The final chapter! Thank you so much for reading and following this story, everyone! I'm glad you all enjoyed it! I had fun writing it.
Imelda entered the cantina, clutching the red songbook tightly. She did not see Héctor anywhere. That morning she had stopped by the inn and had been told that his and Ernesto's room was now vacant; they had checked out that morning. Trying not to panic, she then went to the plaza and the market to see if he might be there, but he was nowhere to be found. Now that she did not see him here in the cantina, the last place she could think to look for him, a sense of dread rose up in the back of her mind. What if he had changed his mind and left? What if Ernesto's success last night had enticed him and he decided that he wanted to pursue his music after all?
Imelda shook her head, pushing back those awful thoughts. No, he had given up his big performance for her. He had told her that he had "more important things to do" than play music. He would not just take it all back and leave especially without saying anything to her... Would he?
He had thought of leaving before and starting over. He didn't need his songbook... Maybe he had changed his mind and didn't need her either.
Imelda sighed and approached the bar. "Barman, a tequila," she called out.
The bartender turned around, holding a bottle. His eyes brightened at the sight of her. "Hey, La Llorona!" he greeted her.
Imelda rested her chin on her hand, the fuzzy memories of that night in the cantina coming back to her at the mention of the song. "Ah, sí," she sighed.
"Hey, Felipé! It's La Llorona!" the bartender called to the other end of the bar.
An older man looked over, peering out from under his hat. When he saw Imelda, his complexion brightened and he immediately got up from his seat and approached.
"La Llorona!" he greeted her enthusiastically, he began to dance in place. He called over his shoulder, "Look, it's La Llorona!"
Two more men approached, both grinning widely. One raised his glass to Imelda. "La Llorona! Good to see you!"
Imelda nodded, feeling her cheeks turn red. Was this what it was like to have fans? It felt strange. She didn't know why people sought it out.
But then she realized this might be useful. "Gracias, señores," she said, smiling and then leaning closer to them, "Listen, I am looking for the man I was with the other night. The one playing the guitar."
"Ah, you mean Héctor?" the bartender said, nodding, "He comes in here all the time to play his guitar."
"Have you seen him?" Imelda asked hopefully.
"Sorry, señorita. Not today."
Imelda sighed heavily and then leaned on the bar. "Where's that tequila?"
The bartender poured her a glass and handed it to her. She drank it quickly and slammed the cup back on the counter.
"Another?" the bartender seemed to read her mind.
She nodded and he refilled the glass. He handed it back to her. "Everything alright, señorita?"
Imelda rolled her eyes. "Oh sure!" she said sarcastically, "I only finally find the man I want to spend the rest of my life with and he is nowhere to be found."
An old man with a small gray mustache scooted closer to her. "He'll probably turn up."
Imelda shook her head. "I went to the inn where he is staying. The clerk said his room is vacant. He's just gone! And without a goodbye."
The men around her looked at her pityingly. Imelda swallowed her second glass and then put a hand to her head despairingly, pushing the glass back toward the bartender. "I've been a fool," she said miserably, "I should have known better than to fall in love with a traveling musician. Fleeting dreamers like that will always end up leaving."
"Oh, señorita," one of the men said softly, "You are a beautiful woman, there are many men out there who would gladly take you."
Imelda scoffed. "Oh, I know there are! I've seen them all. But I don't want just any man..." she felt her emotions rising. No! Absolutely not! She would not cry over some man! Some boy! Especially one who had wronged her. It was his fault! His loss! Why should she be suffering? But she could not help herself as she spoke the final words of her thought, her voice cracking ever so slightly, "...I want Héctor."
She gulped down her next tequila and angrily shoved it back to the bartender. He refilled it. She picked it up and raised it. "That's it," she said with determination, "After I drink this, I am swearing off men for good. No more drama, no more heartbreak. That's it. Done."
"We will drink with you," the old man with the mustache said.
The bartender nodded and pulled out glasses for everybody. Once they were filled, they all raised them. Imelda spoke, "To no more heartbreak."
They all agreed and put their glasses to their lips to drink away their own sorrows.
Imelda froze at the all-too familiar voice. Could it really be? She slowly turned around and came face to face with none other than Héctor himself. He stood with his white guitar slung over his shoulder and a suitcase in his hand. He wore his usual straw hat and the same tattered clothing he had been wearing when she first saw him outside her gate; his travel clothes. He was leaving!
But he had not left yet. Imelda continued to stare at him, hardly believing her eyes. She had been convincing herself that he was already gone and that she would never see him again. She was not sure what to do with him standing in front of her now. She hardly noticed her drinking companions looking back and forth between them, eyes wide and questioning.
Imelda finally stood up and began walking towards him. He still said nothing. As she got closer, her anger flared up again. How could he leave her? Even if he did come by to say goodbye, how could he? Especially after making all those flowery promises the other night? He was just like every other man she met. All words and no action! And here she was thinking he was different. What a fool she had been!
Héctor must have seen her mood change in her expression because he started to back up, holding up his suitcase in front of him like a shield. "Imelda..." he said carefully.
"Where have you been!?" she demanded, "I went to the inn and they said you checked out. Are you leaving!?"
"Imelda, just listen..."
But Imelda would not listen. She was done hearing excuses. She was done being lied to. She bent down, yanked off her shoe, and brought it down towards him in blind anger. He held up his suitcase to block it, but she continued to repeatedly bring it down against the leather in an attempt to hit him.
"How could you?" she cried, "After everything? You're just going to leave?"
"Imelda!" he cried out desperately, cowering behind his suitcase, "Everything I said was true!"
"Ha!" Imelda laughed scornfully, "Including giving up traveling for your music?"
"Yes!" Héctor declared, "I am not leaving!"
"Oh?" Imelda let out a cold laugh. "Then what's with the suitcase? Why are you checking out of the inn?"
"That's what I'm trying to tell you! If you would just listen!" Héctor cried desperately, "Ernesto is the one who is leaving, but I am staying."
Imelda momentarily stopped beating at his suitcase, confused. "Ernesto?"
Héctor cautiously peeked out from behind his case. "Ernesto is going to try traveling for a little bit on his own. He told me he's going to try writing his own songs. We'll see how that pans out. I don't think that's really his strong point, but we'll see. I am staying in Santa Cecilia though, I'm just not staying at the inn."
Imelda slowly lowered her shoe as he spoke. "What do you mean?"
"I found an old house near the edge of town. It needs some work, but I think we can manage."
Imelda raised her eyebrows. "We?" she repeated.
Héctor nodded. "There's no way I could keep up a house all by myself." Then he smiled. "So I was wondering... Imelda, would you consider marrying me?"
Imelda was floored at his words. She had not been expecting that at all. Her day had taken so many drastic turns, she did not know how to handle this last one. She glanced back at her drinking friends and saw they were all leaning forward in anticipation, completely enthralled with the entire scene. Imelda looked back at Héctor, still speechless. He was watching her patiently, looking hopeful. He really had given up everything for her.
Imelda reached down and put her boot back on her foot. She placed her hands on her hips and looked at Héctor squarely; he was staring at her, clutching his suitcase with both hands, smiling meekly, his eyes round, bright, and optimistic. Why did he have to be so cute and charming? It made it difficult to be angry with him. This day had definitely been a kicker though. She was not going to give him satisfaction so easily after all the turmoil she had gone through in just a couple hours. However, after watching him smile at her with those hopeful eyes, she couldn't hold her stern expression any longer and a smile cracked. "I guess, since you already got the house..." she said slowly.
Héctor grinned. Imelda could no longer hold back and she laughed. They were going to get married! It was all she ever wished for. He rushed forward and she threw her arms around his neck as he swept her off her feet, hugging each other tightly. Everyone in the cantina applauded. Apparently not just Imelda's drinking companions had been watching.
Imelda pulled back enough so that she could give him a kiss. The people in the cantina cheered again. Héctor and Imelda chuckled against each other's lips, but did not pull back.
When they eventually did, Imelda rested her forehead against his. "I have something for you," she said quietly. She took his hand and led him to the bar. She picked up his little red songbook from the counter and presented it to him. He looked at it in shock and carefully took it from her, almost as though he thought it would disappear at any moment.
"Where did you find it?" he asked in awe.
"I found the thief," Imelda replied, "He won't be bothering you anymore. Don't worry."
Héctor accepted this explanation, at least for now. He flipped through the pages, examining each one of them and then smiled, satisfied. He stuck it into his pocket, patting it safely.
One of Imelda's drinking friends rushed forward and wrapped an arm around each of them. "¡Felicitaciones, amigos!" he declared, "How about a song to celebrate? La Llorona maybe?" He winked at Imelda.
The cantina cheered at the idea. Héctor and Imelda looked at each other and shrugged. "An excellent idea," Héctor said, "Only I have a better song..."
He pulled his guitar off his shoulder and properly positioned it. He waggled his eyebrows at Imelda and then let out a wild riff. Imelda brightened, recognizing the plucky, upbeat melody he had written just for her. The rest of the cantina seemed to recognize it as well from Ernesto's performance and began to cheer.
"What color is the sky
¡Ay, mi amor! ¡Ay, mi amor!
You tell me that it's red
¡Ay, mi amor! ¡Ay, mi amor!
Where should I put my shoes
¡Ay, mi amor! ¡Ay, mi amor!
You say put them on your head
¡Ay, mi amor! ¡Ay, mi amor!
You make me
Un poco loco
Un poquititito loco
The way you keep me guessing
I'm nodding and I'm yessing
I'll count it as a blessing
That I'm only
Un poco loco!"
The entire cantina was dancing to the song, whooping and clapping. Imelda and Héctor kept their eyes trained on each other the entire time. As the second verse began, they sang together:
"The loco that you make me
It is just un poco crazy
The sense that you're not making
The liberties you're taking
Leaves my cabeza shaking
You are just
Un poco loco!"
The rest of the cantina began echoing the song in the background. The place could have been its own performance plaza. Imelda put her arms around Héctor as they sang the final notes:
"Un poquititi-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-to loco!"
The cantina burst into applause. Héctor looked down at her, a smile stretching from ear to ear and he wrapped an arm around her. Imelda rested her head under his chin, pulling him closer. This was right. This was all she needed. They made each other "un poco loco" and that was how it should be.