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Monkey Love - An Environmentalist Romantic Saga

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Monkeys or men? Consuela Oro chose the beasts and defended them from unrelenting development in Guanacaste, Costa Rica until her childhood crush Pedro came back into her life. Two passions collide.

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Chapter 1

Pedro’s life in Guanacaste could not have been better in the early 60’s, except for the dreams. Even though he didn’t fully trust the dreamy intuitions that would one day make him a successful police investigator, he did respect the uncanny ability of his visions to highlight important happenings in the lives of his close family and friends. From experience he just knew his world was about to go off kilter. A pounding heart woke him, neck clammy with sweat that didn’t soak his pajamas -- those uncomfortable feelings that came along for the ride with his prescient dreams. Something bad always happened after those dreams, especially that one with the chicken pecking around his head again in the middle of the night.

Pedro was thinking of the first time years earlier that he’d had the ‘porch’ dream just before one of his closest friends, Consuela, suffered a trauma at the hands of her father. Actually, Pedro remembered an early morning talk with his grandfather, Eduardo, about that nightmare.

“Why’re you waking me, Pedro? It’s not even light out,” mumbled Eduardo, Pedro’s grandfather.

Eduardo held his mouth open and rubbed one eye while squinting with the other eye when he woke. Today the other eye stared at Pedro standing in the doorway of the older man’s room. The boy’s hand went to his cheek to discover moisture there. Still sleepy himself, he rubbed the liquid between his thumb and forefinger.

“A dream, another one, or the same one?” asked Eduardo, now more awake.

The older man stood up and walked over to the boy. He passed a hand in front of Pedro’s face to see if the boy was sleepwalking, but Pedro reacted right away, so he ruffled his hair as he spoke to him.

“Tell me, then, while I make you some warm milk and honey. It’ll calm you.”

“I was lying on the porch, Grandpa, like I did when I was a baby but I was big like I am now. For some reason I couldn’t move and that chicken I was always afraid of as a child was pecking the wood all around my head and then it got to my head and I couldn’t close my eyes. I woke up just as its beak was about to peck my eye out.”

Eduardo came back from the fridge and put his free arm around Pedro’s shoulders.

“Your neck’s all wet. Are you cold? Here, put this around your shoulders,” he continued while offering Pedro a shawl his wife wore in the evenings. The boy nodded his thanks and covered himself with the soft wool. His teeth chattered as a rush of cold swept over his body.

The few ounces of milk boiled on the gas element. Eduardo poured the hot milk into a tin cup, added some honey he and Pedro had collected just the other day from the bee tree not far into the jungle near the volcanic hot springs. Then he added a little cold milk to make the milk drinkable.

“Drink up. You’ll feel better.”

Pedro drank, savoring both the taste and the calm the milk and honey brought.

“It was so real Grandpa.”

“Dreams can be like that. Is something bothering you? Not so unusual to be chased in a dream.”

“That’s the funny thing Grandpa.”

“What is?”

“I was sure I was Consuela in the dream.”

“Don’t go too far into it Pedro. It’s just a dream. Are you finished?”

“Thanks Grandpa. I feel better now.”

The older man smiled at Pedro’s back as the boy left the tin-roofed, outdoor kitchen area and made his way back to his bed. Eduardo followed him and looked into the room where Pedro slept. He was already breathing easily and falling back into slumber. Been a long time since I could fall back to sleep like that, thought Eduardo.

Eduardo dressed and went to the barn behind the house after picking up some dog treats for Tito, his black and tan bloodhound. The dog looked surprised to see Eduardo.

“Couldn’t sleep, old boy. Don’t look so surprised to see me. Here you go fella,” said Eduardo.

Tito sat and crunched the cookies Eduardo had given him. When the dog finished he nosed Eduardo’s elbow almost knocking the whittling knife out of his hand.

“Damn it, Tito. I cut myself.”

The dog smiled with his baggy left upper lip caught on a tooth. Hardwood shavings underfoot were stained red by the blood. Eduardo went back to work and the dog lumbered to his spot in the corner of the porch that fronted the barn just opposite and to the left of the pastel turquoise house. As sunrise approached, one of the roosters joined the clay-colored Robins, the resident Bell bird and the rest of the jungle’s morning menagerie. Eduardo’s leather and hardwood rocker creaked on the slatted floorboards. A howler monkey’s guttural hoot brought a smile to his face.

Pedro’s mother stepped out into the rising heat of the day already dressed in her uniform for work at the hotel. She padded across the yard to the car barn where Eduardo sat whittling away at the statue of a voluptuous reddish brown woman, balancing a steaming cup of liquid in her hand.

“I heard you puttering around this morning. Was he dreaming again, Pa?” asked Conchita.

She handed her father a piping hot Nescafe with milk and plenty of sugar. Eduardo sniffed the coffee appreciatively.

“Nice you get this stuff at the hotel. They don’t mind you taking it?”

“Pa, don’t change the subject.”

“You make too much of his dreams. He’s starting to think they mean something.”

Conchita spoke up as a group of birds called out near the barn.

“He has a connection to the spirit world, just like your sister.”

“Spirit world! That’s rubbish and you know it. We live here and now not somewhere else.”

“You’ll see, someday it’ll change his life. Those dreams’ll mean something. Anyway, I have to get to work now.”

She made to go then hesitated, turning back to her father.

“Don’t know what I’d do without you here taking care of my boy all the time.”

“Any news from the north?” asked Eduardo, a forced, but hopeful sound in his voice.

“Not now Pa. Have a good day and don’t forget to give him some of our tamales for the last day at school.”

“How could I forget? I saved some.”

She appeared from the other side of the barn wheeling her bike. Her red and white bandanna fell from her pocket and she bent over to pick it up and retie it with a tight knot around her head. Her jet black hair billowed out behind her and fell below her shoulders.

“Lucky I don’t have a car. It’d take forever to get to work. The holiday season started yesterday. Town’s full of traffic. And this heat,” added Conchita.

Sweat dripped down between Conchita’s breasts and gathered around the corners of her eyes as she picked up her pace on her bicycle, its wide tires cushioning the stones jutting out of the dirt road. Don’t know what’s worse this dust or the oil they put down to dampen it. Her bandanna rode up a little and salty brine stung in the corners of her eyes. Other women in pale blue housekeeping uniforms rode along the same route. Some of them nodded to each other. ‘Gringo’ men on their way for a sunrise walk along the beach smiled. She always responded the same way to them before looking away.

“Pura vida,” she said with an open smile.

Life’s Complicated

Pedro woke up to his grandfather’s voice filtering as a hollow echo into his dream reality. It melted into a nightmare that had continued earlier in the morning after Pedro drank warm milk and honey prepared by his Grandpa, becoming part of the overall vision. The dream was a confusing medley of animals with the faces of people from his closest family and friends. Birds with his Grandpa’s face were flying around in the house when Pedro realized it wasn’t the bird speaking, but rather it was his real Grandpa trying to wake him up.

“What’re you going on about now, Pedro?” asked Eduardo, his voice betraying his feelings about the subject of Pedro’s dreams. Over breakfast of milk, white bread and honey, prepared by Eduardo, Pedro spoke an unstoppable stream of words.

“I kept dreaming this morning. Fell right back into it.”

Eduardo sighed.

“Don’t forget our family tamales for the last-day lunch at school. Your teacher’s going to ask about it when you arrive. They’re out back,” he said.

“Grandpa, you were in the dream too,” he said, haltingly.

“Pedro, you know what I think of those dreams. Go out back and get the tamales. It’s time for school.”

Pedro got up, left the outdoor kitchen and went behind the house. He stooped down and removed a heavy rock then a wooden cover from over a deep hole lined on the bottom with stones. The tamales lay at the foot in the coldest part of the ground fridge. He put the newsprint wrapped treats made especially every year at this time to his nose and savored the smells of one of his favorite foods. In his mind’s eye the heavily salted meat mixed with tomatoes and yellow corn kernels floated around behind his closed eyelids, but the images of his nightmare replaced these pleasant thoughts of food. After placing the treats in his satchel, he rubbed his eyes in an effort to remove the disturbing images there. Carrying only the tamales in his bag over one shoulder, he ran down the dirt road in front of their home under the watchful eye of his grandfather. By the bottom of the hill, life had erased the bad dream and replaced it with his favorite subject, Ophelia. He hoped she’d be on the road as usual.

Then he saw her, taking her time walking along the road. Her hips had widened this year as she learned how to sway them when she walked. He could not Ophelia’s eyes describe except to melt into their watery depth in his mind’s eye. Pedro’s school notebooks were full of sketches of them in the margins since last week when the teacher said there would be no more homework assignments for the rest of the year. Most of all Pedro loved her skin and her scrubbed fresh smell. He picked up his pace, caught up to her and they walked side by side.

“What’s in your tamales?” Ophelia asked him.

“You don’t remember from last year?”

“Of course I do. Corn and spicy meat, isn’t it? I have mine too,” she continued without waiting for Pedro to answer.

“I know the ones your grandmother makes. They’re all vegetables, but I like meat ones more,” added Pedro.

Pedro and Ophelia mingled with the other children making their way to the Country Day School. Soon their two closest friends, Tomas and Consuela, appeared from a path out of the jungle that cut an open stretch of road without housing along it. When Consuela joined the growing line of children, a group of kids made howler monkey calls at her. She ignored them but huffed when Tomas joined in the mockery. Pedro didn’t even hear the monkey calls. All he noticed was the mouth full of teeth Tomas shot at Ophelia, but more he caught Ophelia’s reaction to Tomas’ smile. He shook his head wondering why she never looked at him like with those flashing eyelids. Ophelia rushed up to talk to Tomas and Consuela slowed down to be beside Pedro.

“I hate it when he joins those morons. Doesn’t he know how important the monkeys are in the ecosystem here?” said Consuela to Pedro.

“You know Tomas,” said Pedro.

Pedro unconsciously let out a deep sigh.

“Pretty touchy?” joked Consuela.

He picked up his pace and took his feelings in stride.

“Are we all meeting today near the honey tree?” asked Pedro.

“After school?” answered Consuela.

“See you there,” said Pedro.

“Open your eyes, Pedro,” said Consuela.

Consuela reached for Pedro’s arm but he sloughed her off and made a ‘tsk’ noise while raising his head at her. He shook free from her grip and Consuela fell back.

“I’m just going run ahead and tell Ophelia’s coming. And Tomas too,” he said.

Pedro sat in class daydreaming about walking behind Ophelia captivated by the sway of her hips. He thought about the way she walked and the clove she used for perfume. He thought about how her cinnamon and clove smell grew when she walked with him in the jungle. She smelled so good, earthy. Out of nowhere the porch dream invaded his thoughts.

Later in life Pedro’s intuitive imaginings would make him a murder investigator like no other in Costa Rica, but in his childhood, his dreams focused on his family and closest friends. Though he hated to admit it, his reveries often foretold of significant turning points in their lives. Pedro should have guessed he was about to learn some hard lessons he’d never forget, but he was so mesmerized by the thought of Ophelia’s movements and earthy perfume that he didn’t pay attention to the warning bells in his head. The day passed in a humid haze until the school bell rang, signaling the day’s end and Pedro jumped up keeping one eye on Ophelia as he made his way through the excited young people escaping through the school’s doors for the last time before the holidays.

He caught up to Ophelia walking along a little-used path into the jungle behind the school.

“Where’re the others?” asked Ophelia.

“Maybe they’re coming a different way.”

“Pipi, you shouldn’t pass me notes in school like that.”

“My name’s not Pipi. I’m a man now.”

“You’ve been Pipi all our lives. It’s hard to change. Anyway, tell me about the dream.”

Her doe eyes paralyzed him.

“It’s Pedro. Don’t call me that, especially in front of Tomas.”

“Alright, but don’t get all worked up about it. Just tell me about the dream.”

The two of them stopped walking and talking as the sound of a bird call echoed over the rush of water from the falls.

“I love that bird, but I’ve never seen one in all my life,” said Ophelia.

“Grandpa and I know where to find ‘em. I could take you there if you like.”

The quavering sound continued.

“It’s a Great Tinamon. Grandpa has a book with pictures in it.”

“Maybe some other day Pedro,” interrupted Ophelia.

“Oh. Wait. Hear that one. That’s a Little Tinamon. I can show you both of them if I’m lucky. Let’s go.”

“We have to meet the others. What about the dream?” asked Ophelia.

“Grandpa says the dreams mean nothing.”


“Alright. There were birds flying around in my house.”

“Real birds, or birds in the dream?”

“What difference does it make?”

“Real birds mean someone’s going to die. My aunt always said that and she has dreams just like you.”

Pedro squinted a little and frowned.

“I dreamed about grandpa’s face on the birds.”

Ophelia reached over and took both of Pedro’s arms in her hands as she moved around in front of him. He thought she was doing it again. She always held him in that way and looked into his eyes like that when she wanted something from him. Her eyes warmed him all over. They stopped walking. She ran her hands through her hair and shook her dark locks back. Pedro noticed her shoulders and neck popping out of her pastel blue camisole. He’d never noticed the skin on her shoulders before. He reached up suddenly over her head to pick a purple orchid. He blushed as he handed the flower to Ophelia.

“What’re you doing, Pedro?”

“Put it in your hair.”

Not even an out of season breeze that swept sulfuric odors down from the volcanic hot springs on the side of the mountain could calm Pedro’s ardor.

“It’s like your eyes took on the color of the flower,” he said, so sure of himself that he didn’t stutter.

“Are you sure you told the others about coming to meet today?” asked Ophelia.

“You were there when I talked to Tomas and I talked to Consuela just before. Why?”

“You’re getting all mushy on me. You know I don’t like that. Pedro. Besides, I have something to tell you.”

He didn’t like the sound of that. Not again, he thought.

“Pedro, I have a secret to tell you. Can you keep a secret? I can’t hold it in any longer.”

The Water Falls

She took hands in hers again and walked around in front of him. The sound of rushing water was getting stronger as they approached. Beside them a cool mountain feeder stream meandered over a mixture of mossy stones and black volcanic slabs. The position of the sun reflected tall jungle trees in the calm surface. Pedro looked up. They had arrived at the bee tree. It contained an enormous honey pot and millions of bees. Though they should have been afraid of the insects, Pedro, Ophelia, Tomas and Consuela often defied nature and carefully climbed into the tree so they could sit on the long branch that cast out over the waterfalls.

Instead of climbing the tree, just as they arrived on an outcropping overlooking the dark pond filled by the falls, Ophelia reached out for Pedro’s hands again. It was as if his thoughts had scripted her behavior. He looked at her and concentrated on the small beads of sweat gathering on her brow. He was close enough to notice the cinnamon and clove mixing with her body odor.

“You have to ask? I keep all your secrets,” he replied.

Pedro ground his teeth together, hoping, and he turned his head away at the howl of a monkey.

“I’m in love with Tomas,” she blurted.

Pedro’s mouth fell agape. Though they often jumped over the mossy boulder from this perch into the water 15 feet below, Ophelia surprised him by lunging in without dropping her outer clothing to reveal a swimsuit. His hands went to his stomach just as Ophelia popped back up to the surface. Pedro felt out of breath, as though someone had punched him.

“Come on. Jump. It’s beautiful,” she called up to him.

He looked down at her.

“You can’t be in love with Tomas?” he asked without talking loud enough for her to hear over the sound of the falls.

Treading water, Ophelia laughed aloud and her laugh echoed up the rocks in the enclosed area. Pedro’s mind skipped back to the night four years earlier when his father left to work in Texas. He remembered waiting for the letters from him that never came, not even one.

“Pipi, you’re my best friend,” she called out loud enough now.

“Don’t call me that.”

“Okay. Okay. Pedro. C’mon, jump in.”

She swam away to give him room to jump into the deepest part of the pool. Pedro took off his school shirt and blue school shorts and jumped into the water. He had his bathing suit under his uniform. He looked up through the water with open eyes. Ophelia’s legs jutting out of clingy beige cotton shorts through the fish-eye lens of water bubbles almost had him breathing in. Then he popped up and Ophelia, who had climbed up a stepladder made of branches and vines turned around with her arms braced behind her back. Pedro scanned her noticing her nipples hard against the camisole and the shape of her breasts. He swam towards the vine to get a better look. Thrusting herself out from her perch half way up the natural staircase, she swung side-to-side rolling on her feet with her arms fully extended behind her holding a vine.

“You haven’t said you’re happy for me,” she called down to him.

For once his feelings overcame his caution.

“You know how I feel about you. You think I should be happy. I even love the way you smell, Ophelita.”

Ignoring his plea, Ophelia responded to him.

“Don’t be silly Pedro. You’re my best friend. I belong to Tomas now. And you can’t call me that anymore. What will people think?”

Pedro moved up the vine and oblivious to his pain she made space for him.”

“Race you to the top,” said Ophelia before Pedro could speak.

She took off up the vine expertly alternating hand and foot holds. Pedro just looked up. His heart sank a little more with her every step away from him. When she got to the top, she kneeled down to look over the rock ledge.

“You going to stay there all day?”

“Don’t you remember the calypso and salsa our moms listened to when we were lying on the slats?” asked Pedro.

“You’re blathering. You sound more like Pipi than Pedro now.”

“I hated it when your family got your own washer because you never came to see us anymore,” added Pedro.

“Pedro, we were four years old. I’m a woman now.”

“Go,” he shouted. “Just go. Leave me alone.”

Pedro leaned against the fallen tree trunk and fiddled with the vines that grew around it. The smell of moss filled his nose while tiny ricochets of water decorated him. He couldn’t understand why she didn’t share his feelings.

Up above, on the rock outcropping, Ophelia brushed down her clothes as the humid air sucked the water from the material. Pedro made it up the vine in time to see her looking over her shoulder back at him. He realized that she was calculating her effect on him as she brushed hard on her camisole.

“You should go, Ophelia,” he said to her across the clearing.

“And I thought you’d be happy for me.”

He watched her willowy figure disappear around a bend in the trail.

Thoughts of his grandfather calmed him. He felt sure Granpa’d know what he should do. The events of the last few minutes erased the memory of his dream as struggled with every piece of clothing as he got dressed. A wet mark showed the lines of his swim shorts. As he walked along the same trail Ophelia had taken, Pedro stooped to pick up the purple orchid he had given her. In an absent-minded gesture, he returned a bird call, but Ophelia’s indifference had spoiled making accurate bird calls for him. A cloud burst above him. Frozen in place, Pedro looked up at the rain as the jungle around him exhaled steam.

He kept walking and turned into the backyard behind his home, wondering why Tito wasn’t barking.

“Grandpa,” called Pedro.

Pedro stood still. His dream of the birds flying around the house and Ophelia saying it meant that someone would die sloshed around in his head.

“Grandpa,” here called again, louder this time.

Then he saw it. His grandfather’s favorite chair was lying on its back and two legs jut over the seat at an odd angle.

He dared not approach his grandfather’s upturned rocking chair.

“Tito. Come here,” called Pedro when he noticed the dog lying on the ground but mostly protected from his view by the upturned chair.

Pedro took a few steps closer. The old dog lay beside the chair. When Pedro called out, the dog whined but didn’t bark. Pedro could hear dog licking something. He moved a few more steps closer. Then he saw his grandfather’s body scrunched against the ground at an unusual angle facing away from the dog. Inside he knew, but he called out anyway.

“Grandpa. Grandpa.”

Pedro’s outbursts didn’t attract Tito’s attention, but the old dog filled the air with barks just as the rain let up. The jungle added its wild and varied parts to the musical score. A monkey howled. Pedro approached. “Grandpa.” He can’t be very comfortable, thought the young man. Pedro looked over the chair. Toto had a paw on his grandpa’s chest. The bloodhound looked up at Pedro. Grandpa’s words echoed in Pedro’s head. ‘Don’t you ever forget? Big boys don’t cry.’ The sounds of the jungle after a downpour, sounds Pedro loved, disappeared from his mind. He felt sure he would never love the sounds of the jungle again.

The Don Intervenes

Pedro took in the hush of his grandpa’s open-casket funeral mass from the altar. Eduardo’s generous heart gathered people around him. His voluptuous wood carvings didn’t hurt either. They decorated thousands of homes in Guanacaste. Pedro’s emotions felt anesthetized until something opened the floodgates. At the point of the mass just before the altar boy and the priest go down to walk around the casket offering blessings of incense, Pedro was standing at the front left of the altar beside the elaborately decorated silver incense stand. He was awaiting instructions from Father Olvida. The Latin liturgy drummed over him, making him feel as though he was walking in the jungle listening to the rushing splash of a distant, but powerful waterfall in the jungle. He fiddled distractedly with the chain that controlled the top of the incense holder. The prayer stopped. Before Father Olvida could turn to face his parishioners and move from his place at the back of the raised platform holding the sacraments, a slim man in a black suit opened the church door, late for the mass.

People turned at the affront and the collective intake of breath that resulted when the parishioners realized who dared enter late paused even Father Olvida. Don Salieri removed his hat and genuflected at the holy water stand. He stood and dabbed his forehead, heart and both shoulders with practiced ease for someone never seen at mass. The open door let light penetrate and accentuated the beams of dust rising from the floor in the sunbeams dropping through stained glass windows. Stunned parishioners could not help themselves, their curiosity locking their heads and looking back at the Don. The Don tilted his head respectfully and reached out to assist a shadow entering the church behind him.

The noise of a foot, dragging on marble caught Pedro’s attention. An old woman, all in black and wearing a veil just like his mother’s appeared from the gloom beside the Don. Pedro shifted his stare to his mother at that moment. She was kneeling on the flagstones close enough for his youthful eyes to see her tears. He looked at the back of the church again and felt Don Salieri’s gaze. The man’s dark eyes darted at Pedro across the whole length of the church. The seconds since the Don’s arrival stretched, making time seem longer than normal. Unlike the rest of the worshipers, Pedro, in his role as the altar boy serving the mass, was standing not kneeling. He jiggled the chain beside him on the incense stand with his hand. The open cover of the ceremonial holder crashed down onto its holder. A heavy clap of brass on brass echoed into the vaulted open space.

People who were facing back to look at the intruder, turned back — the Don’s spell broken — and Father Olvida appeared beside Pedro. The young man looked up. He mouthed, “Sorry Father.” The priest surprised him by discretely ruffling Pedro’s hair and winking after briefly offering his back to the gathered people while raising the cover again. Pedro watched as the older man added a hot coal from a holder on the stand and pungent smoke rushed out when the priest raised it to the altar. The smoke caught in Pedro’s eyes, releasing tears. Mistaking Pedro’s tears for anguish, Pedro’s mother cried harder and needed support from her neighbor, Consuela’s mother, to stay balanced in her kneeling position. The two women rocked sideways a little until they caught their balance. Father Olvida brought the incense holder first up above his head in an outward thrust and then down in three successive movements. He propelled it outward and then abruptly stopped it at each pause in the ceremony while repeating a prayer under his breath. The smoke twirled upward carrying Eduardo’s soul ever upward in its grasp. Latin prayers accompanied the ritual. Pedro responded from practice to one of the Priest’s gestures by picking up a large staff and walking ahead of the priest down the three stairs to the same level as the parishioners.

The priest and the boy circled the open coffin repeating prayers and the three-fold movement of blessing using the incense. Father Olvida genuflected at the head of the casket. His head turned to catch Pedro’s eye. The older man indicated that Pedro should give him the staff he was holding. Not certain what to do after, he moved the staff, scraping it along a bump in the flagstones. The priest nodded again and canted his head towards the casket. Pedro squinted and pointed surreptitiously at himself. Father nodded. Pedro, who was kneeling beside Father Olvida, got up and went to the casket, leaned over and kissed the cold skin, stood up and made the sign of the cross. Only then he noticed the line forming at the foot of the coffin. Pedro returned to his place beside the priest. As he took the staff back from Father Olvida, his free hand stretched across his chest under his cassock scratched a place slightly below his breast. A trickle of sweat had tickled him. He led the procession out of the church slightly behind Father Olvida and ahead of the pall bearers.

In front of the church in the white-hot sun of noon, Pedro stood aside as the pallbearers slid the now closed coffin onto a horse-drawn buggy. All of the people from the mass followed. When the long walk to the cemetery and the burial service ended, Pedro removed the stifling cassock. Don Salieri and his mother appeared in front of him in the instant as his pupils adjusted to the sunlight without the cassock over his head.

The Don clicked his heels together gently and bent forward respectfully. He offered his outstretched hand to Pedro.

“Our deepest condolences,” he said referring to his mother with a nod in her direction. The older woman, the Don’s mother, said nothing.

“Don Salieri, you honor my grandfather’s memory. Thank you,” replied Pedro.

“I too lost my guardian at about your age. Permit me to give you some advice.”


“I can see you are strong and will bounce back from this adversity. Don’t forget, I am always here.”

Pedro’s mother cleared her throat, attracting Pedro’s attention. He bent over a little and put an arm around his mother, supporting her as she got up from kneeling. Pedro looked on as surprised as all of their gathered friends when the Don’s mother, a woman who received Holy Communion at her home and had not talked to anyone in the village since she arrived in Guanacaste many years earlier, slid up her veil. She then lifted Conchita’s veil and leaned forward to kiss her on both cheeks. Pedro looked from woman to woman. With their eyes locked together, the Don’s mother took Conchita’s hands in hers and spoke in halting but correct Spanish.

“You are always welcome at our home. Come this Sunday with Pedro and anyone else you wish. We will say the rosary together, to ease your loss.”

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