Madre de Dios, he is Anglo. He does not speak my language.
The girl clasped her hands under her bowed head, slid forward to kneel on the hard wooden prayer bench, and whispered several “Ave Marías”. When she had finished, she rose from the bench and left the pew.
Amparo looked for the priest in his room at the back of the chapel. He was not there, but she found him at the front door, looking out into the square with a troubled look on his face. She touched his robe, and he turned to her.
“My Father, the Anglos are gone.”
“Yes. They will come again later. Little daughter, the young one has agreed to kneel beside you this evening and become your master. I will bless this union with him only if you wish it.” Father Gallegos pursed his lips. “There is rebellion in his soul.”
Amparo bowed her head so the priest could not see her eyes. Dearest Mary, I think it is pain.
The priest lifted her chin. “You do not agree? Tell me your heart, little one.”
Amparo looked up into the kind brown eyes of the padre. “He seems to be a good man, my Father. Although he is a stranger and an Anglo, he felt obligation to tell me of Señor Rodríguez’s death. He does not want me to be alone in a strange place. These things are good.”
“I wonder if he will accept the burden of marriage for long, my child.”
The girl looked at the priest for a long time. Without my sacrifice my papá will suffer for eternity, she thought. She looked out at the dusty square, at the women disappearing into their adobe houses, carrying their clean laundry in baskets on their heads. They all have homes, husbands, families. Amparo straightened her shoulders.
“I have come a long distance, my Father. There is nothing for me at home. I will give myself to the Anglo and pray that I will not be a burden to him.”
The priest touched Amparo on the forehead. “You are young, my child. He is young. Where there is youth, there is hope. Go now and prepare.”
Amparo bent her head and kissed the priest’s hand. Then she walked toward the tiny storage room that had become her refuge. She closed the door behind her and leaned on it.
Holy Mother, there is a stirring within me. Almost, I feel happy, almost, I feel at peace. Let this feeling lift me up and sustain me, Blessed Mary, for this night I must go to the Anglo’s bed.