She had overheard them, Lupe and Dolores, debating the attributes of the newest vaquero as they had gone about washing the rooms many windows. The stab of envy had surprised her. Oh, to be young once more and free, free to take the measure of any man who took her fancy.
Resting her forehead against the cool glass, she clutched one panel of the heavy drapery in her hand, ragged fingernails digging into the plush fabric. How many times had she watched him as he stood here looking out this window? What did he see, her husband? Whatever it was it did not stir her as it did him. She doubted it ever would.
A wisp of air brushed her cheek as it slipped between two panes of glass. She sighed. Yet another task that must be remembered and set to rights.
The tree outside the window shook, branches heaving and a shaft of sunlight speared the tree’s thick canopy spilling into the Great Room. She winced, averting red-rimmed eyes.
Her free hand latched onto her skirt, worrying the material between her fingers. Drab, drab and dull and the other was no better; brown like the hide of the stupid vaca. Both were likely to last several years. Everything was bought with that in mind, making the money stretch. Nothing to be replaced until it was worn out or used up. What did it matter if they made her feel old? Look old?
There had to be more than this; more than cattle and grass and the price of grain. When had a discussion not revolved around the cattle and their well-being? Or the endless lists of what needed to be done? Then there were the late nights when the numbers did not want to add up and the getting up before the sun even crested the mountains. Of choking on the combined stench of cow and manure while listening to the same women gossip as babies cried and children shrieked.
There were days he didn’t give her wants or needs a second thought, of that she was certain. Then why should she care if that piece of land he had been eyeing was coming up for sale? Or a bridge connecting pastures was replaced this month instead of next? Or a line shack was rebuilt instead of repaired?
The land she was like a woman, demanding and selfish.
Against another woman she would have known how to fight.
She raised her eyes and looked once more at the cattle, the grass and the distant green hills.
Never would she understand the fascination this land held for him.
She stumbled away from the window, wrapping her arms about herself. So close, so close he had come to losing his precious window. Even now her hands itched to pummel the glass, to see it shatter into a million pieces.
There were times she felt like one of the vaqueros, her worth measured by what she contributed to the mighty ranchero.
Already he was hinting at another child. Another, when she was only now beginning to feel like herself after Juanito’s difficult birth.
Then there was the other; *her* child. He had spoken again of bringing him here, of his sons growing up together. Expecting her to raise the gringa’s Niño alongside her own. Often she had wondered if he had married her for just that reason.
But it wasn’t.
He loved her.
And he had gotten her with child. Being an honorable man he had married her. Another would have simply walked away.
She wiped a stray tear and hugged herself tightly. Why did she feel this way; so out of sorts? She did not resent her husband’s love for his lost child nor was she jealous of a dead woman. She was wife of the patron, mistress not only of a beautiful hacienda but all she could see outside the window and beyond.
It had been wrong of the boy’s abuelo to take and keep him as he did. She had watched her husband cradle Juanito in his arms, heard the tenderness in his voice as he spoke to him. Her son would grow into a good man, a caring man, a man to be proud of with such a father.
But why could he not be content with what he had? Why did he look for trouble? Senor Garrett blamed him for the loss of his only child. He would not easily surrender his grandson. And the boy, had he considered what was best for him? To take him not only from his abuelo but the only home he had ever known?
Or them, what it would mean for them? Already her life revolved around Juanito and his needs. A second child would take time away not only from their son but him.
And what was to become of her while he was away, gone to this Boston?
It did not matter. Nothing did. The boy was his and he would have what belonged to him.
There was a world out there and life was passing them by; passing her by.
What was the point of having a grand estancia if you could not enjoy some of the rewards?
She might be married and a mother but Maria Estrella Murillo Abrego de Lancer was also a woman.
But not like the others.
She wanted more.
She needed more.
More than cooking and cleaning. Of being embarazada almost every year; like one of his prized broodmares or worse, one of the vaca. Of being made welcome only because she was the wife of Murdoch Lancer.
Of growing old before having truly lived.
Deep POV Challenge