The evening sun sunk into the orange and blue sky and dipped towards the streaked horizon. Thick bunches of clouds rolled sea-bound, past the lush cordilleras. Alba and Celestino stood together, overlooking the rows of burlap tarps covered with grains of tender yellow maize left to dry. Each and every grain was spread and smoothed against the wrinkled fabric. Celestino stood tall, his ashen leather sombrero tipped upwards and away from his face. His eyes had long ago deteriorated into a state of pale, cloudy-blue blindness that only granted him the sight of fading shadows of people, bright light, and moving figures in the sky. He turned towards their harvest and waited for the sun to speak and tell him what to do next. It had done so many times before, guiding him when it would next rise and set, so he could do the very same. 

— ¿Celestino?

— ¿Sí?

—  You’ll remember me, ¿verdad?

—  I haven’t forgotten you, Albita.

What remained of the sun’s lingering warmth grazed over the tip of Celestino’s nose and his wrinkled cheekbones. He held his breath and gazed at Alba. The sun refused to speak and instead chose to cloak itself over their cottage, their maize, and Alba. 

Alba clasped her palm over Celestino’s hand and brought it up to her cheek. Her face glowed against the sun’s amber light, his fingertips traced over every crease, curve, and dip of her beauty by memory. He had done this many years ago, touch his wife like this. They were younger then, it didn’t ache their bodies to wake with the morning dew, and they had dreams of reaching heights beyond the distant stars above them. 

—  Celestino.

He exhaled and pointed his chin towards the sky. Alba reached towards her husband, her brittle nails threading through his stringy, white beard. Celestino hadn’t forgotten how to navigate through the walls of their adobe cottage, the lengths the verdant high plain beneath his feet reached, and how to find the North star to bring him home to Alba. He could never.

Alba’s hand dropped to Celestino’s chest, and he pressed his thumb beneath her ear, beside her splotched beauty mark. The clouds above covered the darkening sky, blotting out the sun’s tepid light. The sparse blades of grass at their feet collected faint, dewy droplets. The sun spoke to Celestino through the rushed whispers of the wind.

—  Vaya, entra a casa.

— ¿Y tú?

—  I’m going to watch the rain, Albita.

A heavy huff escaped her lungs, and Alba pulled the woolen shawl off of her body, wrapping it around his shoulders before going inside. She watched Celestino from the window, her hand clutching the fabric of her dress.

Rain fell in a silent deluge. The sky was grey, and the air around him was veiled in a thick fog. Her eyes never left him, and one by one, amidst the rain, Celestino tied and gathered the sacks of maize into their cottage. He packed the sacks against the wall, bundled beneath the low roof. A mossy stone held the wooden door open, inviting the scent of tierra mojada into their home. 

Alba moved to the kitchen, lighting the wood-burning stove, and the firelight flooded within, from the corner behind her head, all the way to their bed on the farthest wall. 

—  Did you know it was going to rain?

—  No. The sun…

—  How long is it going to rain?

—  As long as the sky wants to.

Alba began to set the table, and draped a thin cloth over the wooden table, bringing out their worn cutlery and clay plates. She pushed her chair right beside Celestino’s and sat down, glancing up at him. He leaned against the doorframe with his sombrero held over his heart. His blanched eyes were muted and silent. Still, he bowed his head and listened for the sun. 

For a moment, the clouds broke apart from each other and in between, there was the faintest glimmer from the moon. The wind picked up, and the roof tiles rattled to its silent words. Celestino extended his hand towards Alba, and a loud earth-shaking rumble filled their ears. A bright flash of light washed over their sight. Thunder. The sun no longer needed to speak. They were home. 

Alba rose from her seat, took Celestino’s hand, and guided him to the table. She served their dinner, and took her seat, placing her hands over his. 

—  Deja de esperar, mi vida. A comer. Te vas a enfermar así.

—  We’ve had a good life, haven’t we, Albita? 

There was a gentle, slow-moving cadence to Celestino’s voice. He never rushed his words. He liked to believe that for a man of his age, he was certain of many things. They led a slow life together, they had children, loved each other and the land surrounding them. It was enough.

—  Sí. Sí, Celestino.

—  One worth living. 

—  Of course.

—  ¿Albita?

—  ¿Sí?

Celestino turned toward the blazing firelight, its warmth skimming across his skin, and into the ridges of his face. His eyes gleamed, salty tears collected like dew drops on his lashes. Alba hooked her fingers beneath the palms of his hands. He knew something that she didn’t, but the words to ask stuck to her throat. She needed to breathe, but the air in her lungs was dense. 

—  You’ll remember me, as I’ve remembered you, ¿verdad…? You’ll remember me?

—  You’re impossible to forget.

The flames danced in front of him, coloring streaks of orange and blue on his horizon, close enough for him to touch. Outside, the rain stopped. There was no trace of any clouds or even any residual twinkling of the stars. His sun was ablaze.

Trees stand in silhouette against the darkening sky as the sun sets. Photo: Iris Flores-Iglesias

Iris Flores-Iglesias es una escritora, de ficción y cuentos. She calls San Francisco California, and San Francisco Gotera her home. Iris holds two bachelor degrees in Creative Writing and French from San Francisco State University. Raised by Salvadoran parents, her fiction is influenced by her family’s stories, Morazán, y distancias afuera del alcance. Her debut cuento Findon’s Finest is the recipient of the Leo Litwalk Fiction Award, and her other published works can be found in The Ana, and Scran Press.