Her head bowed, a long black lace veil covered her head, a beaded rosary clasped in her hands. Once again, Claudia is in Church, a daily routine since she was 8 years old when she lost her father. Raised as a devout Roman Catholic, she only knows one solution to all her problems. Pray.
The day she married Javier, in a small ceremony attended only by four other people they considered as their mutual friends, it was raining very hard. It is a sign of blessings and this pleased Claudia immensely. A good omen. She glowed and smiled.
And yet, here she is again, back on her knees, praying, pleading to God to tell her what to do with her life. Seven years with Javier is Claudia's living hell. She was only 17 years old, she fell in love and truly believed that the man she married was her knight in shining armor.
It did not take long for Javier to show his true colors; she was so forlorn to find out that he drank excessively, soy un bastardo perezoso (is a lazy bastard), a wife beater, a sex addict and could not keep a job.
Now, she is back where she started. Claudia and Javier moved back to live with her mother, together with their daughter, Angelina who is a year and a half years old.
Claudia's mother, Rosario, on the other hand; has moved from one man to the next as soon as Claudia's father died. Rosario is still relatively young and quite good looking like her daughter. At 44 years old, they look more like sisters and people they meet say that all the time. It makes Claudia feel uneasy, but her mother would always delightfully giggle about it.
Rosario is now with Lucas, who must be the 5th or 6th man after Claudia's father. But they are all the same. They leave her when they have had enough of her.
Claudia can never understand in her simple mind how to reconcile what her mother tells her about faith in God and being prayerful, with her mother's seeming promiscuousness. Like Claudia, Rosario prays everyday and keeps an altar by her bedside, a crucifix and a small statue of the Virgen Dolorosa or the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. She flatly explains that the men were gifts from God. God has sent this men to her to love and in turn, they take care of her, make her happy and keep her company until she dies.
Claudia prays that someday she may understand and forgive her mother's indiscretions, because deep in her heart, she is disgusted by her behavior. Claudia truly fears that she will be struck by lightning if she ever tells anyone about her feelings. Several times, she has tried to confess to Father Francisco her evil thoughts about her mother, but she was just too scared she will not be forgiven, so she kept it to herself. She believes if she can pray the rosary three times a day, then she has served her penance well. She also prays to her brother Angelo, who died when he was 5 years old due to pneumonia. Claudia barely remembers him, she was much too young to understand what happened, the memory is a blur, she was barely 2 years old then. She believes that Angelo is an angel in heaven and is watching over her every day.
Two hours have passed and Claudia is still kneeling, quiet in her prayers. This time she prays that whatever it is that those good-for-nothing neighbors whisper in her ears are not true. Ever since they moved back to stay with her mother, the rumors began spreading across the small urban poor village they live in. Word has it that Rosario and Javier have been cheating on Claudia and Lucas behind their backs. Claudia does not know if Lucas has heard about this, and she refuses to be the person to bring it up with him. They barely know each other, and there was something about him that did not feel right to her. He was quite odd and different. The few encounters they have would be when he comes to the house whenever he chooses, goes straight to the her mother's room and never comes out. Her mother serves him food in the room. Whatever it is that they do, and however the noise churns her gut upside down, Claudia pretends she does not hear. Instead, every time Lucas is with her mother, she hums softly a lullaby to put her daughter to sleep. Often, she falls asleep with tears in her eyes.
She prays for the salvation of their souls. In spite of what he is, Claudia knows she loves Javier, after all, he is the only man in her life and the father of her child. It has been years since they made love. But she welcomes this as Claudia has never felt good about having sex. She feels dirty about it. She believes it is too sinful an act, but obliges Javier dutifully when he insisted. And this was also the best way for him not to beat her up. The people in the village call Javier a "pendejo", a "verga", a good for nothing hijo de puta. Claudia thinks that is not fair at all for them to judge her husband. She prays that God should forgive them all.
After close to three hours, Claudia slowly stands up, feels the small needle pricks on her legs and walks over to the altar to light a candle. She whispers a silent wish. She makes the sign of the cross, genuflects and leaves the Church.
Claudia walks slowly back home, clasping a brown bag of canned goods, bread and milk for Angelina. She earned a few pesetas doing laundry work for Mrs. Chavez. She was about to knock when she realized she had food with her and walked to the back door instead that leads directly to the small kitchen and dining area.
As she moved inside, she quickly started fixing the food she has bought and was about to call Angelina, when she heard soft muffled voices. She stood still. Her heart was beating so fast and her head was spinning around thinking there could be some stranger in their house. "Angelina!", she shouted in her head. She grabbed the nearest knife, and walked towards the sounds. She could hardly control her shaking but Claudia tried to steady herself, silently inching her way into the small room that was the makeshift Living Room area, and then she saw Angelina fast asleep in her cuna. Claudia sighed.
She could still hear the voices. A man and a woman, the woman, she is laughing quietly. And its coming from her mother's bedroom. "Ah, Lucas", she thought, "he's here early today".
She was about to turn around and walk back to the kitchen when she heard her mother moan, "Oh Javier ... Javier, cojeme!"
Tears welled in Claudia's eyes, her hand gripping the knife's handle tighter you could see the white in her knuckles ... then she heard Javier's voice, "Que son tan deliciosos Rosario .... uhhhmmm, tu coño esta muy dulce."
Claudia turns around, with her arm holding the knife raised above her head, her eyes glassy and filled with tears, she runs to the room and screams. A primal scream, guttural - thick, grating, like a wild animal growling.
Outside the house you hear a baby's loud bawling, like she had just been awakened from a very bad dream.