Chapter 26 ~ Rosa’s Story Turns Joe’s World Upside Down
Rosa gripped her white cloth napkin in her right hand as if she were trying to strangle the breath out of it. She raised the napkin to her dark brown eyes and dabbed at them. She said, “I got to tell this story to somebody besides Father Tim. Father Patrick was the Pastor when I was hired. Thank God for Blessed Sacrament. They the only place gonna hire a Mexican woman even though I was an American citizen. Everybody is asking me for my papers. They all think I sneak across the border. I was born here. That makes me a good a citizen as anybody else born here.
“At first I was the house cleaner. They already got a cook. Father Patrick, he like American food, use know, he likes steak and potatoes. He hates vegetables. I tole him more than once he better eat vegetables, but he dint. You know what happened? He got a heart attack ten years later and dropped dead right over there.
“Rosa pointed her arm toward a spot on the floor in front of the refrigerator. I still can see him. Plop, that’s what it sounded like. I was doing dishes. I hear this plop and there he was. I scream but the other two priests are out. The cook is gone shopping. I’m all alone. I run to Father Patrick, he opens his eyes. I hold his hand and I start praying. He looks at me and says, “I’m sorry.” Poof, he’s gone. I know what he’s sorry about. He’s sorry about hiring that sum oh bitch, Joe Ritchee.”
“The story I gonna tell was when Father Tim comes here. He comes two weeks after I am hired. Two weeks after Father Time comes, Father Patrick hires Joe Ritchee. He got the good looks. He got the black hair. He got the dark eyes. He got the features. And, the way he moves if use a woman with any blood flowing use gonna chase him and try to land him. He knew this. He don’t have to do anything to get any woman he wants. He only got to give them the look.”
Joe thought of his mother and wondered if she felt the same way as Rosa did about Joe Ritchie. He had only taken a bite of his food. He couldn’t eat.
Rosa continued, “I’m working in the church. I can’t go flirting with anyone. Father Patrick, he doesn’t like any nonsense going on with the help. I can’t afford to lose this job. Father Tim, here, he knows how I feel. He sees me looking at Joe when Joe doesn’t know it. Joe been working here two weeks and he starts talking to me. Small talk, he tries to use Spanish, but he don’t know what he’s saying. I think it’s cute the way he says buenas dias. He says, ‘bonus days.’ Father Tim, he got the eye. He knows what Joe is doing. I’m cleaning library and Father Tim is in the library doing his sermon for Sunday and Father Tim say, ‘Rosa, can we talk for a minute?’
“I says, “chure.”
Father Tim says, “You have the eyes for Joe. I can see it.”
“I turn red. I say, ‘I don’t know what chu talking about.'”
“Father Tim, he says, ‘I didn’t enter the seminary until I was in grad school. I dated. I know the signs.”
“I says, “So?”
“Father Tim says, ‘Watch out. I don’t have a good feeling about him. Father Pat can’t see it. He thinks Joe’s a saint. He’s not and he’ll use you. I’m not going to say another word. Trust me on this one, Rosa. You’re a nice woman and you deserve better.”
“I tell Father Tim not to worry. Nothing is going on. At the time nothing was going on, so I was telling the truth. A week later, I’m in the laundry room and Joe comes in. I see him and my heart starts beating. He gives me this kind of smile I can’t describe. If I was chocolate I melt all over the floor. I’m putting clothes in the drier. He comes up behind me puts his arms around my waist and pulls me up and the next thing I know we’re kissing. It’s not long before I spending the night at Joe’s apartment. Three months later my period doesn’t happen. Joe knocked me up. Did he ever. I know I’m gonna get fired. I tell Joe. He tells me it’s impossible, I must be sleeping with someone else. That sum ah bitch. I don’t sleep around. I was in love.
“The next day Father Tim see me. I keep my back to him because I’m crying. Father Tim asks me what’s wrong. I break down and tell him the whole story. Father Tim says don’t worry, you’re not going to lose your job. He tole Father Pat and I hear them arguing. Father Tim he hollers at Father Pat and lets him know what’s the right thing to do. Father Pat gives in and he doesn’t fire me, but he believes Joe.
Tears are streaming down Rosa’s face. She stopped speaking, closes her eyes for a minute before continuing. “Eight months later two things happen, I give birth to the most beautiful baby girl use ever seen. I name her Graciaella. I love her. Joe won’t even come to see her. It’s his child. She’s got his eyes and his hair. It don’t matter because Joe leaves Blessed Sacrament.”
Father Tim interrupted. “Joe left Blessed Sacrament with the Sunday collection. One of the ushers saw him grabbing it and told me. I told Father Pat. I thought he might have a heart attack. We called the police. Joe Ritchie was caught heading toward Salina. Father Pat got the Sunday collection back but wouldn’t press charges. No one knew where Joe Ritchie went. He disappeared off the face of earth as far as we were concerned.”
“Good riddance to that piece of trash,” said Rosa.
“Rosa,” said Father Tim.
“Lo siento,” said Rosa.
“I have a sister?” said Joe.
“Yes, you got a beautiful sister. She going to graduate school at Boston College. She gonna be a lawyer.”
“Can I see a photo?” asked Joe.
Rosa smiled for the first time. “One minute. I gots lots of photos.”
Sam watched Joe and what he saw wasn’t a look of happiness that he had half-sister. What he saw was a dark look the kind he saw when human feeling is wiped away with human anger