Disclaimers: My story, my characters. Muñequita Linda by Maria Grever and Un Gran Amor by Gonzalo Curiel used without permission
Sex: There is a loving relationship between members of the same sex.
Violence: Hmm…very little.
Dedication: To Vi for her unwavering belief in me, as well as her constant input. I love you, sweetheart. :)
Thanks: To the Dragonettes for being there for me. To Meli, I hope you like what I did with your input. I love you all…smoooooch.
Feedback: All constructive criticism welcomed at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Presidio of San Agustin of Tucson is just as formidable now as it was when it was built in 1775. Because the Apache raids were more frequent in that area, the Spanish government sent one of its garrisons from the Presidio of Tubac in Sonora to the Tucson region. The land being settled was surrounded on all four sides by mountains…the Santa Catalina's to the north, the Rinconcito to the east, the Santa Rita's to the south and the Tucson's to the west.
When the Presidio, which is about one hundred square feet with twelve foot walls, had been built only twenty-seven soldiers of different ethnic backgrounds came to live there along with their families and whoever else wished to join them in their new home. Since the Presidio had been astutely built close to the Santa Cruz River, the planting of corn, wheat, beans and vegetables had been gratuitous. Some of the wealthier settlers were able to settle down on the surrounding land to continue raising cattle, sheep and horses.
In 1821 when the Mexican Independence from Spain came, the people went on as they had before…they were too far away from the capital of Mexico for anyone to take notice.
During Mexico's rule, between 1821-1854, over some states including Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico, a great number of people with many different ethnic backgrounds migrated to the west. A big percentage of them settled in the Presidio of San Agustin of Tucson. However, in 1848 when the Great Gold Rush of California occurred, the majority of immigrants packed their belongings and left the Presidio with one sole purpose…to improve their future should they strike gold.
It is also during this time that the Native Americans of the region took offense to these foreigners coming onto their land and claiming it as their own.
It is during this time that this story begins…
"Bonita!" was heard from the large man coming through the stable doors, "¿Como están tu y Estrella?"
"We are doing fine, Tito. How about you, how’s the arthritis?" The tall woman who owned the horse, Estrella, named for the star-like white birth mark on its head, answered.
Federico 'Rico' Reyes, the smithy and owner of the stables, had called Rosaura Figueroa ‘bonita’ since she was a child…her beauty even then making a statement. She was much sought after by men and women alike. Her long, black hair complimented her almost six foot long, lean, which she had inherited from her father, and strong, from the hard work done at the ranch, body. From her mother she acquired the angular Pima Indian features, high cheekbones, black hair and honey brown eyes.
Rosaura’s parents, Juan and Belén, had died a few years earlier after Belen received a letter saying her sister had taken ill. Belén had felt it her duty to take care of her sister because in her opinion men, aside from doctors, were ineffectual in giving health care. Juan, of course, could not allow his wife to travel alone through the country even though it was just to Nogales, a couple days ride, and knew their daughter Rosaura, who had just turned seventeen, could take care of things at their ranch Los Cruceros. After all, he had taught her everything he knew and she had surpassed his expectations. Unbeknownst to Juan and Belén, things were worse than they thought when they arrived in Nogales. An outbreak of cholera had taken place and they became one of the many victims of this dreadful disease along with Belén’s sister and family.
Rosaura had been devastated over her family’s deaths but what had made it worse was that the bodies had been immediately buried as well not allowing Rosaura to take the bodies back with her to The Cruceros once the epidemic was over.
Ever since then Rico had watched over Rosaura, even though he knew she could take care of herself. Aside from being good friends with her parents, he and Juan Figueroa had served in the Mexican military and had been stationed at the Presidio. The Presidio was also the place where they fell in love and married. Rico and his wife, Cecilia, had become Rosaura's Godparents after she was born, loved her as one of their own and looked out for her the best way they could, since the young woman had become even more independent after Juan and Belen’s death.
The Figueroa ranch, Los Cruceros or The Crossroads, was located about ten miles from the fort and was one of the larger ranches in the region. From the horseshoe shaped entrance into the property, a rider would have to travel another half mile to reach the front door. The house, situated within two thousand acres of grazing land, was a two-story building. The walls were made of stone painted a tan color. Every entrance, doors and windows, was in the shape of an arch with stucco trimming, giving the entrances a sense of height. A sense that Rosaura had been inclined to prove after a debate with Antonio about whether or not a horse and rider would be able to ride into the house without the rider having to dismount. Rosaura and Estrella had made a nice smooth entrance but very hasty exit. Once Elena, the housekeeper, along with her husband Carlos, had gotten wind of the goings on, she had chased animal and rider out of the house. An iron skillet held high above her head in her hand being waved in the air while Carlos, Pedro, Antonio, Jorge and Francisco rolled on the floor laughing at the spectacle the two women and one horse were making.
Carlos and Elena had only been married a short time when they had traveled north from Durango, Mexico, in search of jobs and had the fortune to come across Juan and Belén when the house was newly built. Unfortunately they had never been blessed with children, but when Rosaura had been born a year after they had come to live at Los Cruceros, they were just as elated as the parents were. Treating her as their own, Rosaura had been fortuitous to having been raised by two sets of parents. Regrettably for Rosaura, that also meant double chastising when she got in trouble. But she loved them and they adored her.
A wraparound porch constructed of two inch wide walls, five foot wide arches and a couple of wooden railings connecting each arch, except where the front and back doors were at, surrounded the house. A couple of sets of rocking chairs with a small table in between were placed at each entrance.
Once a person stepped through the front door, they entered the sala or living room. All the furniture within, which consisted of a sofa against the wall space book-ended by double glass doors with soft blue lace curtains hanging from gold colored rods, two love seats, a hat stand, end tables, one medium sized table in the middle of the room. Also, a grand piano located a few feet away from the glass door and a couple of rocking chairs. All these had been made of dark wood, which contrasted nicely with the white colored room. The floor whose base was also of stone was covered by bluish gray tiles and once set the joined corners formed a floral design.
Three doors, one on the right side of the room two to the left, led out of the room. The door to the right led to another door that was at least steps across from the door to the sala. Upon opening the door one entered the library, which was also used as an office. Within this room resided a secretary desk with chair along the right wall. A wall to wall and two foot shorter than the ceiling wooden shelving unit lined the left walls. Within these shelves lived the works of authors such as Dumas, Browning, Poe, Bronte, de Cervantes, Alarcón and so many other contemporary writers of the time.
Padre Lorenzo, the town’s Padre Superior or head priest, with help from Padre’s Eusebio and Valentín as well as the Madre Superiora and the six nuns under her care, had made sure that when Rosaura was a child, along with all the children from town, had schooling. Teaching them, and any adult that might want to learn, how to read, write and count. From that time on, Rosaura had become an avid reader and whenever a book salesman came to town, she was there to see what new adventures she could indulge in.
To either side of the doors was a set of stairs that led to the second level of the house. Each side of the stairs was lined by a banister leading to the second floor bordering both sides of the stairwell opening, preventing any accidental fallings. Reaching the top of the stairs, a person could keep going ahead until they reached a door leading to the wraparound balcony, constructed to look exactly like the one downstairs except the railings blocked every arch.
Or turning in one direction, depending the stairwell used, would lead to Rosaura’s bedroom, having taken her six years to convince herself that it was okay for her to use her parents’ bedroom as her own, which was a few feet from the stair landing and was slightly larger than the other bedrooms because it had its own bathroom
The other direction led to a long hall with three separate doors lining either side, each door leading to a bedroom except for the middle door on the left that led to sitting room. It seemed the owner had a fondness for white because the entire inside of the house was painted that color. The only difference between the rooms…the contrasting tiles, furniture and rugs laying about the room.
Each bedroom had a double bed, dresser, night table, armoire, a chest at the foot of the bed, mainly for linen, and a large window with the sill high and wide enough for anyone to sit on and gaze at the starry sky during a restless night.
The room across from the sitting room was the other bathroom in this part of the house, which was a far cry from the wooden outhouse built when the ranch had first been founded.
A traveling salesman had passed through the Presidio a couple of years earlier on his way to California. And hoping for a few sales, he had brought out his wares catalog along with his sales pitching voice.
“Seems as if he’s got everything from chewing tobacco to your neighbor’s dog in that book…” Rico had commented to Rosaura at that time.
However, Rosaura’s attention was glued on the one item that ‘come hell or high water’ she was going to have in her home. It was a newly come out, what the catalog called, ‘High Tank Water Closet with Pull Chain’. The product’s description said it had a porcelain commode. The pipes were three feet long made of copper and the water tank was 19” wide by 7” deep and held 1.6 gallons of water. The tank was made of oak and the chain hung from its left side. The cost was pricey though, at twenty-five dollars, but Rosaura felt that owning the ‘water closet’ was worth it.
The salesman just about had a heart attack when Rosaura placed the order. She ordered six. Once the salesman recovered, he put in a rush order and the items, along with installation instructions, were at Los Cruceros a couple of months later.
From the instructions, Rosaura calculated that the installation was similar to the way Arnulfo, the local handyman, had installed the pipes, which ran to a separate fenced-in reservoir a few miles from the house, to the bathtubs. The job of installing all the water closets was finished within a year and Rosaura had no regrets in having acquired them. Once other property owners had bestowed a look at the finished product and the convenience of owning one, they too ordered water closets for their homes.
All the bathrooms on the property except for the one off the patio between the dining room and the kitchen had a bathtub. Each bathroom had a small sink next to a hand pump for easy access to water instead of having to go out to the well to fetch it. There was a potbelly stove in one corner of the outer wall for heating water as well as for warmth during the winter months. The tub at the opposite wall from the sink and stove was made of two three-foot high stone walls, which were built off the walls, three-inch thick with a flat top and covered with brick-red tiles. A drain hole was situated by the outer wall where a person just had to pull the plug for the water to drain into the fields.
Aside from the three bathrooms within the house, there was one in Carlos and Elena’s house, which was walking distance to the main house. Another was in Pedro and his family’s house and one in the bunkhouse.
If you chose the door to the left, you would find yourself within an enclosed courtyard that Elena used for storing the ‘ollas’ or clay pots and pans she used for cooking and wouldn’t fit in the kitchen cupboards. Potted plants adorned the window ledges and a patio set that Rosaura loved to use at night while relaxing with a cup of coffee after a long day and stare out the window to look at the stars sat in the middle of the room while two sets of double wooden doors and one single door at the far end could be seen along the wall. One set of doors led to the dining room, the other to the kitchen and the single door was the third in-house bathroom.
The dining room was a large room styled the same as the living room with the exception that instead of double doors, there were windows book ending a set of double doors. Those doors had been used many times during the hot months for when one or more meals of the day would be held at the gazebo within the large tree laden backyard. A long oak table at least thirty foot long and five wide, where twenty people could comfortingly, sit occupied the center of the room. Another table half the size of the dining table rests against the left wall close to a smaller door that leads into the kitchen. This table is utilized for placing the pots and pans filled with the hot meals. Once Elena and Carlos made the initial serving and sat down to their meal, it was every person for themselves.
Whether you were entering through the door in the dining or the double door in the courtyard, the first thing you would be hit with when entering the kitchen, were the enticing smells that circumvallated the room. This was Elena’s domain…the area where the most delicious meals to stroke the palate were made. Within this room were cupboards, one table the same size as the buffet table was in the middle of the room for mixing, slicing or whatever needed to be done for preparing the meal. A hand pump with a double sink built around it perches against the wall by the door leading to the courtyard. The wall opposite the dining room door boasts with one window on either side of a wooden door, which leads to the side of the house and in direct path to Elena and Carlos’ house. On the back wall with ventilation pipes leading out of a hole for each are two, black iron, wood or coal, burning stoves. Each sporting four removable round lids for easy access to stirring the embers within and where the pots and pan were mainly placed for cooking although entire top could be used to keep the food warm. The stoves also had two small doors at the front, one for putting in the wood/coal the other a compartment which could be used for baking or for storing the cookware when the stove was not in use.
Aside from the main house, Carlos and Elena’s house, Pedro’s house and the bunkhouse, two more main buildings sat on the property, the stables. The stables were built of wood and were large enough to accommodate six horses each on one side while the opposite side was used for supplies and tack as well as used by the four dogs used for cattle wrangling. The stable that Estrella called home was, of course, located close to the main house while the other was close to the bunkhouse. There was also a chicken coop, which held a couple of dozen chickens and a pigsty that held half a dozen pigs with more on the way.
The main income was from the sale of cattle which Rosaura's father had taught her all about. Twice a year she, her foreman Pedro, her regular workers Jorge, Antonio, Roberto, Francisco and six hired hands from town would rustle the prime cattle to New Mexico or up to Phoenix for their sale, leaving the care of the ranch to her trusted housekeepers Carlos and his wife Elena. They would return to the ranch once the sale was complete and start the process over again. It was at these events Rosaura and Pedro would keep their eyes open for good stock bulls, an essential part of any good cattle ranch.
During the day Rosaura worked side-by-side with her employees and at night would do the books. Since someone had to stay and oversee the ranch at all times, she took turns with Pedro going to the Presidio for a weekend of relaxation and enjoyment. And this was her weekend to enjoy herself.
"You know me, Bonita, always working."
"How’re Tita Cecilia and the rest of the family?"
"Everyone is doing fine." He responded. "The grandkids are growing like weeds."
"Say hello to everyone. I'll most probably be stopping by on Sunday for a visit."
"Everyone will be happy, especially Florcita." He said with a big smile.
Flor, Rico's youngest granddaughter, was Rosaura's Goddaughter and idolized the tall woman. The child’s high cheekbones along with her long dark brown hair denoted her Pima lineage with her hazel eyes and light colored skin designating the Spanish side. Whenever Rosaura was visiting the Reyes home, or they visiting the ranch, she would acquire a shadow. Since she had learned to walk, the four-year-old would attach herself to the tall woman and could be found wherever she was during her visits. The other four grandchildren would be elated to see the rancher, but none as much as Flor. Rosaura and Rico could still not figure out the reason for such a strong kinship, but envisioned she would out grow it.
This statement from Rico made the woman laugh remembering the times with her little shadow.
"I'm looking forward to seeing her too."
"Go on now…" Rico tells Rosaura, "…go get yourself some rest and some enjoyment and forget about work for a couple of days…just be careful."
"As if I could, but I will try, Tito." She replies. "I know Estrella is in good hands. I'll see you Sunday, if not sooner."
After throwing her saddlebags over her shoulder, Rosaura walked down the street towards the saloon greeting people she knew as she passed by them. Having lived all her life at the Presidio, the only people she didn't know were people just passing through or new settlers.
Arriving in front of the saloon Rosaura was about step on the boardwalk when she heard a greeting.
"Welcome back, Rocky."
Looking up, Rosaura noticed the voluptuous redhead speaking to her.
"Thank you, Kate. How have you been?"
"I've been fine. You ready for some playtime?"
"I sure am," Rosaura replied, a big smile on her face.
"Come on in and take a load off then. Your room's ready for you."
"Thanks.” She stated walking in.
Kate Stanley came from back east, along with some of her girls, after some so-called upstanding citizens had burned down her House of Pleasure. Gathering the few clothes that survived and their money, the women headed out west. They got as far as the Presidio. Once the owner of La Cantina or The Saloon heard their story, he made Kate an offer and for the last three years has been co-owner of La Cantina.
La Cantina was one of two buildings standing a few feet away from the wall opposite the Presidio’s entrance…the other was Federico’s livery stable. The other buildings, mercantile shops, sheriff’s office, undertaker/dentist’s office, boarding house with a restaurant as well as a wire/post office, were positioned along the side walls. There were a few houses within the fort but most were now being built around the surrounding area of the Presidio.
The two-story Cantina was built, as were most of the other buildings, of wood. It featured four wooden decorative beams, which held up the balcony located on the second floor. Large windows on either side of the Cantina’s entrance were fitted with stained glass. The wooden double doors at the entrance, sidled fully against the wall, opened to a pair of swinging doors.
Once inside, the smell of stale beer was the first thing to reach your senses. When the eyes recovered the sense of sight from having come in from the sunlight, the bar was located directly ahead. Three medium round tables designated for card games were positioned at three of the corners. A set of stairs leading to the rooms on the second floor rose between the fourth wall and the bar. A piano sat along the fourth wall where Cesar played during the evenings entertaining the men in attendance. The rest of the tables, smaller and square, were strewn about the room.
Kate had been the one to nickname Rosaura "Rocky" after a drunken customer had tried to force his intentions upon her. It had been one of Rosaura's weekends to be in town and Kate walked down to the bar to spend some time with her and her cards playing friends. A few feet from the table the drunken man grabbed Kate.
"How's about you and me go up to your room and have us some fun?"
"We're not working yet." Kate responded. "Why don't you come back later tonight?"
"Don't think so…now!"
"She's not open for business…let her go." A low gravely voice said.
Turning around, the man told Rosaura. "Stay outta this…unless you wanna take her place," a leer on his face.
He turned around and proceeded to drag Kate up the stairs. Suddenly, the man's left hand went to his head as he crumpled down the stairs.
With startled eyes, Kate turned to the group at the table. "What the hell happened?"
Everyone at the table turned to point at Rosaura who was blowing the smoke away from her… slingshot!
"Why don't you guys help me take him to his room," was suggested to her table companions with a wink.
Rosaura and her companions picked up the drunken man and took him outside dumping him in the water trough.
Walking back into the saloon Kate stepped in front of Rosaura and poking her chest stated, "I can't believe you used a rock to knock him out!"
"Knew he was drunk…no sense in killing him. It's a present for Flor…glad I could try it out and see if it had good aim." She replied shrugging her shoulders.
"You're dangerous with a slingshot, Rocky," was laughingly stated with a slap to the back.
"Hey, Rocky, we've been waiting for you!" One of the men at a table shouted.
Rosaura made her way to the table greeting the others sitting there. On her weekends of rest she could be found at the usual table playing poker with Juan, Alberto, usually called Beto, and Pablo. The three were her regular playing buddies and having grown up together, were comfortable in each other’s company. Juan was of dark complexion, black hair and black eyes. Beto and Pablo, being twins, are of a shade lighter complexion than Juan, had light brown hair and gray eyes. Juan was as tall as Rosaura but Beto and Pablo stood at least half a foot shorter.
"Why would you be waiting for me, Juan?"
"I knew it was your weekend to come in and I'd like a chance to win some of that hard earned money of yours." answered the cocky man.
"But, Juan, you haven't beat me yet in any of our previous games, what makes you think you will do it today?" Rosaura countered with a chuckle as she sat next to her friend.
"There's always hope, Rocky, and I'm always full of that." With that response the whole table burst out in laughter.
"Okay, Juan…" said with a laughter-filled voice, "…since you’re full of that, I'll give you the opportunity to try and take my hard earned money."
"Hi, Rocky," Abby, one of Kate's girls, welcomed Rosaura placing a mug of beer in front of her.
"Hi, Abby, how've you been?" asked Rosaura.
"Not bad…" Abby answered, "…want some company tonight?"
Rosaura turned her face towards Abby, an eyebrow raised.
Laughing, Abby teased. "Hey, a girl can dream, you know."
With a snort, Rosaura returned her attention to the game being played. Rosaura's preference for women was known and although the custom was not entirely accepted in town, they accepted Rosaura…she was one of them. The girls tried to get her into their bed, but Rosaura would always nicely turn them down, she didn’t think it was fine to sleep with someone if you didn’t love or simply had no feelings other than friendship for them…it had become a game with them. Through the teasing they had all become friends and Rosaura would invite them to Los Cruceros for some rest and relaxation for themselves.
The weekend had turned out pleasant and far too short for Rosaura, but was looking forward to going back to her home. She enjoyed the company of her friends in town, but the quietness and beauty of the ranch was something she would never tire of. After lunch and some playing time at the Reyes home, Rosaura saddled Estrella and pointed her towards home.
Halfway to the ranch, Rosaura noticed smoke rising in front and to her right. It could only mean one thing…Indians. She spurred Estrella into a gallop, dust following them across the rocky terrain, until they found the cause of the smoke. There before them, were smoldering wagons, arrows used to set the fires still evident. Bodies of men, women and children were lying on the desolate ground. She could detect no movement.
"Start packing our belongings…we're leaving." A satisfied looking Bartholomew Hammet announced.
"What do you mean we're leaving? Leaving for where?" His flabbergasted wife Colleen asked.
"We're going to go out west and get rich."
"I am not doing anything until you explain to me what is going on."
"Col, the news is all over the place…gold has been discovered in California! There's a wagon train heading out that way by the end of the month and I want us to be a part of it."
Colleen just stared at her husband as if he had grown an extra head.
"But…but…Bart, the store is doing real well and we have our property and think of the children…" Colleen tried to reason.
"I'm selling the store to Mr. Temple and Harold Charles is buying the property." He said with a smug look. "And as for the children, I'm sure they'll be excited to go on an adventure."
"Priscilla has been hoping that Tom Bowers asks for her hand in marriage."
"Rubbish…Priscilla is too young to think about getting married."
"What do you mean too young? She's seventeen!"
"See…too young and I believe that she'll have many more opportunities where ever we end up."
Colleen knew Bartholomew's mind had been made up and nothing she would say or do would change it. Bartholomew, who at 5'7" medium build, blonde hair and green eyes, was a loving, devoted husband and father and so full of life and fun. His children adored him. He would always try and find time for them after closing the dry goods store and once they were in bed the rest of the evening belonged to his wife. He tried so see the best in every thing. She loved him dearly and knew that by the end of the week, they would be heading out west.
Colleen Hammet, a petite woman with golden brown hair and gray colored eyes, had married the fun loving nineteen year old Bartholomew at the age of sixteen. He had swept her off her feet with his charm and ability of making her laugh all the time. She had born him two children who were the apples of his eye, Priscilla and Jacob. Twenty years later, she still loved him as much as the first day they got married and knew he felt the same way.
"Priscilla! Jacob!" Bartholomew called his children.
"Papa, you're home!" Priscilla cried out as she ran into her father's arms to be swung around.
Priscilla was a pretty young girl having taken after her mother’s petite build, but her father's blonde hair and green eyes. Her 16-year-old sibling was the opposite, having his father's build, but his mother's eye and hair coloring. Yet they both shared their father's lust for life and adventure.
"Papa..!" Jacob yelled running into the open arms as well.
Once all three calmed down, Bartholomew asked. "How would you like to go on an adventure?"
"Where to, Papa..?" Priscilla asks.
"Out west…to dig for gold…"
"Really, Papa…Mama?" a wide-eyed Jacob asks.
"Yep, really…" Bartholomew answers as Colleen nods her head.
"Yippee!" both children exclaim jumping up and down while hugging their parents.
Bartholomew turns to his wife with an 'I told you so' look. Colleen just smiles and shakes her head.
The day of the departure had finally arrived. The sun was just making its way up into the sky with a promise of a beautiful day for traveling. Bartholomew Hammett had sold his store and land, packed the house furnishings, food, water and tools onto the family wagon.
The anticipation surrounding the wagon train was so thick you could slice it with a knife. Family and friends were gathered around the travelers with warm wishes of safe travel. Twenty wagons were lined up one behind the other in preparation of the great adventure.
"I wish you wouldn't go, Priscilla." Tom Bowers declared. "Stay and become my wife, I'll take care of you."
"I can't, Tom. I want to be with my family and I also want to see what lies beyond Springfield."
"I'll take you west as soon as we're married, get settled and save some money for the journey."
It was time for truth, although it pained Priscilla to have to tell Tom. He had been so sweet and according to the female gossip around town ‘the best catch in town’, standing a good two feet taller than her own 5’5”, blonde hair and blue eyes. Yes, she agreed that he was quite handsome and would be a good provider. However, she didn’t feel that all surrendering of the heart feeling she wanted to have for that one special person and if she wanted to be happy she had to keep looking. So she had to tell Tom so he wouldn’t keep thinking that she wanted to marry him. She had discussed the matter with Colleen and had agreed that letting Tom know now that Priscilla was not interested would be the best thing to do.
"Tom, I really care for you but…" She hesitantly says.
"But…not enough to marry you and become your wife. I'm really sorry."
"I see…well…good journey then." Tom turns and walks away, a crestfallen look upon his face.
Priscilla sadly, but now lighthearted heads toward the family wagon…her home for the next months.
"Are you ok, my dear?" Colleen asks her daughter having watched the interchange.
"Yes, Mama, I'm fine. Just hope that Tom will be as well."
"I'm sure he will be. In no time he'll find something to take his mind off your leaving."
With a hug and kiss, both women turned to face the front and listen for the much-awaited signal that would start them on their journey.
The first few weeks of the journey had been exhilarating for Priscilla, this being her first trip out of Springfield. They would rise at dawn, travel fifteen to twenty miles a day, depending on any complications that would arise, make camp at dusk and go to bed when dinner and chores were done.
The open land at every turn just seemed so captivating. Every which way Priscilla turned all she could see was green. The hawk she had seen flying up high in the sky had made her feel so free and lighthearted. Nature seemed to be sharing all its beauty with her and she enjoyed every scene shared along the path of the journey. Whether it was a forest of trees some distance away, a river they were traveling along the side of for a while, the fauna or the flora particular to the area. All of it just seemed so splendorous to the young woman.
However, with all its beauty, nature was just as surprisingly devastating. Although they had been warned that it would be a long and sometimes difficult journey, she had not been prepared for the possibility of someone losing their life.
Leon, the wagon master, was a burly 6’2”, red hair, mustache to match and a no nonsense attitude, and Murray, the scout, though just a burly as Leon stood only 5’8”, dirty blonde hair and clean shaven. Both men assured everyone that the bridge built across the Arkansas River was safe and had been used many times for the purpose of crossing the great river. The water was running fast but they mentioned that it always ran at this speed. However, they could not predict the mountain snow melting and causing havoc.
Priscilla, hugging her father as he alit from the end of the bridge having just finished making the perilous trek, heard yells from their traveling companions that had already crossed the bridge in safety. Turning to see what all the commotion was about, she noticed what seemed like an enormous tree coming towards the bridge and aiming towards the two crossing wagons.
The two men leading the last two teams of oxen pulled wagons tried their best to hurry the beasts but before anything could be done, the bridge and everything on it was gone. The wagons were in tatters and the contents of each were spread out throughout the river floating rapidly away. Some of the oxen were seen trying to swim to shore, everyone trying to see if they could spot the two men who had been leading them.
When the bridge had been washed away the majority of the settlers just stood in shocked silence, their minds still trying to comprehend what they had just seen. Moments later a few whimpers could be heard but most expressions seemed to be saying, “Thank the Lord up above I was already across, that could have been me.”
Leon and Murray jumped onto their saddles and rode as fast as their horses could go in the same direction as the raging waters hoping to find the two men. They recovered the oxen.
Upon reaching the next settlement, the surviving family of one of the men killed had decided to stay and return home. The other man had been traveling alone. Some of the settlers took advantage of the stop to replenish whatever supplies they were running low on or had completely run out of. Those who could afford it, that is, since many had sold what few possessions they owned at the beginning of the journey to buy as many provisions as they could. The towns were few and far between with a few a couple at least two days out of their current path, which they couldn’t afford to detour to if they wanted to make their destination by the appointed time.
The rest of the wagon train continued on their journey out west and although the loss of lives had been taxing upon the spirits of the travelers, the optimism of the possible riches that were awaiting them kept their hopes high.
They finally left Kansas crossing into Oklahoma and before they knew it, were inside the Texas border. The heat and dry terrain challenged the caravan at every turn. A couple more wagons had been abandoned when the axles broke and extra parts were not readily available. Those families decided just to lay claim to the land where they stood.
Onward went what was left of the determined wagon train. The mountainous terrain of New Mexico was the next to see them.
Leon led the tired group in between and around the majestic mountains hoping no more wagons would be lost.
After passing the Guadalupe Mountains, Rocky Mountains, San Andreas Mountains and the Tularosa Range, Pricilla had begun to think that this state was made only of mountains. They had passed by a few small towns but to her, it seemed the mountains were never ending.
Into their fifth month of travel they reached the town of Lordsburg. Priscilla knew the town was very close to the Arizona border, the last territory they needed to cross before reaching California. Despite the weariness in her body, the thought of the destination she and her family had set out for was within reach flooded her heart with giddiness.
Bartholomew observed his tired yet happy family as they sat next to their wagon. Their faces illuminated by the fire pit his children Priscilla and Jacob had prepared for the night. The news he had to share with them was quite unpleasant and wasn't sure of their reactions. Although the decision of staying or continuing on could be completely his, the magnitude of the possible consequences was too much for him to carry.
“Gentlemen…” Leon began. “I have asked you here to fill you in on some news that was brought to my attention in Lordsburg. It seems that the Apaches have been in an uproar over something the military did and have been randomly attacking. So far, from what I’ve been told, the attacks have been upon the military forces. However, it is my duty as your wagon master to inform you of these acts and allow you to decide whether you want to continue on the journey, return from where you came or stay here, in Lordsburg. Let me know what you decide. That’s it, thanks.”
"Colleen, children, I have some news to share and we need to make a decision." They would always be his children. Priscilla's eighteenth birthday, which had been celebrated with some music and dancing, had come and gone during the journey.
It had been another long day of travel and all Priscilla could think of was finally stopping for the night and going to sleep. The excitement of the journey had been lost by the beginning of the second month and now, four months into their journey, all she wanted was to finally get to where they were going.
They stopped that evening in another God forsaken part of this land they were traveling, the wagons placed in a circle as protection in case Mother Nature decided to act or nightly predators that might want to visit. Everyone went about their business preparing supper and the sleeping areas.
When supper was finished and the dishes washed Colleen went up to her daughter putting her arms around her. “Happy Birthday, Priscilla..!”
“Birthday..?” Priscilla verbalized a surprised.
“Yes, birthday, a very Happy Birthday to you, my little one…” Bartholomew intoned cheerfully, embracing his daughter as well.
“Happy Birthday, Sis…” Jacob added his greeting.
“It’s my birthday!” Priscilla stated happily.
“What’s all the commotion over here?” Dennis, an average sized man with thinning dark brown hair, asked.
“It’s my birthday!” Priscilla repeated for him.
“Well, congratulations, this deserves a celebration. Hey, folks. This young lady is celebrating her birthday and I think that deserves celebrating, what do y’all think?”
With cheers, whoops and hollers they all agreed. A couple of people had brought their instruments with them so they took them out and started playing. The others danced, talked or just enjoyed the music and company for a couple of hours before retiring. Spirits rose that evening and remained for days after.
Priscilla enjoyed herself as well, dancing with a few of the men, especially her father and brother. In the privacy of their fire later that evening, her family bestowed her with a couple of gifts…a beautiful cameo locket from her parents and a small book of poems from Jacob. That night the young woman had the biggest smile upon her face as her eyes closed in sleep.
"What's wrong, Bartholomew?" His wife asks.
Looking upon their faces and finally holding Colleen's eyes, he revealed, "Leon has found out that there have been a few Indian attacks starting a few miles inside of the Arizona border. I wanted to let you know so we can come to a decision of whether or not we continue on this, what I now consider a foolish trip."
"Long, yes, tiring, yes, foolish…no." Colleen replied, a small smile gracing her face. "It was a dream you wanted to fulfill and when the opportunity arose, you took it. There's nothing foolish about that."
"I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if anything happened to any of you because of a foolish dream."
"Nothing is going to happen. We have only a short way to go, it would be foolish to stop now."
Seeing his wife's determined features, Bartholomew was reminded of the reason he fell in love with her. "What about you two? You have a choice here as well."
"I agree with mother." Priscilla supplied.
"So do I." Jacob finished the voting.
"Ok, we go on. I'll let Leon know."
Two days later and a few wagons less, they were on their way and quickly crossed the border into the Arizona territory.
Leon had suggested to having every capable body armed. He hoped trouble would not find them but it was best to be prepared.
On the third day after leaving Lordsburg they came upon Apache Pass, situated between the Dos Cabezas and Chiricahua Mountains. Both mountains looming high above them on either side and from where the wagon train traveled, all seemed calm and deserted.
Leon and Murray kept an eagle eye for any unprecedented trouble. Luck was on their side on this day…the wagon train exited the Pass without incident and continued on into Wilcox. The Presidio in Tucson was another three days journey from Wilcox and if their luck held they would reach California within a month.
After having spent the evening in Wilcox they proceeded on to Tucson and two days later came upon the pass within the Santa Rita and the Santa Catalina Range. As with Apache Pass all seemed quiet and calm and with optimistic spirits they trudged in. It was only another day's journey to the old Presidio de Tucson once they were out of the pass and once there they would rest for at least a day before continuing on the last leg of the journey.
Leon and Murray kept an eagle eye for any unprecedented trouble. However, as soon as the wagon train was well within the pass, loud thunderous beats and yells echoed all around them.
Murray just had the chance to turn in his saddle before falling off his horse, an arrow sticking out of his chest.
"Take cover, and protect yourselves!" Leon yelled at the top of his voice praying to be heard.
The wagon train never had a chance, as complete chaos overtook the previously quiet mountain pass. The Indians had patiently waited until the wagons had traveled almost to the center of the canyon when whooping and motioning their steeds to full gallop, attacked the caravan. They came from both ends…arrows flying and shots fired from those carrying rifles, encircling the wagon train and shooting of anything that moved. These foreigners wanted to take their land, their food source, their livelihood…so they would take whatever they needed to survive while diminishing the numbers of those invading what was theirs.
They had been willing to share the land and live in peace with these white people but the people had wanted it all. They could not give up their means of survival without a fight.
The men driving the wagons tried to get their teams of animals to move at a run but immediately found out that whichever way they tried to turn the team, the passage was blocked. The men who had been riding or walking alongside the wagons as well as the few women who knew how to handle a weapon reached for guns and rifles hoping to protect themselves and the caravan. Screaming and panicking the rest of the older female contingent grabbed the children hoping to find a place where they could be safe. Most running towards the few boulders scattered around them while others hid beneath the wagons and behind the large wheels.
Men, women and children were falling dead or injured as arrows flew through the air. Gunshots were heard bringing a few of the attackers to the ground dead or injured as well. Smoke was rising from the wagons where flaming arrows had stuck on the wooden sides or the canvas covering then…
The sudden silence was overwhelming to the shocked migrants whose minds struggled to get caught up with what had just transpired. Just as sudden as the attack had begun, it had stopped. They didn't dare move from their hiding places lest they bring another attack upon themselves. Bodies lay all around and aside from the burning wood and canvas. No other sound was audible as the dust once again settled on the ground from whence it had been stirred up.
Not even the neighs or the lows from the oxen since all the available animals had been loosed and taken.
Where're Mama, Papa and Jacob? The last time Priscilla had seen her family was just before the attack. Bartholomew had been in the wagon at the reins with Colleen by his side while Jacob walked on the other side. At the sound of the warning, Bartholomew had jumped down and pushed Priscilla towards the rocks and telling her to hide. She had run to the big boulder in front of her and made herself as small as possible hoping not to be detected. Now, with the silence surrounding her, she feared the worse.
Out of the west, hoof beats were heard. Are the Indians coming back to finish what they started? The thought crossed through Priscilla's mind as she waited, not daring to breathe so as not to be heard.
A lone figure appeared between the gap at the opposite side of where the wagon train had entered. Horse and rider stopped and seemed to be assessing what had just transpired. The rider alit from the horse and started walking from body to body. What is he doing?
Just then three more riders appeared and rode towards the first. A minute later one of the riders took off at a fast gallop. Wonder where he's going?
"Is anybody here?" Priscilla heard the first rider yell while the other two riders climbed off their mounts.
It's a woman! Her mind screamed.
Rosaura had dismounted Estrella and was now searching for survivors among the strewn bodies. As she reached the third body, Rosaura heard hoof beats. Turning towards the canyon opening, with lightning speed she pulled her weapon from its holster waiting to see if it was friend or foe.
Pedro, Jorge and Antonio appeared through the gap and Rosaura relaxed her posture re-holstering her gun.
"Are you ok, Rosaura?" A worried Pedro asked.
"Just fine, Pedro. Thanks."
"Jorge, go to town and tell the sheriff what's happened. Also, see if you can get some people to come down and help" instructed Rosaura while Pedro and Antonio descended from their horses.
"I'll be back as soon as I can, patrona."
"Anybody alive..?" Pedro inquired.
"I don't know. I had just started going through the bodies when you arrived."
"Is anybody here?" Rosaura yelled out hoping someone would answer the call.
"O…ver here. I…need…help." A raspy plea was heard.
"Patrona, did you hear that?" An excited Antonio asked.
Rosaura and Pedro had already started jogging towards the sound, which seemed to be coming from behind the boulder on their right.
On the other side of the boulder, they found a man reaching towards them with two arrows sticking out of his body.
"I'll…be…fine. How…many…survivors?" Leon asked.
"You're the first we've found, but we just got here and haven't really started looking." Rosaura answered. "Let us get you comf…"
"No, no…" Leon cut her off. "…please find…survivors."
Rosaura nodded. "Stay with him, Pedro. Antonio and I will go look for survivors."
"Ok, I'll take care of him and you make sure you take care of yourself." Pedro agreed. “There might still be a stray or two out there."
"Is anybody here?" Rosaura once again yelled when she reached the wagons.
"¡Patrona, aquí…venga…!" Antonio cried out.
Rosaura ran to where Antonio crouched. "What is it, Antonio?"
"This one, she has a pulse."
"She seems to be just passed out, probably what saved her life."
"Let's go look for more. I hope Jorge and the sheriff get here soon."
As they got closer to Priscilla's family wagon, a few people had popped out from behind their hiding places. They had also found six more survivors, three of them children whose parents had covered them with their bodies.
"Ugh…somebody…please help me…" a muffled voice cried out.
Rosaura went towards the voice and pulled the body with an arrow sticking out of its back from atop the woman the body had shielded. She checked the body for a pulse and found one…barely.
Rosaura was going to help the woman up when she heard rocks splattering behind her and quickly turned around, shielding both bodies, with gun in hand. Running to where she was crouching was a young woman.
"Mama, Papa!" The woman cried out.
Priscilla, after asking her if she had been hurt, had helped Colleen to a sitting position next to Bartholomew’s body. After the reassurance that she had not been hurt, both women watched as the darker skinned woman looked over Bartholomew’s injury. After a moment of observing the dark-haired woman then verifying with her own eyes her daughter was not hurt either, Colleen had asked if Priscilla had seen Jacob. The young woman only shook her head and was about to get up to search for him when he appeared behind them.
“I’m fine, how’s father?”
“We don’t know yet, Jacob.” Colleen answered as Priscilla’s attention was riveted to the woman tending to her father.
Priscilla could not understand it, but she was enthralled by the woman with the long, dark hair and Indian features. Then, as if the woman had sensed herself being appraised, she looked up and fastened her gaze to hers. Priscilla’s breath caught as she looked into the woman’s eyes. They were so light a brown they were almost yellow, reminding her of the honey she and Jacob would occasionally find in the woods back in Missouri. She also saw strength and gentleness within those eyes. Then the eyes turned away from her.
“Doctor Rubio, aquí por favor!” She heard the woman shout.
Priscilla watched as a man that she had not seen before approach them.
“¿Que tenemos aquí?”
“La flecha esta casi completamente hundida en el cuerpo, pero no encontré salida. Tampoco parece que le pegó a los pulmones, ya que no se le ha visto escupir sangre por la boca. La respiración es poco profunda y el latido algo errático.”
“Muy bien, déjame ver…”
“Will somebody tell us what’s going on?” Priscilla finally asked in frustration after not comprehending what the two people had been saying.
“My apologies, Miss.” Rosaura, with a slight accent, answered flustered and before she could go on, “You speak English!” was stated in a surprised tone by the young woman.
“Yes, I speak English, as do most of the people from town. I was just letting Doctor Rubio know my observations of the injury to this man.”
“My father…” Priscilla interrupted once again.
Rosaura gave a slight nod in acknowledgement. “…my observations of the injury to your father. The arrow is almost completely imbedded in the body, but I did not find an exit. It also doesn’t seem as if it hit the lungs since there is no blood being spit out of the mouth. His breathing is shallow and heartbeat is erratic.”
“Is he going to live?” A worried Colleen asked.
“If we can quickly get him to a place where I can work on him without so much dust, he has a chance.” Doctor Rubio answered.
“We’ll take him to the ranch. It’s a lot closer than town and besides, I have plenty of room. I’ll check and see if there are any undamaged wagons so that we can transport him. Also talk to Reynaldo about finding places for the rest of the survivors to stay.”
“Our wagon is alright, we can use that,” Jacob spoke up, “there were some arrows sticking out of the sides and a few of the sacks got burned but the buckboard itself and the horses are fine. I made sure the fires were out before looking for you. I knew dad would keep you safe and Priscilla can take care of herself and we would need the horses and wagon to get out of here.”
Colleen, with tears in her eyes, tightly hugged her son. “I’m so proud of you, Jacob.”
“How about the rest of the people that were injured, won’t they need you, Doctor?” A curious Priscilla asked.
“I had already looked at the most serious injuries by the time I was called over here. Your father is a very lucky man, as well as very determined to live. Since he as yet hasn’t succumbed to his injury, I very much doubt he will.” Noticing the surprised look on the young woman, he added with a chuckle and a sly look towards the woman standing next to him. “Yes, I had been here for a while before you took notice of me.”
Priscilla’s green eyes became even more pronounced as the redness covered her pretty face.
Bartholomew was now resting comfortably in one of Los Cruceros guestrooms while Colleen sat in a chair by the bed keeping vigil.
It had taken the small group to get to the ranch a little longer than it would have under normal circumstances but Doctor Rubio had not wanted to jar the wounded man more than necessary. He had been afraid that any sudden or drastic movement would allow the arrow to move causing a permanent or fatal outcome. Their luck had held and once they reached Los Cruceros they transferred Bartholomew to the large table within the kitchen. The doctor had figured everything he would need for the surgery, aside from his medical instruments, would be in immediate accessibility to him.
After having given Bartholomew a good dose of ether, which he felt was the greatest invention to come into the medicine world since he hated for his patients to be held down so they wouldn’t move due to the pain during any surgery, he washed his hands and forearms. He then proceeded to push the arrow out. The arrow didn’t budge.
Sighing, he grabbed his scalpel and made an incision along one side of the shaft until he could feel the arrowhead. Doctor Rubio didn’t want to just yank the arrow out since doing that might cause more problems. Once the scalpel touched the head he dug his fingers and felt the position of the arrowhead. Bartholomew’s luck held. The doctor had managed to make the incision perpendicular to the head’s position and slowly, carefully started to pull the arrow out the way it had gone in. Once the arrow was out he dug his fingers back in to make sure that there were no broken parts left. He could have just looked at the arrowhead but it never hurt to double check. An infection could be just as deadly as the arrow. Finished with the inspection of the wound he cleaned it a disinfectant then stitched the wound closed then placed a bandage over it to keep it clean.
Washing his hands and instruments he then looked at his pocket watch. It hadn’t taken as long as he had thought, not even an hour. Stepping out of the kitchen into the dining room he was met by three anxious faces and one expressionless face, save for a raised eyebrow.
“He’s going to be fine.” He announced. “We just need to keep an eye on him and make sure a fever does not make itself known.”
Sighs of relief were heard at his words.
“Thank you, Doctor, thank you so very much.” Colleen stated wholeheartedly.
“Can we move him to a bed now?” Rosaura asked.
“Yes, I see no problem with that. He’ll be more comfortable.”
“I’ll get Jorge and Carlos to help us once again.”
Using the piece of board they had appropriated from one of the sides of one of the wagons that had been burned beyond repair, they moved Bartholomew to the room he was now residing in. His breathing was steady and the pallor that his face had held was almost non-existent.
“You’re going to be fine, Bart, I love you.”
The dark, clear sky turned to a purplish haze then after a few seconds began to turn a dark orange with colors of light blue interspersed as night turned to morning.
It’s going to be another scorcher of a day today…her mind noted.
Rosaura had had a restless evening as thoughts of the previous day’s events crossed kept tumbling within the confines of her mind. She had heard rumors from passing travelers about the Indian attacks but this had been the first time one of the attacks had been this close. The townspeople basically kept within the walls of the Presidio and the Indians stayed away.
I hope this isn’t a warning of some kind and the Apaches keep staying away.
With a sigh, Rosaura stood up off the porch rail and strolled inside the house for breakfast. The smells permeating the air as soon as she opened the door let her know Elena, her housekeeper, was in the kitchen preparing the meal. From what her olfactory sense was telling her Elena had prepared one of her favorites, chilaquiles…deep-fried cut in triangle-shaped drained tortillas. These were placed back in the pan after the oil was drained along with chopped onions and white fresh shredded cheese mixed in. Then red-hot chile sauce was added to cover the tortilla mixture along with more white cheese and cooked, covered, for a few more minutes until the tortillas were tender. She could also smell home fried potatoes…the green pepper giving away that clue…refried beans and Rosaura knew there would be fried eggs to go along with the chilaquiles because Elena knew she loved her eggs mounted on top. The smell of freshly brewed coffee also made her take a deep breath as the enticing odors made her mouth water and her stomach grumble its hunger. So even if her guests’ stomachs could not tolerate the spicy chilaquiles, there was plenty of food they could enjoy for breakfast.
However, before making her way to the dining room Rosaura made a detour, walking towards the room in which Bartholomew was resting. Opening the door slightly, she noticed Colleen sitting asleep in the chair by his bedside as well as the steady rise and fall of the injured man’s chest. Satisfied for the moment that all was well she closed the door and continued to her previous destination.
The days and weeks that followed the attack on the wagon train saw Bartholomew getting better and his family helping around the ranch despite Rosaura’s protests. Jacob had begun hanging around Pedro and the guys to learn everything he could about running a cattle ranch. In the meantime, Colleen and Priscilla helped Elena and Carlos with the house chores.
Priscilla would also help by going to the stables, especially when their benefactor was there, to feed the horses and the other animals: pigs, chickens and a couple of goats, kept on the ranch. She had tried engaging the quiet owner of the ranch into conversations, but after a couple of short replies, decided to think of a different tactic. The beautiful enigma just wouldn’t pay her no mind and frustrated her to no end. There just had to be a way to get through that aloofness!
Rosaura on her part was trying to stay as far away from that cute precocious blonde that drove her to wool gathering. The ‘chiquita’ had tried to make conversation with her, but she knew if she acceded, she would have come out a blabbering fool. The woman made her insides quiver and her palms sweat! How could she hold any type of conversation under those circumstances? I need to go to town and relieve some tension there.
A few days later, after the sun had gone down, the guys had built a fire and were sitting around drinking and telling some stories. They sometimes did this when not too tired and to unwind from the chores. One of them had a guitar and was softly strumming. Rosaura was sitting upon the rail listening and enjoying the music when Priscilla stepped out from the front door. She walked to the rail and leaned on it not too far away from where Rosaura was sitting.
“That’s a beautiful song.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Are there any words to it?”
Rosaura just smiled then began to sing.
Te quiero, dijiste
You told me you loved me
Tomando mis manos entre tus manitas Taking my hands between yours
De blanco marfil of white porcelain
Y sentí en mi pecho un fuerte latido And felt a strong beat within my chest
Después un suspiro Then a sigh
Y luego el chasquido de un beso febril And the ghost of a delicate kiss
De cabellos de oro With hair of gold
De dientes de perla With pearl-like teeth
Labios de rubí Ruby lips
Dime si me quieres Tell me if you love me
Como yo te adoro, As I adore you
Si de mi te acuerdas If you remember me
Como yo de ti As I do you
A veces escucho un eco divino
Sometimes I hear a divine echo
Que envuelto en la brisa Which surrounded by the breeze
Parece decir Seems to say
Sí, te quiero mucho Yes, I love you very much
Mucho, mucho, mucho So much, so much, so much
Tanto como entonces Just as much as then
Siempre hasta morir Always until death
Sí, te quiero mucho Yes I love you very much
Mucho, mucho, mucho So much, so much, so much
Tanto como entonces Just as much as then
Siempre hasta morir Always until death
Silence was all that surrounded the two women whose eyes were locked to one another. The strumming of a new song broke the moment and Rosaura stood from the rail.
“Goodnight, chiquita, pleasant dreams.” she softly said and left a befuddled Priscilla still leaning upon the rail.
A few weeks had passed since the night that Rosaura had unintentionally serenaded Priscilla. Since then, Priscilla had been walking on clouds. Even though she had not understood the words, Priscilla had felt their meaning to the core of her heart. She somehow knew the words meant more to Rosaura than just words to a song. Maybe it was the way Rosaura had looked at her while she was singing or the way they sounded as they were floating out from between her lips, she just didn’t know. She had tried talking to Rosaura, but the infuriating woman had evaded her each and every time she would find the opportunity to talk to her in private. Priscilla was having more and more of a problem trying to control the feelings within her. Before the evening of the serenade, Priscilla had begun to have these feelings, but considered them just part of the gratitude she felt towards Rosaura for helping her family. Now, she knew it was more. She might not have known what the words to the song meant, but the feeling with which it was sung and the looks she was given during the singing of it, had made the feelings for this tall, aggravating, beautiful woman to become fully pronounced.
We will talk and you will listen. Somehow you have done what no one else has been able to do. Yes, we need to have a nice long talk…Priscilla thought, heat coursing through her body while she watched Rosaura ride away with her brother and the rest of the men to tend to the cattle.
I need to get to town soon. Being so close to the chiquita is driving me crazy. I’m sure a couple of nights with one of the girls will help. I knew there would come a time for a first time, wish it was chiquita but…a sigh…how could I ever think that someone as beautiful and refined as she would ever think of loving me.
Rosaura had valiantly avoided Priscilla since she had sung to her. Yes, it had been to her because the song, within its lyrics, had expressed all she had been feeling for the beautiful green-eyed blonde. She knew the blonde had been trying to get her alone to talk to her, but she did not want to hear the rejection or even the possibility that the song had brought the memory of someone she loved and had had to leave behind. Rosaura knew that if she heard either, her heart would break. Her heart refused to acknowledge that Priscilla belonged or would belong to anyone else but her. How was she going to go on living once the blonde and her family decided to leave, to continue the journey they had embarked on in the first place? The blonde was so deep inside her that the thought of her leaving was making her soul cry out.
This weekend…yes, this weekend I must go into town.
The week passed by slowly. Priscilla picked up on the festive vibrations emitting from the ranch workers and catching snippets of conversations. The only thing she could pick up was Rosaura’s name being spoken more than once because every time she would try to get close enough to hear what they were saying, the boys would shut up or whisper. She finally asked Elena if she knew what had the men’s spirits so high.
“Ay, señorita, they talk about goin’ to the Presidio and niña Rosaura, she go too. She has not been there for a long time now.”
“Oh, si... They go play cards, drink and be with the muchachas at the cantina.”
“Muchachas, cantina..?” I didn’t know they allowed ladies in the bar.
“Si, la cantina, where they play and drink and the muchachas, they work there.”
“Oh. OH…those muchachas!”
“Si, they like.”
“And Rosaura is going there too?”
“Si, she likes to play cards and is friends with the muchachas. They no come back hasta el lunes…ummm, how you say…Monday, si, Monday.”
“Thank you, Elena.”
“Por nada, niña.”
Elena, a sly smile upon her face, watched the small blonde woman leave the kitchen. She had noticed the girl’s wistful, adoring expression every time she looked at Rosaura and knew the girl had feelings for her tall, unsuspecting patrona. However, she had also noticed the same expressions on her patrona. She had also seen how Rosaura was avoiding the chiquita and knowing her patrona, knew that Rosaura was keeping her distance so the blonde would not find out about her feelings.
If only she would stop running and really look at the chiquita, she would know her attentions would be welcomed. Maybe what I told the chiquita will make her do something about the situation. Rosaura is so kind and noble, but she is even more stubborn.
The seed had been planted. Now it was just a matter of waiting to see what…if anything…would happen.
Priscilla had left the kitchen with thoughts of what would possibly happen when the weekend got here. With each thought, the frown upon her face became deeper.
So, she is going to town to have some fun and meet with those…those…muchachas! That one time Pedro took Mother and me to town, I noticed them when they asked him about Rosaura, but it never crossed my mind. They are very pretty and worldly too. Why would a woman such as Rosaura give me a second look? I’m just a plain simple farm girl. What could I possibly offer her that they surely already offer her?
With each passing thought, her heart broke more and more. She desperately wanted the beautiful woman whom she knew she could never have.
She walked out the front door, tears cascading down her cheeks and headed to her favorite place…the barn. She loved the horses and would frequently tell them whatever was bothering her or just spend time in their company.
Rosaura had been walking to the house from the corral and saw Priscilla seemingly coming her way. It seemed that the girl had not noticed her and walked into the barn. However, Rosaura did notice that the blonde was crying. Startled by the tears, she did the only thing she could do, follow her.
Once inside the barn and having waited for her eyes to adjust to the dimness, she looked for the small woman. At first glance Rosaura saw no sign of Priscilla, but then a soft neigh alerted her to Estrella’s stall. Walking over, her heart constricted at the sight before her. Priscilla, seeking comfort in the large horse, had her arms around its neck as sobs escaped her shaking body. Rosaura quietly opened the gate and walked to stand behind the crying woman.
“What’s wrong, chiquita?”
Surprised at the voice behind her, Priscilla jumped, turning around quickly and facing the woman at her back while desperately trying to wipe away the tears still coursing down her face.
Rosaura’s eyebrow rose at the obvious lie. “Uh huh…” skeptically voiced. “What, or who, has upset you and caused you to come into the barn to cry?”
I would tell you, but you’ll probably just laugh at me for being such a girl…Priscilla thought and instead replied. “It’s nothing, really. I’m fine now, thanks for asking though.”
Rosaura didn’t believe the words since she could see the sadness within the beautiful green eyes that she so very much loved. When Priscilla tried to walk around her to leave, she stepped in front placing her hands upon the small woman’s shoulders preventing any escape.
“Tell me, please.” the whispered plea.
It was too much for Priscilla. She crumbled into the body whose arms had wrapped around her as she had once again started to cry.
Rosaura’s heart was breaking at the sound of the wracking sobs and the tears falling down this precious woman’s face. She just held the small body to her, rubbing her strong hands across Priscilla’s back hoping to provide some comfort.
Priscilla, in turn, had wrapped her arms around the waist of the woman she wanted to be her own. Her hands upon the tall woman’s back held on tightly, savoring the warmth and strength of the woman within her arms.
“Please tell me what’s wrong.” Rosaura repeated once the woman’s sobs had tapered.
Priscilla lifted her face to answer, but the nearness of Rosaura’s face to hers stopped any response she was about to give. This close to her, the face of the woman she loved was even more beautiful. It mesmerized her and no words would come.
Rosaura was lost. The woman of her dreams was in her arms and the green eyes she wished to look into until her last breath was taken beckoned her, along with the lips she knew would be as soft as a rose petal. She was defenseless against their call. Looking into the eyes of her chiquita for any negative reaction, her head ever so slowly lowered to the lips awaiting her.
The first touch of their lips was a sweet caress, each woman testing the softness of the other’s lips.
Priscilla’s hands abandoned their hold on the strong back to relocate on either side of Rosaura’s head. She wanted more and was not about to let Rosaura go until she had had her fill.
She needn’t have worried. Rosaura’s mind was on the same wavelength as hers. With one more glance into each other’s eyes, their lips met once again. Lips opened to each other in invitation…the first meeting of tongues bringing an eruption of feelings within them. Hands moved to meld their bodies closer together, to caress backs, heads…faces. Moans and heavy breathing reached the other’s ears. Each woman thinking they had to have more, wanting…needing to be one with the other. Hands roamed, trying to find the way to divest themselves of the barriers on their bodies, which prevented them from completely being one.
A horse’s snort and head butt prevented them from accomplishing their objective, bringing them down from the heaven they had been in. Estrella had gotten tired of all the noise within her stall.
Rosaura and Priscilla held each other close, comforting each other until their breathing and pounding hearts returned to a more normal cadence.
Once that was achieved, they loosened their hold of each other and looking at each other, smiled. Rosaura then asked, “You now want to tell me why you were crying?”
Priscilla looked down and pouted, remembering the reason why she had been crying. Placing two fingers under her chin, Rosaura lifted Priscilla’s face so their gazes locked.
“I heard you were going to town.”
“And that you were going to play cards with some friends.”
Rosaura was perplexed since she didn’t think that would be any reason to cry.
Seeing the confusion on her love’s face, Priscilla lowered her eyes and quietly finished. “I also heard that you would see the muchachas at the saloon.”
Rosaura was pole-axed.
“But let me tell you one thing, Ms. Figueroa! I will not have you going off to go see any other woman. You are mine…and I don’t share!” The statement firmly exclaimed while a finger was poked onto the tall woman’s chest.
Rosaura couldn’t hold her surprise or laughter at the statement or the vehemence in which it was delivered.
“No, chiquita, I am not going anywhere.” Rosaura began. “Now that I know you feel the same way I do, you are all I want. You are mine as I am yours.” She sealed her statement with a final tender kiss to cherished lips.
Then they both walked out of the stall then the barn and walked towards the house still embracing each other.
A pair of eyes turned to the barn when the door opened, seeing the two figures stroll out. Several expressions expressed themselves as they watched the two women walk towards the house. Happiness at their laughter, surprise at the embrace and kiss, anger at the immoral act and finally, resignation at the undeniable look of love between them, but…it could not be allowed to go any further…it was just not right!
The days had come and go, turning into weeks then months and Rosaura had never been happier. She and Priscilla had spent many hours of the days together just getting to know each other better and enjoying each other’s company. Their favorite spot to spend time alone was by the river a couple of miles from the ranch. They would talk about their lives before meeting or just sit quietly, listening to the ripples of the flowing water and the birds chirping above them. Another quite pleasurable pastime, one that was becoming quite intense, one that Rosaura thought needed to be remedied, and soon, was in savoring the taste of the other’s lips.
The tall woman was sitting, leaning against a fallen log. She and the boys, including Jacob, were on the way to Tucson on one of their yearly cattle drives. They had already been on the road two days and would take them at least another three to get there and Rosaura was sorely missing Priscilla. Who was she kidding? She had started to miss her the moment they had said their good-byes.
They had ridden out to the river to spend some time alone before Rosaura had to leave early the next morning. Having dismounted from the horses, Rosaura spread the blanket they now kept hidden, inside a canvas bag for protection, under a lightning-felled tree, which they also used as a back brace when they were sitting. They sat on the blanket with Rosaura placing her arm around Priscilla’s shoulders holding her close, her free hand entwining with those of her companion’s. Both just stared at nothing in particular, enjoying the closeness of the other’s body.
After some time had passed, “You make sure and take care of yourself.”
“I will, Chiquita.”
Priscilla burrowed further into Rosaura’s embrace. “I already miss you so much.”
“I miss you too.” Rosaura sighs as she tightens her hold on her precious gift whose head lies upon her shoulder in peaceful repose.
The head lifted from where its resting place and lifted up to gaze upon the cherished face, taking in each feature, memorizing it as if it had it already wasn’t. Staring into the mesmerizing eyes whose color reminded Priscilla of the purest honey. Bringing a hand up to touch the beloved face then running her fingers through Rosaura’s hair, luxuriating in its softness…and with the gentlest of moves, brought the face closer to hers. Ever so softly until a feather-light then firmer touch produced the kiss she had longed for. Needing more, her tongue peeked out between her lips to seek what she desired only to meet her counterpart waiting for her, timidly greeting each other, sliding one over the other, tasting each other then being led home into the welcoming cavern…moans emitting from both women upon reaching the desired destination.
The kiss turned hungry, demanding, lips separating only to take a quick breath then going back for more. Hands caressed backs, necks, heads and faces. How they ended up prone, they would never know. The hands then took advantage of the new position, stroking hips, thighs, wanting to touch more but not daring.
“Oh,” The sensual sound, which caused Rosaura’s already inflamed passion to ignite even more, came from Priscilla. Rosaura’s hand had been traveling back up towards Priscilla’s face and had accidentally brushed against her breast creating a delicious tingle to roam across her body and provoking a deluge of astounding, yet she somehow knew unfulfilled, feelings in her lower regions.
They looked into each other’s eyes, communicating, and with one last kiss sat up to their original positions. Each knew they wanted more but now was not the right time. They also knew they would not wait much longer.
Her relationship with Priscilla had only intensified with the passage of time, and she was more than happy to commit herself to it and certain that her chiquita was too.
Rosaura knew that Father Alejandro would not allow such a union but her people would. She would talk to her padrino about it then talk to Bartholomew and Colleen and ask for the chiquita’s hand. She just hoped they were amenable to the idea because if they were not and decided to leave…well…that was just not going to happen. She and Priscilla loved each other, how could they be opposed to that just because they were women. Love was love, right? Right!
“What are your intentions towards my sister?” Jacob asked in a whisper. After checking the cattle one last time the men had settled down in their blankets for some much needed rest and Jacob didn’t want to wake them. It had taken this long to finally get the courage to talk to his boss since that day that he had seen Priscilla and her walk out of the barn wrapped around each other. He had also noticed that they had been spending more and more time together, going out riding at the ranch or taking trips to town. He didn’t know if his parents had noticed but Priscilla was his sister, and either way, he felt it was his duty to protect her.
Rosaura had been too involved in her thoughts to have noticed Jacob quietly walk her way and settle down beside her and turned a surprised face in his direction. “Jacob, I thought you had gone to bed.”
“I ask you again,” he persisted not wanting to be deterred from his mission, “what are your intentions towards my sister?”
Rosaura to some point found this amusing but then quickly thought. If I can get him to accept Priscilla’s and my relationship, he might be a good ally for when I talk to their parents. “I love your sister very much, Jacob, and I would like to make a home with her. I know I can not marry her but…”
“You want to marry her!” He interrupted in a loud voice, sitting up straight in surprise then cringed hoping he hadn’t woken the men.
“Yes, I do.” Rosaura replied, not having batted an eyelash during the interruption.
“Sorry, I was hoping you would say that but actually hearing you say it came as a complete surprise.”
“I can understand that.”
“So what are you going to do? I know I should be completely against this relationship but I’ve never seen Priscilla happier…at least, no time before the time I saw you both walking out of the barn once. Ever since that day, it seems as if she’s walking on clouds.”
The tall woman had the good grace to blush and was thankful that there was no moon on this night. Trágame tierra...she thought, wishing the ground would open up and swallow her.
The group and cattle made it to Tucson without incident though just about everywhere they went they could hear the talk about the attacks. Rosaura wasn’t too worried about them. She was worried more about the people back at Los Cruceros, one certain person in particular. She had left Antonio in charge of a couple of hired hands to take care of the ranch and knew they would do a good job but she would feel much better if she were there.
On the second morning of their stay, she noticed that her companions were fidgety. “What’s wrong?”
“We’re just worried about home, Rosaura.” Pedro, it seemed, had been chosen as the speaker for the group. “We’ve heard a lot of talk and well, we’re just worried.”
“Yeah, me too… Let’s try and get things done quickly so we can leave as soon as possible, what do you say?”
And they did, even getting a real good price for the herd.
“Ay, patrona, it was that scary look you gave them.” Jorge teased. “They knew they were not going to be able to cheat you.”
“Yeah, Rosaura, I think I saw a couple of the buyers shaking…that’s one scary look you have.” Jacob piped in.
Both teasing comments made the group laugh and lightened the underlying tension. They hurried to the stable, already having checked out of the hotel, for their horses, mounting them and riding out of Tucson heading for home. None would be happy or relaxed until they were home.
“Elena, how many more days until Rosaura and the boys come home?”
“I do not know, niña, they be home soon, I’m sure. If they have problems in Tucson or on the way back, may take a little longer.”
“Oh. I can’t wait ‘til they return, it’s too quiet without them.”
“Them or a certain one, eh..?” Elena asks with a mischievous look on her face.
Priscilla’s face turned a lovely shade of pink then burst out in a radiant smile, “Yes, Elena, a certain one. I can’t wait until Rosaura gets here. I miss her so much. I’m the happiest woman in the world since I found out that she feels for me as I do her. It’s such a wonderful feeling, this feeling called love.”
She wraps her arms around Elena and starts to twirl them around and around as she laughs. “I love feeling close to her. She conveys so much warmth and love. When I’m within her arms, I know I am where I belong and I never want to leave. Oh, Elena, I love her so much.”
A gasp is heard, startling both women and they turn to find Colleen standing at the door’s threshold, one hand over her mouth, the other against her stomach.
Colleen turns and walks from the room.
Priscilla, a distressed look upon her face, looks to Elena, who looks just as distressed, then faces the doorway once again and follows in wake of her mother.
Colleen purposely walks toward the library where she knows her husband has been since she left him just a couple of prior moments. Her thoughts rolling with the information she’s overheard directly from her daughter’s lips, however inadvertently. She needs to have a grasp on them before she discusses it with Bartholomew lest she become hysterical.
“Bartholomew…” She calls as she opens the door, “…we need to talk.”
Bartholomew, who is sitting in one of the easy chairs near the glass, double door, lifts his head from the book he’s reading. Upon noting the expression on her face, he places the book on the side table next to the chair and goes to her, embracing her.
“What’s the matter, dear, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Bart, we need to talk.”
“Yes, I heard that. May I ask what we need to talk about?”
“Ah, ok, what has that daughter of ours done now?”
“She’s apparently…fallen in love.”
“Well, with all the people around, I’m really not surprised.” He says with a small smile.
Then, “I see.”
A knock at the door is heard just before the door opens and Priscilla walks in.
“Mama, Papa.” She states, wringing her hands in a show of nervousness while her eyes travel from one beloved face to the other, searching for a clue as to what reaction to expect from them and hopefully prepare herself for it. She hoped it wouldn’t be an out-and-out explosion, but how else would she expect her parents to react given their beliefs…the sanctity of marriage.
Seemingly coming to a decision, she straightens her back and lifts her chin up. “Mama, I am really sorry you had to find out about Rosaura and me the way you did but…” She pauses, gathering more courage within herself. “We were going to tell you soon, we just didn’t know exactly how to break it to you. Papa, Rosaura and I are in love and we want to get married. We know that is something that can not be done but even just proclaiming our feelings to each other…in front of God, our family and friends…to us, we will be married.”
“But, Priscilla, it can’t be right. Rosaura’s a woman!” Bartholomew finally spoke. “A marriage is a union between a man and a woman to procreate. That is what the bible says. And that would not happen. I can not allow this. It would go against everything we have been taught throughout the ages. No, it can not happen and I will talk to Rosaura about this when she gets back. We will leave here to keep this from continuing.”
“Fine…you can all leave but you will be leaving without me. I love Rosaura and I know my place is with her. Even if you drag me away, I will find a way to come back. I wish that you would understand the feelings within me. They are not just in my head. Not just in my heart. They come from my very soul. With one look she took my very soul the first time I saw her. I didn’t know what it was at the time. I was too worried about being attacked again and Papa being hurt. But as time passed and the feelings didn’t go away, as a matter of fact they became more pronounced, I knew there was no way that I could live without her in my life. And once I accepted that realization, I went to her hoping not to make a fool of myself as well as praying that she felt for me the same as I for her. Ever since that day we’ve taken every opportunity to be together and get to know each other better, although it seems our souls already knew each other. Whenever I’m with her and she holds me close, I feel so much peace and serenity, as well as love, surround me that when we say goodnight my heart and soul ache so much it hurts. And no, we have not done anything ‘inappropriate’.” She pauses from her tirade, feeling the heat travel to her face at the thoughts traveling through her mind at that last statement. “We are waiting to consummate our relationship until the day we marry. Although I will dearly miss you, if you want to leave go ahead but you will do so without me.”
Not giving her parents the opportunity to speak she turns around, opens the door and walks out, her posture allaying one of a proud and determined woman.
Bartholomew and Colleen watch the door close, turn to look at each other and sigh.
“Well, that went well.” Bartholomew uttered.
“Hmm…well, it could’ve been worse…had we not already known, and discussed, what was happening between our daughter and Rosaura. I’m very glad you brought it up after you saw them coming out of the barn that day, otherwise it would have been a complete fiasco and we would surely lose our daughter entirely.”
“Yes, I agree.” Bartholomew concurred with his wife as he placed an arm over her shoulders holding her close. “I still would not have chosen the situation for Priscilla but where the heart rules, you can not stop it. I believe that together, they will be strong enough to fight whatever difficulties that might arise. Did you see her, feel her energy radiate from her as she pronounced her determination to stay?”
“Yes. I’ve never seen her act this way, although, it does remind me of someone.”
“And who would that be, dear?”
Colleen turns her body towards her husband placing one hand on his chest while she lifts the other to caress his cheek, “You, my love, and your determination to win my love.”
Bartholomew smiles as they stare into each other’s eyes then lowers his head and places a tender kiss upon his beloved’s lips.
Priscilla had walked out of the library, closed the door leaving her hand on the doorknob, and took a deep breath as her eyes closed in relief. Exhaling the air she had taken in, her eyes opened only to lock with Elena’s worried gaze. Giving her elderly friend a tiny smile and nod of her head, Priscilla straightened her shoulders, walked to the set of stairs to her right and climbed, not stopping her journey until she was ensconced safely in her room where she instantly collapsed onto her bed and finally allowed the tears she had been holding back to fall.
This had not been the way Priscilla had wanted to inform her parents about her feelings for Rosaura but once she had seen the look on her mother’s face as she stood at the kitchen door, she knew there was no other way but to confront them. She deeply loved her parents, however, her love for Rosaura extended beyond any barriers she once believed to exist between any two people who said they loved each other. And that included her parents.
She knew her parents loved her and Jacob. Yet when they argued and their seeming indifference towards each other at those times as well as their barely touching of each other had made her think their love a charade. However, thinking about it now when her heart is so full of love for Rosaura along with her knowledge of the interaction between them when in the company of others, her thoughts took on an entirely different view. “Wow!” She exclaimed as she lifted herself ramrod straight into a sitting position. “My parents do love each other. It’s all in the eyes!”
“Oh, Rosaura, I wish you were home so I could feel your arms around me making me feel that everything is going to be fine. I miss you so much and I love you even more. So much more that not only my heart hurts when you’re not near but my soul as well. Please come home soon.” She longingly whispers as she grabs and clutches one of her pillows to her chest while she lays back down, tears rolling down her cheeks.
A few miles away, Rosaura’s chest constricts in her chest in longing.
Chiquita…her mind registers.
“Muchachos, son nomás unas cuantas millas. Sin nos apuramos podríamos llegar esta noche y dormir en nuestras propias camas en lugar de pasar otra noche en el suelo. ¿Que dicen..?” And I’ll be able to find out what is wrong with my Chiquita.
“Juega, patrona, una cama suena muy bien.” Pedro responded while the rest enthusiastically nodded their heads.
“I’m game as well.” Jacob fervently agreed. “A few more miles at a faster pace and I’ll be comfortably sleeping in my own bed, yesiree, nothing beats that. What are we waiting for?!”
Without warning “¡Vamos, Estrella!” is heard as Rosaura and her horse speed away, her men taking chase soon after.
The sky was clear with nary a cloud, the sun shining bright and birds could be heard singing somewhere nearby. The breeze blowing barely hard enough to ruffle the ankle high grass as beautiful different colored wings flapped flying to and fro among the wildflowers. A few of these winged beauties turned and separated from the group, flying towards her and placing gentle butterfly kisses upon her forehead, cheeks, nose and…lips!
Surprised eyes opened, only to encounter amused honey brown looking into her green. “Rosaura!” Priscilla’s arms immediately went around Rosaura’s neck, hugging her close.
“Priscilla, what’s wrong? Looking at your face I know you have been crying. So, tell me, what’s wrong?”
“Oh, Rosaura, I am so happy you are finally home, I have so missed you.”
“I have missed you too, very much. When I am away from you, nothing and no one can satisfy the emptiness within me. So I had to hurry back home to you, I was very lonely. Now, please tell me what has upset you enough to make you cry. You know I don’t like it when you cry, especially when I’m not here to hold you in my arms and try to help you with whatever is bothering you.”
“Mama overheard a conversation I was having with Elena.”
“Ok.” Rosaura’s face was the picture of patience, waiting for her love to gather her thoughts so she could explain her tears. “And why would that upset you?”
“Rosaura, mama heard me tell Elena how much I love you and how wonderful it was to be in love. When I followed her to talk to her she was in the library with papa. I explained to them that we wanted to get married even though no one else would see it as such. Papa said it wasn’t right and that after talking to you we were to leave. I told them they could leave without me, that I was not going with them…that my place is with you. Oh, Rosaura, I wish they could understand!” Priscilla finished, sobs tearing through her speech.
“Sh, Chiquita, sh, everything is going to be fine.” Rosaura was very pleased with herself for having had the mind to enter through the kitchen first where Elena, a worried look on her face, had informed her of the day’s events.
“Ay, niña Rosaura, qué gusto me da que ya llegaron.”
“Qué pasa, nana, algo le ha pasado a Priscilla?”
“La señora Colleen oyó cuando la niña Priscilla me decía cuanto te quería. La señora nomás dio la vuelta y se fue sin decir una palabra. Oí voces altas en la biblioteca pero no me atreví a escuchar lo que se estaba diciendo. Luego vi cuando la niña salio del cuarto y rápido subió las escaleras, llorando.”
Elena was happy to see Rosaura but was distressed over Colleen having heard their conversation, the fact she heard raised voices coming from the library then seeing Priscilla leave the room and run up the stairs crying.
“No te preocupes, nana. Yo me encargo de todo.”
Rosaura left the distraught woman and walked toward the library where she knocked on the door. Upon receiving the go ahead to enter, she stood before Bartholomew and Colleen, waiting for their reaction at seeing her before them.
“Rosaura, welcome home, please sit down. I believe we have much to talk about.” Bartholomew spoke to the impressive woman standing before him. He had always found Rosaura impressive, standing tall, back straight and head held high, making her look even taller than what she already was.
“Yes, I believe we do.” She saw Bartholomew nod his for her to continue. “I don’t know what all transpired this morning except that you, Colleen, overheard a conversation and then after talking to you Priscilla left this room crying. I have not come to speak with you sooner because aside from being busy around the ranch, I wanted Priscilla and myself to get to know each other better and ascertain the feelings we are feeling for each other are indeed true. For my part, I can not live without Priscilla by my side. I hurt deep within and my soul feels empty when we are apart. I have talked to Padre Lorenzo and although it goes against what the church teaches, he has agreed to marry Priscilla and I here at the ranch. Despite his beliefs, he believes in me and that my love for your daughter is pure and true.” She pauses to give the couple a sitting across from her a chance of what she has just told them to sink in. She then stands before them, her stance proud, and continues. “Mr. and Mrs. Hammet, I love your daughter with all that I am and I always will. I would be very honored if you would concede me the hand of your daughter, Priscilla, in marriage.”
“Oh, Rosaura, how can you say that? They’ll never understand our love for each other. We’re women and women are not supposed to fall in love much less marry each other. No, they’ll never understand.”
Rosaura did not say anything to her chiquita’s tirade. She just slid off the side of the bed, knelt and spoke from her heart. “Priscilla Hammet, will you do me the great honor of becoming my wife, for now and for always?”
“Answer my question, chiquita. Will you be my wife?”
“Good. How does two weeks from tomorrow, Saturday, sound?”
Priscilla was ecstatic, Rosaura had found a way for them to be together and that was all that mattered.
They spent the rest of the day cuddling and making plans for their wedding day. Everything and everyone else could wait.
The next two weeks saw the entire population at Los Cruceros busy with wedding preparations. Elena, Colleen and Cecilia, Federico’s wife and Rosaura’s Godmother, planned for and ordered the ingredients for a festive meal for at least, from talks with Rosaura and Priscilla of whom they wanted to invite, one hundred people. The women felt that a couple of large cazuelas of mole, a spicy red chile paste with cut portions of chicken stirred in, as well as a couple of chile colorado, rice, beans, maybe two or three different salads and some barbequed ribs, steaks, flautas, home made corn tortillas and of course the cake would be enough to feed the guests.
Once the women had decided on the wedding meal, they determinedly went to Priscilla to talk about the dress. The young woman had avoided the women. She and Rosaura had wanted a small ceremony, but realistically they knew that not inviting all their friends would hurt them. So, they agreed with the big fiesta. The women finally cornered Priscilla in her room early the Monday before the wedding. There was a knock on her door and she invited whoever was knocking, hoping it might be Rosaura. Out of respect for the family and tradition the women still slept in their own rooms, though they frequently went on evening walks or rode out to their favorite place under the large tree by the river. They would also sit on the swing located in the upstairs verandah and cuddle and talk about their future together. The door to her room brought the young woman back to the present and the three smiling women before her.
“Good morning, dear.”
“Good morning, Mama, Elena, Cecilia. What brings you here so early in the morning?”
“Well, dear…” Seemed Colleen had been elected spokesperson by the other two women. “…we came here to ask you about what you are going to wear for the ceremony.”
“Ah, I see.” Priscilla responded with some hesitation. “Well, I did think about asking you, Mama, about using your wedding dress.”
Colleen widely smiled at this yet she had sensed a hesitation in her daughter so she asked. “But…”
“Well, um, I am leaning more towards a traditional Mexican outfit. I saw one at the general store the other day that Rosaura and I went to town and I just knew that would be perfect! It has a white top and red-layered skirt with white and black lacing on the end of each of the three layers. And Rosaura already said she is going to wear the traditional charro outfit so it would match perfectly!” she finished excitedly. Mmm…I bet she’s going to look gorgeous in it.
The three older women noticed her facial expression change from excited to a more coquettish look and wondered what the young woman was thinking about. They looked at each other with raised eyebrows and secret smiles then started peppering Priscilla with questions. The questions bringing Priscilla out of her daydreaming, she turned a lovely shade of pink making the women giggle in their understanding of where her thoughts had been.
Rosaura had gone to talk to Padre Lorenzo and he agreed to the day the two young women had picked for the ceremony. Rosaura had also informed him to invite everyone at the mission. He happily agreed. Now all she had to do is wait for the day to arrive and she and her chiquita would be together for the rest of their lives.
The day of the wedding finally arrived, but neither Rosaura nor Priscilla were in a good mood though they were anxiously waiting for the hour to arrive so they could be united. As tradition would dictate, the two young women could not see each other the day before the wedding. Bartholomew, Jacob and Pedro had taken Rosaura to town on Thursday to celebrate while the women of the house finished the last minute touches in preparation for the event and guests which would be arriving from out of town on Friday and the locals early Saturday morning. The two young women were moody since they had not been able to partake in their daily walk or ride. However, as the hour of the ceremony finally arrived, moods considerably changed.
Rosaura was indeed wearing her charro outfit as she waited for the other half of her soul to walk down the path to the gazebo where she awaited her. The outfit was black cowboy boots, black pants with silver botonaduras (buttons), down the sides with the last four undone showing off the red colored material underneath, a red sash used as a belt, a white dress shirt with beautiful black embroidery, a moño (bow tie), a chaqueta (short jacket) and finally, the sombrero (wide-brimmed hat).
I just knew she would look gorgeous…Priscilla thought as she obtained her first glimpse of the woman she loved standing in the middle of the gazebo.
Dios mío. Rosaura’s best man, Carlos, had to steady her after her legs almost gave out upon her first gaze at the beautiful vision coming her way.
Priscilla, being led to the gazebo and her future by Bartholomew, was wearing the traditional dress she had mentioned to the ladies and was a vision of beauty.
Once Priscilla and Bartholomew arrived before Rosaura and Padre Lorenzo, Bartholomew placed his daughter’s hand within Rosaura’s outstretched one. “I place my daughter’s hand in yours for safekeeping. You take care of her and love her.”
“For the rest of my life…” Rosaura responded.
He then turned to his daughter, embracing her and giving her a kiss upon her cheek. “Be happy, my little girl.”
“Thank you, Papa.”
The two young women turn to each other smiling then turn to face Padre Lorenzo. “We are here to participate in witnessing the joining of two hearts, two souls. It is a joining of two people who love one another and who have asked us to be here to celebrate their love with them. They have asked to speak their thoughts, their vows.” He turns to Rosaura.
“Amada mía, desde el fondo de mi ser te entrego mi vida, mi cuerpo, mi corazón, mi alma. Prometo cuidarte, protegerte, amarte. Crecer vieja contigo es mi gran anhelo. Espero estar a tu lado hasta mi último aliento. Eres la otra mitad de mi alma. Eres mi vida. Acepta este anillo como símbolo de mi promesa. Contigo para siempre.”
“My beloved, from the bottom of my being a give you my life, my body, my heart, my soul… I promise to take care of you, protect you, love you. To grow old with you is my greatest wish. I hope to be by your side until my last breath. You are the other half of my soul. You are my life. Accept this ring as a symbol of my promise. Forever with you…”
“With these witnesses in attendance, I pronounce you forever joined. You may kiss.”
With much cheering and applause, Rosaura and Priscilla kissed, sealing their promises to each other.
Everyone ate and drank their fill and toasted the newlyweds. Then the music and dancing began. The first to open the event were Rosaura and Priscilla who danced in the middle of the floor looking at each other with deep love, devotion and happiness. Bartholomew and Colleen, Carlos and Elena and Rico and Cecilia then joined them on the dancing floor. Once the initiating couples finished the first dance, the other guests began to dance to the lively music the musicians, which Rosaura had hired, were playing.
Everyone seemed happy and to be enjoying the festival atmosphere.
“Are you happy, mi chiquita?”
“Oh si, muy feliz… All my dreams have come true, why wouldn’t I be happy. Are you happy?”
“Oh yes, very…as you, all my dreams have too come true.”
A few hours later, the conclusion of the celebration was nearly upon the revelers as no one wanted to be on the road during the dark hours in trepidation of an Indian attack. They had not heard of any further unrest, but just to be on the side of caution the town locals would be leaving early.
“Estimable invitados, se llega el final de este día y esta celebración y nuestra querida anfitriona nos ha pedido una ultima dedicación. Señoras y señores, Rosaura Figueroa y su adorable compañera Priscilla Hammet de Figueroa.”
As the day and the celebration drew to a close, the hostess, Rosaura, had asked for a dedication. As she and Priscilla walked towards and in front of the musicians, the musicians began to play. When the two young women reached their destination, Rosaura turned to Priscilla and began to sing.
Hay en mi vida un gran amor, un solo amor,
el de tu alma; There is in my life a great love, only
one love, the one from your soul
hay en mi alma intenso afán de ser tan solo para ti. In my soul there is an intense obsession to be only for you
Nadie en el mundo llegará a separar nuestras dos almas no one in this World will come close to separating our two souls
porque Dios quiso que tú y yo nos comprendiéramos así. Because God wanted that you and I would understand each other this way
Ya no recuerdo cuántas veces tus juramentos escuché,
I don’t remember how many times your promises I have heard
solo recuerdo que con besos, con muchos besos te adoré. I only remember that with kisses, with many kisses I adored you
La vieja historia repitió en nuestro amor incomparable the old story repeated in our incomparable love
y para siempre vivirá en el altar del corazón. And forever it will live in the altar of the heart
“Well, Mrs. Figueroa, did you enjoy yourself today?” Rosaura asked as she placed Priscilla back on her feet.
“Yes I did, Mrs. Figueroa.” Priscilla responds with a wide grin then continues as a dreamy expression overcomes her face. “I love that. Mrs. Figueroa…I think it suits me just fine, don’t you?”
“Why, yes, I couldn’t agree more.”
The two women, their arms still around each other, closed the distance between them and initiated a soft, gentle kiss that slowly turned passionate as they continued to taste each other, slowly running their tongues over lips, teeth and tongue. Savoring the experience of the feel of each surface…be it rough or smooth. Their hands moved over the clothed surfaces seeking some form of purchase, wanting needing to feel more.
“Priscilla, mi amor, te necesito…” Rosaura pled in a breathless whisper.
“And I need you as well, my love. But what…”
“We just do to each other what feels good. If we don’t like what we do we try something else. How dies that sound?”
Priscilla’s answer was to capture Rosaura’s lips in another passionate kiss. This time she removed Rosaura’s chaqueta, moño and started on the buttons on the shirt, dislodging the shirttails from the pants and dropping it unto the floor. At this time Rosaura took advantage that her hands were not being occupied with her disrobing and thanked God above that her chiquita’s skirt and blouse had elastic around the openings and was able to slip them right down over her hips and to the floor without breaking the kiss.
Once they were free of their clothing, Rosaura crouched down and lifted Priscilla then deposited her on the bed and admired the gift before her. At the prolonged loving gaze from her beloved, Priscilla body began to turn a beautiful shade of pink. Priscilla too had been keeping a close watch of Rosaura’s tall, muscular, tan, and believed, perfectly proportioned body. Then said body approached her and laid down carefully covering her own. Twin moans were heard at the initial touch of skin upon skin. Hands engulfed any skin they came upon while lips sought and captured the ones that had been missed for the last few moments, tasting, savoring and worshipping the body the skin was attached to.
Hands touched, caressed, stroked, fondled and squeezed, delighting the receiver with the feelings the contact brought. As the pinnacle that each touch and taste conveyed came closer, simultaneous movements of their hands were made and each woman bestowed and accepted the other’s most precious gift. Then the culmination of their strokes and kisses overcame them and it having been a long day, they fell asleep wrapped within the protection of their arms.
The next morning saw the two women wake up still wrapped within the other’s arms, but Priscilla was half-way on top of Rosaura’s body. They cuddled for a few minutes then got up and prepared for their honeymoon, a week in Sonora, Mexico.
Six months later one could hear an agitated Rosaura talking within the confines of the library.
“¡Con un demonio…no puedo creerlo! ¿Qué estarán pensando? ¿Qué al atacar con más frecuencia van a forzar a los dueños qué abandonen sus propiedades…sus hogares?”
“No lo se, patrona. Oí que Jerónimo y su gente no quieren qué mas extranjeros se establezcan en estas tierras. Qué les están quitando todas sus tierras y matando todo el sustento.”
“Esa no es razón. Él sabe muy bien que la gente que vive en el Presidio y sus alrededores es gente que ha vivido aquí por siglos. No entiendo.”
All Pedro could do was, shrug his shoulders and shake his head. He, like Rosaura, could not understand why Geronimo and his people were attacking. Geronimo knew these people, they and their forefathers had been living on this land for decades, while some, those of Yaqui or other Mexican Indian ancestry, had lived there for centuries. Why attack them now, did they think they would convince the people to leave their land? The people here weren’t the ones doing whatever they were thought to be doing. Pedro was just as much at a loss as his boss was.
“Well, Pedro, there’s only two things we can do…be on the alert and pray that he doesn’t come our way.”
Rosaura and Pedro walk out of her study doing just that…praying.
The security at Los Cruceros was still up though somewhat relaxed. Priscilla and Elena were in the kitchen getting lunch ready, the muchachos were due back from their weekend in town and the women knew they would be hungry. This had been the first time in months since any of them had felt safe to venture to town for any length of time, rumors of Indian attacks had diminished to almost none and things settled down a bit.
Rosaura was in the stables finishing with the horses’ care and cleaning of the stalls. She was just picking up her rifle from where she had laid it next to Estrella’s stall when she heard the running trots of many horses. Running to the door, she peeked out from the slight opening and saw one of her latest fears come true before her eyes…Indians on her property and they didn’t look happy. She looked towards the house and noticed that no one had been alerted to the invasion, which greatly relieved her since she knew her Chiquita would come out running to try and protect her.
Rosaura then walked out of the stable in hope that seeing her and once recognizing her, the Indians would stop and want to talk. The Indians did not want to talk, however, for as soon as they saw her they veered toward the stable, releasing the arrows that had been nocked as they approached the ranch. Rosaura was lucky she had not ventured too far from the stable door and was able to jump behind it as soon as she realized the projectiles had been released. She aimed her rifle and began to fire, very glad she had had the mind to place extra shells in her pockets when she left the house earlier that morning.
The sound of the rifle discharging brought everyone within the house to see what the commotion was. As soon as Bartholomew and Carlos saw what was transpiring, they moved to windows, opening them and firing their weapons.
Pedro was too late. The damage had been done. His patrona, and friend, lay on the ground, an arrow sticking out of her back. The small blonde was running towards the body disregarding her own safety. A young brave was approaching the woman, an arrow nocked on the string of his bow.
Suddenly, the loud report of a rifle was heard and all movement stopped. The young brave riding towards the blonde fell off his horse…dead.
The Apache warriors turned to see where the loud noise had come from and saw the large group of men riding towards them. With a loud war cry, the leader of the Apache braves turned his horse and headed back to the mountains, his men closely following.
Rico rode to the two women. His eyes then trailed to the woman kneeling by the fallen body and saw the questions in her eyes. He could not give her an answer. He didn't have one. A lone tear escaped his eye, the loss breaking his heart. With a nod to the woman, he turned his horse and led him in the direction the Apache warriors had taken.
The kneeling woman saw them leave then continued trying to get a response from her beloved.
"Jo, please wake up. You can't leave me. I can't bear to be alone. I need you. Please, Jo, wake up!"
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