We walked together along the winding path, flanked by grass heavy with spring dew, geese waddling along the mossy banks of the lago, trees offering up on ancient boughs the crisp scent of almond blossoms.
“I think Papá is mad at me,” I ventured.
Cipriano’s eyes crinkled at the corners, the way they always did when he looked at me. “And why do you think so?”
“I did not speak much at last night’s meal. He wanted my opinion on everything, it seemed! And I had little to give.”
“You are anxious about the coming days.”
“I don’t want to leave.” I slipped my hand into his, which was rough with age; a hand that with its companion had spent much time lifted in offering or clenched in prayer. “I love my home.”
“Yes, our village, our Colina Verde, is worthy of much love.”
Nestled atop a paradise of Spanish hills, Colina Verde was my world. How could the town to which my father and I were returning—his native town, the premio de la reina—possibly know such perfection of light in the crest of dawn, or speak to the exquisite, half-imagined dangers of the dense forest below? Would ivy drape like plaits against cool stone walls; would the women allow me to scatter yellow narcissus petals across the chapel pathway?
“I don’t want to leave,” I whispered, and my ebony hair caught the wind, and spilled over my shoulder.
Cipriano’s grip tightened with affection. “Perhaps it is time to look at the world with new eyes, little dove. You are a child yet, but occasions such as these will strengthen you. You must learn to see the order of things.”
“What do you mean?”
“Consider the alder tree. In autumn it sheds its leaves and in winter stands shivering, a dead thing. Yet come spring, what do we find? The newness of life, of beginning again. Just last summer you remarked to me how tired the leaves become, a dull green wilted by the heat. They cannot stay forever on their limb, you see. They must die, to be born again.”
I blinked at the wetness in my eyes. What did the alder tree have to do with the awful move looming in so near a future?
Cipriano continued, “Our Padre in heaven created such wisdom. He allowed—tearfully, I imagine—His own Son to die, but in such an end was also a new beginning, of hope and of love. Things are very often this way.”
His gaze became distant, as though the looming series of hills were a vision of his very words. “If you pause to consider all you are losing, you miss what can be the beautiful birth of something more. Even death, the ultimate end, is but a transformation, for nothing truly dies, my Ramira.”
I would not understand his words until much later, but I listened anyway and nodded, in hopes of easing the glassiness in his faded eyes. He came around soon enough, and patted my head. “Do not fear this change,” he urged. “Before long you will not be able to recall your winter of sadness, and happiness will spring from more than memories of this place.”
“I will pray about it,” I offered.
“Yes, good. And do not worry about your father. He remembers an afternoon when you sat with him in the cool shade and spoke of everything and nothing. The bad humors of Edmundo do not last.”
He is begun anew in gladness, I thought, surprising myself. I was spending too much time with Fraile Cipriano; a girl of hardly twelve years does not own such eloquence.
We walked quite a distance, then, in silence, and I struggled to interpret his words. To imagine all that I cherished of my lovely home receding behind me in deference to new wonders as fresh as the lemon trees; as warm as Papá’s voice during prayers on quiet nights. To accept an end, and a beginning, in which I could believe.
As we climbed the final hill, a figure came into view, sitting on a low stone wall, strong and gentle, slices of apple in his hand. It was Papá, and he waved to me.
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