Thursday, April 03, 2008

Chapter Six: SWITCH!! Renata's Mystery Deepens

Renata's Diary

April 3, 1883

In the afternoon, after I returned to the convent from Antonie’s, Theresa and I came out to the courtyard to snap beans for dinner. We finished, but never went back inside. For a long while, we stared in silence up to the golden hillside and felt the warm wind coming down off the slope and filling us with the peaceful smell of sage and dry crisp grasses. The sprawling oak at the hilltop called to us.

Theresa disappeared briefly inside the convent and when she emerged, she held something hidden in the folds of her habit. “Come,” she commanded. She grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet and pointed to this diary.

We found the blanket in its hiding place inside the henhouse and as the afternoon sun began dropping, we lifted our habits to our knees and headed up the steep slope. All the way up, the blonde grasses -- thick and sharp as razors -- caught at my black stockings, and pricked at the skin of my calves and ankles. We panted and sweat poured and I murmured over and over, “I can’t do this Theresa,” and she laughed at me and never turned around, but said, simply, “just be quiet and keep up.”

Finally we reached the hilltop and spread our blanket beneath the beloved live oak, where all manner of speech becomes possible.

The breeze grew warmer and kept up blowing. The climb had turned our faces deep pink. I was so warm and slippery in sweat that I felt desperate to remove my veil. I didn’t. We sat in the shade, and I fingered a single dusty oak leaf, its edge prickered.

Theresa surprised me with a canteen of freshly squeezed lemonade that she’d hidden in the folds of her habit. We took turns drinking the luscious sweet liquid. As I drained the last cool drop, she told me to read.

I dropped back onto the blanket. “I’m not feeling the need,” I said. “Not today, when, honestly, this wind wipes away all of Antonie’s madness and my energy with it.”
Her plump face grew perfectly still and her eyes bore holes into me. “My dear Renata,” she said finally, “you’ve got me worried.”

I sat up and faced her. “But, Theresa, you really have no reason to worry,” I replied. “I’m saying only that on this glorious day, I can handle all of it, just that.”

She crossed her arms over her rounded bosom. “So, then, if that be true, and you have everything under control, and nothing to hide, well then let God – and me-- be witness. Read, please. I want to hear from those light blue pages tucked there.” She pointed to the place where I had so carefully folded and tucked the sky-colored stationary.

I inhaled. There was no denying Theresa. I kneeled and sat back on my knees. I read “Roseblade.” It did, in parts, bring a deeper blush of pink to my cheeks.
When I finished, I did not speak. And I tried to avoid her eyes.

“Oh Renata.” She took my hand. She inhaled a gale of air and sat there squeezing my hand so hard it felt as though she might crush the bones. “He...he is...your cousin Oh I fear he is going to destroy you with these lies for sure.”

I dropped my gaze. My heart throbbed, and my eyes sank right through the blanket into the golden grass and deeper, much deeper. I felt as low as I have felt in ever so long a time. Looking up, I lifted my chin. In defiance? I bit into my lip and said nothing.

“Yes,” I whispered. “I fear he will. But what am I to do?”

She gazed down the golden hillside, still holding onto my hand. The sun was resting on the horizon, a bright gold and orange button. Slowly Theresa shook her head.
“I don’t know that there is anything you can do, with Father Ruby aligned with Antonie as he is. I can’t see any way out. But one thing you must absolutely do.”

The deep blue sky color sailed back into her eyes. “When you go to your cousin’s side, record absolutely everything that happens. Write it all down there. Leave out nothing, not a single detail.”

I opened my mouth to speak. I wanted to say more. But then, just as quickly, I decided to say…nothing.

The two of us remained a few minutes more, until the sun sank into the lavender row of mountains rising above the Pacific. The wind coming off the sea now cooled us. Theresa pulled the blanket up to wrap around our shoulders, and the two of us sat cocooned there together, and I felt happy and peaceful, despite everything.

“Mother Yolla will be screaming soon,” Theresa said finally.

“Oh yes,” I said. “She will indeed.”

I leaned my head briefly against Theresa’s soft shoulder. The sky overhead was turning steely, so we rose and folded the blanket and quickly retreated down the hill.

STAY TUNED FOR MORE OF SWITCH!!! -- Chapter Six, "ROSEBLADE" -- coming Sunday, April 6th!!! To read the entire novel go to:

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