Audiobook excerpt (for a diffrent section).

Searching For a Bride

Nico had become very handsome. He was wearing his hair long, like an apostle, and his grandfather’s features had become more accentuated: large sultry eyes, aristocratic nose, square chin, elegant hands. It was inexplicable to me that there weren’t a dozen women milling about at his front door. Behind Willie’s back—he doesn’t understand these matters—Tabra and I decided to look for a girlfriend for Nico. And that’s exactly what you would have done, daughter, so don’t scold me.

“In India, and many other places in the world, marriages are arranged. There are fewer divorces there than in western countries,” Tabra explained.

“That doesn’t prove that they’re happy, only that they have to put up with more,” I contended.

“The system works fine. Marrying for love carries a lot of problems with it, it’s more successful to unite two compatible persons who with time will learn to love one another.”

“That’s a little risky, but I don’t have a better idea,” I admitted.

It isn’t easy to make these arrangements in California, as she herself had proved for years; none of the matchmaking agencies had found a man who was worth her while. The best had been Lagarto-Emplumado, but still she had no news of him. We checked the newspapers regularly to see if Moctezuma’s crown had been returned to Mexico, but found nothing. In view of the negative results obtained by Tabra, I didn’t want to put ads in the papers or go to agencies; that seemed a little indiscreet in view of the fact that I hadn’t as yet consulted Nico. My friends were no help; they were no longer young, and no menopausal woman would take on my three grandchildren, however gorgeous Nico was.

I devoted myself to looking for a potential sweetheart everywhere I went, and in the process my eye grew sharper. I made inquiries among people I knew, I scrutinized the young women who asked for my autograph in bookstores, I even brazenly stopped a pair of girls in the street, but that method was inefficient and very slow. At that pace Nico would be seventy and still a bachelor. I studied women, and in the end would discard them for different motives: serious or tedious, talkative or shy, smokers or macrobiotic fiends, dressed like their mothers or with a tattoo of the Virgin of Guadalupe on their backs. This was for my son; the choice could not be made frivolously. I was beginning to lose hope when Tabra introduced me to Amanda, a photographer and writer who wanted to take a trip to the Amazon with me for a travel magazine. Amanda was very interesting, and beautiful, but she was married and planned to have children very soon; she wasn’t, unfortunately, a good candidate for my romantic designs. However, during one conversation, the subject of my son came up and I told her the whole drama—there was no secret about what had happened with Celia; she herself had broadcast it right and left. Amanda told me she knew the ideal girl: Lori Barra. Lori was her best friend; she had a generous heart, she had no children, she was pretty, refined, a graphic designer from New York who now lived in San Francisco. She had an obnoxious boyfriend, according to Amanda, but we’d find a way to get rid of him and leave Lori available to meet Nico. Not so fast, I said. First I need to know this girl through and through. Amanda organized a lunch and I took Andrea with me; it seemed to me that at least the young designer ought to have a vague idea of what she would be taking on. Of the three children, Andrea was without doubt the most peculiar. My granddaughter came dressed like a beggar, with pink rags tied around different parts of her body, a straw hat with faded flowers, and her Save-the-Tuna doll. I was on the verge of dragging her somewhere to buy a more presentable outfit, but I decided it was best for Lori to know her in her natural state.

Amanda had said nothing to her friend about our plans, nor I to Nico; we didn’t want to alarm them. The lunch in the Japanese restaurant was a good strategy; it didn’t raise Lori’s suspicion; she wanted to meet us only because she loved Tabra’s jewelry and she had read a couple of my books: two points in her favor. Tabra and I were very impressed with her; she was a calm pool of simplicity and charm. Andrea observed her without saying a word, as she tried in vain to get pieces of raw fish into her mouth with chopsticks.

“You don’t get to know a person in one hour,” Tabra warned me afterward.

“She’s perfect! She even looks like Nico. They’re both tall, slim, handsome, have noble bones, and they wear black. They look like twins.”

“Looking like twins isn’t the basis of a good marriage.”

“In India they have horoscopes, and let’s say that isn’t very scientific either. It’s all a question of luck, Tabra,” I answered.

“We need to know more about her. We have to see her in difficult circumstances.”

“You mean like in a war?”

“That would be ideal, but they’re all pretty far away. What do you say we invite her to go with us to the Amazon?” was Tabra’s suggestion.

And that was how Lori, who had seen us only once, over a plate of sushi, ended up flying with us to Brazil in the role of assistant to Amanda.

Note from Isabel: I am proud to say that Lori and Nico fell in love at first sight and are now happily married.