“Imagine the horror that shook the walls, Graciano. Never, never had I imagined that.”
Padre Norton’s words always followed his gesticulations, like thunder did lightning, giving the listener ample time to conjure an appropriate reaction to what might come. But today, his hands and tongue spoke with the unison that tragedy often forges. Rosa had scribbled her flight, with lipstick, on his shaving mirror and vanished. It was as simple as she: “Sorry Padre. I have to go. This is my final massage.”
Padre was the ambitious chaplain left behind by some passing army. He kept inventing ways of being holy and useful. Most recently, he adopted the orphan Rosa with the promise of making an elegant woman of her. Tongues in black mantillas never stopped wagging after that day.
Pedro rolled into the tavern and spotted Padre. He walked over with a serious face. He knelt at Padre’s feet and held his hand.
“Padre, I need your blessing.”
“Why? What is troubling you?”
“Nothing. Bless me that no elegant woman will leave me and run away.”
The whole tavern burst out laughing and Graciano found it hard to stifle a smile. Padre pulled his hand back and shook his head.
“It’s fine, Padre. This too will die down soon.”
“Graciano, was that all I deserved? I gave her the finest food, finest clothing, finest education in the finest English. I even taught her how to use opera glasses. And what do I get – a pathetic message done in lipstick on my mirror?”
Graciano laid his hands on Padre’s shoulder and hoped that he would shut up. His attempts at being pitiable only made him more comical.
“And you know what hurt me the most? She still hasn’t learnt to spell ‘message’ correctly. Now, she won’t ever.”