Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Raimundo’s Choice

Raimundo’s Choice

The first of the Monterey family to step foot on United States soil was a proud Spaniard with the name of Raimundo Monterey. He came by boat along with his wife and three sons. Carlos was 16, Manolito was 14, and Miguel was twelve. It would be a new beginning. All he had left was in the few pieces of baggage and a horse he’d brought on the boat. It hadn’t been an easy trip for the five of them. What would the new world be? Raimundo tried to act confident as he led his family to the other end of the world. Texas was to be their home state. He had no idea what perils awaited. He had no idea the trials and humbling that would take place. Yet, he did know that he had to protect what was left of his family. His money in Spain could not do it. His prize Spanish Arabian Horses could not do it. He had once been the owner of the biggest horse ranch in Spain. In an effort to save his family he had taken all of his wealth and boarded the ship to take him to America. His name was Raimundo.

It means “Wise protector”

Raimundo walked quickly across the field to one of his horse barns. His long legs carried him in less time than most men. He wanted to get a glimpse at his newest Spanish Arabian colt. He was glad that it soon time to depart. This colt would follow them to the new world. The year was 1932. The political war was at an end for Spain. They had been in an ugly civil war.

Raimundo spoke only broken English. He knew he had been swindled out of the farm because of his own ignorance. He hadn’t thought to bring an interpreter. But, his friend James had promised to come with him and his family. James was an English friend that he had met while doing business with the horses. After seeing the colt being made ready for the trip to the ship, he and James shared a glass of wine.

James was a man in his forties. He was over the age limit that the country wanted for soldiers. His family had all passed away leaving him with a small purse. When he learned of Raimundo’s thoughts, he was quick to offer help. His offer had come a little late though when he heard that Raimundo had been swindled out of most of his money. Still, James felt that he and his friend could make a go of it.

Raimundo watched as his wife packed only what they could carry on the boat. “Now, don’t worry Raimundo. God is with us! This will be fine!” She had a way of smiling up at him that turned his heart over. He knew that leaving their beautiful hacienda would be difficult. It had been in his family for centuries. The Spanish Arabian horses’ history dated back to the 700’s when the Moors invaded Spain. The horses were used in Muslim wars of conquest. His family made much money from their knowledge of horses even back then. Raimundo might not understand the laws or language in America, but he knew horses.

Through James help, Raimundo had bought a small piece of land with a house. He was told the house was in need of repair. At this point Raimundo did not care what he had to do. His main thought was of the impending war that would without a doubt end up on his present doorstep. His son’s were of an age where then could be taken to be soldiers. He himself was of an age to be taken. Raimundo was not a coward. He did not want to be on the side of the Germans Hitler however. He’d had dreams of fields of dead bodies. He’d seen the Jewish star of David in his dreams. Raimundo had been raised in the Catholic church. Although he didn’t understand a lot, he had a strong impression that he was to make a choice. He chose to get his family out of Spain at this time.

Carlotta believed in her husband’s wisdom. She spent her time in prayers as well. Though she was unsure if the Lord heard her, she had kept her prayer beads at hand and said her Catholic prayers several times each day. She looked on as her three sons helped their father load the vehicle. Carlos and Manolito would do fine. Her heart was with her twelve year old Miguel. He looked so lost as he tried to help the rest.

Raimundo must have sensed it as well, he suddenly stopped and held his son close. “Miguel, we will live differently but we will live. We will be together.”

The family and James rode silently to board the ship. The horse was carried on carefully and put in a special place for animals. Raimundo had been told that he himself would care for him. Provisions had been made for food and water for the colt. This was all paid in advance by Raimundo. The family and James were on the ship within the hour and soon the ship set sail for America.

The ship smelled like rotten food at times. Miguel watched as many grew ill from the sea sickness. His oldest brother Carlos had taken sick almost immediately. Manolito kept busy by helping to clean all the mess. Raimundo put a handkerchief around Manolito, and Miguel’s face. “It might help if you don’t breathe all that stuff in as you clean it.” He said. Raimundo was proud of his son’s attitude to want to be helpful.

Carlotta was down below in their tiny quarters with her son Carlos. At one point Carlos had stopped retching but had developed a fever. Raimundo grew frightened at this. Carlotta held his hand. “We must believe that Carlos will be all right. What will fear do for us?” Her husband nodded and kept silent vigil on Carlos.

Carlos grew thin and weaker with each passing day. By the end of the week Raimundo lay prostrate on the floor asking God to save his son. The fever raged as Raimundo bathed him. Miguel came into the room and saw how tired his father was. Carlotta was asleep from exhaustion. Upstairs Manolito was busy scrubbing the decks as people vomited. Miguel reached into his pocket and pulled out some stale biscuits. “Papa, it will do us no good if you get sick as well. Who will take care of us? Here, eat these biscuits and I will sponge Carlos. You and then sleep.”

Somewhere in the haze of sleepless despair, Raimundo saw the wisdom in his son’s words. He sat down on the floor of the ship and rested his back against the wall. His eyes focused on Miguel as he held out his hand. “Thank you Miguel”, said Raimundo looked at the tired boy and the tiny cabin that they had been forced to share. There were three bunk beds. The walls were wood slats. One small hole in the wall gave them light. “Have you eaten?” Miguel knew better than to say no. “All I’ve been doing is eating Papa. I’m growing fat!” He puffed out his cheeks and was rewarded with a smile from his father.

Carlos began to get delirious from the fever. He thought he was still in Madrid. As Miguel watched in horror, his oldest brother breathed his last. “No, wake up Carlos!” he shouted. Raimundo and Carlotta stared down at the thin son on the cot. Carlos was gone. Miguel ran out of the cabin and found Manolito. “I tried Manolito, but I couldn’t save him. I really did try Mano!” Miguel never felt the arms that reached out to grab him as he fell.

The number of deaths on the ship to America totaled five. No one knew where the fever had come from. Raimundo became very quiet and reserved from the family. Carlotta became very stoic and gently tended to the rest of her family as best she could. As they disembarked from the ship, Raimundo worked mechanically to get his family to Texas.

The sight of their new home was a terrible blow for Raimundo. It was nothing more than a few boards with a tin roof. Not good enough to house his horse. James and Manolito looked around the property to see if there was another building. Nothing else could be seen on the small piece of land. The land itself was nothing but desert. Carlotta went for a walk and Miguel later found her crying near a tall cactus. “Come on Miguel, I’m all right. We must think of your father. He’s lost as much as we have. ”. Miguel took his mother’s hand and walked back to the shack.

Carlotta took the few items they had brought with them and made a home out of the little shack. There was a iron stove on one end of the shack. Carlotta scrubbed it with a stone and water. Soon it was clean enough to cook on. They had a water pump in the back of the shack. The men looked at the roof and were surprised to find that it didn’t leak. The floors were dirty, but solid. Miguel found where the old barn must have been. Some of the barn remained intact. It was mostly on the ground. “Looks like someone just took it apart and left it there Papa. I think we can put it together for the colt. There is some split rail fence around it. Come and see!” Miguel tried to sound enthusiastic.

James and Raimundo went to see what Miguel had found. James was surprised to see that the place had possibilities. “I tell you what Raimundo, I will help you rebuild this place! It’s far enough from town that we can start a ranch. Yet, near enough that we can get to the stores for supplies. This might be interesting. I have some money too, you know. Together, I think we can do this.” James looked around as he spoke. There was an old trough near by. He had planned on moving on after Raimundo learned the language better but now he felt like he wanted to stay.

Raimundo looked over at his friend. “James, this is going to take much time and work. I’m not twenty any more and neither are you. I appreciate you offer, but...”

“But nothing! We came together! We work together! We get rich together!” James slapped his tired friend on the back and walked away. Raimundo thought of the huge beautiful place that he had owned in Spain. The family fortune was lost. He was in a foreign land. He was very glad to have James as a friend. Yet, he still felt alone. Something wet nudged at his hand. His colt stood their looking at him with big brown eyes. “Well, I guess I can start by giving you a place to stay!”

The next few weeks were spent building a small barn and fixing up their home. James had to have his own room as well. He and the boys built a room on the back of the shack. It wasn’t fancy, but it was going to keep him from the rattle snakes at night.

A week later James went into town and returned with a few surprises. He had bought two horses. One horse was a Spanish mustang filly and the other was Spanish Arabian filly. James had purchased them long before he arrived in Texas. It was to be a surprise for his friend.

Raimundo stood near the barn watching silently as James walked the horses into their small barn. James smiled and said “Well? Did I do good? We now have a start for our ranch!”

Raimundo walked into the barn and stared at the horses. They were top quality and perfect for breeding. His friend had done exceedingly well. James turned around after securing the horses. Raimundo encased him in a huge emotional hug. Both men knew each other’s hearts so no words were needed.

The ranch began slowly and it took years before Raimundo could see the fruit of his labor. Manolito was a natural with his father’s horses. Soon the money came pouring in as people knew about the quality of the horses that James and Raimundo cultured.

World War II raged on and Manolito was proud to be drafted into the United States army. Raimundo felt trapped when he knew his son had to go. He’d traveled across the world to protect him and now the country was forcing him into the war. He was a tall nineteen year old man at that time. Raimundo held his son tightly at the train station. “I love you son and every day you will be in my thoughts. Each night as you look at the stars, know that I am praying for you, my precious Manolito. Please come back to me son.” It would be five years before he saw his son again.

Miguel waited his turn and hugged his brother as well. Each day the Monterey family waited for the mail. News from the warfront was hard to get. Raimundo bought a radio. Each night after the chores were finished they would sit and listen for any news of the war.

Raimundo worked hard on his horse farm. The stalls were rebuilt and the barn was stabilized. The men built a new roof over the barn. Raimundo and James had a lucrative business in the following two years. Carlotta kept the house clean and entertained her husband’s clients. The house was updated with hardwood floors and new walls painted in yellow with brown and gold trim. The parlor was added and soon the little shack became a home for the four of them. Carlotta put orange pottery out doors and planted cactus roses.

Miguel grew tall and broad shouldered. He worked hard for his father but his heart was not in horses. At the age of nineteen his mind was confused as to what he would do with his life. His father assumed he’d take over the horse farm but Miguel was not sure. He still spoke broken English and did not know how to read and write. One day while he, his father and James were in town he spotted a girl across the street. She went into a shop that had dresses in the window. Miguel asked James what the shop was for.

James explained that a young woman sewed dresses and sold them out of her shop. Miguel wanted to get a closer look at the girl. She had red hair and walked with her shoulders back as she swayed across the street. After carefully planning of a way to meet the girl he approached his mother.

Carlotta was busy making bread one morning when Miguel came into the kitchen. “What brings you in my kitchen Miguel? Is something wrong at the barn?”

Miguel loved the smell of baking bread. Sometimes his mother would add raisins if she had any. Their little kitchen was always ‘Carlotta’s kitchen” everyone said. Miguel took his hat off and began to fiddle with the brim. “I want to speak to you Mama”

Carlotta wiped her hands on the towel that she’d inserted into the waistband of her apron. She looked at her son out of the corner of her eye. “And just what mischief have you done?”

Miguel sat at the wooden table folding his hands. “Why do think I’m in mischief? If I was I wouldn’t come to you direct now would I?” he smiled at his mother. “No, I need your help. You speak English very well since Maria came to work here. There is someone I want to meet but I would look foolish without your help.”

Carlotta eyes sparkled as she stifled a laugh. “Miguel, your papa is just down the road if you want him.” Miguel sat up straighter in his chair. Carlotta handed him a glass of water.

“No, it must be you. I saw this girl from across the street. She works in a shop selling dresses. I think she sews or something. But, I can’t just go in there Mama. It’s a ladies’ shop. But, if you were to go inside with me…”

Carlotta began to laugh. “Miguel you are the sly fox! Is she pretty? Well, of course she must be or you wouldn’t have noticed her. Well, let’s see…I do need some things at the market. Perhaps tomorrow you could bring me. Perhaps I’d like to see some new dresses too!” Miguel got up and picked his mother up and swung her around. “Put me down you big bear! I do think you are taller than your papa now! Go on with you!” Carlotta shooed him out of the kitchen.

The next day Carlotta walked into a tiny dress shop with her son. Miguel’s face lit up when he saw the girl again. Carlotta spoke with the girl and they chatted for five minutes. She introduced her son and together they looked over the dresses. The girl’s name was Biddy. Biddy had come to Texas with her family. They had all died with the fever and she was thankful that she had a business sense. Her family had all been tailors. Biddy worked hard selling her dresses. She bought the finest cloth at the best prices. Carlotta found that Biddy was indeed a delight.

Soon Miguel was bringing his mother to Biddy’s shop regularly. Biddy mentioned to Carlotta that her son was very quiet. Carlotta explained that Miguel couldn’t speak English very well. Biddy was a small woman with big ideas. It was in her heart to be able to deliver her dresses to some of the bigger stores in the immediate area. Biddy looked over at Miguel who was standing in the corner as usual. “I have an idea,” she said. If your son would help me deliver my dresses to some of the other stores to sell, I could teach him to speak English and also read and write. Also, I know how to do the books and I’d be glad to teach him this end of the business as well.” Carlotta could not help admiring the girl’s spunk. It was obvious to Carlotta that Biddy liked her son, and not a little. This education for Miguel would prove invaluable. Carlotta spoke to Raimundo about this adventure when they returned home.

James and Raimundo had asked a few questions about Biddy and learned that she was a sweet woman. Some said she had a good head for business as well. She had single handedly put her little shop together. It was decided that Miguel be allowed to help Biddy with her shop.

Miguel worked hard at delivering the dresses for Biddy. He was mocked because of his speech many times. It was humiliating when he came to Biddy without the proper amount of money one day. His face was red when Biddy became angry at the amount of money he handed her. Biddy went with Miguel to the store that very night. Miguel was astonished to see the fire and smoke come out of little Biddy’s mouth that night. The owner of the store who had laughed at Miguel was embarrassed to have this girl screaming at him in front of a crowd of customers. Quickly he gave Biddy the proper amount.

Miguel thought that Biddy wouldn’t want his help any more after that. He rode home in silence. Biddy took a few deep breaths and calmed herself when she saw Miguel’s shoulder’s droop. “This was not your fault Miguel!” She put her arms around Miguel after they got to her shop. “I’m sorry I lost my temper and upset you! I just won’t have anyone make fun of my Miguel! That is why I was so angry!”

Miguel looked into the greenest eyes he’d ever seen. He smiled shyly as Biddy kept hugging him. “I’ll keep teaching you Miguel until you are smarter than me!”

For several months Miguel worked hard to learn all that Biddy could teach him. Soon he was able to speak English fluently. His talent for business astonished even himself. One evening Carlotta invited Biddy for supper. Soon Biddy was a regular fixture in the Monterey household.

Raimundo took Miguel aside one day and asked a favor of her. “I want to write letters to my son. He can read in Spanish but I can’t address the letters.” Before his father asked him Miguel hugged his father and told him he’d address the letters. “It will be good practice for me as well.”

The horse farm was prospering at a time when the stock market crashed. James mentioned to Raimundo that he was surprised at their business. Raimundo had never thought about it before but he nodded in agreement. Neither of them knew that Carlotta was praying with the housekeeper each day. Carlotta had become good friends with Maria and had become a Christian.

Raimundo would do most anything for Carlotta and when she asked him to bring her to church he complied willingly. He didn’t listen to the sermons very much as he waited outside for church to end.

Carlotta became very involved in ladies groups and enjoyed the time she spent reading her bible. She had tried to speak to her husband about the Lord but he scoffed and always walked away. Once, she had begun telling him about what the bible said and Raimundo became enraged. “I don’t need you to tell me anything! If that church stuff makes you happy, well fine. But I am a man!”

Carlotta prayed with Maria after that but she kept quiet around her husband. She thanked God that her husband prospered and was in good health. She prayed for her sons each day.

Miguel and Biddy worked well together selling dresses. Soon, Miguel convinced Biddy to sell men’s shirt’s as well. Biddy sewed clothes for the Monterey family with their own M insignia on their shirts. The Monterey family was one of the wealthiest families in the town.

It had been six months when Raimundo realized he had not gotten any word from Manolito in a while. He was quiet about it so that Carlotta wouldn’t become upset. James found him whimpering with his face in a bundle of hay one day. “Raimundo, what is it?” James was thinking that perhaps Manolito was dead and news had come.

“It’s been a whole six months since I heard from my son, James. I don’t know if he’s alive.” James embraced his friend for a moment. “I’m all right now, don’t say anything to Carlotta. I am hoping she doesn’t notice.”

Meanwhile, Miguel was working up his courage to speak to Biddy about marriage. He had noticed she never dated. The two of them had a special bond and he hoped she felt the same way about him as he felt about her.

As the two were closing the shop one day Miguel felt it was time to speak to Biddy about his feelings. “Biddy, can I talk to you before we go home?”

Biddy put her gloves on the table and waited. “Sure” she said. Miguel had been acting strange all day. Biddy knew she loved Miguel. She’d fell in love with him soon after she met him. His gentle ways and kind heart melted hers. She enjoyed watching him as he handled the huge bundles of fabric and even as he sat at the desk helping balance the books. He had become a better business man than she had been. Miguel was a sight at six foot two with the dark eyes and hair. His shoulders were so huge that he blocked out the sun when he stood in a doorway.

The air was cooler than usual but Miguel was beginning to sweat. “Biddy, I really thank you for all you’ve done for me. I’ve learned the business world and even how to interact with other business men. You have taught me so much more than the language.”

Biddy locked the front door of the shop and turned the sign to say closed. She could smell Miguel’s cologne even after a full day’s work. He smelled of sandalwood and it was Biddy’s pleasure. She turned around to find Miguel standing in front of her. “Biddy, would you consider marrying me?” Dark brown eyes met emerald green eyes. Biddy smiled wide and threw caution to the wind.

Leaping into the air she hurled herself into Miguel’s huge frame. “Yes yes yes and thousand times yes!” Miguel was so thrilled he was speechless. Two weeks later the two were married and having a party with the Monterey family!

As the wedding cake was being carried out there was a knock on the door. Raimundo answered and burst into tears. Everyone rushed to see what had happened. “Manolito, my son! my son!” It was a wonderful night! Miguel had a new bride and his brother had finally come home. Standing behind Manolito was a shy English lady. Anna was a tall willowy lady with fair skin and a quick smile. Manolito introduced her as his wife! Raimundo then asked his son why he hadn’t heard from him in so long. “I was on a secret mission and no mail could get to me or from me. I’m sorry Papa. But, I watched the sky each night and knew you were praying.”

Carlotta came to her husband and gave him a hug. “I’m glad you never mentioned it to me Raimundo. I have been so busy it never occurred to me that it’s been six months.” Turning her head to her son she asked, “How did Anna come to be your wife?”

Manolito explained that Anna was also on a secret mission when he met her. “She kept me hidden for all the time I needed. We just sort of well…” Raimundo laughed and slapped his son on the back. “Yes, you sure did!”

The evening lasted until well into the night. Miguel took his new bride to their little apartment over the dress store. Manolito took Miguel’s bedroom with his new wife.

Raimundo lay in bed thinking about both of his sons being married. It had been five years since his son Carlos had died. No one ever spoke of him. But, in Raimundo’s heart it was his fault that his oldest son was gone. If only he had done something different. Raimundo suddenly felt old. Since his son’s death Carlotta had slowly drifted away from Raimundo. They were polite but not passionate. Carlotta tended to the house but rarely spent time alone with him. James had married the housekeeper he had hired. Everyone went to bed happily. Carlotta was very happy this evening. When it came time to sleep though, she just rolled toward the wall as usual.

One evening Raimundo told his wife he was going to town with James for a while. Carlotta was confused but nodded her head. Raimundo had never lied to his wife until now. He had been quite depressed after his eldest son had died on the ship years before. He never talked about it. He had felt frightened and a failure. He was embarrassed because he still couldn’t speak English very well. His wife spoke none at all, or so he thought. Carlotta learned English from the woman her husband had hired to help her in the house.

Carlotta worked very hard at home. Raimundo would watch as her hair frizzed around her face while she was sweating. Her faded dresses didn’t hold much appeal to Raimundo. His mind drifted back to their days in Spain. Raimundo had made most women stare as he walked by. His eyes shined bright as he remembered the Carlotta of yesterday.

Raimundo looked at the coffee shop mirror at himself. He had no wrinkles at forty three. His body was muscular from the hard work he did, he also had a full head of thick black hair still. His wife used to tell him God made perfection when he was born. Now, he couldn’t remember hearing anything that was non functional. Pass the bread; I need to pay a bill, etc.

James had found a coffee house a block away from his daughter in law’s dress shop. It said coffee shop on the door but it served as a gentlemen’s club. Raimundo knew just enough English to speak to the waitresses.

The following week Raimundo made excuses to be gone for the evening. Carlotta was surprised but said nothing. Raimundo slid into the chair just as a pretty waitress with a lot of cleavage leaned over to take his order. The two made eye contact and soon the waitress was off work and sitting with Raimundo. It didn’t take long for Raimundo to begin patronizing this coffee shop once a week.

After a month of having a disappearing husband, Carlotta’s instincts grew sharp. After her husband left for another “I’ll be home later” nights, Carlotta swung into action. She enlisted James as a chauffeur. “I’d like to visit that coffee house” she said in plain English.

James was caught off guard and didn’t quite know what to say. “I guess your husband should bring you then.” He said.

Carlotta poked James in the arm. “We need to speak privately.” She down and explained her instincts to him. James was more than uncomfortable. “You either drive me to town or I’ll drive myself. If something happens to me...” James got up before she said another word.

“OH, all right I’ll take you.” He said. Carlotta smiled. “I’ll be ready in a few minutes.”

Carlotta went to her room and brought out the yellow dress she’d finished sewing. It hugged her hips and accentuated her positives. Even after three children, Carlotta had no problems with her figure. She dabbed a bit of perfume on. It was not an overpowering scent. It was a French perfume that Biddy had given to her as a present. The scoop neckline was not obscene but very feminine! Quickly she swept her hair up from her face and left some dangling down the side of her neck. She was adept at this from living in Spain and doing her own hair. Her mirror showed her face to be flushed. A small smudge of rouge and a bit of lipstick was all she wore. A quick after thought of diamond earrings and she was ready to go.

James choked on his drink as Carlotta entered the room. “Where did Carlotta go?”

“Never mind! Take me to town James. Now!” James took Carlotta to town and stood just inside the coffee shop as Carlotta strode into the room. The eyes of every man in the room were on her as she stood still and looking to the table where her Raimundo sat holding a woman’s hand.

Carlotta’s eyes moved slowly around the room. She knew many of the clientele having had them in her own home for dinner. The men were with their friends and some with their women who weren’t their wives. Each knew that Raimundo was with another woman and wondered what Carlotta was up to. They stood quietly and watched as Carlotta walked slowly to the table. Carlotta made sure that Raimundo saw her. As she neared the table where they sat, she drew up a chair from another table.

“Ahh, Raimundo this must be the woman you’ve told me so much about.” Carlotta put her gloved hand out for the woman to shake hands. Dee was stunned that this woman would pull up a chair when she was with a man. “Let me introduce myself Dee. I believe Dee is your name isn’t it?” Carlotta asked politely. She had found out much before asking James to bring her into town. “My name is Carlotta Monterey. The gentleman you are hanging on to so tightly is my husband.”

Raimundo jerked his hand away quickly as he stared unbelieving at his wife. Carlotta’s hair was blue black with soft waves. Her dark complexion was stunning in that yellow dress she wore. Raimundo could only wonder what would happen next. She looked more beautiful than he’d ever remembered her.

“Well.” Carlotta continued “I guess I should try the famous coffee from this place. I hear it’s served up with very friendly waitresses.” Turning her head she lifted her hand and signaled one of the waitresses. “I would like a cup of coffee. Two sugars and no cream if you please.” Raimundo sat unable to speak or move.

As the coffee arrived the waitress Dee, made an excuse and left the table. She didn’t need to make a scene and lose her job for Raimundo. She could get another man. Carlotta sat stirring her coffee and turned her eyes on her husband. “You need not worry that I will make a scene with screaming and crying Raimundo. There are several of your business associates in this room and I will not hurt you or your business reputation by making a scene. I will talk quietly and if you do the same, no one will hear us or think anything amiss.”

Raimundo was shocked that his wife could think of him after what she had seen him doing. He watched his wife circle her coffee cup with her index finger. She was a queen in comparison to Dee. Carlotta, with her long slender fingers and red nail polish. A gentle hint of perfume where Dee had taken a bath in it. Raimundo felt like he had just awoken from a bad dream. He compared the heavy make up of Dee’s with the natural beauty of his wife. Carlotta’s face had a slight rise in color. Her eyes needed no makeup due to the thick lashes that were evident as she looked down into her cup. She sat quietly as if nothing was happening. Her shoulders back and hair glistening in the soft lighting of the coffee shop. He wanted to run and hide from everyone because he was totally exposed for the fool that he had been. It seemed an eternity before his wife spoke. He had maintained his stiff posture barely able to breathe.

“It would appear Raimundo that I have been very negligent of my wifely roles lately. You are looking for substitutes.” She looked at Raimundo with a serious face as she sipped the coffee.

“Carlotta” whispered Raimundo. Carlotta patted his hand and said “Now husband, I wish to drink my coffee and then return home with you. There is much to say but not here. I will never embarrass you in public by making a spectacle of myself. It was not my wish to come here and hurt you either. You must believe that Raimundo. I will try very hard to never make you look bad in public. I love you too much for that.”

Everyone was silent as Carlotta exited the coffee shop without a backward glance. The waitress took a chance and touched Raimundo’s arm. He shook her off and followed his wife. James took the driver’s seat and Carlotta sat in the back seat with her husband. Raimundo’s began to shake as he sat quietly as they drove home. He covered his face with his hands and could not look at James or his wife.

When the two were home Carlotta took her husband’s hand and led him to their bedroom. Raimundo thought for sure Carlotta would scream as she did when they quarreled. He looked at Carlotta sitting in her chair next to the bed. She was very stoic when she spoke to her husband. She spoke in friendly even tones. Not once did she raise her voice. This is what she said.

“Tonight and several nights this past month you had a choice to make. You could choose to speak to me about whatever you were lacking in our relationship. You could trust me, you could be honest and faithful. You chose a whore to sit with in front of people who see me on a regular basis.” Carlotta stopped and took a deep breath as she took the pins out of her hair. She slipped her heeled shoes off and put them away in the closet. She slipped out of the yellow dress and put on a robe. Raimundo was hypnotized by her slow and gentle movements. Fear was rising in his chest. He knew he should say something but he was concentrating on not falling off the chair.

“ I know I have a part in this Raimundo. I’ve felt myself turning into a different person ever since Carlos died six years ago. We didn’t go to each other for comfort; we separated and suffered in silence.”

Raimundo looked around the bedroom as if for the first time. Carlotta had put a small bedside lamp on. The room was illuminated in soft yellow. He looked at their queen size poster bed. The bedspread had been hand sewn by Carlotta. The pattern was the wedding ring. It was beige, maroon, and gold. It looked stunning against the mahogany furniture. Pictures of their children scattered the bedside stands. Carlotta had let her hair down as she spoke to him. He seemed to see the length of her ebony black curls as if he’d never seen them. Yet, this was his wife. This room was a private sanctuary for them. Would he lose it all because of his stupidity?

“I believe that you were looking for something tonight other than a woman Raimundo. I saw your face before you saw me. You looked like a lost puppy. Somehow, I’d forgotten that you are a child inside that grown up man. Remember when I used to stroke you Raimundo? No, it was not foreplay. I’d sit with you and just stroke your face and arms. You would tell me all about what was on your mind. When did I forget to stroke you?” She seemed to be asking herself.

Raimundo knew that he was the guilty one. “Carlotta,” he began to speak. His wife interrupted him. “You know your guilt. I know that too. You are sorry, you told me all ready on the way home. I have forgiven you Raimundo.” Carlotta sat brushing her hair as if her husband were not in the room. Raimundo began to relax when Carlotta told him she forgave him. “I know that I cooked, cleaned and did the basic things a wife does. I forgot to love you though Raimundo. I forgot to make an attempt to look nice for you. I never made time for you either. “

Raimundo looked down at his feet. There was so much he should be saying but he couldn’t get past the lump in his throat. His mind was confused as well. “Why did I do this?” he kept saying silently to himself. “I don’t know what to say Carlotta. I’ll never do this again.” His voice was a mere croak as he looked up at Carlotta with watery eyes.

The room was silent for a few minutes before Carlotta spoke again. “I have heard of a young minister who counsels people in God’s way. His name is Pastor Doyle. Though we have been married many years, I thought perhaps we should get some help. Would you agree to that?”

The floor seemed to move as Raimundo tried to stand. “What do you mean? We both love each other. I made a mistake Carlotta! But, I never slept with her. Do you want a divorce?” Raimundo was getting ready to beg if he had to. His heart was beating wildly and he was having difficulty breathing steady. “I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll sleep some where else for a while.” It was a tradition in Spain of his family that when married couples fought the husband slept elsewhere until things cooled off. He didn’t think it helped but he offered it to her. “I will meet with this pastor; I’ll just get my things and sleep in the barn.”

Carlotta shook her head as her husband performed as his family had taught him. She didn’t agree with this but was uncertain how to proceed at this time. She readied herself for bed as Raimundo spread a blanket out in the loft of the barn. He’d brought a bottle of whiskey with him.

James went out to speak with him. He found Raimundo sitting on the dirt floor with his head in his hands. A half empty whiskey bottle sat propped up next to his thigh.” You have to fix this Raimundo! She will make herself sick from crying! Raimundo, where is your head?”

Raimundo lifted his head. James could see from the dim lights in the barn that his friend was crying as well. “Well, you’re the one who should be! Not her! You imbecile!” Raimundo looked up at James.

“I don’t know that word imbecile!”, he said. James answered quickly, “loco!”

Raimundo nodded, “Oh that I know. We are seeing a new pastor in town next week. Someone named Pastor Doyle. Carlotta said we need counsel.” James knew Pastor Doyle quite well. He had been out to see them when Raimundo was off having his coffee break. It was time for Raimundo to meet the young man who held so much power and wisdom.

Miguel watched his parents. He knew they were both in pain and did not know why. His mother was usually easier to talk to. That evening Miguel went to speak to his mother while she cooked dinner. “Mama, what is going on? We survived a trip from Spain only to be split up? What happened? It was Papa wasn’t it?”

Carlotta took the food off of the stove. She took Miguel’s hand and walked into the parlor. “I want to make sure you know that you have a wonderful Papa.” Carlotta began to sob and Miguel held her for a while. She got control of herself and straightened after a while. “When your brother died, I was not myself for a long time. I forget to make myself look nice for Papa. I forget to hug him and speak nicely. He grew lonely, not for family but for the wife I used to be.” Miguel tried to understand. He surmised what had happened but waited to see if he was right. “Your Papa, he went to the town and someone there paid attention to him. I found them together having coffee. I am not the one who made your Papa sleep in the barn!” Carlotta wiped her face off with her apron. “You be nice to your Papa! He was not right in what he did, but…he was lonely.”

Miguel hugged his mother. “It sounds like you forgave him all ready! Why not tell him so that he can get some sleep?”

Carlotta laughed. “Sleep? You don’t know your Papa! He can sleep anywhere!”

“No Mama! Papa has dark circles under his eyes and his eyes are always red. I don’t think he is sleeping. He wouldn’t eat but I bring the plate out to him, like you said. I sit down and won’t leave until he’s finished. I think you should go to him before he falls off one of the horses.”

Carlotta looked at Miguel. “How come you didn’t tell me sooner?” She loved her husband even though she wouldn’t put up with infidelity.

“Well, I thought it wasn’t my business. You guys never fight. I’m not sure how kids fit in when the parents fight.” He smiled.

Carlotta swatted him playfully and walked out of the house toward the barn. Biddy and Anna were in the next room as Miguel came through. Biddy went to her husband. “Just remember Miguel…I am not your Mama. If you ever do anything like that I won’t be so nice!” Miguel smiled down at his Irish wife. Carlotta was out the door and down the walk in a moment’s time. She hadn’t gone far when she heard a movement to her left. James was walking towards her. “Listen, before you say anything I need to talk to you Carlotta.”

The sun was out and it was in the nineties. James took her by the arm and led her to the horse trough. “Raimundo is taking this thing really hard. I don’t know what you two were like in Spain but I know my friend isn’t as strong as he was back in Spain. He needs you! He keeps telling me over and over what a fool he was. Do you think you can forgive him? I mean, I don’t mean forgive a pattern like this but…”

Carlotta put her hand on James’ arm. “I am on my way to talk to him now. I won’t put up with a repeat performance of this and he knows that. I forgave him and I all ready told him that.!” She looked up at James and smiled.

A cool breeze blew in and James smiled. “Thank God!” Just then Manolito came around the corner. James waved for him to come over. “You may want to stay away for a while. Your mama is going to try to fix this mess with your father.”

Manolito smiled. “Whatever happened must have been horrible and probably papa’s fault but mama can’t sleep without papa nearby. Anna and I have heard her from our room. James nodded his head. “I’m way in the back and I can hear her tears.” Manolito smiled and walked to the barn.

Carlotta walked into the shaded barn quietly. It still amazed her at how many horses they now owned and also bred. Raimundo turned glassy eyes towards the sound of shuffling feet. The perfume told him it was Carlotta.

The smell of fresh hay and horses filled the air. Carlotta was very proud of her husband. He had made some hard choices when he came to this land.

Manolito was just finishing mucking out the stalls. He had seen the way his parents were these past few weeks. “Look, I’ll finish up here. You two go for a ride or something.”

Raimundo cleaned himself up in the sink at the back of the barn. He turned around quickly as his wife handed him a clean shirt. His hands shook as he tried to button it up. Carlotta was very aware of each movement her husband made. She stood in front of him and buttoned up the shirt. When she finished she looked up at him and slid her arms around his waist. “I love you Raimundo.”

Raimundo breathed a little easier as the two of them left the barn. Rather than going for a ride the two opted to go for a walk. Soon they were out of sight and sound from anyone. Carlotta spread the little blanket she’d taken from the barn. Raimundo sat down and leaned his back against a tree. He tried to brace himself for what might come out of his wife’s mouth. His breathing became irregular and he took a deep breath to calm himself.

Raimundo spoke first. “Please forgive me Carlotta. I don’t know what else to say. We don’t need counsel. I’m afraid the pastor will tell you to leave me. ”

As the afternoon breeze cooled their faces, Carlotta explained to Raimundo that her heart was not set on division. “I want to speak to the pastor to bring us closer Raimundo. Plus, I have been going to the little bible study at this church. I want to be a better wife for you. You have no worries about divorce. Get that out of your head. In fact, this sleeping in the barn stops today. You come to our bed where you belong tonight. Do you agree?”

“I thought maybe you didn’t want me so near.” Raimundo looked down waiting to hear Carlotta dispute that. Carlotta didn’t let him wait long. She swatted him on the back.

“Look at me Raimundo. Do I look like I sleep well alone?” To Raimundo’s delight, his wife had dark circles around her eyes too.

The next day Raimundo sat nervously in the parlor with the young pastor. Pastor Doyle was just a little older than Miguel. Young Rafael sat playing with his blocks as the two men shook hands. Pastor Doyle was quite thin and all ready losing his hair at twenty one. His quick smile and easy going personality helped Raimundo to relax.

Miguel and Biddy greeted the pastor along with Carlotta, Manolito and Anna. The coffee was served and soon everyone gave Raimundo and Carlotta time alone with the pastor.

The pastor listened as Raimundo told of the past few weeks. He struggled through it emotionally but in the end the pastor got the whole story. “I’m glad to hear that the two of you are together and not having one sleep in the barn. You must love each other very much. I hear you saying you forgave each other. That is good.” Pastor Doyle reached for another scone before he spoke again. “These things are addicting!” Raimundo told him of his wife’s ability to cook.

“My wife can cook too. I’ll have to bring her around to meet you. I have twin boys about Rafael’s age. Well, let’s pray before I say anything else ok?”

The three joined hands. Raimundo didn’t know much about this but for Carlotta’s sake he agreed. When they were finished, Pastor Doyle squeezed both of their hands. I want you both to know that I do not have the experience in married life that you have. You have gone through trials that I have yet to walk through. I can only tell you what I’ve found to be truth. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the light. The bible is the inspired word of God and it can instruct us how to live a fruitful married life. But, first I need to tell you about Jesus.”

The pastor spent fifteen minutes talking about Jesus when Raimundo suddenly spoke up. “My sons and daughters inlaw need to hear this. James and his wife too. I’ll be right back!”

Carlotta smiled and said, “He’ll be right back!” Pastor Doyle knew that something was happening beyond marriage counsel. Soon the entire family was sitting listening to this young Pastor tell of the need of a Savior. He told of the God who sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of the world. He explained that no one can be good enough to enter heaven. It was only by accepting Jesus into the heart that the heart can be free. This was the day that Raimundo made a choice for his family. “As for me and my house. We will serve the Lord!”

Two hours later Pastor Doyle was getting hoarse from speaking but was totally elated to see Raimundo and his wife, along with both sons and daughter in laws asking Jesus to be their savior.

The counsel for the married couple continued for a few months after that. They discussed the loss of Carlos while on board the ship. Raimundo and Carlotta reconciled the fact that it was no one’s fault. They began to talk of their memories of Carlos with each other and with their family as well. It was a healing time.

The family began to come to church each Sunday. His daughter in law Biddy taught Raimundo, Carlotta and Miguel to read English. Manolito learned from Anna. Soon, they all had the habit of searching the scriptures for wisdom and truth.

Little Rafael quietly played with his toys and watched in wonder as his grandfather smiled while reading his bible. He climbed up on his grandfather’s lap one day and his own grandfather led him to Jesus. Raimundo knew that he had made an awful choice when he looked at another woman. Yet, to his delight he found that God had forgiven him when he asked him to. He felt lighter and even younger.

During the next few years Manolito took more of the reigns’ from his father. The Arabian horses and the Spanish mustangs made them prosperous in a time of deep depression. To help with the local economy, the Monterey family hired as many locals as possible to work for them. The family tithed ten percent of their income to Pastor Doyle’s church. God blessed Raimundo beyond what he had envisioned when he came to America to protect his family.

Ten years later Miguel felt that God was instructing him to buy a piece of property about ten miles away. It was a desert land with nothing on it. Yet, Miguel knew the voice of the Lord and bought it out of obedience. Miguel and some friends walked the land for many days in prayer. A few months later oil was found on the property. Miguel was laughing and crying all at once as he ran to his father.

“We’re rich papa! God has restored what the locusts have eaten from way back since you left Spain!” Raimundo explained to his son that this was his money and not his papa’s money!

The men stood on the desert and embraced. The sun shone bright that day. “Oh no papa! This is for both of us! Manolito loves the horses. The two of you own that farm. But this is my gift. I will share it all with you as Manolito shares the horses with you! The Monterey family is a blessed family because of the choices you have made.”

Raimundo had no idea that God would bless his sons so richly! Miguel worked hard to learn everything about the oil business. He soon had men working under him. He built a small shack on his own land for he and his family. “I promise to build you a mansion soon Biddy” Biddy laughed.

“I will have nothing less than a castle” she laughed. But, Miguel loved his wife. “Show me the mansion on paper and I’ll have it built for you.” Biddy and Miguel spent many nights with books of castles from Scotland and pictures of what Biddy would love to have. In two years the construction of their mansion began. Miguel’s father helped fund the mansion.

Young Rafael was growing fast. He grew in stature and in strength. The local school children made fun of him out of jealousy. He was in fights many times. The school had several gangs. Rafael did not rely on his parent’s faith to get by. He took matters literally in his own hands. Soon he became known as the best fighter in the little town they lived in.

Biddy did not know how to handle her son. He attracted most of the girls because of his good looks. He bore his mother’s green eyes and his father’s dark Spanish traits. He was very smart in school but he had begun to skip school to be in the gang. Miguel came home to find Pastor Doyle at his table one day.

“Hello dear friend” he called out to Pastor Doyle. “What brings you to my home?”

Pastor Doyle felt sick at what he had to tell this couple. “Rafael is in jail. He was caught in a gang of boys with guns. They had been planning to rob the bank.”

Biddy burst into tears and clung to her husband. Miguel wasn’t sure what to do. Pastor Doyle explained that Rafael had been seen many times with these ruffians. “He was beaten pretty badly once. I don’t know how he hid it from you.”

Miguel thought back to the time his son had come in late smelling of liquor. He’d thought it was odd but Rafael had said he was helping load some bottles and he fell. His son was now sixteen. He had grown taller than Miguel. He was never mouthy or disrespectful. This had to be a mistake.

“No, Miguel. It is not a mistake. Rafael needs to be away from these ruffians before he lands in a prison. He’s not been caught doing anything yet, but it’s only a matter of time.”

Pastor Doyle then told them of a Christian boys school that he and his wife were planning on sending the twins to. “They specialize in kids like Rafael. Think about it.”

Miguel became angry at Pastor Doyle. “What do you mean ‘kids like Rafael?’ You don’t know my son. Get out!” Miguel began to raise his voice just as his father Raimundo came into the room. It was a different Miguel than his father had ever seen.

The pastor left feeling more hurt than he’d felt in years. He’d considered Miguel one of his best friends. He’d hated to bring this news to him.

Raimundo gathered some of his close contacts in the next few weeks. When he had proof of the entire situation, he spoke to his son. “Miguel, you haven’t been in church these past few weeks.” Miguel shrugged. “I do have an oil business to run!” he snapped at his father.

His father dismissed Miguel’s disrespect. He knew Miguel was hurting over his son. “Miguel, I have done some investigating and what I found was quite troubling. Pastor Doyle knows more than what he told you. He didn’t want to hurt you. But, I have proof that Rafael is in deep with these gang members. They are busy with boot leg whiskey, speak easies and I won’t even go into the women who are after my grand son.”

Miguel began to shake. “What?” He sat down before he fell down. The room seemed like it was spinning. While he had been busy building his business and a mansion, his son had become distant and now a criminal. Suddenly he remembered all of the times he’d spent with his son. “I was a good father, wasn’t I?”

Raimundo sat down and accepted the coffee that Biddy offered him. “Miguel, you took your son with you as much as possible. You brought him up with the knowledge of God. But, he has to meet God on his own now, not your shirt tails. It isn’t because of something you missed that your son has rebelled. He is rebelling against God son, not you.”

Raimundo spoke hesitantly to Miguel. “I think the best thing to do is to send Rafael away to that school with Pastor Doyle’s children.” Miguel nodded his head. Miguel went to the pastor’s home that afternoon.

The pastor welcomed him inside and held him as he walked in the parlor. . “Sign him up Jimmy, whatever the cost. In fact, I’ll pay for your two children as well.” Pastor Doyle shook his head.

“Now, that’s not necessary Miguel” he started. Miguel hugged him. “You are my best friend Jimmy. When I think of how I treated you…” Miguel couldn’t go on. The two men sat for an hour and planned on how to help Rafael. “My sons are not perfect either Miguel. They have been sneaking out at night and I’ve caught them with the same gang that Rafael is in. That is how I located this school.”

Miguel felt terrible. “I’m so sorry about your boys Jimmy. I guess this is the best we can do.”

Two weeks later the papers had been signed and the train tickets were bought. The three boys were to ride together with a representative from the school. Miguel went home to tell his son. He had been let out of jail into Miguel’s custody after Miguel had explained his desire to send him to a Christian school. Miguel went into Rafael’s room. Rafael sat on the bed waiting for his father to rant and rave at him. He’d been yelled at several times in the last two years. The threats didn’t bother him any more. He knew his father was a push over. Miguel sat down quietly in a chair. “Rafael, I don’t know what to do to help you. You know how much we love you but we can’t sit by and watch you destroy yourself in this gang. I am sending you to a Christian academy up in the mountains. You will come home for Christmas and I will visit each month.”

Rafael couldn’t believe his ears. “I’ll just break out papa!” His father had been ready for this. “Well, son if you break out of this school you will have no where to go. Our home is no longer welcome to a boy who carries guns and steals. I will turn you over to the sheriff myself if I catch you.” Miguel kept his face stern and hoped to frighten his son into knowing he was serious.

“You would send me away? I hate you! You’re not my father any more! Don’t bother talking to me again!”

In all of Rafael’s sixteen years he had never seen his father look so fierce. He was suddenly shaking. No matter how many times he was beaten by the gang or got hurt in a rumble with another gang, he always knew somewhere deep down that he had his father. He looked at his father and felt that his father had turned away. Rafael was alone now.

Miguel left the room and looked at his wife as he passed her in the hall. Biddy had heard her son’s screams. Miguel sat down in the nearest chair in the parlor. His legs shaky. He closed his eyes and asked God for strength and guidance. He felt someone’s arms go around him. His father had been on the veranda and heard Rafael’s screams. Anna was coming to him from the kitchen as well. The two put their arms around Miguel as he rocked back and forth as if hit by lightening. Miguel took several deep breaths before he was able to get control of himself. No one heard Biddy as she went after her son.

“No one ever hurts my Miguel! Not even his son!” A loud slap was heard as Rafael fell to the bed in his room. “You can not see straight because you’re young and ignorant. But, I don’t care how ignorant you are, no hurts your father like that!”

The days leading up to his departure went quickly. Pastor Doyle had his wife prepare his son’s bags and he sat on the porch praying for something to say as his son’s said good bye later. Pastor Doyle met Miguel at the train. The three boys were silent as they were checked on the train. Rafael looked back at his father hoping he’d break and come running after him. But, all he found was a very serious father with a stern look of disapproval. Rafael told himself that he would not cry. He would be tough because after all he was a gang leader now. It dawned on him that he was no longer in a gang. He was put into a seat on the train and guarded with a man who looked like he was a gorilla. The Doyle twins and Rafael sat in the same row on the train. Each boy felt like they were being sent off to hell. None knew that God had a plan for them that would begin after their father’s put them into God’s hands.

What Rafael didn’t see was the tears in both father’s eyes. They hugged each other quickly and each went home. Miguel drove home stoically and kept his emotions together until he walked the path to his door. His father sat in the parlor and watched his son’s pain as he walked in the mansion. Quickly he rose from his chair and went to embrace Miguel.

“You know how close you and I are as father and son? No, don’t answer son. Let me tell you that our heavenly father holds us closer than I can hold you. You are my youngest son and I have never been more proud of you than I am on this day.”

Miguel’s sobs made it hard for him to catch each word his father spoke. Yet, he heard the best part. “Miguel, listen closely. Our heavenly father has his arms around Rafael just like I have mine around you. You’ve done all you can. You are a wonderful son, a wonderful man and a wonderful father. It’s going to be all right.”

Biddy sat in the stairway listening to her father in law’s speech. She loved her Miguel very much and listening to him cry broke her heart. She thought of the shy man who had captured her heart. She remembered what the word of God had said. “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted”.

Miguel was pleased to find a letter for him the following month. His son wrote to tell them that although the school was strict, he was doing all right. Rafael and the Doyle twins were forced to write those little notes but Miguel didn’t need to know that. In fact, Rafael had made a mess of the cafeteria the first day he was there. He’d thrown his tray which resulted in the school guard physically forcing him to clean it up with a tooth brush. It seemed as though guards poured out of everywhere at this school. The Doyle boys were having a time of it as well. When one of them had sneaked out past the guards, he was shocked to find another set of guards just outside the school’s gates. He’d been brought back and put in solitary. No one was beaten at this school. Solitary was simply a room without windows where you slept, ate and spent the whole day with no one to talk to or nothing to do. Two days of this and the boys decided it was not worth sneaking out.

The class studies kept them busy. When they were not taking tests, they were in the library doing research. This was under supervision as well. Rafael found that he enjoyed the testing. He enjoyed the history and government classes the best. He was switched to a class in criminal justice after two weeks. The teacher was stricter than the guards but Rafael was challenged enough to make the grade. The Doyle twins were reluctant to admit that they enjoyed studies of biblical analogy. Analyzing scripture and tearing it apart to fix it to their own lives was a new challenge for them. One of the boys was also learning how to communicate to others better as well. He spoke to his brother and Rafael about this course. Soon, all three boys were taking lessons in communication. When it was time for them to deliver a speech, Rafael spoke on a legal subject. He received an applause and top grade. The Doyle twins each chose a biblical theme. Rafael began to understand the bible better as he listened to the Doyle’s.

After three months the school allowed the three boys to room together. They had changed drastically without realizing it. Without the pressures from the gangs, they had suddenly emerged into the people that they wanted to be. Rafael loved to sit up night after night and study his law books, while the Doyle’s studied their bibles. Rafael studied the bible with the twins as well.

There was one night when they realized that they decided to try out prayer. At first they made a list of things like one does for Christmas. Then, they pushed the bar higher. One of the Doyle boys asked if they had courage to ask God to take over their entire lives. Each of them looked at each other. They had played together all their lives. They had been in trouble together as well. To have God take over their entire lives was not like the challenge of a difficult math test or government essay. This was a life sentence. For the Doyle boys and Rafael played for keeps in this arena.

All three boys took the challenge. They got on their knees next to Rafael’s bed and asked the Lord to take over their entire lives. Rafael asked for forgiveness of all of his sins. He asked the Lord to show him what to do from now on. The Doyle twins began to shake as they gave up their own ideas and asked God to take over. The room was silent but the boys knew that God was listening.

The first thought that came to Rafael was to tell his father how sorry he was. The boys weren’t allowed to use the phones so he sat writing a letter to Miguel that ended up to be eight pages long.

“My precious Dad, I want to tell you first of all how much I love you and am thankful that you are my father. Last night the three of us asked the Lord to take over our entire lives. It was no joke and I really meant it. We had been studying the bible for a while and decided to put what it says to the test. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.” We emptied out our ideas and asked Jesus to fill us with his.

Now I want you to understand Dad that I’m not saying I know it all, or ever will. I have asked the Lord to show me what to do next and writing to you seemed first on the list. When I think of the gentle heart and the strength of the father I read about in the bible; it reminded me of you. I’ve never seen or heard of another father who knew how to love as you do.

I miss you Dad, but I want to thank you for sending me here. I am doing well in school. I think I’d like to be a lawyer. I am at the top of my class in most subjects. I know that you have the oil business and I want to help with that too. But, I hope you won’t be upset if I become a lawyer.

It would mean I’d have to stay here another two years after the two I’m spending right now. Dad, can you come visit me? ….” The letter told Miguel that he felt that God had used this school as part of a plan for him. He talked about being in the gang and asked his father to forgive him. He told his father to tell his mother that she wouldn’t have to beat on him ever again. He would never hurt ‘her’ Miguel knowingly again.

The lamp in the parlor glowed on the pages as Miguel’s tears blurred them away. He’d read the letter over and over for hours after he’d shared it with Pastor Jimmy Doyle. Jimmy had received two almost identical letters from his twin sons. His sons had told him that they wanted to stay at the school and get their bible studies finished and then work under him at the church.

Biddy had phoned Anna and the two women praised the Lord that had worked a miracle. It was just the news that the family had needed since the death of Raimundo and Carlotta. They’d been killed in a car crash as they were driving home from a movie.

Miguel folded the letter and placed it in his inside pocket. Jimmy had said he would come with him to tell the boys. Somehow, he felt that his father was with him as he drove to the school.

Rafael and the Doyle twins were excited to learn that their fathers waited for them in the foyer. Rafael ran to Miguel like a child would run. The twins weren’t any different. The father’s arms were full as they continued to hug their sons. They were taken to a private room as Jimmy Doyle broke the awful news of Miguel’s parent’s passing. The tears flowed for a while and then Pastor Doyle took his sons away for Miguel to have privacy with his son.

Rafael showed his father around the campus with his arm around Miguel’s shoulder. “How is Mom?” he asked. Miguel smiled and said “Mom is fine and spending time with my brother’s grandchildren.”

Rafael had written it out and mailed his apology to his father but he wanted to say it in person. He took his father to a secluded area in the school. “Come here Dad, I have to tell you something.”

Miguel sat down not knowing what more his son could surprise him with. “I know I wrote and apologized but I wanted to tell you in person how sorry I am that I screamed “You aren’t my father” at you. I love you Dad! Mom is right to call you ‘precious’ because that is what you are to this family. You are a precious gift and I’ll never forget that again.”

Miguel smiled at his son. “My son, how I love you!” Miguel held out his arms and Rafael flew into them again. It was a source of contentment and healing for Miguel after the sudden loss of his parents.

The next four years were hectic with Rafael getting his degree in law. He spent each extra moment with his parents. The Doyle twins were the same way. The relationship between the immediate and both families became intense. On graduation day the Doyle family sat with the Monterey family and cheered their sons on.

Miguel grinned one day at church as he watched his son staring across the isle. Little Gracie had been Rafael’s friend since childhood. Even when he had been in that dreadful gang, he still found time for Gracie. Long blonde hair and blue eyes stared back at his son for quite some time until a smile of recognition came to her face. Suddenly Gracie bolted for Rafael with a hug and a kiss. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t recognize you. It’s been six years!”

Miguel sat back and remembered the day his father made a choice. He chose to move to America and begin again. He had led his sons and grand son to a God that few knew as well as he did. He had explained the Father’s Heart to his family. He had explained the scriptures that God had revealed to him. “The Father isn’t mad at you. He’s not some far away God that wants to punish. He wants to hold you close and love you. He wants to spend time with you. I want my family to know that I have made a choice to follow after God. It doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes. It does mean that I will go to the Father on your behalf and try to guide you in His footsteps.”

That young pastor Jimmy Doyle had come to counsel a married couple and instead opened the door for three generations to follow. Three, so far.

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