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Estancia Aldea Norteña 17: La Vuelta de Tuerca

March 06, 2023 11:35AM
"Plot twist," a deviation from an expected story beat (StudioBinder).

Unfortunately, Saturday proved to be full of all the rain that had not fallen yet. It began with a few drops as Catalina got in the shower; by the time they were finishing breakfast it was pouring, with a steady beat against the roof and large pools forming all in the yard and street.

"I hope Javier is able to get through it," she worried, watching from the living room. Tío Ruy had a fútbol game on while Tía Lola was looking through some magazines in the corner.

"I'm sure he'll be fine dear," she said, flipping yet another page. "Oh, look at this dress: don't you think it’s amazing?"

Catalina had her textbook open next to her on the couch, and sometimes flipped through it, but found she could not concentrate. Her mind felt so full of data, so wired from a full week of work and her concern over Isabel and Javier, that she found herself wishing she were with the Tilves again. Even if they couldn't go on the beach in the rain, they might finish a puzzle, or play a game, or just hang out, nice and easy. It was so tempting to want to ask for the driver or grab an umbrella and hop on the tram.

She texted with Elena just to say something. But she could not speak for long, since both her brothers were in the house together at the same time for once and they were trying to do something as a family. "I hope you have fun with yours," she wrote, and Catalina put her phone away after a quick "Gracias."

At last, the doorbell rang, and Catalina ran to the foyer in time to see the housekeeper let Javier in. He was only slightly wet and she hugged him regardless.

"Hi little sister, miss me?" he asked with a grin as they went further inside to greet the Aguirres. Javier was always interested in fútbol, and with the match at a breaking point he was at first only aware of scores and penalties, chatting comfortably with Tío Ruy and cheering with him as their team won. Catalina tried to call Isabel and also sent a text message. She expected her to respond any second. But nothing came in even after the game was over and they started flipping channels to find another.

Javier came to sit next to her on the couch. "I already spoke to Isabel; she's all tied up this morning, but I think she'll be free around two."

"That's great," Catalina answered in relief, feeling silly she hadn't asked. "I wish it were nicer out."

"Yeah, too bad, but here's an idea: why don't we actually go to that aquarium you wanted to see? No problems with rain in there, right?" He smiled encouragingly, obviously hoping she'd like it.

She found she would have liked it better if she could be sure Elena would be there, but that would be mean to say when Javier was just trying to make her happy. "Sure, that would be fun, but I don't mind going somewhere else if you like."

"No, we talked it over, and it sounds fun! By the way, Juan's sorry he couldn’t make it; he had some things to work on."

Catalina could not bring herself to say she was sorry to hear, since instead she felt much better about any proposed outing. She changing the subject by asking about her brother's classes.

"They’re going to be hard; I start first thing on Monday. At least all the prep I’ve done should help things go smoothly. But hey, tell me all about this new work you're doing, Papá talked like you were almost in charge of this clinic you're volunteering at."

She was glad to share her still bubbling excitement about the computer and patients and what she had learned. He clapped his hands when she finished, just like when she was a small kid and he would cheer her on after doing a trick with her bicycle. "Way to go, you'll be a pro when it comes time for college. I guess you haven't had any time to sit around; no wonder Isabel said she hadn't seen you at all."

"But we have done some things together," Catalina said quickly. "I mean, not every day of course, but we talk all the time still. And we went out on the boat together with the Tilves, although I guess that was a week ago, wow, I can't believe it's already been so long."

Javier's smile froze. "What boat?"

"The ship party, when she and I met Fernando, that's Elena's oldest brother, he's a captain with special forces in the army, I forget which one. It was at the marina, didn't you see the pictures?"

"No I didn't," Javier said quietly, then in a loud voice, "Well that sounds like fun. Glad to hear you haven't been just working yourself to death. Who took the pictures?"

So she told him about Elena's camera and volunteered to show him some on the photo website her friend had sent a link to. Once at the computer she clicked through to the ones she really liked: the moonlight on the water, the band playing, and even one of a tail slapping back into the surf. Javier barely paid attention to those pictures, focusing instead on some of their outfits.

"You really dressed up." He frowned at one photo showing her and Enrique by the rail, and Catalina realized she hadn't even recognized herself at first. She hadn't felt anything special that night, not for her own sake, but in the picture it was like some other girl was there, someone from one of Tía Lola's magazines.

"Isabel helped me," she explained, hoping that would make him feel better, but his frown only deepened as he clicked through some more. He stared a long time at another picture of the dancing couples, with Isabel and Fernando framed very well in the soft lighting. Striving to remember other details, she added, "There was a ton of food, I don't think Elena took any pictures of that, but they had crab cakes and mangoes and even some scallops!"

Javier didn't respond, just clicked through to the end, then leaned back in his chair with his arms crossed. When Catalina repeated herself, he nodded. "Yeah, sounds like a great party. I'm glad Isabel came: that was no place to go all on your own."

"But I wasn't by myself, Elena invited us, and Tía Lola agreed to it."

"Just please be more careful in the future Catalina, you shouldn't stay out that late with strange men you barely know. Good thing you've been too busy working to do anything else so crazy!"

Catalina decided it might not be a good time to tell him about her evening out with Enrique and Elena later in the week, or how many times he'd given her a ride. Besides, it had never been really late except the night of the party, and anyway, Enrique wasn't a stranger. The Aguirres knew him and trusted him; he was a therapist, after all! So it couldn't be the same thing. Fortunately the Lobos called after a few minutes and Javier was distracted from any further discussion of parties or Tilves. All the girls decided to join in the trip to the aquarium since the younger ones would have to start back to school soon. Even Sra. Eva came and paid for their entrance fee. Many of the outdoor exhibits were closed due to the rain, which didn't let up once, but at least they could wander around and enjoy the many tanks. There was one completely dedicated to sharks. On a whim Catalina asked Angela to teach her how to take a picture with her phone, just for Enrique and Elena to laugh at later.

"You could text it to them," Maria suggested, "and then they would get it right now."

Catalina hesitated; it sounded suspiciously like something that would cost a lot of money. "I'll just show them later."

"I'll do it!" Angela said, taking her own phone out and getting Catalina to pose for another picture. All the Lobos had their own phone, which Catalina constantly found amazing, even if they were always arguing about their minutes and who had gone over their monthly limit. "There, I've sent it, let's take some more!" Angela and Maria made it a game to outdo the other by taking more pictures and texting away.

Catalina's own phone buzzed soon. "Who's sending me so many pictures?" Elena asked with a laugh.

"Isabel's sisters; sorry, I hope it's not causing a problem, but I wanted you to see some of the fish, especially the sharks," Catalina explained.

"No, no, it's great! I feel almost like I'm there. And today's such a drag, send as many as you like."

"Sure thing. Are you having a good time with your family?"

Elena sighed, then lowered her voice. "Actually, I can't talk right now, but maybe later? It's a little crazy right now."

"Of course, I hope everything gets better," Catalina said, not sure how to express her sympathy, but wishing for it nonetheless.

"I know. I wish.... Wait, you said Isabel was there? With your brother, right?" Elena's voice perked up.

"Yes, they're just ahead of us, I think they went to see the penguins," Catalina answered, looking around and spying her brother and friend in the next room over.

"Great! That's really good. I'm happy for you, have a great time!" Then Elena hung up almost before Catalina could say adios. It was such a weird way to end the call, but then, she had seemed tense. Maybe the rain was just driving everyone batty, like at home when there was nothing to do and nowhere to go.

Whatever had made Javier frown at the computer earlier in the day was either gone from his mind, or no longer a problem, because he looked very pleased the rest of the day walking hand in hand with Isabel. They were inseparable, taking lots of pictures together, one even kissing in front of the jellyfish. Catalina didn't mind at all when they decided to go out on their own that evening, insisting she would be fine back with the Aguirres and wishing them a good time. Angela and Maria giggled and talked loudly about love birds, but Isabel only shushed them and kept close to Javier, whispering with him just like she had during Carnaval.

Catalina tried calling Elena again at that night but it went to voicemail. "I hope your day was good, and you liked the pictures. Wish you could have been there. Maybe we'll catch up tomorrow." Catalina hung up and wondered what might have been wrong, or why Elena wouldn't answer, but then shrugged. It was probably nothing.

The next morning Javier once again insisted on taking them to Mass. "I don't have to be back until late this evening, there's plenty of time." He whistled as he pulled the car out, carefree and content.

They took their customary pew, all sitting together and making sure Tío Ruy had the spot near the aisle for his knee and cane. After a few minutes the Lobos came in and sat nearby. They all chatted before the service started, although Isabel hadn't yet arrived.

"She was feeling poorly," Sra. Eva said, smiling widely and talking a little too loud. Angela and Maria giggled for some reason, but Catalina had grown used to their irreverence and was no longer quite so shocked over it. She thought about texting Isabel but didn't want to risk forgetting to turn her phone back off. She saw Javier fiddle with his, fingering it uncertainly, and wished Isabel could have at least called to say she wouldn't be there.

Just as everyone turned toward the altar, Catalina noticed two people rush in from a side door. The man's height made him easy to spot and she realized it was Fernando, sliding in to stand behind the rest of the Tilves at the front of the church where Elena always parked her chair. She didn't think anything of it to start with, focusing on the morning prayer and litany, but then Javier leaned forward to stare. She couldn't help but follow his eye and saw Isabel was right next to Fernando!

It was so hard to concentrate after that, not only because of her own distraction, but because Javier kept glancing that way, frowning, obviously concerned and upset. Catalina was so relieved when the service came to a close, if only because with everyone standing up and walking around it was impossible to see how close Isabel and Fernando were standing together.

Javier got up and disappeared in the crowd, barely murmuring an excuse to Tía Lola as he scooted down the pew away from them. Catalina was stuck between the Aguirres and couldn't escape so easily. Instead, she had to sit and wait, listening to Angela and Maria make insinuating remarks about lovers and quarrels, while Sra. Eva loudly remarked about the rain and how beautiful everything looked now that the sun had come out. When Tío Ruy asked if she would help him up, Catalina could have kissed him for joy. She offered her arm, helping him to get his cane, and then walked with him up the aisle toward the door. A quick glance back only revealed Elena and her father; she didn't see Fernando or Enrique anywhere, while Javier and Isabel were off to the side. She didn't know what they were saying to each other, and was just as happy to not to hear.

"Gracias, dear, it's far more pleasant out here in the sun," Tío Ruy said as he sat down on a bench.

"Yes, it is very sunny today," Catalina agreed, sitting beside him, and hoping Javier didn't wait too long to come get the car. Surely there was a good explanation for Isabel showing up the way she did.

Tío Ruy said nothing for a while, just hummed under his breath. Then he shook his head. "Young love, you know, is very foolish sometimes," he said without any hint of anger or disappointment, more like he was talking about the news. "But it usually all settles down in the end one way or another. Now, tell me some more about this work you're doing on the computer, it sounded very interesting."

Catalina described the computer system and how important it was to enter all the patient information correctly, gradually letting their conversation wash away her worries. "Señora Mundo says it's very important to get everything right because all the doctors who ever see this patient will look at the information, and share it. One day, maybe, there won't even be any paper charts at all, and it'll just be on screens everywhere."

"Ah, yes, like with my stock broker. I went paperless a few years ago, best decision ever. Much better to get the emails and check things up-to-date then see charts from a month ago." Tío Ruy smiled fondly at her. "You have made very good use of your time here, Catalina. I'm very proud of you. Perhaps I should let you help me select some of my stock buys next with all your new experience?"

She laughed. "I couldn't do that, you know, I don't know anything about them."

"Yet you've learned so much already about this clinic. I've been thinking about healthcare investment for a while, it might be good to have an insider help me. What do you think about the system they have? Is there anything that would make it better?"

Even though she protested against any financial advice, she was pleased to talk to him about her own ideas, and listen to his experience. They chatted comfortably as more people left the church, waiting for the others to join them.

Eventually Elena and her father came out, Sr. Tilve pushing his daughter very firmly through the door. They shared a few words, then he turned her chair and they came alongside the bench where Catalina and Tío Ruy were sitting.

"Señor Aguirre, Señorita Moreno, good morning," Sr. Tilve called, as formal and well-dressed as ever. "I trust you are not uncomfortable out here?"

"No, sir, just admiring the world," Tío Ruy replied, bowing his head to Elena. "And getting advice from my young friend about where the markets are headed." He winked at her with a chuckle, and Catalina stifled her own laughter at their private joke, instead asking after the rest of the family.

"Enrique got called in this morning early," Elena said wistfully, looking down at her hands.

"Yes, unfortunate, but what can you do? I wish he would settle closer to us, back in the country where things are less frantic." Señor Tilve stepped to the other side of the bench, addressing Tío Ruy. "I'm sure you would agree, sir, that however many attractions there are in the city, it's better to own your own field than bustle about where you don't belong."

Tío Ruy nodded sagely. "Yes, of course, although young people will like to go out and try things. There's something to be said for that."

"Yes, when you are very young, I suppose. Although there comes a point when people should accept their responsibilities. It's not as if you can't watch fútbol just as well on the television, if not better. Did you see that winning score yesterday?"

Before long the two men were discussing goals and stocks with equal dedication, clearly of a similar temperament for both topics. Catalina leaned forward to speak to Elena. "I'm sorry to hear there was a problem, I never realized a therapist would have so many emergencies. Have you heard from him since he left?"

"No, but I'm sure he's fine, even though it's not the type of work he usually does or likes. He's at the hospital today, they sent out an all call asking for licensed medicos to help cover things, it happens sometimes in the summer with people taking vacation and the bump in tourists getting admitted. In fact, he'll probably work all day now, or at least until evening Mass, since he had to go in so early." Elena wouldn't look her in the eye while babbling this strained monologue, just kept fingering her necklace and murmuring in a low voice. "I hope, that is, it looked like you had a good time yesterday."

"Yes, very, although I'd still like to see the nature trails you talked about." Catalina wasn't sure what to say to cheer her friend up, when it was clear she was worried about something beyond Enrique's work hours. "How long is your brother going to be in town, I mean Fernando?"

Elena gasped, shut her eyes, then opened them and seemed to force herself to look right at Catalina. "I don't know, he said he might stay through March, but he only has so much leave. I'm sure it won't be much longer."

"Well, of course, you'll want to spend more time with him, I understand. And after all, we won't leave until the fifteenth, so maybe we can do something that last week, if you're not busy?" Catalina mused aloud, trying to piece the dates together.

The other girl shook her head miserably. "That won't be possible. Papá wants to go back home. One of his good friends never came to visit, and he's been getting calls from the ranch, so we won't stay past Friday. We might even leave before then."

"Oh!" Catalina wasn't sure what to say, it was all so sudden. Somehow she had believed Elena would be there for as long as the Aguirres, and that they would have plenty of time to bid adios and figure out how to keep in touch. How would they possibly get together over the next few days, when she had so much work to do, and Elena would need to be with her family the whole time?

"I'm sorry," Elena murmured, reaching out a hand to her.

"It's not your fault," Catalina said, taking her hand and squeezing. "I mean, of course you have to go home, I understand. And we can still call each other, or email, I can send you my address."

Elena smiled softly, her hair perfectly framed around her face even as she brushed at some strands. "Sure, that would be great, if you like. But I thought maybe, especially after...." Her cheeks flushed the barest amount, less pink than a light tan, as if she had stayed out in the sun all the day before instead of getting stuck inside with rain. Her eyes darted away and her voice dropped even lower. "Is your brother staying for long?"

It was hard to hear with the traffic all around and the conversation nearby. "You mean, Javier?" she asked, to make sure she understood. At the other's nod, she answered, "No, he has to get on the road this afternoon. Oh, there he is!"

For Javier and Isabel were walking out hand in hand, back at peace with each other as they led everyone else through the doors. There was general conversation, a polite handshake between Señor Tilve and Tío Ruy, and just as polite a bow to the ladies from the gentleman before he pushed his daughter away.

Catalina didn't see Fernando again but assumed he had already left. The Lobos took their leave soon after the Tilves, and Isabel offered a very expressive farewell to her friends. "Please, dear, call me as soon as you can, we simply must talk!" she said, waving as she walked away with her mother and sisters.

Javier said little on the ride back to the Aguirres, and had only a half hour to eat before getting ready to leave. Catalina followed him out to the car, unsure if she should ask about earlier, or just let it go. Instead he brought the subject up. "Isabel was sick; she thinks she caught a cold in the rain when we got back from the aquarium. But she really wanted to see us again before we left. Captain Tilve gave her a ride, that's all."

"Is she feeling better?" Catalina asked, her stomach not quite settling at this explanation, even as she understood much better. Something felt odd, and she could tell Javier himself was still not happy about things, even if he had cheerfully kissed Isabel before they left.

"Yes, I think, she's taking some medicine. I told her not to push it, we could always get together some other time." He tried to sound upbeat, and threw his gym bag into the back seat. "I'm just glad Juan could spare the car for me to come down, I'd have never made it just on the bus or train. I'm going to try to come again on Saturday, but maybe not, it depends on how my classes go this week." He closed the door, locking it, then turned and pulled Catalina into a tight hug. "Please, little sister, take care. I love you very much."

"Me too," she answered at once, holding onto him as tightly. "And gracias for yesterday, it was a lot of fun. I know one day we'll all get to do something together as a family, with Isabel and Mamá and Papá."

He kissed her cheeks, smiling. "You always know how to cheer anyone up: never change that Catalina. Now don't work too hard, and keep in touch. And please, check on Isabel for me? I think she could use a friend now more than ever."

"I will, I promise," she said, and stood waving as he backed out, not going back in until she could no longer see the vehicle down the street.

It would certainly be easier to hang out with Isabel once the Tilves left, she realized when settling back into the living room, flipping through her notebook idly. Although the Lobos would be gone soon too, and after all, it wasn't as if she would be in Mar del Plata that much longer herself. Somehow it felt as if everything was ending right when it had begun.

Today's bonus blog post: a look back at Mar del Plata before the story tells it adios.

Estancia Aldea Norteña 17: La Vuelta de Tuerca

MichelleRWMarch 06, 2023 11:35AM

Re: Estancia Aldea Norteña 17: La Vuelta de Tuerca

Maria VMarch 06, 2023 04:01PM

Re: Estancia Aldea Norteña 17: La Vuelta de Tuerca

MichelleRWMarch 06, 2023 11:21PM



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