Thursday, June 28, 2007

Twenty Two

The rain didn't last long, but with the lingering dampness in the air, Diana and Macy stayed to help the women build fires to dry the meat. By the time they headed toward the tunnels, they were damp and dirty. They expected to find Amalia helping prepare supper for their guest, but found her instead in her room, sitting on a camp stool and talking to a white-haired man they had never seen before. Diana hesitated in the doorway.

Amalia waved her in. "This is the girl we were talking about earlier," she told the stranger. "Diana Nuñez, the Petersons' grandchild." She motioned her forward again. "Diana, this is a very old friend of mine, Miguel Sanchez."

Diana came forward, unsure whether to salute or shake the man's hand, and acutely conscious of the state of her hair and clothes. "I swear I don't normally look like this. We got caught in the rain."

Miguel stood up and shook her hand. "With your reputation, you'd have to look a lot worse than this to make me think badly of you."

"I have a reputation?"

Miguel and Amalia exchanged knowing looks. "Libby and I brought your friend Sputnik to Ferrous Springs today. He had only the most glowing things to say about you."

Diana couldn't think what to say, so she was relieved that Amalia noticed Macy hanging back in the doorway and urged her to join them. "Miguel, this is Macy. She does spying and camp support."

"And I'm training to be a messenger," Macy added.

Amalia raised her eyebrows at this information, but was silenced by Diana's firm nod of agreement.

"So are Libby and Sputnik here, too?" Diana asked.

"No. Sputnik is still very sick, and Libby is with him at the safe house to make sure he settles in okay."

"Why did you bring him here? San Eusebio to Ferrous Springs is a long way, and the roads are nearly impossible."

"That's precisely why," Miguel said. "He should've recovered by now, but we've had to move him six times to keep ahead of the fighting. This place is remote and we're hoping the trip was worth the setback to his health. When he's ready to sit a horse again, he'll join you here at the mines."

"That'll be fun." Diana turned to Macy. "You'll like Sputnik. He's very smart. He's a gentleman, too."

"I think he's the one who took my reports my first year at the brothel in Jonasville. I’ll sure be glad to have him around. We don't have enough nice guys here."

"Do I detect a note of bitterness, Miss Macy?" Miguel asked.

"She's the one who had some trouble with one of our boys last year," Amalia said.

Miguel motioned for Macy to sit down. "How about you and I talk about that? I've been playing rebel soldier for. . . How long has it been?"

Amalia frowned and counted on her fingers. "Nearly twenty-five years."

"Has it really been that long?" He stretched his still-powerful body and turned his attention back to Macy. "I think I've seen just about everything, and I'm sorry to say I've even been one of those self-centered young men who give girls like you so much trouble. Maybe I can help. I believe it's been over two hours since Amalia said she had to help with dinner, and I know Diana will want to help, too." He gave both women significant looks.

Amalia stood up, but noticed Macy's small frown of concern. "I've known Miguel for nearly forty years. If you can't trust him, you can't trust anybody." She picked up a lantern, took Diana by the arm and they went into the tunnels.

"So who is he, Auntie?" Diana asked once they were out of earshot.

"I already told you."

"You know what I mean. You acted like he knew Grandpa and Grandma."

"He met them on a few occasions."


Amalia sighed. "Miguel was engaged to my sister around the time our family moved to Valle Redondo. The Sanchez family became good friends of ours. Sometimes Miguel came out to the farm, and there were times your grandfather came over give us advice. We were remarkably stupid farmers in those days and needed all the help we could get."

"Did Miguel know Mother?"

"I don't remember. Why don’t you ask him?"

Diana considered this as they made their way to one of the smaller tunnels that opened onto the bulbous room they used for a kitchen in foul weather. "Why didn't Carina marry him?"

"He was an informant to one of the rebel groups operating against the Feds. Someone ratted him out. He spent some time in the northern United States working against the Feds in what became the core of the Unitas movement before returning here to his own people to help start a local chapter. He’s now a semi-retired regional commander for the northwest area."

"Do you wish he had stayed and married Carina?"

"Things would've been different, but I have no way of knowing if things would've been better. I think he regrets he didn't marry her, though. I get the feeling he did a lot of things he regrets."

"That's what happens when you're a soldier. You regret things."

Diana spoke with such an air of authority that Amalia looked at her sharply. It had taken weeks to convince her she had done right by abandoning them in San Eusebio. Even now, Amalia wasn't sure whether Diana really understood, or whether she had simply quit talking about it. "Well, I’m glad to have Miguel around. It's like finding my family again." Seeing the hurt look on Diana's face, she added, "Not that you and Will aren't my family. But..well, there's something different about the people who remember you when you were young. Wait until you get old. You'll see."

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1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

I get the feeling this is one of those places where it would be good to have read Tin Soldier first.