Her Mother once told her that if she prayed hard enough The Lord would surely answer any prayer she had. So that’s what she did, she prayed and prayed. She prayed as soon as she blinked her eyes open,prayed over any meal her family shared, prayed right before bed. Always her head was bowed and hands clasped in prayer she had never once doubted what her mother had told her.
Still she prayed when the coughs her mother once waved away now rattled her whole body. Prayed when her mother's once rounded face began to sink and her once sun kissed skin turned a sickly ashen color. She fell to her knees beside her mother's bedside hands clasped and eyes squeezed shut as she furiously whispered her prayers hoping The Lord would hear her better if she speaks them aloud.
The priest leads them prayer as they lower her mother into her final resting place. It’s a small funeral with only three attendees , her father herself and the priest. It’s over before she can even finish her own silent prayers.
When they return home, her father doesn’t speak and neither does she. The silence is deafening, she feels but in truth this is the same silence that settled over the house once mother had first grown deathly ill.
Her father is the first to break the silence when he pushes himself away from the table his chair scraping loudly against the floor. The sound of his boots soon following as he makes his away across the room only to quickly return with two bottles in hand.
“Here, will help you rest easier.” He explains as he twists the lid off one bottle and slid it across to her.
“Papa, are you sure?” She asks surprised as she picks the bottle up and gives a curious look at the contents inside.
He raises his bottle in reply. “Drink away.”
That was all she needed, and together they gripped the neck to their bottles and downed them in one go. When she pulls the bottle away she sputters and hisses at the taste. Her father gives her a smile as he fiddles with his now empty bottle.
“Did we ever tell you why we gave you your name?” He asks.
She shakes her head as she watches her father stands once more to retrieve more drinks.
“I always figured it was tribute for María of Carmel.” She replies honestly adding a quiet thanks as he handed her another drink.
“Ah, yes that too but we only added that cause your grandmother insisted we can’t name you Carmen without honoring Mother Mary.”
“Our Carmen. Our song. That is what your mother said when she first heard you crying. That those tiny cries would be our Carmen for the rest of our lives.”
Her mother was dead and buried and her prayers left unanswered but her faith never wavered. She would just have to pray harder and that’s what she did.
Six months had gone by since they've buried her mother and six months since she knelt and prayed her day away but she feels as if she was thrown back in time as she kneels in front of the fireplace.
The sound of the crackling fire and her hurried prays for her father's safe return. He had left the day before, when a man showed up on their doorstep bruised and practically in a frenzy as he spoke quickly to her father pleading for his assistance at their farm.
Her father was quick to agree and for the first time since her mother's passing he hugged her tightly and pressed a kiss against her forehead and said a prayer to The Lord before his left her there.
He had said he’d be back before the sun would even set the next day and yet the sun had set and the moon was high. Her worries were high for her father never once had that look on his face before so whatever was happening it must’ve been dangerous, so she knelt and prayed for his safe return.
The clocks strikes two in the morning when she’s torn from her kneeling as the door to her home is slammed opened followed by the voice of her father.
Her prayers had been answered. She breathes a sigh of relief as she slowly stands to greet father her father, walking with a slight limp as the circulation returns to her.
“Papa, welcome home…” she trails off as her father turns only to slightly reveal the young man she recognizes from the Escuella farm.
Javier Escuella was an anomaly to her. Her father hadn’t told her much of what had happened at the Escuela farm all the weeks ago but it must’ve been bad if it left the boy quiet and to himself.
“Javier’s going to be staying here from now on. Gonna be sending money to his folks and siblings.” Was all her father had explained when they had first returned.
Carmen hadn’t minded in a strange way it was nice having three people in the house again. Javier and her father working out to tend the crops and animals while she dealt with the house work only to come in at the end of the day to share a hot meal together even if they only spoke to say their Amens before digging in.
It was a month after the arrival of Javier did things seem to change in her small home. Her father had come in from a visit to town and called for the both of them to come out to the porch.
Carmen came out worried something was the matter, Javier came from somewhere near the barn wiping at his sweat as he joined the two on the porch.
“Ta-da!” Her father cheers as he thrusts the guitar near them a smile playing at his lips. “I saw it when I was shopping at the market figured why not.”
“It’s beautiful.” Carmen breathes as she reaches out and traces some of the carvings oh so gently as if scared that it would shatter right then and there.
“You know how to play?” Javier asks amazed slightly stunning Carmen in the process.
This was the most she had ever heard him speak since his arrival.
“Yes, though it’s been awhile. I can show you how if you’d like?” Her father asks only to receive a hesitant nod in reply.
She fixes dinner while they sit on the porch and practice the guitar. Her father tells her to leave the door to the house open for she could hear the soft strum of the instrument and the soft mumble they exchange.
When the food is ready she serves three bowls of chili and takes two bowls outside. Her father is sitting on the lone chair they have on the porch guitar in his lap as he strums a few cords and Javier sits on the ground beside him legs crossed.
“Thank you, Carmen.” Her father says as he places the guitar to the side and grabs himself a bowl from her hands.
“You’re welcome, be careful because it’s going to be hot still.” She warns as she bends down to hand Javier his bowl who merely gives her a nod of his head.
When they have both their bowls she goes and retrieves her own as well as three bottles of drink which she quickly passes out when she returns. Her father holds her bowl while she sits beside Javier so she’s faced her father and arranges her skirts for she’ll be more comfortable.
“Uh, Carmen.” Javier calls softly causing her to pause as she grabs the bowl from her father.
“Yes?” She asks worried that she had forgotten something.
Instead Javier lifts his nearly finished bowl, “Thanks, it was, uh, very delicious.” He replies bashfully tucking his head in a way that caused his hat to hide his eyes.
For the first time since The Lord knew when Carmen grinned from ear to ear as she gave her own thanks in return for the compliment before she began digging in herself.
When they had all scraped their bowls clean there seemed to be a silent agreement between them all to now open their drinks. Her father holds his out towards them.
“I know I haven’t been the best of company this past year but I promise, I promise that will change for I have plans that will be sure to change this world.” Her father speaks voice proud and clear a twinkle in his eye that hasn’t seen in what feels like ever.
Carmen smiles and raises her bottles to his as well as Javier and with a resounding ‘ clink ’ they cheered, “To changing the world!”
They all downed there drinks in one swig. Javier and her father with ease and her with a loud groan as she wipes her mouth.
“I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever grow to like the taste of beer.”
“It grows on you.” Her father reassures as he stands. “Anyone want another?” He asks shaking his empty bottle.
Her and Javier echo a yes.
“I must apologize.” She jumps at the sudden break in the silence casting a quick glance over to Javier who sits hunched his arms wrapped around his knees.
“For what?” She asks quiet curious for what the boy has to apologize for.
“I haven’t been the best guest.”
“Nonsense, truly you're a good worker and even if you don’t talk much the company is still nice. With Mama gone...well things were pretty lonely with just the two of us here.”
When she glances at him she sees that his face is fully turned towards her a small smile gracing his lips, “I see, then I am glad my presence isn’t a complete nuisance.”
Before she can reply her father returns with their drinks and they each crack their own open. Her father sets his down as he reaches for the guitar and strums a few cords.
That’s how they spend the rest of the night, her father strumming a gentle song and her and Javier swaying in sync as they both nurse their drinks.
Whatever seemed to change that night seemed to change for the better.
The house was no longer riddled with silence or the creaking of its own bones now it was filled with excited chatter shared between the three of them. The mornings in loud greetings and thanks as she set the table for breakfast. Her father and Javier quick to scarf down their food for they could quickly get to work.
“Carmen, as always it was delicious.” Javier says as he pushes himself away from the dinner table to go and join her father out on the field.
She can’t help but smile at this.
After breakfast she’s quick to her own chores, dusting and changing the sheets. She washes and scrubs linens and once the sun is high she is out and hanging the clothes.
She squints her eyes against the bright light that shines upon her as she hangs her clothes.
“Carmen! Carmen!” She hears her name being called from afar and when she turns around to look where the calls coming from she is quickly greeted by the sight of Javier furiously waving over to her.
She can’t help but smile as she waves back just as furiously before they each return to their own work.
The nights though are her favorite time, as they sit for dinner each bowing their heads in prayer over their warm meal and they each talk about their day their musings, and once their bowls are scraped clean and the dishes are cleaned do they all move to the porch and they each take turns playing the guitar. The sound of the music clear and crisp when her father plays, Javier's songs come out still shaky and hesitant but her father says that’ll go away soon and we’ll as for her she prefers to listen rather than play anyway.
They play until the moon is their only light and once it’s time to head in they all wish each other a good night before they return to their own rooms.