I shall never forget the day Felipa was born. That day, I felt Tony's presence closer than ever. My grief over his death had already begun to heal. I had found it in forgiveness, in Baby John's friendship, in my faith. The more my parents have helped me care for Felipa, the more they have gradually come to accept who her father was. My madre cares for her when I'm at work and Anita will often stay for dinner with my family. The Sharks have also started to get used to Baby John's frequent visits to see me and his goddaughter. My parents don't mind too much; they tell me he looks harmless and that the Sharks were wrong to attack him. Since Felipa's birth, the fighting between the Sharks and the Jets has significantly calmed down. I think things will be tense between them still for a long time and there's nothing I can do to stop that. Once the Sharks realized they couldn't control me, they no longer tried to prevent my visits with the Jets. Anita prefers not to come with me. It is taking her, naturally, a long time to forgive them for how abominably they treated her. There was one exception she made though. On our one day off after church, she and Baby John accompanied me with Felipa, a few months old, to Doc's. When we entered, Kiddo, Action, Diesal, and A-rab were there and so were Inca, Tio, Lupe, and Pepe. I had called a few of them for a meeting. The Sharks had reluctantly tagged along. Doc congratulates me with tears in his eyes.
I glance up at the assembled gangs, addressing them, "You see this child here," I say, walking up to each of them to show Felipa. "Does she deserve to be a victim of your prejudice, racism, and hate? Her father, Tony, already paid the price with his life. Must she be cast aside as just a woman of her kind, with no dignity? I know the world isn't perfect, but all of your fighting makes it worse. It builds walls that she will have to struggle to break down one day. You are her family through Tony, Baby John, and Anita. I can't stand the thought of her one day watching a loved one die from hate…one of you, as I had to. It would be an insult to her father's memory. I hope one day, you will find the healing I've found. None of you will be an enemy to her, because you are not to me. If Tony and I had managed to run away, I would never have been able to fully confront my former bitterness over Bernardo's death. After Tony's death I couldn't pretend anymore that I had completely let it go; I had to confront what was hurting me. And I'm glad I did.. I hope all of you will too."
Once I had said these words, I place Felipa in Anita's arms and approach each one of the Jets, shaking their hand and embracing them. Kiddo actually sent me a slight smile. She knows best what it's like to be an outcast as a woman, to not be allowed to be who she is. I feel my words have spoken straight to her. Diesal even apologizes for physically hurting me at the rumble and is grateful my child lived. Suddenly I hear Felipa beginning to wail for my attention. I leave Doc's store with a smile, feeling at peace. While Baby John drives us to the cemetery on the other side of town, I care for Felipa in the backseat. Motherhood is a constant challenge, but I have to admit, it's growing on me. Reaching the cemetery, Anita and Baby John leave me alone at a distance beside Tony's grave. I smile amidst my tears of joy and gratefulness for Felipa, our daughter. Gently rocking my baby, I whisper,
"Te adoro Anton."
I listen to the gentle wind caressing my face, tossing my hair. I feel the fertile soil beneath my hands. I then gaze into our daughter's eyes, holding love in my arms.
"Te adoro Felipa."