1st Place, St. George Episcopal School
2018 Fiction Contest winner (7th/8th grade division)
The noise of an ax chopping wood swept over Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo. It was a cool day in 1773.
Ana Tiendez called her daughter, “Maya, come help me prepare tonight’s supper!”
Maya ran eagerly into the kitchen. She loved cooking with her mother. They always did it together, ever since her family had moved from Spain, to the New World.
Ana tended fire for the stew as her daughter held the pot patiently. Maya watched outside as children romped around joyfully on the property. Her life had changed dramatically. But Maya was fascinated by the new customs and traditions.
John Landon rushed to pick up his daughter from soccer practice. He knew Alex would be mad if he was even a fraction of a second late. She had been playing since she was four years old, yet her father still had trouble perfecting his pickup routine.
Alex plopped down in the passenger’s seat of the car. She was swamped with homework. Alex got to her bedroom and reluctantly opened her textbook. She did not want to learn about stupid Spanish missions.
Soon, it was time for dinner.
“So”, her father asked, “what are you reading about?”
Alex responded with a look of vexation. “We’re reading about the Rose Window at some mission.”
“Oh, I love that story, there is no written proof of the mission’s true origins,” replied her mother. “That’s what makes it so mysterious.”
Alex rolled her eyes.
The mass of people living in Mission San José congregated at a large table. The women were bustling around, assembling food for the meal, while the men spoke excitedly about new construction projects to be done at the mission.
“I propose we build a stained glass window,” one man said.
This piqued Maya’s interest.
As the days passed by, the men began holding meetings to decide on an artisan for the job. They eventually decided upon Pedro Huizar and he was commissioned to create the Rose Window.
Alex and her friend Kara were eating lunch together. Alex sat silently, pondering the history chapter.
“What would it be like, having all that pressure to make sure you built something perfectly?” she asked.
At first Alex didn’t like learning about history, but something had changed. She was actually curious about the missions.
Every time Pedro started building, Maya watched him intently. She had always been an avid learner, and picked up skills quickly. She wasn’t like other girls, instead of playing tag and braiding hair, she wanted to help build. Unfortunately, whenever she got close enough to watch, her father scolded her. He and many other men were helping Pedro, and he wanted to keep his daughter safe.
After school, Alex ran to the computer. She wanted to learn about the Rose Window. She found legends explaining its origins, but didn’t believe it. She wanted to know the truth.
Patches of rain were making it harder to work. Still the men continued, they were determined to finish by the beginning of summer.
Days later, the sun shining high above the clouds, the men began their work. The precipitation hadn’t caused any delay, and the men were still in good spirits. Birds chirped cheerfully in the trees as they began the day’s work.
Alex jumped into the car with a huge smile. The Landons were going to visit Mission San José.
Pedro Huizar and his men worked steadily, and Maya watched every move. The chipping of their tools became music to her ears.
Alex hopped out of the car, her eyes looking ahead at the exquisite building. There were tourists milling around every inch of it. She could see awe in their eyes as they marveled at various parts of the structure.
Alex wandered into the chapel. She read the plaques that hung on the walls. There was no proof that Pedro Huizar was really the Rose Window’s sculptor. Alex was starting to question the popular story.
Maya was watching the men as they calmly worked on. It started to drizzle. Nobody panicked because the rain hadn’t hindered them before. The crew continued, but the rain pounded harder.
Soon, it became too much to bear. The rain was gushing down more forcefully now.
A large stone section had just been added above the Rose Window and the mortar had become weak due to the moisture in the air. The water damage had loosened it thoroughly. As the crew rushed inside, the large, rectangular piece broke away from the building, crushing them.
People slowly emerged from their shelter and ran outside, but a horrific sight greeted them. Pedro Huizar and his men were dead.
All of the mission’s residents were shocked and distraught as they paced around the property, chattering nervously.
Maya was crushed. Her father was dead.
“Who’s going to finish carving?” she tentatively asked her mother.
“I don’t know. Maybe nobody.” her mother said, as she fought back tears.
Ana had never been so sad. Her husband was the reason she and Maya had come to America. She didn’t know how to go on without him.
Alex arrived home and went to bed. She dreamed about life at Mission San José, and the Rose Window.
Suddenly, Alex found herself dressed in a light brown skirt, matching shirt, and hair tied back in two even braids. She thought it couldn’t be more than a dream.
She found herself standing in an open courtyard. Alex turned to her left and saw the very thing she had dreamed about.
The Rose Window stood in front of her, but incomplete. She walked to the mission’s entrance, hoping to attain answers.
Before she could knock, she noticed a girl her own age, sitting, crying.
“Are you okay?” Alex asked her.
The girl wiped her eyes, and said in a small voice, “I’m fine.”
“No, tell me what happened.” Alex sat next to her.
“My father died. The mission broke and crushed him, along with the rest of the workers.” She had stopped crying now. “But you should know that already. Don’t you live here too?”
“No, I’m from the future.”
“As if I believe that.”
“I’ve always loved the Rose Window. Wait, you said Pedro Huizar died?”
“Yes. That’s why we can’t finish it.”
“Why can’t we?”
“We are only sixteen year old girls. There is nothing we can do.”
Alex stopped her. “What’s your name?”
One night, Maya was preparing to go to sleep, when she realized Alex was gone. Maya walked outside and was shocked to see that Alex was standing on a wooden ladder, carving into the Rose Window’s border.
“Alex, what are you doing?” Maya asked.
“I can’t just let this art go to waste.”
Maya stood, stunned. Nobody at the mission would approve of women doing this kind of work. Especially her mother, since her father had died doing it. “
Come on, we’re doing this at night, so no one will know.”
Maya dubiously climbed up the ladder. She picked up a chisel and started to work. Alex had changed her views.
Days later, night fell and the girls snuck out as they always did. They started to carve, when Alex lost grip of the tool and it cut her.
Nobody wondered about the Rose Window. Although people had noticed that it was mysteriously becoming more complete, they were too sullen to pay attention.
Weeks passed, and the girls had successfully finished the Window. Everyone was eating together, when one man spoke up.
“I know it’s not news to you that our Rose Window is now complete. What puzzles me is why the people working on it do so in secret. So, which men have been working on this?”
Alex blurted, “We were the ones who finished the Rose Window!”
The man laughed. “Girls, we have no time for silly games.”
Maya added, “We both completed the Window, during the night.”
Nobody believed two young girls had accomplished this on their own. But, no one else claimed to have done it, so they knew the girls had told the truth. Everyone was surprised at the news. After the shock wore off, people started to praise the girls for their hard work.
That night, their first normal night in a long time, the girls went to bed. Their work was done, they were satisfied.
Morning came, but Maya couldn’t find Alex anywhere. She questioned everyone, and they all said they didn’t know her. It was as if Alex had faded from their memories. Maya never saw the mysterious girl again.
Alex wiped her eyes and yawned. She looked up, but didn’t see the stone walls of the mission, instead she saw a familiar popcorn ceiling above her. Alex was back at home. So many questions floated around her head.
Was it a dream?
As she got up, she noticed a deep cut in her arm.
It was no dream. Alex finally knew the real story of the Rose Window.