“Be careful, you shouldn’t go to that village alone.” Clara’s words were muffled. She helped Maria with a sewing project and held extra hooks and pins in her mouth.
“I’ll be back before twilight.” Alicia noticed her sister picking up a lot of motherly mannerisms, the longer she worked with Maria Rodriguez. “Good luck with the curtains.” Alicia was no longer a baby. She could visit Masagawa all by herself.
Near the village, Alicia expected to hear the Native children playing by the stream or among the trees. She noticed very little noise besides the birds and breeze in the oaks. The creak of a wooden wagon startled her.
“Alicia Ortega, is that you?” Private Valdez, used to seeing Alicia in her grubby dock clothes, did not recognize her. Her beauty surprised him.
“Private, you gave me a fright.” Alicia noticed a rifle and a shovel in the back of his wagon. “I’m visiting my friend’s grandma. Everything seems so silent here. What are you doing here?” Valdez looked at the Native land he had been ordered to clear, then back at Alicia.
“I think you are in the wrong spot. There’s no one out here.”
“You’re new to our territory, Private. I’ve lived here all my life and I’m telling you there’s a friend, a healer by the name of Masagawa, who lives here.” Alicia sped up her steps. He may be handsome, but he was not very smart.
“Señorita Ortega, stop. There is no village here, not anymore.” Manuel got down from his wagon and caught up with Alicia. “I’ve been here all week on cleanup duty.” He gently broke his news. “I know you are talking about the old woman.”
“Her name is Masagawa. She’s a healer, I tell you!” Alicia’s patience grew thin.
“But she’s the one whose grandsons burned the Mission. They were tried and sent off to do hard labor in Monterey. Right?”
“It was all a mistake.” Alicia stared at him in disbelief. “Where is she? Is she okay?” Then she realized what he’d said, and why he carried a rifle and shovel. “Cleanup duty? What is that?”
“Just calm down. I’m sure she’s fine. She left with the rest of them. The Mission is going to cultivate this space. They need the land.” Valdez noticed Alicia did not appear so attractive when she became angry.
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