FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,

The Wedding Guitar, pt 2 (Coco)

Part One

Just picking up. Like I said, this switches mid-sentence, so I'll copy the last paragraph of the last part (underlined up to the new section). Like I said, this isn't in proper chapters, and they don't end at a sensible point, just at the time-skip point.

The master guitar maker, of course, had eventually caught on and sent her to Ceci's shop instead -- sewing was more fitting as a lady's occupation -- but she had used everything she did know to make that guitar perfect. For him. He had walked away with it strapped over his back, and was probably playing it for some other naïve girl now.

You know he is not, Imelda.

All right, that much, she knew. Hector may have had his many, many, multiple and myriad and manifold faults, but he had not fooled her, nor had he toyed with any other girl. His music was the only mistress he had ever needed.
And of the pair of them, he was the naïve one. He had always believed that things would get better for the wishing, that the world

isn't so bad, you know, Imelda?" He grinned at her, stretching out on the pile of loose cloth in Señora Ceci's studio. He wasn't supposed to be there, especially when they were alone, but Ceci had a soft spot for him, just as she had for Imelda herself, and Imelda knew that her cherished ambition was for her two wandering orphans to build one another a home.

"How can you say that?" she asked. "Half the people who made the cloth you're lying on were killed and thrown into the ocean for the sharks to eat. And don't say" -- she said before he could even open his mouth -- "that it's not so bad for the sharks."

"That was years ago," he said. "I'm sure they have new people. New people everywhere else."

This, at least was true. Huerta had been toppled last month, and now the revolution was going to finally succeed. Of course, Imelda's belief in the ability of any of those cocky generales to do anything other than preen for one another was a bit shaky. She had decided long ago not to link her fortunes to anyone's politics.

Hector rolled over onto his stomach and propped himself up on his elbows. "I made money in the square today, playing with Ernesto. Enough for food for both of us, and your brothers."

"For how long?"

"Well, a day or two."

Imelda raised her eyebrows.

"All right, a meal. But it's one that will be on the table."

"Will be?"

"Well, Nesto is going to buy the food when the market opens in the morning. I thought I'd bring food over to your house at lunch time. Maybe there will even be more. Nesto's playing in the cantina tonight. He says I'm too young."

Imelda sniffed. "Say goodbye to that money, Hector. He'll drink it. Or spend it on fancy girls."

"You should sing with us."

"I do sing with you."

"I mean in the square, for coins. It's faster than stitching." He mimed pulling a needle and thread through the cloth. "And you like it more, I know you do…" He gave her his widest grin, the one she couldn't help returning.


He pulled himself to his feet and grabbed his rickety old guitar. Imelda had tuned it as well as she could and shored it up -- Hector knew everything about playing a guitar, but next to nothing about making one -- and its sound was surprisingly good. He struck a C chord. "Come on now, Imelda, you know you want to sing… come on…
Canta tu canción libre
Querida, sabes que lo quieres
Sabes que no es imposible
Cantar mi canción de placeres…

Imelda stopped sewing. "You made that up on the spot, Hector! I've never heard it before, and I know all your songs."

He gave her a sheepish shrug. "It's nothing. Just a little rhyming, that's all."

"It's not nothing. It's good."

"You think so?"

"Do I say things I don't mean?"

"You don't think it's a little… well, placeres, you know…" He wiggled his eyebrows. "Like it's not just the song you like?"

Imelda felt her cheeks go unexpectedly hot at this, though she didn't know entirely why. "I've heard mariachis singing. I think it's a little mild to just talk about… "


The blush crept down her neck, swirled around her stomach, and settled in her lower belly. "Well, you know."

Another grin, this time sheepish, over the top of the guitar. "I've been learning to write the songs down, notes and all. Nesto says I don't have to learn to read music, or write it -- just play by ear, you can copy anything, you know? And then I can teach him new songs that way."

"But that means only Nesto gets to learn them, since you don't play for anyone else who can do that, at least not on purpose."

"Maybe somebody in the plaza can, but…" He bit his lip. "I think it's better if I write them down with my name on them, you know? So that…"

"No one steals them?"

"Well, I don't mean I think I'm so good that someone would steal…"

"You're good enough to steal from, Hector. I swear I heard one of the mariachis singing that one you made up about Ceci…"

"Doña Dulcita?" He wrinkles his nose. "I've been fixing that one, it's bad! They're not singing the bad one, are they?"

"Yes, well, don't be surprised if he says you stole it." Imelda went back to her sewing. "And don't teach Nesto anything until someone else knows you wrote it."

"Nesto wouldn't sell me out. He's been looking after me since I was nine!"

"Ceci's been looking after you. Nesto's been looking after Nesto"


"Which one feeds you, and which one belts out your songs -- wrong -- to get money for himself? You think he's singing his songs in the cantina tonight?"

"He'll give me my cut." Hector shook his head and rolled his eyes. "He blusters, but he's all right. You just don't like him because of Teresa."

"Teresa's ruined, and he didn't even care." She sighed. "I don't want to fight. Teresa made stupid choices. Nesto was her stupid choice. She was always an idiot, even back with the Sisters."

Hector seemed uncomfortable with this line of discussion, and just fiddled with his guitar a bit. He and Imelda had both been orphaned early, but their lives were very different. Imelda regretted the comment, not because she had any feeling about insulting Ernesto, but because in all likelihood, she had called Hector's own mother an idiot in the process. Not that he knew for sure. He'd been left wrapped up in a blanket in the square, and Ceci, a new widow, had found him and taken him in. After she had lost her house and ended up living here in the shop, the owner hadn't let her keep him and he been on his own, but she was the closest thing he remembered to a mother. Most likely, whoever had given birth to him had, like Teresa, made a very stupid choice and wound up in trouble. At least that was the most palatable explanation. As to a father, neither of them had a theory.

Her own memories of her real parents were barely clearer, even though she'd been nearly five when they died. She did not discuss them. It seemed unwise. Her only clear memories of life before the twins were born were of a woman who was not her mother, wearing a crisp uniform and combing out her hair while she talked about her real children. When the twins had come along, a second woman in a second uniform had joined them in the nursery. She had been cruel to Imelda, and the only thing that came through completely in her memory was being called "princesita" in a disparaging voice, just before the woman, adopting a much more servile tone, practically bowed and said, "Doña, what do you wish?"

As for "Doña" herself… a swirl of red silk, black hair set in curls, and a hand fan with a jewel in the handle. That was Imelda's entire memory of her mamá, and even that had a queer, faded and flat tone. Papá, to judge by her memory, was a tall white horse and a military boot. Of her real name, she had no idea, and did not think it was wise to go looking for the names of hacendados who had been murdered… for that was what she was certain had happened. She had awoken in the night and smelled smoke, and the twins' nanny was above her. There was a gunshot, then her own nanny had been there, and both Imelda and the twins were wrapped in a rough peasant blanket and carried out into the night. Bright fire made it seem like day. There was a stop at a rough house, and Imelda remembered having her nice nightgown taken from her and thrown into a fireplace. There were five other children, and her nanny told them, "These are your primas, Tía Luisa's babies, do you understand?" And then Imelda had been put in scratchy trousers, and her hair had been cut off. If anyone had come looking for them, she had no memory of it. Some time later -- maybe a week -- the nanny had packed them into a cart and taken them to the Sisters in Santa Cecilia. "You'll be safer here."

That night, she had first sung to the wailing twins to calm them down, and she would continue singing to the other children every night for years.

And so she, Oscar, and Felipe had been left nameless and destitute at the convent's orphan home, where they had stayed until it closed three years ago, anticipating seizure by revolutionary forces. The children had been allowed to stay in the old orphanage building, but they'd all had to find work to keep food on the tables. Imelda had tried learning to make guitars, wanting desperately to be around music. It was in the guitar shop that she'd first made Hector's acquaintance. He had been kicked unceremoniously onto the street, and he came into the shop to sing -- not in return for coins, but for being allowed to play one of the guitars for a few hours. Imelda (who had, at the time, been pretending to be a boy named Ignacio, though Hector claimed to have never been fooled), had listened in wonder as he improved every day. He was, to her mind, one of God's small miracles, able to master with no teacher what others never accomplished despite years of formal training.

He played and sang incessantly, humming even when he was meant to be doing something else, but he also sang his songs and scrounged for spare change in the plaza. He thought himself too young to sing some of the song the other mariachis played, so he started making up his own words, and sometimes his own tunes, about being a boy and doing things boys did, and the songs made the men laugh with fond remembrance, and one of them had finally given him his own guitar. As an instrument, it was garbage, despite Imelda's care, but Hector could make it sing.

Ernesto de la Cruz was a few years older, from one of the town's middle-class families. He had taken formal lessons and was, at best, competent. Unlike Hector, he reveled in singing things that were too old for him, leering and winking at older women who ate it up like candy. A disgusting spectacle on everyone's part, as far as Imelda was concerned. He'd noticed Hector early on, and apparently thought he could increase his take by letting them also be charmed by the idea of a child. In this, he was right -- he had a good idea of his audience, she would give him that. Hector thought of him as a kind of patron, who'd brought in much more money, so he could now play the provider to younger children (including Oscar and Felipe, who idolized him). Imelda thought of him as someone who took more than half the money (more like three quarters) for doing about a third of the work… and the easy third at that, just singing and charming people. Even she could do that if she tried. But Hector would hear no ill of him, and Imelda didn't want to fight. She liked being with Hector, with his crooked, silly smile and his soft voice, and the constant noodling on the guitar.

"Ceci's almost done with your jacket," she said. "You'll love it."

"I'll look like a proper musician."

"A proper performer, anyway. You always look like a proper musician."

He looked up at her, surprised and pleased, for a moment, too happy even to smile. Finally, he looked down at his guitar and said, "Thank you." The late afternoon sunlight danced through the window, and the motes from the brightly colored fabric made a kind of glowing halo around Hector and his guitar. Imelda's heart felt suddenly too large for her chest, and her eyes were hot with tears, though she couldn't have said why. She only knew that her body and mind weren't big enough to fit what she felt sometimes, like she was nothing more than a too-small shoe that would have to break open soon. Sometimes, she could imagine what it would feel like, to open herself up and let all of her feelings out. She pictured them as a sort of living light, pouring out of her, wrapping around both of them, and…

"Play something sweet, Hector," she whispered, and her voice seemed strange to her.

He fumbled on the strings -- something that almost never happened -- then nodded. He started to play, and after a moment, Imelda joined in, letting her voice mix with his guitar. He rarely sang when she did, though he knew she liked his voice. He just listened to her and played with a look on his face that resembled prayer. The song felt both very short and very long. Hector moved over to the window while he played, and the sun bounced light from the surface of his guitar.

"I like playing for you," he said when it ended.

"We like you playing for her, too!" someone shouted outside the open window.

Imelda giggled and put down her sewing. Out the window, she could see a group of mariachis. "What are you boys doing down there?"

"Worshipping at altar of your lovely voice, señorita! Come sing with us!"

"I only sing with Hector."

"Then let Hector come down, too!"

Imelda looked over her shoulder. "Did you arrange that?"

He shook his head. "Let's go down, though. Come on. Ceci won't mind if you take a few minutes, she wants you to sing. I bet she's got a pretty dress for you to go with my charro suit."

Imelda bit her lip, looked down at her sewing. There wasn't much left. She could finish… after…

"Give us a moment!"

"Oh, do you need to kiss the boy first?" one of the mariachis called, waggling his eyebrows.

"Imelda is a good girl," Hector scolded them. "She doesn't think like that."

"Speak for yourself," Imelda muttered, and this time, Hector blushed. But she didn't kiss him -- not then, that would be later, as the moon rose, and they danced a slow waltz under its soft light, and they would never look backward from then. She did get Ceci's nearly finished charro jacket. It was only missing two designs on the back that needed careful embroidery.

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