The Marriage of Opposites

Page 114


“Nobody likes that man you’re friends with,” Jestine told Camille when he next came to visit after stopping at the post office for her. There had been three letters on that day.
“Fritz?” he said, surprised. “He just has a big heart.”
“Well, he looks like he’ll bring bad luck.” Jestine hated to think that Rachel’s boy might be led astray. She’d heard the two friends were staying out all night, drinking at the harbor, and that there were some women involved, including a St. Thomas girl Camille used to know back when they called him Jacobo. People said this girl was married to a man who knew nothing about what was going on.
But the girl’s mother, the woman who had told Jacobo Camille Pizzarro to stay away from her daughter when they were ten years old, had figured it out. In her opinion he was trouble then, and trouble once again. This lady came around to the Pizzarros’ store to speak her mind, and nothing was going to stop her from doing so. Rachel was in the back room going over the ledgers. Since the time her father had first brought her to the store it had been her habit to do so once a week. It was late on Friday and Mr. Enrique had gone home to be with Rosalie. Frédéric and the boys had already set off for the synagogue, Jacobo Camille was out as he usually was, and so Rachel was alone in the shop. She looked up and there was a woman in the doorway. A local woman of her own age who looked quite upset.
“You’ll need to speak with the clerk in the morning if you want to place an order,” Rachel said.
“I don’t need to place an order,” the woman responded. She was tall, attractive, but clearly agitated.
Rachel sat back in her chair and appraised her guest. She had seen her in the market but didn’t know her by name. “Did you want something?”
“Your son is the one who wants something and he’s not having it,” her visitor said.
Rachel rose so that she might pull over a chair. She was not surprised that her son had offended someone in some way. “Please,” she said, suggesting her guest join her at her desk and continue. When the woman sat beside her, Rachel recognized her. She worked as a laundress and had sent her children to the Moravian School. “I’ve forgotten your name,” Rachel admitted.
“Why should you remember? I’m nothing to you, as you are nothing to me.”
Rachel found this woman interesting. Certainly she spoke her mind. She closed the ledger book and gave her guest her full attention.
“It’s my daughter’s name you should know. Marianna. Why don’t you ask your son about her? And in the meantime, hope her husband doesn’t find out.”
Rachel remembered Marianna. She’d been one of the reasons Rachel had sent Jacobo away in the first place. She still thought of him with his old name and refused to call him Camille. She certainly wasn’t about to let her hard work setting him on the right path be disrupted by this same pretty girl. She went to Jestine’s the next morning and told her about her visitor. They drank coffee and sat at the old table where Adelle used to give them their lunch.
“He’s not having a love affair with that girl,” Jestine said. “You don’t have to worry about that. But you have something else to worry about. He’s painting her.”
Jestine had some sketches Camille had made of Marianna carrying some laundry. He’d left them behind, and she now brought them out and set them on the table. Rachel held one up. She took note of the curved of the woman’s shoulder and breast, her thin waist, the angles of her face as she looked toward the sea.
“He may not be having an affair, but clearly he’s enamored,” Rachel said. “How long have you known about this?”
Jestine looked stung. “Shall I not be your friend and an aunt to him? Do you feel I have stolen him?”
“Of course not,” Rachel said. “You are an aunt to him and I’m grateful that you are. What I have, I gladly share with you. It’s only that he tells you everything and I’m the last to know.”
“Would you have told your mother anything?”
“But I’m nothing like my mother.” She looked hard at Jestine. “Am I?”
“Rachel, if you were, I would not be your friend,” Jestine assured her.
Still Rachel worried that she carried the seed of her mother’s bitterness. The one feature that had caused her to be vain was her beautiful dark hair. But one night she dreamed of her mother, and when she awoke her hair was streaked white, as if she’d been cursed. Her mother’s hair had turned white when she was a young woman, when Rachel’s father began to leave in the evenings and not come home. Rachel would listen to her mother weep, but she never went to her. Perhaps there was a punishment for this, and she would always be the last to know her son.