Old Stuffed Giraffe
“Mama, why do we have to go?” Scarlett asked, packing her old giraffe stuffed animal into a red suitcase.
“We’ve talked about this already, Mrs. Salvador found us a new job,” said Maria. She was the youngest of all service members at Salvador's mansion and the only one allowed to live with her daughter in the lodge on the grounds of the big white house.
“But I don’t wanna leave Dad.”
Maria immediately stopped what she was doing to look at her daughter, her face was red, filled with anger. There was just one place where Scarlett was allowed to use the ‘D’ word; outside Salvador's mansion. Otherwise, Scarlett learned it was better to use his father’s real name, Andres, especially if Mrs. Salvador was near the kitchen. Once, she got punished for calling him “Dad” while helping Maria clean the kitchen’s floor. Mrs. Salvador, who was having her evening coffee, sent her to her room for the rest of the night and revoked all her house privileges for that month; she could not leave the kitchen nor play with the dog. That was, however, the only time Scarlett saw Rosario Salvador mad because, most of the time, she was a lovely lady. She was the one that taught Scarlett how to pray and even used to read the bible to her once a week before bed.
“Would I see them again?” Scarlett asked.
“Of course bebe! Mrs.Salvador promised to visit, she will be helping with the school bills. Don’t worry, she will be around.” Maria finished folding her old service clothes and as she placed them on a tiny suitcase, she turned to look at her daughter and, with great tenderness, she wrapped her arms around her. “You won’t need to hide anymore, mi amor” Maria said.
But for Scarlett that was no consolation, she didn’t want to leave the house. Salvador's mansion had been the foundation of all the values any eight-year-old could possibly learn. And hiding, Scarlett had become used to hiding, sometimes she even enjoyed it. Especially on major events, like Christmas, when Mrs. Salvador managed to get the entire family together for dinner, including Abuela Monica and Abuelo Victor, all the aunts uncles and their children. Scarlett loved watching these gatherings from behind the kitchen’s door; she could only imagine being part of them. Yet, what she liked most about these times was that her father, Andres, came back home. He had moved to London to study three years ago, and there were only a few reasons that motivated him to come back, the main one being his mother’s insistence of having the family together for the holidays. So Andres came back home at least once a year. And sometimes, during his visits, he would surprise Maria in the small lodge late at night. That’s when Scarlett's hiding abilities were most useful -- she didn’t like the noises. Otherwise, he would sleep in his own room, which was inside the big white house.
All of a sudden a knock on the door interrupted the mother-daughter moment. It was Mrs. Salvador with a lady whose beauty was hard to ignore. They were each carrying a big canvas bag on their shoulders. Scarlett noticed that she had seen that “señorita'' before; she was the one that sat next to Andres at the dinner table the last time he was home. Scarlett recognized her for her long blond hair and pale skin. Yet, something was different, she had not gained weight but her cheeks were slightly chubbier, they had a glow that radiated warmth and happiness. Then Scarlett noticed the perfect little pregnant belly the señorita had grown.
“Dios mío, Maria!” Said Mrs. Salvador jumping off the floor and dropping the canvas bag to the floor. A big can of wall paint immediately exploded, covering Rosario Salvador entirely with baby pink wall paint. Her right hand was holding the crucifix necklace she always had around her neck, so tight that the pointy edges of the ornament were leaving their mark on her fingers.
A strange, unsettling wave crashed over the small old room. Maria and Señorita shared the same perplexed look on their faces. And Scarlett, although she could not make sense of what was happening, felt choked up for some reason.
Rosario, on the other hand, could only manage to say: “This is much heavier than I expected.”