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  • I gave Jacques his fried egg on a tortilla, smothered with chili sauce (huevos rancheros).

    “What are you doing today,” I asked as I chopped a papaya and covered it with fresh lemon juice.
    “I’ll stay on at the ranch this evening. It’s the saint’s day of builders today and I will be expected to put on a fiesta for the ranch hands tonight.”

    “OK, that makes sense,” I answered, as I gave him a paper towel to wipe his chin.

    I waved goodbye as he drove the Volkswagen through our high metal gate and returned to my daily routine. My daughters, were playing in the shade of our Guava tree, picking petals and floating them in a bowl of water.

    Jacques drove ten miles out of town through dry tropical scrubland and arrived at the ranch where Jose, who had lost a hand in a tortillaria machine was watering the maize and beans; Rodulpho, his shirt covered in dust waved from the building site.
    Later that night as I read ‘Lust For Life’ under the green lamp; my bare feet resting on the cool floor tiles, the phone rang. I looked at the clock. It was midnight.

    “Hola Diane,” said my mother in law, cool and unemotional as usual. “So you are home?”

    Where else would I be, I thought. “Que pasa?” I asked.

    “Jacques is in jail in Atlatchalowaya. They just phoned Felipe. Jacques has had an accident and Felipe has had to go and bail him out.” she snapped; and the phone went dead.

    I could feel my heart pounding faster. How could he be in jail? I knew it was very rough and dangerous out in the countryside, but what could have happened?

    I went into emergency mode and started tidying up the room, checking that the children were still asleep, and getting dressed. I knew my father in law would be in a foul mood when he arrived with Jacques.

    Fifty minutes later Felipe sounded his horn outside our high walled garden and I rushed to open the door to let him in. Jacques was semi-conscious on the seat beside his father. Felipe dragged him through the patio doors and sat him on the couch.

    “He’s all yours,” Felipe hissed and strode straight out to drive home.

    I examined Jacques. He was bleary eyed and not quite conscious. His clothes were filthy, as if he had rolled in the mud. His hair was tangled and full of dust and leaves.

    “Let’s get you into the shower,” I said gently as I pulled him up from the couch. He stood like a child letting me shampoo his hair. I started gently parting his hair and washing the mud out bit by bit. As the dirt disappeared I was shocked to see a two inch long gash on his scalp; covered with half congealed blood.

    “I can’t believe your father left you here in this state, your wound needs stitching.”

    When I had settled Jacques onto the couch I rang the local hospital.

    “There is no one available,” said the receptionist; “It is the doctor’s patron saint’s day and all the doctors are celebrating.”

    After a fruitless search through the phone directory for an available doctor, I finally phoned my brother in law who is a vet.

    “I’ll come straight over,” he assured me.

    He arrived fifteen minutes later and told me an old friend of his would treat Jacques wound. I asked my neighbour to sit with the children and joined Jacques in Juan’s car.

    We arrived at the surgery. “Your friend is a vet?” I spluttered.

    “Yes, don’t worry, it is all the same, stitching up a man as stitching a horse.”

    Gustavo set him gently on a chair and prepared to sterilise the wound; whilst we waited outside. I felt so angry. I’ve had enough of this, I thought, it’s too much. I don’t even know how much this will cost us. I want us all to go back to England.

    The next morning Jacques was woken up by three year old Samantha trying to take the dressing off his wound. He was very shaky and hung over; but I gradually pulled the story out of him.

    “I was driving the workers over to a fiesta in another ranch when the Volkswagen overturned on the rough track. Everyone was thrown about. When I came to I was lying on my side with blood running down the side of my head. All the men had run off except for Olaf; (who was his loyal friend.)

    The small town police arrived and dragged me off to a one cell prison.”

    Unbelievably Olaf stayed with him. He wanted to make sure he didn’t get into too much danger.

    “I don’t know what would have happened if he had not stayed with me,” Jacques croaked.

    It had been a relief when Jacques’ father arrived, in a fuming temper of course, but he used his diplomacy skills to get Jacques out of the jail.

    Olaf arrived at our house later that afternoon and told us our car had been completely stripped of everything that could be unscrewed but he had been able to save the music system and tapes.

    Jacques was in shock for days afterwards. He felt extremely remorseful that his actions had caused two of the workers to sustain injuries.

    “I’m never going to drive again,” he whispered to me.

    “Look, I told him, “I want to be able to play an equal role in the way we live. My hands are tied in Mexico. How can I support you if I can’t talk to your workers or find a good doctor for you? I definitely cannot drive on these crazy roads; but if we go to England I can get a good job there.”
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