Patrick Roscoe (email@example.com) is an author of 8 acclaimed books of literary fiction who is currently without agency representation.
The Honeymoon Hotel
After three days and three nights at The Honeymoon Hotel, Lupe and Pedro returned to town on the four o’clock bus. They sat slightly apart on their seat during the short trip home. Pedro looked out the cracked window and whistled through his teeth; Lupe held several souvenirs loosely in her arms. A crowd of friends, neighbors and relatives was waiting for the newlyweds. At the front of the gathering stood Lupe’s mother wearing her best black dress and a self-important expression, while from two steps back the wide eyes of little sister Rosario appeared to gaze at an arrival from outer space. Carmela Cervantes, the most prominent senora in town, bore the unimpressed aspect of a woman who has successfully married off nine daughters already; the bride’s closest friend, Anita, was there to welcome home the wedding couple too. Lupe searched the sea of faces with a vain hope that the importance of the occasion might have drawn her twin sister, Linda, back to the town from which she had vanished apparently for good two years before. A gang of young girls shoved aside Pedro to get at his brand new wife. They plucked Lupe’s sleeves and pulled at her wrists and begged to hear all about The Honeymoon Hotel. “Tell us,” they implored as one. Lupe rhapsodized loudly. “I couldn’t begin to describe The Honeymoon Hotel if I tried. It was both too beautiful and too perfect. Words do not exist in any language to convey the many wonders of The Honeymoon Hotel.” In amazement Lupe listened to these lies spill from her mouth; she looked in disbelief at her false tears of joy glistening upon the April dust. When had she turned into a dissembling, insipid stranger? What had become of the girl renowned for wisecracks and quick comebacks as recently as three days ago? Senora Lopez ambushed her newly married daughter with a series of pinches and pats. “Of course my Lupe cries. Every bride should sob upon returning from The Honeymoon Hotel. It’s always painful to come down to earth from Heaven,” quavered the mother. “Cry! Cry!” Pressing hands to hearts, other mature ladies wept at the memory of their own long-ago happiness at The Honeymoon Hotel. Even the stony eyes of Carmela Cervantes seemed to squeeze out a tear though it was probably induced by a speck of dust rather than by emotion. The Honeymoon Hotel! The Honeymoon Hotel! These three words filled the ears of every female in town from the time that they rocked in cradles. Before cutting the umbilical cord and cleaning up the bloody mess that comes with the delivery of a daughter, each mother could be counted on to proclaim: “This lucky baby will spend her first nights of love at The Honeymoon Hotel. She’ll know happiness. She’ll know bliss.” Infant girls had the melody of the enchanting place crooned into their ears before they could sing it themselves, and were left no choice except to believe it to be the closest thing to paradise upon the planet. The Honeymoon Hotel served as the theme of every bedtime story told to distaff offspring. “When I spent three nights at The Honeymoon Hotel,” one mother after another would nostalgically begin. Then they repeated for the thousandth time a profusion of details concerning the fountain that flowed not with water but with wine, the love birds that sang all night and did not sleep inside pretty cages hung about the patio, the hibiscus that always blossomed and never withered upon balconies finely filigreed with gold. Who could forget any of the many wonders which included: room service delivered discreetly delivered on a silver tray; multiple mariachi serenades; a soft wide bed with satin sheets over which lay sprinkled petals of California roses that became reflected into bits of hovering yellow stars by a mirrored ceiling? A full-size electric fan kept the dim boudoir deliciously cool behind slatted shutters, and throughout the erotically lit space strands of fairy lights blinked a flattering pink. Such stories unfolded like enormous mutant flowers, and little girls drifted every night into a sleep perfumed with sweet dreams of The Honeymoon Hotel. During daytime they would huddle together in the corners to costume dolls in finery that anyone would have deemed appropriate for a to-die-for sojourn at The Honeymoon Hotel while discussing plans for their own visit there one day. Desire for the destination grew increasingly urgent: every girl in town became terrified by thirteen that she might never have the chance to spend three nights of unbridled bliss at the most sumptuous hotel in the world; and this fear grew to lurk behind all the tricks, schemes and other desperate measures taken in the battles to catch boys. Earning a hard-won proposal at last, no senorita would ever answer yes or no until receiving a reply to a question of her own: Will you take me to The Honeymoon Hotel? Lupe had felt as anxious as any of her peers to stay at the most luxurious establishment in the state. Upon beginning the bloody business of womanhood she was taken like every other girl by her mother on the afternoon bus to glimpse the Xanadu that awaited in a slightly larger town fifteen kilometers up the coast. First came Cokes with chipped ice in one of the fancy air-conditioned restaurants that lined a spacious plaza. “This is where your father and I ate chicken enchiladas on our first night at The Honeymoon Hotel,” Senora Lopez explained. A tour of surrounding streets illustrated how each one of them formed a memory lane of romance. “Here’s the corner where your father kissed me in broad daylight. There’s the souvenir store where he bought me the lace shawl still hanging on my bedroom wall today.” Her mother finally led Lupe down the quaint street where The Honeymoon Hotel stood. They approached, but not too closely. With a trembling, fortune-telling finger Senora Lopez pointed to where her daughter’s destiny would inevitably lead. Lupe gazed at a white three-storey structure over which frangipani trailed like brilliant scarves. It proved difficult to gain an impression of the interior of the building from the sidewalk. Windows lay shuttered and the balconies deserted. A closed front gate added to the secretive aspect of the site. “Listen,” alerted Senora Lopez. “That’s the splashing of the wine-filled fountain. And do you hear the love birds sing?” Before Lupe could detect either of those sounds Senora Lopez started to stumble off. One of her hands swiped at tears while the other dragged Lupe away from the most beautiful place in the universe. Now the honeymoon was over and Lupe was truly married. She had the ring and the piece of paper to prove it. Lupe knew at last that of the million falsehoods in town the biggest of them all concerned The Honeymoon Hotel. She couldn’t believe that for seventeen years a girl as clever as her had been so easily duped. At least she wised up overnight. On the afternoon of her return with Pedro from The Honeymoon Hotel, Lupe demanded that he find them a house by dark. She wasn’t prepared to squat with in-laws for a single night; tip-toeing under the sharp eyes of any man’s mama did not feature in her agenda. Nor was she about to take Pedro to stay with her mother and father and little sister even briefly. After enduring the horror of The Honeymoon Hotel hadn’t she earned a right to rid herself of the maddening trio? Senora Lopez devoted most of each day to searching movie magazines for a glimpse of her missing daughter. Without one shred of evidence to go on she remained convinced that Linda had headed straight to Hollywood upon vanishing across the hills two years before. Scrutinizing images of starlets with pale faces and platinum hair through a magnifying glass, she wondered whether Linda might have been transformed into one of these sirens by peroxide and make up and studio lighting. She mused upon the name that her ingénue daughter would have adopted for the silver screen, and contemplated whether the ambitious up-and-comer was or wasn’t willing to pose for cheesecake shots. Had Linda signed with Warner Brothers or with MGM? Did she pal around Tinseltown with Betty Grable or with Myrna Loy? No wonder this ceaseless prattle had driven little Rosario to believe herself to be a princess who shared a French chateau with Marie Antoinette and other assorted royalty. What a surprise that Lupe’s father remained silently slumped with closed eyes in his corner chair like one more ancient man dreaming one more ancient dream. On the first morning in their new house Lupe woke Pedro before dawn with the hard pinch that she had learned was always required to open his eyes. “Get moving,” she told him. “Off to the fields.” Senor Lazy apparently lay under an illusion that the honeymoon would last indefinitely. “I’ll wait until the fish started running next month to work,” he mumbled. “Everyone knows you earn more in the boats than in the fields.” Lupe pointed out that bananas waited be picked in the plantations on the hills today. She worried less about pesos than about Pedro interfering with her housework, frankly. Carmela Cervantes and every other hard-nosed senora in town would be watching for her to slip up at the start. “Incidentally, your precious mother’s the worst of them,” Lupe informed her husband, pushing him out of bed. Pedro hopped kangaroo-style around the room in search of his pants while chattering teeth like the air was arctic cold. Lupe couldn’t stand to witness such foolishness so early in the morning. Shutting her eyes, she didn’t open them until she heard Pedro close the door reluctantly behind his back. There. She was alone in her own house. Made of cinder-block walls and a tin roof and floors of bare cement the two-room structure didn’t amount to much. Yes, it boasted electricity and an indoor toilet with real plumbing plus a dirt corral featuring an avocado tree behind. Yes, it was stocked with linen and dishes and furniture that had been extracted from Senora Lopez as her daughter’s just due. Painted a paler shade of pink inside than out, however, the shack resembled the shell of a home more than the real thing. “A little dove’s nest,” Senor Ramirez, the owner, had cooed. “Newlyweds are romantic but also poor. Only forty pesos a mouth.” At least the place was hers. Now Lupe would become the most efficient housekeeper in town, just as she and Linda had once been its hopscotch champions then the wildest and prettiest of all the single girls. Before her husband could sulk his way all the way up the road beyond, Lupe was scrubbing her cement floors and scouring her pink walls. She wiped the windows and swept the corral. These were only some of the things she did. There were more. Beating cobwebs from the ceiling with the broom; pounding dust from the pillow with a stick; slapping clothes in the back-yard sink then wringing out the very last drops of dirty soap: Lupe didn’t rest for one minute. She was going to have the neatest and cleanest house in town. Nobody would have a reason to talk because she wouldn’t give them one. Not until afternoon did Lupe rest in the hammock hooked to the avocado tree in the yard. She felt too tired to search the sky for an early star; too exhausted to brood upon the disturbing truth of The Honeymoon Hotel. All she wanted was to forget. She didn’t want company extolling the million wonders of The Honeymoon Hotel and she didn’t want to pretend in the plaza that those imaginary marvels were real. She didn’t even want to see her best friend, Anita. She wished to be alone. It took less than a week for Lupe to learn that even in her own home she wouldn’t be safe. At night there was Pedro. He wasn’t that bad, he could have been worse; but what had happened at The Honeymoon Hotel made Lupe wish to preserve a distance from the boy. After each evening cena he would sit in the front room cradling his guitar like a baby in his arms; Pedro polished and restrung and tuned the instrument but he refused to play it. Like a one-woman brass band, Lupe crashed pots and pans in the adjacent kitchen to fill a straining silence. It came as a relief when Anita’s Alfredo dropped by to fetch her husband to girl-watch on the corner. By the time he returned Lupe would be out in the dark yard taking laundry off the line before midnight dew could dampen it. Beyond reach of house lights she hugged an armful of clean clothes. The hard-packed earth felt cool under her feet; the sensation curled her toes. As Pedro’s voice slipped toward her through darkness as smooth as his skin beneath the sheets, she shivered. Daytime proved just as bad. The pink house stood on the busy road running between the town and the shore below; a steady stream of women passed on errands along its length from dawn to dusk. Carmela Cervantes and her crew couldn’t resist peering through the window at every opportunity. First the senoras looked, then they talked. All across town they gossiped, lied, slandered. A ball of dust in the corner. An unmade bed at noon. One dirty dish in the sink. Anything amiss served as further meat for the diet of scandal upon which the town had seemed from its inception to survive. Lupe realized that she lay under special scrutiny because Linda had gamboled off into the wide blue yonder during her sixteenth spring. Taking a scientific tack, Carmela Cervantes liked to point out that identical twins share the same genetic code. While the chromosome responsible for Linda’s rashness appeared to lie dormant within her sister at the moment, it was bound to waken any day. Five minutes couldn’t go by without Old Chonita shouting from her white house across the road another spicy joke concerning the pleasures to be enjoyed at The Honeymoon Hotel, or without a gaggle of middle-aged matrons poking heads inside the door to demand multiple assurances that the place remained as romantic as it had been twenty years ago. Asked for an umpteenth time whether the proprietor was as charming and discreet as ever, Lupe kept her face smooth as the statue of the Blessed Virgin inside the crumbling church. She refused to utter one iota of the sordid truth about The Honeymoon Hotel; if she did, Carmela Cervantes would surely stone her to death beneath a guise of pity, and Lupe would find herself six feet under before one wedding anniversary arrived. She bore the mixture of nonsense and nostalgia spewed by her uninvited company until they left in a huff with rote requests for her to let them know if she needed anything. What she required was privacy. Turned from the door, Carmela would spread vicious stories about what lay within it through every street in town however. “Lupe Lopez must be hiding something inside her pink house,” the hag would harp. “I’d tell you if I knew what it is. Unlike your modern brides of today, I’m a frank woman. None of my closets has a door, not one of my locks holds a key.” Lupe realized that the price for closing the door and drawing the curtains for half an hour would not be hers alone to pay. “It’s natural your daughter hides inside her house,” Carmela was guaranteed to point out to Senora Lopez. “She’s ashamed of her filthy house. It’s riddled with all kinds of vermin because the spoiled girl thinks she’s too good to lift a broom. I guess that’s what you get for raising your daughters to become movie stars, Esmeralda.” It might have been expected that Senora Lopez would be unable to withstand further damage to a reputation already shredded to bits by Linda’s beyond-the-pale act two years ago. From the moment of that disgrace until Lupe’s wedding she had remained self-incarcerated in her kitchen; Rosario needed to be sent to the tortilleria and Alberto’s Abarrotes and the butcher’s in her stead. Flipping through worn out movie magazines, Senora Lopez rued the day that an upset stomach had prevented Linda from joining her and Lupe on their expedition to glimpse The Honeymoon Hotel. “If she’d beheld that miraculous vision,” lamented the mother, “Linda would never have gone astray.” Surprisingly, Senora Lopez refused to be cowed anew. She snapped awake each morning at dawn to dress in her best black and to powder her face a dead white. She removed the souvenir shawl from her honeymoon for the first time since it had been hung in a place of honor on the bedroom wall. Draping the length of purple and pink sateen across her front like a military sash, she set out on a mission to conquer every senora in town, excluding Carmela Cervantes. “Yes, Lupe enjoyed a most exquisite stay at The Honeymoon Hotel,” drawled Senora Lopez in one doorway after another. “You must have heard by now that the proprietor of the place felt so entranced by my daughter’s loveliness that he refused to accept a single peso from Pedro for their three nights there. He’s begging for Lupe to consider accepting a position as the exclusive spokesmodel for his fine establishment. As soon as the appropriate fee for her services has been negotiated—something in the mid three figures currently sits on the table--Lupe will hire some drudge or other to do her housework. Modelling leaves little time for mopping. Don’t whisper a word to Carmela—we must spare the poor thing from building premature hope—but I’m in a position to say she’s currently quite near the top of Lupe’s shortlist for a slave. Carmela could certainly use a few pesos, can’t she? I have it on good authority that the creature still teeters on the verge of bankruptcy from having to buy a husband for each of her nine equally unfortunate daughters. Apparently it cost more than the price of the blue moon to get rid of her cross-eyed girl and the equivalent of a whole galaxy of stars to be freed of the clubfoot one.” As far as Lupe was concerned it would have been better had her mother reverted to holing up at home with the latest issue of Estrellas de Cine. She showed up at the pink house on the hour to report upon the latest victory in her propaganda campaign against Carmela. That the beleaguered warrior slandered in self-defense didn’t make listening to her babble any less of a trial to endure. Lupe had no choice but to lay down several ground rules for her mother. “You can drop by for half an hour on every second day on the following conditions: no more fantasizing about Linda’s success in Hollywood, no further mention of anyone’s modelling career, and not one more peep about The Honeymoon Hotel.” Senora Lopez pouted that certain people seemed to believe they were too good for their flesh and blood since certain people had returned from The Honeymoon Hotel. Ignoring this dig, Lupe reiterated the laws to govern her mother’s future visits. Senora Lopez would otherwise buzz about during every waking moment like a fly that won’t shoo no matter how it’s waved away. The May rains commenced, and every wet day became the same. Lupe felt bored unto death by housework already. Why bother with it? She could work her fingers to bare bone without making the pink house prettier. Floors scrubbed one day would become equally dirty again the next; freshly laundered clothes would be soiled within hours of being reassumed. Lupe grew to understand why every woman in town, including her mother, squawked constantly like chickens without a head. The whole bunch had been driven mad by housework, made insane by the same four walls. Lupe feared that soon she’d smash all the dishes and tear up all the sheets to avoid the pointless task of washing them again. She foresaw herself putting a match to the broom and setting her rooms on fire. From across the road she would cover her face with hands and leak crocodile tears while the pink house blazed away. “I was slaving over the stove making chiles rellenos for Pedro,” she could already hear herself fib. “Suddenly everything went up in flames,” she would surely sob as though her heart had been broken. It already was. She lay in bed on those May mornings like a drowned girl floating upon a becalmed sea. “Lupe can’t stop crying over The Honeymoon Hotel,” assorted females clucked outside the window as from a distant shore. If they only knew. Before marrying, Lupe hadn’t given too much thought about what would happen after The Honeymoon Hotel: visions of visiting there blinded any sight of what might wait beyond. Now Lupe saw past The Honeymoon Hotel. What lay in view was four months of rain. Of all people, it turned out to be her younger sister who saved Lupe from spending the rest of her life in bed. “Wake up,” said Rosario in the doorway late one morning; then she began to visit the pink house almost every day. The idea of being seen with an unwashed face and uncombed hair by the little girl at noon was enough to shake Lupe into making a show of bustling about with the broom. She no longer driven felt up the wall by Rosario’s chatter about becoming the next Florence Nightingale or Madame Curie, she found; at least these quixotic dreams did not involve The Honeymoon Hotel. “You never know,” Lupe replied when her sister wondered about the possibility of her being summoned across the sea by Marie Antoinette before the end of summer. Rosario had never needed others to participate in her make-believe before. Flipping through history comics, she would make no secret of her scorn when Lupe and Linda sighed like silly saps over each and every handsome boy. Now it seemed that Rosario’s fantasies had begun retreating from her to leave a regrettably real world in their place. Maybe the little girl believed that speaking those fled illusions aloud to Lupe would draw them back, and render them substantial once again. Lupe felt stirred by her sister to remember a life before the wedding. Crossing the plaza, she visited Anita who had been married for three months already. The ring circling the finger of her friend apparently placed Lupe beyond its small circumference. Anita seemed too busy sweeping the same square of her kitchen to engage in a heart-to-heart. Plus her mother was eternally about, forever raving about The Honeymoon Hotel. “Yes, it was lovely,” Anita would quickly agree, staring at an invisible stain on the floor. Looking up, her eyes flashed a warning to Lupe not to reveal the reality of The Honeymoon Hotel. Then Anita’s eyes dulled again. Lupe almost believed that her friend had died in The Honeymoon Hotel and become reincarnated as a weaker spirit. What else could explain this wan stranger’s tendency to act frightened of a husband who behaved even more foolishly than Pedro? It turned out to be the same with all of Lupe’s recently married friends. They felt scared to leave the house, terrified of Carmela Cervantes, and petrified to speak the truth about what had happened to them at The Honeymoon Hotel. Lupe formed a vision of a thousand once-brave brides incarcerated for life sentences inside small dark cells. Girls as pale and passive as the ersatz Anita had been sent back to town in their place. Lupe stopped visiting these imposters to spend her evenings sitting at the window instead. Tuning up for another Saturday dance in the Casino, the band issued an invitation that carried brassily throughout the town. Allowed by their mothers to do anything in the battles for a boy, single girls would be running riot all night long. Beyond the light of Lupe’s window stretched darkness. Somewhere out there Linda must be roaming from town to town: never remaining in one place long, always on the move. Everyone except for her mother accepted as fact that Linda had run off with the carnival that would visit the town each April until the season of her joining it. Linda Lopez had come to a bad end, it was said; but to what kind of fate had her twin become consigned? Lupe had to get up from her chair and pace the room. She had to swing arms and stamp feet and force sluggish blood to push its way through her veins. Glancing up from his guitar, Pedro would ask if she had ants in her pants. The rain refused to stop, and one drenched day Lupe couldn’t bear to continue staring for another minute at four pink walls while every thought except those concerning The Honeymoon Hotel became drummed from her head as surely as raindrops battered against the tin roof above. She could accomplish the senseless housework quickly now; balls of dust in the corners didn’t matter one mite anymore. Pedro would have to eat beans for supper again; if he preferred a different menu, he was welcome to stuff his snout with slop at The Bel Mar Restaurant-Café. And if anyone thought Lupe was prepared to go blind from crocheting tacky doilies hour upon hour they had another thing coming. She didn’t care what Carmela Cervantes and her kind said anymore; they would judge the Good Lord above. Making up before the mirror, Lupe felt immediately better. She looked just as pretty as ever. Her features remained sharp, her figure had stayed slender. Lupe knew every one of her flaws, she hadn’t yet gone blind; but there existed no earthly reason to let herself go the way that other young wives did at their moment of saying I do. As soon she caught Alfredo, Anita had become unable to run a comb through her hair let alone apply a touch of lipstick. Lupe could scarcely recognize any of her former friends whether they had delivered a first child or not. Before any baby had the chance to arrive Anita and the others seemed to forget what too many sweet cakes and corn tortillas can do to a slim girl’s shape. Away they ate as though making up for having starved while single. Clothes? They clad themselves like crones in baggy black sweaters and shapeless skirts and scuffed house slippers; any old rags at all would apparently do. Lupe slipped on a canary yellow dress and a pair of silver heels. It wasn’t for Pedro that she kept herself up. He didn’t notice a thing anymore, be it Passion Peach perfume, freshly curled hair, or the skirt that set off her legs just right. Pedro liked her in the dark. It might as well have been Old Olivia, the ugliest woman in town, who shared the bed with him. No, Lupe dressed for herself now. She poked to feel the firmness of her flesh, squinted at her shining hair, traced the arch of a brow with one contemplative finger. Ignoring the heavy rain and the keen glances of town ladies, she walked swiftly from her house and up the road. “Look at Lupe,” squawked Carmela and the other hens with a ruffling of their filthy feathers. “The honeymoon is hardly over and already she casts her net for a second boy. One isn’t enough for the brazen slut and two won’t be either.” Lupe stalked onward without faltering upon the receipt of taunts made by nasty little boys. “Senorita, senorita, take me to the dance,” hooted the brats. “Senorita, senorita, take me to the shore.” Leaving behind the town, Lupe followed the road that wound through sisal fields and into the green hills above. She thought for several moments that she was able to hear Linda calling from the far side of the western slopes; then cool, clean-scented rain pricked her with a final knowledge that her twin would never come back. The western slopes rose partly concealed by a shroud of mist. Lupe could picture the road before her twisting and turning across the world: over tall mountains, through barren deserts, amid dark forests. On and on beckoned the path to end at the door of The Honeymoon Hotel. Looming above Lupe, the enormous building cast gloomy shadow and blocked out a wet grey sky. The walls stood too tall and thick to be knocked down or climbed over, and no path lay around. The rain beat harder and colder. Mascara slithered like fat black tears down Lupe’s face and her wet hair hung in thick coarse ropes. The canary yellow dress stuck to her skin; mud caked the silver heels. Driven back home by the rain, Lupe doubted that she would ever venture beyond the edge of town again. She changed out of her party clothes then put them carefully away. “What’s wrong with you?” demanded Senora Lopez when she burst through the door without a knock. “I can’t hold up my head,” she announced shaking raindrops from her shawl. “Carmela says you’re idle and lazy and worse, waltzing like a grass widow through our decent streets. Tell me this: Haven’t I paid a stiff penance with Linda already? Stay inside, Lupe. You don’t need to go anywhere. You’ve already been to The Honeymoon Hotel.” “It isn’t enough, it isn’t enough,” thought Lupe standing for a longer while in her doorway each day. She couldn’t remain inside, there was nowhere for her to go, and May crept slowly passed. Things would never change, it seemed. When the church bell tolled in mourning upon the death of Don Julian, Lupe heard the echo of her wedding chimes. Not until twelve pallbearers carried the coffin past her door did she recall that Don Julian had been her great-grandfather. Once the old man sat in the plaza and tossed pesos as far as his feeble arm allowed. Linda and Lupe would chase after discs that glinted upon the dust. Wiping the silver pieces clean with their skirts, they added them to a green glass jar that stood on the dressing table. The coins remained unspent; the green jar slowly filled. In the double bed late at night Lupe and Linda listed what their treasure would someday buy: convertible cars, mink coats, real diamonds. The heavy jar dreamed on and on while the two girls grew drowsy with desire. On the morning that Lupe awoke alone to notice that the coin-filled container of green glass had disappeared, she knew at once that her twin had run off with April carnival. Hand in hand with swarthy fellow who circled then stopped the Ferris wheel, Linda had fled to leave behind a canary yellow dress and a pair of silver heels as a promise or a warning for her twin. The walls of the pink house pressed upon Lupe. She moved one step beyond the doorway. “Why are you waiting for a handsome prince?” Carmela Cervantes immediately demanded from behind the banana tree that she had selected for her stake outs. “You don’t need to be carried off to any castle, Lupe. You’ve been to The Honeymoon Hotel.” It wasn’t enough, it wasn’t enough. Three girls shrieked and splashed through puddles down the road. Sodden hair hung like black veils over their faces, drenched dresses clung to their skin. The senoritas didn’t glance toward Lupe though six months earlier each one of them had sought her advice about boys and how to snare them. Staring at the trio’s tightly linked arms, Lupe felt the warm hand of Linda around her waist. Long before Pedro, long before Anita, there had once lived a pair of twins that were always together and never apart. They led the rest of the single girls in stunts and dares; mamboing with all of the handsome boys at each Saturday dance, they would kiss every one of them too. At midnight Lupe and Linda had always liked to slip from the crowded Casino to gambol past the graveyard then to laugh toward the shore below. Two white slips dropped onto sand to allow black water to slide over two bared bodies. Sometimes a current pulled the two close sisters apart. They couldn’t detect each other for darkness, they couldn’t see the shore. Were they swimming back to land or farther out into open water? At the same moment, always, Linda and Lupe would spy two distant gleams of white with the power to guide them safely back to shore. Lupe gazed at Chonita’s white house floating in silence across the road. The swamped fields beyond lay dotted with islands of steaming cows and the emerald hills arched into mist above. Even while the road ran in a river Lupe’s memories of The Honeymoon Hotel refused to be washed away. They continued to flood her like a stinging, salty sea. . . . The afternoon rains persisted upon shrouding the pink house, and they came to separate it from the town above as distinctly as life exists from death. Carmela Cervantes and her cohorts visited Lupe less often out of a preference for the company of brand new brides whose fresher reminiscences of The Honeymoon Hotel might prove more revealing. Lupe realized by the end of May that her little sister had abandoned her history comics to join in the hopscotch games that became waged upon the wet flagstones of the plaza each afternoon. Rosario’s screams quickly came to shrill down through the rain more loudly than those of her cut-throated competitors. Lupe remembered how she too had thrown a marker with deadly aim then leapt from square to square as though the battle of life lay at stake. When the crochet needle stabbed her finger Lupe tossed aside another of the doilies that her hands had recently begun to take up to keep them busy. Sucking a drop of risen blood, she saw her younger sister approach down the road on thin legs that sliced like knives through a draping rain. Rosario described the day’s hopscotch games in detail, proudly exhibiting like trophies knees and elbows scraped from falls incurred on the way to victory. Lupe found herself turn indifferent toward her sister. She neglected to follow the little girl’s quick, eager words any more a question from Rosario would be allowed to dangle like a loose thread in the air. Lupe preferred not to hear her sister’s news, really; it tended to leave her more restless than she had felt before. Tearing up another unfinished piece of handiwork to stride between her four walls for the remainder of the afternoon, she would be unable to reply when Pedro asked how she’d spent the day. “What about Florence Nightingale and Madame Curie?” Lupe asked her sister one afternoon. Flitting from the question, Rosario darted between the pink walls without coming to rest. “A house of your own,” she exclaimed with a mixture of envy and desire while touching dishes and decorations as though she fondled palace treasures. “Cups and saucers, spoons and forks, pots and pans: you possess everything possible in the world, Lupe. You’re as rich as a queen.” While Rosario played with her sister’s make-up and practiced smiles before the mirror, Lupe’s face twisted. “Don’t you remember?” she asked. “When Linda and I sat at our vanity table you would scowl and turn the pages of your comic books so roughly that they tore. What’s happened to all those history comics you used to read?” Rosario had slipped on her sister’s canary yellow dress and silver heels to prance about in a pretense that the pink house approximated a Parisian ballroom. Ignoring Lupe’s questions, she smiled at her reflection slyly as the sound of rain surrounded the sisters like the song of a sea inside a shell. As soon as Rosario became hopscotch queen she seemed to grow weary of the heavy crown. Preferring to spend longer hours at her sister’s each day, she began to pose a greater quantity of questions from week to week. Lupe couldn’t help noticing that all of these queries soon came to involve Pedro. “What side of the bed does he sleep on? Does he snore? Is he cranky in the morning?” Rosario made a million inquries about the boy as if he were Señor Fascination himself. “Oh, I don’t know,” Lupe would blandly reply. If Pedro wasn’t too lazy to take on a second girl, she might have felt concerned by her sister’s sudden interest in him. “He’s not home much and he knows to stay out of my way when he is.” Lupe felt determined to dispel any notion that Pedro might be some dark-eyed Romeo of romance. She could see that fantasies of The Honeymoon Hotel as the site where the thrilling mysteries of marriage are born had started to consume Rosario; and she refused to be party to adding bricks to any castle in the air. “Does he look in the mirror while he shaves?” beseeched Rosario. “Does he talk in his sleep?” Lupe couldn’t always answer her sister. It had grown difficult to realize what Pedro looked like even while he was present. Sometimes Lupe turned to discover her husband framed in the doorway like a photograph that’s been hiding in a dusty box for years. She would see anew how the boy’s mouth curled up at both corners to dimple each of his cheeks; how thick lashes batted to accentuate the erotic invitation offered by his eyes. Pedro had been no more than one indistinguishable member among a pack of trouble-making boys until the morning that Lupe crossed the plaza and heard a rustling overhead. She looked up to see a figure suspended upside down from the amapa tree at the center of the square. Swaying back and forth by knees hooked over one branch, a faded blue shirt falling around his inverted face, the boy plucked red and yellow poppies that swirled upon Lupe like multi-colored snow. “Show off,” she had snapped. “Serve you right if you fall and crack your simple head.” Walking away, Lupe brushed a silky poppy petal against her face. She felt her heart turn over, and upside down it had hung for years: swaying to and fro above the earth, frightened and foolish and brave. Only since The Honeymoon Hotel had the world turned right-side up again. Only now could Lupe see straight. “Boys are funny,” she informed Rosario with a tight smile. “You can never tell what they’re thinking about or what they’ll do next. There’s no point in wondering because they’ll never make sense. They’re constantly crying with hunger in the middle of the night, forever wanting pats on the back to make them feel better. Caring for your boy when you marry serves as a crash course in how to care for the babies that are bound to come along. That’s the explanation for why every man on earth is infantile.” Rosario’s visits to the pink house had grown more protracted by June. “I can’t leave yet. It’s raining too hard,” she would say as though in danger of melting away like the chalk outline of a hopscotch game. “Besides, I don’t want to play with those girls in the plaza anymore. They’re immature.” Rosario would linger in the pink house until it grew time for Pedro’s return from the fields late in the afternoon. She went to the window a dozen times to check whether the boy might be approaching down the road. “Here he comes,” Rosario finally cried, running to fetch clean clothes that she’d dried for him by the stove. She brushed her brother-in-law’s hair and she shaved his face. She fed him with a spoon and lit each one of his Partytime cigarettes. Soon Pedro became barely able to do a thing for himself; he turned more helpless than a newborn as far as Lupe was concerned. Sprawled in the most comfortable chair, his bedroom eyes closed, he smiled secretively to himself. “You poor thing,” crooned Rosario, stroking his cheek with a finger. “Slaving out in the rain all day.” “Save your pity,” advised Lupe from across the room where she tried to concentrate on filing her nails to avoid witnessing this folderol. “None of those boys do one stitch of work while it rains. They loaf under the banana trees, dry as bone. The only wet thing to touch the slackers is the beer poured down their throats.” Senora Lopez couldn’t fathom it. “I don’t know what’s come over Rosario, always running down the road to you. She fights with her real friends and claims her make-believe ones have moved away. I don’t know what’s so thrilling about your pink house, I’m sure,” sniffed Lupe’s mother, plainly put out to be found less welcome than Rosario there. At the same time, Senora Lopez appeared relieved that her youngest daughter was at last showing interest in housework, boys, and other natural things. Lupe observed her sister’s eyes become further widened day by day by the view of a rapidly enlarging world. Rosario was shooting up as straight and tall as the cassava on the hills; even the signs of long-ago damage done to her left arm by an accident with the kitchen stove had almost disappeared at last. Lupe began to dread her sister’s visits. “Go play hopscotch while you can,” she advised. “Listen to those girl up in the plaza. You can still beat them all.” Drifting through the pink house in a wondering way, Rosario didn’t seem able to hear her sister. She touched Pedro’s things with a look of frightened fascination. One of his faded blue shirts would be held close to her face to allow for its scent to be inhaled deeply. “Mama’s going to take me to see The Honeymoon Hotel next week,” spoke Rosario’s muffled voice one day. “I’m thirteen. She says it’s time.” Putting down the blue shirt, Rosario turned to her sister. “Tell me about it,” she asked clearly. “Tell me all about The Honeymoon Hotel.” The rain drummed against the tin roof and echoed through the rooms. Feeling her sister’s stare, Lupe lifted her head and noticed that cracks ran like exposed veins across the pink walls. For three months she hadn’t told the truth about The Honeymoon Hotel. She’d remained silent for the same three months in the face of all the ongoing lies about the place. Now her belly turned over and her stomach heaved. Not yet, not yet. Please, not yet. Instead of telltale vomit the truth spilled from her throat. Lupe told her sister how a dream became transformed into a nightmare as she passed with Pedro through the entrance of The Honeymoon Hotel. Her white trousseau was wrinkled from the journey on the bus that carried the pair of newlyweds from the church; confetti clung to its veil like particles of blue and pink dust. A sickly sweet taste of wedding cake lingered in Lupe’s mouth, and church bells still pealed an alarm into her ears. Alone with Pedro at last, she found herself in a dark, dank courtyard where beads of moisture rolled like stray tears down walls whose drab pink paint peeled like flayed flesh; where cobwebs as thick and strong as ropes trapped humming birds and San Blas butterflies that struggled in vain at the determined approach of army ants. At the center of the patio stood a fountain that failed to flow; a swarm of mosquitoes breeding above its bowl of mud and slime whined like a hungry cloud about Lupe. Rusted cages hung here and there held feathers and bones of expired song birds, and from pots upon the balconies climbed hibiscus in a fruitless attempt to escape into a sky that became further obscured by their blackened blossoms. Crones flashed knitting needles of knives in the corners and leered with cold, bright eyes. Maids with vacant eyes and drugged expressions and torn blouses dragged brooms from place to place. A hunchbacked dwarf led Lupe and Pedro to a windowless room no larger than a closet then locked them inside with one turn of an oversized key. A pink light glowed dully in the darkness like the devil’s bloodshot eye; it afforded just enough light to allow the sight of a thick layer of dust and grime coating every surface. An ugly smell rose out of a slop bucket in one corner; from somewhere nearby by a tap wouldn’t stop dripping like the blood that leaked from Lupe’s heart. The room contained no furniture except for a narrow cot with stained sheets, a musty blanket, and springs that complained like a broken gate in an October wind at the least disturbance. The center of the thin mattress sagged into a hollow into which the newlywed pair fell together. For three nights sobs of brides in adjacent rooms wouldn’t cease passing through pasteboard walls scrawled with obscene words. For three nights Lupe and Pedro drowned in a fetid pool of sweat. With closed eyes Lupe told her sister the whole truth about The Honeymoon Hotel: the room, the bed, what did and didn’t happen in the bed. She left nothing out. When she had been emptied of The Honeymoon Hotel, Lupe opened her eyes. The door stood ajar, Rosario had gone. Like Linda, she would never return, at least not in a recognizable form. . . . A strange quiet prevailed the next day. Lupe couldn’t hear girls playing in the plaza; no one passed along the dirt road before the pink house. The town had become deserted overnight, it seemed. The rain had paused at last, and a grey sky spread beneath low hanging clouds. Lupe spent the morning whitewashing the interior of her house. In early afternoon she heard a loud buzzing as though a host of locusts were drawing near. Facing the wall whose pink she was busily covering with white, Lupe didn’t notice immediately when a crowd of town ladies filled her doorway. First the women raged and stormed, then they wept and screamed. “How can you tell such evil lies about The Honeymoon Hotel?” demanded Carmela Cervantes. “Everyone knows that it’s the most divine place in the world. Our happiest moments were spent there, and now you attempt to befoul those cherished memories.” Lupe coolly listened then said: “That so-called hotel is a dirty hole unfit for a dead rat.” Gasping, the ladies fell into one another’s arms. Lupe turned her back against the uninvited guests and resumed painting while they departed with curses, threats and promises of revenge. “My flesh and blood,” wailed Senora Lopez falling through the doorway five minutes later. “How can you paint while the world falls to pieces?” After her mother calmed down several degrees Lupe was able to gather that on the previous evening Rosario had told the hopscotch girls what she’d learned about The Honeymoon Hotel. Word quickly spread. By nine o’clock three engaged girls had called off their wedding; a number of other senoritas, not yet betrothed but hopeful, burned the trousseaux that they were in the process of sewing. Every door in town slammed against boys come courting, and that night the plaza failed to become circled by eager, available girls. They stayed inside destroying hope chests instead. Suddenly wiser, refusing to speak to their mothers, they shared enlightening stories with each other until dawn. The town had been turned upside down, and the cause of it lay squarely with Lupe. “You lied to me for years about The Honeymoon Hotel,” she accused her mother now. “It was a cover up and a plot. You might as well admit to the conspiracy since the cat’s clawed its way out of the bag at last.” “Truth. Beauty. Romance,” emoted Senora Lopez, wringing her hands. “You young girls of today wouldn’t recognize these things if they stared you in the face. Wandering into the Garden of Eden, you’d see only thistles and weeds. Now no one will speak to me,” she cried in a higher key. “Carmela claims I had a hand in your mischief. I’ve lost all my friends and gained just as many enemies overnight. I’ll have to move to the capital city and exist among godless strangers. I must start packing this instant.” Senora Lopez flung herself out into the newly falling rain. When he returned from the fields later that afternoon Pedro refused point blank to discuss The Honeymoon Hotel with his wife. Co-workers held the boy responsible for Lupe’s wild talk, and they predicted that as a result their own balls and chains would refuse to speak or to sleep with them again. This premonition proved uncannily correct. Rather than waste time in making breakfast or preparing cena, Anita and a group of similarly disillusioned wives visited Jesus Salvador de Asuncion to ask whether the priest believed that The Vatican might be swayed to grant them an annulment on grounds of fraud. Could they sue the pants off the defilers of their purity in the ecclesiastic courts? Until definitive word arrived from the Pope, or unless a real honeymoon took place, Anita and her followers would have nothing further to do with crooks who had the gall to continue to try passing themselves off as legitimate husbands. “You insulted me by bringing me to that pigsty of a hotel,” one young wife after another was reported to accuse her boy. “It might as well have been a three-day holiday in Hell.” Protests of innocence by the patently guilty parties had the effect of raising tougher questions. “Where was the fountain flowing with wine? Where were the lovebirds that sing through the night? And what about the satin sheets?” inquired Anita of Alfredo, counting these items off on fingers not one of which currently wore a wedding band. “Take me to the real Honeymoon Hotel. Then we’ll talk turkey.” Pedro changed clothes then flounced back out the door to get drunk with his boyfriends as soon as he returned home each afternoon. Lupe didn’t find herself left alone on any of these nights however; arriving one after the other to the pink house, old friends would fall into her long-lost arms. Like the rest of the company, Anita wore the favorite Saturday dancing frock, adorned with a plethora of ribbons and ruffles and bows, which had been cast off upon her marriage. Each member of the assembly appeared as prettily painted and perfumed as before. Sobs became shared along with sordid details concerning The Honeymoon Hotel. “I felt so ashamed,” wept Anita. “I was frightened to utter one syllable about that sewer. I believed I must be the only bride who’d been taken to an imitation Honeymoon Hotel.” Presently the girls began to chuckle about the hoax played on them, and grew to find each aspect of the deception more amusing than the next. They laughed until they cried again. Lupe opened three bottles of brandy which had been a wedding present from old Chonita across the road. Slurping down the strong, sweet stuff, the company caught up on all that had happened to them since last their last meeting as free friends. “Alfredo is sweet but I can’t talk to him,” admitted Anita, expressing a sentiment general to the room. “I’ve discovered he no longer understands Spanish, apparently.” Long after midnight, when the last drop of brandy had been consumed, the company took its leave with hugs and kisses and promises to meet on the following evening again. There existed no peace in town for the next three weeks. Mothers scolded married daughters who remained too involved in applying lipstick and mascara to heed their lectures. As Senora Lopez wasted no time in pointing out to Lupe: “You’re a wife now, not a flighty girl.” Dirty dishes and soiled clothing piled up; dust gathered in the corners. “I’m not eating, I’m on a diet,” breezily answered recent brides when their boys wondered what had happened to supper. “Cook something yourself, eat at The Bel Mar Restaurant-Cafe, or better yet jump into the sea.” Night after night the gang of girlfriends met. They drank and smoke and played poker to the accompaniment of rancheras on the radio. Soon single girls also attended these informal affairs which lasted until dawn. The senoritas became urged by their married mentors to go ahead and kiss as many boys as they pleased but to skip the wedding on all account. “Above all, don’t be duped into spending a single second inside that con of a Honeymoon Hotel,” each wised-up young wife advised. Sounds of the gay parties spilled through the town. On behalf of every mother on her block, Senora Lopez described to her daughter how it felt to sit before a mirror and wonder where life had gone wrong. “Raising children isn’t easy,” Senora Lopez would attempt to console herself. Twisting her hair into braids before bed, she pondered whether she might too have been tricked by The Honeymoon Hotel. She thought fearfully of unmarried Rosario. She considered the long, difficult years since her own wedding. All the sickness and hunger and sorrow that she had somehow survived made Senora Lopez shake her head. Shivering, she felt a heavy stamp of footsteps upon her grave. “No,” Senora Lopez and her peers whispered to their reflections. “Staying at The Honeymoon Hotel was exactly like staying on a star.” Pedro and Alfredo skulked like lost dogs along with other young men through the streets. The displaced fellows grew uniformly thin, and they wore an anxious look whether in the cantina or on the corner. Through the window of the pink house they watched their wives laughing and drinking and mamboing inside. A swirling pattern of color and movement rendered the boys too dazzled to stand straight, or their swaying had its source in tequila diced with gasoline that they siphoned from the tank of Senor Ramirez’s battered blue truck. Lupe and her friends finally noticed their husbands hovering in the dark outside like ghosts without graves. “All right,” they called, careless and reckless and bold. “Come on in and have a drink or two, and don’t look so gloomy.” Hanging heads and staring at their shoes, Pedro and the others paused bashfully by the door until their wives floated forward to swept them off their feet like they had done at the very first Saturday night dance of all. . . . Weeks slipped by like pages turned by an impatient hand of God. Lupe’s destructive stories about The Honeymoon Hotel became increasingly under question; it was universally agreed by the end of August that each of them had been invented from whole cloth. Some decided that Lupe Lopez had fabricated out of boredom; others, from mischief. “After all those years of running rampant with her awful twin she can’t settle down,” theorized Carmela Cervantes. “Because Lupe has always been selfish to the core she can’t bear the thought of other brides tasting the sweet nights that she enjoyed at The Honeymoon Hotel. The girl’s greedy as a goat besides. Wanting every boy in town for herself, she’s made up these outrageous fibs to discourage potential rivals from them.” A rumor persisted that Pedro had deceived his bride by taking her to a notorious whorehouse in El Llano instead of to The Honeymoon Hotel. It became alternately implied that the events of the honeymoon rather than their setting had disappointed Lupe. Stories sieved through the old amapa tree at the center of the plaza, stirred its red and yellow poppies. Lupe heard that the proprietor of The Honeymoon Hotel had been prompted by a steep and sudden decline in bookings to visit the town one day. He went from house to house to show every senora a valid business license stamped with the official state seal. “This document proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I own the one and only Honeymoon Hotel,” he asserted. “Of course, I don’t need to describe to you lovely ladies all of the luxuries offered by my exclusive establishment. You’ve all been to The Honeymoon Hotel, and I remember every one of you perfectly. Beautiful brides, each of you were.” Simpering, the matrons reminisced with the visitor about their three perfect nights passed in Paradise. Single girls began to dream about The Honeymoon Hotel once more, and newlyweds resumed visiting it as a matter of course. “Yes, it was very beautiful,” Anita and the rest of Lupe’s married friends mechanically agreed. They stopped gathering at the pink house in order to resume secluding themselves inside their dim kitchens each night instead. In the corral behind the pink house the avocado tree released its September leaves. Lupe raked then burned the litter. Smoke vanished into the air, and the stories were gone. Lupe became left alone: no longer did Carmela Cervantes and her ilk appear like brazen armadillos in the doorway. Heading toward the house of a tenderer bride, bobbing heads and wagging fingers, the ladies marched by Lupe’s place without a glance toward it while darting small bright eyes from place to place in search of fresh scandal like birds ravenous for juicy worms. Senora Lopez dropped by from time to time; but she always seemed in a breathless hurry these days. “It will take me years to get back into the good graces of those hussies,” she would complain to her daughter. “They don’t forget easily and they don’t let a single advantage slip by either. Thanks to your mischief I’ll be doing Carmela favors and bringing her presents until the cows come home, Lupe. Oh, maybe you were unlucky and had a poor room at The Honeymoon Hotel. They can’t all of them be deluxe penthouse suites of utter elegance, can they? Every room’s the same in the end, call it a coffin or a crib. And now Rosario seems determined to cause me as much trouble as you have for what remains of my sorry existence unless she decides to follow in Linda’s footsteps for the fun of worrying me into a grave at once. As if I haven’t borne my fair share of heavy crosses already. Rosario leads the whole pack of single girls and each of them runs as wild as white horses. They kiss the boys then snap fingers in their faces.” Senora Lopez reached to pluck a loose thread from her daughter’s blouse. “At least you seem to have finally settled down, Lupe. Please talk to Rosario. She’ll listen to you. Tell your sister to be careful. Otherwise she’ll never see the inside of The Honeymoon Hotel.” Senora Lopez dropped the stray thread. By the time it floated to the floor she had scurried out of sight. Rosario didn’t often come running down the road anymore. She would visit the pink house only to sidle around the rooms as though at risk of being snatched up. Refusing to meet Lupe’s eye, speaking rapidly to fill the air with sound, she seemed intent on preventing her sister from talking about The Honeymoon Hotel again. Lupe did manage to ask about Florence Nightingale and Madame Curie once. “They’re dead,” replied Rosario flatly. “They both kicked the bucket a long time ago.” A secret, guilty look haunted the girl’s face now. Her eyes had narrowed as though to shut out the sight of an increasingly disappointing landscape. Hearing Pedro approach down the road, she would run out the back door and jump over the corral wall. Quick as a cat, Lupe’s little sister was gone. From inside the house Pedro called to where his wife stood poised in the corral behind one evening. When she didn’t answer he flicked the kitchen switch, and light spilled into the dark yard to form an exterior room. Taking one step, Lupe entered the open-air chamber. Even when nearby Pedro could seem far away. As from a great distance Lupe heard one string of a guitar being plucked and then she heard a second. Two notes twanged. A simple song began wavering tentatively through the corral and toward the plaza as though drawn by the amapa tree above. The unfinished tune seemed to inspire Rosario to shriek more loudly on the bandstand where she currently kissed other girls each night to gain practice for the plump lips of boys. “Play,” Lupe called softly to her distant sister. “Play,” she encouraged Pedro just as quietly. “And don’t stop.” Lupe’s memory of The Honeymoon Hotel drifted into darkness with the fields and hills beyond; an ordinary three-story structure emerged to take its place. Like Chonita’s house across the road, the building appeared painted white and draped by frangipani scarves. The hotel existed as one among an innumerable number of other hotels that would go out of business then crumble into dust someday. Night had fallen over the town and the rainy season had finally ended. Lupe stepped through the room of yellow light then continued into the town above. She wore the canary yellow dress along with the silver heels with a blue bow at each toe that Linda had left behind. Approaching her childhood home catty-corner across from the school, she peered through the window. Senora Lopez waved both hands while talking to her husband who dozed in his corner chair. Inability to hear distinctly from the sidewalk did not prevent Lupe from knowing the precise shape formed by her mother’s words. In the bedroom behind Rosario combed her black hair into a blanket that concealed her eyes. There stood the chair in which a grandmother the size of a doll had once rocked her determined way into the grave. There remained the mirror into which a pair of twins had gazed for languid hours: two yet one; identical and undivided. Crouched before the window Lupe could detect a reflection of herself wavering beyond the glass like something under water. The town seemed to have transformed into an unknown place populated wholly by strangers; and its features appeared as vivid and clear to Lupe as any vision glimpsed for a first time. Over games of jacks beneath the amapa tree exotic little girls pealed in fluted voices: “When we go to the most beautiful hotel in the world.” A rubber ball would be thrown hopefully into the air then jacks be snatched before it could fall back to earth. “Maids dressed in silver gowns clean the rooms with waves of wands,” mused the ten-year-olds in unison. Foreign-sounding accents spoke with similar certainty about rubies and emeralds and diamonds that glint like sleeping fish in a courtyard fountain; of hibiscus that never withers upon balconies above, of stars that do not deign to dim aloft. Older girls darted like deer along the winding plaza paths, trembled in the shadows cast by orange trees. At the first appearance of a boy they would flee to resume sewing trousseaux on chairs placed on the sidewalk in front of each house. Silver needles flashed while white lace foamed about feet like surf that seemed intent upon pulling each senorita far from shore. Lupe called to a figure slumped inside a dim kitchen. It took several moments for the girl to lift her head as though the summons had travelled all the way from Christmas Bay. Lowering eyes, Anita resumed listening to an insistent murmur from within her swollen belly. Lupe continued beyond the Cine Tropicana and Manuel Olvidado’s cantina. She hesitated at the threshold of the disintegrating church and paused by the graveyard at the edge of town. Still no one saw her pass. Lupe remained unnoticed until one evening her mother dashed up from behind. “When’s it coming?” she demanded. Before Lupe could answer the question or fully fathom what it meant, Senora Lopez had scampered down the block to spread the good news. As her mother moved out of sight Lupe realized that soon she would no longer be able to move freely in the canary yellow dress. It would never fit her again. She would bequeath the frock to Rosario, or tear it into rags to serve as diapers. The season had changed. Now the air was always fresh and dry, and the sky spread cerulean from dawn to dusk. Lupe remained at home while the town retreated farther and farther away until becoming as remote as the capital city across the hills. Sight of the fields across the way made Lupe dizzy and the faint cries of girls playing in the plaza left her confused. Yes, the world turned more slowly, and October unwound like a ball of bright blue thread. Lupe felt an interior twirling. The hidden globe revolved more and more slowly then paused to float light and heavy within her belly at once. Though Pedro teased that she had grown so big the hammock would break beneath her, Lupe rested upon its strings each evening. Stars suspended by invisible threads from Heaven swayed above the branches of the avocado tree. Each of the shining specks lay light years away. One night a single star fell slowly through a quantum of dark space; no other light illuminated its long, painful descent. The darkness cleared and a baby wailed. The vivid pink of walls recently covered with white resurfaced in the paler shade possessed by a pearl inside a shell. Upon this background emerged faces remembered as after a long absence. Rosario stood with her face buried into the shoulder of her mother who looked about the room with a satisfied expression. Anita jiggled her one-month-old daughter in her arms while an adjacent Carmela clenched then unclenched two fists. At the back of the group Pedro fiddled with a match and whistled between his teeth. The room felt too crowded for Lupe to breathe; still, someone essential was missing. Where could Linda be? “Give her to me,” said Lupe. Then a light, heavy weight floated upon her breast; and there followed the rushing of a sea inside a shell. “She’ll be happy,” vowed Lupe. “One day this newborn Linda will know the most beautiful place in the world. Yes, my Lindita will stay for three nights at The Honeymoon Hotel, and she’ll know bliss.” Tears falling from her mother’s eyes baptized the infant with their promise.