“We must talk…” Sparrow turned to Aunt Alicia, wishing she had spoken about Papa’s plans earlier. Why had she waited so long? She looked toward the trunk, and then rethought her situation. Mama always said, to form a wise decision; look north, south, east, and west. As Clara went to toss the pink dress into the trunk, Sparrow said, “No, wait, maybe I can try it on.”
Sparrow reconsidered her possibilities. She kept this secret for Papa, and so far, she had resisted telling Josefina or anyone. There must be a reason. Sister Placida did not know about Papa’s plans and did not suspect Sparrow had a secret. Clara had said the governor and foreign officers were attending her party on Saturday at the hacienda. Then, Sparrow realized she could save Governor Alvarado and keep Papa from getting into trouble at the same time.
“What mischief are you cooking up?” Clara looked at Sparrow as if she suspected she was hiding something, then gave her the pink dress. “Be quick about it. I’ll need your help on Saturday night. Many powerful men will attend.” Clara repacked her trunk.
“Never you mind about Clara and her so-called powerful men. I remember when I met Sergeant Valdez, he was a lowly private. Now look at him.” Alicia and Sparrow moved to the shady seat in the courtyard where Alicia regularly met with her beau, Sergeant Valdez. The yellow birds chirped in their cages, and the sweet aromas of fragrant flowers permeated the air.
“Some girls at school wonder why you two haven’t married.” Adults were a mystery to Sparrow.
“He has his work with the government, and I have mine at the school. There will be time for all that.” Neither Aunt Alicia’s response nor the tranquil setting calmed Sparrow. Her heart pounded as she tried to decide if she should share Papa’s secret.
“But what if there’s no time? What if everything changes?” Sparrow looked at the birds but imagined she was considering all four directions to determine the best course of action.
“So many worries in such a young head. I know you are excited about the possibility of becoming a nun. Sister Placida’s invitation was a genuine compliment to you,” Aunt Alicia replied, not knowing what truly worried Sparrow. “Let’s just sit here for a while. We can tell your mama together.”
Sparrow wrung her hands, her eyes wide with fear.
Alicia plucked one of the nearby blooms, a lilac flower, and pressed it into Sparrow’s sweaty palm. “I understand your life is difficult. Growing up is never easy, but joining the nuns’ order may be the answer to all your problems.”
What was the best alternative to Sparrow to explaining Papa’s secret? Would Alicia listen to what she needed to say? In that moment, Sparrow decided. Instead of sharing Papa’s news, she would ask Aunt Alicia about a different difficult topic that bothered her. “Who is that new, yellow-haired American girl in class?”
Alicia shifted in her seat, turning her face away from Sparrow. They both knew the answer: Helen was Papa’s American daughter, Sparrow’s half-sister.
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