“Why? It won’t change anything,” he said. I didn’t reply, and he relented. “Okay. Two days, and that’s it,” he told me. “I mean it, Delia. I won’t be played like some fool. After that, I’m taking back all that I have offered you. I’ll go forward with the court action, and you will find yourself all alone out there. I imagine you might have to return to Mexico. I don’t mean to sound as if I’m threatening you, but you have to be made to understand what will be. The choice is in your own hands now, but as I said, the clock is ticking.”
He left, closing the door behind him.
I sat with the paper in my hands, his words lingering in the air. Even though I had no intention to obey such a legal document and all this money lay in waiting for me, it was still difficult to sign it. I came from a line of people who never gave away their children despite how close to starvation they might be. There was nothing stronger or more meaningful than family. It had destroyed my grandfather’s spirit when Tía Isabela turned on him, and he had disowned her. Abuela Anabela never failed to remind me of it and to express her hope that somehow my going to live with her would eventually bring her back to her family, even though they were long gone. That return would keep them from the third death.
Whether she owed him a favor or she was still looking for some way to get revenge on me, Tía Isabela showed up at the Bovio hacienda the next afternoon. I had just returned from my last visit with Dr. Denardo, who had given me a clean bill of health and told me to resume normal activities.
“I understand you’re thinking about going to nursing school. It’s a good career, and we need nurses,” he said. “You have a nice opportunity. I would seize it,” he added, clearly implying that I should do as Señor Bovio wanted.
I was sitting quietly in my room, thinking about all of this, when Tía Isabela suddenly appeared in the doorway. She wore a blouse and skirt that looked almost too plain for her. Her hair was tied back but not as severely as I had seen it done, and she wasn’t as heavily made up. She actually looked tired, even a little old. It surprised me as much as anything else to see that she had left her house and was being seen in public like this.
“When I first came here,” she began, “my husband had a housekeeper who believed that God rained children down on us as punishment for original sin. She actually believed it, and I suppose when she saw the way Sophia behaved, even as an infant, she was convinced it was true.”
She came into the room and looked around.
“Quite a come-down from Señora Bovio’s luxurious suite,” she said.
“I was never that comfortable up there, anyway,” I said.
“I imagine not. It was probably like sleeping with a ghost, but I warned you.”
She plopped into a chair and for a long moment looked too tired to speak.
“You know that Sophia was thrown out of school and Edward has run off from college?”
“I heard. Fani Cordova told me.”
“Fani,” she said. “It doesn’t surprise me to hear that. She probably enjoys spreading bad news, especially where it concerns me. I never liked that girl, and she knew it.” For a moment, she ran her gaze over me like someone looking for concealed weapons. “Well, despite all you have done—”
“I did nothing,” I said quickly. “It’s not true.”
“Whatever. It doesn’t matter now, does it? I understand Ray has made you quite an offer. You’ll be as rich as Señor Lopez. Wouldn’t your parents be surprised?”
“He’s buying my son.”
“Buying your son,” she repeated. “It’s his grandson, isn’t it?”
“I’m his mother. Maybe you don’t know it, Tía Isabela, but a mother is more important.”
“Please, spare me the canned lectures about parenthood. My husband used to go on and on about it. Think, Delia. What could you offer your son now?”
“Family,” I said. “Love.”
“Right. I don’t know why you’re being so stubborn about this. You see what raising children brings you. Sophia is still trying to drive a stake through my heart, and now Edward has run off, wasting all that I’ve done for him and all of his opportunities. If I died tomorrow, my children would barely blink.”
“I would never have such a relationship with my child. I would never permit him to be as self-centered as Sophia or drive him away as you have done with Edward.”
“No? You don’t think he’ll grow up self-centered, the way Señor Bovio would spoil him, despite you?”
“I won’t let that happen. I’ll take him away from here first.”
“Please, Delia. Get real, already. He’ll never permit it, and you’ll end up in a bad place. He’s too powerful for you.”
I looked away. Her words were like nails pounded into a coffin. Just like death, the truth about what she was saying couldn’t be denied.
“He’s described to me in detail what he’s offering you. I think he’s nuts, myself, but I can’t believe you’re actually procrastinating about it, risking that he’ll take back his offer and have you thrown out.”
I couldn’t stand hearing it, especially from her.