Talking Things Out
The day after my fight with Racetrack, I went searching for Allegra. I had seen her with Maggie and Tajo, but didn't have a chance to talk to her alone. I wanted to ask her how she felt about the kiss in private. As luck would have it, when I finally found her she was eating lunch at Tibby's with Rooster, Maggie, and Tajo. Well, eating was what they were intending on doing. Maggie had brought her and Tajo's younger siblings and they were keeping Allegra pretty busy with different activities. 5-year-old Ariana was demanding a song from Allegra, 8-year-old Caelyn wanted a story, 12-year-old Boyden wanted to shoot marbles, and Boyden's twin Darien just wanted to eat. Allegra managed to come up with an idea to keep them all happy. She told the girls a story that had several songs in it while shooting marbles with Boyden and found a piece of bread for Darien to eat. I had no idea how she did it, but it amazed me. When I joined them, the older kids were talking about what to do with the younger ones for the day, since it was a Saturday and there was no school to keep them busy.
"Wat about going ta da park for a picnic?" I asked.
"That's not a bad idea, but who will take them?" Maggie asked. "Ally and I have to play today and Tajo needs to sell papers."
"Wat about Rooster?"
"He said he had something to do today. He won't say what though."
After several minutes of thinking, Allegra finally said she would bring the kids with her. Apparently she had an idea for keeping the younger ones busy while her and Maggie had to play. As they finished their food, I asked Maggie if she would mind walking with me and Allegra so we could talk.Maggie frowned at me. "You should really learn more Spanish. I don't mind, but then you could talk to her on your own. I'm trying to teach her some English."
I was surprised. "Trying?"
"Yes. It's harder than I thought because she has lots of trouble with words. I suspect she has a learning problem that prevents her from learning very well."
"I'll keep trying, but you should think about learning Spanish."
I made a vague comment, too busy watching Ally to be paying full attention.
On the walk over to Medda's, Ally was still keeping the young ones busy. Maggie had to pull her away, telling her that they could run ahead for a while. Reluctantly she fell back with us, her eyes still on the kids.
"Why was you cryin da other night?" was my first question. She looked confused, so I explained. "When we kissed, youse started cryin. Why?"
"She says it's something she can't explain but it has nothing to do with you," Maggie translated. "It's something between her and another person she doesn't want to name and they don't have it figured out yet, but that when they do she can tell you."
I hadn't been expecting that. I was thinking that she didn't want to be kissed and that was what had upset her. "So she didn't mind dat Ise kissed her?"
"No, not at all. In fact, it was her first kiss and she enjoyed it very much."
Another surprise I wasn't expecting. Ally seemed to be full of surprises today. "Ise take it she neva had a boy before?"
Maggie shook her head. "Some have shown an interest, but they never got around to asking. She wants to know if you're asking."
Maggie turned to Ally, who had somehow gotten ahead of us and was helping the kids solve some sort of argument. Closing her mouth, Maggie ran ahead and pulled Ally back in exasperation, scolding her in rapid Spanish. "Excuse her," she said. "She loves children. I don't know why she likes those rascals, but heaven bless her. She's an angel with them. What was it I was supposed to ask her now?"
"Would she like ta be my goirl?"
"Ah yes, the important question." After a brief translation, Maggie turned back to me. "She isn't sure she wants to be your girl, but she would be happy to go on a date and see how it goes. Does that work for you?"
It wasn't what I was hoping for, but I wasn't about to complain.
I tried to make sense of Ally's note on the walk home, but the writing made no sense. The letters were mixed up and some were written backwards. I wasn't sure, but from what I could figure she had been upset and sorry about something. That was the only thing I could make of it so I didn't bother to finish it, figuring I could ask Rooster. He took one look at it and started storming out of the Lodging House. Pulling him back, I threw him on a bunk and demanded to know what was wrong.
"That…that boy kissed my sister and made her cry!"
"You didn't hear about that?"
He shook his head. "I need to have a talk with that boy."
"Don't bother. Everything's been talked over. What does the note say?"
"She's sorry for letting him kiss her and she never meant to hurt you. She cried herself to sleep because she felt bad for making you feel bad. Is there something you two aren't telling me?"
I shook my head vigorously. The only thing between me and Ally was friendship. The strange feelings of jealousy had nothing to do with liking Ally as more than a friend. I had almost convinced myself that I was just being protective of her because of her situation, though a small voice in the back of my head kept saying that wasn't the only reason.
The next day proved uneventful, consisting mostly of selling papes while Rooster kept himself busy. Ally was with Maggie at Medda's all day, playing her flute and taking care of Maggie's siblings. From what Maggie told me, Ally was an angel sent from heaven to help with the young ones. She was very good at keeping all four of them busy at the same time with little trouble. I went over when the day was done to see Ally brushing the girls' hair while singing a lullaby to them in Spanish. When she finished brushing hair and they were ready for bed, she kissed them good night and started softly singing something in another language. It was a pretty sight to see and I just watched from the doorway. Maggie's voice in my ear didn't even startle me.
"Isn't she pretty?"
"Very pretty. She sings very well."
"When are you gonna tell her?"
"Tell her what?" I was confused. What did I need to tell Ally?
"You know very well what I mean."
"Watta ya mean?"
"You still don't know, do you?" she mused to herself. "My, you are slow."
"Wat am Ise missing?"
"You like her."
"Course Ise do. Dat's wat friends do; dey like each other."
Maggie walked away, shaking her head and muttering to herself.
I was exhausted, but the girls wanted one more lullaby before I left the room, so I sang them an old Indian song Mama sang to me sometimes.
"You think you know what beauty is.
You think beauty is just good looks.
Let me tell you, you are wrong.
Beauty is more than just good looks.
Beauty is the Earth around us.
Beauty is a quiet night,
Black sky with stars and moon so bright.
All quiet but the insect's noise.
Children lying in their beds.
This is beauty, this and more.
Beauty is in Mother Nature herself,
Just the way God created her.
Peaceful nights and laughing children.
Friendships formed by sharing a smile.
This is beauty to God and me.
So if you say "No, that is wrong,"
You know nothing of true beauty.
People are beautiful when they are kind.
The Earth and kindness go hand-in-hand.
That is true beauty, and nothing else.
You think you know what beauty is.
But beauty is not just good looks.
True beauty is Earth, peaceful and quiet.
Quiet kindness is also beauty.
And that is all that beauty is."
Exiting the room as I finished the song, I saw Racetrack sitting at the table eating a piece of pie. He waved at me as he swallowed a large mouthful of food.
"Hola Antonio," I whispered. "What brings you here?"
He held up the note I had given him the previous night. "Did you really cry yourself to sleep?"
I nodded. "I thought we talked last night about it?"
"You never mentioned crying yourself to sleep."
"Does it matter?"
"Yes! No? I don't know. Does it?"
"I asked you first."
"But now I'm asking you."
"If I knew the answer, would I be asking you?"
"Do you ever make things easy for people?"
"Do you ever answer questions when people ask?"
"Only when it suits me."
"It better suit you this time."
"I answered already. I don't know if it matters."
"I don't know if it matters either. That's why I didn't mention it in the first place."
"Was that so hard to say?"
"Are you always so difficult?"
"Are you always so stubborn?"
Maggie brought more and a cup of milk for me. "Eat up, children, and stop your quarrelling." She was trying to sound stern, but her look of amusement ruined it. "My goodness, if you two don't admit it soon I'm going to have to take action."
"Admit what?" Racetrack and I asked together, both of us with pie in our mouths.
"You are the most in love couple I have seen in years, but neither of you will admit it."
We looked at each other and shrugged before turning back to our pie in silence.