The Papalo Cure, Part 7: Redefining Rocky Relationships
By Susanf on August 19, 2014
A few weeks ago I began using the Words for Wednesday Challenge from Delores at Under the Porch Light to create a story, The Papalo Cure. Readers commented, requesting to know what happened to Grandpa after Maria got on the bus to South Dakota. I didn't know! The plot of this story is being directed by the weekly Words for Wednesday word prompt!
Using the prompts, I have been adding to the story - and even I am surprised by the turns it has taken. Today, I am publishing the final chapter of this story.
This week’s chapter can be read without background information, but I recommend reading the proceeding parts of this series first. Links for each previous chapter were supplied yesterday in my post, Cliff Hanger, and are also available on my FICTION page. This week's challenge words are listed at the end of this chapter and highlighted in bold in the story.
"I can barely breathe, I am so anxious," Maria said to Mateo. They were in a conference room of the Hilton Hotel, waiting for a representative from the oil and gas company to arrive for the meeting that had been scheduled.
There was a knock at the door, and a beautiful young woman walked in. She extended her hand, greeting first Maria and then Mateo.
"My name is Julia. I have been working with your grandfather, Mr. Bedoya, regarding the purchase of his property by my company, PetroNation Oil and Gas. I understand you have some questions, which I may or may not be able to answer.
Maria said, "My grandfather has been ill, and we have been unable to discuss this matter with him. You might be surprised to learn that the farm does not belong to my grandfather - but is the property of my grandmother, Mrs. Bedoya. She signed a document stating that she sent us as her representatives and empowering us to make decisions on her behalf. She would like to stop the sale of the farm. It has been in her family for generations - and she has no intention of losing it now." Maria finished speaking, and grimly took the letter from her grandmother out of her purse and shoved it towards Julia.
Julia said, "I think we should all sit down. Mr. Bedoya warned me that this sale was likely to stir up quite a tempest. He expected to be able to calm things down; but, he knew he was sick and he worried questions might arise while he was hospitalized. Your grandfather instructed me what to tell you, in the case that he could not. Let me explain." Julia paused briefly, gathering her thoughts.
"Your grandfather is devoted to your grandmother. I have never witnessed love quite like it. He was willing to make himself appear a villain, to spare her embarrassment. He cares a lot about you both as well. I assume his plot to repair your rocky relationship worked, or you would not be here together."
Rising abruptly from his chair, Mateo accidentally knocked over his water glass, and the liquid formed a lake in the center of the table. "Maria, this sounds like a scam," he said through clenched teeth. "I think we should go."
"Perhaps, Mateo," said Maria. "But we have come so far - let's just hear her out."
Mateo crossed his arms and remained standing, but agreed.
Julia continued. "Your grandfather, Mr. Bedoya, contacted my firm about a year ago. He asked us to do some surveying to see if there might be obtainable oil or gas on his farm. PetroNation has an oil well nearby which is producing copiously, so the farm does interest us. My job was to negotiate a fair price, and your grandfather and I had many conversations. It was obviously very hard for him to sell the farm, which seemed odd to me as he initiated the sale. During one conversation, he seemed so sad, I asked if he wanted to talk about it. His motives - and his anguish became clear.
"Your grandfather first made sure I understood what a remarkable woman your grandmother is, but then he told me that she has developed a gambling problem. She racked up a lot --"
"NO" - Mateo said forcefully, "it was my grandfather who gambled."
"-- of debt," Julia continued. "Please let me finish Mateo, and then you can decide what is true. Your grandmother kept her gambling obsession hidden for quite some time - she had incurred a huge debt before your grandfather discovered it. He spoke with her about selling the farm here in Mexico to pay the bills, but she refused. Selling the farm and declaring bankruptcy are their only alternatives, however - and in either case they might lose the farm anyway. Grandpa began the negotiations, hoping he could convince your grandmother that it was the right thing to do.
"When your grandfather realized he was sick, he called and asked me to check to see if the herb papalo still grew on the farm. He explained to me about the rift between you two, and he came up with the plan of asking Maria to bring him papalo. He was convinced that if you came to South Dakota Maria, and saw Mateo at the hospital, you could mend your differences. Apparently that plan, at least, has worked."
"He never even believed papalo would make him better?" Maria asked. She was so stunned by all that Julia had just said, she couldn't even decide if she should be angry. "I bet he even knew I had substituted watercress for the papalo, and just pretended that he was fooled. My plants had all wilted - it must have been just after you checked the garden for papalo Julia, that the sprinkler broke! I can't believe this!
"But - I guess I do feel sort of badly. We both just assumed it was Grandpa who had the gambling problem Mateo heard our grandparents arguing about! Why would Grandma tell us he was the gambler though? That's so mean that she was willing to let us think that about him!"
Julia replied, "She probably felt like she needed to tell you the partial truth. Perhaps she was afraid if you knew it was her mistakes that had put the farm in jeopardy, you would not help her to stop the sale. She probably assumed her husband would forgive her for the lie, but she might lose you both because of her mistakes."
Mateo had been absently patting at the water on the table with some napkins. Suddenly, he spoke. "Julia, you seem like a nice person, and I can't think of anything that would have motivated you to make all this up. So, I am going to believe you. It appears my grandparents have both deceived us - my grandfather out of loyalty to my grandmother; my grandmother because she wanted us on her side to prevent the sale of the farm. Thank you for sharing this information with us. Now that we have the facts, perhaps the right decision can be made. Would you mind answering a few questions for me though?"
"What sort of questions?" asked Julia.
"Did my grandfather ever tell you how much my grandmother owes?"
"No, he never did," said Maria.
Mateo continued, "The detective I hired had been told that the appraisal value of the farm is gargantuan. I am wondering if it would be necessary to sell the entire farm, or would we be able to subdivide? If we sold just a portion of the property, would it be enough to cover Grandmother's debt? Perhaps these are questions to ask of my grandparents - not you. But - if it turns out the value of just a portion of the property is equivalent to her debt, would your company consider a partial sale?" It would be preferable if we could keep the section upon which the house and barns are located. What is the likelihood of that?"
Julia said, "Your family needs to do a lot of talking! I don't have a lot of answers to your questions, but I have some. Although it was rumored that we plan to drill right where the house sits, those rumors are unfounded. No decisions have yet been as to an optimal drilling site."
"Also," continued Julia, "my company had the property appraised. I know what it is worth, and I find it highly doubtful that your grandmother could have gambled enough to lose such a huge sum. I suspect that even if you kept the land around the buildings - and even some in addition to that - your grandparents would have ample money from a sale of the rest to pay her debts. I can't make promises, but I am pretty persuasive in my company, and I think I could rework the agreement."
"Which would mean ...," said Mateo, then paused and smiled at Maria. "... that you would still have a home in Mexico, and not have to return to the comparatively boreal conditions of South Dakota! Grandma could forgive Grandpa for selling the farm, and no one would else needs to know she incurred such a huge debt. I even know a good addiction program she can enroll in, so it doesn't happen again."
Maria suddenly thought of something, "Wait! What about what Grandma told us - about how Grandpa accused Grandma of wanting to see Pablo,her first love again. Can you explain that, Julia?"
"Just smoke and mirrors," Julia said. Mr. Bedoya told me he felt badly about that conversation, but it was the only way he could think of to prevent his wife from visiting Maria in Mexico - and possibly spoiling the deal he was trying to make with us. He knew she would never agree to it, and didn't know how else to pay off her debt."
"When Grandma learned about the sale, she figured out that was why Grandpa had voiced concerns about Pablo," Mateo said. - "She also suspected Grandpa of using papalo to lure Maria to South Dakota. Such a clever lady - no wonder she did so well gambling!"
"Mateo, don't talk like that!" Maria looked stern, but then she smiled. "I'm so excited to tell Tomas I'm still going to have a place to live in Mexico. I think it is time to call Grandma. She is expecting me to call her this morning, to update her and check on Grandpa's progress. If Grandpa is feeling better, perhaps we can tell them both what we now know, and explain our solution to their problem."
Exiting the room, Maria asked over her shoulder, "Coming Mateo?"
"In a bit." Mateo smiled warmly at Julia. "It seems I really misjudged you initially. Can I invite you to lunch, and attempt to show you a better side of my own character?"
"Actually, Julia said. "I would like that."
The end ... or the beginning.
What do you think - did they all live happily ever after?
The Words for Wednesday Challenge supplied the following word prompts:
boreal, rocky, tempest, lake, rising, breathe
This story is totally fictitious and may not contain accurate factual information. I had never even heard of papalo, until I did an Internet search for “indigenous plants of Mexico.”
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