Ofelia Ch. 04 Pt. 04-06byCervanServidor©
Ofelia stayed with Kenneth until nearly midnight. He lived farther from her apartment than Daniel did, and it was nearly twelve-thirty when she finally got home. Dominga was up, and Ofelia knew instantly that there was something wrong, something other than the fact that she was late, or that her mom knew what she had been doing with that beautiful young man for so long.
Dominga was sitting at the kitchen table, working on a crossword. When Ofelia came in the woman looked at her over the top of her reading glasses. "Do you always turn your phone off when you're out? What's the point in having it then?"
"Oh, I forgot to turn it on." Ofelia lied, and stood in front of the table, not moving.
"Leonard has been trying to reach you. And that other one, he stopped by here a few hours ago. I'm not going to be your answering service, or your secretary, you understand?"
"Other one, you mean Daniel?" Ofelia had heard Leonard's name, was pleased, but filed it away for later. She never missed anything someone said to her.
"Yes. Sorry if I forget the names. There are so many."
Ofelia felt the sting of that one, and blinked quickly; but she held her tongue. She wondered what happened with Daniel's seminar. He had come back early and she wasn't home. He probably tried to call her, too.
"I'm also not going to lie for you." Dominga said. She took her reading glasses off and stared at her daughter. "Not anymore. I told your boss you were out but I didn't know where or who with." Ofelia saw her mother's sharp gray eyes narrow, focus in on something. "You get into a fight with a vacuum cleaner or what?"
Ofelia touched her neck, where Kenneth had left a few reddish marks. Not hickies, just little stamps of his brief possession of her. "Stop it, Mama."
Dominga got up, folded her glasses, and walked off to her bedroom, closing the door abruptly behind her. Ofelia took her cell phone out, turned it on, and called Daniel. Her heart was pounding, but she refused to regret her night with Kenneth. He was beautiful and charming and she refused to regret it. Daniel answered, and apparently had looked at the caller ID beforehand.
"So, is he better than me in the sack?" He sounded cheerful. Like he wasn't trying to hurt her, but only make her laugh.
"Que? No. What? What do you mean?"
"It's alright, sweets. Your voice is shaking. I don't want that. It's okay, really. Please believe me."
There was a long pause, and finally Ofelia said, "How do you know already? You can't know that fast."
"I spoke with Kenneth about ten minutes ago."
"He told you?"
"He tried not to, sweetie. But he's a lousy liar. Besides, I could see for myself last weekend, the way things were stacking up. And when your mother told me you were out..."
She didn't say anything. Her eyes were clouding up. "Ofelia, relax. Relax and listen to me."
Ofelia was silent. Daniel hadn't eased her mind at all. He was scaring her. Daniel could hear her breath trembling. He made sure to soften his voice the best he could before speaking again. "Sweetheart. What's the matter? Please, I'm okay with this. It's not that I have that - special interest your fiance has, it's just that I don't have delusions of grandeur. I adore you, but I know I can't keep you. I don't think anyone could keep you. I thought I could, at first, but I know now that I can't. You don't deserve to be kept. You can't be kept."
Ofelia was still not saying anything. Her chin was quivering as she listened because she knew that what he was saying was true, and she was terrified of losing him, of missing him. She sat there with Kenneth's smell all over her, and yet she had been thinking of Manuel on her way up the stairs to her apartment, and now she knew that if Daniel was beside her she could easily lose herself in him. She imagined him inside her even as he spoke to her in such distant terms. She was upset that she had never felt him come freely inside her. Tears balled up in her eyes.
Daniel waited for her to speak. "Ofelia, please say something. Please believe me? I swear, on the lives of all of my loved ones, I'm not angry with you. I'm not playing a game with you. Jesus, I would rather die than frighten you. Please say something."
"Don't use that name that way, please." Ofelia told him, her voice shaky. "Say 'sheeeez', like I do."
She could hear the tension unwind in Daniel's voice, like the sound of a tightly twisted rubber band being let go. "Okay, that's a deal, sweetheart. I won't say it anymore."
"Good." Ofelia said. She sniffled. "I do love you. But I know you won't believe me."
"You never told me that, Ofelia. We never said those words to each other, you know? But I do believe you."
"And I love Leonard. My Leonard. I miss him. And I love Kenneth, too. He's beautiful, like a dark angel."
Daniel took a few moments to speak. "You're something, Ofelia."
"And I love Manuel. He's my prince, my soldier, my savior."
"He has a very special sister."
"I'll see you at work, Senior. Te amo." Ofelia turned her phone back off.
Again, Ofelia slept alone. She hated it. She hated not feeling her brother's presence, the warmth of his body, his weight on the bed. She tossed and turned, and the blankets twisted up. She thought of getting in her car and driving to Jose's apartment, marching up to the door and demanding that he come home with her. He would have no choice but to come. Who the hell did he think he was anyway, leaving her like that, running off whenever he damn well pleased?
She looked at her clock and it was two in the morning. She had slept, but it was a shallow sleep, her tired eyes skimming over top of her dreams without seeing very far into them. She felt her heart beating, not with the anguish of love's absence, but with the gluttonous sensation of being stuffed too full with it. She couldn't contain it. A thousand hearts couldn't contain it. She needed to let it bleed out of her so she could breathe in peace.
Ofelia thought of Leonard, and she could still hear his voice as he told her to get out. No one had ever said that to her before. No one had the guts. She lay on her side and put his face together in her mind, piece by piece: the small, non-nondescript eyes, the pleasant, effeminate mouth. In her mind she undressed him, ran her hands all over his bare chest, his passive arms and hands. As she began to doze off, as the seams between sleep and consciousness began to blur and widen out, Ofelia was reaching for him and he was walking, just walking along with his back to her, his limbs moving mechanically. She tried to hold on to him but her hands kept slipping off. She fell down and was crawling behind him, unable to get up. Crowds of people surrounded them, walking in both directions. And Leonard was walking and walking, and the crowd of bodies swallowed him up. She tried to cry out but she could only whisper and sigh impotently. Ofelia's last waking thought was a promise to herself that she would call Leonard as soon as the morning came. But she didn't keep that promise.
When she woke again it was five-twenty in the morning. She turned onto her back and her right hand reached out, "Papi." But there was only that irritating, nagging absence. Suddenly, she sat bolt upright. He wasn't in bed, but he was home. She became angry with him. He had come home while she was asleep, but he didn't come to bed. The hall light was on.
Ofelia's jaws were clenched as she got out of bed and went down the hall, into the living room. She was wearing a long nightshirt with nothing on underneath. Her little hands were balled up, her fingernails digging into her palms. She threw on the lights in the living room and he was on the sofa, lying on his side with his hands between his knees. He was still dressed in his shorts and t-shirt. September was nearly gone and the mornings were getting cooler. She saw that he was cold.
"Manuel!" she whispered, not wanting to disturb Dominga. She shook him and he woke. He had only just fallen asleep. She glared down at him, "Come to bed!"
"Ss..okay...I like it here..."
"Come to bed."
"I tollll you..."
"Come to bed, Manuel!" Ofelia said a third time. He got up and she let him go ahead of her. She followed him into their bedroom and when she saw that he was about to lay down without undressing she hissed at him, "Not like that. Damn it!"
He was tired. He had probably been awake most of the night. He undressed down to his briefs and crawled onto his side of the bed where he resumed his fetal posture. Ofelia closed the door, allowing only a tiny wedge of light to come in from the hall. She padded over to their bathroom, switched on the light and left that door half-closed. There was plenty of light to see by, and despite the chill Ofelia took her nightshirt off and draped it at the foot of the bed. Her body was hot. She touched her brother's shoulder and whispered, "Lie on your back. Don't worry, I'm not going to rape you."
He did as he was told, and the bed creaked as Ofelia fetched the twisted blanket, painstakingly straightened it out, and pulled it up. She lay on her side and wrested the young man's briefs from him. Clothes had no place in bed, she decided, once and for all, and the decision was final. She pushed them down and used her foot to kick them off onto the floor. Then she put her leg up on top of Manuel's legs, her knee bent up. She pulled the blanket up to their shoulders, and nuzzled against her brother's cold body. She lay there and fidgeted for the longest time. She rubbed her foot up and down Manuel's legs, over his feet, trying to impart her heat to him. She rubbed her warm hand on his chest, his arm, stroked him, caressed his skin until she felt the stubborn chill begin to yield. It was a long while before she was finally still.
Manuel was hard under her leg, and he was leaking, but it didn't bother her in the least. She kept her promise to him. If he wanted something he could have it, but she would leave him be. Ofelia began to fidget again, and got as close to him as she could without actually being on top of him. He put the arm nearest his sister up and around her, and let her move in closer. He felt her stubbly pubis against his hip, her soft breasts against his side. She swept her hair straight back and rested her head against his upper arm. She could smell his lime-scented sport's stick mingled with the natural fragrance of his dark, smooth skin. She much preferred the latter. Manuel could feel her butterfly-breath skittering across his chest. She caressed his chest with her hand, running it in slow circles, thankful for the beat of his heart against her touch.
"I didn't want to wake you u..."
"Don't do it again." Ofelia said, cutting him off. "Don't stay away from me again."
She rose at nine on Sunday morning, showered, and placed her first call. It was to her Aunt Delia, to beg her forgiveness for having to miss a second Sunday at church. Delia didn't seem surprised, and her voice had a worried edge to it. Obviously Dominga and her little sister had plenty to talk about of late.
Ofelia made herself a strong cup of coffee and sat in the kitchen by herself, wrapped up in her housecoat. Dominga liked to sleep late on this day she was named after, and her church days were already long behind her. Manuel was sleeping like a rock in the brisk early coolness, and Ofelia made sure to wrap him up good and tight before kissing his cheek and leaving him to his dreams. When she went back into the kitchen she thought of her fiance. As anxious as she was to speak to him, it would have to wait.
She took out her phone and punched in Kenneth's number. She guessed that he was not a late riser, and she guessed correctly. He answered after the second ring, and his voice was broken because he was busy in the immense RV-port beside the house which he had converted into a gym. "I was going to call you last night, but it was so late already. I'm sorry about all of this." he said, after she told him of her conversation with Daniel.
"There's nothing for you to be sorry for." Ofelia told him. "Listen, are you going to be home for a while? Like, for at least a few more hours?"
"I have some things I need to do, but they can wait." he answered, huffing and puffing into the phone.
"Okay. I want to come see you, if you don't mind."
"Oh, not at all. Please do. You sound. I don't know. You sound like nothing happened. Nothing bad, I mean."
"Well, I'm not gonna let anything bother me today. I'll come over soon, okay? Like in one hour?"
"Okay. I'll be here."
"Okee-doke. Adios, mi nino bello."
Ofelia drank her coffee and punched in Daniel's number. She got his answering machine, so she tried his cell. He must have had that turned off, so she tapped in the first number again and waited. His message was comical. He changed it all the time. She laughed when she heard it:
"Hello, you've reached Pee-Wee Herman. I'll get back to you as soon as I pull up my pants."
"Hola mi amor! Wake up! Wake up! Ariba! Ariba! Hello! Are you there? Que estas haciendo? Well? Going pee-pee? Takin' a shower? Hello Mister! Wake up! Answer the phone! It's me, Sofia Esmeralda Maria Ofelia Silva de Ortiz, from Me-hee-ko! Andele you lazy boy! Answer the..."
"Alright! Alright!" Daniel said when he finally answered. He sounded tired, but was glad to hear from her. "You caught me off guard. I didn't think you would call me. Last night you said, 'see you at work', so..."
"Remember you told me one time you let the girl drive if she wants so she can be 'in power', or something like that?"
"Empowered. Invested with power. Yes, I remember."
"Well okay then, listen up. I'm gonna come and pick you up and take you somewhere, so be ready 'cos if you ain't ready when I get there Mister, that's too bad for you, you'll have to eat my dust 'cos I'll be hittin' the road."
"Where are we going?"
"You'll find that out when we get there. So, you gonna be ready or what?"
"Yeah...how much time have I got?"
"Half-hour. Just jump in the shower quick, but don't shave. I like your neck better when you don't. Got it?"
"Yes ma'am." Daniel answered, "Hey, wait. Wait. I mean, since this thing with Kenny..."
"I love you. Be ready, bye."
Ofelia hung up before he could answer. She finished her coffee and wondered for a moment about what she should wear. She went into her bedroom and took her housecoat off. She opened the top drawer of her dresser and decided to put on a pair of simple white satin bikini-style panties. She had gotten these from a department store and had several pair in various colors. They were cheap but terribly cute, with a pretty little fake bow on the front. She put on a matching bra and decided to be sparing with her jewelry. She had one gold bracelet and small topaz earrings. She slipped Leonard's engagement ring onto her finger, and left all of her other rings on top of her dresser.
Then she put on some snug white jeans and a sleeveless pink cotton blouse with a white collar. Keep it simple, Ofie, she told herself, finally tying her hair off with a pink scrunchy, leaving a bouncy ponytail. She felt her stomach flutter when she thought about the little get together she was planning. She would have invited Leonard and Manuel were it not for the knowledge that they would certainly decline. She noticed that her nipples were standing out under her blouse; and she was already moist between her legs, which she had taken a few minutes to shave smooth. The area was getting accustomed to the razor now and there was no more irritation or redness. She was plump and brown and naked down there, and damn, it looked good.
When she got to Daniel's apartment she sat in her car and let the motor run. She honked the horn, not because he was taking too long to come out, but so he would know that she had no intention of coming in. Let him get the wrong idea at first. She would surprise the daylights out of him later.
Out he came, dressed in some jeans and a black t-shirt with the name of one of those silly rock bands on it, the letters all jagged and slanted, like lightning, so that everyone would know that they were some real tough customers. He was smiling as he got into the passenger seat. He started to say something but Ofelia leaned over to him and put her left hand on his cheek. She examined one side of his face, then the other. She pushed his chin up, her finger in his trimmed beard, and looked at his neck.
She nodded, "Okay."
"You asked me not to sh...."
"Right. I was just checking, mi amor."
"My facial hair doesn't grow too fast." Daniel explained, "I'm Irish. I got a brother who..."
"Do you still want to be with me? Tell me the truth, please." Ofelia asked him, as she finally put her car in park. She had been sitting there the whole time with her foot on the brake pedal. Her body was one big spring, ready to be let go.
"Be with you, as in..."
Ofelia picked up his hand and held it in both of hers. She kissed his fingers, the way a knight in a story-book would kiss a lady's hand. Her eyes were misting over. "Will you let me be your girl still?" she asked, but it was phrased wrong. What she was really asking was, Can you share me?
"Ofelia...how..." Daniel started, "I don't know...."
Ofelia blinked and a big tear rolled down her cheek. She had no intention of being this weak. She steadied herself, and her voice was calm. "Last week, in your office, you told me you wanted me for yourself, that you didn't want anyone else to have me."
"Well, if you told me never to see anyone else, ever again, I would do what you wanted. But, I don't know if that would make me happy." Ofelia said, then held up her finger to him, "Wait, please. At the same time, if you just let me go, and I can't have you anymore, that will hurt me too much. So, I'm afraid that no matter what you say, no matter what you decide, I'll lose."
Daniel didn't know what to say. As much as he wanted her, as much as he felt he loved her, he refused the burden she was trying to put on him. He turned to her and spoke as calmly as he could. "Think about what you just told me, sweets. You're telling me that no matter what I do I'll wind up hurting you. You can't give me that kind of power. It's not fair. I already told you this morning on the phone: I'm not going to try and keep you. I thought it would be that way, at first. A part of me, right here and now, wants to go and kill Kenny. But I'm too old for that, Ofelia, and you're too strong for that. So I give up. I'm not going to fight for you - not because I'm afraid to, and not because I don't want to, only because I think it would be pointless - but I'm not throwing you away either. Am I? I'm sitting here, now. I'm right here."
Ofelia nodded, "Si, you are." She took the car out of park and headed off for Kenneth's house, and wondered how long it would be before Daniel knew where they going.
Her heart was lighter now, because Daniel had told her exactly what she wanted to hear. He wasn't going to try and keep her to himself, but he wasn't casting her away either, as Leonard had done. Ofelia had no desire to go from man to man throughout her life, moving from one romance to another; but at the same time she didn't want to devote her entire being to only one man, thereby shutting out all of the others. More truthfully, it wasn't that she didn't want to be faithful, it wasn't that she didn't see the moral beauty of it, the spiritual purity of monogamy as an ideal; it was simply that she knew herself too well. She knew that she could swear to remain faithful to a man and that she could keep her vow; but she also knew that only her body could truly honor such a vow. Her heart and mind were beyond such oaths, and she knew it. She wasn't proud of it, but she knew it.