all?"

"No, I thought it was strange. But, Javier, please, you have to tell me more. Did you," she dropped her voice reflexively. "Did you have a fight?"

He laughed, a harsh brittle sound, certainly not happy. "I should have fought with her so many times. It's stupid, how easily she could lead me around. I knew something was wrong, I asked her over and over again to stop, but she didn't care. Why should she give up all her fun, just because I was busy with classes? And when I didn't come back, Captain Tilve was right there to take her out. I suppose he'll be able to afford a much better ring than me."

It was all so awful, so terrible, the worse because Catalina found she could so easily believe it. She should be shocked or deny that Isabel could ever do such a thing. But all she felt was sympathy for her brother, and pain at not being able to help him. "Then she's dating him now?"

"I suppose. Who knows? Maybe it's just a fling. But I couldn't keep fooling myself, not when she practically threw it in my face here in Buenos Aires. She didn't even try to deny her change of feelings when I finally wouldn't back down. And yet she had so often, pretending it was all a misunderstanding, that I was seeing things, imagining it, just jealous or unreasonable."

It sounded so like Isabel, now that Catalina thought back over everything, and she felt her empty stomach churn. "Do Papá and Mamá know?"

"I still have to call them. Just before Easter too, I've been dreading it, how to explain? Especially since I don't even have the ring back. Juan's doing everything he can to help; he said he'd get it for me, so I didn't have to see her again. But he hasn't been able to yet, and I can't ask him to confront his own sister. It's awkward enough for him as it is." He paused, breathing heavily over the phone. "But I wanted to let you know first, before anyone else, since for all I knew they were heading to the ranch for the weekend. Please, Catalina, be very careful."

"I will, of course, don't worry," she said, trying to comfort him as well as she could. "Everyone's taking very good care of me."

"I'm sure," he muttered, bitter and broken. "These Tilves are very good at claiming what they want. Only, and I know I have no right to talk right now, but please guard your heart little sister. I would never wish you to suffer such a loss or feel so betrayed."

Catalina didn't say anything, only listened as he stumbled through more painful revelations. She finally encouraged him to call their parents soon. "I'm sure Papá will be very sympathetic, and he won't be so busy with the clinic closed."

"You're right, of course. And I've kept you far too long on the phone."

"Please, that's nothing, I wish I could be with you." She ached to hug him, or kiss his cheek, and cheer him up. "And call me if you need to, any time, it doesn't matter."

"Maybe, but only if I have to, I would hate to ruin more of your trip. You've always been such a good friend, darling sister, gracias."

They only spoke a few minutes longer, then Catalina hung up with a heavy heart. Poor Javier! How awful for him, at the start of his most important university year, and this difficult situation thrust on him. As if to match her mood, rain began to beat against the window intermittently. It was like something on a show, and yet not, for there were no dramatic situations to smile or gasp over. Just a quiet broken heart and the unfairness of it all: while she had been showered with attention unmerited or asked for, Javier had lost the one thing he wanted most.

She got up and walked back to her room, changing into her most comfortable clothes, even though they were older and worn. But they made her think of home, and the love of her family, which she missed so much right now. If Javier and she were in Fortuna, they would gather with everyone in front of the little TV in the corner, watching the procession in Buenos Aires, and then join their neighbors at church that evening. There would be comfort in the knowledge that everyone present cared for their well being. At the least, she wished Javier could return and enjoy it.

Wandering back toward the front of the house, she found the two younger Tilves together in the living room, clean and dressed, the television on but quiet, neither of them looking very interested in the processional playing on the screen. They had been talking about something but stopped abruptly when she walked in.

"Are you still hungry?" Elena asked, taking her hand. "Señora Rosa has your plate in a warming pan, we can get it for you. Don't worry, Papá's gone out to check on something at the stables."

"I suppose." Instead of continuing on, though, she sank into a plush chair, desperate for company rather than solitude. Enrique jumped up and in a few minutes returned with a standup tray full of her plate and extra pastries, a fresh mug of café and milk balanced on either side.

"Would you like anything else?" he asked as he set it up for her.

"No, gracias, this is plenty." It was more than plenty, it was so thoughtful, so opposite of how Javier had been treated, she couldn't keep herself from crying.

Elena wheeled herself on the other side of the chair from the tray, hugging her. Catalina held onto her friend like one of her own sisters, and didn't try to stop as she let all the pent up tears from her conversation fall. "It's fine, don't worry, just take your time," Elena murmured, patting her on the back.

At last Catalina was able to pull herself upright again, hiccuping loudly, and self-conscious again. "Your shirt!" she cried out, seeing the stains on Elena's fine blouse.

"It's nothing, I can change, it doesn't matter at all." Elena kept a hand on her shoulder, and handed over a tissue. "Is everyone in your family alright? No one's hurt?"

"No, Javier's still in Buenos Aires, he hasn't even called home yet," she answered nonsensically while blowing her nose, realizing even as she spoke how they wouldn't understand her. She wanted to blurt out the whole story, selfishly, just for the comfort she was sure they would provide. But to tell Javier's shame even before he told Papá or Mamá, to lift up Isabel to scorn (although she deserved it!), and to accuse their brother all in the same breath.... That would be horrible. What could she say that would not bring more misery to everyone? Perhaps, she whispered to herself, it would have been best to actually lose her phone than learn such terrible things.

Enrique abruptly turned the television off, giving up his channel search. "Would you like to be alone?" he asked, not looking her way, uncharacteristically still.

"Yes, if you us to leave, that's not a problem," Elena babbled, still holding onto her.

Catalina wrestled with her loyalties, unsure what would be best. How much easier it was when to deal with her own shame, and not the responsibility of considering so many others! And yet, she recalled with vivid clarity Enrique standing by the pool, not pressuring her one way or the other, trusting her to make the right decision. Surely, she could trust him in return.

"No, no, gracias, please stay," she said, softly but with firmness, and sipped at her café to clear her throat. Catalina picked up one of the pastries, tearing it into pieces, trying to frame her words correctly. "I was going to ask you, before, is your brother coming home for Easter?"

"Fernando! No, I'm sure he's too busy with friends," Elena answered quickly.

"Would you tell me, please, if he changes his mind?" she begged, taking a nibble of bread, the sweet frosting soothing the scratchiness of her throat. "I don't think I could see him just now. Or ever," she admitted.

"I'm sure he won't," Elena assured her, frowning with even greater concern. "But what about your brother: is he well?"

Catalina sipped at her café again, and was spared from answering when Enrique spoke up. "I suppose you've finally heard from Isabel, then."

"Yes!" She turned to meet his eyes, startled out of her gloom. "How did you know?"

His lips quirked the smallest bit, the expression not moving beyond his mouth. "Lucky guess."

"But back in Mar del Plata, how could anyone have guessed? I never dreamed that anyone could be so cruel to Javier. To say all those pretty things about him, and claim she loved him, and now for him to be so depressed!" It was enough to make her nose run again, and she fumbled with the used tissue, searching for a dry spot.

Enrique handed her the entire box, taking the used tissue to toss in a waste can. "I'm sure your brother was made happier speaking to you," he said, perching on the arm of the couch. "As would anyone."

"I hope so, or at least not as miserable, who could be happy when Isabel broke Javier's heart, and their engagement, all to date Fernando." It felt far more real, saying the terrible truth aloud, and she pulled out another tissue.

"Really?" Elena asked, hardly pretending surprise. "Then they're not getting married after all."

"No; I suppose she never wanted to, really, since she was so quick to leave him. But I wish she would give the engagement ring back, it was so expensive, and Javier is probably worried about the money on top of everything else. Why should she keep it, when she'll probably get a different one before long?"

"That would be both unfortunate and unlikely," Enrique said, his left leg bouncing tightly in place. "I'm very sorry for your brother's loss, but Fernando isn't about to marry Isabel or anyone else right now, not when he gets all the money he wants in a few more months and can live as he pleases."

"But he’s been with Isabel all this time, and followed her back to Buenos Aires! Why would he go stay with her, instead of coming to be with his family, if he didn't care for her?"

"I suppose Javier saw them together?" Enrique asked blandly, betraying very little emotion.

"He didn't explain everything, but yes, I think so. They must be in love."

Elena shook her head sadly. "That doesn't sound like Fernando. I don't suppose Isabel is a model, or a movie star, or that her father races?"

"No." Catalina struggled to remember what she knew of the Lobos. "Señor Lobo works out on an oil tanker, on the boat crew."

Brother and sister shared a look before Elena responded. "Well, I think Enrique is right. Fernando’s birthday is in June, and then he'll be able to go out with whoever he wants to all the time. Besides, she doesn't sound like the kind of person Papá would like to come here."

"But I'm sure if your brother wanted to bring her, Señor Tilve would agree. He told me just yesterday how glad he was I could come, and how any of your friends were welcome, no matter who they were."

"He did?" Elena was startled in turn, eyes wide and voice lowered.

"At any rate," Enrique broke the quiet, "Fernando knows better than to suddenly spring an invitation unannounced on Papá."

"Yes, Papá hates his routine disrupted, he would be very unhappy to have anyone extra over right now," Elena agreed hurriedly. "And besides, with how she's acted, none of us would want to have her here. It's hard to believe even Fernando would stoop so low. He's always been so cool, so above it all, isn't that right Enrique? And the things he says about girls, you'd think he never wanted to be around them."

"Well, any man may change his mind I suppose," her brother said with a hint of something in his voice, drawing Catalina's gaze back to him. He was swinging one of his legs now, seemingly carefree, a tiny smile reaching his eyes at last, one mischievous eyebrow raised. "And someone who has held out for so long may fall hardest of all, not counting my healthy respect for Señorita Lobo's claws once they are sunk in deep enough. No, Elena, I suppose we may as well prepare for the wedding. Get ready for the sister you've always wanted: a pleasant, humble, unspoiled, completely honest young lady to keep you company."

Elena had begun to frown at his little speech, a familiar annoyance lighting her features, but she smiled instead of lecturing him. "Yes Enrique, that is exactly the sister I would like one of my brothers to bring home."

Instead of teasing in turn, Enrique blinked, biting back whatever he had been about to say. Catalina could not notice anything more, too caught up in her own thoughts. "Still, it must be better now, since Isabel is finally with someone she actually cares about. She has no reason to turn against your brother."

"No more than she did for Javier, after all, or whoever she meets next." Enrique had recovered his voice, and she recognized his unspoken laughter easily. "Perhaps she'll find a new friend over the long holiday: a movie star of her own or a polo rider. Plenty of men to choose from in Buenos Aires."

"Then she's only been thinking of herself?" Catalina asked, dismayed, but past shock. "It does seem likely, especially when she was so upset about living in the trailer back home. I thought she would be happy, to know how everything was arranged for them. I've never been that fooled by anyone."

Enrique tilted his head, smile deepening, and something else lit in his eyes, though she couldn't say what. "Then you know just the right number of people, to never be so disappointed before."

"But poor Javier: what will he do? To lose his heart, with all the work he has to finish, and at Easter too! How will he ever recover?"

"The same as poor Catalina, who is equally betrayed, and just as upset. I suppose you'll have to grow hardened, and cynical, and distrust all mankind, keeping the world at bay, and never leave your home. Certainly you could never return to Mar del Plata: it's far too happy a place. You would hate to be out on the beach, or at a cafe, or dancing, no, that's all over. Your only friend must be a faithful bird, one that never leaves its cage, and sings sad songs all day long."

She stared at him, her lips forming a smile almost against her will. "But I wouldn't want to live like that, ever! Why would anyone want to stay miserable because of someone like her?"

"Very wise, and very true. No one could argue against that very uncommon good sense. Now, if we're not careful, your breakfast will go cold all over again, and as I made it myself, I must insist you try at least one bite, if only to let me know how little you like it."

She scooped up a forkful, chewing out of habit, but it was so good she ended up eating the whole thing. Rain kept them indoors for the rest of the day, but they found plenty to do, and gradually Catalina was able to tear her mind away from the tragedy of the situation to pleasanter diversions. It was almost worth learning the awful news, given how welcome her friends' comfort was to her battered heart.

See my blog for a new bonus story about Catalina's childhood, in honor of Holy Week: "Confirmación."

Estancia Aldea Norteña 26: Hay Revelación

MichelleRWApril 07, 2023 12:00PM

Re: Estancia Aldea Norteña 26: Hay Revelación

NN SApril 07, 2023 06:11PM

Re: Estancia Aldea Norteña 26: Hay Revelación

MichelleRWApril 07, 2023 10:58PM


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