Tears in Taos 2

April 22, 2016  |  Fantasy  |  Share

Connie waited until after the evening meal. Ramon insisted on dining formally and employed a cook housekeeper who made many tasty New Mexican dishes. When the meal ended, Cook took away the dishes, and Ramon enjoyed a glass of Sangria. Connie produced a folder from under the table. She laid out the materials for her father’s inspection.

“What’s this all about?” Ramon demanded, annoyed at having his routine disrupted.

“It’s colleges, Daddy,” Connie said, flinging a long strand of hair away from her face. “I’m a senior now and it’s time to apply to colleges—those that we agree upon.”

“Why on earth should you be thinking of college, girl?”

Connie’s mouth gaped open. “Daddy, every one of my classmates is applying to college. We need degrees for our careers!”

Ramon snorted. “You don’t need a college degree, girl, to get married and start a family. Waste of money.”

“Father!” Connie cried, scandalized. “Pedro went to college, why shouldn’t I?”

“Because he’s a man, child, and you are not. He is my heir and will carry on the family name.”

“And I’m not important, therefore? All the girls in my class are preparing for college. And you can’t tell me that you can’t afford it!”

Ramon looked impatient. “It’s not a matter of being able to afford it, it just isn’t proper. Girls of your background and breeding settle into good marriages with one of their kind.”

Connie was shocked—and beginning to be scared. She hadn’t expected such a strong reaction. True, her father had always been strict with her about dating and curfews, but she’d never imagined he would cling to such a medieval attitude. “I suppose you have someone in mind, already?”

“I do,” Ramon said smugly. “I believe that you are just the right wife for Patricio Alguin.”

“Patricio!” Connie all but screamed. “He’s old enough to be my father!”

“All the more reason he’ll make an excellent husband. An immature girl like you will benefit from having a man who can guide and shape his wife into a proper helpmate.”

The yelling match went on for a while, and Connie retired to her room in tears. Ramon had threatened to lock her in there until she came to her senses, and restrict her activities to a standstill. No prom, no graduation ceremony, no socialization until Constancia realized the wisdom of her father’s plans.

While Connie was not of a scholarly bent, she was a bright young woman who had flourished during her schooling, always anticipating the day she’d spread her wings and soar into adult freedom. Now, she understood that matters were much more alarming than she’d ever imagined. It was time for her to earn her self-determination. Back at school, she looked around for champions. The clever girl found them, using a keen sense of the romantic as guidance.

The high school librarian, Miss Clarke, and Mr. Ridley were sweet on each other. They did a good job of concealing their attraction, but Connie and others had spotted giveaway signs. First, Connie asked for an after-school talk with the librarian. Sarah Clarke was frankly shocked at Ramon’s old-fashioned, paternalistic attitude; she’d met him several times and while finding him rather endearing in his Old World charm, she was appalled by his chauvinism. That such a belief should still exist in this day and age was ludicrous.

Then, Connie spoke to Mr. Ridley. He, too, was dismayed by her father’s attitude, but less likely to wish to cross swords with the formidable Mr. Valdez. Connie managed to get Sarah to plead her case, and John Ridley reluctantly agreed to arrange a meeting with Ramon.

Afterward, he admitted defeat. Not only was Ramon adamant about his daughter, but he came close to threatening to complain to the school authorities about staff interference. Ramon’s pride had been punctured by this approach from outsiders. He retaliated by keeping Connie in to miss a crucial school basketball game and rally. John Ridley retired from the encounter shaken, but quietly convinced that Connie Valdez deserved better consideration. This conviction brought him and Sarah together more. A discreet conspiracy began.

Peter Valdez received several phone calls from the high school, followed by a more emotional call from his sister. Ramon’s disregard for technological advances had allowed Connie to purchase the cell phone that all members of her generation couldn’t do without. Sarah Clarke was friends with a woman who she felt could aid the entire venture, and spoke to her.

Timing was crucial. Connie voluntarily skipped the high school prom, but did take part in school parties. She passed her finals, and received paperwork a few weeks in advance of her classmates. Miss Valdez went to the bank at differing times, always when the manager was absent. A date was set for a confrontation.

(continued next week)

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