WHILE ELEANOR SLEPT Juan, his mother, Isabella, Sofia, his sister, Miguel, and Antonio, his brothers, all gathered in the bright orange kitchen of their home for a family talk. They had to decide, and rather quickly, what to do about Juan and Eleanor. By tomorrow afternoon, word of Juan’s return would have reached Don Manuel and his First Lieutenant, Jesús Mendoza.
Eighteen year old, Sofia, a freshman at the University of Mexico where Juan taught, moved between those seated at the table pouring steaming decadently delicious cups of hot chocolate. Isabella added two cubes of Domino Sugar to hers, stirred, took a sip, and nodded her approval, before turning her attention back to her son Juan, who had not yet rested from his long trip home.
“Tell me my son why are you married to that woman. I thought I had taught you, at this very table, the Ten Commandments of the Marianismos so that you’d know a good woman when you found one. She is not a Marianismos. But what distresses me more is that you don’t have the look of a man in love. And she by her very absence, from this table, says to me that she is not a woman in love, either.”
“Mama, times are different now. Women are different!”
“Not that different! Isabella snapped. “A woman in love would want to impress her mother-in-law. A woman in love would want to show me, by helping, how much she loves you and is willing to take care of you. But, Eleanor sleeps!”
Juan stared down into his cup of hot chocolate as if the answers to his mother’s questions were written there. “
“Perhaps, it’s that Eleanor is not used to such an arduous trip. Isn’t that right my brother?” Miguel injected.
Juan drew in a long deep breath and let it out slowly before answering, “We thought that by my marrying Eleanor, I’d get to stay in the United States. That’s why I married her. But things didn’t work out that way.”
Miguel and Antonio, nodded their approval of Juan’s statement of the truth. “Si. Si,” they both said. Because it was something they would have tried, but with a much younger and definitely, prettier woman.
“Isabella, stewed on her son’s words wherein she knew was the truth. She was already mourning the long road of heartache that her son had dug for himself. But, she also wondered who was this other woman that her son had spoken of when he’d said, ‘we.’
But how could she – a woman who had done those things necessary in order to have this beautiful home, in such a wonderful neighborhood, put a son through college who had become a Professor at an outstanding university, two other sons who owned their own businesses, and a young daughter in college – judge her son and the woman he’d married for doing what they thought necessary in order to achieve their goals.
Isabella decided that this was also not the right time, with Sofia present, to discuss Juan’s other woman. Instead, she willed herself to stick with the present situation, Don Manuel.
”Does Eleanor know about Don Manuel and Manuela?”
“I tried telling her but she didn’t believe me about how dangerous it is here for me.”
“I will talk with her later when she awakes,” Isabella said. “Antonio. What are the neighbors saying of Juan’s return?”
“Not much. They only know Juan is back and that he brought a strange Gringo woman with him.”
“That’s good,” replied Isabella.
“Yes. But they wonder, openly, why he walked the bridge in Matamoros, instead of flying into Benito Juarez.,” Miguel added.
“No talk yet of revenge?”
“No,” both brothers agreed.
“It is only a matter of time until Don Manuel and Mendoza find out that you have once again disobeyed Don Manuel by jilting Maria, my son. You cannot remain here in San Ángel and stay alive.”
“Si,” answered everyone in the kitchen, even Sofia.
After the talk with his family, Juan excused himself and went to his room where Eleanor lay sleeping. As equally exhausted, if not more, he removed his shirt, pants, and socks and laid down on the bed next to Eleanor and fell asleep.