Rosa’s Journey Begins
Birdsong filled the air before the sun had made it over the mountain top. Rosa lay under the brightly striped blanket and listened to the crunching of the rocky path as the burro driver came to the house. Hopefully the burro wouldn’t balk at being harnessed to his cart. If so he’d wake the whole village. She inhaled the spicy scent of chilies, even though the strings of peppers no longer hung from the beams. Their smell would always permeated the stick and mud room. Formerly petitioned off by hanging blankets, the house was now open and she could see Louise’s mat had already been rolled up and carried out. There wasn’t much left of her brief time in this house. Already, she’d spent more days living there as a widow than a wife.
But the most painful trial was behind her. The night before she’d gone to her parents’ home for the last time hoping that they would bury their disapproval for her farewell. At least she was allowed to see their faces, but the forced indifference wasn’t a memory she would cherish. For good or for bad, she’d never see them again. Louise and she would not travel past that house this morning. Needing an early start, Louise had wisely asked that she say her good-byes the day before.
Once Rosa rolled her mat and carried her blanket out, the house would be absolutely bare. She had made certain that each family in the village received something of their goods as a parting gift, hoping to lighten their load and to please her parents. Perhaps they’d regain some of the prestige that they’d lost when their daughter turned her back on the ancient Nahuan ways.
Eager to be off, Rosa bundled her roll together and hurried out, surprised that Louise hadn’t awaken her already. She found Louise outside, trying to find enough light to finish her grooming. Her face was pink from scrubbing, her light hair already combed out, but she was having trouble pinning it up in the weak rays of dawn. It was a shock to see her mother-in-law in English clothes again. Perhaps ladies didn’t wear huipils in Texas. Rosa thought of the dresses she had in her bag, wrapped carefully around her flute and sewing kit. Was it wrong to wear them? What if they looked as strange to her new neighbors as Louise’s fitted bodices and plain skirts did to her?
Seeing her hesitation Louise, abruptly laid down her combs. “Are you having second thoughts? It’s natural, you know. I can’t imagine how you must feel going to a land where you are a complete stranger, to live among people, who might be, as far as you know, flesh-eating savages. I understand because that’s what I feared when we came here.” She gave Rosa’s hand an encouraging squeeze. “I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to stay. The journey is dangerous and there’s no telling what we’ll find when we reach the ranch.”
Stay for what? Rosa’s family had rejected her, the once kind villagers now scorned her and worse of all she would see Nenetl every day. For the rest of her life, she would be reminded that Nenetl possessed something that by all rights should’ve belonged to Rosa.
“I’m coming with you.”
“I’m not asking you to leave your homeland. There’s still time to change your mind and I wouldn’t blame you a bit if you did…” Louise clamped her mouth shut and halted the flow of words to await Rosa’s response.
Rosa hoisted her mat and blanket into the cart. “You don’t have to ask me again. I’ve decided.” She took the combs from the wagon seat and motioned for Louise to turn around.
“Then, I’ll do everything in my power to see you don’t regret it.” Louise bent so Rosa could reach the nape of her neck to pin the thick coil of hair. “I’ve come to think of you as my own daughter—yes, that feels secure. I don’t doubt it will slip out today, but who’s to see it?—my own daughter and couldn’t bear to leave you behind. You’re all I have left of my little family now. ”
Louise climbed up to the wooden plank that served as a bench on the cart and surveyed the sleepy town. The burro-driver flourished his stick making the shaggy donkey’s ears draw back in warning. “Come on up,” she said.
“It will be my last time on these paths. I want to walk,” said Rosa
“Of course you do. You’re always moving, always busy. While I, on the other hand, talk about something a hundred times before I actually do anything about it. I could prattle on and on…”
Walking to the side of the cart Rosa was able to think above Louise’s harmless chatter. No wonder she learned English so quickly, being exposed to an unceasing shower of words. And although Rosa preferred to walk than to sit still, this choice was based on the suspicion that, despite the silence of the dark houses they were passing, they were being observed. Her people must witness this last testimony that she was going of her own accord. She was not bundled up and carted off in the dead of night. She was not a sleepwalker bewitched by a foreign spirit. She walked out under her own power. She had made the choice to follow God and He had set her feet on an unfamiliar path…