Last Reviewed on March 9, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1332
Sofia’s comadre (friend) asks to borrow a sewing machine. Her husband invited her to a weekend dance in Belen, and she has only four days to make a dress. “Can you believe it?” she asks Sofi, “My husband is finally taking me out to someplace besides a wedding in the familia!”
Sofi lends the woman her forty-year-old Singer sewing machine, wistfully recalling the first time she attended a dance. She was fourteen, had not yet celebrated her quinceañera, and was not meant to attend social events like the feast day dance of Santa Flora de Cordova in Belen, but her father reluctantly permitted it. She borrowed a pink chiffon dress from her newly engaged sister and “made her unofficial debut.” One of the loveliest girls in Valencia County, a distinction she would later share with Caridad, Sofia hardly made it through the doorway of the church hall before a charming young man with “dark, sinful eyes” tried to lead her to the dance floor. Her father sent him away, keeping “la little Sofi” safely seated among family members for the rest of the evening. But she could not take her eyes off the handsome, “forbidden heartbreaker” as he flirted, waltzed, and polkaed. In the six months between that night and her quinceañera celebration, she thought of nothing and no one else.
Neither her well-respected family nor her many godparents spared any expense on her party. Amid the lavish fabrics, cakes, and flowers, however, the debutante appeared as sad as a wilted carnation. It wasn’t until her sister drew her attention toward the boy from Belen entering with a group of distant relatives that she became “no less than a princess holding court.” On her night, she was allowed to dance with anyone, even the wily boy her father disapproved of: Domingo. Three years later, the couple eloped. Her family never came around to her new husband, the gambler, a man who would soon pawn her heirloom jewelry, sell her inherited land, give her four daughters, and leave her without a word.
When Domingo returns after almost twenty years, they resume their marriage as though there has been no break in its continuity, as though they have been together so long they no longer notice each other, “like an old chair in the corner of the room or a table passed on from one generation to the next that is only there for the purpose of eating off.” They share neither their meals nor their bed.
Sofia tells Domingo about the upcoming dance and asks if he knows the last time she was taken anywhere. It was the night of La Loca’s baptism, a year and a half before he left. Since then, she has dedicated herself to her daughters and sacrificed her own well-being in doing so. Domingo apologizes for the first time for the grief he has caused. The distance between them closes as she wipes the tears from his cheeks. Sofia wants her husband to take her to the dance in Belen. There with her “one and only honey,” she finds him as “enrapturing” as the night they first met.
Doña Felicia would have preferred to keep Caridad’s trailer just as she left it, a comforting space filled with refurbished flea market furniture and decorative objects, but “economic necessity” forces her to rent it. Ordinarily, she is proud of her ability to judge which applicants will make reliable tenants, “but this time she really [misses] the mark.” She feels compassion toward the young, unemployed couple with a baby on the way and accepts their promises to soon pay the other half of the deposit. The money does not come, though many more people do. First, the man’s mother and teenage siblings move in with the couple; then the woman’s sister, her husband, and their three children; finally, the sister’s husband’s coworker and his vicious dog. Doña Felicia is so frightened by the...
(The entire section contains 1332 words.)
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