“Why are you up so early?” Marcelo stopped his freshly-wakened trudge to the hotel bathroom to squint at her.
“Your Mom’s gonna need a hand getting ready.” Rosana glanced up at him from where she was tying her sneakers with business-like knots.
“There’s no way she’s going to be up this early.” Yawning, he pushed past her and stepped over their suitcases into the bathroom.
“Doesn’t matter. There’s a lot to do if she’s gonna be ready for breakfast at a reasonable hour. Are we meeting the lovebirds today?”
“Carlos and me are going for a run this morning.”
“A Marine’s gotta stay in shape.”
Rosana threw open the bathroom door and glared at her husband, foam collecting at the corners of his mouth and a sly grin spreading across his face. He spat and rinsed his toothbrush.
“The morning after their wedding night? Have you no shame?”
He soused his head with water and toweled dry vigorously. “Hey, it was his idea, not mine.”
Rosana threw her hands in the air. “Don’t let him forget he’s married. The two of you can’t just disappear and leave all of us hanging around Camp Pendleton wondering when we’ll see you again.”
“You mean you don’t want to have to keep Olinda occupied all day.” He grinned at her, drying his hands on a towel. She stepped aside as he began rummaging through the suitcase.
“That may be part of it, but they need some, you know, personal time. They got married yesterday, for goodness sake!”
Marcelo emerged from the suitcase with running gear and shoes. “Yeah, but they’re gonna have a week alone in Ensenada, and we’re leaving tomorrow. Gotta get some time with family, too, right?” He changed into a red Marine Corp shirt, green nylon shorts, and bent to tie his shoes.
“She is his family, now.”
He paused and looked up at her. “Yeah, but not the same. Not yet. It takes time and, you know, going through things together, before you’re really family. Carlos is my brother, ‘Sana. We’ve been together a long time, done a lot of stuff together. Been through a lot together. Neither of us are going to miss the chance to be together if we can help it.” He went back to his shoes.
“Fine. Whatever. Go be ‘family’ with Carlos and leave all the women-folk to bond. Just a run, right? Back in an hour? Two?”
Marcelo grinned, fitting a baseball cap to his clean-cut head. “Just a run. Unless we find something else that needs to be done…” He opened the door for her and they stepped out into the chilly morning.
“Just in case you get side-tracked watching all the Marines play in the desert or something, I’ll take your Mom up to that Monastery.”
“You are so annoying! Yes, Olinda. Be home by noon.”
He winked and kissed her cheek, then disappeared down the row of rooms in search of Carlos.
“Norma?” Rosana opened the door slowly and waited until her eyes grew accustomed to the dark of the room.
“Rosana?” Dulce struggled to sit up in bed.
“Don’t move, now. I’m coming to help you.” Rosana crossed the room and threw open the windows, letting in the morning sunshine.
“Wow. It’s really sunny! Not bad for a couple of days after Christmas.” She turned to the bed and set the slippers on the floor where her mother-in-law’s feet would land. “Okay, ready?”
“No. No. No. I do it. You not help me.” Dulce’s voice was alarmed, high pitched. She waved Rosana away.
“You don’t want me to help you?”
“No! No! I do it.” The older woman pushed back the covers and immediately, the pungent scent of urine filled the air. She glanced fearfully at Rosana.
“Norma, let me help you. It’s okay,” the younger woman soothed, seeing the worried face, “I know all about incontinence. C’mon. Let’s get you to the bathtub. Let me -” Rosana stopped in her tracks and stared at the bed. The wet stain was a dull red-brown, the color of diluted Cherry-Coke.
“Oh crap. That’s really bad. Norma! How long has your pee been this color?” Dulce’s face reflected the rising concern in Rosana’s voice, but she didn’t answer.
“Criminy, do you know what I’m saying? Norma, how long?” She gestured frantically toward the bed. The old woman started to cry.
“Ok. Ok. Don’t cry. We gotta – uhhh, we gotta get you to the hospital. We’re gonna need someone to translate the medical stuff. And Marcelo is run – Olinda! Stay right there, Norma! Stay put. Estar alli, OK? I’ll be right back.” Dulce lay back on the pillows tears streaming down her wrinkled cheeks while her daughter-in-law disappeared out the door.
“Olinda? Olinda?” Rosana pounded on her brother- and sister-in-law’s door. There was no answer. “Olinda!!! Wake up! You’re probably still in bed – of course! She turned away from the door and threw her hands in the air. Where else could she find a Spanish-speaking woman to help with her mother-in-law? At the thought of Dulce’s fear-filled face, Rosana resumed her pounding, and was eventually rewarded with Olinda’s sleepy face peering past the door chain.
“Olinda? C’mon. I need your help. Norma’s really sick.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“I don’t know. Maybe something with her kidneys. Her pee is all red. Can you,like, hurry? She doesn’t understand all my questions. You gotta speak Spanish to her.”
To her credit, Olinda was already gone from the door. Rosana paced nervously, running fingers through her ponytail. She pushed Olinda’s door open as far as the chain would allow. “Hey – I’m going to the front desk and then back to her room. Meet me there?”
There was a muffled reply, which Rosana didn’t stay around to decipher. She sprinted to the office door and shoved it open roughly. The tired-looking clerk stared at her.
“Can I help you, Ma’am?”
“Yes. I need an ambulance.”
“Are you alright?”
“What do you think, if I’m calling an ambulance? Room 117. It’s gonna take me a minute to get her ready, but can you call? Is there a hospital on this base?”
The clerk was already dialing.
Rosana sprinted back to her mother-in-law’s room, arriving moments before Olinda peeked in the propped door.
“C’mon and help me,” snapped Rosana. The two women stood on either side of Norma’s bed. “We’re going to help her up and into the shower. You can get her some clothes while I wash her. Ready? Grab under her shoulder. One, two , three, up!” Rosana threw back the covers, praying Olinda wouldn’t say anything to embarrass Norma.
“Que te pasa, Mama? What’s wrong?” asked Olinda. They chattered together between grunts as the three women made their way to the bathtub.
“She says it started being this color yesterday. She says she doesn’t feel very good.”
“I bet.” Rosana laughed mirthlessly. “Okay, Mama. It’s gonna be a quick shower!”
Rosana stuck her head around the bathroom door. “What?”
The desk clerk stood uncertainly in the doorway. Rosana could see him trying not to wrinkle his nose as he surveyed the bed and the piles of reddish nightclothes outside the bathroom.
“Uh, the ambulance is on its way.”
“Great.” Rosana disappeared back into the bathroom.
“Uh, can I help? I, uh, know CPR?”
“Yes. Can you get in touch with her sons? Corporal Marcelo Delacruz. And Carlos. Corporal Carlos Delacruz. They’re out running somewhere. No, Norma. You just sit still. Olinda and I will dress you.”
“Do you know where they went?”
Rosana peered around the corner again, her face turning red. “If I knew where they were, I would get them myself! Can you call the police or something?” She disappeared for a moment, then returned to glare at him. “You do have police here, right?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he replied curtly, turning stiffly away from the door.