Thursday, February 18, 2010

La Lorana

In my home land there is a place where the wild rose grows so thick not even birds can make their nests there. If you follow the old goat path south out of the village you will come to a stream and if you follow that stream west into the setting sun you will come to the source of the water. Just past there is a clearing. Not many people went there in the old days. It was a place of goat herds and rocks, not much else. Now there are the roses.

They say that in the time of my great grandmother, before they built the bridge over the river, our little village was bustling with travelers from the old road. Many people came to buy our goat's milk. It was the finest goat's milk in the land. During this time there were two brothers who owned most of the goats. Pablo was the older brother and a ruthless business man. It was said he could sell meat to a bear, if the bear had money. Tito, the younger brother, was the gentlest of souls. He herded the goats he and his brother owned. He was so kind the goats would do anything he said if only he would smile on them.

In the village there also lived Esperanza and her mother, Lupita. Lupita was a poor bakers wife; and after her husband died she was a poor baker. Ahh, but Esperanza was the most beautiful girl. She was kind and gentle to the village children and would often help her mother in the bakery.

Esperanza and Tito grew up together. They were they best of friends. But as they grew older the goat herding and the bakery they did not leave them much time to remain friends. Years passed and with the exception of the occasional chance meeting at the village well they did not speak to each other much.

Every spring the village has a great festival. La Lorana, The Festival of the Flowers. Every house, hut, and lean-to is decorated with the abundant wild flowers that grow all around the village. In the village square the grandmothers decorate the buildings and merchants from all over come and hock their wares to any passers-by. The year before the bridge was built, the festival happened to fall on Esperanza's 18th birthday. As a treat Lupita allowed her daughter to spend they day in the village square admiring the merchant stalls and even gave her a few precious coins to spend on what ever her heart desired.

That evening as the dancing and singing started Tito came in from the fields. His herd was safely put up in the pens and his brother had told him he could join in the festivities. There in the center of the square, dancing around the bonfire Tito saw a vision of ethereal beauty. Esperanza was dressed in a flowing light green tunic cinched around her waist with a leather belt. Her brown skirt moved like smoke around her legs as she kicked and twirled to the musicians' beat.

At the end of the song all the dancers fell to the ground in breathless laughter. When Esperanza had recovered her breath she made as if to stand. And there floating before her was a hand. Her eyes followed the hand up past a thick wrist to a strong forearm and up farther to a set of wide, sturdy shoulders. Set above the shoulders, atop an adequate neck, there was the face of quiet confidence. Esperanza took Tito's hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet. They spent they rest of the evening hand in hand.

Every night after that they met in the village square and talked for hours, about anything and everything. Throughout the spring their budding friendship blossomed into love. Through the summer their love deepened. By the end of summer they were ready to wed.

Lupita had been very busy with the bakery, trying to pay back the loan she had received from Pablo. She never noticed her daughter's blooming relationship. But Pablo had, and he was jealous of his brother. Late in the summer Pablo came to Lupita and told her he would forgive her debts if she would promise him one thing, Esperanza's hand in marriage. Thinking she could do nothing else she agreed. Lupita told her daughter that night at dinner. Esperanza sat quietly and listened slowly feeling a great hole open inside of her.

Esperanza had always been a dutiful daughter. She had never gone against her mother's word. Now she was torn. Between her love for Tito and her lover for her mother. That night after her mother had gone to bed. Esperanza snuck out of her house and ran to Tito's little shack. There she told him what his brother had done. And for the first time in his entire life Tito felt anger. He would never allow his brother to marry Esperanza. All through the night he raged and just before dawn he decided that Esperanza and he would be married no matter what. Esperanza was frightened of what Pablo would do to her mother if they ran away but Tito assured her he would do nothing. They arranged to meet at the clearing at the top of stream in one week's time.

Pablo heard the whole thing. He had seen Esperanza running in the night and followed her to Tito's. He had sat beneath the window and listened.

As the week passed Esperanza tried very hard not to let both her excitement and her guilt show to her mother. She worked harder than she ever had in the bakery. She went to bed early every night. On the day of her departure her mother noticed that Esperanza did not look well, and as the day turned into night Esperanza began to look even more ill. In truth she was sick from the knowledge that after that evening she would never see her mother again.

After supper she went to bed and quietly packed a bag of the things she would need. She lay awake in her bed listening to her mother getting ready to lay down for the night. She wept silent tears of both joy and sorrow.

There was a hush in the clearing as Esperanza walked into it. The wind was unmoving, the trees did not rustle. Even the birds were silent. Sitting against a rock her lover seemed to doze. She smiled silently and continued on. As she got closer there was something wrong. She could not place it. Was there something in the way he sat, the way his head leaned forward on his chest? Esperanza knelt next to Tito and placed a hand on his shoulder. She tried to shake him awake. Her movements jarred him a little and as he slid slowly from the rock she saw his cold unseeing eyes.

Tito! Her Tito was dead. Starting from a small black hole above his heart, an ugly red stain had spread across his shirt. She cradled his head in her lap and as she sat staring into the eyes of her dead lover Pablo knelt down beside her. He placed the gun to the back of her head and pulled the trigger.

They say Pablo left the village and never came back. They also say he never left the village that he just disappeared into his home and wasted away. But no matter what they say about Pablo none of them can deny what happened in the following weeks.

Lupita awoke to find her daughter missing. She searched high and low throughout the village, asking if anyone had seen her daughter. By afternoon the whole village was looking for Esperanza. It was not until the sun was making its way to the bottom of the sky was she found. Another goat herd found them. He ran to the village and brought Lupita. There she saw her daughter and Tito dead in each others arms. She wept and lamented over her daughter. She wailed as a banshee. It took all of the village men to bring Lupita back. For a week straight she cried.

One morning as one of the ladies came to bring Lupita some breakfast she heard no crying. The whole house was quiet. She found Lupita dead on her bed in her hands there was a single red rose and a scrap of paper. On the paper she had written:

"The Rose is for eternal love."

Within days the place where the bodies were found was covered in roses. Within weeks it was impenetrable. Over the years everyone has tried to cut down the roses. But they can not be so much as scratched by even the sharpest of blades. Except on one day of the year. La Lorana.

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