Continued from Brave Mennonite
I froze and instantly felt sick to my stomach when I saw that it was Aaron Newdorf. He looked so much taller and stronger than the last time I had seen him. I turned around and went back upstairs, I found my way back to Paula’s room, ran to the bathroom and threw up. I rinsed my mouth, washed my face and stared at myself in the mirror again.
“What are you going to do Anna?” I asked myself.
“You can’t hide up here all night. Caramba Anna, you're so stupid, what were you thinking? You shouldn’t have come here. It's too late now, and you won't have a choice but to face him! This is not worth the trouble you will face when you get home. Deitschjat noch mol ent! I f#@*ing hate your life, Anna!” I thought out loud as the tears rolled down my cheeks.
I sat down on Paula’s bed and basked in my sorrow for a while. I took a few deep breaths, wiped the tears off my face and walked back into the hallway. I found my way back to the balcony where I had had a great time visiting with El Guero earlier. I walked over to the edge of the balcony and leaned against the steel railing. The moon shone bright, and the silver stars sparkled in the clear night sky.
“How is it possible to feel such misery in such a beautiful setting?” I thought.
The horses waved their tails, and their neighs echoed through the night sky. I imagined being a crow, and flying away. The horses’ neighs echoed my thoughts across the mountains to the last time I could remember that I felt guiltless happiness. It was a night just like this one, in Neustaedt, at my grandparents’ farm. It was before my fula had passed.
My father had gone on a mysterious trip for a couple of days. Mom dressed us all in our best clothes, and we all got to go on a city bus. The bus ride seemed very long because we got stared at so much. It might have been an unusual first for a Dietsch mom to take her children on a city bus by herself. The bus took us as far as the main highway went to Neustaedt, and we walked the rest of the way.
I remember it being a very long, dusty gravel road and that it was extremely hot that day. After walking what seemed like forever to me, we all sat down under a bush, ate tweebak and shared a Pepsi. When we finally arrived, fula, groosmama, and mom’s three youngest siblings still living at home happily greeted us with a handshake. To my surprise we ended up spending the night.
We didn’t get to visit often, but when we did, I followed fula everywhere he went. I had bee fascinated by him ever since I could remember. I always helped him with his chores. After supper, when all the chores were done, while mom and groosmama did the dishes, fula sat on his rocking chair outside and watched us play plinsa (hide and seek.) I went and hid under the windmill. I remember looking up at the moon that night and thinking that the windmill was so tall, if I climbed to the top of it, I should be able to touch the moon.
Now, standing up there on that balcony under the bright moonlight and sparkling stars, with the smell and sound of the horses, it felt like what had happened since the time with fula was just a dream. And at that moment I wished that it was. I wished that I could wake up at my grandparents’ farm the next morning as that little girl, and not have to face Aaron.
I could wish and dream all I wanted. Aaron still found me. My heart fell off the balcony when he suddenly appeared behind me.
“So, hea faschtakts du de dan? (So this is where you've been hiding?)” he asked.
Aaron went on and spoke to me in Low German.“You are so stupid, Anna! This explains why you are still going to school in Canada.”
When I turned around and looked at him, I put all my energy into hiding my facial expressions when my thoughts agreed with his words. I pretended that I wasn’t as afraid of him as I actually was after looking at him again. He seemed different, not just bigger and stronger, but his voice sounded so deep, strong, and masculine. He wasn’t a boy anymore, he was a full grown man. I began to seriously doubt my ability to fight him off one more time. I was beginning to think that I would stand a better chance against a mountain lion at that point.
“You thought by coming up here you would get away from me, but it’s perfect—up here we’re all alone, and no one will hear you screaming. You’re not so brave now without your schwenagel man by your side protecting you, are you?” he said as he took a few steps closer toward me.
Hearing Aaron talk about my dearest friend George in such a disgraceful manner, I just couldn’t stop the tears. It sounded worse because he said it in Low German.
“What is wrong with you, why can't you just leave me alone?” I asked.
“Whats wrong with me? No no no no! What’s wrong with you? Do you have any idea who these people are?”
I just stared at him.
“You are surrounded by a bunch of narcos! No one here is going to help you.Vondoag es dien toldach! (Today is your payday!) You are going to pay for what you did to my friends and me in Canada,” he explained, and took another step closer, to the point where I could see his bloodshot eyes. It looked like he was possessed by some dark force.
Just as I took a few steps back behind the patio table, I saw El Guero pulling back the patio curtain. “Here you are, Anna. I've been looking for you,” he said.
When he saw Aaron standing there and the frightened look on my face, he realized that something was wrong. He came closer to me and asked, “¿Que está pasando aqui? (What's going on here?) ¿Estás bien, Anna? (Are you okay, Anna?)”
“Yes, I’m okay now.”
El Guero stood there and observed us for a moment with a serious look on his face, his hands in his pockets. I held my breath, looked down and heard crickets for a good few minutes. I felt an unspoken communication happening between El Guero and Aaron as I lifted my head and quietly inhaled a breath of frightening air.
El Guero stared Aaron down as he made his way toward me and put his elbow out toward me again like he did before. This time I didn’t hesitate, I eagerly put my hand through and embraced his warmth as he pulled me close to him.
“Let's go downstairs,” said El Guero.
Just before exiting through the patio doors, I looked back at Aaron, and he flipped me his middle finger. I pretended that it didn’t affect me whatsoever. As El Guero walked me down the stairs again, I thought, “Okay, I am going to find my brother, and we're going home!”
The music got louder and louder the farther down the stairs we came.
“Have you seen my brother?” I asked.
“Yes, he’s outside. Let's go and join the party.”
He took me through a set of doors that led to the backyard, where people were eating, dancing, and sitting around a bonfire. El Guero lifted his right arm, snapped his fingers and just like that, a man stood before us.
“What would you like to drink, Anna?” asked El Guero.
“Ummm, you know the drink you made me the day I met you, the one with no alcohol,” I said as I scanned the crowd for my brother.
“Yes! I sure do,” answered El Guero as he turned to the man and ordered it for me.
I tried really hard just to move on and continue as if nothing had happened, but I was still shaking after my encounter with Aaron. El Guero got up and said, “Come let’s get you some food.”
Even though I wasn’t hungry, I followed him to the buffet. I put a few things in a plate. El Guero asked if he could serve me a bowl of menudo.
“No gracias, I’m not very hungry,” I explained.
El Guero noticed that I was having a hard time holding my plate because my hands were shaking too much.
“Here, let me get that for you,” he said, took my plate and carried it to the table for me.
El Guero picked up my shaking hand, looked into my eyes and said, “I will be right back.”
I quickly bowed my head, put my shaking hands together and said my mealtime prayer before he came back with his food. When I closed my eyes, I saw my mom’s disappointed face, and that’s when I experienced the deepest feelings of guilt I had ever felt. I felt like I was cheating George, Canada, my family, my entire community, and God. I thought, “If anything bad happens to me here tonight, I will deserve it for being a liar, a traitor, and idiot.”
I held my breath while looking for my brother, but when I couldn’t see him anywhere, I began to panic. I sat with my thoughts for a moment and went over what exactly had just happened—Aaron telling me that I was surrounded by a bunch of narcos. I knew that that could be true, but I concluded that Aaron was trying to ruin my night. And even if it was true, I wasn’t confused about who was the bad guy at that moment. I took a few deep breaths as George had taught me in Canada, and calmed myself down.
El Guero came back and sat down beside me again, “Are you okay, Anna?” he asked.
“I, I, can’t see my brother anywhere,” I answered in a shaking voice.
He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Look, he's right there,” and pointed him out to me. I saw him talking to my cowboy friend Javier, who looked back at me and waved.
I waved back at him and began to smile again.
“Okay,” I said, and took a relieved breath.
“Anna, I don’t know what’s going on with you and Aaron. It’s not my business, but it looks to me like whatever happened isn't good. If I didn’t know him, I wouldn’t be worried, but I do know him. I know him very well, so please don’t let that cabron ruin your night. I am sorry that I didn’t come looking for you sooner.”
“No, no it's okay. I will be okay,” I answered.
I thought to myself, “I've been through this so many times before. And this is the first time someone has asked me if I'm okay.”
I took a deep breath, turned to him and said, “Thank you!”
He just smiled and said, “If it makes you feel any better, I had my guys take him to the back to have a little chat with him. He won't be bothering you again.”
“Okay,” I said and thought to myself, “He's right, I'm not going to let that cabron ruin my only night out while I am in Mexico!”
“Okay, now let's eat. I’m hungry.”
With that conclusion, I thought, “Okay I'll stay a little while longer.”
I carefully observed El Guero as he ate. I reminded myself not to stare, but I couldn’t help it. I thought to myself, “He even eats differently; how can he eat soup without making schlurpsing sounds?” It took my mind off of Aaron, and I began to enjoy myself again.
“What time is it? I asked El Guero. He took a napkin, wiped his perfectly trimmed mustache, and cleaned his hands before he touched his shiny gold watch.
“It's eleven thirty-five and time for you to dance with me.”
“You do know that menonas can’t dance, right?”
I was carefully avoiding his eyes. He threw his napkin down onto his plate, turned to me and said, “Yes, I do! No te preocupes querida (Not to worry, my dear). I will guide you.”
He put his hand under my chin pulled my face up, so I had to look at him. He rubbed my chin with his thumb and said, “Anna, this is not going to be about whether you can dance or not.”
“Okay,” I said, and one butterfly came back to life in my stomach as I pictured myself in his arms, pretending to dance.
He put his hand out to help me up and led me through the crowd to where it was a bit darker. He turned to face me, carefully placed his hand on my back, slid his hand down to my waist and tugged me right up close to him. When he pressed his cheek against mine and whispered in my ear, “Okay, Anna, just relax and follow my lead,” a few more butterflies began dancing their way back to life in my stomach.
A new song started, and he began gently and carefully moving me around as if I were made of glass and he didn't want to break me. He held me so close that I could feel his heartbeat through my shirt. My Low German thoughts started with all the “Anna, you shouldn’t be doing this!” nonsense, but I shut them down and forced my thoughts to just be in the moment, and embraced his comfort.