WEEKS HAD PASSED and one Sunday morning, I went to the church alone. The Holy Mass hasn’t started yet so I knelt down and prayed. I closed my eyes and prayed for my mother. I also prayed for a new job for the coming summer.
After a few minutes, I felt a nudge on my shoulder. Someone was about to pass in the pew. I opened my eyes and saw at the side of my vision, a woman and a female companion. I guess it was the woman’s daughter. I stood up and gave way to them. When they passed, I knelt down again and continued praying.
After praying, I opened my eyes and made the sign of the cross as I sat down on my seat. That was when I noticed the daughter was kneeling beside me. I looked at her as she was praying, too. I had seen her before in school. I knew her name was Rosanna Marquez. I remembered the first time I saw her. Since that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I admitted to myself that I had a crush on her. And now that she was beside me inside the church, I wished I could hold her hand. God, forgive me, I’m distracted.
The Holy Mass went on and I tried my very best not to be distracted by her presence. The church was filled and I had to content myself with the seating space I had. And the best part was when the priest told us to hold hands in singing the “Our Father” and greeted her “Peace be with you.” That was the first time I held Rosanna’s hand. The first time I saw her smile at me up close.
AFTER THE MASS, I went to the Cimitarra Public Market where my mother’s stall was. I grew up seeing my mother selling vegetables in the market. It was our source of income since my parents separated before I was born. My mother’s stall at the public market had become my second home.
“God bless you,” my mother said when I kissed her hand upon my arrival.
My mother looked older than her age of forty-one. She became a young single mother and disowned by her own wealthy Colonial family I’ve never met. And will never be, she said. She was about my height, fair-skinned, black long hair tied in a bun, slim yet strong enough to withstand the pressures of trading all day. She became my inspiration to become a working student. Her resilience, diligence, and simplicity had been my own standards.
“You can go home and have lunch, Ma,” I said. “I’ll stay here and look after the stall.”
“No need, my child,” she said as she put her hand on my shoulder. “I could buy ourselves our lunch and have it here. It’s Sunday and many people are buying vegetables for lunch now.”
As I was helping my mother sell all kinds of tropical vegetables, I overheard a customer talking to my mother. I was so busy with other customers that I didn’t see who it was.
“Good morning, Yoana,” I heard the woman say. “Do you have carrots, cabbage, beans, and cauliflowers?”
“Hi, Andelina,” I heard my mother reply. “It seems that you’re going to make stir-fried vegetables for lunch. Go ahead, select the vegetables you would like to buy…”
“Yes,” the woman replied. “I have a visitor coming today.”
“Is she Rosanna?” I heard my mother ask.
“Yes, she is.”
“Good morning, ma’am,” I heard a girl say.
The name Rosanna rang a bell in my ear that it made me turn my head towards my mother. There I saw Rosanna, with her mother, buying at our stall.
“Oh, my, how time flies! The last time I saw her, she was still young…” I heard my mother say.
My customer had already left so I went beside my mother to hand her the money my customer paid me.
“Do you still remember my son, Huan?” my mother asked as she pulled me beside her.
“Oh yes,” Andelina said. “I’ve heard he’s an honor student at school. You must be lucky to have him.”
I observed that Rosanna had taken her looks from her mother. However, life might have been harsh on Andelina that it stripped some layers of her beauty and little had remained.
“Yes, I’m proud of him,” my mother said. She turned to Rosanna and asked, “Where are you studying, hija?”
“Same school with Huan, ma’am,” Rosanna answered and smiled at me.
I smiled back at her. I still couldn’t forget what happened at the church earlier.
Then we heard a man called, “Andelina!”
We all turned from where the voice came from.
A burly man walked towards us. He was tall, muscular, dark-haired, square-faced, with distant eyes, pointed nose, thick lips, and mustache and beard covering the lower part of his face.
”I’d never expect to see you here,” he said half-smiling.
“Julio,” Andelina said. “We’re buying a few vegetables for lunch. Here’s my payment, Yoana…”
“Well, I also bought roasted chicken for us. I’m sure Rosanna will like this,” Julio said smiling at Rosanna.
I observed that Rosanna’s face changed. It seemed that she didn’t want the roasted chicken. Or was it because she didn’t like to see Julio? I do not have any idea who he was, anyway.
“Julio, I want to introduce you to my friend, Yoana.”
“Hi! Nice to meet you, Yoana,” he said.
“Nice to meet you, too, Julio. Here’s your change, Andelina.”
“We should go now, Andelina,” said Julio. ”We’ll go ahead, Yoana. Thank you for these vegetables.”
“Thank you for coming.”
“Bye, Huan,” Rosanna said and waved her hand at me.
They left, but I didn’t notice that I was smiling as I followed them with my sight.
“You do like Rosanna, don’t you?” I heard my mother ask.
I felt I blushed and smiled. ”I fell in love with her ever since I saw her at school, Ma. I hope it is okay with her if I ask her out one of these days.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that. It seems Andelina raised Rosanna well. Too bad, Hostino died… And I have this feeling that Julio would be Andelina’s next husband…”
“Have you known them, Ma?” I asked.
“Andelina was my friend before she and her late husband moved to Cimitarra Sur. The last time I saw them was during Hostino’s funeral, Rosanna was still young then…”
Too bad, I wasn’t able to meet her then.