The following is an excerpt from my yet-to-be published novel, The Ballad of Aracely Calderon.
But first, some background: Aracely Calderon has just lost her father, Candelario Calderon, the 20th century’s most infamous mariachi singer. At the reading of his will, Aracely learns that she will lose the Calderon violin that has been in her family for four generations (and reputed to have magical powers) if she does not take her father’s place at the head of Mariachi Calderon. Otherwise, the violin will go to her father’s protégé and her childhood nemesis, Jack Navarro. Years ago, at her quinceanera when she was expected to accept the Calderon violin, Aracely turned her back on her abusive father and her family’s musical legacy. But when she takes up the challenge set forth in her father’s will, Aracely must convince her reluctant cousins to become the next generation of Mariachi Calderon. On her journey, Aracely is up against tradition, family secrets and betrayals. But through it all, she picks up the broken pieces of the Calderons and makes them a real family.
Oh and if you happen to have Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones de Mi Padre CD, listen to the song, “Dos Arbolitos,” the inspiration for this book.
And now, this scene from The Ballad of Aracely Calderon is my Valentine to you:
Aracely walked down the hallway, having just signed her sister’s marriage certificate. She had every intention of making an act of enjoying herself and enduring the question on every single wedding guest’s mind: was it true that Dad booted her out of his will? But the door to her father’s study and rehearsal room stood ajar and just as she was about to shut it, a metronome ticked, ticked, ticked in the room she knew was empty. Heart racing, she jumped back. The sound stopped.
Someone had to be in the room. She pushed the door open.
Sheet music still lay open on the music stand by the window. Her dad’s practice violin was in its case on the chair. Otherwise, the room was just as he’d left it.
She walked inside, the air thick and warm from so many months of stilness. Aracely drew her fingers along the music stand’s ledge. Her father had last played “Sorrow,” one of Bartók’s 44 Duos for Two Violins.
She tilted her head, hearing the music in her head as she read the music. Which part had Dad been playing?
Someone cleared his throat. Chills erupted over her whole body when she saw the tall, lanky silhouette in the doorway. She blinked and realized the silhouette was Javi.
“What are you doing here by yourself?” he asked.
She swallowed past the knot in her throat, not about to show that he’d nearly scared the hell out of her. “Looking for any money Dad might have dropped on the rug,” she managed. “And you?”
Javi stepped into the light. Aracely got the feeling he was counting to ten, as if she were a kid he needed to have patience for. He scratched his eyebrow and then pointed to the violin. “Are you taking that down with you?”
She glanced at the violin and out of habit said, “Are you kidding? Dad would- Uh. No. It’s not mine.”
Rolling her shoulders back, she walked towards him so he wouldn’t know that inside, she was writhing with shame over the last time they’d seen each other. An evolved person would’ve taken the opportunity and flown the white flag and apologized. But she wasn’t very evolved and was more than eager to get away from him.
“So did you come up here looking for me?” she asked when she stood close enough that she had to lift her chin to look him in the eye.
But he wouldn’t look at her. “I guess I wanted to see Lario’s violin one more time.”
She couldn’t help it. She softened towards him. Aracely no longer hated him like she had when they were kids. But she didn’t like him, either.
“It’s right where he left it,” she said, telling herself that was close to an apology for all the crap she dumped on him so many years ago when he’d been the housekeeper’s fat kid. “You can look at it if you want but shut the door when you’re done.”
“Who’s going to lead the serenade?” he asked, ignoring everything she’d just said.
As much as Aracely hated the idea, Uncle Danny would lead Mariachi Calderon in the traditional serenade of the bride and groom. Mayda had been quietly livid, hissing to Aracely at the outrage that Danny and the rest of the men had showed up to the wedding in suits. The family rule was that Mariachi Calderon wore their signature trajes at the weddings they performed in. This would have been inexcusable at any other wedding; a mortal sin when the bride was Lario’s daughter.
You could do it, a voice shouted in her head and a violent shiver racked her body. Ever since Aracely had moved into Mayda’s house, she had been practicing six, sometimes eight hours a day. It was to lose herself in music, her refuge. All those weeks weren’t in preparation for Lola’s wedding or to take her father’s place. It was so she could…
Aracely realized she was staring and Javi was staring back at her. Stepping back, she shrugged and then shook her head. “It won’t be me,” she answered. “You want to do it?”
“I don’t need the violin, but if you want me to have it then…”
A humorless grin flashed on his face and if she were a cat, the hair would be standing up straight off her back as she hissed and spit at him. Javi backed towards the door.
“I won’t talk you into anything you don’t want to do,” he said.
The Ballad of Aracely Calderon. Copyright © 2008 by Mary Castillo.