Ofelia Ch. 03 Pt. 01-03byCervanServidor©
Ofelia didn't get home until nine o'clock on Saturday morning. Dominga gave her a stern look as her she came through the door, looking happy and well-rested. That wasn't how a dirty-stay-out was supposed to look, and that bothered Dominga even more.
"Hi." Ofelia said, stepping past her mother, who was cleaning up some breakfast plates. She didn't see Manuel, and hadn't seen his bike outside. Dominga didn't answer, but stood at the sink and made a loud racket with the dishes. Ofelia looked at the food that was still on the table and realized that she was famished. She hadn't eaten since early afternoon the day before. She picked up a tortilla and put some scrambled egg in it, but as she was about to roll it up her mother turned around violently and grabbed the girl's wrist.
"What, he couldn't buy you breakfast?" she said, her eyes narrow slits. Ofelia hadn't seen that side of her mother in years. Dominga made Ofelia drop the food. She wouldn't let go of her wrist, but pulled it instead, so that the girl was forced to face her.
"Leonard kept coming, looking for you." Dominga said sharply, so sharply it caused Ofelia's guts to feel a jolt of adrenaline. "What was I supposed to tell him? What? Answer me, hija!"
"I told him I was going out. I always tell him everything. I'll call him, Mama."
"You do that! You do that now. Sit down."
"I'll do it from my r...."
"Sit down and call him now." Dominga said. "Aqui. Ahora."
Ofelia sat down at the table and took her cell phone out of her bag. Dominga heard it power-on, and was not surprised to know that her daughter had turned her phone off. Dominga had never been angrier in her life, not even when her husband of twenty plus years had left her for that bottle-blonde puta from the coast. Dominga refused to give Ofelia any privacy, but chose to stand at her shoulder.
"Bueno. It's me.
"A little while ago. I'm sorry, pero.
"I know, Querido.
"It's not okay. I should have called you.
"Yes, I do.
"Si. Can I.
"Let me change. So.
"I need to change so.
"Okay. Like, a half-hour?
Ofelia put her phone back in her bag and started to get out of the chair. Dominga put her hand on the girl's shoulder. Ofelia sat back down. Dominga took a seat beside her, and there was a brief pause. Dominga put some scrambled eggs in a tortilla, folded it up neatly, and put it on a plate in front of her daughter.
"Eat. I'm sorry I grabbed you before. You look so skinny. He couldn't even feed you."
"It's not like that. We."
"I don't want to hear it. It's not my business. But it's Leonard's business, hija. You should have seen him. He's so tired, from waiting for you."
"He's a good man, maybe the best man I know. What you did, you don't deserve him. You have a lot of your father in you."
Ofelia looked at her mother's eyes and saw that Dominga was not simply angry and trying to hurt her. She was telling the truth, as plainly as she possibly could. Dominga recognized a vulnerability in Ofelia she had never seen before, and she decided to exploit it.
"That's right. Believe it. There are times when I think to myself, this one, this pretty one, is like a man inside. With a man, it's his passions that control him, not his heart, or his mind. It's the same with you. You think you love this man, but you don't. These feelings will pass, but by then you'll have lost the man who could have made you happy. You'll see."
"Maybe not. Maybe I won't lose him."
"You've already lost him. You think he won't smell that man all over you? You're soaked through and through with him. When Leonard touches you next time, that man will leak out, like water from a sponge."
"You make it sound so filthy, Mama." Ofelia protested weakly. If only she could make her mother understand the dynamics of her relationship with Leonard. Maybe Leonard wouldn't seem so perfect. Ofelia allowed herself the small refuge of believing that perhaps, if Leonard hadn't practically pushed her into the arms of other men because of his...
"Eat." Dominga said, nudging the plate.
Ofelia did eat, and gobbled the tortilla so quickly her Mom filled another and passed it to her. "You could gain twenty pounds and you'd still be skinny."
"Thank you, Mama." Ofelia said when she had gobbled down the second egg-filled tortilla. "I'll go and change."
Leonard's apartment was a reflection of Leonard himself: perfectly well-organized, neat, clean, with not a speck of clutter; but it was also bland, colorless, banal. It reminded Ofelia of a hotel room. Leonard didn't appear angry, but he was obviously exhausted. He hadn't slept a wink in more than twenty-four hours. Instead of looking for his usual kiss hello, he shied away from his fiance, and kept a good deal of room between himself and Ofelia on the couch where they decided to sit down. She was dressed in a simple blue halter, roomy white shorts, ankle socks, and blue tennis shoes. Her hair was in a long braid.
Leonard stared at his girl. She had never looked so beautiful to him. Probably because he felt her slipping away from him. He swallowed hard and smiled crookedly. "So, did you have a good time?" he asked, then immediately added, "I'm not mad, Carina, it's just that. I wish. I mean, I don't understand why you couldn't call me."
"Yes, I did." Ofelia answered the first question, then continued, "It's not that I couldn't, it's that. Everything was, kind of crazy. I did think of you."
"That's good, I guess."
Ofelia was looking plaintively at Leonard, and he looked away from her because he didn't like what looked like pity shining like headlights in her eyes.
"Do you want me to tell you what happened?" she said, deciding to cut to the chase. The tension was high in the antiseptic room. Soft jazz piano music was murmuring from a small stereo system.
"I don't think I need you to tell me." Leonard said, examining his fingernails, which were clipped and even. "I mean, I don't suppose you stayed up all night playing checkers."
"No, we didn't. We were sleeping. Most of the time."
Leonard's face flushed. It's one thing to know the truth, it's quite another to hear it. Ofelia continued to talk. She moved closer to him, put her hand up on the back of the couch, close to his shoulder. "We didn't go out anywhere, we just went to his apartment. He lives close to the mall, in a duplex. It's nice. Anyway, we ended up. We went to his bed together."
"Just like that..."
"I told you already, Querido, we did some stuff in the pool; and there were some times at work too. It wasn't like, we just went and did it."
"So. I mean, I always told you, I'd rather you went ahead and did something with a guy instead of wondering about it all the time. So it's not like you went against me, and. It's not as if you're trying to deceive me. I'm glad you're being honest about it." Leonard said, and then his voice was harder when he added, "Because, if I heard about it from someone else, I would want to punish you."
"I know." Ofelia said, amazed and awed at the young man's self-control. What was it that she was looking past in this man? Who was it that she was preparing to throw away? He continued to impress her:
"Not punish you as in hit you or anything like that. I would die before I raised my hand to you, or any woman. But punish as in: try to make you hurt somehow, someway, inside."
"I know." Ofelia said, and she was smiling. The way people smile at a funeral. "You told me that before, Querido. And I know you mean what you say."
"So, are we engaged or not? Where do I stand?" Leonard asked her, and now she was thoroughly astonished. She was sure he wouldn't want to marry her now, despite that kink of his. Fantasy is one thing, and it can be sweet when it's fed by reality, but when it actually becomes reality?
She always made an analogy in her mind, as a way of comparing her fetish with Leonard's. It helped her to have an idea about how far she could go. For instance, she liked it when her numerous suitors peeked at her, spied on her, tried to touch her inappropriately, even when they did touch her; but if one of them stepped over the boundaries she had set up, if one of them had actually used force to do something against her will, it would immediately and absolutely cease being exciting. It would be a serious offense to her.
This made her think that Leonard probably enjoyed his little fetish within very strict boundaries as well. It was okay for a man to make a pass at his girl, to see his girl's body in a way they shouldn't have, even to touch her in a way they shouldn't have. These things excited him because they were limited, non-threatening. Part of his pleasure came from the fact that he knew Ofelia enjoyed the attention, she enjoyed being admired, being hit on, even being felt-up. But there was always that line of demarcation, a point past which no one could go. Once she let a man possess her, all bets were off.
Or so she thought.
"Well, I think we're engaged? No?" Ofelia said, and blinked at him. She smiled and shook her head, "You don't hate me?"
"I love you." Leonard said. "I'll always love you, even if you sleep with every man in the city. I can't lose you, Carina. I thought about how I would tell you it was over, that I couldn't marry you; but just imagining it -- it crushed me. If I didn't have you, I'd rather be dead."
"Don't say that, Leo." Ofelia said, and put her hand on his forearm. "You don't have to lose me. I don't want to lose you either.
There was a long silence. Ofelia stroked Leonard's arm, traced the big blue vein with her fingernail. "But." She looked up at him and he was looking at her. "I don't want to lose what I have with him either."
"I know that."
"It doesn't bother you?"
"Of course it does. But I'll tell you what would bother me more. If I begged you not to see him again, to quit that job at the mill, and you did, then I would have to keep knowing that you were thinking about him, all the time. That would be worse." He paused, "And besides, the whole thing is...exactly what I've wished for. You know it, Ofelia. When I think of you, with someone else...."
Leonard's voice broke, and she could see him flush. "I can't explain it....I think about that all the time. All the time."
"I know." Ofelia said. She took a chance and moved closer to him. She put her hand on Leonard's leg. Even lounging around the house he was wearing slacks. And a nice polo shirt. She moved her hand upwards. "I know because, sometimes, when we talk about it, Mr. Peabody gets bigger..."
"What are you doing?"
Her hand found the lump under his slacks. A smaller lump than Daniel would make, and definitely smaller than the one Manuel would make. She pressed it with her palm, since it was loped upwards, belly fly-ward.
"You want to try something, Querido?"
"A game. A tell-the-truth game."
"I don't want to play a game. I want you. You gave yourself to someone before me. I deserved you first. I deserve it now even more."
"Soon. Okay? Just not now. Trust me." She pushed the butt of her palm hard at the top of his penis, "Let me see this."
"Why can't I have you now? What am I waiting for? I already waited. He didn't have to wait."
"No, he didn't." Ofelia said, feeling a hot twist in her groin, a lightness in her head. She opened Leonard's slacks and pulled the zipper down. Boxers, of course. Ofelia thought it would be better to fish him out through the front of his shorts. She reached in and drew him out, and it stood straight up, short and pudgy: Mr. Peabody himself. She wrapped her hand around it and squeezed, making the head swell larger. Leonard croaked quietly as Ofelia started to move her hand up and down, talking softly to him:
"He didn't have to wait very long at all, did he? He got special treatment."
"Don't use that name that way." Ofelia told Leonard. He muttered an apology, and his eyes darted from her eyes to her hand around his penis. Ofelia got a charge from the fact that she didn't chastise Daniel when he used the Lord's name in that way only a few hours before. "You're supposed to say "sheeez" like I do, remember?"
Ofelia giggled. "Good boy. Now, before we continue, I have to tell you first. Daniel wants to spend the day with me, either today or tomorrow. I told him I promised you we would do something together. Do you want to do something today with me? Drive to the beach? Rent some movies? Go shopping?"
"Do you want to go with him today?"
"Yes. But it could wait until tomorrow. Or you and me could have the day tomorrow."
"Then go today, Carina. Maybe we'll do something tomorrow." It was hard for Leonard to speak. All this today, tomorrow business.
"Okay, good. It's settled then." Ofelia said, glad that she would soon be together with Daniel. She moved her hand faster, but only slightly. Leonard was as hard as the proverbial Amish boy at a strip club. It made Ofelia smile when she thought of that expression. She had heard it from Daniel. She stopped and just squeezed his penis for a while.
"How does it feel when I tell you the truth, Querido? The real truth? It feels better than the lies, doesn't it?"
"What lies?" Leonard asked, and his whole body was stiff.
"All the little ones I tell you, all the time, because I think it's what you want to hear, when it's what I want to believe myself." Ofelia explained, squeezing his penis rhythmically but not daring to jerk him off, not yet. The truth needed to get out, and it was pushing just as forcibly to the surface, boiling, seething, under pressure.
"You know what I mean, Querido. Tell me you know."
"Yes, I do." Leonard told her. She waited for him to continue, cocking her head and looking at him. "Like when you pretend you don't like it when those guys come on to you. Like when you pretend you don't like it when Paul Diaz kisses you, or this new one."
"Right. It's a lie when I say I don't like that." Ofelia told him, and moved her hand almost imperceptibly. "The truth is, I like it very much. I liked it when Paul kissed me at the movies. I wanted him to kiss me."
"But it is true that I don't have feelings for Pablo. I wanted him to kiss me, just because. You know, the way a man wants to kiss a girl, because she's pretty? There doesn't have to be another reason."
"But with Daniel...it's different, Leo."
There was another silence. Leonard had been listening intently to Ofelia. He was excited by the thought of her kissing another man simply for the visceral pleasure it gave her, with no emotional attachment. But it was different when her heart became involved. Leonard didn't want to hear that part. It ruined everything. He put his hand on hers and showed her yet another example of his strength, by removing her hand, fixing himself, and zipping his slacks back up. Ofelia didn't move. She sat there with her arm on the back of the couch, her right hand in her lap, wet with his issue.
Leonard sat still and withdrew from his fiance. He thought of something and cleared his throat, and spoke flatly, "There's an old expression. Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it."
He looked at Ofelia and shook his head, "You should go."
"Don't call me that anymore. I want you to go. How's that for the truth? You like the truth? Get the hell out."
Ofelia was so surprised by his words her head snapped back. Her eyes flashed, widened, but only for a second. She immediately gained her composure and left the apartment, closing the door as quietly as she could.
When Ofelia got back she had Manuel to contend with. He had spent the night at their cousin Jose's house, because he couldn't bear the thought of waiting for Ofelia to come home. He remembered their short exchange the last time they spoke, how she had loured over him, hard and severe, like a beautiful black cloud. He didn't dare start in with her. He knew she could devastate him with not so much as a moment's thought or effort. He lowered his eyes as he walked past her. She was on the couch, staring at the television but seeing nothing that flashed on the screen. Her bare feet were tucked under her bottom, her ankle socks and sneakers on the carpet.
"Hey." She called to his back as he marched past. Manuel continued to their bedroom and she heard the door close. He expected her to go to him, but she wouldn't. We'll see how long it takes before he comes out, she thought. Ofelia sat there on the couch, thinking: Okay, so everybody hates me. Now what? Now nothing. Let them get over it. There was one thing about her she knew would never change: she would never accept defeat. She would never yield to anyone's judgment of her.
Except when it came to Daniel. She had let Daniel manipulate her, mold her, draw her out. She had capitulated immediately and absolutely to his judgment. She had let Daniel change her: not the person she was inside, but the person she showed to others. It was this new person everyone was rejecting, but only because they didn't realize that this new Ofelia was the real Ofelia all along. It would take some time for them to adjust, that's all.
She played with her braid, broke split-ends here and there, wound them around her finger, and thought of Leonard. So, he wasn't going to let her have her cake and eat it too? He wasn't going to be the walking corpse she wanted him to be, the good-natured door-mat, the well-meaning powder-puff who turned the other cheek and looked the other way? She had known, really, that he had too much spine in him. She had known it all along.
She entertained the thought of simply taking up with Daniel. She wouldn't move in with him unless they were married, of course. She imagined getting engaged again, making all those plans, again. She didn't care what anyone else might think. That wasn't what was bothering her about this altogether new vision of her future. What bothered her was that something was missing, or something was just dead wrong.
She knew exactly what it was, but she chased it out of her waking thoughts and began to thumb through the channels on the television, flicking past station after station of noisy, vacuous drivel. Her thumb hammered on the volume button to silence it; and finally she tossed the remote at the television and watched it bounce off the black plastic underneath the screen.
Ofelia started to undo her braid. "Manuel!"
"Manuel!" she shouted, hard.
In a few seconds she heard her bedroom door open, a soft click. Manuel came out, slinked down the hall into sight. His jeans were three or four sizes too big and she thought he looked ridiculous. He thought he looked tough.
"What do you want?" he asked her, spreading his hands out in the form of a question. Ofelia patted the couch beside her. The young man stood there for a moment. "I don't feel good. I think I got a cold." he said, and sniffled, then ran his forearm under his nose, sniffled louder and louder. He started to cough, hack, cough, sniffle, cough, hack. Ofelia pulled one leg up, her heel on the edge of the couch, wrapped her fingers around her knee, and tilted her head, blinking slowly at her brother and letting him have his fun. He kept his glasses on, which he rarely did around his sister.
Ofelia took the index finger of her hand and pointed it at him. She poked at the empty air three times, pointing directly towards Manuel, then turned her finger around and come-hithered with it. Manuel looked out at the kitchen for a moment, where Dominga was working on a crossword puzzle in the newspaper, her reading glasses perched on the end of her nose like a vieja, where the sunlight was already flooding in through the blinds to fill the apartment.