Chapter 26

This entry is part 27 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Twenty-Six — Juanita

Again we headed south. “There are two ways to go,” Dick had told us, “but I would advise you to go through Veracruz. The road is much better and not so crooked.”

I will never forget Veracruz. We parked for a while near the beach and watched the ships, some moving slowly and others at anchor. As we sat languidly gazing at the giant waves rolling in, Chuck said, “Joe, our love life has gone to pot. The only gal I’ve had out since we left home is the old Señora at El Fuerte. Don’t you think it’s about time we looked up somebody to keep us company. Today is Saturday, and in this fairly big town things should be lively. A party is long overdue for us.”

“That’s the most intelligent thing I’ve heard you say in days,” I said laughing.

We shaved, showered and dressed in the best clothes we had, which weren’t much. My mind had been on gold for such a long time I hadn’t given much thought to good grooming, and Chuck had never bothered too much about it either.

We drove around town surveying different areas and considering the prospects, but had no luck in finding any unattached girls. We went in and out of bars, had a few drinks, and finally found a guy that could speak English. “Where are all the lovely Señoritas around here,” I asked.

“Señoritas? Sí! There are many of them. I will take you where there are many — beautiful and willing.”

He led us to a place that looked like a fort. It was surrounded by a great high wall and a policeman was standing guard in front of it. We went through a large patio and on into the building. In the lobby we sat down and ordered drinks. It was still early in the afternoon and we were the only customers. Several girls were sitting around sewing and knitting and chatting in Spanish. “These girls all look pregnant to me,” I said to our guide.

“Sí, Señor, we are too early for the working girls, but they will come when they know we are here.”

He was right. In a few minutes a group of girls walked slowly by us and smiled. I slipped the guide a handful of pesos, thinking he might need some spending money.

“See the three over there,” he said. “Do you like them?”

“The one on the right looks good to me,” said Chuck.

“I like the one in the middle,” said the guide. That left the one on the left for me. I shook my head. “Go get’em boys. Have fun but take them to another table. If something I like comes by, I’ll join you.”

Chuck and the guide were off. The party had begun.

I sat there in a dreary mood feeling that I’d rather be alone instead of in a Mexican whorehouse. My thoughts drifted back to Maria. I had disapproved of her for kissing Olsen. Maybe a few kisses was as far as the affair had gone. Maybe I had jumped at conclusions and condemned her unfairly. Didn’t the Bible say, “Judge ye not lest ye be judged.” I reminded myself that we have no right to judge others carelessly. Sometimes we become victims of circumstance. There is always a reason for everything we do. It may be a darn poor reason, but still it is one.

“Good afternoon, sir,” said a small voice that tore me out of my reverie.

I looked up in amazement. I must be dreaming. The girl was about five feet tall and couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds. Her golden hair hung to her shoulders and an enchanting smile sparkled from her deep blue eyes.

A blond! A blond down in this country? I stood up. “My name is Joe Parker.”

“I’m Juanita — Juanita Murphy.”

I couldn’t think of anything else to say and a juke box was now blaring out a tune, so I invited her to dance.

She was as light as a feather. The party was looking up. I’d never been much of a dancer — never really cared much for it, but now it seemed pretty swell. I kept wondering what a beautiful girl like this was doing here.

“How come you’re in a place like this?” I finally asked her.

“I was born here,” she said. “My mother was born here. This is the only place I know.”

I was amazed. Good lord, could that be possible?

I said, “Juanita, I have a camper outside. It’s a small house on wheels — on a truck. Can you go out there with me?”

“Sometimes they let me go to town, but only for about two hours. If I go with you, you will have to pay the guard at the gate.”

“How much?”

“Ten pesos.”

I took her by the hand and we walked outside. I handed the guard twenty pesos and winked. He smiled, looked at his watch, then held up two fingers.

Juanita and I drove in the Palace for several miles. When we came to a grove of trees, I parked and helped her out of the cab. Then I unlocked the rear door of the Palace, pulled down the ladder down and we went inside.

She looked around in astonishment. “Joe, it’s beautiful!”

“Sure,” I said. “It’s the Palace.” And to her it was indeed a palace.

“Would you like a drink?” I asked.

“No, I do not drink.”

I put an arm around her and she laid her head on my shoulder and began to cry. “Hold me close, Joe, hold me very close. There’s something I must tell you.”

I picked her up, set her down on my bunk, and dropped beside her. She linked an arm through mine and snuggled up to me.

“Will you listen to me, Joe? Listen for just a little while.”

“Sure,” I said. “Sure, Juanita.”

“The place where I live is a prison and not many of the girls ever get out to live anywhere else. My father planned for a long time to take my mother out and marry her, but he was drowned at sea when his ship went down. He was a fisherman, and one of his friends who managed to survive brought the news of his death to my mother.”

“My father went to the United States from Ireland, then he came here and met the girl who was to be my mother. They were very much in love, although he and my mother were never married. My mother learned to speak English, and she taught me English before I could speak Spanish. She bought many books and taught me how to read. She was a very wonderful mother. Only last year she died. ‘Someday,’ she told me, ‘you will meet a very nice American and he will get you away from here — he will take you to the United States and you will be a lady!'”

“I have studied very hard and I have waited. When I saw you today I knew my prayers had been answered. You will take me from here, Joe. You will take me to the United States?”

My eyes were stinging with sympathetic, unshed tears. “Juanita,” I said hoarsely, “I’m not going to the United States. I am going to Nicaragua.”

“Then take me to Nicaragua. Take me with you, Joe.”

I knew I couldn’t take her to Nicaragua with me, but I swore to myself that I would help her. I would get her out of the prison she was in.

She said no more for a while, but her soft fingers ran gently through my hair, and her lips were warm, moist and passionate. She was no longer a child.

“Make love to me, Joe. I want you to make love to me like you really mean it. I know you will come back for me. I know you will get me out of that prison. . . .”

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