A New Home  


Anna proved to be a gift from God.  My parish was truly blessed by her presence and no one was more affected than Michael Aragón.  She and her daughter returned to Aragón's home late in the evening.  When Anna rang the doorbell, a handsome young man came to the door.  They had been expected this time.  The young man introduced himself as Miguel and led them to an upstairs bedroom.  The room was large and comfortable.  The walls were covered with drab yellow wallpaper that featured drawings of cups and saucers.  The closet was large but musty.  Walking into the adjoining bathroom, she found it surprisingly clean.  Everywhere she looked, Anna found work to be done.  To Aragón’s credit, clean sheets had been left on the edge of the bed for their use.  It was 9:00 that evening when Anna and Christina finally settled in for the night.  Holding her darling Christina close to her, Anna wondered what this new life would bring.  She felt safe there in the musty old house.  Michael had not stared at her with that sexual hunger that most men did.  Instead, he was kind and respectful.  As she fell asleep, Anna thanked God for sending Michael to her.  

The next morning, Anna rose early.  It was still dark outside when she dressed, preparing for the day ahead.  Leaving Christina to her dreams, she made her way downstairs.  There was no movement in the drafty house, only the creaking of an old home.  She wandered from room to room.  As she’d suspected, the house was in need of a thorough cleaning.  There were dust and spider webs everywhere Anna looked.  Anna decided that the best place to start would be the kitchen.  The kitchen’s tan colored linoleum had become stained and discolored over the years.  The old kitchen sink was clear of dishes, but cracked from wear.  Adjacent to the kitchen was a pantry containing the icebox and washing machine.  The washer had two rollers attached at the top of the round cylinder tub for wringing the clothes out before hanging.  The place was sorely in need of scrubbing and cleaning.  

Before she began her cleaning, Anna made a pot of thick, black, Spanish coffee.  The trick was to drink it in small cups served with generous portions of cream or milk.  After a cup of coffee, she began scrubbing and cleaning the floors.  The work was hard.  She scrubbed for an hour on her hands and knees.  Finally, the drab floors took on a new shine.  After completing the floors, Anna began washing down the cabinet doors, balancing herself on an old wooden chair.  It was then that Aragón entered the kitchen.  Walking over to the counter, he continued reading his morning newspaper.  He took his favorite white Navy coffee mug out of the cabinet and poured himself some coffee.  He added some milk and sat down at the kitchen table.  As Aragón took a large gulp of the liquid, his reaction was immediate.  “My God!  What is this stuff?"  Michael shouted out loud to himself.  The Spanish coffee was several times stronger than his usual American prepared coffee.  Aragón gagged as the concoction made its way down to his stomach.  “Is it too strong for you?”  Anna asked playfully in Spanish.  Embarrassed, Aragón only shook his head no.  Laughing to herself, she returned to scrubbing the cabinets.  

The two spoke little as Anna cleaned the kitchen.  Aragón was lost in the sport pages.  Remaining in the kitchen, he read the newspaper and occasionally added milk to his coffee.  Anna glanced at him while she worked, attempting to size up her new employer.  Michael studied his paper carefully, never bothering to ask what she was doing.  Despite the silence, Anna felt comfortable in his presence, as if she’d known him for a long time.  

The sun was up when the two boys, still sleepy, shuffled into the kitchen.  Kenneth told his father that they were hungry.  Nodding, Aragón walked into the pantry.  When he returned to the kitchen, he was wearing an apron.  This, the boys knew, was the signal that bacon and eggs would soon be served.  Kenneth and Benjamin sat at the kitchen table, watching as their father began frying bacon.  As the bacon cooked, he placed several slices of bread in the oven for toasting.  Michael used grease from the bacon to baste the eggs.  Anna was appalled at the spectacle.  “Do you often cook eggs like that?” Anna asked him with a look of surprise on her face.  “Yes, of course.” Michael responded, a little taken aback by the question.  “Do you cook?”  He asked irritably.  “Yes, and by the looks of it, I’ll soon become the family chef.”  She answered with playful sarcasm in her voice.  

Aragón liked her straight forwardness and her sense of humor.  She was different from the other women he’d known.  The others had hung on his every word, catering to him because of who he was.  But Anna was different.  She was sure of herself and certainly wasn’t afraid of hard work.  As Aragón served up breakfast to the boys, Christina came into the room.  “Are you hungry chica?”  He asked tenderly.  Smiling, Christina nodded yes.  Serving Christina, he sat down next to her.  As the children ate, Aragón continued reading his newspaper.  The four sat at the table while Anna continued her cleaning.  Quietly observing Anna, after a few minutes, Aragón brought her a cup of coffee.  He invited her to join him at the table after the children had left to play in the living room.  The two sat silently drinking their coffee, neither wanting to be the first to talk.  

After breakfast, the remainder of the morning was spent cleaning the kitchen and pantry areas.  Anna was left alone with the children while Aragón went to conduct business.  By the end of the day, she had worked wonders.  The floors were washed and waxed, and the cabinets scrubbed and polished.  The stove gleamed.  The home had never been cleaned properly.  Aragón was a bachelor, and his house showed that.  When he returned home that evening, Anna informed him that dinner would be served in a half hour.  He found his sons scrubbed squeaky clean.  Their hair was combed and they were wearing freshly ironed clothes.  The little girl, Christina, was sitting on the couch in the living room.  Aragón sat across from her in his favorite brown leather chair.  As Christina played with her doll, she studied Aragón out of the corner of her eye.  “Where’s your mommy?”  She asked Aragón.  Motioning to the little girl, he called her over to him.  Placing her on his knee, Aragón smiled and explained to Christina that there was no mommy in his home.  “Are you the mommy?”  She asked innocently.  “Yes, I suppose I am.”  He said softly.  Before they could finish their conversation, Anna entered the room and announced dinner.  

The dinner table was an interesting sight.  Anna had set out an assortment of bowls and dishes of different shapes, sizes, and styles.  Nothing matched.  Even the flatware was made up of odds and ends.  This was truly a bachelor’s home.  Once served, the five sat quietly eating their meal.  Aragón was unaccustomed to having a woman in his home, but the boys seemed comfortable with Anna and Christina.  When the meal was over, the three children went upstairs to play as Anna and Aragón sat drinking coffee.  “Mr. Aragón,” she began, “I’ve prepared a list of items that are needed for the household.”  She passed him the long list consisting of cleaning items and kitchen utensils.  There were dishes, bowls and an assortment of glasses.  Studying the list carefully, Aragón asked Anna if this was all that was needed.  After some discussion, he agreed to purchase them.  He then drained his coffee cup and went into the living room.  Sitting in his large, overstuffed, leather chair, he began reading his newspaper.  Anna sang as she washed the dishes in the kitchen.  The sound reminded him of his mother’s singing.  Aragón was beginning to realize how important a woman was to a household.  Unable to resist, he walked into the kitchen and found himself surprised at how different the place looked.  He liked what he saw.  Anna was hard working.  He’d been right about this woman.  Complimenting her on a fine job, Aragón returned to the living room.  

The next several weeks passed without difficulty.  The children enjoyed playing together.  Anna’s hard work was slowly transforming the old house into a home.  Every few days there was another list to be discussed.  Aragón liked her attention to detail.  Room-by-room, the place took on a new look.  The hardwood floors were washed and waxed.  The walls were scrubbed clean.  And the worn furniture was cleaned and polished.  There was a new freshness to the place.  Gone was the stuffy odor and layers of dust.  Windows and sills were now clean.  Even the old drapes were washed and re-hung.  A new sense of life had been brought to Aragón’s home.  The children ran around the house laughing and playing.  No longer quiet and restrained, Kenneth and Benjamin had come alive.  The boys reminded Michael of Arturo and him when they were children.  Aragón liked what Anna was doing for his home and his family.  

A few weeks later, Anna asked if she could speak with Aragón.  As the two sat in the living room while the children played upstairs, Anna requested money.  She asked Aragón for a weekly housing allowance to be used for food and other items needed to run the household.  At first, he felt uncomfortable with the idea.  He had learned through years of experience to trust no one and suspect everyone.  After discussing the costs involved in a weekly allowance, Aragón decided to break his own rule and allow Anna to maintain a household account.  After all, how far could she go on ten dollars?  Aragón was pleased that Anna had taken control over the household duties and the shopping, and he began to put trust in her.  Over the next few months, the house began to take on a bright appearance.  Every week, some new item appeared inside, a vase, a picture on the wall, or a new throw rug.  

At dinner one evening, Aragón found himself eating on new dishes which appeared to be expensive china.  Anna, where did all of these new things come from?”  He asked, concerned that she might be spending her own money.  “On the weekends while you’re out, I take the children with me on the bus and we search the nicer areas of town for garage sales.  We spend hours walking from sale to sale finding little treasures.”  She explained proudly.  Her response seemed humble and honest, but he was now concerned about the safety of the children.  However, the more he thought about it, the less he objected.  

Several months passed without problem or incident.  Anna continued to work hard, and the family became closer.  The boys began calling her mama.  Her daughter, Christina, became more attached to Michael.  They had become a family.  Aragón's three body guards took great care not to interfere with the new family routine.  Spending less time in the kitchen, they eventually stopped hanging around the inside of the house altogether.  They made a point of being considerate of Anna's need to maintain a normal family and became more discrete.  Working in ten-hour shifts, the youngest, Jesus, was stationed on the hill above the home, always watching the house through binoculars.  A second man, Juan, sat in a car half way down the block and watched for anyone approaching the house.  The third man, Miguel, lived in the house.  He stayed in the spare bedroom and regularly walked downstairs to check on things.  From his vantage point, he could peer out into the backyard and watch the children at play and with another short walk Miguel had a full view of the front of the house.  Aragón knew that the three men were making every possible effort not to intrude.  He appreciated the fact that everyone tried to give the children the room they needed.  He particularly respected Anna's ability to make everyone feel comfortable.  

The men liked her.  She was very kind to them, making a point of delivering sandwiches and hot coffee to the men while they were on duty.  Never did Anna make it appear to be a chore.  Walking up to the top of the hill, Anna brought food to Jesus.  Miguel would find snacks left for him in the spare bedroom at different times of the day.  In Juan’s case, he always had a cool drink brought to his car by Anna.  The men appreciated being pampered by Anna.  She wasn’t only well liked by the men, she was respected.  As time went on, the men began to refer to her as Doña Anna, but never señorita.  

It was early one evening when Miguel, the bodyguard, arrived with his girlfriend, Maria.  They were going out for the evening.  As usual, Miguel checked in with Aragón before going off-duty.  Maria had heard much about this Doña Anna.  Intrigued by the respect this woman had earned from the men, Maria made a point of meeting the mystery woman.  As the two men spoke in the study, Maria entered the kitchen and introduced herself.  The two instantly liked one another.  After a few minutes, the women were trading stories and laughing.  Anna had found a new friend in the young woman.  Over the next few years, they would become close.  

Anna and the children visited me regularly at my parish.  Anna and I spent a great deal of time discussing how best to raise the boys.  She was particularly concerned about the Levy boy, Benjamin.  Aragón had told her of his Jewish background.  The Jewish faith of his dead grandfather was an issue that both felt was important.  Though Benjamin was young, both felt the need to ensure that he would be given proper religious training when the time came.  It was agreed that he would attend mass with the other children, but it was decided that once he started school the advice of a Rabbi would be sought.  Neither I, nor Anna, wanted the boy to be cheated out of his heritage.  We both understood the importance of the Jewish faith.  

Kenneth was another matter.  Anna was concerned about his religious instruction and inquired about Kenny's past.  I said only that he would be a good Catholic.  Once, Anna pressed me on the whereabouts of Kenny's mother.  I was quick to explain that it was better that she not question Aragón about the matter.  The child was Aragón's responsibility and he took it very seriously.  I cautioned Anna that she would do well to consult with Michael on all matters related to the boy.  I knew the depth of Aragón's love for the boy and also understood that this was an area where no one was allowed to intrude.  The two had a special bond.  Aragón allowed no meddling when it came to Kenneth.  Even I knew my boundaries when it came to Aragón's sons.  I was particularly fond of Christina.  She had her mother's graciousness.  Bright and very loving, as time passed, she became very close to boys.  The three spent countless hours together, playing games and laughing.  Under Anna's care, the three became inseparable.  The boys loved Christina and became very protective of her.  They couldn’t have been closer.  

Michael himself seemed to blossom under Anna’s care.  The changes appeared slowly, but were certainly noticeable.  A doting father at heart, not a week went by that Aragón wouldn’t bring Christina some small gift.  He had even taken to attending church with Anna and the children on holidays.  But it wasn’t just the Aragón household that was changing.  Soon, the neighbor women began to spend time at the house.  At first, it was only for the speedy delivery of a hot plate of enchiladas.  Later, came the sharing of a cup of coffee and good conversation.  The barrio women enjoyed this Spaniard’s hospitality and advice.  Anna always had a kind word for them in times of trouble.  

As the days went on, Aragón couldn’t help but notice the steady stream of neighborhood women regularly visiting his home.  They were always discrete, arriving and leaving quietly.  Usually, they sat in the kitchen speaking in low voices.  Sitting and reading his newspaper in the dining room, Michael heard Anna dispensing womanly advice to them.  Often, he heard the women laughing.  When he entered the kitchen the laughing stopped until he left the room.  As the door closed behind him, the women would pick up where they left off.  Day after day, they came to share a story or a problem with Doña Anna.  She always had a hot cup of coffee and a kind word.  There was never a problem too small or a story she was unwilling to hear.  Soon, Anna became well known for her wisdom and her caring nature.  

Anna's influence with the neighbor women began to grow.  Soon, they began to help around the house.  When Aragón returned home in the evenings, he found room’s repainted or new wallpaper hung.  When asked about the changes, Anna said only that the neighbors had helped her to do the work.  Aragón found it strange that the changes were being made without additional funds.  To his knowledge, Anna never asked for money to purchase supplies.  Everywhere he looked there were improvements.  When a used sewing machine was given to her by one of the neighbors, new drapes and curtains appeared.  By the time Anna’s first year with Aragón had passed, the old house was a home.  During that time, she never asked Aragón for anything beyond the weekly housing allowance.  She was certainly a resourceful woman.  

It was late in the evening when Aragón arrived home.  Anna asked Michael to join her in the kitchen for a chat.  Anna’s request was simple.  She asked Aragón to consider buying the children a piano.  When he inquired as to why, she explained.  “The children need to learn early in life the finer things which the world has to offer.  Music,” she said, “is important to the growth of the children.  It teaches them movement and grace.”  After some discussion, Aragón agreed to the purchase.  A week later, a used baby grand piano appeared in the living room.  Old Valdez, the neighborhood handyman, had been called upon to restore it.  Valdez had come to America as a young man to pursue his dream of becoming a concert pianist.  But, prejudice and poverty had ensured that the doors to his dream would remain closed to him.  This was the case for many Mexican immigrants.  American society was not yet ready to open its doors to the new arrivals.  

For Valdez, working on this great and beautiful musical instrument was a labor of love.  Arriving at the house every day in the early morning hours, he carried with him the tools and supplies necessary for the day’s work.  Daily, he and Doña Anna would discuss the details of the restoration.  Soon, Aragón found himself as much involved in the process as Anna.  Each morning he would rise early and survey the master's work.  While having his strong coffee, Michael sat at the piano and quietly observed the latest improvements to the instrument.  Though he didn’t discuss the matter with Anna, Aragón never failed to offer advice to Old Valdez on the restoration.  

In the late mornings, the neighbor women would arrive to have coffee with Anna and discuss the progress.  Each offered advice to Anna about the work at hand.  There was no shortage of expert advice in the neighborhood.  Several weeks had passed.  The removal of the paint and the sanding of the fine wood was difficult work.  The repainting and finishing work was very detailed and involved combinations of layered paint.  In the end, the piano was restored to its original beauty.  Clearly, Valdez was an artisan.  The last several days were spent on the tuning of the instrument.  Old Valdez certainly hadn’t lost his fine ear for sound.  When the restoration was finally completed, the instrument became a great source of pride for him.  

Soon after the restoration was completed, Anna found Aragón playing a simple tune on the newly tuned instrument.  Embarrassed when Anna entered the room, he quickly rose from the piano and walked into the dining room.  followed him into the room and sat with him.  “Do you play?” She asked him.  The big man peered at her over his newspaper.  “I would have liked to,” he said casually, “but I had little time for such things as a child.”  Anna smiled and told him that perhaps it was time that he learned to play.  With that pronouncement, she left the room and returned to her household duties.  

Valdez agreed to teach the children to play the beautiful instrument, and he soon became a permanent fixture in the household.  In the evenings, he would play for Doña Anna and the children.  Aragón would arrive home and read his newspaper in the kitchen.  Sitting alone, he listened to each of the children as they played for Anna.  He began to look forward to the evening recitals.  Never did Aragón allow anyone to know his feelings on the matter, believing such a show of interest might lessen his image as man.  To him, pianos were children’s play things.  

Another year had gone by quickly and Aragón’s respect and admiration for Anna had grown.  Anna was admired by both her neighbors and by the three young men who worked for Michael.  She was as beautiful in her heart as she was physically and the children loved her dearly.  It was so obvious to Aragón now why I had sent her to him.  Michael’s home said it all.  The big drafty house had become alive with the sounds of happy children; it was now a home.  

It was late summer when Anna came to Michael again for help.  Anna asked if Aragón would teach her to drive an automobile.  When asked why, she told him that the children needed to visit museums and art galleries to learn more about the arts.  She felt that the children should understand life beyond the barrio, and was quite insistent.  At first, Aragón resisted.  He was concerned for their safety beyond the areas he controlled.  But in time Anna was able to convince him of the need for the children to understand the outside world.  Once Aragón agreed, an old car appeared in the driveway.  Michael was surprised since he hadn’t paid for it.  Soon, he found neighbor men working on the engine.  Old Valdez removed the seats and returned with them reupholstered.  He then replaced the carpeting and polished and repaired the dashboard.  In a short while, the neighborhood men had repainted the auto.  When Aragón asked Old Valdez who had paid for the work on the auto, the old man said no one had.  Valdez went on to tell Aragón the neighbors had agreed that Doña Anna should not drive an unsafe car.  The men decided that each would provide the necessary repairs at no cost.  When the automobile was finished, Anna became the neighborhood shuttle service.  In the mornings, she and Maria would load up the children and travel to the museums.  Soon, concerts in the park and days at the beach were added to the schedule.  Aragón was never required to pay for gasoline.  When Aragón asked Maria about the costs of such outings, she said only that Miguel or the other men had paid.  

Michael’s life had taken on a new meaning.  With two sons and a daughter, he now had three little ones that needed him.  In his home, there was no talk of the Family and its cold hard realities.  With Anna and the children, Michael was himself.  Surrounded by love and caring, Aragón grew kinder, resembling the young man I had known so many years before.  

Some months later, Anna approached Aragón with questions about investing her savings.  Surprised at her questions, Aragón asked Anna how much she wanted to invest.  He was surprised again.  “Three hundred dollars,” she answered.  This was the beginning of many long evenings of financial discussions.  Soon, the two spent many hours together going over the financial section of the newspaper.  The truth be known, Anna began to teach Aragón about finance.  As time went on, Anna demonstrated an uncanny ability to buy stocks in winning companies.  In Aragón’s estimation, by the end of the year Anna had tripled the value of her stocks.  

In a short time, Anna proved herself to be an excellent business woman.  She traded her automobile for a newer one, and again, the neighbors helped with the restoration.  Later, Aragón noticed changes in her appearance.  Anna began wearing different, more expensive clothes.  Maria, Miguel’s girlfriend, also began to change.  She and Anna became close friends.  Anna liked the young girl.  Maria was eager for a teacher and Anna was ready to teach.  The more time she spent with Anna the more of a lady Maria became.  

It was about this time that Anna became active at my parish.  When I became aware of her involvement with the barrio, I wasn’t about to let a good thing get away.  I drafted Anna onto various church committees and work suddenly got done.  During the day, she and the children spent several hours at the church.  While the children played in the rectory garden, she and I spent hours planning fund raising activities.  As time passed, Anna had many of the neighborhood women involved, eighteen in all.  During fiestas, the women ran the booths and food stands.  Husbands and sons constructed booths and later attended church bazaars.  The men also assisted me with the necessary decorations.  Anna also surprised me with the large amounts of money she was able to raise for the parish from the barrio and the local merchants.  She was a wizard at getting services and donations for the parish.  The money she raised paid for needed parish repairs.  Later, due to her efforts, the people of the barrio painted the church school with supplies donated by local merchants.  The church grounds were suddenly tended by the husbands and sons of Anna's neighbors.  Old Valdez was repairing what had been left in a state of disrepair due to a shortage of funds.  As always Anna never asked for anything for herself.  She always thought of others first.  

Though still quiet and reserved, even Aragón had begun to change.  Hair now neatly cut and trimmed, he had taken to wearing suits and having his shoes polished daily.  A new Cadillac automobile was parked in Aragón’s driveway.  Anna certainly had changed many things.  

Aragón's Family business had also changed over the past two years.  Splitting his organization into three groups, he had made it more efficient.  At the top were he and the other men who had served in the military; they had the wisdom of years.  Next, was a core of selected veteranos from the gangs; these were his soldiers.  Finally, there were the barrio gang members, the vato locos, who knew nothing of the real workings of the Family business.  The vato locos partied and fought one another.  These were the future soldiers of the Family, still young, knowing nothing of the real world.  From this group only the smartest were chosen.  

With Aragón’s legitimate businesses going well, the local banks welcomed his money.  Leveraging his finances, it was arranged for certain Family members to be employed at the banks.  Now it was only blood relatives discretely handling Aragón’s bank transactions.  This was the beginning of the laundering of the Family money.  Plans for the growth of the Brotherhood had also been well-laid.  Aragón knew that as long as the Family didn’t venture into unknown territory it was safe.  The Anglo world could care less what happened in the barrios.   But that same Anglo world wouldn’t tolerate Mexicans moving into White areas.  Racism was real and could have terrible consequences.  

While Aragón had become a master of legitimate investment, others lagged behind.  Realizing that he could only grow the legitimate side of the business in the barrios, Aragón worried that the businesses might exceed the growth capacity of the East LA barrios he controlled.  It was during this time that a solution was found.  The Family joined with families of the other barrios in East Los Angeles to share their knowledge.  This new group became officially known as the Brotherhood.  The other East LA families were making good money from prostitution, the protection racket, and drugs.  They were now ready to expand their legitimate businesses.  Unfortunately, they lacked Aragón’s knowledge and sophistication in matters of business.  Unable to invest their profits well, they needed Aragón’s help.  Aragón was known to always keep his word, and in the matter of money, trust is everything.  

Having consolidated his power throughout the barrios of East Los Angeles, Aragón met with family heads of the other Los Angeles barrios to negotiate an expansion that would benefit all.  Once agreements were reached, Aragón implemented his strategy.  Setting up small Brotherhood controlled businesses in barrios, a relative was chosen as a front for ownership.  Since they were blood relatives there was little concern about betrayal.  The people chosen for this responsibility were happy to have an opportunity in a world where Mexicans weren’t wanted.  The types of businesses were always the same, dry cleaners, small markets, liquor stores, appliance repair stores, and car washes.  Using Family and Brotherhood money, Aragón funded the operation.  With unlimited cash his new businesses soon drove the competition toward failure.  His prices were always lower because he subsidized the venture for the first year.  Within a short time, his competitors couldn’t compete with the rock bottom prices.  Closing up shop, one after another, they moved away.  Over several years the Family had established some twenty businesses.  As a rule the businesses did well because the members worked hard, providing their patrons with good services and products.  Good service brought profits.  And profits mingled with the Family laundry business, equaled success.  Now the only game in town, all were doing well.  They were one big happy Family.  

Profits were always reinvested.  The buildings that housed the businesses were eventually bought.  Later, the businesses were loaning cash to one another for expansion or improvements.  Of course the money came primarily from the real Family business, the laundry business, as it was laughingly called.  Soon, the Brotherhood was into commercial real estate, cornering the barrio markets.  Later, the Family also provided cash to members to buy homes.  The Brotherhood took care of its own.  Everyone shared in the prosperity.  No one was left behind.  

Michael Aragón was now seen as a powerful but generous businessman.  Michael’s image was polished weekly through large donations to the church and other charities.  The barrio saw him as a good and decent man.  Long ago, Anna had been told by Lourdes that Michael Aragón was one of those bad men of the barrio.  Over time, Anna convinced herself that he was a decent family man.  What he did at home supported her conviction.  He was always generous when it came to the children.  On birthdays and holidays, he gave Anna extra money for presents.  He was a loving father to his boys.  Even Christina was drawn to him.  Aragón was the father her daughter needed.  Anna knew him as a quiet man, shy in his demeanor and a hard worker.  

Where there had been reluctance on Aragón’s part to become involved in matters beyond those directly concerning the children, this also changed.  He rarely spoke to the neighbors or them to him.  They came and went from the house without bothering him.  He was always considerate, but distant.  As the years passed, Aragón became a pillar of respectability in the barrio.  In Anna’s mind, Aragón was a successful businessman who returned home to his family every evening.  Convinced that Aragón needed his three bodyguards for protection against local hoodlums, Anna made him into a hero of the barrio.  After all, he was a successful man and no one told Anna any different.  Maria often told Anna of Aragón’s kindnesses to others.  Careful not to elaborate, Maria had given Anna enough information to understand why Michael was respected by the people of the barrio.  He was the reason many of the barrio people had jobs.  But in her heart, Anna knew why Aragón received so many men at his home.  The regular stream of visitors seemed to be rough and hardened men.  They were not at all the type of men her father would have associated with.  

The children were now in public school.  Aragón had refused to allow them to attend the Catholic school.  Catholic schools were fine for other children, just not his own.  They were to stay close to their roots and this meant attending school with other barrio children.  Dedicating herself to them, Anna was forever trying to expand their horizons.  Having grown to appreciate music and art, the three children eventually mastered the piano.  Trips to museums continued, and symphonies in the park were Anna’s passion.  The three had few friends save one another.  They rarely played with the neighbor children.  The only exception was a neighbor girl with the beautiful green eyes, the daughter of Mr. Solas, the Realtor.  

Anna's only obsession other than the children was investing.  She dedicated herself to the stock market and investments became her passion.  With a natural talent for it, Anna turned her three hundred dollars into three thousand.  Aragón's cousin, Alfredo, was a broker and helped Anna on many an occasion.  Anna was quiet and industrious, reading the newspaper and studying the market each morning.  Her choices were always conservative, as was her life.  Keeping her dreams to herself, even Maria knew little of Anna’s investments.  Though they were becoming close, Aragón knew only that she was investing.  By the summer of 1957, her fortune had grown to thirty thousand dollars.  

Anna had taken to loaning money to the neighborhood women when their families were in need.  They always repaid her, insisting on paying interest.  The men also repaid her with respect and the occasional odd job around the house.  Following Anna’s lead, Maria had begun to invest.  Anna spent many afternoons with her explaining the workings of the market.  

Old Valdez and Anna had grown fond of one another over the past several years.  The old man idolized her.  Valdez had long ago taken to joining her at the free concerts in the park.  Anna loved the old man and arranged to help Valdez with one of his life’s dreams.  She helped him to open a small music shop where he sold musical instruments and gave music lessons.   He subsidized his new business by continuing to do odd jobs.  Once the music shop opened, the two sponsored the barrio children in forming a Mariachi band.  The band played at church picnics and other barrio affairs.  Anna’s kindness had brought Valdez back to his love, music.  His world had been brightened by her friendship.  

In time, Anna also changed things for Maria by helping finance a small dress shop.  Her specialty was wedding dresses.  Maria quickly expanded the business to include wedding planning, catering, and entertainment.  With help from Anna, Valdez added music to Maria's wedding presentations.  Within two years, her shop became the place to go.  While Anna’s business interests flourished, so did Aragón’s.  

By now, his power had extended beyond the barrios of East LA.  But his future would hold something that would go terribly wrong.  All his influence and power couldn’t protect him.  Aragón was to experience the horrible possibility of losing everything that was dear to him and take away any feelings of security he might have believed he had.  His elaborately constructed security screen would be rendered useless in one, thirty-second time frame.  Aragón really knew that there was no such thing as security.  A man, one man, would remind him that life was uncertain and a mere moment away from being stolen.  All his carefully laid plans could be canceled in the twinkling of an eye.  

The humiliation he would suffer would be a warning.  In those future terrifying days and nights, Aragón would be taught a great deal about himself.  He would no longer take his life for granted, understanding more than ever that he needed to provide for Anna and the children.  It was during those hours of torture that he realized how deep his love for Anna and the children really was.  Throughout the ordeal, he had only one thought in mind, to get back home to Anna and the children.  Aragón promised himself then, that they would be taken care of in the event of his death.  

Aragón had enabled several young men from the barrio to complete college.  Many were now successful lawyers, bankers, businessmen, and policemen.  Usually, they provided services to people from the barrio, but their advice and assistance to him was free of charge.  None had forgotten how much Aragón had given them.  One of them, a young man, named Armando Diaz, was now a practicing attorney.  As with many from the barrio, Aragón had helped the boy's father establish a business and provided the down payment for the purchase of a home.  Aragón had never asked the family to repay either debt, but the Diaz family was more than happy to repay the debt of gratitude.  

Aragón understood that Anna needed to be protected in the event something happened to him.  He trusted that she would always be there for his two sons and Christina and had already ensured that their financial future was secure.  The law firm that handled his legitimate business affairs had executed a large trust for the boys and Christina.  A second trust fund was now set up for Anna, one that would leave her a millionaire in the event of his death.  The firm would act as executors of the trust fund for the children.  

There was only one matter left to be resolved, and it involved Anna's immigration status.  Aragón dispatched an associate to Mexico to obtain both birth and baptismal certificates.  The arrangements were simple.  The mayor of a small Mexican town was a relative of a Family member.  For a small fee, the mayor provided the needed documents.  With legally obtained records in hand, Aragón proceeded with the second phase of the plan.  Diaz’s law firm was very well connected.  As good citizens, they supported the Democratic Party machine in Los Angeles.  As members of the good old boy's club, business was conducted over drinks at the country club or on the golf course.  A little help here, a little gift there, and a favor could always be arranged.  The cost was minimal.  An envelope with ten thousand dollars in cash bought many friends.  The transaction was clean, and the entire process had taken less than six months.  There had been no waiting in line at a foreign embassy, no forms to be filled out; all matters had been handled by friends.  Even the Immigration Service could be bought.  The woman chosen for the official photographs bore a striking resemblance to Anna.  

It was late in the evening when Aragón returned home with the gift in hand and an expensive bottle of champagne.  The papers had been delivered to him early that day.  Maria came along behind him, announcing to Anna that the children would be going out with her.  Anna was suspicious about the coincidence.  Maria and the children left and it was only the two of them.  Aragón said nothing during their meal together.  Anna remained suspicious.  After dinner, she and Aragón were enjoying their nightly coffee together.  Aragón excused himself and went into the kitchen.  Returning with the bottle of champagne and two glasses, he stood and opened it without spilling a drop.  Pouring them each a glass, he sat down across the table from Anna.  “A toast to you Anna.”  Aragón happily offered the cavalier gesture.  As they drank, he removed an envelope from his coat pocket.  Placing it in front of Anna, he asked her to open it.  “What is it, Mr. Aragón?”  She quizzed him playfully.  “My name is Michael.  Isn't it about time you call me something other than Mr. Aragón?”  He scolded her gently.  Smiling, she reached over to the envelope and opened it.  Inside, were two documents and Green Cards.  Each had the name Anna Duron on it.  “What are these?  Who do they belong to?”  She asked confused.  “They’re your future.” Aragón replied with a smile.  Anna, I know you have a past which you don’t wish to share with me.  It’s no matter.  I’ve no intention of inquiring.  I accept you at your word.  In return, you’ve never questioned me or my past.”  Aragón was sincere in his statements.  “You’ve honored your commitment to me over these many years.  Caring for my sons and home without question, you treated them as if they were your own.  You have never asked me for anything for yourself in all of these years.  You’ve given to everyone, including myself.  In return, I’ve chosen to give you a gift.  It is the gift of a new life.  What you see before you is completely legal.  You are now Señorita Anna Duron.  How this has come about is of little importance.  What is important is that you are now free to pursue your life without fear.  The government of the United States has granted you legal status.”  Having said his peace, he sat silently.  Anna was so stunned she could only force a smile.  

Anna, you’re no longer a prisoner here.  You are now free to live your life as you see fit.  Go or stay, do as you like.”  Aragón’s words were sincere.  He wanted the best for her.  She stared at him in amazement.  She was shocked by the whole gesture.  “Michael, do you understand what this means to me?  Do you know what it means to be a legitimate person again?  This present of yours makes me whole again.  I’m no longer a person without a country.  My dignity has finally been returned to me.”  The words spilled out as tears filled her eyes and her hands trembled. Embarrassed, she held the documents tightly.  The words had come out before she could stop them.  

Seeming to be in a state of shock, Aragón waited for her to catch her breath and calm herself.  Señor Aragon, I am very grateful for this gift.  What can one say, words aren’t enough.”  Thinking on her next words, Anna paused for a moment.  “As for leaving,” she continued, “I have my home here with you and the children.  We’re happy, Christina and I.  I hope you want us to remain.  Am I correct?  You do want us to stay, don't you?”  Anna asked with some confusion in her voice.  “Yes, Anna, I want you to stay.  It was only that I wanted you to have a choice in the matter, to know that you were a free woman, not trapped here with me and the boys.”  Aragón had told her the truth.  

“But who is this woman?”  Anna asked, genuinely concerned.  “The girl died as a child.  Her parents also died many years ago.”  Aragón answered truthfully.  “I know many people, powerful people.  They assist me when needed.  In this case, they were able to legally obtain the documents and to create a new identity for you.  Believe me Anna you’re now free to live your life without concern for yourself or Christina.”  With those words, Aragón left the table for the living room.  

Anna sat alone at the dining room table for a short while.  The thought of finally being free overwhelmed her.  She’d dreamed of this moment for so long, but had never believed it possible.  And yet, here she was with her passport to freedom in front of her.  This large, quiet, imposing man had made it possible, giving her a new life without asking anything in return.  Observing him over the years, Michael Aragón had seemed so aloof and cold.  And yet, he was able to show great kindness.  Anna realized that she loved this gentle man.  Over all of those years, she’d learned to respect him for his strength.  He had respected her, never suggesting anything inappropriate.  Leaving the table, Anna walked into the living room.  She smiled as she heard him playing a simple tune on the piano.  Sitting down next to him on the small stool, she began to play.  Choosing to show him her feelings through her music, Anna selected a piece that was calm and flowing.  With no need to exchange words, the two sat enjoying the moment.  When she was finished, Anna leaned over and kissed him tenderly on the cheek.  Aragón turned to her and held her close to him.  Feeling his strong arms around her, she felt safe and protected from the world.  

Anna’s thoughts drifted back to an earlier crisis that made her realize what this house and its owner meant to her.   She had never shared with Michael how afraid she was when he didn’t return home for several days.  The terrifying incident had upset everyone in the household.  She could tell by the behavior of Jesus and Miguel that something was wrong.  There were constant telephone calls and strange men arrived at all hours of the day and night.  And then there was the strange silence from the two men.  Gone was their playful bantering back and forth.  Each had become cold and hard, ready for what was needed.  

Anna remembered vividly that third night.  That was the night I came calling.  I had never visited her at home.  To Anna, I must have seemed concerned and ill at ease.  Asking her how she was, we spoke primarily about the children.  We tried to discuss church matters, but we were both distracted, almost disjointed.  Anna watched as I studied the two young men out of the corner of my eye.  Anna heard me command Miguel to bring her and the children to the rectory the next morning.  I was definite as I delivered the order.  It was apparent from Miguel's behavior that he would comply with my wishes.  Shaking his head in agreement, his eyes remained looking downward as he responded.  

After I left, Miguel glanced at Anna for a fleeting moment with a mixture of fear and pain in his eyes.  She knew then that something terrible had happened to Aragón.  At that moment, fear gripped her soul.  As Miguel stood by the front door, Anna confronted him.  Miguel, where is Mr. Aragón?”  She asked in a panicked tone.  Miguel looked at her for a long time before answering.  "Doña Anna, please don't ask me any questions,” he pleaded.  “Is he dead, Miguel?” her voice calm and cool.  Miguel turned away from her toward the window.  Moving the drapes aside, he looked into the darkness of the night, his face now pensive.  “We don't know.  We’ve had no word from him for three days.  We’re searching for him now.”  Miguel said with finality.  

“Who is we? Miguel.”  Anna asked with insistence.  “The Family,” Miguel answered.  “I can’t tell you any more.  There are some things you shouldn’t know.”  With those words, he moved away from her.  Jesus had called to him from the second floor and Miguel left the room to join him.  

The children sensed that something was wrong, asking her several times when Papi would be coming home.  Anna lied and told them he was away on business.  Kenneth came to her afterwards and told her that everything would be all right.  He was a calming influence even then.  She watched as he cared for the other two children.  He was very much Aragón's son.  The two were very much alike.  Each readily accepted responsibility.  

It was early the next morning when she heard the front door being unlocked.  Sensing Aragón’s presence, Anna lay there in bed next to Christina.  When she could stand it no longer, she rose quietly from the bed.  Not wanting to disturb her daughter, she opened her bedroom door quietly and made her way through the darkened hallway.  Within seconds, Anna was down the stairs and into the kitchen.  There she found him lost in his thoughts.  Aragón’s eyes were shut tightly, and he grimaced in pain.  Watching him in silence from behind, Anna was shaken by what she saw.  The profile of his face showed him badly bruised and covered with stubble.  His handsome face was now swollen to twice its normal size and battered almost beyond recognition.  He had removed his shirt, and she could see that he was covered with welts and bruises.  Badly beaten, he leaned forward over the sink.  With both hands resting on the edge of the counter, he spit up bright red blood into the spotless white basin.  It took everything in her not to rush to him and place her arms around him.  He looked like a lost child in pain.  He was clearly exhausted.  Knowing he needed her, in her bravest tone of voice, she called to him.  “Would you join me for a cup of coffee?”  She asked in a calm, quiet tone.  At first, there was no answer.  As he turned slowly toward her, Anna saw the full extent of the damage to his face.  

His right eye was swollen shut.  The left side of his face was dark blue from bruising and there was a deep gash above the left eye.  His normally thin nose was almost three times its normal size, his jaw blackened.  Shocked by the extent of his injuries, she looked down at his chest and stomach.  Both areas were also badly bruised.  

“Yes, I would.”  Aragón finally answered, stumbling on the words as he grimaced from the throbbing pain.  His swollen lips, broken and scabbed, caused each word to be slurred.  Anna put on a pot of coffee.  The two said little while they waited for the coffee.  In great pain, his body was racked with alternating sharp pangs and throbbing convulsions.  Pouring the two cups of steaming coffee, Anna sat next to him.  “So, did you have a good time while you were on vacation?”  She asked, trying to bring humor to the moment.  Laughing, Aragón winced from the pain and coughed loudly.  He said only that it was good to be home.  As he said those words, tears began to well up in Anna's eyes.  Seeing this, he reached out his broken hand to her and tenderly wiped away the tears.  

His first attempt to drink the coffee was painful.  The hot liquid burned his broken and scabbed lips.  “You need rest.”  She whispered to him.  Helping him to his feet, he staggered as she held him close to her side.  Anna guided the big man across the living room and up the stairs.  When they reached the top, Michael collapsed against the wall.  Holding him tightly, he leaned heavily against her.  She then walked him to his room.  It took all her strength to help him down onto his bed.  From the moment his head rested on the pillow, an exhausted, beaten, and battered Aragón was asleep.  Sitting in the chair next to his bed, she sobbed silently for several minutes.  When Anna was sure that he was resting comfortably, she left him to his dreams.  

Aragón had slept for an entire day.  I arrived late in the afternoon.  Anna saw the look of concern on my face when she told me of Aragón's condition.  Excusing myself, I walked quickly up to Aragón’s bedroom, leaving the door slightly ajar when entering.  What I saw shocked me.  Michael had been badly beaten.  Whatever had happened, I knew it was deliberate and vicious.  I knelt by the side of his bed and kissed him on the forehead.  The anger rose in my heart as I pulled the blankets up around the neck of my dear friend.  Later Anna told me that she had come to look in on us and found Aragón still sleeping and me there kneeling in prayer.  She knelt down beside me and joined in the petition.  

Her mind returning to the present, Anna was now looking at Aragón’s handsome face as he fingered keys on the piano.  He had healed quickly.  Standing up from the bench, he reached his hand out toward her.  When she took his hand, Michael Aragón pulled her to him.  Tilting Anna’s head upwards, he kissed her.  Anna’s soft lips yielded to him, her mouth eager to accept his.  Michael lost himself in her.  It had been a long time since he had allowed himself to feel anything so deeply.  Anna pressed her body up against his and the two held on to one another tightly.  Neither wanted the moment to end.  

Aragón was first to regain himself.  Anna,” he said with tenderness in his voice, “I’m in love with you.”  The words were out before Aragón had a chance to stop them.  He hadn't thought about the words, they had just poured from his heart.  “I love you too, Michael.” Anna answered with a voice filled with love and admiration.  The two kissed again.  It was a long tender kiss.  Standing alone in the middle of the room they were finally safe from the world.  Each had sought to find love and here it was.  God had heard their prayers.  

Having not told Anna about his wound, Aragón was suddenly filled with fear.  He had been selfish, thinking only of himself.  “We must talk.”  He whispered to her.  Taking her by the hand, Michael led her to the couch.  Sitting her down, he paced nervously in front of her.  “What is it, Michael?”  She asked patiently.  “There’s something you must know about me.”  He’d forced the words from his mouth.  “During the last war, in Korea, I was injured.”  Once Michael began he couldn’t hold back.  Seeing the pain in his eyes, she knew he was about to share a dark secret.  “It had been snowing for two days.”  As he spoke he began, reliving the moment.  “The North Koreans had sent in wave after wave of soldiers against us.  We were in the command post, cut-off from our rifle companies.”  His breathing was now heavy, as if reliving the terrible ordeal again.  His eyes narrowed as he began again.  “The North Koreans had gotten past our rifle companies and were attacking on all sides.  The fighting was bloody.  There was a sudden push.  Attacking in full force, there were too many for us to handle.  My rifle platoon held them for several minutes.  I can remember hearing a lieutenant next to me on the radio trying to get reinforcements.  Suddenly, the mortar shells began landing.  The last thing I remember was a loud explosion.”  Aragón's words stopped abruptly.  “I lost my best friend, Captain Peter Wellington.  He died in my arms.  Then, everything went black.”  Tears filled Aragón’s eyes as he spoke.  

Anna rose from the couch and held him close to her.  Aragón trembled as she put her arms around him.  He buried his face in the hollow of her shoulder and his strength left him.  They stood there holding one another for several minutes until Aragón was once again in control.  Moving away from her, Michael knew he had to get the words out before his fears got the best of him.  “When I woke up, I was in an army field hospital.  The doctor told me that I had suffered a bad injury.”  Aragón had been assured that he was very lucky to be alive.  The nurse attending him said that he should thank God his life.  He then took a deep breath and finished.  Anna,” Aragón blurted out as he turned to face her, “I lost my manhood.  I can never give you the pleasures that another man can.  I can love you with my heart but not with my body.”  He forced the words out.  No man should ever have to say such a thing.  Standing there in front of her, Aragón had a look of shame on his face.  

At first shocked by the news, Anna was now moved with great pity and compassion for the big man standing in front of her, hurting and exposed.  How could she tell this man that love was not physical, but something deeper?  Could she ever convince him that his physical loss was something that she too could overcome?   How could Anna explain to him how much his kindness and respect meant to her as a woman?  “Michael,” Anna began softly, “I fell in love with you for who you are in your heart.  You are what I want and need.”  She said almost whispering.  “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Not just for minutes or hours in bed, but always and forever.”  She hoped that her words would be enough to convince him of her sincerity.  

As Aragón listened carefully to what Anna was saying the little boy in him felt moved by the sincerity.  But the man in him still missed the passion and the power of lovemaking.  How could he turn off animal instincts that were such a deep part of him?  He looked at Anna’s beauty and wanted to sweep her up in his arms, carry her to the couch and ravage her.  Michael wanted to be deep inside of her, to be one with her and feel her beneath him.  He wanted to feel her want him.  “Michael,” her voice interrupted his thoughts, “you are a man in every sense of the word.  I’m in love with your mind and heart, not just your body.  What I have with you is the most precious of all gifts, a passion for living.”  With those words she stopped talking.  Michael’s pain had triggered Anna’s memories of the loss of her family and friends.  

Anna remembered the feelings of desperation it had brought her.  Tears suddenly began streaming down Anna’s face as she remembered her shame at being raped and beaten.  The feelings she’d neatly hidden away were suddenly present in the here and now.  Standing naked to the world and reliving all the pain and sorrow she had buried for so many years, Anna’s strength and denial abandoned her.  The pain tore through the thin, protective veneer surrounding her mind.  She began to cry for her father and Uncle.  Anna wept for Hans, Helga, and Rolf.  Aragón was moved by what he saw, sensing that she too needed to be held and comforted.  In front of him was a broken little girl.  Walking over to Anna, Michael took her face in his two large hands and kissed her mouth tenderly.  Reaching out to him, Anna buried her face in his muscular chest.  Holding her very close to him, she felt protected in his strong arms.  With his help, Anna regained her strength.  He had taken the first step in telling her his story.  It was now her turn to risk everything.  

“Michael you’ve shared your fears with me.  Now I feel that it is only fair that I tell you the truth about my past.  My name is Antoinette Castillo-Von Furstenburge.  I’m an Argentine of the Estanciero class.  My father was a member of one of the finest families of Argentina.”  Anna looked for a reaction from Michael.  When there was none, she continued.  Wanting to hear it all, he waited for her story to unfold.  “Michael, I was once a wealthy woman.  But then something terrible happened to me and my family which changed everything.”  Anna stopped for a moment to compose herself and then began again.  She told him everything.  The wedding, the arrival of the tanks, and the horrible attack on the estancia all came tumbling out of her neatly sealed past.  Tears coursed down her cheeks as she recounted watching Hans die at the hands of Peron’s men.  She told him of Rolf and his loyalty to her dear Hans.  Michael’s face took on a strange look, but he said nothing.  

She wept as she told him about her trek across the countries of South America.  When she recounted the horror of her rape, he reached out for her but she pushed him away.  “I must get this out no matter what the cost.  These memories, bad evil memories, I’ve kept from myself for far too long.  It’s time I deal with them once and for all.”  Next she spoke of the kindness of Abraham and Ester and told how they had facilitated her eventual arrival in America.  “Michael, you’ve become my strength.  I couldn’t face my past until this very moment.”  She stopped, looking directly into his eyes.  Aragón stood up from the couch and walked carefully toward her.  As he sat beside her, Anna fixed her eyes on him.  She was with him in the here and now and yet she was still back there at the estancia, frozen in time.  

Speaking directly to Aragón, Anna believed Michael to be Jose, the family servant.  “Where is Papa?”  She asked Aragón.  Turning away from him, she looked back at something.  Aragón gently grasped her hand.  “No one is moving down there.  Are they dead, Jose?”  She asked, her face that of a frightened, lost little girl.  “Yes,” Aragón said softly, “they’re all gone.”  She was lost in that moment of long ago, raising her hands to her face, she sobbed uncontrollably.  Gathering her up in his arms, Michael held her close.  “No one can hurt you now or ever again.”  Michael offered sweetly, in a voice filled with strength.  “I will always be here for you, to protect you.”  Feeling her pain and sorrow, Aragón held Anna for what seemed like an eternity.  Crying for her and himself, a frayed Aragón had tears in his eyes.  “The world is an evil place.”  He said out loud.  “Each of us has his demons.”  

He stopped talking and remembering Peter Wellington’s wide smile and deep laugh.  Aragón smiled as he thought of their times together.  Peter had taught him the meaning of life.  Aragón owed a great deal to the man.  In the end, Peter had given him the greatest gift of all, Kenneth.  The boy had become his reason for living.  And now, God had given him another reason for living, this woman he held in his arms.  

Feeling Aragón’s strength, his arms held her together.  The scent of his body filled Anna, bringing her back to reality.  Suddenly grabbing him, Michael was surprised by Anna’s strength.  Holding him even closer, her vice-like grip almost took his breath away.  Then he kissed her deeply.  She needed the closeness.  The kiss was deep and hard.  Feeling her love, Aragón experienced not the physical woman, but the essence of her.  

He wanted to help her, to save her.  It was then that he told her the truth.  “They’re not all gone.”  He assured her.  Pushing herself away from him, Anna wiped the tears from her eyes.  “What do you mean?”  She asked him forcefully.  Rolf, he survived.”  Aragón caught himself, but it was too late.  “How do you know this?”  Anna demanded.  Anna, he’s here.  Here in Los Angeles.”  He commented factually, not knowing what to expect next.  “Where?  How?”  Anna demanded of Aragón, needing to know badly.  Suddenly the knowing that something, someone had survived her past gave Anna hope.  

“I didn't want to tell you until I was sure.  So I kept it a secret.”  Aragón answered honestly.  Anna, confused and angry, confronted Aragón.  “How could you not have told me?”  She shouted angrily.  Sensing that the situation was spiraling out of control, he tried to appeal to her logic.  “The man, Rolf, kidnapped me,” Michael began.  “He was the one who beat me so badly.  Rolf followed you here from Argentina.  He's been tracking you all these years.  How he was able to find you, I don't know.  But the fact remains, he’s found you.”  Aragón stopped, awaiting her reaction.  The anger leaving her, Anna wanted to know even the smallest detail.  Anna was both happy and sad.  She was saddened by what Rolf had done to Michael, but she was overcome with joy at the thought of something, anything, having survived from her demolished past.  

“Why did Rolf do these things to you?”  She asked Aragón, genuinely confused.  Not wanting to discuss the details of Anna’s life that Rolf had shared with him, Aragón left the matter alone.  He knew that there was much more that Anna needed to accept about her past.  She had only touched the surface of her pain.  Aragón decided to explain only what was needed.  Later, they would explore the other things that he knew.  Rolf knows things about me and he was afraid for you.”  He wasn’t ready to discuss the Family business with her.  Rolf thought that you were being held here against your will.  He believed your life was in jeopardy, so he followed me and watched my every move.  Rolf waited for an opportunity to kidnap me and hold me.”  Aragón was cautious as he said the words.  “Kidnap you, but why?”  Anna prodded in disbelief.  “To find out if his suspicions were true.”  Aragón responded as calmly as he could.  “And, what did you tell him?”  A confused Anna asked.  Aragón explained to Anna, that he’d told Rolf the truth.  Michael told Rolf that it was I who had sent her to his home to serve as governess to his children.  He told him that Anna had always been free to go or stay as she liked.  Aragón went on to explain to Anna, Rolf's state of mind.  Rolf was a shattered man obsessed with protecting a woman from his past.  Aragón also shared with Anna, Rolf’s relationship with me.  

Anna was in a state of disbelief.  The entire story was too far fetched for her to believe.  The man described by Aragón was not the kind and considerate Rolf she had known.  He had always been gracious.  “What had happened to him?” She remarked out loud.  “When may I see him?” Anna demanded.  “When would you like?”  Aragón replied accommodatingly.  “May I see him now?”  She requested respectfully.  Puzzled, Aragón didn't know how to respond.  “But, why now?”  He asked, frustrated and on the verge of anger.  “Why not now?”  She questioned with a tone of determination in her voice.  The talking then stopped, both were spent.  For several minutes they sat thinking over what had just transpired.  Both were relieved knowing that the other was past the pain of the last few hours.  It was the calm after the storm.  Aragón knew she was stable now.  And Anna was happy that the man she loved also loved her.  Suddenly, Aragón began to laugh at the absurdity of the moment.  He felt they’d just gone through hell together, and here Anna was making demands.  It was a deep hearty laugh.  Grasping the silliness of the moment, she too began to laugh.  Anna had never really seen him laugh before.  Soon they were laughing together, both understanding the insanity of it all.  Michael and Anna were finally free of the many demons which had held their souls hostage for so many years.  They were now friends and lovers and were safe together.  She laughed as she wrapped her legs around his and held his hand.  Finally, feeling free of their demons, they sat looking at one another.  Each decided to withhold the last of their secrets until another time.  

He now wondered how he would explain the Family to Anna, questioning whether she could accept his true identity.  Though theirs was a life apart from the Brotherhood, the Brotherhood still needed him.  He had built it with his own hands and they depended on him.  Yes, he had built the organization in a way that it could survive after him, but it was a part of him.  The question was, how would he tell her.  Anna would have to understand that it wasn't a simple matter of right and wrong.  Living one's life in black and white was impossible.  The world was too corrupt for this simplistic notion.  Aragón hoped that Anna could understand that life was an ever-widening area of shades of gray.  She too had lived a life that cared little for right and wrong, black and white.  Survival had been the only mission for her and Christina.  Anna would understand someday, he assured himself.


11/24/2015 10:07 AM