Two women sat crouched beside a pond. The sun was high and strong in the sky and it beat down mercilessly upon them.
‘It’s too hot,’ Dona Flora gasped as she pulled her blouse strap down over one shoulder.
‘Don’t complain,’ said the other woman, ‘it won’t be long before the rains come.’
‘I hope Jamil takes me away from here before they do.’
‘Has he asked you yet?’
‘No,” said the other one, “but I think he will this weekend. In fact, I’m sure of it.’
‘You say that every week, Maria. Don’t you think it’s strange?’
‘It’s not Jamil. I think he worries what his father will say. I’m sure he’s only waiting for the right time.’
‘Jamil is lazy,’ Dona Flora pronounced, ‘his father owns a big factory and all he wants to do is loaf around and drink.’
‘And make love…’ Maria giggled.
‘He’s using you!’
Maria stopped smiling and asked abruptly: ‘Well then, what about you? When will you marry your darling Gabriel?’
Dona Flora turned to look after the two men in question who were now walking back towards them in the field some distance away. They were tiny dots against the purple mountain range.
Both strained to tell the two apart.
‘My father won’t allow it,’ she replied finally.
‘There are plenty of fish in the sea, you know.’
‘I will only ever love Gabriel. I can’t think of life without him.’
Maria tossed her head back and laughed in contempt.
‘Gabriel is a pauper, Dona Flora. He will never amount to much. You will always want for everything.’
‘It’s looks like I’ll have none of it anyway. My father has forbidden me to see him. If he so much as thought I was with him here today he would send me away on the first train.’
Dona Flora’s eyes moistened and she brushed a tear away.
‘You really are too much.’
‘You don’t care about love, Maria.’
‘What do you know about love? How many times has your heart been broken? I know what I feel.’
‘Talk to me in ten years.’
‘Maria, you are callous at times. You think the world owes you something. One day your looks will be gone and only the bitterness will remain. You’ll be old and alone.’
‘Nothing would please me more than a pile of guineas.’
‘Stop it Maria. You are terrible.’
‘I only tell the truth woman. Don’t you think I won’t regret marrying Jamil. Regret the hundred nights a year I’ll sleep alone while he was with another woman. Or the times he’d strike me out of guilt and shame.’
‘Why would you want to marry him then?’
‘Why?’ She stretched her long arms up over and behind her head and yawned. ‘Well, long after Jamil is gone his father’s money will remain with me. That will be my payment.’
Donna Flora looked offended. ‘I could never marry for anything but love,’ she confessed.
Maria scoffed. ‘It’s your position in life, not a dream,’ she warned her.
‘Yes, I know how you worry about your future.’
‘The future is what you make of it, Dona Flora. Don’t ever forget it!’
Maria looked up and saw the men close by. ‘Look, here they are now.’
The two women assumed a role of silence as if they had been lazing about indolently; their thoughts kept to themselves and not in collusion.
Jamil and Gabriel were laughing as they approached and the conversation seemed lively. Each of the two women wondered what was so interesting and looked at each other inquisitively.
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