“I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but it’s far more than I require, Señor Bovio,” I said softly.
“What you require?” He smiled and looked at the bedroom and the adjoining sitting room as if I had said something quite foolish.
He shook his head. “This is where my wife was pregnant with Adan, where she spent her pregnancy. It’s only fitting that you stay here while you’re pregnant with Adan’s child.”
He paused, nodding softly and looking about the suite.
“Yes, you’ll be safe here,” he said in a voice close to a whisper. “Safer than anywhere else.”
The way he looked around that first day, with his eyes almost blazing excitement, actually gave me a little chill. I sensed he believed the room held some magical quality, believed that his wife’s spirit was still there, a spirit that he was confident would look after me and the baby growing inside me.
Belief in spirits or ghosts had always been part of our lives in Mexico. I had no doubt that even though Señor Bovio had spent most of his life in America, he still held on strongly to these ideas. I didn’t imagine it was something he talked about, especially with his business and political associates, but I could see that his faith in his wife’s continual spiritual presence was strong.
I would never criticize anyone for such thoughts. My grandmother had these same beliefs. Holding on to them as primitive and superstitious as they might seem to others, kept Abuela Anabela close to those she had loved and lost. I wanted very much to believe in spirits as strongly as she did. I especially did not want to give up my parents, and, like her, I would often talk to my mother and my father, hoping, praying, that they still heard me. Why not grant the same hope to Señor Bovio, I thought, especially now?
“If this is what you wish, señor, I am honored to occupy this bedroom. Gracias.”
The head housekeeper, Teresa Donald, who looked every minute of her sixty-three years, brought in my meager possessions, clothing, and shoes. She was about my height but stout, with roller-pin forearms. Yet she had small facial features, including thin, pale lips and very small light-saffron-colored teeth. Her cheeks were full of pockmarks. It was as if she had been caught in a sandstorm when her face was just forming.
“Don’t bring that stuff up here,” Señor Bovio told her sharply. “Find a place for it in the laundry closet. She will have new things, clean things only.”
She nodded and hurried away, avoiding looking at me, which only made me feel more self-conscious. When would they stop treating me like some divinity descended from the clouds?
“But that really is all I have, señor,” I said. “Mi tía Isabela took back what she had bought me.”
He ignored me, closed the double doors, and nodded at the sitting room. In it were two sofas, a love seat, two large cushioned chairs, a wide-screen television, a stereo, and what looked like a wine closet. The carpet in the sitting room was the same soft red color and just as thick.
I sat on one of the cushioned chairs and folded my hands on my lap. Señor Bovio did not sit. He paced a little with his hands behind his back and then stopped and looked down at me. I realized this was the first time since we had left the clinic that he actually looked at me when he spoke.
“I have hired a nutritionist, who is also a private-duty maternity-ward nurse, to design your menu,” he began. “As you probably know, pregnant women have different needs because of what the forming child requires. Her name is Mrs. Newell, and she is in the kitchen right now giving my chef instructions. She’s already purchased much of what we will require, but the preparations are also very important.”
He already had a private-duty maternity nurse? That gave me pause to wonder. Had he been so confident that I would agree to come live here that he could go and hire someone special and have her in the house even before I had arrived? And why did he say “what we will require”? Surely, he wasn’t going to follow the same diet. But I didn’t question him. I could see he didn’t want to be interrupted.
“I happen to be close friends with one of the best obstetricians in the Coachella Valley, Dr. Joseph Denardo. I know women who have come from as far away as Los Angeles to have him as their OB. He will be your obstetrician, and as a special favor to me, he will come here to examine you regularly or as he sees necessary.”
“Why couldn’t I go to his office?” I asked.
He ignored my question and continued, pacing. “I know that pregnant women should exercise, walk regularly, keep busy, and that you are used to doing household chores, but my servants will perform all the necessary duties. Besides Teresa, I have two other maids who handle the downstairs area. However, only Teresa will be up here to attend to your needs. Your room will be cleaned and dusted daily. And oh,” he said, pausing and looking at me again, “Dr. Denardo asked me if you had any specific allergies. I haven’t had time, of course, to ask your aunt, but…”
“No, señor. I have no allergies that I know of.”
“Good. You always looked like quite a healthy young woman to me, despite what you’ve just been through. Adan had described some of what you experienced living in your aunt’s home. I can assure
you, Delia, that cousin of yours, Sophia, will not be permitted within a hundred yards of this property. We will take no risks regarding our baby. The first chance I get, I’ll make sure Isabela understands that,” he added.
“Gracias,” I said. I had no desire to see Sophia. I knew that as soon as she found out what Señor Bovio was doing for me, she would choke on her envy. I had not seen her since I was taken to the clinic after my nervous breakdown at mi tía Isabela’s hacienda following Adan’s death. She surely thought that all of the events had soundly defeated and destroyed me, and I had no doubt that once she had learned I was pregnant, she had worn out the telephone gleefully telling her friends how I was to be sent home in disgrace. Now, she would once again be bitterly disappointed.
“From Adan, I understood that you were friends with Fani Cordova,” he continued. “Is that so? You know that Fani is a cousin. Her father is my second cousin.”
“Sí, señor, although I have not spoken to her since…”
He spun around, with his eyes widened in anticipation of the possibility of my mentioning Adan’s death, but I had another thing in mind.
“Since I returned from Mexico,” I added, and he nodded.
Fani had had nothing to do with me after I had been returned from Mexico with my cousin Edward and his companion, Jesse. I had talked them into taking me back to my little village, ostensibly to show them our culture and visit my parents’ and my grandparents’ graves, especially mi abuela Anabela’s grave. I was the closest to my grandmother.