They stayed for the funeral. It was a rushed affair, as all three sisters had to leave by the weekend.
And without Abuela's blessing.
They knew it was just a formality, but a formality that they'd traveled more than five hundred miles to witness.
The service was attended by almost every citizen in the town of Cortezza, and the Padre presided over it with the majesty befitting a queen, even for the modest town's abilities.
Even so, Rosa, Marieka, and Karima felt it. Felt him in the vicinity. The cold fingers of the sorcerer that was their father, who had beguiled their mother so long ago, that had reached out and touched their family one more time. They were sure of it.
Auntie Liselle was not so impressed. "Tontería," she'd scoffed later that day when Marieka had voiced their collective concern. "Abuela was old and weak. That is all."
And it should have been enough.
But now on the plane back to Pittsburgh and her comfortable life in Oakwood with Juan, Rosalinda was not so convinced. She looked out the plane window over the eastern edge of the vast North American continent below her, one hand going to her neck. That touch, the scathing touch, the shadow of his fingerprint that she could see in the mirror under certain lighting, as if her very skin had been marked just below the surface of the flesh.
She shuddered, one hand on her belly. Once she was back with Juan all would be well.
Rosa found him waiting for her at the airport. His dark features were already smiling, his smile one that had warmed her with a simple turn of his head. He was nearly six feet, taller than her by half a foot. He stooped to kiss her, one hand at her waist, the other taking her carry-on bag.
"Welcome home, Rosa." He kissed her lightly again, then once more. "For Evie and Lolli," he said, his hand brushing her extended belly. "Everything go okay? Aside from Abuela."
She nodded as they made their way to collect her luggage. "Yes," she said after a moment. She hadn't told him of the visit yet. She'd told him very little about Luciano.
He tugged her two suitcases from where they were circling on the conveyor belt. "You sure?"
"Yes. I'm just tired." She looked closer at him as they headed for the exit. "You look a little pale."
He smiled. "Nonsense. Just missing you."
She was relieved to settle back into life at the Oakwood suburb an hour and a half later. The ride home in the LaSabre made her sleepy. It always did when she didn't drive, but more so since she'd been pregnant. She worked from home, freelance copywriting for several magazines, and car rides over half an hour tended to put her to sleep. Their split-level house was on the corner of two streets, positioned between three huge walnut trees that shaded the back patio where they'd hosted many barbecues in the past two years.
Juan took the luggage upstairs to the bedroom and Rosa spent a moment to pealing her shoes off her swollen feet. Seven months pregnant seemed like nine when carrying twins, she thought, groaning.
"Sit down," Juan called as she tossed her shoulder bag onto the sofa. The whole living room was shades of taupe and beige, the rugs burgundy and sand over the light maple hardwood flooring. She dropped into the sofa and sagged, watching Juan open the sliding glass door.
He looked to her, fishing around the stacks of magazines for the remote control. He found it and flicked on the stereo. A slow instrumental version of Lady Marmalot drifted through the room.
"If you were a little less pregnant, Rosa," he said, hovering over her to lift her feet onto the coffee table, "and not so exhausted, I'd make you get up and dance with me."
She smiled, wincing as her tired feet rested on the table. "You wouldn't have to make me," she said as he sat down beside her.
She leaned her head on the sofa back as his fingers entwined in hers, turning the engagement ring on her left hand. She smiled again, the image of the one-carat diamond flashing through her mind. Two months' salary it cost him, she knew.
"How are Marieka and Karima?"
She couldn't help the slight twitch at her lip as he said the names. "Karima is big as a house; Marieka still mourning, but not letting on." She sighed. "The usual." Her fingers drew softly across his, surprised at the cool, almost clamminess to his palm.
She turned her head to him, her dark eyes sharpening. "You're chilled, Juan."
He shook his head. "Just anxious to see you."
For a long moment she studied the faint beginnings of a dark mustache above his upper lip, the way his mouth stretched into a grin when he saw her stare. But his eyes -- she shook her head, sitting up and giving him her full attention. There was a listlessness about his eyes that was usually not there.
"What's wrong, Juan? Don't lie to me."
He released her hand and put a finger to her chin. "Nothing. Just a little sleepless lately. Waiting for you."
She sighed, finding herself reluctant to settle closer when his arm came around her waist. She resisted slightly and he frowned.
"What's wrong, baby?"
She cocked her head to one side. "I can't get sick now; are you sure nothing is wrong?"
His hand eased up and down her back a few times. Then he nodded. "Just a little under the weather. You're right. I don't want any complication this far along with the twins." He leaned over and kissed her forehead lightly.
She closed her hand around his t-shirt as he tried to pull away, drawing him closer, her eyes taking on a flirty twinkle. "You don't have to stay that far away. I'm hardy."