Nosotras Tambien (Zoila y Rocio)

Zoila couldn't sleep. She spread her long, black hair over the pillow and arranged her plump body on the edge of the bed. She could sense that Rocio, who lay beside her on her narrow bed in her bedroom in the front room of Casa Rocio, was also awake. Her narrow, dark body was tense beside her. They were both making an enormous effort to be quiet. They had to stop talking. They'd been up half the night talking and talking after they left Padre Ezequiel's study group in the back room of the Catedral de Coral.
Rocio tapped Zoila's arm and turned to face her. "Flor Beltran, Heroina de la Patria says la Patria es valor y es sacrificio." Rocio's square jaw was set hard. She whispered. "Flor es como si fuera mi Mama." Zoila smiled at this little orphan girl. Both Rocio's parents had been killed in one of the City's bombardeos ten years ago. Rocio's Tia Jesusa was raising her in the house that had belonged to the elder Rocio, the mother, which Jesusa turned into a rooming house she named Casa Rocio. Jesusa was glad Padre Ezekiel kept Rocio in church. She didn't imagine what it was went on in that back room since the Teologia de Liberacion padre showed up in Coral. Zoila felt the electricity of terror and excitement rising up her spine. She shook.
Zoila went on. "We have to do it. Tenemos que hacerlo. We have no choice."
Moonlight seeped through the cracks of the floor to ceiling wooden shutters of the front window. Once this room had been the big sala, but Tia Jesusa had given it to her niece when she turned their old family home into a rooming house. Zoila watched the soft light shine on Rocio's face. La huerfanita. She looked like a little girl, radiant with hope and terror, although she was sixteen.
"Tienes razon." She knew Rocio was right. They had no choice. They had to do it. "No vamos a ser revolucionarias de sobaco."
Rocio laughed. "We won't be like Adrian and the others with Dona Flor's and Lenin's books stuck in their armpits."
Zoila whispered. "So what is our target?"
Rocio thought. Zoila looked into the girl's light brown eyes. She could see Rocio's brain think.
"El sitio natural de donde emana el miedo."
Zoila said nothing. The place from which terror flows could only be one place, the cuartel de la guardia. Would she dare go into the guardia's headquarters?
Rocio stared at her friend and mentor. Este es el momento, she thought. This was the moment when their roles were changing. I am the leader, and not Zoila. How had that happened? Zoila was two years older and she was going to the escuela normal to learn to be a teacher. Zoila's big jaw was shut tight but then she hardly ever smiled. Rocio guessed that Zoila expected because she was very plain that she would be a solterona and she was getting herself ready for that. Smiling was for satas who flirted with boys like perras in heat. Without her big, dark framed glasses Zoila's eyes looked small. They stuck out of her head. She gave Rocio one of her rare smiles and Rocio thought that Zoila was made beautiful by her goodness and her intelligence. Right now her purpose shone through her. "El cuartel."
Next morning neither of them remembered having slept, nor any moment when their minds had separated. It was a Saturday, so no Escuela Normal for Zoila and no Escuela Superior for Rocio. They barely swallowed their cafe con leche and pan con mantequilla. Rocio was 16 and her Tia Jesusa barely looked up from the two cazuelas she was minding on top of the blue tiled wood coal stove. "Que muchachas." Without looking away from her pot of harina de maiz con pasas she offered her cheek for Rocio and then Zoila to kiss.
Saturdays the girls knew they would find Adrian, the fisherman's son, and the other boys by el Rio Guacabon. The would be guerrillas met on the big meadow where the ferias were held and where boys ran with their kites until they got them swooping in the bowl of open air between the river and the foothills of El Pico on the other bank. Zoila and Rocio ran down the maze of streets, still deserted, through and beyond the Plaza, raced the down hill streets, and when they were across the wide avenue by the Mirador del Guacabon they slowed down so that their stomping feet wouldn't let the boys know they were there. The training by the old Gallego was only for the boys. The girls squatted by their usual hiding rock. El General Arana, everybody called him El Gallego, was bent over a row of bottles. He was filling them from a metal can and he was inserting strips cut from old blankets into them.
Zoila watched the boys with el Gallego. Rocio took in a deep breath. Zoila turned to face her. She liked to watch Rocio think because her face showed everything. Right now she was reading Rocio's mind and she nodded. "Yes. Yes. We don't have to do this by ourselves. We will make the boys let us do whatever they are doing with them." Rocio reached and hugged her.
They ran into the center of the boys' circle.
"Nosotras tambien."
El Gallego was a very tall, very thin man with a long, full, gray beard. He shook his head.
"Flor la Heroina fue mujer." Rocio stood with her legs planted wide and her small hands in fists. "Flor, the mother of Isla Karaya, was a woman." She didn't move her gaze from El Gallego's. "Somos tan luchadoras como ustedes." Adrian stepped away from the circle of boys and stood beside her. "Tienen razon, General. They have as much a right to fight as we do."
Sunday night Zoila told her mother and Rocio told her tia that she was at the other's house. They rode their bicycles with Adrian to where the Carretera Naval joined the entronque to the highway that eventually merged into carretera Arrecife. They had no bottles to throw. They had small sharp tachuelas and they strewed the tacks, invisible against the gray of the pavement.
On Monday, they rode back to the Plaza and sat in the glorieta with the boys until it was almost time to go to school. They talked about the world they would make, the better world. "Everyone will live well, and not just a very few will live better like Padre Ezequiel said." Men and women began to cross the Plaza on their way to the cafeterias, and tiendas, and talleres. A pair of women passed them and called out. "Traffic is backed up all the way to El Entronque. The rebeldes covered the road with thumbtacks." The woman turned to her companion and they laughed. A man walking just behind them said, "Si, son ellos, los rebeldes."
Rocio looked at Adrian and then Zoila. They rose. They climbed down from their perch on the bandstand in the plaza. It was time to go to their houses to change into their school uniforms. Arm in arm, elbow to elbow, they climbed down the steps of the glorieta.