On the way back to Santiago, Violeta remembered Doña Ana’s crumbling the pieces of paper with Diego’s and Carmina’s names, rubbing them between her fingers, and with the lit tip of the cigar burning them. Afterward, Doña Ana threw them into the pile of wood that would become the fire for her meal that evening. “These two want to do you harm. They won’t win.”
To herself, violeta kept repeating Doña Ana’s parting words, “Go home and light a yellow candle to San Lázaro. Offer him a glass of wine and toasted corn.Una ofrenda. Place the papers with Pablito’s and Ricky’s name in front. San Lázaro will heal your wounds and will protect them. But I’m telling you they will be fine. It’s the other two you should worry about.”
When Rafael dropped her off in front of the apartment building, Violeta got out of the car, walked around behind it, and followed by Milagros, stood at the front door, looking right and left, as if to make certain this wasn’t one of her dreams where her home was gone. She looked quizzically at Milagros, who nodded as if to reassure her everything was fine.
As she was about to enter the building, Violeta heard a voice she recognized; “Leta, I’ve not given you my condolences.” It was her neighbor, Carmita, a slender, attractive woman with an oval face and brown hair loosely pulled back.
Violeta gave her a look of disdain and said, “Look, I gave you my friendship, not the right to steal my husband. ladrona, thief! Get out of my way, or I’ll rip you to pieces and leave only the bones for your Diego. You already have him, what do you want from me? Let me be.” Violeta did a full turn, opened the door, entered the narrow hallway and took the marble steps two at a time, leaving a stunned Carmita standing on the side walk.
“What’s with her?” Carmita said to Milagros, loud enough for Violeta to hear. Milagros didn’t respond and she too went up the steps, carrying the bag of mangos from El Caney and joining Violeta at the top of the stairs.
In the bedroom, Violeta stared at the flame from a yellow candle flickering on the night table in front of a picture of San Lázaro, Babalú Ayé. The picture showed open sores along the body of this Orisha being licked by dogs. They too would lick Violeta’s deep wounds. In front of the picture Violeta had placed a glass of red wine, half full, and a plate of corn she had roasted. She read Pablito’s and Ricky’s names on the torn piece of paper, which she rested on top of the corn.
Then, she said an “Our Father,” her Catholic faith still strong and standing side by side her other beliefs. When she finished, she walked over to a corner armoire, took out a guitar hidden behind some dresses, dusted it off with her hand, and tentatively started plucking on the strings. She hadn’t played in years. Then she began the first few lines of Playera, one of Granados’s Spanish dances. This was a piece that Pablito played and now she heard herself in a duet with him. Guitar and piano. Piano and guitar. Mother and son in harmony. Remi, the family’s faithful Jack Russell had jumped on the bed and snuggled next to her.
Not only had Violet found her house, but she had found her voice. “I’ll rip you to pieces.”
She was now finding her music. She would bring music back to her life, to her home, to her bedroom.
“Doña Violeta,” Doña…” Milagros called.
“Ay, chica, can’t you see I’m playing?”
“Letter from Pablito.” Excitedly, Milagros handed Violeta an envelope.
“Mis hijos, mis hijos. They are alive,” Violeta said putting down the guitar on the bed. She tore the envelope open, and as she devoured Pablito’s words, the sound of Playera resonated in her mind. She could hear it coming from the piano in the living room. She could hear it bouncing off every wall in the apartment. She could hear it playing in her heart, but something was amiss. When she got to the end of the two-page letter, an expression of concern covered her face. Playera had stopped playing in her mind .
“What do they say?” Milagros asked”
“Ricky, not even a full paragraph from him. At the end of Pablito’s letter, he scribbled ‘Love, Ricky.’ Something must be wrong. He must be sick. He needs me. Ay, Milagros.”
“Doña, no se preocupe. Doña Ana said they are fine.” As Milagros spoke, the insistent sound of the doorbell interrupted. In response, Remi started barking.
“Dios mio, Dios mio, we’ve heard you,” Milagros said and went to answer the door. “No one here is deaf.” Remi followed, her bark getting louder as she circled Milagros.
Violeta followed them, stopping outside the bedroom from where she had a good view of the front door.
When Milagros opened the door, a man with thick black hair stood there, “Who are you? What do you want?” Remi barked at him.
“It’s about one of the boys. I have news,” the man said addressing his words to
Violeta, who now stood next to Milagros.
“Ricky…what happened to him? I knew something was wrong,” Violeta cried out.
Somberly, the stranger said, “’Don’t know which one, but one of your sons is missing.”
“Impossible. Impossible. I just heard from them,” Violeta said, waving Pablito’s letter in front of the man. “They’re fine. They’re fine. Tell him, Milagros.”
Remi continued barking.