The enchanting night that lay sprawled before Rosita only moments before, offering itself up for her pleasure, perished with a seemingly simple request from her beloved Abuela.
Earlier that afternoon, Rosita had caressed the satin of the dress that flirtatiously tickled her knees and hugged her chest exactly as it should. It was certainly the most captivating garment she had ever owned. The color was that of daffodil petals, and she smiled when she considered hers must echo a butterfly’s feelings when it first spread its wings and was mesmerized by the glory that surrounded it.
Marcus was coming! Rosita couldn’t wait for him to arrive. Although they were both college seniors, Rosita lived at home and commuted the short distance to save money. When Marcus said he would pick her up, Rosita immediately thought of the lived-in shabbiness of the home where she resided with her Mama and her Abuela. Rosita was confident, however, she could splurge with her money from working in the library, where this romance has begun, and dress herself so that Marcus’s eyes would be drawn only to her.
After one final swipe of blush on each cheek and a spritz of perfume, Rosita proceeded to the den. She knew they were waiting for her, Mama and Abuela, so she paused to pull her lightly tousled deep brown hair over one shoulder to create just a bit more drama.
Abuela was so pleased that she clapped when Rosita performed a quick twirl and smiled coyly. Mama, more demure than her mother, gave the smile of approval that Rosita knew so well.
Abuela gathered her hands to her heart. And then--the request fell upon Rosita from Abuela’s lips. “Rosita, remember the jacket I bought you for Christmas? It would go beautifully with that dress.”
Rosita’s eyes widened, but she caught herself, quickly cutting her eyes at her mother for help. Mama, however, would not save her from this situation. Instead, she cast her eyes down, clearly passing the situation over to Rosita’s hands.
The jacket Abuela spoke of was ghastly, manufactured from an unknown plastic. In addition to this atrocity, the jacket was drenched in a small diamond pattern, giving it the appearance of scaly reptile skin. The large silver buttons that clung to the front belonged nowhere in the current era. Surely Abuela had ordered it from one of her shopping networks during Senior hour.
But none of this mattered. Rosita looked at Abuela, dear sweet Abuela, a woman whose goodness and kindness pooled in her warm brown eyes. She had made a request of her only surviving granddaughter. Mama was depending on Rosita also, she knew, even though Mama still had not raised her eyes.
“Absolutely, Abuela. I’ll just retrieve it from my closet.”
Back in her room, Rosita opened the closet slowly, and peered in, as if trying to avoid waking a sleeping beast. This is silly, she thought. But still. There was truly a beast lurking in Rosita’s mind. The house was part of the beast; the jacket was another. This reminded Rosita that she did not belong in Marcus’s world. But her dazzling dress proved she did.
Rosita succumbed to a sense of surrender as she slowly removed the jacket from its hanger and introduced it to the early spring sunlight. No, she thought, it was no better than it had been when she removed it from the box at Christmas and had pasted what she hoped was a beaming smile on her face in order to spare Abuela’s feelings.
She shrugged one arm into the jacket, yelping from a painful prick as she neared the end of the right sleeve. A closer look revealed a small stick pin that held a quality inspection code. Of course, Rosita thought, the beast had bitten her. She dabbed with a tissue at a small perforation of blood on her forearm and grimaced at the thought of an inspection being performed on this waste of material.
As she pulled down the sleeve and adjusted the garment around her, Rosita could have sworn the room itself darkened, the black jacket completely smothering the dress’s burst of color. Some unrecognizable smell protruded from it also. It reminded Rosita of what accosted her nose while unfolding a cheap plastic tablecloth at a church gathering.
The paltry doorbell rang. Rosita inhaled, but not too deeply. The smell.
When she re-entered the den, Abuela had Marcus engaged in conversation. Mama stood by, as if supervising. She sometimes worried that Abuela divulged a bit too much personality to new acquaintances.
“Yes,” Rosita heard Abuela say, “she’s bought a new dress, and I provided the jacket she’s wearing tonight. I can’t wait to see her in it.” Abuela turned then to acknowledge Rosita’s entrance. She held out both hands, and Rosita stepped forward to grasp them. “Rosita, you are a vision,” Abuela uttered softly.
Marcus’s eyes found Rosita’s and she saw the crinkles form around them as he smiled. She was sweating under the jacket. Nerves. Marcus had smiled, but what was he actually thinking. You’re wearing that to the magnificent restaurant I’m about to take you to? Rosita tried to smile, but the magic of the dress was gone. There was only her--in the horrid jacket her Abuela had lovingly chosen for her, within the constraints of a miniscule budget.
“Ladies, it has been a pleasure to meet you both.” Marcus looked back and forth between Mama and Abuela. Rosita stiffened. Was he now noticing the wood paneled walls behind Abuela’s green consignment store chair?
“We’ll be heading out now in order to make our reservation time,” Marcus continued. “I promise to take good care of Rosita.”
Yes, the sooner he can get the night started, the sooner it will be over with, Rosita thought. I didn’t even get to be Cinderella for one evening.
The weak spring sunlight made a pathetic attempt to illuminate the faded carpet. Encapsulated in the jacket, Rosita felt equally feeble. She remembered everything that separated her from Marcus.
“Ready, Rosita?” Marcus held out his hand. Rosita reached out for him, and when she did, she felt the jacket slither up her arm.
With a final wave at their audience, Rosita and Marcus stepped out onto the porch, and he moved quickly ahead to open the car door. Rosita felt a sense of unworthiness rattle her. “Oh, Marcus. You don’t have to do that.”
“But I want to.” Marcus glanced at Rosita, and she saw a look of puzzlement cross his face.
Rosita slid into the car and breathed in the deeply comforting, deeply rich smell of leather. “I’ll just slip this jacket off, and put it in the back if it’s okay.”
“Sure, if you want, but it’s still pretty chilly outside. You might want to wear it into the restaurant.” He paused. “I could tell your grandmother was proud of you wearing that jacket.”
Rosita paused. These were not words she had expected. “It’s hideous.”
“It is,” Marcus agreed, but he was smiling. “But it shows a lot about you that you chose to wear it anyway.” He took her hand.
Rosita sat up a little straighter in her seat, smoothing out the plastic jacket with little avail. Oh well, she thought, as she smiled back at Marcus.
And the evening spread out again in splendor before her.