Welcome! This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, a mental break during these tough times.
This month, I’m switching things up a bit in honor of Short Story Month. Each post features an installment of my short story “Let Me Take Your Hands,” originally published in The Woven Tale Press as a prizewinner in WTP’s 2017 literary competition. Today’s installment is the ending (we made it! 🙂 ). Find the first installment here and follow the story forward up to the current post.
This is a favorite story of mine. Each installment is be paired with a piece of piano music I’ve recorded.
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“Let Me Take Your Hands” part 7
The lawyer had said it would be difficult, and indeed, it was far from easy. There were calls to law offices in Mexico in the frantic search for Consuelo’s birth certificate. There were arguments through the bulletproof glass at San Miguel, after Antonio explained to Consuelo their one desperate chance. “But Señor Antonio,” she said, still addressing him formally after so many years, “this is not right. You should not have to do this.” She assumed he could not want to, but he brushed that aside. Personal wants did not matter. There was the rapid filing of paperwork in a race against time and the legal system. Then, finally, there was Antonio’s signature, and then Consuelo’s own, on the marriage license, signed in the presence of San Miguel’s notary.
As the wife of an American citizen, with her newly issued green card, Consuelo could safely remain in the country she had chosen. Antonio promised himself that he would make sure she got full citizenship next. Once she did, the marriage, which was only a legal arrangement, could end. Consuelo could have her freedom.
The day after her release from prison, Antonio brought Consuelo and her daughter to his studio. He also brought a pair of folding chairs, so Tess could use the room’s only stool.
She sat at the wheel. After Antonio cut the clay for her, she shaped it into a ball with quick, practiced motions. Then she threw it, centering it squarely. It had taken her only a few tries to learn how.
Consuelo had never seen her daughter do this before. Antonio had found time every day, during Consuelo’s time in prison, in between arguing with a lawyer in Mexico, and carrying papers to and from San Miguel, to bring Tess here and teach her his work. He understood the kind of peace it gave her. Now Consuelo watched as Tess started the wheel spinning, wet her hands, and pressed them against the clay.
Antonio had already taught her the two basic shapes: cylinder and bowl. After her first frustration, she had quickly learned a kind of patience and meticulousness that even he, after all his years at the wheel, had never achieved. He still didn’t know how her mind worked, but he imagined her calculating how the clay should move, how to apply pressure to make the shapes she wanted. If she chose, Antonio felt sure that one day she could be an extraordinary potter. Now he watched as she pressed the clay gently out, beginning to shape a bowl.
He didn’t need to keep an eye on her. She knew what she was doing. Instead he watched Consuelo, who sat with her eyes fixed on her daughter’s confident and steady hands.
Tess made the bowl quickly. When she stopped the wheel, she looked around at Antonio. This was their signal. She didn’t yet cut the clay herself: the wire tended to twist between her fingers and he didn’t want her to hurt herself or damage the work in progress. He sliced the bowl free, set it on the drying board, and cut her another piece of fresh clay.
When he sat down again, Consuelo moved her chair closer to him. She brushed her face, as if smoothing hair away, but he saw she was crying.
She motioned at Tess. In Spanish, she whispered, “I never thought she could do something like this.”
Antonio saw the gold band gleaming on her finger. His wife. It wasn’t true, not really, only a legal convenience, but for some reason his throat hurt and he had to swallow before he answered. “She has a gift.”
Another tear ran down Consuelo’s cheek. This time, she didn’t wipe it away. No one would have told her such a thing about her daughter before. She said, “The Virgin heard my prayers. She gave you to us.”
Antonio’s face flushed. When had he and God last had anything to do with each other? If Consuelo had stayed in Mexico, if she could have had a life other than the hardscrabble one she had known, she would have gotten married in a Catholic church full of incense and flowers. Her family would have given her a feast, with drinking and dancing long into the night. Instead she was here, a barely-redeemed criminal, bound – at least for now – to an old man. What did God have to say about that? What did He ever do about the world’s injustice?
Consuelo reached out. Her fingers closed around his. “Thank you, Antonio.”
Not señor this time. Antonio found himself taking her hand in his.
She let her head rest against his shoulder. The two of them sat, listening to the hum of the wheel, watching Tess shape something new.
Musical pairing: Felix Mendelssohn, Song without Words in E Major
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