When we got home that day, Mama hurried Sandro into the living room and made him sit down. She served all of us some limeade and little cookies, dusted with cinnamon sugar. It wasn’t long before we heard Papa and Carlos coming in the door downstairs.
Carlos looked shocked and angry when he saw Sandro, but Papa’s face was thoughtful. Before Carlos could say anything, Gabriella pushed the packet of money into Papa’s hands.
“Es el dinero, it’s the money,” she told him.
“Sit down, everyone,” commanded Mama, “so we can hear Sandro’s story.”
“I have no doubt it will be an interesting one,” Carlos snapped, crossing his arms.
Gabriella shushed him, but still everyone seemed doubtful about what Sandro was about to say. I couldn’t tell if I wanted to believe him or be angry at him, Diary, my heart was that confused.
“Those two boys, Ramon and Tijo,” he said, “were staying at the casa the week before your fiesta. They still believed that the money from the bake sale should be given to the children. At first, they talked to me about it, asking me to convince you. But when I refused, they stopped talking to me and kept to themselves. I overheard them planning to break into the bakery, so I pretended to change my mind. I said a few bad things about working here, and about you…” he glanced at Carlos and Papa, “so they thought I was on their side. They were so young and stupid, I thought; they told me their plans and when they were going to break in. But I guess they didn’t trust me all that much, because they didn’t meet me at the casa that night but came here instead. When they didn’t show, I ran as fast as I could to the bakery, but they had already broken in and were smashing things and taking food. There were other boys with them, with bats and knives…”
“Si, we saw them,” growled Carlos, rubbing his shoulder where he had been hit by a bat.
Sandro gulped, then kept talking. “They were going to smash everything, looking for the money, so I told them where it was. I thought, better they should take it and go than ruin everything in your shop…”
“But why didn’t you stay and tell us?” asked Papa. “Why did you run away with them?”
“I had to,” replied Sandro. “I had to keep pretending I was on their side. I wanted to get the money back somehow. Also…” he looked down at the floor, “I wasn’t sure you would believe me if I told you I was innocent. Why should you? I was there while they smashed things up.”
“You could have come as soon as you heard their plan,” Carlos pointed out.
“I know…I guess I was the stupid one,” Sandro said.
“What then?” I asked him. “After that?”
“We all went out and celebrated, and spent some of the money on beer,” said Sandro. “When they fell asleep, I stole what was left of the money and went into hiding. I took a bus to the other side of Mexico City and found a bakery that needed some help on the night shift. They let me sleep in a corner of a warehouse and wash up in the bakery.” He pointed to the packet. “I made a lot of the money back, but it would have taken so long to make it all, I decided not to wait any more.”
There was a long silence.
“Were you any good at that bakery?” asked Papa, finally.
Sandro held up his head. “Of course! I learned from los mejores maestros, the best teachers,” he smiled. Papa smiled then, too, and Carlos chuckled. There was a rush as everyone jumped up and hugged each other. Carlos slapped Sandro on the back and Papa gave him a hug. Mama opened the packet and looked at the money, her eyes shining.
“Now we can do some good,” she whispered.
“What about the boys?” Gabriella asked.
Papa’s face darkened and Sandro bit his lip. “They will find out I’m here,” Sandro said. “Maybe I should leave.”
Papa shook his head. “You will stay with us. It’s sad, but this is a matter for the authorities now, I think.” He looked at Sandro. “I said nothing because it was you. But tomorrow, I will report this break-in.”
“Ay mio,” said Mama. “I hate to make criminals out of boys. It’s not all their fault…”
“They have made criminals out of themselves,” replied Papa. “If I thought they had even a tiny bit of regret over what they did…”
Sandro snorted. “They don’t, believe me.”
“We cannot save everyone,” said Papa. “But sometimes,” —and here he grinned at Sandro— “we save one or two.”