August Guadalajara, Mexico
She laid wood on the fire. The morning sun was just beginning to light the countryside that surrounded Guada¬lajara. It wouldn't be long before daylight awakened her children sleeping under the tarp that stretched across the lowest branches of the jacaranda tree. She placed the rusted barrel lid across the stones, just above the flames, and patted tortilla dough between her palms. Her lips moved in silent prayer as she cooked. She prayed and listened, waiting for the whisper of the wind. One by one she laid the tortillas on the lid. When both sides were lightly browned, she took them from the fire, putting the best ones on a worn cloth to her right, the others on a tin platter to her left. This was the day and the hour. She'd known it would come, as it had before, as it would again. First it had been her husband, now it was her oldest son. Soon it would be his brother. The birth of each of her ten children was a bless¬ing and a curse, the joy they brought her allowed only for a measured time. Each would learn what she had learned as a child, there would never be enough food or enough work or enough money to care for the family. There was only the border and the coyotes who knew about the tunnels and passes where a Mexican could run and crawl and hide, straining toward that desperate hope to the north.
The woman reached to her right, carefully folding the faded cloth around the pile of tortillas to form a sack. She knotted the top. Hearing footsteps, she turned. It was her oldest son.
"Vaya con Dios, mi hijo," she said. If God heard her prayers, the boy would find favor on his journey. She listened again for the whispering wind.
He was tall, like his great-grandfather. The boy's black hair, broad shoulders, and square jaw were the only rem¬nant of the Aztec royalty that was his heritage. He bent and kissed her cheek, took the sack, and put it under his arm. There was nothing to say. They both knew he must go. It would be days of walking and, with luck, some days of riding. Whatever it took, he must get to the border and find the coyotes who could take him to America.
She watched him turn and walk down the dusty road, leaving his country, his family, and his life behind. He was proud to be the first son to go, not for himself but for them. He would send them whatever money he made, and maybe someday he would find a way to come back. But she was not sure of his fate. Others had left the fields and never returned. She fingered the primitive, metal cross she wore around her neck. "Vaya con Dios, Antonio," she called after him. If only he would turn and she could see his face one last time, but he couldn't hear her. A wind had begun to blow. No longer able to control her tears, she put her face in her hands and knelt on the ground, sobbing. As clear as the sound of the wind, she heard a whisper, "Fear not."
Excerpted from Winds of Sonoma © Copyright 2012 by Nikki Arana. Reprinted with permission by Revell Books. All rights reserved.
Winds of Sonoma: Regalo Grande Book 1