The Belle Of Coeur D'AlenebyJakeRivers©
Thanks to Techsan and Lady Cibelle for their great editing assistance – they are the best!
WHAT PRICE PARADISE?
"If I commit suicide, it will not be to destroy myself but to put myself back together again."
- Antonin Artaud
I lay there in the tub, thinking how my life had gone bad so fast. Even now, two months later, I was still confused. It all seemed like a dream, a nightmare. Images flashed in and out of my mind of that awful motel room, images of the bugs crawling on the mildew stained walls, the filthy sheets, and of Klaus.
I had the water as hot as I could stand and I had taken some sleeping pills. I stared with fascination at the light glinting off the edge of the razor blade. It was one of those single sided blades that I used to use for crafts.
It was bad, really bad, what had happened on our trip to Cancun, to paradise. I still had nightmares of that night on the beach south of Playa Del Carmen. Then last week I had missed my second period. I worried about it and finally got a pregnancy kit at the drug store. I took the test in the upstairs bathroom and couldn't believe the results. Crying a little, I went back to the drugstore to get another kit – hoping the first one might have been defective.
When the results were the same I felt like my life was over. All my plans for school, my plans for life were gone. I knew I couldn't face the future so I took the pills and found the old razor blade. I was having trouble focusing on the sharp, shiny edge - it seemed to be jumping around, the bathroom lights reflecting with a crazy hard luster.
Knowing I would be asleep in a couple of minutes I steeled myself and put the blade on my wrist ... pausing for a minute, watching with a morbid fascination as the vein pulsed, so regularly, almost hypnotically. I slashed at the spot where the pulse showed and slipped back in the hot water. A sudden regret came to me – I was taking two lives, not just one! Dimly, almost subconsciously, I heard the garage door opening as the blood swirled in the water making pretty patterns ... as everything faded.
THE START OF IT ALL
"And so we turn the page over
To think of starting. This is all there is."
- John Ashbery
I was excited! Never in my young life had I had the opportunity to do something so special and exciting.
It had begun about three weeks ago when my best friend Betty came over to my house on a Saturday afternoon.
"Kathy, you won't believe this! My parents are taking me to Cancun for my graduation present and they said I could bring a friend. Of course, I chose you! It's going to be great!"
I knew it wasn't that simple, of course. Mom wanted to know everything before she would say okay. My dad had died a couple of years ago in a construction accident. Ever since then mom had been overly protective. I understood and didn't usually mind too much but I really wanted to go on this trip. The farthest I had ever traveled from our Sherman Oaks home (until last month) was San Diego to visit the zoo and Marine World and one summer I spent at my uncle's ranch in Idaho.
High school was coming to a close with graduation next week after finals this week. I wouldn't miss school at all! I did well in my studies and had already been accepted to Humboldt State University where I was planning my major in Forestry & Watershed Management. I know, I know. What's a Valley Girl know about trees?
My mom had taken me up for a visit and I loved the place. The campus was really nice and the professors I met were friendly and supportive. The woman that would be my faculty advisor took me and two other prospective students to visit a burn, an area devastated by forest fire and being replanted. I was fascinated by what I saw and even surer that this was right for me.
Betty was a party girl, always going on dates and in and out of love with a bewildering regularity. I had always been shy and, like I said, mom was a little too protective. Betty had made me go to the two proms and had even provided the dates. It was okay but I didn't really like either one of the boys.
Betty kept telling me I was cute. I knew she was just being a good friend. I did have nice hair – long and a rich dark brown and I never had a problem with it. No bad hair days for me. But standing in front of my mirror I could see that my legs were too short and my bust was too small. I sure wasn't going to win any wet tee shirt contests!
With Betty's and her parent's help mom finally agreed to let me go. Betty's mom and dad took Betty, my mom and I out to dinner at the country club they belonged to so we could talk over the trip. Tal's law firm owned a suite at a new resort in Cancun that was placing a special emphasis on security. The suite had a living room, kitchen/dining room and three bedrooms, each with their own bath. It helped that mom and Allison were good friends so between all of us we won mom over.
I didn't have any problems with the finals. I guess I was actually pretty smart and I studied a lot. I graduated fifth in my class and this was at a school where almost all graduating seniors went to college.
The graduation itself seemed somewhat of an anticlimax – school was really over and I felt sad. It wasn't that I liked the school all that much ... I guess it was just the sense of all the changes that were coming. I would be away from home for the first time and I knew that would be hard on me. Betty was staying close to home – UCLA - and I would miss her almost as much as my mom. I didn't have any brothers or sisters and I didn't make friends easily so I knew I was going to be lonely.
Finally we were ready to go on the trip. Betty helped me pack, giggling at my swimsuit.
"Kathy, the first thing we are going to do in Cancun is buy you some clothes! You are a woman now, you are cute and you need to open up a little."
I tried to protest but Betty always seems to get her way with me. Truthfully I was getting a little excited about the trip. Betty went on and on about all that we were going to do.
"Betty! We are only going for ten days. If we do every thing you keep telling me, we will be there for six months."
She laughed and helped me finish packing. Her stuff was already packed and her folks were picking us up in a limo to take us to the airport. I hugged mom as she kept giving me last minute instructions. You know, do this, don't do that, make sure ... call me, send me a postcard ... did you pack your ...
She was crying a little, I think. My eyes seemed a little blurry so I wasn't sure.
Finally we were off, the adventure starting. We were flying first class in a 747. I had never even been on a plane before so everything was new. I felt like a princess with the way the stewardess treated me. I was so excited I almost wet my panties!
We talked and giggled a lot for a while until they served the meal. Betty fell asleep after that and I looked out the window at the land so far below and wondered at the lives of the people that lived on the ant-sized farms. I was too keyed up to sleep.
Arriving in Cancun and getting to the hotel was a blur. I'd gone through immigration and customs without really knowing what was going on.
The hotel was awesome – even to my inexperienced eye I could see it was luxurious. The suite was stunning. Betty told me that I had the small bedroom, but golly, the bath was bigger than my bedroom at home. Everything was marble and I had a small balcony that looked out over the ocean.
After we got settled in, Betty dragged me down to the hotel shops to "make a new Kathy" as she put it. Nothing had prices on it but I knew it was expensive. I didn't feel right letting her get me these things but she was so excited I went along with her. It was fun trying on everything. I blushed at the two sets of swimwear Betty picked out and told her I would never be able to wear them in public.
"But, Kathy, we aren't in public, we're in Cancun!"
We ate dinner at the hotel with Tal and Allison. I had probably the best meal of my life: a mixed ceviche followed by a wonderful local fish. Tal poured me a glass of wine, something white from France. I'd had wine at home a couple of times with mom but this was something else!
Allison smiled at me and said, "Enjoy the wine. You only have to be eighteen in Mexico to drink. But be careful - you girls haven't learned how to drink yet so take it easy."
After dinner Betty and I went down to walk around the grounds. We stopped by the pool and had a Margarita, my first. I didn't care for the salt so Betty made me drink another one. I liked the taste better but I felt a little lightheaded as we made our way up to the rooms.
It was a nice evening so I left the door to the balcony open. I lay awake for a bit, feeling the effects of the two drinks. I felt ... I don't know ... maybe a little spacy. It wasn't unpleasant, just kind of weird. I fell into a deep sleep, listening to the faint sound of the surf crashing endlessly on the white sand; sleeping uninterrupted until Betty jumped on my bed, telling me the plans for the day before I was even awake.
This first day we were all going to Xcaret. This turned out to be a fun place. I liked best the snorkeling; I'd never done that before. We also got to play with the dolphins and go horseback riding. They had built a replica Mayan village that all of us found fascinating.
We got back to the hotel around three so Betty and I went down to the pool for an hour. Betty was flirting with a couple boys but I tried to stay out of it. I wasn't listening too closely; I was watching people walking around - a favorite activity of mine but I thought I heard their names as Benny and Ricard.
I didn't see it but Benny had bought another round of Margaritas. Betty pinching my arm suddenly brought me back to earth.
"Kathy! Where were you? I was talking to you but it seemed like no one was home."
Blushing, I smiled to hide my embarrassment, "I'm sorry, I was just thinking how much fun it was at Xcaret today. What were you saying?"
"Benny got us another Margarita. Be nice now and thank him."
"I'm sorry for not noticing. Thank you for the drink."
I was a little more involved in the conversation now and noticed that whenever Benny mentioned Ricard's name he used the French pronunciation. I had four year's of high school French so I wanted to try it out.
Making a guess I asked Ricard in French where in France he was from. He became animated and started talking very fast. After getting him to slow down I was able to understand him fairly well. He was from the south of France, near Nice, and the pronunciation was different from what I was used to. I felt more confident with talking; he didn't have any trouble understanding me at all.
I noticed another man sitting at a nearby table looking at us with interest; he seemed to be listening to Ricard and I talking in French. He made eye contact with me and stood up and walked over. He was very attractive with dark, almost black wavy hair worn a little long. He was tall, maybe a couple inches over six feet, slim and looked a little older, maybe around twenty-five and was quite handsome, almost pretty. He really reminded me of Sal Mineo in "Exodus;" my mom had rented that movie once and I had watched it with her.
He picked up my hand and kissed it as he talked in French with a clear Parisian accent; he sounded just like my French teacher! I was confused when he took my hand and didn't know whether to stand or sit. He was telling me what a beautiful woman I was and what a lovely accent I had. I was getting quite flustered when he turned to everyone else and introduced himself.
"Good evening, I'm Alain Allègre. May I sit with you for a few minutes? It's so sad to drink alone."
He waved at the bar for another round of drinks. I tried to tell him I didn't want any more – I was already feeling light-headed. He just looked at me and told me what lovely eyes I had. We all talked and the discussions became more animated as the new drinks were delivered.
He was fascinating to listen to: he had been all over Europe and talked intimately of different cities. Besides his native French and his colloquial English, he also spoke German and Italian fluently and passable Spanish.
About halfway through my third Margarita I knew I had already had too much. I remembered what Betty's dad had said so I stood up and excused myself. Betty said she would finish her drink and meet me in the suite.
Alain stood up when I did and took my elbow and walked me to the elevator, "to keep the wolves from bothering such a beautiful lady," he had said as he put his hand on the small of my back.
Speaking French again, he said, "It was so nice to meet such a wonderful woman. May I see you again?"
I mumbled something ... I don't remember even if it was in French or English. I knew I needed to go up and lie down; I was feeling more than a little dizzy now. He smiled at me as the elevator doors closed.
When I got to the suite, no one was there so I went to my room and took a hot shower and then let the cold water run for a few minutes. It felt good and my head cleared somewhat.
I went into the living room of the suite to watch a movie. Betty came in a few minutes later laughing in an excited way.
"I guess you found an admirer, huh, Kathy?" she teased.
I guess I turned red 'cause she kept giving me a hard time.
Finally, I snapped at her, "I'm tired and I'm going to bed now." I guess she felt bad so she came over and gave me a hug.
"I'm sorry, Kath! I wasn't serious. I was just happy to see you talking to a boy and having some fun."
"Oh, it's okay Betty. I think I had too much to drink and the way he kept looking at me made me a little nervous. You are so comfortable with people, I really envy you!"
"Honey, I've been telling you that you are very pretty. You need to loosen up a little and be open to making new friends. Listen! I have a great idea. Let's go down to the spa in the morning and we'll get a new look! Mom told me they are very professional and can do wonders for a girl's image."
I was too tired to protest so I nodded and went on to bed.
The next morning, having forgotten what she had said, I was surprised when she dragged me down to the spa. She had been there once with her mom and knew one of the women working there.
"Gisele, we are turning ourselves over to you. Make us even more beautiful that we are now!" Betty commanded.
Gisele laughed and said, "With such pretty girls I should have an easy task."
They gave us the full treatment: facials, manicure, pedicure and then styled our hair. She cut a couple of inches off mine and then did a more up-to-date look. I was impressed! I almost didn't recognize myself and had a quick thought of how Alain would like the new me. I quickly told Betty how nice she looked and tried to put Alain out of my mind.
Betty's dad was going to play golf and she and her mom were going shopping. I was left alone so I went down to the pool and sat around in the shallow end sipping on an orange juice. I was being careful not to get my hair wet. I decided to get some sun so I laid down on one of the lounges and quickly fell asleep.
There was a shadow covering my face as I gradually woke up. As my eyes opened a little I could see Alain looking at my body. Remembering the swimsuit Betty had made me buy my skin turned a bright red. I'm sure he thought I was sunburned!
His eyes as he looked at me had a strange look, one almost predatory. I had spent one summer when I was twelve at my uncle's dude ranch outside Coeur D'Alene and had been in the barn. There was a big grey tomcat that had a mouse trapped between his large paws. He would play with it, let it escape and suddenly pounce on it again. As Alain looked at my body, barely hidden by the brief swimsuit, I felt like that mouse. My body gave an involuntary shudder and Alain saw/sensed the movement and looked at my eyes.
His face was suddenly transformed by a bright smile, his facial muscles relaxing from an unnatural tightening and his eyes changed from a hard obsidian black to a soft grayish-black with a kind, caring cast to them.
"Kathy, how nice to see you. I can see the ice in your drink is melted; can I get you a new one? What are you drinking?"
I sat up, a little confused by the heat my body had absorbed from the unforgiving sun. I gathered my wits as I pulled the towel over my shoulders and over the brief top of my suit.
"It's just orange juice but I really could use a fresh one – with lots of ice please?"
He walked over to the bar and I put my on my filmy swimsuit cover-up. It was pretty transparent but I felt better. I had had enough sun so I grabbed my stuff and moved to the shade. A few minutes later Alain came back with my drink and something for himself.
"Here, try this," he said as he handed me my drink and sat on the chair next to me.
I took a sip from the glass; the drink was cold and refreshing.
"What is this? It's delicious. I know it's got orange juice but it has something else that's really good."
"I'm glad you like it. It is orange juice and it has just a little champagne in it for flavor. I like it on a hot day like this but I like it even better with breakfast."
I hadn't had very much alcohol before but this tasted pretty weak. We sat there and talked for an hour of so and I had a couple more of them. Alain told me they were called mimosas. When I asked, he agreed that they were mostly orange juice.
"When it's hot like this, you shouldn't drink too much alcohol."
We were switching back and forth between English and French, and I quickly became more comfortable with my French. It was fun to practice and I did better than I would have expected.
From the way he had been looking at me I expected him to make a pass or something ... although I wasn't really sure what a 'pass' was. Betty had talked about it a lot but no one had ever done it to me. Betty had assured me that I would know when someone 'put a move' on me (her words).
But Alain was as nice as he could be and I felt reassured. About five he stood up and told me he had to meet a friend.
"I hope we can meet again. You are a shining light in my dull existence. I lack the words to do proper justice to your beauty but if I may borrow from Shakespeare, you are "An Angel; or, if not, an earthly paragon."
With that he kissed my hand again, put his hand on my cheek for a minute, gently kissed both of my cheeks and walked away.
I stood there, my face some kind of pink, feeling a little bewildered. The last of what he said was in French except for the quote from Shakespeare. The quote from "Cymbeline" I was familiar with from helping with set decoration for a play last year at school.
I gathered my stuff, feeling a little light headed as I stood up. I made it up to the suite but no one was there. I fell down on the bed feeling terribly sleepy all of a sudden. I was a bit dizzy again with the ceiling spinning around slowly. I turned over onto my face and feeling better fell into a deep sleep.
CALM BEFORE THE STORM
"My grief lies onward and my joy behind."
- Shakespeare Sonnet 50,14
I guess this was going to be a regular thing, Betty bouncing up and down on my bed so full of cheer at some ungodly hour. Well, I thought so anyway until I realized it was after nine and I hadn't had dinner the night before. There were two other things that hit me all at once: I had a terrible headache and I was starved – even though my stomach felt a little queasy.
Betty told me I had to get moving because Benny and Ricard were taking us to Isla Mujeres for the day. We were going to El Garrafón, a park on the west end of the island.