**No sex here. This is just the last chapter and wrap up to Ofelia's story. I figured I ought to submit it. I am thinking about re-writing the story as a romance, rather than erotica. Thanks to any and all who took the time to read, vote, and comment.**
Ofelia called Leonard shortly after breakfast. He seemed far more eager to see her than she thought possible. He was brisk on the phone, and practically insisted on her coming to his apartment. While she readied herself she became worried that he would fall to his knees and beg for her back, not only back as his girl but as his fiance. She knew that such a thing was now impossible, even with that kink of his, and despite her sincerest wishes to see that some kind of justice be done in his behalf.
She took a shower and dressed casually in some white cotton pedal-pushers and a plain black t-shirt. She braided her hair and put a dab of White Linen perfume under each ear. While she examined herself in the mirror, Manuel slipped into the room and was standing a few feet behind her. She knew he was there before she saw him in the mirror, and he knew she knew. She sensed a strong uneasiness coming from him.
"Don't worry, Papi." she said, without looking over her shoulder to formally acknowledge her brother's presence. She had Leonard's engagement ring in her hand and was debating whether she should put it on. She decided to slip it in her pocket, and after they talked she would give it back to him. While wearing the ring would have been a nice gesture, she didn't want Leonard to get the wrong idea.
"What should I worry about?" Manuel answered his sister, and slinked up behind her. He slipped a finger in a belt loop at her lower back and tugged gently.
"I'm not going to marry Leonard." she told him, and met his eyes in the mirror. His relief and pleasure was crawling all over his face, though he was trying valiantly to hide it. His finger tightened on her belt loop. "It wouldn't work. He has to know that."
"Don't expect him to." Manuel said, and after a cursory glance over his shoulder at the door, he took his finger from her belt loop and ran it very lightly down the subtle curve of her bottom.
"That tickles." she said, and swiped at his hand with a reluctant grin that made her dimples dig down deep. She turned around and leaned against her dresser because the boy was so close. He was acting differently. She wondered where that coy and overly discreet Manuel had gone off to. His benign, oftentimes expressionless owl face had taken on the aspect of a falcon. He was stepping up. Was he staking his claim?
"Why can't I have you?" he asked her. His eyes lowered briefly, and he took that same finger and put it to her cheek, moved it slowly over her lips. "We let everybody know we're really cousins, not brother and sister, and then..."
"And then what, Manuel?" Ofelia said, and she stared at him. Manuel dropped his hand and met her gaze, held it for about as long as he could. After only a few seconds he looked down at his feet. She nipped his chin and forced him to look at her. She was shorter than Manuel but she towered over him in every possible respect. "How would you take care of me? Where would we live? Aqui? Con Mama?"
Manuel stood his ground as best he could. "I'm going to be a great poet. Like Borges. Like Neruda." She saw his chest grow larger, and he seemed to suddenly stand taller. His eyes sparkled.
"I believe you, Papi." Ofelia said. She took his face in her hands and gave him a kiss on each cheek. "We'll talk more later, when I get back. Promise me you'll be here."
"Maybe I won't be. There's a girl. She likes me, can you believe it? Her name is Graciela."
"You think I'm lying?"
"No. I'm not surprised at all." Ofelia said. She put her hand on Manuel's shoulder and smiled. "It's about time. I'm happy!"
"You don't believe me." Manuel said, and he nodded his head. He was right, in a sense. It wasn't that she didn't believe he had met a girl or that the girl had an interest in him, she just knew that he had no feelings whatsoever in this...Graciela. The name made an unsightly little smudge in her mind. Manuel turned on his heels and stalked off. Ofelia called out to him but in the next moment he was gone on his bike.
Ofelia knocked on Leonard's door and he answered it quickly. He seemed excited, but was trying desperately to contain it. Ofelia gave him a suspicious look as she walked past him into his apartment. He was dressed nicely, a bit over-dressed in fact, both for the occasion and for the weather, but he hadn't shaved. Ofelia couldn't recall for the life of her having ever seen Leonard unshaven. She spun around to look at him after she walked past him, and her surprise even stopped him in his tracks. "What?" he asked her, his eyes wide.
"You look nice like that!" she told him. "Sheeez, what a difference!"
Leonard blinked, and after a few seconds he finally realized what she was referring to. He swept his hand over his dark, even peppering of beard and wore the expression of a man who had never considered the possibility that he might actually become more attractive by not grooming himself. He finally broke himself out of his stupor and remembered his manners. "You want some coffee? I just made some."
"That's okay." Ofelia said, still smiling, still gazing at him with a wholly new kind of admiration.
"I'd ask you to sit, Carina, but." He began, and he took her elbow like an usher. "There's something I have to show you. I want you to know first that I didn't find them myself, and I'm not angry at you..."
He was speaking too quickly. Ofelia yanked herself out of his grasp and stopped walking. His momentum took him a few steps further before he stopped and looked back at her. He was heading down the hall towards his bedroom. "Leonard, what the hell are you talking about?" Ofelia asked him.
"Carina, please, I can't explain. You have to come and see. At first, I thought you had agreed to it, but now, I don't think so. You wouldn't."
"What the - hell - are you talking about?" Ofelia asked him again, and her brows were drawn tightly together, her voice was shrill. Her hands were at her little hips. In the back of her mind Ofelia was struck by how much she reminded herself of her mother at that very instant.
Leonard was impatient. "Ofelia, pictures of you, on the Internet. Did you know about them? If so tell me and I won't say another word."
Ofelia found it hard to breathe for a moment. Her stomach was ablaze with the ice-blue flames of fear, revulsion, and panic. Her eyes grew wide, and Leonard knew instantly that she had no idea about pictures of her, at least on the Internet. He approached her and his hands were out in front of him defensively. He spoke softly but quickly.
"I didn't think you knew about it because, the, the pictures. You look like you're asleep. But it's you. Ramon at work, he found them. They're on some site where people send in photographs, you know. Of their wives, their girlfriends."
Ofelia didn't know what to do. She was angry and shocked and yet she felt numb also. Her body was on fire but she was beginning to shiver with cold. She wanted to go and sit on the couch but her feet wouldn't move. Finally Leonard helped her to it and she sat, still staring forward. Leonard kept his distance. In the corner of her mind Ofelia realized that this unfortunate turn of events was a ray of hope for Leonard. Leonard knew that Ofelia's boss was the guilty one; but he also knew that it was no time to get in her space. This beautiful girl who was usually so welcome and open, who was typically as free and unguarded as a child, was now a fortress that only a reckless fool would attempt to storm.
"He told me he erased them." Ofelia said, mostly to herself. "I knew he was lying! I knew it!"
"Yes." Ofelia made fists and growled. "I can't believe it! I can't believe it!"
In a few minutes Ofelia had regained her composure. She asked Leonard to show her the pictures, and she walked in front of him to his room and sat down at his desk, as comfortable with the place as a person who lived there. The computer was on, its screen saver running. Leonard had to bend awkwardly around her to reach the mouse, and with a simple motion the screen saver vanished and showed his desktop. With a click he restored the window that was minimized, hiding in the bottom of the screen. He scrolled downwards and stopped as the first picture came into view. "You can look through the rest yourself if you want."
He sat on his bed and paid attention to the lines in his palms. Ofelia scrolled down through the page, which contained some nine or ten photos. What bothered her the most was the text off to the left side of each picture. "Wouldn't mind going south of that border!" one of them said. On the bottom there was a place for people to vote on how well they liked the pictures, and a closing comment: "Thanks for those, Senor. Please send more of this lovely little mamacita, pronto! Mas! Mas!"
Daniel had selected pictures which exposed everything, and he made no attempt to obscure her face. Ofelia felt sick to her stomach and thought for a moment about heading for the bathroom down the hall. She stared at each picture, shaking her head. How many men had looked at these already? How soon could she get them removed? She asked Leonard to help her, and gave him the chair.
"Leo, por favor. Find out how we can get them taken down? There must be a way. Please, will you do this for me?"
"Of course. Probably just have to email them. I'll do it now."
"Gracias." Ofelia said. She stood up and watched him click through page after page. After a few moments she put her hand on his shoulder. "Leo, I have to go to the mill. I'll come and see you later, okay? Before you go to work?"
"Sure, Carina. Go ahead. Go." Leonard said. Just before she was out of the bedroom he stood up, "Ofelia?"
"If you need my help, with anything..."
Ofelia managed a little smile for him. Her hand was on the door jamb, her body not moving but still in motion, "Thank you, Leo. I'll come back later. It won't be too long. Adios."
Before going to the mill to confront Daniel, Ofelia sat in her car and punched Kenneth's work number into her cell. He answered. Ofelia asked him for the number for the Cable company, or the number at which it would be best to reach Betty. He rattled it off to her. He knew that Ofelia didn't have to write it down.
"What is it?" he asked, hearing the tension in her voice. "What's the matter?"
"I'll call you later. Okay? Thank you!"
She quickly punched in the number Kenneth gave her, and after a few rings she heard Betty's voice. "Hello, Betty? It's me, Ofelia. Remember me?"
"Oh, of course I do. How are you? Are you at work?"
"No, I got the day off."
"Can I come over there and talk to you about something? Will I be disturbing you?"
"No, not at all honey. You know where the building is?"
"Yeah. I'm on my way. How will I find you?"
"Oh, it's a tiny office, it's just me and another girl. Is everything alright?"
"No. I'll see you soon."
"Alright, hon." Betty said, her professionally soothing voice laced with concern. "Drive careful."
Ofelia went into the small office building and was glad for the air conditioning. Her clothes were sticking to her. She saw only one customer at the counter, speaking to a young lady. Ofelia walked up and saw Betty sitting in another chair behind the counter, typing on a keyboard and her eyes darting to and fro across a screen in front of her. She looked up and smiled tentatively when she saw Ofelia.
Ofelia could see that Betty was truly worried for her. What earthly reason could Ofelia have to come see her at her place of work, on a day she had taken off, no less? The two exchanged pleasantries and Betty invited Ofelia through a small door and into a tiny room where there was a desk, a file cabinet, and boxes stacked all over the floor, plus a copy machine.
Betty offered Ofelia the single chair the room had to offer, and before she could politely refuse, Betty sat on the side of the desk. Ofelia sat down and Betty looked hard at the girl. "You don't look very good, hon. Did something happen?"
"Last week, at the party, when Kenneth and me were talking..." Ofelia began. Betty nodded along, completely attentive and yet at the same time almost totally without curiosity. It was as if she was just waiting for Ofelia to get out what she needed to get out. "I got the idea that...like, that you were. You know, when someone says all kinds of nice things about someone and you know they want you to like that person?"
"Yes." Betty said, "I know what you mean. You hear everything, just like Daniel said. And you're smart."
"Well, I guess." Ofelia said. She paused, and she felt deep down that Betty was someone she could trust. She said flatly, "You wanted to tell me bad things about Daniel. But at the same time you didn't."
Betty took a deep breath, and cast a quick glance into the other room. There was a thick pane of glass separating the two. The one customer was still there, but no one else had come in. Betty blinked and seemed reluctant to continue the conversation. "Daniel's not a bad person," she said, "but he's not exactly Prince Charming either. To tell you the truth, when he introduced you, I just... It just. You're so young, so pretty. Don't shake your head! Oh my God, you're gorgeous! Not that Daniel hasn't had his share of nice looking women. It's not really that. It's just that it wasn't right. Do you ever get feelings like that?"
"Yeah. All the time." Ofelia answered, and her heart was sinking even as Betty spoke.
"Daniel has a history with women, not a good history. He's not a Neanderthal. He doesn't hit women or anything like that. But. He's self-destructive in that area, Ofelia. We've seen it so many times already. He could be on top of the world one minute, and all of a sudden his world is falling apart. There's something inside him that causes him to push these women away. You know what I mean, don't you?"
"I think so. At the party, though, I got the idea that you had something to tell me. Like something bad that he did. It scared me a little. That's why I came here."
Betty blinked again. "Ofelia, I didn't have anything in particular to say, if that's what you're worried about. Okay? No dark, terrible secret. What you sensed in me that night was something that everybody there was feeling also, including Mitch, and even Kenneth. We were worried for you, because you seemed so innocent compared to most girls. You don't smoke, don't drink, don't swear. It bothered me that Daniel talked you into drinking beer. But that's the kind of thing he does. You have to do things his way, not your way. You have to like what he likes, be interested in the things he's interested in. And if you don't, he's like a baby."
"I can see that." Ofelia said. "Like with his silly machines."
"Exactly." Betty said, and laughed. "Danny takes it to extremes, but that's kind of a dick-thing in general."
Ofelia looked up at Betty with a big question mark flashing in bright red neon across her face. Betty waved her last comment away. Then she went on, "I won't lie to you, hon. Here's the thing. I like Danny, but I would never have him as a boyfriend. I know him too well. Things always start out great. He's smart, he's funny, he knows how to romance a girl; but after a while the spoiled baby inside him takes over. He can't compromise. His longest relationship in the past fifteen years lasted about eight months, and the girl was a saint, believe me."
Ofelia finally came out with it. "He took pictures of me, and my fiance - my ex-fiance - found them on the Internet. I never gave Daniel permission to do that. I didn't even let him take those pictures. He took them while I was asleep. He told me he erased them."
"Oh for Christ's sake." Betty said. "That doesn't surprise me. I'm sorry."
"He's a big overgrown kid, Ofelia. He's a show off. He prides himself on his things, his car, his stereo equipment, his girlfriend. He has to show them off, let everyone know he has good taste. It's how he feels good about himself."
"I begged him to erase them, and he lied to me. He said he did. Before we started going out, he gave me a big speech about how it's bad to tell lies."
"Sorry, hon. I should have taken you aside that night and spoken to you. But you seemed so happy. No one wants to be a busy-body, you know?"
"Yeah." Ofelia said. She had heard enough. With her stomach upside down she said goodbye to Betty and drove off, heading for the mill.
Ofelia saw some of the workers looking at her suspiciously as she marched towards Daniel's office. They knew she had called in sick but here she was as large as life. Did she have some crazy wish to get fired? Beatriz was one of the onlookers, and she said to AnaClaudia, her nearest neighbor, "See, she comes in here anyway, like a queen. She don't have no worries."
Daniel wasn't in his office. Ofelia spotted him talking with some machinists and headed over that way. It was too loud for her to simply call out to him, but he turned to see what the other men were looking at and he started towards her. "Sweets, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be sick. Hello!" he shouted at her over the noise, imitating one of her favorite expressions. The look on his face changed when he saw the one she wore. She took him by the hand in front of everyone and led him back to his office. Daniel instinctively caught up to her so that he was walking in step.
Once in his office Ofelia closed the door and folded her arms. She stared at him. "You give me a big speech about how it's bad to tell lies and all the whole time you're a liar too, only you tell bigger lies."
"Well, congratulations. Welcome to he human race." Daniel said, "Now you mind telling me what the hell you're talking about?"
"You put those pictures of me on the Internet. You sent them to one of those places all you little boys like so much. You told me you erased those pictures."
"And what gives you that idea? You surfing porn sites now?"
"Someone Leonard works with found them and showed them to him. I saw them this morning. Well?"
Daniel was red-faced, half with embarrassment, half with a petulant, childish anger. "Well what?"
Ofelia's head jerked back. She wanted to cry but she steeled herself. She couldn't believe the man she was looking at was Daniel. It didn't look like Daniel. He had shrunk before her eyes, his spine shriveled, his neck lost a few inches. The straight-backed, cocky, sweet-natured man she admired so intensely had turned into a huddling, scarlet-faced gargoyle right before her eyes.
"Why did you lie to me? Why did you do that?"
"Because I'm a guy. Because I'm a pig. This is basic, sweets. This is stuff you already know goin' in." Daniel sounded so cold, like he was a dead man speaking.
Ofelia blinked, and finally her eyes welled up despite herself. She dropped her purse and covered her face with both hands. Daniel unwound. He tried to speak calmly, but went around his desk rather than towards her. "I honestly didn't think it was such a terrible thing, sweets. I mean, here I am, feeling guilty about posting pictures of a girl who was involved in a threesome with me only yesterday. My first one, too. My irony meter has officially thrown in the towel."
He sat down and pulled his beard. He shook his head and felt a sinking feeling which was a thousand times heavier than he was used to because of what he had allowed himself to do only the day before. He had enjoyed completely unprotected sex, and whopping good sex at that, with a young and presumably normal, healthy young lady. He realized that he didn't know anything about her cycle yet; but it was at least ten days since her last period.