“Oh, thank goodness!” I whispered under my breath, as soon as I heard the priest’s final words. The mass was finally over.
Don’t get me wrong, I love mass; my problem is the people. Those irritating people who go to mass in their fanciest outfits and then judge me. Or, worse, try to talk with me. Around me, everyone started greeting each other: “Happy Sunday! I hope your nephew feels better soon!” “Today is a beautiful day, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you like to have lunch with us?”
Just the thought of all those people laughing and eating a Sunday lunch made me sick. What was wrong with those people? Why couldn’t they leave each other alone? I personally had nothing against silence. I quickly found my way out of there and got in my old gray Beetle. All I wanted at that moment was to go home.
I was the first to leave, which made it easy for me to drive faster, since I didn’t have to deal with the others politely — and annoyingly — asking to pass in front of me or anything like that. I headed as fast as possible back to my lonely house in the farthest place from any human being: a mountain slope. I lived in Caraguatatuba, a beach town that would fill itself with tourists every single weekend. But there were also spots in the green, tropical forested mountains where the tourists didn’t go much at all. And that is why I chose to live there, away from the annoying rest of humanity. It was the only place I could find peace.
I parked my car and got out of it. There were green trees and way more exasperating mosquitos than I would like. In fact, the only thing I did like about the place was the silence and peace. My house was simple and dirty on the outside. There were some rebel wildflowers trying to grow near it, but as I didn’t encourage them, they just acted as a reminder that even when you try your hardest you will most likely fail. I could have said “home, sweet home” but the only sweet part about that place was its silence, and speaking would have broken it. So, I noiselessly went into the house, got a cup of black coffee, sat in my favorite wooden chair, and closed my eyes, ready to drink my warm drink, which would give me strength to pass through the next week.
In the blink of an eye, the week was over and it was Sunday again. There I went, unhappy and frustrated, towards the church, as the commandments ask. When I got there, I quickly got out of the car and headed to my perch. But before I got there, an absolutely dreadful little girl came to me and had the audacity to say, “Good morning, miss! How are you doing today?” I rolled my eyes once I realized there was nothing I could do but socialize back.
“Good morning. I’m doing well enough, thanks for asking,” I replied in the least rough voice I could manage.
“How lovely! Oh, isn’t that a glorious morning?” asked the girl.
Great!” I thought, Couldn’t she be one of those tasteless girls who spend their lives watching stupidity on the television? No, of course not! She had to be one of those little awful creatures who go around telling everybody how glorious a plain morning can be! Oh, what have I done to deserve this?!
The girl didn’t wait for me to respond. “In mornings such as this one I can really feel alive. Can’t you, miss?”
“Most certainly,” I answered, subjecting myself to my fate. “It’s a pain that morning has to end.”
You know what else is a pain? That child!
“I know exactly how you feel.” continued the child, as if I was truly invested in our conversation. “But afternoons, evenings, and nights have their own beauty, haven’t they?”
“I would suppose so.” I was now starting to run out of patience.
“You surely would. Now, my grandma told me not to talk with strangers. I’m Emilia dos Santos. Would you mind telling me your name?”
Are all children as annoying and disobedient as this one? my thoughts went.
“I’m Miss Elisa da Silva.”
“So, you are not married? I thought all the old ladies were married! That’s quite fascinating, isn’t it? Well, since you are all alone, would you like to be my friend?”
That. Is. It. I’m done with her. I won’t tolerate this anymore.
“I’m sorry, but I am in a hurry, so would you mind leaving me and my loneliness alone? Thank you very much.”
With that said, I went to my perch and sat.
“That child is such a pain!” I shouted to the forest, as I got home.
As the silence was already broken, I went into the house bumping my feet, got my coffee as loudly as possible, and sat in the chair violently. Well, that’s an interesting way to start your week, isn’t it? Emilia’s voice echoed in my head.
Oh yes, it is! Quite interesting! my thoughts angrily yelled. Why did that girl come to me? How am I supposed to go to mass next week? She will surely tell all her gossipy little friends about me, and they will tell their parents, and their parents will insupportably greet me now! I can already hear their horrible voices. ‘Good morning, Miss da Silda!’ ‘How is it going, Miss da Silva?’ ‘Happy Sunday, Miss da Silva!’ And I’ll have to reply to every single one of them! Oh, I can’t! I won’t! That’s too much for me!
Unfortunately for me, Sunday came sooner than I would have liked. As I locked my house’s door, I felt like I was never coming back. As I drove to the church, I felt like I was going to my own death.
As I went into the church with a deeply depressed look on my face, I felt confused. No one said a word to me.
Well, maybe miracles are real after all.” I thought. “Maybe that Emilia girl isn’t that gossipy, huh? Who would have thought. And then suddenly, as from my deepest nightmare, a woman appeared. And she was… holding Emilia’s hand.
“Hello, Miss da Silva!” said the girl, happier than a little pig in the dirt. “Nice to meet you again!”
“Oh. Hello, Emilia.”
“You remember my name!” shouted the girl, impressed.
“Of course I do! Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I don’t have a memory!” I felt insulted.
“My dear Emmy was just excited to know that her new friend likes her enough to actually remember her, am I right?” said the old lady, in a sweet, gentle way that made me sick.
Even with her mask on, I could see the girl’s wild smile. Her little green eyes were shaped like half a moon each, and all her-little-self spread happiness.
“I am indeed!” she said; delight in her voice.
“That’s all very great.” I tried to sound sociable.
For some unknown reason I wanted the woman to respect me. And she wouldn’t if I was rude to her… tiny friend.
“I know, right?” the girl’s voice sounded happy. Too happy. I felt like something dreadful was about to happen. “Oh, Mrs. Moura, I just had the greatest idea! Why don’t we invite Miss da Silva to our little tea party?”
“Oh…” I started to refuse but the elder lady interrupted me.
“Our tea party?…” At first, she sounded confused, but after exchanging a look with the girl the confusion was gone. “What a fabulous idea! You will join us, won’t you, Miss da Silva?”
No! No! No! Say you won’t! my whole-self screamed at me. Of course, I am not going! I reassured myself. But for some reason when I opened my mouth to refuse, the only thing that came out was, “Absolutely.” It was weak, but it was still a confirmation.
“Wonderful! It will take place in my house, at 2:15pm. See you there, then.” And with that, Mrs. Moura and her little thrilled friend went to their perch.
“Did I just accept a party invitation?! How on earth did that happen?!”
Then I headed to my perch and sat down. I was overwhelmed. All those memories of my grandmother came back to me. Her smile, her voice, the way she would always understand me and be there for me, the emptiness I felt when she left me forever… it all came back.
Mrs. Moura was an awful lot like her, and that gave me a weird feeling. Maybe that was why I accepted the invitation. I couldn’t refuse it, just as I never had been able to say no to my grandmother.
When the mass was over, I felt empty. I had spent the whole time thinking and rethinking the whole situation, searching for good excuses to avoid it, but I found none. Instead, I found a little tiny part of me who was truly enjoying it. You are going to a tea party! Just like the ones Grandma used to organize! Isn’t that quite lovely?
I frowned as I realized how similar that part of me was to Emilia. How similar my young self had been to her. The time passed quicker than I thought it would. In a blink of an eye, I was already sitting straight in my wooden chair, debating whether I should go.
I won’t go. I’ve never been to a party since… since… well it doesn’t matter! I have stopped going to parties and today is not the day in which I intend to restart this foolishness! However, if I don’t go Mrs. Moura will despise me! Why on earth do I care if she despises me?! But, oh, Lord I do! I strongly do! I hate myself for that. Okay, I’ll go. Yeah, I will. But I can’t!! Ugh, I won’t go to that party and that’s the end of the conversation!
All the same, I continued to stare at the one lonely clock in the almost empty wall until it showed that it was already 2:15 pm. Then, I slowly got up, dressed in my only dress — a black one I used in my grandmother’s funeral — and got in the car. When I finally got to Mrs. Moura’s house — one of the only houses in Caraguatatuba every member of the community knew where to find — I parked and looked around judgingly. The white house was small and friendly. The front yard was filled with the most ridiculous little flowers. I felt out of place as I headed to the door. Before I could even knock, Emilia opened the door.
“Oh, you came! You actually came!” She jumped a few times, and then looked down in shame. “Oh, sorry, I got so happy that I forgot my manners. Grandma is waiting for you in the living room.”
“Good afternoon,” I said as I followed her to the living room, trying to ignore the sharp pain I felt as she tenderly called Mrs. Moura “grandma.”
The whole house was filled with paintings and peculiar rugs. The furniture was… well, appealing. The old woman was waiting for me, sitting all alone in a comfortable armchair.
“Hello, Miss Da Silva! What a joy it is to have you here today!” Her voice was just as kind and gentle as before, but I didn’t feel that sick this time. I guess I was getting used to her weird ways.
“Hello…” I greeted, as I inconspicuously searched for other guests in the room. I found none.
I guess I was not as inconspicuous as I thought I’d been, for she almost immediately looked at me in a curious manner and said, “I hope you don’t mind being the only guest…?”
“Oh, not at all!” I was so glad that I forgot to watch myself. I must have looked just as remorseful as Emilia had a few moments before that, as I instantly realized my mistake. “I mean… it won’t be a problem… Please don’t worry about it.”
She laughed genuinely, “Oh, how glad I am that you are already feeling more comfortable! I noticed that you probably wouldn’t like to be part of an agglomeration — especially since the pandemic is not quite over yet — so I decided to throw the party just for the both of us. Emilia might join us sometime soon. I hope that doesn’t bother you.”
“It doesn’t,” I answered quickly, trying to redeem myself.
“Wonderful! Shall we start then?”
I nodded. This might not be as awful as I thought it was going to be.
I was exhausted by the time I parked in front of my house. I somehow had managed to not have a terrible time, and… maybe even had some fun. I kneeled in front of my bed, did my prayers, and laid down.
Well, that indeed wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be… All the same, it won’t ever happen again!
Despite those words, it did happen again. The next Sunday I got another invitation from little Emilia, and soon found myself heading to the house again.
“Would someone mind explaining what is even happening to my life?” I asked, perplexed, as I closed my beetle’s door.
“Hello, Miss Da Silva!” cried the little red-haired lady, running in my direction with a radiant smile.
“Hello, Emilia,” I said softly as I looked down to her, trying my best to smile naturally.
“What do you think of my new look?” she inquired, spinning around to give me a better view of her clothing.
She was wearing a light, white dress, which spun along with her. In her red hair there was a messy yet sort of nice wreath of wildflowers, and she was barefoot. That was all. But, I realized, it does fit her so perfectly that I would have said she was wearing the most beautiful of the gowns.
“It looks lovely, Emilia,” I answered politely.
“Thank you!” she exclaimed.
Good job faking interest! I told myself. It sounded so realistic that you could have fooled even me!
Why, I wasn’t faking at all! She does look lovely!
I tried to shut down both sides of me as I walked into the house. Mrs. Moura appeared in an elegant flowered shirt, and a long orange skirt. She looked so magnificent that as I looked down at my same old black dress, I felt embarrassed.
“Good afternoon,” I smiled, trying to hide my shame.
“Good afternoon!” she replied.
“I’m so glad you came!” cried Emilia, coming in a rush from behind me.
“And so am I!” exclaimed Mrs. Moura.
“Today we are going to watch The Sound of Music and I thought you would like to join us,” told me Emilia.
A movie. Sounded perfect to me. Not that I had much interest in television, but when watching a movie everybody always keeps silent. And that was such a rare thing that I couldn’t waste such an opportunity.
“It sounds like fun,” I agreed.
We all sat on the couch and started watching. I soon found myself intrigued by the plot twists, cheering for the protagonists, suffering for their losses. But even invested in the movie as I was, I couldn’t help but miss Mrs. Moura and Emilia’s fun chatting.
“Well, what did you think?” asked Emilia by the time the movie was over.
“It was quite a great movie, Emilia. Thank you for the lovely time, but now I really have to go.”
“Oh, really?” Emilia looked like a hurt puppy. “We understand of course, but we will miss you. I hope we can do something like this again soon?”
“Yes, I believe we can.” In your wildest dreams.
The more my thoughts tried to make me let Mrs. Moura’s hopes down, the more I ended up living up to them. My thoughts were stubborn, so those visits occurred multiple times. And even though every time I would assure myself that this would be the last visit ever, my little visits to Mrs. Moura’s quickly turned into a weekly habit. Emilia would often join us and tell us stories about her school life and the dreams she had.
I soon learned that little Emilia was an orphan, just like I had been at her age. But, differently from me who was taken care of by my own grandmother, Emilia had no one to turn to. She wandered alone for some time, and then finally was found by some orphanage in which she stayed until she was five and a half. Then Mrs. Moura adopted her. Since then, she had been taking care of the girl.
“She is like a grandma to me. Without her I would be the sad, antisocial girl I once was,” Emilia told me.
That gave me that sharp, weird feeling once more. I smiled at the girl, sympathetic to her situation, and then with respect to Mrs. Moura. My admiration towards her grew a whole lot that day.
Another thing that soon happened was that I got sick of my old black dress. I bought new colorful ones — by the internet of course — and started wearing clothes similar to Mrs. Moura’s. They made me look strange, but I was fine with that. I was more than used to being strange. I got more sociable every day I spent with them.
That was a happy time that I will always look back on with smiles and tears. Unfortunately, every good thing must come to an end. And it was on a fateful Sunday morning that the happiest time of my life came to its deadline.
There I went happily in my beetle, wearing a flowered dress and a purple sweater. When I got to the church, Mrs. Moura and her little adopted granddaughter were waiting for me.
“Good morning!” I greeted, smiling widely.
“Good morning, Miss Da Silva!” replied Emilia. “Grandma and I have been thinking and we had the greatest idea!”
“Oh, I’m sure you did! What is the great idea and what makes it so great?” After finding out about Emilia’s past I had started to treat her with the love I knew she needed.
“Well, you have visited Grandma and I many times already, haven’t you? But we never, ever got to visit you!” I felt the color leaving my cheeks. “So, what do you think of us going to your house instead of you coming to ours today? Pleaseee! It would be so fun!”
I must have looked very pale because Mrs. Moura had a concerned expression when she interrupted the girl.
“Calm down, darling. Let’s hear what she has to say, shall we?”
“Well… why not? It… it would certainly be good to all of us, wouldn’t it? You could come home with me after mass because otherwise I don’t think you would find my house easily.”
“Then it’s settled! I’m so excited!” And with that she jumped a few times before going to her perch, taking Mrs. Moura with her.
What a mess… I whispered in my thoughts, before sitting down on my own perch. After mass we all went home — to my home — in my gray beetle.
“That is the cutest car I have ever seen!” Emilia had exclaimed when she first saw the car.
We started to go farther and farther from the town. I had lost count of how many times Emilia had asked, “Will it take much longer?” and, “How far from the church is your home?”
Fortunately, Mrs. Moura kept doing small talk which calmed me down a bit. I was nervous. What would they say of my house? What would they think of me? When I parked in front of my odd-looking house, Emilia cried in pure delight,
“Oh, oh, oh! Is that your house? It looks like a fairy house! Look at all those trees and flowers! This place could be so, so pretty!”
That made me smile a little bit. Mrs. Moura didn’t say anything at all. We went into the almost empty house, and Emilia kept talking, and talking about the gifts they could give me to decorate the house, but Mrs. Moura didn’t say a word. That was starting to worry me, but then she finally started to talk and I wished she never had broken her silence,
“The house is quite interesting, indeed. And it does have a lot to offer. We must just explore all the qualities of the place, and then it may end up being more of a home for you, Miss. Da Silva.”
“Of course…” I moaned, trying my best to be patient.
“Do you know how to cook? I noticed a lot of McDonald’s packs in the trash can,” she added.
“Hmm… I can fry an egg if that’s the question…” She was starting to make me feel extremely self-conscious.
“Well, that can be solved. Our cooking classes can start this very week if you don’t mind. From what I gathered you eat there, sleep here, and… well I think that’s it. I think that’s nothing hard work can’t fix, but maybe it would be advisable for you to move away…”
“Maybe it would be advisable for you to stop making nasty, unkind comments about my house!” I exploded. “Since the very first time we met you have been trying to change who I am, how I see the world, and now you are trying to change the very way I live! I didn’t say it before because I was having a good time but you don’t have the right to do this.”
“I am deeply sorry. I didn’t realize I affected you so negatively…” She truly sounded sorry but I didn’t care.
“You have no idea what I went through or why I am the way I am! But you do not care! You don’t care that I lost my parents at the age of ten. You don’t care that I lived from ten to eighteen wandering alone trying to find somewhere to sleep or something to eat. You don’t care that in order to turn into the most independent, strong, and survivor-like version of myself I had to sacrifice all my gentleness and friendliness. You DON’T CARE! Have you ever asked me if my own grandmother was the one who adopted me at eighteen and took care of me, after the death of my grandfather who wouldn’t accept having anything to do with the trashy daughter of that useless son of his?! No! You never asked why I am the way I am! You never cared to do so! You just assumed I was desperately seeking for someone to change me. BUT I AM NOT! SO LEAVE ME AND MY LONELINESS ALONE!”
“I didn’t know! I apologize for not being sensible and reasonable enough to…” began Mrs. Moura, but I wouldn’t listen to her.
“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, MRS. MOURA!”
“Miss Da Silva…” started Emilia.
“GET OUT!” I shouted in return.
Both of them left, and who knows how they got back to the city. All I know is that I didn’t take them. I thought that after this I would be pleased but I didn’t seem to be. All I wanted was to go running after them and beg for a second chance, but I wouldn’t. I was too proud to do so.
As I went to the church next Sunday, I ignored their “good morning”s and “how are you”s. I went straight to my perch. There I sat and watched the mass in pure silence. The sermon was about forgiveness and humbleness, which I tried my best not to give attention to. But the priest’s powerful words soaked in, even against my stubborn will. There — even if unconsciously — I began to meditate on them. By the Consecration time, I had them well developed, and I knew what I had to do. After receiving communion, I devoted myself entirely to thanking Jesus for having cleared my mind. The priest said the final words — the same words he had said weeks ago when this whole story began — and I quickly headed to Mrs. Moura and Emilia, who had sadly gone to the farthest place from me in the church.
“Hello, my friends!” I sounded as if nothing had happened, just like I had planned to.
“Hmm… hi?” answered Emilia.
Mrs. Moura stayed silent, looking to her feet with an ashamed look.
I looked down, finally realizing that the things couldn’t ever be the same. Our friendship would never be what it had once been. I couldn’t just ignore all that had happened and pretend we were cool. I would have to fight against my own pride. Swallowing it all, I looked up. Mrs. Moura was still looking down, and Emilia seemed ready to start crying. I took a deep breathe and began,
“I know I didn’t treat either of you right that day, and I know I can’t just ignore what I said and did. But I’m here to say that I admit that I was a stupid beast when I refused your help. You just wanted to make my life easier and better, and instead of letting you and shouted and you and hurt you and your girl’s feelings. I’m deeply sorry for all this mess. I hope you can give me a chance to make things right.”
With that, I was finished. All I had to say had been shortly summarized in a few words. Mrs. Moura looked up even more mortified and Emilia came running to me and… hugged me. No one had hugged me since my grandma’s death. No one. It was a wonderful feeling. That little sobbing girl with her fragile arms around me in a loving protective way. I smiled and felt my eyes tearing up.
“Miss Da Silva, I admire your apology but I can’t let you take all the blame like that! I was imprudent when I started to judge your house. Especially since you were probably extremely self-cautious and defensive at the time. Plus, I should have asked you if you wanted a friend. Not just readily assume you needed one…” started Mrs. Moura, tearing up as well.
“But you were friends! I really needed a friend and I will never be able to repay what you and your adorable little Emilia did for me.” I interrupted her, with tears running down my checks.
There we were, two old ladies and a little girl, all crying in the corner of the church. I believe we all realized how we were looking at the same time, for we all started to laugh and cry together.
“Well, I know how you could repay anything we did for you,” announced Emilia, with a funny smiled that made her freckles look even more cute than usual.
“And what would it be, young lady?” I asked her, lifting an eyebrow in a hilarious way.
Emilia laughed a bit, and then said to Mrs. Moura, “Why don’t we invite Miss da Silva to our little tea-party?”
Many happy months passed by, in which my house’s appearance improved a lot. Mrs. Moura and Emilia bought a house near mine, and we would visit each other every now and then. Emilia loved me to take her to the church with my gray beetle, which I let her dye the way she wanted: light blue. Mrs. Moura introduced me to all her friends, who gayly accepted me.
I learned all the community member names and I always greeted every single one of them when I saw them. My friendship with Mrs. Moura was now straightened by our little fight, and Emilia and I were almost like sisters to each other. My life wasn’t exactly equal to what it had ever been, but I couldn’t be happier. Emilia would more than often remind us that it had all been what she called her “grand deed”. If it wasn’t for her, none of us would ever have met.
Then, one day, an old woman with gray hair and a black dress came to the church. She sat alone in the perch farthest from all human beings. I felt something inside me. Something strong that was pushing me into going in her direction.
I looked at Mrs. Moura in search of approval. She was talking with someone and didn’t see me. But Emilia saw me. She saw the woman, and she saw how I wanted to go talk to her. She gave me a thumbs up and whispered, “Mrs. Moura is going to be so proud of you!!”
That was all the approval I needed. I started walking, passing by every person, until I got to her perch. I quickly noticed that this had once been my lonely perch. The woman looked at me with half annoyed, half exasperated eyes as I kindly said, “Good morning, miss! How are you doing today?”
Cissa, 13, Brazil, loves to write passionately about anything. She says, “I have always dreamed of the day I would find the courage to send my writing to a magazine and now this day has finally come!” Read her Global Village article “Olá from Brazil” in the Spring 2022 “Blossoming” issue of NMG magazine.