Authors: Eve Rabi
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
Anyway, Maria and Rosa appear to know what role Senor Vito plays but are mum about it, piquing my curiosity further.
I make mental notes about Senor Vito for the FBI – white hair, shiny shoes, gleaming buttons, a mole on his chin ... probably a big drug dealer – cocaine, crystal meth, crack – who knows?
About two weeks later, Maria accosts me. ‘Diablo, he want you to get dressed nicely. He taking you somewhere tonight, Senorita.’
‘Taking me whe…? Maria, listen to your English. You finally got it!’
She beams. ‘Of course Senorita. I teach you English all the time.’
Premature celebration on my part. Still progress, if you know what I mean.
‘Finally, I get to go somewhere, huh?’ I’m really bored most days and
, I suppose. Diablo hasn’t been at the ranch for the last three days – gone with Senor Vito somewhere. Frankly, I’m wondering why he bothers to even have me here. I’m just sitting on his shelf like a trophy. (I prefer to liken myself to an Oscar or a Golden Globe, though.) ‘Where’s he taking me?’
‘I don’ know Senorita, but you will see, eh?’ She opens my closet and scans it. ‘He say you must look veeerrry nice.’
‘Oh, he did, did he?’
She’s doing it again – she’s getting it right.
Remembering my mission, (because I chose to accept it) I start to stress over my dress and make-up. Tonight, I want to look breathtaking, fantastic, jaw-dropping. I want him to just stare and be at a loss for words the moment his bloodshot eyes rests on me.
Me – I’ll be cool, nonchalant, appear not to notice his ... his enthrallment. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea and the tighter my sweater becomes. My top is snug and sexy, my skirt is short, flared, allowing glimpses of thigh as I move.
I spend hours doing my hair and make-up and when I feel everything is almost perfect, I back away from the mirror and listen out for Diablo.
At around six, the men, as usual gather in my villa for dinner. But tonight they are edgy and keep looking out the window. They hover in the entrance instead of making their way to the dining-room, arousing my curiosity further.
Even Maria and Rosa are behaving oddly – giggling and talking in whispers. What the hell’s going on?
At the sound of a car, everyone rushes to the window. Two men alight from the Jeep and walk slowly towards our villa - Senor Vito and another gentleman, a well-dressed one at that, whose swagger happens to be vaguely familiar.
I glance at my watch and frown. Where’s Diablo? Any more waiting and I’m gonna have to re-apply my lipgloss.
The men enter our villa and the room erupts.
It’s Senor Vito and … Diablo!
The dashing stranger is none other than my Devil himself, Diablo.
‘Ohmigod!’ I cry, my jaw dropping and ruining the cool, composed look I practised in front of the mirror.
He flashes me a long, cool look. ‘Payton,’ he says.
‘Your beard …’ I touch my chin, ‘it’s like, gone. Your face …you look like Troy.’ Actually he looks more handsome than Troy – fuller, more manly, rugged.
He lifts and drops his shoulders.
I wrinkle my nose. ‘Aftershave! You’re wearing aftershave?’
I touch my eyebrows. ‘The rings ... your eyebrows ... they’re gone!’
More shrugging with a little shifting.
My eyes dart over his clothes. Immaculately dressed - navy pants, powder blue striped shirt, dark-blue sports, but tailored jacket - expensive.
‘Wow!’ I whisper, openly checking him out.
Awkward under my scrutiny, he continues shifting in his expensive shoes and self-consciously touches his face. His dreadlocks are sleeked back into a neat ponytail, and I don’t see any of his tattoos right now. Even his eyebrows are groomed.
plans for a dramatic entrance disintegrate when I see Diablo’s transformation. His entrance cannot be topped. Never in a quadrillion years did I expect to see him looking like this – like he just stepped out of a men’s fashion magazine.
Everyone’s complimenting him.
Even Santana – she stares and shakes her head. ‘Diablo …is really you, Diablo? You look nice.’
Diablo smiles and strokes his chin several times.
Some of the men get over the shock of seeing Diablo and start heckling.
I shake my head and smile. ‘Diablo you do …’
Suddenly we hear, ‘No! No! No!’ It’s Christa threatening to need a bypass sometime soon.
‘What you do Diablo?’ she screams. ‘No! no!’
Diablo’s face falls at her chastising.
‘Why you do thiiis? Huh? Why you shave and you … you … I am your mooother. You talk to me before you do thiiiis. You look terrible! What you do to me? You send me to my grave! You kill me!’ She turns to Senor Vito. ‘You! Youuuu!’
Senor Vito quickly moves behind Diablo.
Diablo’s shoulders droop and I see confusion in his eyes.
I quickly step forward and tug at his sleeve. ‘I think you look …’ I bat my eyelashes several times at him and smile, ‘handsome, Senor Diablo.’
His eyes crinkle and he blushes.
Thankfully, Pedro and Rocky lead a protesting Christa away.
The men resume their heckling and cackling, adding to Diablo’s discomfort. Although he’s trying hard to ignore them, he’s distracted by their comments. Suddenly, he whips out his gun and points it randomly at the men and the laughter abruptly ceases.
‘Diablo!’ Senor Vito chides. ‘What are you doing? Put that gun away.’
I expect Diablo to shoot Senor Vito for chastising him but instead, he says, ‘
,’ and hastily holsters his weapon.
Looks of disbelief are exchanged between everybody - Diablo actually apologizing? Unheard of.
Seeing the gun in his hand reminds me that beneath the smart clothes and extreme makeover lies the bad-boy Diablo.
When my smile waivers, Diablo quickly moves towards me. ‘Shall we?’ he says in perfect English. I suspect he may be showing off. I like it.
’Um …eh …y …yeah!’ I allow him to usher me into his Jeep, which
e is driving today. I’ve never been in a car with Diablo before so I wonder about his driving. In fact, I didn’t even know he could drive since he’s always on horseback. Wherever we’re going must be really important for him to take such pains with his dress and grooming.
Senor Vito shouts out to Diablo and to my astonishment, Diablo rushes to open my door for me.
I smile my thanks. What a gentleman. Even if prompted.
Still in shock, I climb into the passenger seat. The Jeep is spotless and smells of leather polish – masculine. We drive in silence while I steal glances at him. I steel myself not to stare and fail miserably - I’m simply mesmerized by the stranger next to me. Actually, it’s like staring at Troy now - with dreadlocks. If I had my own way, I’d stop the car under some bright street light and just ogle him.
He pulls into a parking lot outside a restaurant. I glance around for signs of a party or a wedding, but see nothing. He alights from the car, opens my door and leads me into a plush restaurant and immediately, we get a table. Still no sign of a function - where are the others?
Then I get it – it’s just him and me.
Diablo is taking me out on a date.
I’m stunned. Why? I think about all the horrible things I said to him at the rock pool – I didn’t like hairy men, I hated piercings, he was a lousy lay – cringe-worthy stuff, but obviously poignant enough to elicit an extreme makeover.
All this to impress
– someone whose own father can’t love her enough? Impossible.
It must have taken hours in front of the mirror to achieve this look – hours being groomed and fitted and I know he must have hated every minute of it. Hell, the man doesn’t even own a mirror.
The villagers are so wrong about him – he’s neither half-man-half-beast, nor is he a devil, and stripped off all his camouflages and disguises, the hair on his face, the eyebrow rings – he’s just a shy, simple, ordinary guy.
A vulnerable man with a past so horrific, he’s unable to sleep at night.
From the corner of my eye I notice people staring at Diablo and whispering. I guess they suspect it’s him but they’re unsure. I feel a pang of dismay when I see the fear in people’s eyes. Diablo sees it too. He stiffens and glares at them.
‘Hey, Diablo,’ I whisper, ‘stop looking around at all the pretty ladies.’
He smiles and shifts in his seat.
The waiters gush and proffer and Diablo starts fidgeting with his collar.
Some of the patrons quietly sneak out, I notice. Seems like nobody wants to be in the same room with Diablo. Nobody dares, I suppose. I force myself not to let it bother me and focus on the wine list.
‘What wine would you like, Diablo?’ I’ve never seen him drink wine before.
He fumbles in his pocket and sneaks out a piece of paper which he holds under the table. He scans the paper, scratches the back of his neck, flicks his chin and quickly stuffs it back into his pocket. In a resigned voice he says, ‘You order.’
I smile at his nervousness and order some sparkling white wine. Within minutes we’re sipping the wine. Well, I’m sipping and he’s nervously gulping his and screwing up his face.
From time-to-time I catch him studying the piece of paper in his pocket under the table.
‘So ... like, this is a …um … a date, then?’
He looks to the side, the ceiling, to the side again, then smiles at me and shrugs.
‘Well, I’ll take that as a “Yes” and I like it.’
He’s smile widens.
To put him at ease, I try to make conversation. ‘Soooo … tell me about yourself.’
‘You tell me ’bout
‘Um, okay, how ’bout – um …how ’bout a question-for-a-question? You ask one and I ask one, huh?’
. You first.’
‘’kay ... lemmesee …what’s your real name?’
‘You gotta answer all questions and you gotta answer truthfully,’ I warn, circling the rim of my wineglass with my middle finger. ‘Rules of the game.’
‘Okay, Okay. ‘Diago,’ he says in a soft voice, ‘Diago Cruz.’
‘Diaaaago,’ I mull. ‘That’s a nice name.’
‘My turn,’ he says, sitting forward. ‘Who is Him to you? He your boyfriend before he marry your sista?’
‘Him? Austin?’ Not the kind of question I’m expecting. ‘No, come on! That’s ... ’
‘You have to answer truthfully - rules of the game.’ He’s got me there.
‘Okay, but … I mean,
I sigh. ‘Okay. Yes, he
he married my sister - step-sister.’
He narrows his eyes. ‘You have feelings for ...?’
I take my time before I answer. ‘Well, sort off, yeah. Hey! My turn – are you a cannibal?’
‘Cannibal – means you eat ... ’
‘I know what that is. Noooo. I not a cannibal. Where you hear that?’
‘Eh ... um ... Facebook ...?’
He frowns. ‘What book?’
. You go to university?’
‘Yeah.’ Thank God he’s off the “Him” topic.
‘What you study?’
‘Mmm. What you going to do when ... you ... you grow up?’
I smile. ‘Hey, you’re speaking sentences. I’m like, impressed. Back to your question: Catch bad guys - like you.’
like you. Maybe even
He slaps his wrists together and shoves them towards me.
I chuckle. ‘Don’t tempt me.’
‘I make it easy for you.’
‘Yeah?’ I take a napkin and bind his hands together with it. ‘You asked for it. Without the possibility of parole, too.’
We dissolve into fits of giggles as he breaks free of the napkin.
‘My turn – who is Senor Vito?’
He looks away, runs his hand over his mouth several times before he finally answers. ‘How you say it ...? He my ... eh ... coach, no?’
‘Coach? Like football ...?’
‘Football, no. Coach like, he teach me stuff ... how to English ... well, better ... ’
‘Oh, you mean like an etiquette coach? Teaching you manners ...?’
He nods several times. ‘Be a gentleman. How to ...’ he drops is voice, ‘how to treat women riiiight.’
‘Ah, that kind of coach. So, he gave you the notes you’ve been referring to all evening?’
A look of panic on his face. He takes a deep breath and hangs his head. Then he looks up at me and grins.
‘You’re so busted, Senor.’
With a grunt, he brings the notes up to the table and crumples it in full view of me. ‘Too hard,’ he confesses and we laugh.
‘An etiquette coach, a makeover, notes to refer to - why? I mean, why now ...when ...?’
He sits forwards on his chair. ‘You teach me how to be good
,’ He slaps his chest, ‘and Senor Vito teach me how to be gentleman. Then I be ... perfect and you want me so much; you chase me all over Mexico, take me to dinner, beg me to stay with you forever.’
I burst out laughing. ‘You aim high. Really high.’
His eyes crinkle. ‘Why not?’
I’m having so much fun right now. More fun than I’ve had in months and I’m laughing out loud.
But yet, I still see the facial mutilations, the barbaric ways, the little lost six year old boy who has just witnessed both parents being killed and who’s suffering terrible abuse in the hands of his guardian. I see pain, torment, anguish and helplessness etched all over his face. All the things I myself suffered after my father brought home a new mother for me. But unlike him, I didn’t suffer any physical abuse, just mental.
We’re similar – both damaged goods. I’ve always tried to act tough, angry, bad in order to survive. He did too. Although his act was radical, extreme and deadly. It was all about the terrain – his was more sinister.
But the pain was the same. I remember wanting to die some days because I hurt so much. But Diablo – he probably didn’t have the luxury of that thought since he was responsible for Troy. He was must have been desperate to survive and live so that he could keep Troy safe.