Part of the ‘Cazique of Poyais’ story – read more here
As they walked up the path to their house, they saw that Uncle Tito was waiting for them outside. Jose thought this could only signal good news and Noemi worried that it portended something terrible. Uncle Tito never went and sat outside so she felt this development could only be negative in the long run. Her face thus assumed a sullen mask that had Uncle Tito ask, when they were in hearing distance, “why such a face my dear Noemi? What is it that has happened to you?”
“I’m just exhausted Uncle, from work. I have been on the inside of that hospital for God knows how long.”
Uncle Tito studied her face and quickly came back with what all three knew was the obvious, “Sure, I can see you’re exhausted, but that is not the face that I’m referring to. The exhaustion is in your shoulders and your wobbling legs. A concern shines through in your face. So, out with it.”
It was not an atypical display of analysis from Uncle Tito that always seemed to get to the bottom of the truth. This ha always been the way with him since they had been in his care. No matter what small misdemeanour the twins had committed over the years, he would always know and he would read the guilt of it in their faces. Jose always thought that he and Noemi were simply too likely to feel guilt and too likely to let that guilt affect their mood. Noemi was positive it was because Uncle Tito was a bigger troublemaker in his day than either of the twins and so knew the signs to look out for and concocted this fiction of the ‘look in their face’ to justify why he was suspicious. Still, this time, Noemi thought that her face was probably an open book to her feelings and that was down to the exhaustion. So, she responded, “Right as always, Uncle. I am exhausted in my face too though. It feels that way, at least.”
Noemi paused and waited to be prompted, partially due to her exhaustion and partially because she had no interest of finding out if it was something bad that was on her Uncle’s mind. She stared at the ground for a few moments as if in contemplation before he prodded her again, “Out with it young lady!”
“I saw you outside, waiting for us. I fear that you have something horrible that you wish to tell us Uncle.”
“Hmm, I see. And do you also think this young Jose?”
Jose considered for a moment if there was an alternative answer, which he knew there was, but he followed his sister’s lead, “Yes, Uncle. I don’t know what you might say that could possibly be good.”
It was, of course, good news that Uncle Tito had to deliver, but he was going to enjoy this moment of convincing the twins otherwise. Why let them get something so easily that he negotiated hard for. He decided then that he wouldn’t say anything until one of the twins prodded him. So, he ignored the statement from Noemi with a steely face and walked into the dining room where he sat at the table. In the same seat where he had won them the key to their new lives.
Both followed grimly. Noemi was sad that she had pushed Jose over what probably would now be nothing. Then she wasn’t. There was no reason for him to skate through life thinking one thing about her thoughts without truly thinking through what she actually wants. No, she wasn’t sad. She was glad that this had brought out that argument. It was only sad as the dream would be shattered. Jose dragged a chair out on the same side of the table for himself and Noemi followed suit so that they flanked their Uncle Tito, who now had moved his head into his hands resting on the table. This was to stop them from seeing his smile. The one that was infectiously growing across his face tot he point that it could barely be hidden even with his face down.
“Please tell us Uncle,” said Jose, “we can handle whatever it is that you need to tell us.”
Uncle Tito shook his head to prolong the surprise revelation. Jose placed his hand on his Uncle’s back and said again, “please tell us Uncle. I promise that we can handle whatever it is you have to say. Is it about Daniel Perez and his deeds?”
Not being able to bear being on the sidelines, Noemi launches herself onto her Uncle’s arm and hugged it as tight as she could whilst scrunching her eyes shut with the sheer exertion of it all. She relented for a moment to say, “please Uncle,” when she noticed that Uncle Tito was not distressed at all. Quite the opposite. She had seen the smile and so she pushed away and smacked him gently on the side, much to Jose’s surprise.
Laughing, Uncle Tito apologised and then looked at Noemi. A serious grin appeared on his face as he said, “I secured everything that Daniel Perez promised when you were here and more. Do not be fooled though, it was not for free. This house will soon belong to Perez as will all of my earthly possessions. This was, in the end, a trade, not a charity by him. Regardless of how he chose to dress it.”
Both Noemi and Jose hugged their uncle tightly and Jose then jumped with joy. There was so much to do, so much to know. The moment was filled with so much joy that it felt like it could last a lifetime and it did. Though that lifetime was only very short as it was soon choked off by the looming question of how Uncle Tito would make the journey. Before they knew it, the joy was gone and replaced by a quiet foreboding of sadness locked in a gaze between Jose and Noemi.
Taking it upon himself, given that he had set this whole series of events in motion, Jose looked seriously at a Uncle Tito and asked, “uncle, the journey is long and hard, will…”
“I won’t be making the journey,” Uncle Tito interrupted him before he could ask the question, “I am too old for a new adventure and my dying on a ship out at see or in a foreign land and being a burden on you two is not my idea of a good way to go.”
“But Uncle,” Noemi protested, “you must…”
“I appreciate your desire to have me with you, my dear,” he cut her off, “but it simply will not work and I will hear no more of this questioning. My mind is made up and it has been made clearly.”
They knew it was pointless to press him. Uncle Tito was as stubborn as they come.
“What will you do Uncle?” Jose probed.
“Daniel Perez has agreed to let me stay here. I have friends, believe it or not, that can help.”
The twins were not convinced, but for the time, there was no point in pressing him. So, they hugged and went about the evening as if it was any other evening, the joy having been balanced out by pain to create a subdued and ordinary atmosphere in the household. They would have to think and address these things in the next day.