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Marko Lampas

The Samoza Vineyards

Chapter One

A driana called out to her brother from the back seat: “Pedro! Pedro! Slow down, slow down, you idiot! You’re going to fast on a dirt road raising a cloud of dust that it’s going all over the grapes and the workers. Also there're young kids all around playing.”

Pedro turned his head and glared at his sister before he slowed down to a crawl and parked his sports car several feet behind the flatbed trucks.

“I see no kids on the road and what’s a little dust for Christ’s sake? The grapes are made from dust, and they, they work all day in dust. Why the hell are you concerned about them? — And stop calling me names, I don’t like it!” Adriana ignored her brother’s remark and hurried out of the car to look for her friends. She stopped few feet away from his car murmuring his remark.

“‘Why are you concerned about them?’ He says, because they’re human beings, you moron.” Adriana wanted to reprimand her brother’s attitude, but her spirit was flying high and she was in no mood to quarrel with him.

Pedro’s girlfriend Julia came out of the car too and stood next to him wearing a bored expression. She didn’t want to be here. Not at the laborers place and not at this scorching afternoon.

Adriana had persuaded her brother to bring her here to visit with some of the working girls she had befriended. She just, loved the time of harvest. She stood a few feet away looking at the colorful vineyards spread out on three hills as far as the eye could see. She felt the heat of the late summer sun on her bare shoulders and smelled the sweet fragrance carried by the soft breeze. It was the fragrance of the cypress and plum trees planted among the grape vines; many believed the trees attracted certain insects beneficial for the grapes.

The lively song of the birds and crickets was a harmonious accompaniment to the chorus of the workers singing the famous song, La Paloma. Suddenly she burst into an ingenuous smile, crinkling the corners of her beautiful eyes. She took a deep breath as if she wanted to inhale the entire panorama of nature’s loveliness.

With a cold beer in his hand, Pedro approached his sister. “What are you looking at? What in the hell are you looking Adriana? Haven’t you seen the vineyards before? Come on, let’s find Pablo, say hello to him and get the hell out of here. I see his car down there by the second field. It’s too damned hot for me.”

“I have seen the vineyards, but they were never so beautiful.” Adriana murmured without taking her eyes off the workers.

“Look at their colorful clothes Pedro, look how lovely they blend with the colors of the vine leaves … and listen, listen to their song. It echoes in the fields. Do you hear its harmony and all the different rhythms coming from every direction?”

“Yes, yes I hear¾this isn’t my kind of music¾now come let’s go and see Pablo. I'm hot and I want to go to the club and jump into the pool. Why the hell did you drag me out here anyway? I can’t wait till you get your own goddamn license.”

“Stop complaining, you snob. What if you had to work like them?” Adriana snapped back at him.

Julia approached them and joined the conversation, “Adriana, its no use. Don’t waste your time. He only has eyes and ears for the young girls at the pool and at the beach. Hard labor isn’t Pedro’s cup of tea. You’re right. I think he’s a real snob. Then for that matter, I think we all are. My God, look at them carrying those baskets in this heat, I'm glad we don’t have to do something like that. I would simply die.”

Adriana turned and gave a stare at Julia and her brother, thinking. Speak for yourself, you snob and yes, you should count your blessings.

There were more than two hundred Mexicans and other Latin American workers, men, women and children filling their baskets as fast as they could to harvest the best grapes to make the famous Samoza Wine, a wine that had become much sought after in just the last twenty or so years. It was late September afternoon with perspiration dripping down the workers’ faces, staining their colorful clothing as they passed by to hand over their baskets to the men on top of the flatbed trucks, then start over again with empty ones. There were buckets full of water nearby for the men to drink and soak their oversize red handkerchiefs. They would first wipe off the inside of their sombreros and then the sweat from their faces. Some women would do the same with their colorful scarves before they resumed the harvest.

“Look at them.” Adriana muttered to herself. She loved to watch the graceful sway of their bodies moving in the fields. Picking up their heavy loads and carrying them high on their shoulders to the trucks. It must be hard, especially for the elderly and the young ones, but it has beauty too. There is grace in their movements, like a ballet without one wasted step, or like the movie she recently saw, called ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’. This scene was reminiscent of those vineyards of Sicily, where the chorus sang the famous, ‘Brindisi’. Such a beautiful film, a love story … that ends tragically.

“I feel so happy” she whispered, “and I want to thank God for his abundant gifts. I suppose they think I'm still too young to know of the hardships and cruelty that exists in the world, but I do. I have inherited my grandfather’s caring heart, and looking at these workers reminds me of that day I spent with him … there, on top of that hill under the large oak tree.”

She took few steps away; she didn’t want to be near her brother and his girlfriend. She looked at the elderly workers and saw their sad expressions. Adriana knew what they were thinking and what they were cursing¾they were cursing destiny, poverty and hopelessness. Her joyful expression became paler for few seconds till. Till she stared at the great old tree as memories flooded her mind.

She whispered under her breath, “Oh, grandpa, grandpa how I love you and miss you! I can see your suntanned wrinkled face under your huge sombrero, your white eyebrows arched like canopies over your deep gray eyes, your long white mustache hanging along each side of your mouth. How handsome you were, and how content I felt sitting next to you with your arm around me.”

She looked at the workers again coming and going from the flatbed trucks and wondered if her father was fairly compensating all these people … if they were really rewarding them for their labors. She knew they were very wealthy now, but her grandpa had started these vineyards from nothing. He had told her about his hardships and dangerous life. She must find out if they were as fair to them as grandpa was.

She was only seventeen years old, and according to what many people thought, she was somewhat mature for her age. She could see the way her brothers and her friends behaved and would not emulate their immature actions. Most of them were conceited rich snobs, racially prejudiced, acting like juveniles and as if the world belonged to them. Many of them should have their stupid faces slapped.

She preferred to socialize with these young friends she made here who saw her for who she is and not the daughter of a millionaire. They were simple, hard-working folks who cared for each other. “Where are they? Where are my friends? I can’t see them. They must be at the next field.” She murmured,

Adriana knew she was of Mexican descent herself and of humble ancestry. She loved the harvest, because it had color, music and joy on the faces of the young workers, with another prosperous season coming to an end.

Just as she was about to run out into the field to look for them, she saw a tall, handsome young man coming out of the field carrying a basket, overflowing with grapes, more than the others and walking toward the truck. He handed his basket to the man in charge of loading and picked up an empty one when he saw Pedro standing by his car, and then… he saw her.

“Oh God! She’s here!” Mario whispered and hoped Pedro would call him over and introduced him to this incredible looking beauty standing several feet away from him. He knew she was Pedro’s sister, and out of his reach. But he couldn’t help it. She was the most beautiful girl he ever saw. Every time she’d come here it would be his bad luck to be in the next field, too far away to see her close up and no chance to speak to her. But he could hear her laughter and singing with the other girls. She was the owner’s daughter, a multi-millionaire and he was just a poor field worker but … but love has no boundaries. Love knows nothing of wealth and poverty; love is free. Such is the belief of the romantic poets and lovers.

Pedro and he had met here by chance a couple of weeks earlier. It was during midday break when Pedro had stepped out of his car with his younger brother Francisco, holding a football. Mario asked him to throw a couple of passes and shortly afterward, they found out they were fans of the same football team, The San Francisco Forty-niners.

Now, just as he was about to return into the field, his wish has come true.

Pedro called out to him. “Hey Mario! What’d you think of our team, man? Last Sunday they destroyed the Jets. Did you see the game? Do you think they’ll make it this year? They already lost two pre-season games and we might have the same results like the last couple of seasons.”

Pedro was standing outside his car with Julia next to him and Adriana few feet away. The girls were eating muscatel grapes an elderly woman had just brought them, and Pedro was drinking beer.

Mario turned and without making himself too obvious he glanced at Adriana and then turned to her brother. “No, I didn’t see the game, Pedro, I was here working, but I saw some highlights on the late news. We played well and I say all the way. We have one hell of a team this year. We lost a couple of pre-season games, but that’s okay, they don’t mean much. It’s the Super Bowl this year, man, for sure,” Mario said with conviction, hoping to prolong the conversation.

Adriana turned and saw his handsome face. She approached her brother, nudging him in the arm and speaking softly so no one else would hear.

“Do you know this guy? Call him over, go on; call him. I want to meet him.” She was staring at Mario, who had put the basket on his shoulder and was asking the field manager for another pair of sharper shears, which was just another excuse to delay his going back into the field. Not wanting to look obvious, he slowly walked into the field after the man handed him the new shears.

Adriana murmured with fervor, “My God he’s gorgeous!”

Pedro turned and looked at his sister with surprise. “Why the hell do you want to meet this guy? He’s nobody. He’s just a field worker! Are you nuts?”

She pinched him hard on his butt and muttered, “Everyone is somebody, you idiot. How dare you call him nobody? Now do it! Call him over.”

“Ouch! Stop that! I told you not to call me names!” Pedro groaned from the pinch, and took a step away from her. She glared at him; Mario had already walked inside the vines.

“Call him!” She was ready to pinch him again.

“Okay, okay, don’t do that, damn it, it hurts. Hey, Mario! Mario, hold on, man, come here. Have a cold beer and meet my sister Adriana and my girlfriend, Julia.”

Mario wiped the perspiration off his face with his shirt, and hesitantly approached them holding the empty basket with the shears shoved inside his belt. He was dying to meet this beauty, but had hoped under different circumstances, not in his present working condition, all dirty and sweaty. But what other circumstances? He certainly wouldn’t meet her in her circle of friends ... he didn’t belong there. That he knew.

Adriana sensed his uneasiness and his concern with his appearance. What she didn’t know was how much he longed for her. How many times he had dreamt of taking her into his arms and making love to her. Her tall slender figure, and the way she carried herself, with her long hair swaying in the wind would make any man yearn to possess her and love her. Sometimes she would run inside the fields calling the names of the young working girls she was looking for and join them in a song. She even helped some of the older workers with their picking. Her presence would fill the fields with joyful laughter. It allowed many men the opportunity to glance at her sensual body and dream about the passion of love. Mario was one of them. He couldn’t help it; she was Helen of Troy, Aphrodite goddess of love and beauty.

Oh God, if it would only be possible for this siren to love me as I wish to love her. Mario’s thoughts were running rampant as he slowly approached them.

“Hey, man, it’s another hot one, isn’t it?” Pedro said and reached in the trunk of his car and pulled out a cold beer from the cooler. “Here, have a cold one and say hello to my sister, Adriana, and my girlfriend, Julia.”

Mario bent his head down and responded softly. “I can’t take the beer, Pedro. Your brother doesn’t allow any alcohol while we’re at work. He’s very strict about that. I don’t want to lose my job, but I thank you for your offer.”

He glanced furtively at the beautiful Adriana, who returned his look with eyes full of passion, coupled with a tender smile on her lips.

“Pleased to meet you, Adriana, … Julia.”

His eyes lingered on Adriana’s face just a little too long. He wanted to remember every feature. This was the first time he had seen her close up. “I'm sorry, I would like to shake your hand but...” He showed her his dirty hands, palms up.

Adriana stepped forward and grabbed one of his hands.

“Never mind your hands, Mario, they’re covered with earth’s soil and the stain of the sweet grapes. It is very nice to meet you!” She wanted to wrap her arms around him. Oh God! He’s so good-looking! Their eyes met, and in that first glance, she felt something she had never felt before. Love, yes, it was love’s ecstasy, which filled her being. The power of first sight love. The love poets write about. The love everyone dreams about, but few experience.

Pedro was oblivious to all that was going on between Mario and his sister. He threw the empty bottle inside the trashcan and opened the one he’d offered to Mario.

A group of young girls now appeared, some, Adriana’s friends. They gave Pedro a lingering once-over while they handed over their baskets to the men on the truck. Each one of them wished to trap this young and rich Samoza middle son. Pedro saw their flirtation and without hesitation approached them. The sweaty blouses reveled their firm breasts driving him mad with desire and lust. He greeted them with a smile, and couldn’t take his eyes off their revealing blouses. Some had purposely splashed water on themselves to reveal more of what Pedro yearned to see.

Julia, naturally became annoyed with his behavior and turned to notice the invisible spark of love emanating from Mario and Adriana. She imagined she saw two loving winged cupids floating above them, ready to shoot their arrows.

Oh, how I wish Pedro could have the same charm as Mario, but look at him, flirting with all those girls. God he’s so rude and immature. He’s obsessed with girls, sports, and cars, and his behavior drives me mad. I hate it. He’s always flirting with every girl he sees.

Out of the corner of his eye, Mario saw the field supervisor staring at him, about to order him back to work. But the supervisor wouldn’t dare, not while Adriana was holding his hand. “You must excuse me,” Mario said softly, “I have to get back to work.”

Mario tried politely to pull his hand away from hers so he could shake Julia’s, but Adriana held on. He was not sure if she was serious, or simply teasing him, as young girls love to tease a guy, especially when they have the upper hand. He was well aware of the fact that she was a millionaire’s daughter and he a simple laborer. Mario would soon come to know how wrong his thinking was. True love is independent of these rules, rich or poor, upper class or ordinary person; love is free, free of the foolishness of restraints.

He looked somewhat bewildered when she still wouldn’t let go of his hand. He leaned his head over to catch sight of the others. Pedro was talking with the girls near the loading trucks and Julia was trying to be inconspicuous. He also had noticed that some of the workers were staring at them.

He had to say something, but what? He knew love had invaded his being too. He was smitten with her beauty and warm tender touch so much that his body trembled. All this was beyond his expectations.

He whispered, “Adriana, I must get back. In place of the beer I will drink a cold glass of water to your health.” She never stopped looking at him and never said a word. She was acting as if awestruck. In that instant, Mario realized he had been ignoring Julia who was staring at them with a contented smile. “And to you Julia, forgive me, the hot sun makes me forget my manners.”

Julia Easton was a pretty young girl of medium height with honey blond hair, blue eyes and an attractive figure. She was expensively attired in keeping with the fact that she also came from a very wealthy family.

With his charming smile Mario, dared to say, “I hope to see you again … yes, all of you,” he turned and looked deep into Adriana’s eyes. “Adriana, your name is as beautiful as you are. An ancient Greek hero and a god loved you; I can love you with that love!” The flame of passion was palpable between them.

Adriana was still holding on to his hand, feeling his warmth and now wide-eyed from the surprised. Oh my God, what’s happening? What is he saying? He knows of that ancient love story? Of Theseus and Adriana and the god Dionysus? Who is he? I want to reach over and place my lips on his. Oh dear God! I have to let him go, but I don’t want to. She was wrestling with her thoughts.

Mario memorized everything about her lovely face and he also wished for a burning kiss. Once more he saw from the corner of his eye the field manager looking at him. “I must get back to work, Adriana.”

Unwillingly, she slowly let go of his hand, keeping her eyes glued on him, she watched him turn and give her one last glance before he paused near Pedro.

“Pedro, bring a football next time; at mid-day, we can toss a few passes. The last time I noticed you have some arm, quarterback stuff.”

“Sure, I’ll do that, Mario, you’re not bad yourself.” He tilted his bottle of beer in a salute without taking his eyes off the smiling girls who had surrounded him.

Adriana knew she would never forget that face. She had to catch her breath in an effort to conceal her excitement, especially from the staring eyes of Julia who was sure now Adriana was head over heels in love with this charming young man.

His suntanned face was covered with a day’s shadow of a black beard, matching his long curly hair, and deep, dark, eyes framed with perfect long eyebrows and long eyelashes. His square chin revealed his strength and kind personality, along with his beautiful smile. I shall dream of his smile. I shall dream of him. He should be my first lover and forever lover. Look at that long stride and his straight back and, oh yes, yes, and his cute round buttocks. Oh God he’s so! … so incredible! … I’m in love!

Mario himself was flying. He was flying like a comet across the sky. He could hardly breath. Oh, the way she looked at me, the way she held my hand not wanting to let me go! Oh, God! Oh God can it be possible she might love me? Love took his whole being, as did Adriana’s. Some of the young girls who were infatuated with him were watching his obvious grin and hoped this attraction would not be mutual with Adriana, and that one of them would win his heart. In spite of the fact that they loved Adriana, she belonged to a different world and had no right to steal this hunk of a man.

* * *

That night Mario lay awake thinking of this angel, this beauty. He knew this was someone out of his class, beyond his reach, but he couldn’t help it. This was his impossible dream.

“Dreams do come true, don’t they?” he asked himself. “The way she looked at me, the way she held my hand like she never wanted to let go! Should I think I'm a fool? Was she toying with me? I don’t think so. She’s different, much different than her brothers. But, this is not possible. She wouldn’t have anything to do with me, not even if she wanted to. The family would never allow it. She’ll go out with a rich snub and eventually marry some rich executive, lawyer, or doctor. Someone her family would choose. This kind of love only happens in books and movies. It’s better I forget her. But how? Oh God, how? Help me, help me God!” He was talking to himself, pacing back and forth in his room.

He now lay down on his bed and stared at the ceiling for a long time remembering her face, her gorgeous figure, her smile, her beautiful almond-shaped green eyes framed with long eyelashes and perfect eyebrows. Her long shining black hair swung free to dance in the soft hot breeze. Her sensual lips and body were ready to meet his. And her modesty and kindness toward the other workers was so different from the rest of her family. “Oh, I love her, I love her! God! Make her love me, and whatever happens, let it happen!” It was after midnight before he fell asleep.

The next morning, he came down an hour before daybreak. His grandmother saw his sleepless face.

“Oh you’re up already? What is it, caro? What troubles you that you didn’t sleep last night? I know you were up all night, I heard you walking in your room and talking to yourself if someone was there with you, but I couldn’t understand what you were saying. Are you sick? Your eyes, your beautiful face, have a troubled look. Tell me, figlio mio is something wrong at work? Speak to me, my son. Do you have a problem? I came to see what was wrong, but when I opened your door I saw you were asleep. Come sit down and I'll make you breakfast and some strong coffee.”

“No, Nonna, I have no trouble at work. It’s this ragazza, this bella ragazza, this very beautiful girl that I think I’m going crazy, I’m so in love with her.”

His grandmother came by the table and put her arms around him, kissing the top of his head.

“Oh, love! Love, my beautiful boy, is the biggest trouble a young man like you can have. Who is she, caro? A girl who works with you?” She scrambled the eggs and poured them in the pan with the Italian sausages filling the kitchen with the heavenly aroma of morning coffee and the spiced sausages. Mario sat by the table, hoping, but doubtful he would see her today. Grandma Sofia brought the pan over. “Eat my boy, eat you have a long day ahead of you. You should wear a hat to keep the sun away from your face.” She never took her eyes off him as she walked back to the stove and returned with the pot of coffee.

The sun began to rise and its first rays entered through the white curtains to brighten the kitchen and further reveal Mario’s stressed expression. “Oh Dio! Look at you, what a face. Not one word you make this morning about the delicious sausages and coffee. All right, all right, even love has to eat. Now come, eat and tell me all about this girl you’re so much in love with. Mangia, and remember, any girl would be very lucky to have you in love with her. Your father and mother,” … she moaned and crossed herself standing by the stove looking at him, “they are with God now. Your father, oh, he was so handsome, just like you! Yes, he was bello; all the girls went crazy when he smiled at them. They would come here with him and listen to opera music instead of that rock and roll. I would see their eyes looking at him; I knew he was so special. Oh Dio! Mio figlio, mio figlio mio, how I miss him.” She began to cry.

“Nonna, stop, stop crying, I don’t want you to cry.” Mario took her in his arms. She wiped her tears with her apron and took him back to the table. “All right, va bene, I won’t cry, eat and listen, I never told this story.” She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat across from him. This matriarch, lean of stature with long gray hair and face of an angel, continued. “Your father would tell me the same stories when he was your age. One day, he came home and told me about this new girl who came from some place near New York. She, … she did not smile or look at him. ‘Mamma,’ he said, ‘this girl, this girl from New York, she’s so beautiful, but she doesn't like me. I try to speak to her and she walks away from me. Why?’ I smiled at him and told him, she’ll love you, figlio mio, she plays with you. Remember, I told him, I was young and beautiful like this girl and when I saw your father, I did the same. You’re good and handsome, if this girl is free from love she’ll come to you.” All this reminiscing made her nostalgic and filled her eyes with tears once more.

Mario kissed her hands. “Oh Nonna, I love you so much, and I want to hear my parents’ story, but without you crying.”

“I love you too, my son. Let me cry, it’s good for me to cry. Sometimes tears are necessary to wash the sorrow away. Now listen, your mother was the most beautiful one, and the smartest.” She reached across the table and took Mario’s hand and placed it against her soft cheek. “Your father tried to speak to her, but she ignored him. Your mamma was smart, and knew how to get your father. She did everything the opposite of all the other girls. Then one day your father found her alone and asked her why she disliked him so much. Do you know what she said to your father?”

“No, what did she said Nonna, what did my mother tell my father? Was she mean to him?” Mario was anxious to find out.

“No, my boy, she was not mean, no, she told him, ‘I don’t dislike you, on the contrary, I’m in love with you and terrified you will break my heart. There’re so many other girls attracted to you.’ That’s what your mother told your father who almost fainted from shock. From that day on, he never saw any other girl except your mother. Their love was immense; they adored each other. He came home that day with a huge smile on his face and said, ‘Mamma, mamma you’re right, this beautiful girl, she loves me!’ He told me all about her, how she ignored him like he was nobody. Si, your beautiful mother knew what she was doing. They had so much love for each other, caro mio, so much love, and when you came along … oh, Dio, what a happy day that was! Che gioia! We were thrilled. Oh, my sweet boy, you were only four years old when …” she just couldn’t say the word, she placed her head inside her hands and with a choked tone of voice. “Uh, that wicked cursed drunk driver jumped across the median in the road and hit them head on, killing them instantly. I had asked them not to drive to San Francisco that day. It was a rainy day with heavy fog; I begged them to stay here, we have the record of Tosca with di Stefano and Callas, play the record, I told them, but they were young and your father loved the opera. Ahime! How I miss them. But God, God gave us someone in return¾you. You are my life and my pride and joy because you are so good to me, and I love you so much!”

Mario stood up and took her into his arms. “I love you Nonna. You and I, along with great Uncle Ferruccio, are the only family here. I will always be with you to take care of you. I know you miss Grandpa. So do I. You must be very lonely. These last two years have been very hard on you, but at least we have the house and sempre, sempre, always, each other.”

He looked around the house that his grandfather had built with his own hands. He was a brick and stone layer master craftsman, sought out by many contractors, building wealthy estates. He was so, proud of his humble little house. Mario remembered all the chores they used to do together. Always standing next to him eagerly watching and wanting to participate, especially when he held the tall ladder for him to climb up and cleaned the dry leaves from the gutters. He remembered, too, when he painted the windows outside of the house, calling to Mario, “Hold the ladder Mario, hold it steady my son, so I don’t fall, eh? Soon, soon, you will come up here and I will hold the ladder for you. But not till you become a man.”

Mario would answer, “I’m a man, Grandpa, let me do it. I can do it just like you; let me climb up there.” Grandpa was a robust loving man who turned the tragic loss of his only son and daughter in-law to love for his grandson. His strength and kindness were the outstanding traits of his that Mario inherited.

”Soon, after the harvest of the grapes I should be able to find a better job, Nonna.” But in his heart, he knew that no matter what, his Grandmother would never leave this home in which she had spent more than thirty years with the love of her life. The neighborhood had changed a bit, but most Italians remain to show their pride at the out keep of their homes with beautiful gardens in front of each house. The St. Anthony Church was couple blocks away, as well, as some Italian and Sicilian grocery stores and restaurants. Grandma Bellini’s house was the prettiest in the block. Mario gave his grandma a tender kiss and wiped her tears. “I have to go to work, Nonna. I’ll see you tonight. Ciao, Bella.” One more kiss and a hug, and then he rushed out. Nonna hurried after him.

“Yes, but why you don’t eat or tell me who is this girl, Caro?” He stopped at the door and took her beautiful face into his hands. “I’m in love, Nonna; I’m not hungry. She’s the boss’ daughter. She’s very young and very beautiful.”

“Oh, God! Not the daughter of Miguel Samoza, the Padrone!” She put her hands over her face. “No, my boy, she’ll break your heart, caro. Listen, listen to me!” Sofia Bellini tried to hold him back, but Mario dashed and entered his old pickup truck. She watched her grandson backed out of their driveway as she called her last plea.

“Mario, Mario no caro, stay away from that girl. Please listen to me, stay away.” She knew too well what the outcome of a love affair like this one would be: disastrous, even dangerous. Mario gave her a smile and waved good-bye as he sped away hoping Adriana would return to the fields. He never took his grandmother’s warning seriously.

Their house was on the outskirts of Salinas, California, not far from the Samoza Vineyards. She watched her grandson drive away, with his left hand waving good-bye. She had a strange premonition; the past days of her own life were filling her mind’s eye and Mario was hurrying to …

* * *

This time the patriarch Miguel Samoza had come to see the progress along with his older son, Pablo, and Adriana who had insisted to come along. He was watching the workers at the field when Pablo picked up the bullhorn from the truck driver and shouted at the assembly of laborers.

“Come on, you lazy morons, move it. This field has to be picked by sundown. Stop your goddamn singing! Do the work or lots of you will find yourselves out of work with no pay for you to throw away on dominos and cerveza.”

Miguel knew Pablo was trying to prove he was competent to take over the vineyards and along with that, the leadership of the family. The patriarch had recently suffered two heart attacks, one right after the other and the doctor’s had strongly suggested for him to relinquish much of the responsibilities of the winery to his older son and some of the managers. His wife, Marcella, had taken the doctor’s concern very seriously. The doctor had warned them that if he didn’t slow down, the third attack might be fatal.

“Let the boys take over Miguel!” Marcella pleaded. “Let them learn how to run the business! You’re not ready to die, and I’m too young to be left a widow.”

As he watched his son yell at the workers, the father was not pleased with Pablo’s behavior. He regarded him with a stern expression.

“Pablo, control your outlook toward the workers; show a bit more compassion. Don’t call them names. Don’t be so rough on them.”

Adriana was standing near her father looking for one particular worker, her love, Mario. She took this opportunity to get back at her crude brother. With an angry tone of voice she snapped at him, “Yes, Pablo, you’re so rude and conceited. You think because they work for us, you can curse them and treat them like dirt. You’re the real moron here.” She turned to her father. “Father, please don’t let him take over, because we’ll end up with no one wanting to work for us.”

Pablo still staring at the workers, warned his sister, “Adriana, shut the hell up and stay out of the men’s business, do you hear me? Oh, and if I catch you speaking to that guy … what the hell’s his name? … the one I saw you here yesterday, with Pedro and Julia.”

Just then, he saw Mario coming down the hill toward the truck.

“Yes, that one, he’s a good worker, but an ignorant scum, and I don’t like you talking to him, or with any of these people, for that matter. Do you hear me? You’re a Samoza! Behave like one and stay out of our business!”

Adriana’s face reddened. For a moment, she couldn’t talk; she was fuming. Walking back and forth kicking some of the dirt. Her father had never seen her like this. His usually lighthearted daughter now turned red with anger. She was hoping to introduce Mario to her father and never had assumed her cruel brother would act in such a manner. Her enthusiasm turned to fury, her eyes widen and her jaws pressed hard together.

“Father, do you see what I mean? Can you believe this idiot trying to run our business, with his rude attitude? He’s so polluted with his stupid ego that he thinks everyone is a scum. And what right does he have to tell me who to see and speak? He does the same with all the boys in school he disapproves of for one reason or another, especially if the boy is not from a rich family. Who the hell gave him this authority? I hate him!”

“Stop, both of you.” The patriarch whispered, “I don’t ever want to see you argue like this in public. Adriana, he’s right. I don’t want you to get involved with anyone just yet, and especially with one of these workers. You’re only seventeen years old. You’re like your mother, very beautiful and very mature for your age, but you’re still too young to make important, life-decisions. I agree with Pablo about that. Socialize with your classmates and all your friends at the country club; they’re your class of people. You don’t belong here and you shouldn’t come and allow these men to stare at you. I forbid it.”

He looked at her, and as if for the first time, he saw how grown-up his little girl had become. He noticed Adriana’s full round sensual breasts and knew from his own experience, that they were a desirable temptation for any man and the envy of most young women.

Now with a firmer tone of voice, he pointed at her with a scowl on his face. “Button up your blouse. You ought to wear a bra for heaven’s sake.”

Adriana glared at her father with the same anger. He had become a great disappointment to her. She did not take this well. Not at all; it seemed as if these two were ganging up on her. Yes, her father was right; she’s grown and she’s too mature for her age, but neither one knew that a growling tigress was about to explode.

“Father, that’s ridiculous! I want you both to stop this. You’re both snobs, like all those spoiled rich brats in school and the clubs; I hate that. And don’t criticize my appearance. I dress properly and for comfort. If my body is attractive then blame nature. I'm proud of my appearance and I will not conceal it because of your traditions. I am free spirited! Just because we have more money and go to exclusive schools doesn’t mean we’re better than anyone else. You can forbid me all you want, but I won’t obey you, no way! This is the twenty-first century; you’re imposing traditions, which make no sense. I don’t mean to be disrespectable, but if you insist on these demands, I will defy them. You must allow me my freedom.”

Just then, young Mario approached the truck and carefully handed his basket to the loader, who gave him an empty one. He turned, unaware of what had been going on, and nodded politely.

“Good afternoon, boss,… Adriana.”

He noticed there was tension between the three of them, so without expecting any response to his greeting, he turned to go back to his work.

Pablo took a couple of steps toward Mario, pointing his finger and with anger in his voice said harshly, “Hey you, stop there, stop! … ‘Adriana’? Where do you get off calling my sister by her first name? Who the hell told you, you could do that?”

Mario froze and without turning, arched his tight neck and shoulders backward to release the tension. Blackness consumed his being. He didn’t like Pablo’s tone of voice.

“Answer me! You call my sister by her name? Who told you, you could do that? You never do that again, do you hear? Do your damned work and never mind talking to my sister. Otherwise, I’ll kick your stupid ass out of here. Now get the hell back to work!”

Mario’s fear became reality. “Nonna was right. They’ll never allow it. We’re nothing but dirt to them¾conceited son of a bitch, he’s a heartless prick who hates us. Oh! Adriana, Adriana, I’m so sorry.” He was whispering to himself.

Seething, Adriana advanced toward her brother and raised her right hand to slap his face. Pablo grabbed her wrist to prevent the hit, but he couldn’t stop the forward thrust of her left hand from landing on his face making his sunglasses fly off his head and the slap heard by all the workers nearby. For a shocking second or two Pablo didn’t know what to do. He never expected his sister to be so violent. Surprised by her daring attack, he grabbed her arms to restrain her and stop another assault as he pushed her away.

“What the hell is the matter with you, are you out of your mind you stupid brat?”

“You’re asking me if I'm out of my mind? You brainless, stupid inconsiderate idiot, how dare you speak to him that way? Who the hell do you think you are? Who gave you the right to tell anyone who can and who cannot speak to me? I can’t stand the sight of you, you conceited ass! You chauvinist pig!” She rushed over and put her hand on Mario’s arm. While Pablo picked up his glasses and looked at his father to see his equally shocked expression.

“She’s mad father, she’s totally nuts, crazy.”

Miguel shook his head not knowing what to make out of this. First, he disapproved of Pablo’s manners toward the young man and then the bristling anger that was mounting between his children. He was also greatly disappointed by Adriana’s behavior.

Most of the workers agreed with Adriana, and were well aware of Pablo’s rudeness and superior attitude toward them. Those nearby kept themselves busy and unobtrusive.

Adriana stopped Mario and offered her apology. “I’m sorry, so sorry Mario. He’s an idiot. My brother is a complete moron.”

Miguel called, “Adriana, come back. We’re leaving.” She was so angry she ignored her father.

Mario saw the difficult circumstances he was creating for both of them. He whispered, “Adriana, that’s all right, I’m used to it, please go back. Go back before he fires me.”

Adriana surprised he didn’t protest her brother’s rudeness, pulled her hand off his arm.

Mario saw her disappointed expression. He widened his lips in an unwelcome smile and shook his head. “Don’t think less of me Adriana, please don’t. He’s right; I should stay in my place. The last thing I want is to make trouble for you. It is the way it is. Your brother believes workers like me shouldn’t mingle with someone like you. He can fire me, and I, I need this job. I don’t belong in your world Adriana, my grandmother is right. I wish you could’ve met her.”

The patriarch called again, this time with a stronger voice, for her to get back. He realized he would have to keep a close watch on his daughter from now on. This was the first time she had ignored his authority. He was now seeing a side of his little girl that he had never seen before.

The humming song of all the workers stopped abruptly. None dared pause by the two lovers for fear they might be yelled at by that loco brother of hers or even fired. With their baskets filled and heads lowered, they passed by without saying a word. The joyful atmosphere turned to somber. The song became silent.

Pablo, now with a commanding tone of voice, called “Adriana! Adriana! I want you to get the hell back here at once! We’re leaving!” She looked at him with her eyes smoldering in fury.

Low-spirited Mario touched her hand as for the last time and walked up the small hill toward the section of the field no more than thirty to forty feet away, paused and before he stepped off the path, turned to see if Adriana was still there. She was, they gazed at each other for a couple of seconds, and with a bemused smile and heavy heart, he entered the vines. Adriana stood staring for a while longer. Her nostrils were flaring with each deep angry breath and her eyes were burning with rage.

Her dark thoughts filled her being. People are cruel; I will challenge this madness, this unfairness. I will make it my life’s quest. I will have this man ... my love for him is powerful; be wary all of you chauvinists and heartless bigots, no matter who you are, do not intervene! The blood of my Samoza grandparents is running inside my veins. I swear I will not stray—this is my oath!

Reluctantly, she turned and walked back, not wanting to go, but knowing that she had to. She gave a hateful glance at her brother and then got into the back seat of the car, slamming the door. This pledge she just made to herself fill her soul with hope to compensate her anger.

Miguel and Pablo saw the workers, especially the young girls, whispering. As soon as the girls felt the two men staring at them, they stopped, lowered their heads, and continued with their work. Pablo showed his authority once more in front of his father by shouting at them again in spite of his father’s previous warning.

“Get the hell back to work! Go to work! I want this first field finished!”

Father and son got into the car not saying a word, but it was obvious Adriana was livid. Her father felt her anger and thought, well, she’s seventeen years old, and she’ll get over it. Pablo sped away, leaving a cloud of dust behind. He was so angry with her for calling him all those names he forgot that some mothers brought their young ones to the field with them and let them run around freely. Fortunately, no one was hurt as he sped down the dirt road through the vineyard.

Adriana remained silent all the way back to the estate. She was concerned about their reproaches and their warnings, but she knew nothing would keep her from doing what she had to do.

Mario saw the dust of Pablo’s car and he was sure he had made a formidable enemy. “They will give her a hard time and see to it that I will never see her again. Damn, I hate this; we’re treated like dirt.” He was talking to himself and kicking the dirt around him.

* * *

The next day, Friday, in the late afternoon, the workers finished field number one and waited for Pablo to come with the payroll. He made sure to always arrive late, in order for his inflated ego to feast in its pride. Came out of his car holding a briefcase and walked where a small table and chair was set for him. Two bodyguards stood beside him, guns on display. He gave them all the usual stare before the two-field managers approached, to tell him all was well. Some were sitting on boxes, on the flatbed trucks, others on the ground and most were standing around waiting to hear their names called. Mario’s name was the last one he called.

Pablo sneered as he handed Mario the green paper. “Here, this is your last check. We’re finished with this section, and I don’t need you any more. In fact, I don’t think I will ever need you again; don’t bother to come back. Oh, and one more thing: stay away from my sister. You’re not good enough for her. This is a warning; the next time I catch you talking to her, I’ll break your damned face. Now get the hell out of here!”

Mario took the check, folded it slowly and spoke in a calm voice. He had somehow expected this, and was not surprised.

“I did the work I was hired to do, and for that, I earned this money, which I happen to need. Otherwise, I would rip this check up and throw it in your face. Firing me shows everyone here what a small man you are. You are not firing me because of my work, but because you believe you’re better than me, and that I’m not good enough to socialize with your sister.”

Pablo just stared at him, his face contorted with hatred and anger.

“Yes, you are rich and educated. I, on the other hand, have had only six years of school, and have to earn my living by my physical labor. But if your education turns out bigots like you, then it’s not better than mine. Because of your family’s wealth, you think yourselves superior, when in fact you’re not. A rich person is one who has earned his wealth from his own hard work and talent. Guys like you, who inherit wealth, are heartless and could do nothing without us. If all these people here were to quit right now, you would have no new wine and nothing to brag about. We are the ones who make you rich, and you are the ones who have discontent and no respect for us or our labor.”

Pablo became enraged. “I told you to get the hell out of here, and don’t talk to me about education and facts of life, you ignorant bastard. Get lost.”

Mario remained calm, not the least bit intimidated by Pablo. He turned his back on him and spoke softly.

“I will leave when I’m ready, and not before, and not because you’re scaring me. We can always find other employment and survive. But you, you cannot have this winery without us. You have not worked a day in your life. I suggest you grab a basket and try to do some picking at the next field to see what it’s all about. Maybe you will learn something; a little humility would be a good start.”

The workers who had not left yet had gathered around to listen. It was obvious they were all fed up with this man, and were happy Mario had spoken up. They silently cheered him, but said and did nothing to defend his rights. He was the only Italian amongst them.

Pablo saw their expressions and heard the murmurs and whispers with a visible anger in the faces of many men and elderly women. He turned and spoke with a softer tone of voice before their anger became viable and perhaps got out of control.

“All of you go home and get ready for tomorrow’s picking. You’ve heard enough garbage from this idiot. Now get moving. You have a job. He’s unemployed. But if any of you wish to join him, speak up. Remember, I’ll be here tomorrow, and you’d better be here, ready to work.” He pointed his finger at Mario.

“You’re a trouble maker and I’ll see to it that none of our competitors hire you, and stay away from my sister.”

Mario smiled at his friends, and then turned to face Pablo. “I did the work and never caused any trouble for anyone. I only said, ‘hello’ to your sister after your brother Pedro introduced me to her. She’s very beautiful, courageous and kindhearted. I’m young and I can wait. Your sister, she’s also young, soon she’ll get older, and then she’ll not obey your stupid commands—heck, she doesn’t obey them now. You won’t have control of her.” Mario turned to his co-workers.

“Good-bye, my friends, stay strong and proud. Remember, you are the vineyards, unfortunately your hard labors create snobs and heartless people like him.”

He saw the looks of fear on their faces as they all lifted their hands to wave good-bye. This would have been a good time for all of them to challenge Pablo and call his bluff by walking off the job. It would’ve created a massive economic and scandalous setback for the Samozas. These next couple of weeks every vineyard in the vicinity would be in desperate need of workers to harvest the grapes. If they went on strike at this time, it would be disastrous. They would have to shut down this year’s wine production. But they didn’t grasp the opportunity to show their power.

Poverty stops family providers from taking chances, even a chance as certain to help them as this one. When one’s existence depends on a weekly paycheck, it takes too much of courage to take risk. Besides, Mario was not looking to create a problem for the Samozas. He loved this beauty and ready to submit to the laws of society, poverty and wealth shall not link. But neither he nor her family knew the power of love that was burning inside Adriana. Soon they’ll face her fury and her gripe against narrow-mindedness.

Mario threw his jacket over his shoulder and with a broken heart walked toward his pickup truck.

Pablo shouted once more, “I don’t care who introduced you to her; you just stay away from her! I will not warn you again.”

Mario paid him no attention; he got into his truck and drove away with a heavy heart. His hopes were crashed, and the joy of love was now blackened with an aching heart. Black despair invaded his inner soul, and painted hopelessness on his handsome face. What would he tell Nonna, and now he had the need to find another job. Mario did not know Adriana well enough other than from her protest of yesterday. He did not know her strength and self-confidence, not that of a young girl, but of an independent woman.

He stopped at a supermarket near his home in Salinas before he went home and with a stroke of luck he was hired to start work the next day.

Adriana’s determination and will—will surpass all obstacles against the love that is burning inside her. Her family and others will soon see a side of her they have never imagined.

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