Okay, first of all, I'm so sorry for the late update. I've just been so busy lately. I haven't had a weekEND for a month. Sigh. Anyhoo...
Thank you thank you thank you so much for the reviews. To all my faithful reviewers and some new ones! Yay! Welcome! Do you know it's so great to read all your reviews? Hahaha.
Oh, and for emilytheunique - when Suze saw the necklace back in chapter 2, she remembered everything. That's how she knows Jesse is aka Hector. :D
And also, I want to say sorry in advance because there might be another long time before I could upload any updates. Chapter 9 is the last one that I have already completed a long time and Chapter 10 is still in the process. And honestly, I really, really do not have enough time right now. I'm so sorry.
But I will try to update as soon as I can, okay?
Thank you very much!
Aaaand... read on!
Maria Teresa de Silva.
Descendant of royalty, of kings and princes.
Or, that's what she told me in the past… err, future, I mean.
I remembered like it was just yesterday when she, Jesse's ex-fiancée, woke me in the middle of the night with a knife held to my throat and instructed me to make Andy stop with his hot tub construction or else I would get it. A lot has happened since that time.
How time flies.
The Maria I saw was around the age as the one who was screaming her head off right now. Albeit, wearing different clothes, but the same jewelry.
"How dare she do that to me!" Maria, in her high pitched voice, announced to whoever would listen. It turned out that there were a lot of busybodies in this town. I felt my face go red what with all the audience so I decided to stay where I was – still sitting on the floor. She continued on, "How dare she! Everyone should always make way for me! I, Maria Teresa de Silva, do not stand aside for anyone!"
"She did not do it on purpose, Maria," Josefina stated dryly, as if the whole scene was boring her. She crossed her arms across her chest and leaned against the side of the door. Then she chuckled, "But even if she did, I would still tell you that it was not her fault."
" – should have watched where she was going! You –" she yelled at me. But I wasn't paying attention to her. It was actually easy to tune her screaming out. I mean, with my whole life being a mediator, I've sorta developed a skill of tuning out people. It's especially helpful when I'm facing a nagging ghost, and recently, Josefina, and now an annoying, ranting Maria.
" – someone like her! She should have seen that I was coming out and cleared her path!"
"She already apologized to you, Maria." Josefina said calmly. "Leave it at that."
"No! She –" Maria started to say but was cut off by Josefina.
"Maria, you are creating a scene," she said, curtly. Her stance was relaxed but her eyes were hard on her cousin, "Unless you want to repeat what happened last time, go now."
"Are you threatening me, Josefina?" Maria asked, incredulous.
"Yes, Maria, I believe I am."
"You!" Maria huffed. Her anger was finally off me – if her shaking finger that was pointing at Josefina any indication. Her voice rose higher. "You always think that you are better than me but you are not! You never will be! You are nothing, Josefina, nothing!"
Josefina straightened. She went closer to Maria until they were a foot away from each other. She was the same height as the other but the way Josefina composed herself was more intimidating. She spoke slowly, enunciating every syllable, "I do not, nor should anyone, regard myself better than you, Maria. I do not aspire to. This town already has you as the ill-mannered, whoring de Silva. May God forbid there be another."
Let me just say something, this was WAY better than any soap opera.
I shouldn't, I thought while I was sitting there and watching the whole scene unfold, be in Josefina's bad side. But then I realized that I was already there.
Then I realized that Josefina was actually defending me. Despite everything she said and felt about me, she still stood up for me against her cousin. Okay, I don't know if she did it to spite Maria, or possibly that she hated Maria's guts more than mine but still…
Marta, who was watching carefully near Josefina, finally joined in. About time too, if you ask me. Maria looked like she was going to tackle Josefina that second and I'm sure Jesse's sister wouldn't back down.
"That's enough, both of you," Marta calmly said as she stepped in between them. "Go now, Maria. Before things get worse."
Ooh, now I see why Marta looks so familiar. She actually looks a lot like Maria – you could've mistaken them for sisters. Despite a few changes in contours of the face, and Marta being a bit taller and just a tad darker than her cousin, they looked really alike. I don't know why people say that Maria was the most beautiful girl because personally, Marta was way more beautiful than her. But then, I may be biased.
Maria stared at her cousins in way that I could only describe was contempt. She then called out a name and I was startled to see this petite girl come out from behind Maria. Her handmaid, I guess. She opened a white, frilly parasol – really! – and held it for her mistress. I felt sorry for the girl as they left. She was under the heat of the sun trying to keep up – with her shorter legs and all – with the hurried pace her mistress was walking at and all the while, holding up the parasol to provide shade for Maria.
That girl needed to know her rights.
The de Silva sisters approached me then. Josefina asked, "Suze, are you all right?"
I blinked. And again. Did I hit my head or something? Was Josefina being… nice? I stared blankly at her. "Huh?"
Marta kneeled next to me. Her face full of concern when she asked, "Are you hurt?"
My senses finally came back. I shook my head in reply.
"Come," she said as she stood up, "the sooner we finish here, the sooner we can go home. We've caused enough fuss for one day. And I think you're cleaning the floor with your skirt."
I smiled along with her and was about to stand up when I noticed that Josefina held her hand out to help me. Eyeing it suspiciously, I asked her, "What's with the one-eighty?"
The girl may have defended me against Maria for some unfathomable reason but it's a bit shady as to why the girl was suddenly being polite. Is the world coming to an end?
Josefina looked confused. "One-eighty?"
"Attitude change," I rolled my eyes.
"Oh." She smirked. Then she spoke in a condescending tone, "No one messes with you," she pulled me to a stand, "because you are mine to deal with."
"Thanks," I said, sarcastically. It dawned to me that the less I butt heads with the girl, the less I'd have to nurse bruises.
"My pleasure," she grinned, not noticing my sarcasm. She turned to walk past me, not forgetting to smack me in the face with her hair.
Calm down, Suze. Bruises hurt, you know.
Marta came near to brush some dirt off me. Mrs. de Silva, Mercedes and Carla also arrived carrying some freshly baked bread. The aroma of the bread filled the store and made my mouth water.
"What happened?" Mrs. de Silva asked.
Marta didn't answer at first. She finished cleaning me then turned to her mother and smiled innocently. "Nothing, Mama."
"But we heard someone yelling and there were a lot of people outside this store," Mercedes probed.
Marta sneaked a pointed scowl at her sister. But Mrs. de Silva caught it and warned, "Marta".
"Tell me what happened."
"Fine," Marta sighed. "It was Maria."
"No wonder the screechy voice sounded familiar," Mercedes laughed. I joined with her.
"Mercedes!" their mother scolded. "That's not the way to talk about your cousin."
"Sorry," Mercedes mumbled. I smiled at the girl. She was just so adorable.
Mrs. de Silva and Carla then left us to go to Josefina who was trying on this ice blue skirt. I heard earlier that they were going to pick up her dress for the birthday party.
Mercedes offered some of the raisin bread that she brought. I was still feeling a bit full so I declined but Marta took my share. We walked around the shop looking at the finished pieces that were for sale. There was this deep red taffeta ball gown that was in the corner that caught my eye. It was rather provocative for this era, I thought. It was strapless and almost backless too, because it had a wide and long V at the back that reached the butt crack. There was this thin white satin ribbon that wove delicately around like a corset on the lower part of the V – to obstruct the view of the wearer's backside – and as it went higher, the weave grew farther and farther apart. The skirt – also the same shade of red – hung limp but I think that there should be a hoop skirt underneath when it was going to be worn.
I went over to the gown to examine it more closely. I fiddled with the intricate bead works on the hem of the top. The dress was just so beautiful.
"Do you want to try it on, dear?" asked this old woman I recognized as the one who helped Josefina get into her skirt earlier. She was carrying this black blanket that wrapped what I could only guess was a gown. There were pieces of grey tulle sticking out at the end.
I smiled, shaking my head. "No, it's okay. Thanks."
The woman smiled as she left to go to where Josefina and the rest were. I was correct; she was carrying a gown, Josefina's gown in fact. I watched as Josefina took the gown from the lady and went into this sort of changing room.
"You seem very interested in the dress, no?"
I spun around. Marta was watching me, amusement flickered in her dark eyes. Her gaze moved from me to the gown behind me then back to me again.
"It's provocative," I admitted, turning back to the gown.
"Yes," she agreed. I felt her stand next to me. She placed her hands on the armless shoulder of the mannequin and let her hands trace down the curve. "You know," she said after a few seconds, "I have a gown just like this."
My eyebrow went up, "You do?"
She chuckled, "Yes, I do. This one is an imitation actually. Lena asked me if she could make another one after she finished with mine and I agreed. I see she made some alterations."
"Oh," was all I could say. I got to admit, I wasn't that surprised that Marta - with her physical appearance, attitude, and confidence and all – had a gown like the one in front of me. I could picture her wearing it and pulling it off. And I think that any girl – me included – would take a hit on their self-esteem when Marta wears that gown.
But then, the girl could wear dental floss and people would still take a hit. Not that she'd wear it, I'm sure, given that; a) people probably didn't have any concept of what dental floss, or Oral B, was, and b) Marta wasn't that liberated.
I heard Marta sigh then let out a low laugh, "But I never got to wear it. Oh, but I argued at first. I told Mama that I was eighteen and had the choice to wear my own clothes. But she would not have any of it. I have never seen Mama so mad before. She even lost her composure," she paused. Then, when she spoke, it was a perfect imitation of Mrs. de Silva's voice, "'Dios, Marta, what are you wearing? You are not going to the party looking like that! Change, go change before someone sees you! I do not want to see that dress ever again!' she said. It has been in my closet ever since – waiting for that perfect moment to finally be worn."
As Marta told the story, I found it hard to imagine Mrs. de Silva – so poised and polished – ever losing her cool. It probably would've been amusing to watch Marta going down the staircase of their house wearing that beautiful yet racy – for this century at least. I wonder what these people would think of the dresses of the twenty-first century? – gown only to be scolded by her mother and sent back up to change.
I felt Marta's arm go around my shoulder and she spoke in a soft voice only I could hear, "And now, I think, is the perfect time for the dress to come out again."
I glanced at her, "You're going to wear it? What makes you think that even after a year has passed your mom is going to allow you?"
"Me?" she laughed. She turned and cupped my face with both of her hands, "No, silly girl, I'm talking about you. The dress would be perfect for you. It was brown-colored and it would bring out the color of your eyes beautifully."
I scrutinized the expression on her face. She could've been joking for all I know. Why else would she want me to wear a dress like that? Not that it's not beautiful but I couldn't picture my self actually wearing it. Right? "You high, Marta?"
She stared at me, confused, "High? If you are talking about my height, then yes, I am taller than you. But the gown can be arranged to suit your length."
I keep forgetting that some of my lingo isn't applicable to these people.
"Nevermind," I told her. "But seriously, Marta, why would I wear your gown?"
She took her hands from my face and placed them on her hips. She raised one inky eyebrow at me, baffled as to why I even questioned her. "Do you have a dress to wear at Josefina's party the day after tomorrow or not?"
"Okay, I'm sounding ungrateful here. But why that gown?"
I stared at the girl. I couldn't believe that she was really serious about this. "Didn't you just say that your mom went ballistic because you wore that gown? What do you think will happen to me when she sees me wearing that dress?"
"She will do nothing. She cannot."
I narrowed my eyes at her. "Why?"
"Because you are not her daughter."
I stopped short. She did have a point there. But then I realized something else, "She could kick me out of your house, you know."
"No, she would not." Marta eyed me from top to bottom then top again then said, "Jesu Cristo, Suze. Jesse never told me you were such a pessimist."
Just the sound of Jesse's name made my stomach do a back flip. I grumbled, feeling like a five-year-old kid, "I'm not a pessimist."
"As you say so," she chortled then went over to put an arm around my shoulder again, "So, you will wear it?"
"Do I have a choice?"
Marta grinned. "No."
"Why do you even bother to ask?"
She just laughed. And, you know, it didn't bother me quite a bit. This friendly, almost sisterly, banter. I guess because I was deprived of it when I was with Mom and Andy.
God, I miss them so much.
I raised my arm to place it around Marta's shoulder like she did but because she was taller than me, it felt like I was kid trying to hang on to my mother. But I laughed at the thought.
"You and my brother would gladly appreciate this. He would thank me for life when I am done with you."
I felt my cheeks heat up. I asked her, mock horror coloring my voice, "You were planning on doing more?"
"Of course." She paused and I felt her gaze on my face, "I would not stop until her marries you and takes you to his bed." She winked at me, "I know that you would be the best for him and he for you."
If I felt my face go red earlier, now I could feel as if my whole body was blushing. But I also thought that it was sort of a relief that at least Marta wanted me to be with Jesse.
Unlike some people.
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Thank you for reading!