“One hundred percent ID check?” Dulce’s voice, Rosana noted, had a slight tremor.
“No te preocupes, Mama,” Marcelo turned in the driver’s seat to face his mother, who gripped her purse tightly. “Don’t worry. You have to show your ID to get onto any military base in the world.”
“But what if…”
“Give Rosana your purse. She’ll get it out for you.” He preempted her by taking the bag and handing it over his shoulder to the back of the Ford Focus where Rosana sat with her chin on her knees.
“We’ll get through this line and then check in at the BEQ. Carlos said he and Olinda would be there by 1800. That’s 6:00 PM.” He glanced at his watch.
The Marine at Camp Pendleton’s main gate was polite. He glanced at the rental car registration, all three IDs, and waved them through. Rosana caught a glimpse of a green-gray ocean to the West, sunshine crackling and sparkling on the rollers as they poured like icing onto the sandy shore. Away to the East, treeless hills and brown, desert soil.
“What’s that? Up on the hill?” But Marcelo, navigating the one-way streets of the base didn’t answer.
“What, Querida?” Dulce tried to turn and face her, but succeeded only in inclining her head back toward her daughter-in-law.
“It looks like a building way up on the top of the hill. Imagine the view from up there!”
Marcelo wheeled the car into a parking space outside the long, low Base Enlisted Quarters building. Turning off the ignition, he looked up. “Where? That hill up there on the other side of the freeway?”
Rosana nodded, bending low to look out the windshield.
“It’s an abbey. Monks and stuff. They stay up there and pray all day.” He pushed open his door and jogged around to get his mother’s.
“Doesn’t ‘wife’ come before -” Rosana started, but bit back the bitter remark. Instead, she unfolded herself from the back of the car, stretched, and with a long look at the shining windows on the hill went to help her husband with his mother.
“Alright, she’s cute.”
“She’s not pretty, she’s cute. There’s a huge difference.”
“And, she speaks Spanish.”
“Ohhh, so that makes her pretty. I don’t think so. She looks like too much ice cream spilling out of a white satin cone.” Rosana kicked her crossed leg, arms folded, knee popping.
Rosana snorted at her husband, eyes wide, feigning incredulity. “Of what? Chocolate soft-serve?”
“Knock it off. That’s way out line.”
“She speaks Spanish,” Rosana imitated in sing-song, “so you can all talk without the Cracker listening in.”
“See? You’re jealous.” Marcelo grinned, watching his brother and his wife gyrate on the parquet floor of the ballroom. Carlos and Olinda’s wedding had been blessedly short, and after putting Dulce safely in her bed, the two couples had gone dancing in the quasi-elegance of the Pendleton All-Hands Club. Marcelo leaned over and whispered, “Jealous is ‘celoso,’ in Spanish.” He kissed her earlobe, slowly. “You look fabulous, Celosa.”
The smile he hoped to elicit spread reluctantly across her features. She rose and stretched out her hand.
“Are you going to ask me to dance, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Marine-ish?”
“Only if you can do a little better than Olinda.”
Rosana smirked as he pushed her toward the dance floor, his muscular hands enclosing her shapely waist.
“Try not to be jealous of Carlos. I’ve only had twelve years of ballet, so don’t expect me to compete with Miss -excuse me- Missus Bust-A-Move over there.”
Marcelo ignored the verbal barbs and made her prove her skills.