Monday, June 7, 2010

Bon voyage, Ms. Bradstreet

In which we say goodbye to a new friend

The Maria Chronicles, #58

Maria is standing in the alcove of the church, wearing a beautiful cream-colored dress. She peers out into the congregation, surveying a crowd of friends and family. She's amazed when she suddenly realizes who's sitting in the third row: her beloved grandmother, Mamacita. Although she's not sure she should be wading into the crowd before the ceremony, she can't help rushing over.

"Mamacita! What are you doing here?"

"What do you mean, what I am I doing here? Por supuesto, estoy aqui."

"But how can that be? This doesn't make any sense -- "

"I'm always with you, mi cara bonita. Siempre."

Dumbfounded, Maria looks for her mother. Surely she can explain. But then Maria realizes that her mother is dead, too. This isn't right, she thinks, shaking her head. This shouldn't be happening this week. She needs to --

Maria realizes that it's Jack who's shaking her. "Maria? Are you OK?"

Maria opens her eyes and stares at him for a moment. He's fully dressed in black khakis and a gray dress shirt, sleeves partially rolled up. His is slicked back and his aftershave smells divine. "Bad dream?" he asks.

"Not exactly," she says, still feeling a little disoriented. "I was at my wedding with my grandmother."

"Having a flashback?"

"No, no. This was the future."

Jack chuckles. "Was this a dream or a nightmare?"

"Hard to say. I was so glad to see her. But it was so creepy, too. She's been dead for 25 years."

Jack stares at Maria for a moment, then takes a lock of her hair and wraps it behind her ear. "I guess this is kind of an intense time for you. But don't worry. I have no intention of proposing until I know you've got a good enough job to support us."

Maria reaches behind her, grabs a pillow, and whacks him with it. "Forget it, pal. I'm a ramblin' kinda gal. Can't be held down."

Jack smiles affectionately. "Well, you're not going to ramblin' anywhere if you don't get dressed soon. We have to be at the airport by 8:30. I was just coming in here to wake you up."

"How long have you been up?"

"Since about five. Needed to make a few trades on the Asian markets before they called it a day."

Maria suddenly smells coffee. She could get used to this. She struggles to sit up. Her iPad, a birthday gift from Jack, is beside her. She should check it. But Jack is fondling her.

"I thought you said I had to get up."

"You do," he says, smiling. "Just a little something to help you get going." He stands up. "The weather there today will be perfect. Sunny in the 80s here; a little cooler there. Dress light."

This is the rest of her birthday gift. Or is it her celebrate her sort-of-promotion gift? Or end of the school year gift? "They're non-refundable tickets," Jack said when he presented them to her. "I'm not going to do this often, Maria, because I know it will get your back up. But please, just this once." A tour of Spanish missions and some wine-tasting in Napa. They'll be flying in and out of San Francisco.

Maria finally puts her feet down on the floor of her apartment. I'm standing on my own two feet, she thinks as she heads to the bathroom to pee. "I won't be long," she tells Jack.

"Take your time," he says.

Heading down to the airport via Interstate 87 in her Prius, the sun almost up and Jack noodling away on his Blackberry, Maria sees the Radisson she stayed at almost a year ago after she decided to accept the job at Hudson. It's been a good year, she thinks. And now I'm ready to begin again.