The weeks go by too quickly for Jane but they seem like forever for Jeremy who already wants to be in Paraguay. One thing they have in common are the stories their grandmother, Matilde, tells them. She is born and raised in Paraguay, in the province of Amambay, in the city of Bella Vista Norte.
The stories about the Carian Indians are Jeremy’s favorite. These Indians are quite wild and live in the area of Asuncion, in colonial times. Matilde and Jeremy enjoy these stories a lot.
When Matilda tells these stories, the kids are quiet and even Jeremy listens to every detail in complete silence and with the deepest concentration. The days are always frozen in time for Matilde. Her days as a political activist in Paraguay are past. Her new life in the United States has been busy since 1989. She studies journalism and graduates from college in Chicago.
Matilde has a nickname that Jeremy thinks is very funny and he often calls her by it instead of saying “Grandma.” In many parts of South America lots of people have this nickname because of their slanted or slit eyes. Her nickname is “China.”
“China, does the father sell his daughter now?“ Jeremy always asks the same question at this point in the story.
“Yes, these Indians could sell their daughters… for a shirt or a knife,” explains Matilde.
“I like the part where the brothers can also sell their sister,” Jeremy says loudly.
“China, why are you always telling that story?“ Jane interrupts from her place on the sofa. ”It is a terrible story.”
“Sure, it’s horrible….”says Matilde but then she is interrupted by Jeremy.
“Well, it depends on the sister… and also these Indians ate other humans.” Jeremy puts on a zombie face.
“It’s part of the history of this region of Paraguay but it´s not funny,” Matilde says. “It is important to remember the past, not torment your sister.” She holds a few sharp stones in the palm of her hand. “These arrowheads were there and if they could speak, what a story they would tell.”
These stories are a real history lesson and Matilde enjoys them as much as her grandchildren. She also includes romantic stories that are Jane’s favorite ones.
Surely her son´s career as a writer has a lot to do with these stories, legends and mysteries that she tells with such passion.
Now her children and grandchildren are going back to Paraguay. She is not going with them. Memories crowd into her mind and she is uneasy. She is a small woman and powerfully built, but her strength comes from within. She shakes her head, opens her eyes and comes back to the present.
Finally the day of the trip comes and, after all the packing, the farewell parties and hugs and tears, she finds herself at the airport. She hugs her grandchildren and gives them each an arrowhead.
“I have kept these arrowheads for you,” she says. “My parents gave them to me. They bring good luck. Press the arrowheads tightly whenever you are in trouble. They will help. Never go anywhere without them and keep them always.” She places each of the arrowheads around their necks on a necklace of silver. “Don’t give them away. Don’t sell them. They are a gift from your ancestors,” Matilde says, looking at Arnold, who looks down, and then she hugs the children.
She watches Arnold closely, and squeezes his hand, but he does not have an arrowhead around his neck. Not anymore.
“Grandma,” says Jeremy, holding the arrowhead between his two fingers, pulling it away from his neck and trying to look at it more closely. “It´s just like the one Dad has in the photo next to your bed.” Then Jeremy notices something on the back of the arrowhead. “It has my name on the back. It’s amazing. I love it. Thanks grandma.”
Matilde looks at Arnold as if she is talking with her eyes. Arnold lowers his head and says goodbye to his mother. They hug each other tightly. The small body of Matilde, though strong, seems smaller in her son´s embrace. It was their secret and Matilde would tell no one, not even Annie, his wife. Not that there weren´t many clues around the house: arrowheads, diaries and photos about trips to Paraguay that Arnold had on his desk dating back to 1989. Especially his favorite one. A beautiful girl is posing in the center with a gold rosary in her hand, typical of the cultural and religious heritage of Paraguay.
“Thanks grandma,” Jane says. “I didn´t know these arrowheads were for us. I just love them.”
Of course, the scenes that follow include selfies, hugs and tears. With their arrowhead necklaces around their necks, Jeremy and Jane seem closer and talk excitedly together. As soon as they board the plane, they sit down beside each other and right after dinner they fall asleep with Jeremy’s head on Jane’s lap.
“Oowww! “ Jane wakes up abruptly. It is at that moment that she sees him, intense blue eyes and an arrowhead exactly like hers is hanging from his neck. Jeremy is awake too and takes the opportunity to take a photo. The flash surprises the boy, and he blinks a few times.
“Excuse me,” the boy says. “I did not see you. So sorry.” He spoke in Spanish but Jane doesn’t care.
“Don’t worry,” Jane says, a little embarrassed. “It’s nothing. “I´m sure it was my fault.” The boy nods and continues to the back of the plane.
“I saw you blush. I saw you blush,” says Jeremy into Jane’s ear. “You like him. You like that guy!” His singsong taunt is irritating.
“Quiet, Jeremy,” Jane says angrily. She looks around to see if the boy has heard him. “You’re the worst brother in the world.“ Jane stands up. She decides to go to the toilet herself. She blushes and then looks at Jeremy who is grinning at her. “Shut up,” she says and then turns and starts to walk to the back of the plane.
“Excuse me, Miss. You’d better go back to your seat. We are about to serve breakfast,” the hostess says, touching Jane´s shoulder.
Jane returns to her seat, but turns around to stare at the back of the plane. She sees nothing. She cannot see anyone entering or leaving the toilet. The curiosity is killing her, but the flight attendants need the aisle clear so that they can serve breakfast. Bad luck for her.
“What do you want for breakfast?” asks the flight attendant. “Mate cocido, tea, chocolate milk, coffee, or orange juice?“
“Mate cocido, please,” says Jane in a good mood.
Mate cocido is a kind of tea, made with the leaves of the herb called yerba mate. She loves it. Jane looks out of the window. They are flying through some clouds but descending slowly. Within a few minutes they will arrive in Asuncion, the capital city of Paraguay.
As the plane descends, Jane cannot stop thinking about the boy who has the same arrowhead as they have and who also speaks with the accent of his grandmother. Matilde is from the north part of Bella Vista, a privileged and exotic place, but she lived a long time in Asuncion. Maybe the guy is from there. It is a possibility.
“Ladies and gentlemen we are arriving in Asuncion,” says the flight attendant. “The temperature is 22 degrees and the sky is clear. Welcome to Paraguay. Please remain seated until the seatbelt sign has been turned off. Thank you for flying with Paraguayan airlines. We look forward to serving you on our next flight.”
After a few minutes, all of the passengers stand up and begin to leave the plane. Jane is obsessed with the idea of finding the blue eyed boy. As they walk into the terminal and stand in line for customs and immigration, she sees him. He is alone, but in the line for Paraguayan citizens, which makes sense. Once Jane and her family go through immigration and collect their luggage, Jane begins to feel different, like she is at home, in her own country. She feels like she can do anything, go anywhere, be anyone.
“Jane, please stay close. We don’t want to lose you,” Anne says walking behind them. Jane looks back and winks at her mother but she has another idea in mind.
“This airport is very small, not much bigger than a bus station back home. I can find him!“ She presses her arrowhead tightly. Give me luck.
She puts on her hood, runs to the airport exit, ignoring her Mom’s yells. They cannot chase her because of the luggage. Jane rushes through the glass entrance doors that lead outside and immediately sees the boy standing on the curb, about to get into a taxi. He looks at her as she stops breathless from running. He smiles but looks confused. Jane feels the same way. What was happening to her?
“Hey, we were on the plane,” Jane says. “I lost my parents at the airport, but I have the address of our new home. Please help me.” She is surprised at how easy it is to lie and isn’t sure if the boy believes her. She tries to look frightened. My Mom is going to kill me. Later.
“Don’t worry,” says the boy. “I can take you there.” The two of them get into the taxi.