I was sitting with Juanita and Erika in our living room watching televisión when Iveli shouted my name. The program we were watching was an old Three Stoogies movie translated into Spanish. (The Three Stoogies are still popular in Peru). Moe had just punched Curly in the eye and Curly was about to clobber Moe with a broom.
Iveli was struggling to catch her breath. Evidently, she´d been running.“Guess … who … I …just …saw?”she stammered.
“Who?”Juanita answered, her eyes glued to the televisión.
“Carolina.” That got our attention.
“Where, Iveli?” I asked.
“In the plazita down the street.” The plazita is a tiny plaza where families bring their small children to play.
I went over and switched off the televisión. “Let´s go, girls.”
“Hurry,” Iveli said in an urgent voice.
Señora Luci stayed with two year old Ja Di as Juanita, Iveli, Erika and I headed for the plazita several blocks away. Once we arrived there was nobody in the plazita. Carolina was nowhere in sight. “Are you sure you saw Carolina here?” I asked Iveli.
“I´m sure, Señor Leo.”
“Äre you sure it wasn´t a girl who looks like Carolina?”Juanita asked.
Iveli nodded her head. “I talked with Carolina.”
There´s a huge vacant lot beind the tiny plaza that´s separated by waist-high vegetaton and a row of old mamey trees with knotty limbs almost touching the ground. So all of us went looking for Carolina there. After a fruitless search that took about ten minutes, we returned to the street and began knocking on doors, asking people if they had seen Carolina.
We were about to give up the search when a fiftyish looking woman with a dark complexión emerged from a tiny shack wedged between two normal size houses. “Who are you all looking for?” she asked in a squeaky voice.
“A teenage girl, Señora,” I said.
“Can you be more specific?” she asked.
“Well, Señora,” Erika said, “ her skin was …”
A pregnant pause.
There are some Peruans here whose skin is white. Obvious descentants at one time or another from Europe. But most of the people have some Indian blood in them, and so their skin color range from a light brown to a darker shade. This woman´s skin color was dark chocolate. Ever the bold one, Iveli finished for Erika,”… as dark as your skin, Señora.”
“Her skin is almost black, right?” the woman said, giving us a snaggle-tooth smile to show that she wasn´t offended.
The girls nodded.
“Yes, I saw a girl who looks like that. But after we talked a minute or two, she left, heading toward town.”
The girls and I canvassed the neighborhood for twenty or so minutes looking for Carolina. But we came away empty-handed. So we went home. It was a Saturday, and the girls usually play volleyball in the street with some neighborhood girls in the late afternoon—when the jungle sun has lost some of it´s strength. Today, though, their minds on Carolina, they just moped around the house. After they had retired to their rooms, though, I could hear Iveli praying. “Please, God, take care of Carolina.”
“Amen,” Erika and Juanita said in unison.
Heading for my room, I said,”And bring her back to us.”
I don´t you about you, dear reader, but I believe in the power of prayer.Over the years the girls in my house and I have had our prayers answered too many times for me not to believe in prayer.