In the darkness of the new moon, Rosa snuck through the sleeping streets and rushed to Antonio’s solitary house. Quietly, she knocked. Once, then twice. With a gust of wind the door opened, revealing the man, already dressed as if ready to leave somewhere. Rosa’s heart stopped beating for a second at the sight of his handsome face.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” Rosa’s musical voice faded into silence. She didn’t know why she had come. So many of the other villagers had warned her to stay away from this house. They said he was dangerous. Yet, Rosa couldn’t keep her feet from carrying her to Antonio. Finally, he motioned for her to come in.
“I wanted to give you something. Felicidades, congratulations.” He handed Rosa a bouquet of roses as he motioned for her to enter the house. Rosa stroked the delicate petals and breathed deeply, loving the fragrance that wafted up from the flowers. She had just left her eighteenth birthday party, and of all the gifts she had been given, the roses were the best. In the small house a single candle was lit. Its flame cast shadows on the blood-red flowers and on the smiling face of the young lady who held them. “You’re eighteen, now. A true lady.”
Antonio moved forward, gently touching Rosa’s cheek. Embarrassed, she turned away. “You know, every smile between us is hated by my father, my family. I shouldn’t be here. Thank you for the roses, they’re beautiful...” her word was cut off by a sudden gunshot. The single flame showed clearly the fear in her eyes. Antonio jumped to her side and took her hand. He pulled her out the door and into the night, then began running through the darkness. Rosa followed along behind him, clutching her gift desperately.
Before long, noise reached Rosa’s ears and she realized they were being followed. Men in horses surrounded them, laughing with the sound of drunkards. She clung to Antonio’s arm until listening to the men’s words.
“You’re way ahead of us, Antonio. You already got the girl and everything. Do you have the ransom money, too?” Rosa immediately pulled away from Antonio, but she had nowhere to run.
“I said I was out.” Antonio’s voice was hard and threatening. “Let the girl go. You can get the money some other way, from somewhere else.” Laughter met his words, and the drunk men continued eyeing Rosa like a prize.
“Let her go.” Her father’s voice filled her with hope, and she tried to go to him.
“Give us money,” one of the men said, his words slurring together, “or I’ll shoot.” It was then that Rosa noticed the guns. Her heart beat frantically, and she couldn’t help the whimper that escaped her lips.
“Yeah, money,” another robber echoed the first, and he sounded even more drunk.
“Give me my daughter, first.” Rosa’s father’s voice shook. She then realized he held a gun, too. “I’ll kill you if you touch her.”
“Papa!” Rosa screamed, feeling consumed by fear. Her voice startled one of the men, and his finger slipped onto the trigger. For a moment no one knew what happened. Rosa stood in shock, waiting for the moment when she would be dead. She then noticed Antonio standing in front of her. As she watched he collapsed, and blood flooded from his chest. In horror, she cried out and fell to her knees beside him.
“Rosa!” Her father had not seen everything, he simply saw his daughter fall. He let his own rifle fire into the direction of the men. The shot broke the spell that had been cast when Antonio fell. Rosa knelt by him, listening to his whispered words.
“Rosa, I love you.” Each word was said with pain, and tears streamed down the girl’s cheeks.
“I love you, too,” she answered just as another bullet was fired. This one pierced her skin and found her heart. Her body fell limp beside Antonio. The bandits rode past, trying to escape the mayor and his men. As each horse passed, their hooves trampled the roses, leaving them withered and dead beside the lovers.