Ofelia Ch. 02 Pt. 01-03byCervanServidor©
The next day was Friday, and it was payday. Ofelia was at her machine when her boss paid his first visit to his new "teacher's pet", as Beatriz and some of the other ladies were calling Ofelia. This time instead of chatting with her over the noisy machines he just tapped her on the shoulder. She turned and smiled pleasantly.
"Come with me a minute." Daniel said.
He took her to his office, which was nothing more than a box with walls, a desk, a file cabinet, and an ancient computer. When he closed the door it was much quieter, but Ofelia could still hear the sound of the machines, the yattering of the workers, laughter. Daniel was acting differently and Ofelia picked up that vibe almost as soon as she had seen him. Her heart beat fast in her chest. Daniel asked her to sit down. There was only one chair, and it was the one at his desk. Ofelia told him it was okay, she would rather stand.
"I get tired if I sit." Ofelia said, trying to smile.
Daniel looked at her as if he was about to fire her. They looked at each other for a long time. Then all of a sudden Daniel's body loosened up and he looked past her shoulder, at the door to his office, then back at Ofelia.
"You always win, huh?"
"Never mind. Listen, Ofelia, I don't like to play games. I don't have the smarts for it, or the spine for it. So let's just be honest with each other..."
Ofelia said, "I don't like to play games, either."
"Lie number one. Okay, have it your way." Daniel said, and leaned on the back of his desk. He crossed his arms. "We're going to play a game. Every time one of us tells a lie, we keep count. We get to three, we lose, and the game is over."
Ofelia felt a chill run through her. Out of habit, her brain had her answer ready, and she almost let the words spill out of her mouth, *It's not a lie*, before swallowing them back down. If she had spoken those words it would have been lie number two. Daniel saw her hesitation and nodded, "The thing about lying is, you can't just tell one. You need a second lie to cover the first lie, and a third and fourth to cover the first two. After a while there's no room for the truth. You get to the point where you have to do nothing but lie in order to make sense. Believe me, I know."
Ofelia felt her stomach heat up, but not in a good way. She clasped her long fingers behind her back, tilted her head slightly to one side. She was clearly on the defensive.
"Whatever." Daniel echoed, and his pain and anxiety were creeping through his tough facade. "Ofelia, I'm gonna be straightforward with you, okay? Here's the thing. I lied to you yesterday, for selfish reasons. After I lied to you once I had to lie a few more times to keep from exposing the first one. I did that because I let the wrong part of my anatomy do my thinking for me. I lied because I'm a weak person. I want to apologize for that. I'm very sorry, Ofelia, for lying to you yesterday."
"What lie?" Ofelia asked. Her heart beat faster.
"I lied when I said I wanted to take you somewhere only as a friend. I lied when I said my intentions were honorable. I lied when I said I wanted your fiance to come along."
Ofelia's expression softened up as she heard him make his confession. Of course, she knew he was lying when he said those things. Boys and men always lied to get what they wanted. That was one of the ways Ofelia rationalized her own behavior: if boys could lie to her to get what they wanted, then she could lie to them to get what she wanted. It was only fair.
"It's okay." Ofelia told Daniel, "I know you didn't really mean it."
"Yes," her boss said, "but it's important to admit to a lie. I'm admitting to my lies because I want you to admit to yours."
Once again Ofelia was stuck without an answer. Telling the truth wasn't something she was used to. The truth felt almost foreign to her. She couldn't imagine how she was going to keep this conversation going without telling lies.
"Okay." she said, and for the first time she lowered her eyes.
It was like a colossal weight had been lifted from Daniel's shoulders. She was dressed in a pair of white corduroy jeans and a bright orange sweatshirt, her hair tied in a pony-tail. Without a stitch of make-up, Ofelia was the most beautiful girl Daniel had ever seen. With her breasts all but invisible, non-existent in the roomy shirt, and with her almost boyish waist and hips, her sexual power was still palpable in the air, like static electricity. One kiss from her unpainted mouth was more pleasure than any man had a right to.
"For a start, Ofelia, how about you admit to just one?" Daniel said, "Just one. Name one thing you said to me yesterday that was a lie."
There was a pause. Ofelia finally looked up, and she was trying not to smile. "Okay, I have one."
"Let's hear it."
"When I said you were bad. That was a lie."
"So, you didn't really think I was being bad?"
Ofelia had to think for a moment. "Well, you were, kind of, in a way that all boys are bad. But you weren't bad, like, in a way that bothers me, like if you hit me or something."
"I see. Alright."
Ofelia became more animated as she thought of another lie, "And, it was a lie when I said you were getting in trouble with me."
Daniel took his hand and pretended to wipe sweat off his forehead, "Whew!", he said, "That's sure good to know!"
Ofelia laughed. One of the things she liked the most about her boss was that he could always make her laugh. She didn't care that the other ladies weren't as impressed with him as she was. She was glad that he wasn't terrifically handsome, because then maybe he could have any woman he wanted, and he wouldn't want some skinny little girl like her.
"Looks like we've made a start." Daniel said. He looked at his watch. "I don't want to keep you here too long, Ofelia. Goodness knows what the other ladies will think. The thing is, I want you to know something, and I decided to just come out and say it. I'm almost forty years old and I can't afford to pussyfoot around anymore."
Ofelia tilted her head at one of the words he used. Her eyebrows came together. But she forgot about it as soon as he spoke again.
"So here it is." Daniel said, "I wish you weren't engaged. I wish you weren't getting married. I wish I had never heard of someone named Leonard Santiago. I wish you had never heard of someone named Leonard Santiago. I don't want him to have you because I want you. I don't want anyone to have you, because I want you all to myself."
Ofelia's eyes grew wide and the hint of a smile glimmered underneath her expression, like a diamond catching the sunlight and glinting from the bottom of a pool. Lots of words flashed on the surface of her mind, guey, sheeez, chale, hello! But to give utterance to any of them would have been a lie.
Suddenly, she thought of something to say, "Are we still playing that game where we count the lies?"
"I don't know what to say, then." Ofelia said, knowing how foolish it sounded. Her hands came from being linked behind her to the front. She was playing with the ends of her fingers as if she were wearing gloves, pushing and pulling them. It was a nervous habit. "I have to marry Leonard, I mean, it's like...."
"Sweetie, I'm not asking you to ditch him and pick up with me. I'm just telling you how I feel. I've never felt this strongly about a woman before. There's something about you, the way you talk to me, the way you look at me, ever since you started working here. I just want you to know these things. I don't want to die without you knowing."
Ofelia smiled ever so slightly. Finally Daniel had to move away. He shook his head, "God, you're so beautiful." he said, not looking at her, wandering over to the file cabinet. What he couldn't see was the turmoil growing hotter and hotter in Ofelia's stomach. She wanted to tell him that she felt the same way, that she belonged to him already, that he didn't have to win her away from Leonard or any other man. She wanted to tell him that he had won her months ago. She wanted to tell him that she was his girl, that she had been his girl for a long time. But these thoughts had never been given a voice before. Ofelia's tongue, her lips, her breath, didn't jibe well with honesty. She realized that the only people she had ever been honest with were Manuel and Dominga, and she even lied to them most of the time.
She wondered if she could just show him. He had his back to her and she admired the set of his straight spine and shoulders. One of the things she had always liked about him was the way he stood and walked: erect and confident. Even hurting, he stood tall and proud. She walked over to Daniel and was about to tap him on the shoulder when his phone rang. She was so used to the world of cell phones that the ancient ringer startled her. She gave a squeal which in turn startled Daniel, and he spun around. Ofelia put her hand to her mouth and bubbled with a high pitch staccato laughter.
"Sorry!" she said, as he spun about, finally homing in on his telephone.
"Yeah?" he shouted, once he answered it. As he spoke he waved at Ofelia, and pointed to the door. "Go, go.." he was mouthing to her, waving his arm, as he spoke absently into the receiver. Ofelia returned to her machine, and ignored Beatriz with her scowling face. Strangely, she felt that something had changed, and she couldn't figure out if it was for the better. She knew that Daniel had those feelings for her, and it was no surprise; but it didn't make things seem any easier now that he had gotten his feelings out in the open. Would it make things any easier when she got hers out in the open? Would it make things seem more possible? Or just make the impossible seem even more impossible? What good was honesty if it didn't make the problems go away?
And what fun was it?
While she worked, Ofelia's mind ran on a million things. She thought of the age difference between herself and her boss. He was sixteen years her senior. And yet Ofelia came from a culture that didn't frown on this kind of a gap in age. It presented no problem for Ofelia, but it seemed like an issue for Daniel. He kept mentioning his age like it was important. She also gave some thought to their ethnic difference. No one in her family had ever married a guero. Her father had run off with a white woman, but marriage was different. Sometimes people suspected the Hispanic person was marrying the white person for the wrong reasons.
Ofelia had even heard a few accusations when she began to go out with Leonard. Leonard was only half Hispanic and had been born in Arizona. Why is such a beautiful girl going with a nerd like that? she heard people say: not directly, of course, but at second or third-hand. This was one of the reasons Ofelia had gotten so good at disregarding what other people thought about her. They had her pegged so dead wrong, it was as if they weren't speaking about her at all but about someone else who shared her name, someone who looked like her but wasn't.
Ofelia thought of Leonard. How could she break her promise to him? She was not in love with him, she knew that long before she had developed feelings for Daniel; but she had a deep affection for him because of his decency, because he wasn't like other men. There was a strength to him which Ofelia admired, and yet there was a weakness which stood in the way of any true feelings of romantic love kindling in her for him. This weakness manifested itself in Leonard's inability to stake his claim. He tolerated her behavior with other men, and he tolerated the other men. She knew there was a sexual kink in him that worked in concert with the kink in her, even though they never spoke of it; but it was more than that. It wasn't cowardice, necessarily. I wasn't a lack of courage, it was a lack of passion.
For Ofelia, passion was just another word for romantic love. If what happened between a man and woman lacked passion, it could be loving, but it could have no resemblance to romantic love. Not the way she conceived it. In other words, she did love Leonard, and could easily imagine herself as his wife. He was the perfect choice, as a husband, and as the father of her children; but he could be all those things and still not be her lover. How ironic it was that, when she really thought about it, even Manuel was more a lover to her than her own fiance. She couldn't imagine having with Leonard the very same thing that she had with Manuel only the night before. But, if Manuel had been Daniel?
Aiy, she thought, I would have exploded.
Ofelia was reluctant to examine herself in the same exhaustive and studious manner as she examined others. This was assuredly one of her worst faults. As she stood there at her machine she tried her hardest to be self-critical. She knew she was too free with men. That was easy. She gave them too many liberties, she wasn't stern enough with them. Of course, there was that kink of hers to consider. She didn't grant them liberties because she was a push-over, or was a faint little weakling. She let them do only so much, and exactly that much; and she let them do it because it gave her pleasure: it was rewarding to them, but a thousand times more rewarding to herself.
She wondered, does that make it more of a sin? Of course it did. Being a push-over, being faint and weak, is one thing, and maybe not even such a terrible thing; but acting strictly for your own pleasure was certainly sinful. This was one of the things that Ofelia kept at a distance from her, in a blur of rationalizations and excuses. In fact, she had grown so adept at ignoring this understanding of herself that as soon as she thought about it there at her machine, it was gone again. She thought about her brother and wondered what he was thinking, wherever he was at the moment. Probably at the library, or the bookstore.
Was it sinful, the relationship she and Manuel had? They never kissed like boyfriend and girlfriend, but they did things together that people in a romantic relationship did. She thought of the night before, and felt a mixture of embarrassment and excitement. She had never climaxed anywhere near that powerfully before. What a deliciously odd combination of things had gone into that overwhelming explosion of sensation, she thought! She had used her brother's hand to masturbate while thinking of Daniel. But could it have been just anybody's fingers down there? She thought about it. Leonard? Nope, sorry, Querido. Paul? Chale, no. For some reason she thought Manuel was the only one who would have been suitable as a conduit between her onanistic self and her lover, Daniel.
Why was that? The answer was simple. Manuel loved her, and she loved him, even though he wasn't and couldn't be her romantic lover; but the advantage he had over Leonard was that, as her younger brother, she loved to make him happy. Because they were siblings and were so close, Manuel's happiness meant happiness for Ofelia. And since she knew how strongly he loved her (and probably even in a "romantic" way, though it was much deeper than that), she knew what it meant to him, what had happened last night. She could feel his happiness, and it made her happy.
So it seemed to Ofelia that she had a choice to make, that there was no way of avoiding it. Daniel was not going to be happy unless and until he either possessed her or knew for a certainty that she was lost to him. She stood at her machine and already missed the excitement she had experienced at the pool with her boss. There was all that nervous tension, the uncertainty, the play-acting, the bluffing, those casual capitulations, forbidden kisses, and caresses. How could she live without any of that?
Although she hated herself for it, Ofelia had already been entertaining a fantasy in which she was married to Leonard and having a passionate love affair with Daniel. She thought about it while she was at her machine. She had been thinking about it while getting dressed for work. When she was in her teens she read hundreds of those pulp fiction paperbacks, the ones with a picture of a woman being seized from behind by some mysterious lover in a gazebo somewhere.
In those novels the husband was always some well-meaning dupe who couldn't satisfy his spitfire wife who was therefore forced to seek her sexual gratification in the arms of some prototypical bad-boy with the looks of an Adonis and the manners of a drunken sailor on shore leave. She remembered how excited she would get when the heroine went to meet her handsome but reckless lover, and when said lover was getting his seedy mitts all over her goblet-shaped, milk-white breasts which were supposed to give pleasure to the devoted and practical husband whose hard work and simple decency had earned and secured them for himself.
Ofelia imagined herself and Daniel making love in a huge bed with fancy quilts and coverlets. She imagined herself lying back with her married legs thrown far and wide, her feet in the air, while Daniel took his pleasure greedily and lustfully. While this was going on Leonard would be at work with a pencil behind his ear and a clipboard in his hands, knowing that another man was taking good care of his wife in a manner in which he was utterly incapable. Such thoughts made Ofelia's heart beat faster, and gave her a pleasant tickle in her belly. But even as she had these thoughts she knew that Daniel would never agree to having her on those terms. He wanted her for himself and himself alone. He had said those exact words, and he had meant them. Or so she presumed.
Ofelia imagined herself as Mrs. Davidson. A happily married woman who found all that she needed from men in one man alone. She imagined passionate nights filled with passionate, sanctified, moral, proper love-making. No more attention from dozens of hopeful suitors, no more exciting nights out laced with inappropriate kisses or fleeting, daring caresses. No more peeking eyes or wandering hands. No more wondering which blouse to wear, how much to show, how much to give, how much to hold back.
Ofelia told herself that she wouldn't miss those things once she had Daniel and they were together. She tried to convince herself that she only liked those things because her life lacked romantic love and passion. Cheap thrills and excitements were just a place-holder for the real thing, and Daniel was the real thing. Ofelia's heart fluttered and she smiled at the thought, and tried to ignore the voice at the very bottom of her heart that quietly whispered,
When her shift was over Ofelia went to get her paycheck and on her way out she passed by Daniel's office. She decided to knock on the door and see if he was in. He was.
"I just wanted to say bye." Ofelia told him when he answered. He looked tired. She knew he had a lot of paperwork to catch up on, which was why he was keeping his office door closed. He asked her to step in for a moment, if she had time. Ofelia went into the tiny office and Daniel closed it behind them, though only so he wouldn't have to shout over the sound of the machines and the general noise as the swing shift crew was coming in (or so he thought to himself).
"Ofelia, I was wondering..." Daniel began. Then he stopped abruptly. He asked, "Is Leonard working tonight?"
"Yeah, he works every night, except Sunday."
"Alright." Daniel said, and nodded. "Well, I would like to see you again. I mean, I would like to go out with you again, tonight."
Ofelia's heart gave a jump. "Okay. I would like that too." she said, and she did that thing with her hands like she was playing with gloves.
Daniel was glad. "Good. Of course, I'd want you to ask your fiance first, to make sure it was alright."
Ofelia said, "I will. I'll see him for a minute when I get home. Or I can call him at work."