A crowd of curious onlookers gathered at the jail as Nina’s brothers were brought out.
“Good riddance. Out with the trash,” the crowd jeered when Pedro and Flaco appeared. The prisoners’ bound ankles and wrists made it awkward for them to get on the wagon.
“Stand back, let them through.” One guard took special care to shelter the brothers from the angry crowd. The men were tied to the wagon to keep them from escaping along the way.
“Provecho, provisions.” Alicia noticed that this same young guard, a man she had never seen before today, slipped them bread and water for their journey. The wagon was just one part of the official convoy, escorted by Presidio soldiers. Tío Salvador’s carriage, pulled by four horses, took the lead spot. Other soldiers, workers, and that young novitiate from the Mission had donkeys to ride. Some folks from the pueblo walked behind the entourage. Alicia spotted Nina and the trapper among the walkers.
Nina, Nina. She willed Nina to look her way. Waving away years of friendship seemed feeble. Alicia forgot to bring a gift or a token for Nina beyond the bag of fruit and cheese she asked Tío to share. The trapper looked bigger than ever, standing among all the Native people. Now that Alicia knew he was an agent for the United States government, she trusted him even less than before. Nina looked like a child next to him, her head barely reaching his shoulder. He was staring at Alicia and pointing his large staff in her direction as he leaned down to speak.
Nina broke away from the crowd and approached Alicia. Was she changing her mind? Did the trapper give her permission to remain at the Ortega hacienda? Alicia wanted to grab her friend and drag her back into the days of their childhood. But Nina stood stiffly in front of her. When she looked up, her eyes were brimming with tears. The girls struggled to speak; their throats were so tight with suppressed sobs.
“I did not bring you anything,” Alicia whispered.
“Visit Masagawa. She alone now.” Nina pressed Alicia’s palm to her rounded belly.
“Girls, they are leaving!” Padre Romo called out to Alicia and Nina. He stood nearby with a boy at his side. Nina rushed back to the trapper and the long line of travelers.
“Nina!” Alicia sobbed a goodbye.
“She will make a new home and family.” Padre Romo approached and put a hand on Alicia’s shoulder. “Be happy for her.”
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