Authors: Eve Rabi
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
He’s my abuser, my tormentor, my rapist, yet I feel the hatred inside me subsiding.
‘What? Why you sad now?’
‘I’m not …’ I clear the bubble in my throat, ‘I’m not sad. I’m just …thinking.’
‘Then think loud, Payton.’
‘Okay, I’m thinking – that sure was a lot of exfoliation you had.’
‘But you look nice tonight. Very handsome. I wouldn’t have recognized you if I saw you on the street.’
He sits back and scratches his ear.
‘I would have looked twice at you and thought you were fly, but I wouldn’t have recognized you. Had it not been for ...’ I point to his forehead, ‘those lines …’
He gingerly touches the lines.
We sit in silence for a while, taking turns to sneak glances at each other. But every time I look up, I catch him staring. I remember my mission, but tonight I’m a little tongue tied and frankly in awe of the handsome gentleman in front of me, even though he’s nervous and unsure of himself. But strangely, seeing him this nervous makes me a little protective over him and I wish I was not wearing my necklace with the listening device. But I can’t help thinking that he didn’t compliment me once, yet I too took great pains when dressing.
He downs another glass of wine, sits back and drums on the table.
We grin a little more at each other. Then we study the menus and grin at each other over them.
I order a steak, medium, while he flounders over his choice.
‘Order for me,’ he finally says, slapping the menu onto the table and eliciting frightened looks from the wait staff.
I suspect he’s having problems reading the menu – something to do with his lack of formal education. That makes me even more protective over him.
‘What does your etiquette notes tell you to order?’
‘Chicken? Why chicken? ’Cos you like it?’
‘Nah. Easy to cut. Fish – you need different knife …fork. Meat – rare, medium ... too much trouble. But chicken - is ...
? That’s the word?’
‘Foolproof, you mean?’
I order him a steak with prawns. ‘That’s my second choice,’ I say. ‘I ordered steak as well. Medium, same as mine. Should be okay. If it’s not, you can always kill the chef and take his apron and hat. Or walk over and just steal another patron’s food. That’ll add to tonight’s entertainment.’
He smiles. ‘No. Tonight Imagood. A gentleman.’
‘Oh yeah, I forgot about that.’
‘Watch this, Diablo,’ I whisper and shut the menu hard.
The wait staff jump. We giggle. Then we sit back and resume our gazing at each other until our food arrives.
The moment we finish eating and I put down my fork, he wants to leave – run out of here. I want to linger and spoon, but I guess he’s fed up with the stares he’s getting. Well, not
We do not receive a bill and he makes no attempt to ask for one. I’m unhappy about that. I want to teach him about paying for things, doing the right thing and stuff like that. I’m supposed to teach him how to be good, remember?
I lean forward and whisper, ‘Diago,’ I’m using his real name.
He leans forward. ‘
‘Can I call you
He frowns. ‘Call me Diablo.
‘I like “Diago” better.’
His eyes dance, his jaws set and his breathing gets raspy. ‘Diago is dead. Diablo lives,’ he says in a curt voice.
I shake my head slowly. ‘No, Diago is very much alive.’ I cock my head to one side and smile at him. ‘’Sides, I really like the name “Diago”. It’s so cute.”
‘You like it?’
He smiles, drops his shoulders and nods ‘Okay.
‘Thank you,’ I whisper.
‘Um ... you um ... welcome, Payton.’
‘Wow Diago, your etiquette classes – they’re like, paying off – big time. But Diago, you have to pay the bill,’ I say and jerk my head towards the waiters.
He looks up at the waiters eavesdropping on our conversation. They give themselves away by shaking their heads from side-to-side, terrified to accept money from the infamous Diablo.
Diablo looks at me again, a confused look on his face. Then he turns to them and rattles off in Spanish and the waiters fall over each other drawing up a bill.
‘That’s good. Now don’t forget to leave a tip.’
He sticks his face close to mine and whispers, ‘Tip?’
For the first time, I’m actually seeing his eyes. They’re hazel, pretty and not in the least bit bloodshot tonight. Cucumber slices or teabags – whatever - they’re bright tonight.
‘Yeah. Years ago, I worked as a waitress and I relied on them for essentials like booze and weed …’
The bill arrives and I think it’s the first time he’s ever been given a bill. He peers at it, fishes out his wallet, peels of a couple of notes and leaves it on the table, ignoring the protests from the wait staff. He’s about to put away his wallet, when he pauses and throws a few more notes to the pile on the table.
I make a show of thanking the wait staff for their services tonight. ‘I’ll definitely be back,’ I say. ‘My compliments to the chef.’
Diablo watches me silently, a fascinated look on his face.
‘And I’ll bring Diablo with. I’ll be sure to tell all my frie …’
Diablo suddenly yanks my arm and almost drags me out of there. ‘That’s ’nuff thanking,’ he grumbles.
As we walk back to the Jeep, our fingers brush a couple of times. He holds my hand, then quickly releases it.
I don’t react and eventually, he takes my hand in his and we walk hand-in-hand to his jeep. It’s nice holding his hand – it’s large and coarse, but warm, roomy. The same hand he used to strangle me. And shoot me. And throw me off the cliff. And rape me. Why didn’t I mind? How could I not? I know – I’m really fucked up. Surely you know me by now?
As we walk, his hand eventually progresses to my waist. I don’t mind. It makes me feel secure and almost contented. Realizing I’m not rejecting him, he holds me tighter and slows down. We drive back to the ranch in silence, but he hangs onto my hand while he drives, making me smile. Sweet.
We’re outside our villa. Diablo helps me out of the jeep and walks me to the main door. The night is over and I’m sure he is relieved - he can now relax and go back to his unrestrained self.
‘You tell Senor Vito that I said, he’s done a great job and that you were like, a perfect gentleman. Everything about the evening was great, special and I like, really appreciate the effort you put into it.’
He shifts in his shoes, then scratches the back of his neck, then his chin, then jerks his neck from side-to-side. His discomfort amuses me.
I lean over, kiss his cheek lightly and stand back. We stare silently at each in the dark.
Suddenly I’m nervous – does he expect to spend the night with me? If he is, how do I handle it?
He reaches up and gently tucks strands of hair around my ears and finally cups my face with his large coarse hands. As his hands moves, I catch glimpses of the little round scars on his palms – Jimo’s cigarette burns!
My eyes well up with tears and I quickly look at the ground.
Gently, he raises my face to see my eyes. With a smile, he plants the lightest of kisses on my forehead. So light, I can barely feel it.
I scratch my brain for something to smart-alecy to say. Probably for the first time in my life - Zilch. My mind has deserted me. Must be something to do with his closeness.
We just smile at each other in the wavering moonlight.
Suddenly, we are startled by thunderous applause. Like two kids busted, we jerk apart.
We have a hidden audience hiding in the shadows, waiting to see how
our date went. Kissing each other goodnight is apparently a good sign.
!’ Diablo roars into the dark and the applause abruptly ceases.
I giggle into my hand, while he gives me a sheepish smile. Now that we have an audience, I want to run into my room and shut the door.
‘Goodnight Diablo,’ I whisper as I open my door.
‘Goodnight, Payton,’ he whispers.
I shut the door on him and listen to the sound of his receding footsteps.
Moments later, I hear voices outside. I peep through the blinds and see Santana talking to Diablo. After a few moments they disappear inside his room.
Somewhere inside me, I feel a strange flutter - a feeling I have difficulty explaining. If I really try hard, I’d probably call it, disappointment. And that confuses me. I hastily brush my teeth, rip of my clothes and slip under the covers wanting to fall asleep immediately.
But I lie in bed wide awake and post-mortem the evening, step-by-step. I think about how Diablo cleaned up for me, looking so dapper and handsome, his shyness over dinner, his kiss brief kiss goodnight, Santana.
This barbed feeling in my chest – it will not go away. I mean, he goes through such lengths for me, then spends the night with Santana. How is that possible?
It’s like the evening was just a show. Like he was trying to prove a point - he could be better than I thought he was, as good as Austin. My eyes mist up again, so I thump my pillow imagining it’s Santana’s head. How could I lower my guard? How could I allow myself to become so soft and vulnerable?
It’s morning. I’m awakened by Maria and Rosa in my bedroom doing, well,
in my room.
I force my eyes open and squint at them. ‘Why you banging …?’
‘We bring you coffee,’ Maria says, while Rosa throws open my blinds then pretends to dust.
I peer at the wall clock – 9 AM. Fuck! They don’t usually do this at this time of the morning, so why today?
I struggle to think and then I remember my date. They want details about my date with Diablo. I spent most of the night awake and analyzing the evening so I barely got any sleep. The wine didn’t help either.
I sigh and prop myself on my elbows. ‘Okay, well thanks for the coffee, I guess.’ I yawn loudly. ‘I’ll come to the kitchen in a few minutes, okay?’
‘Sure,’ Maria says. ‘Rosa let us go now. We don’t want to … to … let us give Senorita her privacy.’
A short while later, I stumble into the kitchen and sink into a chair. ‘Suppose you want details of my date with Diablo?’
Maria descends on me, places both her hands on my shoulders and looks into my eyes.
‘Senorita,’ she says in a voice usually heard in church, ‘it is not our business to know such ... such personal matters and we, Senorita, we should
be talking about such things with you. We are your serrrrvants. We must know our place, Senorita.’ She removes her hands from my shoulders, stands back and looks at me with a feigned air of piety.
Rosa gawks at her. ‘Maria! Why you say that?’
I sigh and look at Rosa. ‘You wanna hear?’
gringa, tell us everything.’
That’s what I like about Rosa – way to nosey to even try and fake nonchalance.
She moves quickly towards a nearby chair.
But Maria is faster – she swipes the chair and plonks herself on it.
‘Maria!’ Rosa screeches. They glare at each other. Here we go again.
But Rosa’s curiosity appears to be getting the better of her. She grabs another chair and sits down. ‘Tell us, Senorita, tell us, tell us.’
‘Well, we went to a ...’
The ladies shift to the edge of their seats.
‘You sure you want to hear ...?
, Senorita Payton,’ Maria says. ‘What happened eh? What did he do?’
Rosa drags her chair closer to me. ‘Did you kiss, Senorita? Tell, tell.’
‘Okay, we go to this like, restaurant …’
‘A restaurant!’ Maria slams back on her chair. ‘Diablo, he
go to a restaurant before, I think.’
,’ Rosa says, her voice mounting with excitement, ‘Diablo, he never go to restaurant.’
I nod. ‘He asked me to order the food
‘Aaah!’ Maria’s head is bobbing. ‘Diablo, he don’t know how to read too good. That’s why …’
, Diablo no read too good,’ Rosa echoes.
‘I asked him his name and he told me it was, Diago.’
‘That’s his name!’ Maria cries. ‘That’s his birth name!’
, ’ Rosa says, on the edge of her seat again, ‘that’s his birth name. ‘Did you kiss?’
‘Well, we didn’t, but the food was so good. We talked, laughed …’
They look at each other, take turns arching and knitting their eyebrows then prompt me to continue.
‘We held hands ... ’
They clasp their hands to their breasts. ‘Ooooh Senorita …’
‘Did you kiss?’ Rosa persists.
‘Eh, y …yes. ’ No need to mention it was on my forehead.
The room erupts with cheers and for a few minutes I sit and smile as they discuss the kiss between themselves.
‘Didn’t you guys see us kiss last …?’
‘Oh. Hey, did you know Senor Vito ...? ’
,’ Rosa says, ‘he come every day. Teach Diablo to be a good husband, good man so gringa will ...’
‘Yeah? But you guys never told me ... ’
Senorita …’ Maria interrupts.
Okay, I guess she’s waiting for the grand finale or maybe she wants to know why Diablo was not in my room this morning.
I shake my head from side-to-side and purse my lips. ‘He, eh, he spent the night with … Santana.’
For a few moments, you can hear the refrigerator running. Their shoulders sag, their jaws slacken and I feel I have let them down.
‘Well, I think …I think …well, I saw her ...’
‘But ... but ... How could you let that happen, Senorita?’ Rosa snaps.
Maria glares, her eyes reproachful eyes, her lips now a thin line.
‘I did not
Luckily, Christa appears. ‘What are you doing talking to the gringa?’ she yells. ‘Why you not cleaning?’