The darkness seemed to take shape inside my head, like black roses blossoming behind my eye lids. Then something strange happened, something absolutely insane. I was standing in the far corner of the room watching as he stomped his foot into something on the ground.
I moved closer. Cautiously I took a few quick steps towards him, and then stopped. I watched in disbelief. I was watching, no witnessing myself being beaten into a pulp, being stepped on like a little bug that didn’t have a single worth in the world. The sound of his grunts and curses echoed deep into the thick air. His voice ringing, burning in my ears. I could taste the blood in my mouth warm and coppery. Then as his foot lifted in the air one more time I cringed away, closing my eyes sure that this would be the final blow…
I’m not quite sure how I got here. In a puddle of my own blood, hurting so much that my body turned numb. I became one of those, you know who I’m talking about… the punching bags. I was once a woman so proud, my head held high. A head full of legal knowledge, by the way. But apparently not much of common sense. I should have followed my heart and kept my head, my fears and worries on mute. So how did I get here, love led me here, that’s how.
Two years earlier….
I walked into my Papa’s house, excited to be home. Breathing in that nostalgic scent of home a sense of belonging hit me. I was home. I was finally home. After years of studying and toiling to be what my Papa expected of me, this is where I wanted to be.
My Papa’s hacienda was in Sultepec, Toluca Mexico. The country side was beautiful and peaceful, a total contrast to the busy cities of Spain. This was the time that I needed to wind down before going to my new job in Mexico City. Papa had managed to get his friend to employ me at his law firm. I would like to think that my exceptional grades got me in, but the truth was, Senor Montero was my god-father and he felt obligated to give me a job. Sure enough with a little twist of the arm from my father, he agreed.
But that didn’t matter, I was home and I was free to enjoy the things that I denied myself for almost fifteen years. My father had sent me away when I was twelve. He either didn’t know what to do with a teenage girl, or he didn’t need a reminder of what he had lost. Staring at me every single day ever since my mother’s death, could have been too much for him.
I stepped out of the house, the bull pen where they trained the horses in front of me. Inside it, a man’s half naked body stared at me, teasing me invitingly. I almost didn’t notice the huge white stallion next to him. With the way his head was bent, the rim of his Stetson hid the better part of his face. But his lips were visible, twisted in a scowl, but that didn’t take away from their beauty. They were thick, full kissable lips. As for the rest of his body everything was bare for my scrutiny. His muscled chest glistened with sweat, and as he pulled the horse’s reigns, the muscles in his hands and chest tightened, the muscles in his jean clad thighs seemed like they were about to tear through the denim for freedom. What I would give to be that man’s main focus for just a second. Or an hour.
But just as my fantasies were running away with me, I had someone call my name, so I went back into the house. I could hear dragged footsteps and light thudding coming up behind me, and I immediately knew who it was. Years had gone by, but the sound of my grandmother’s footsteps had stayed with me.
“Elita,” She called in her husky Mexican accent, “Come here baby, give your grandmother a hug.” She held her wrinkled arms out to me and like a little girl, I rushed into them.
“Abuela how are you?” I gave her a hug and rested my head on her chest. I had dreamt of this for so many nights and finally getting to do it seemed like another dream.
“My baby, mi niña, how have you been?” She held me at arms length, taking in an eye full. I knew what she was going to say so I braced myself, “Why are you so thin?”
“I’m not thin.” I laughed through clouded eyes, my heart souring. “Where is Papa?”
“Where else would he be. He’s outside with the horses. Sometimes I think he prefers their company to mine.” I helped her into a chair, and then knelt at her feet. It felt like Christmas all over again, when I would unwrap gifts at her feet while she combed her bony fingers through my silk y locks.
“Go and see your Papa, I know you want to. I will tell Maria to make your favorite food.”
Maria was the cook and also an elderly woman. It was a wonder that she was still working for my father. “Maria is still here. I’ll go to the kitchen later and see her. Right now I’m going to find Papa. Will you be alright by yourself?”
“Sure I will.”
I ran out the sliding glass doors, the first thing I noticed were that the man with the horse was no longer there. Disappointed, I headed for the stables. Papa loved his horses more than anything else in his world; well not as much as he did me, hopefully.
“Papa!” I called out once I was in range. The stench that came out of the stables was terrible. It seemed to have formed an invisible screen wall that I dared not walk through. I stood a safe distance away, but still made sure that he could hear me. “Papa!” I called out again, a little louder this time.
“Gabriella,” he exclaimed happily as he walked the distance that I wouldn’t, “Mija, how have you been? Did the driver come for you in time?” He hugged me with all the dirt and straws of hay that he had picked up from the stables.
“I would have preferred it if you picked me up, but I see you’re busy with the horses.” I gave him a kiss on his forehead as I always did, but soon regretted it when a salt taste was left on my lips.
“I’m sorry one of the fouls was sick. I hope you understand.” He gave me a look that I couldn’t stay mad at.
“It’s fine Papa.” I gave him a kiss and hugged him as tight as I could, soaking up the love he had for me, and the sweat.
“Senor Lombardo, the foul seems to be fine.” A voice called from the barn. The deep velvety baritone rumble burrowed to my core.
“Tony, just leave it and come out here.” Papa instructed.
A feeling of excitement tickled me, but at the same time I was waiting to be disappointed. Most of the time I had seen men with booming husky tones but their voices never matched their bodies. But I wasn’t disappointed. Tony walked out of the barn and his sweaty body glistened in the sun. He looked like the picture that you only saw on the cover of novels or the leading men in the intoxicating telenovelas. His tanned skin brought out the beautiful almost hazel color of his eyes. His blonde hair was kept short and tidy, as his six pack abs were neatly stacked against each other.
I was hypnotized. Every sense in my body was drawn to him. I didn’t hear what the two men said. And when I saw him stretch his hand out, I took it, and immediately a million volts of energy soared through my body and landed on home plate. I almost purred like a fourteen year old girl faced by her first crush.
“It’s nice to meet you, Senorita Gabriella.”
I hang onto his tongue as he rolled the ‘r’ in my name. His voice went through my ears and fogged my head once more. My eyes were going into shock, roving from his eyes to his weakening smile, to the muscles in his arms then to his abs, knowing not what to look at next. I was in limbo, but a nudge from Papa cleared it all out. I cleared my throat and tried to get a grip on my hysterical hormones.
“You can call me Ela or Elita. My grandmother calls me Elita, Papa just calls me Ela. But you can call me whatever you want, Gabriella is fine too.” I was rumbling and soon I was out of breath. I breathed in through my nose and tried to play it cool, “It is nice to meet you too.” In my mind the direct translation was, come and get me cowboy!
“I think your father would prefer if I called you Senorita Gabriella.” He smiled once more and a slight whimper escaped my throat and a gasp from my lips, my hand flew to my mouth too late to save me from the embarrassment.
Tony’s broad beautiful face went into a smile.
His smile was my kryptonite and slowly this stranger was breaking down my walls brick by brick.
“I would,” Papa said.
Of course he would. Ever since I was a child father needed me to make a distinction between the servants and friends. ‘They are our employees not our friends’ he always said. But under no circumstance was I going to let Tony see me as his superior. I intended to be his equal and eventually his friend, and maybe something more, but much later on.
“Maybe you could take me for a ride sometime.” It sounded innocent in my head but the sly smile on Tony’s face told me different. At least, his mind was on the same wave length as mine, “On the horses, I mean. To see the fields, that is if you are not working.”
“Of course Senorita, I’m sure your father would also like to join us.” Tony in turn invited my father, awesome.
“Sure.” Papa smiled at me and I smiled back.
If Tony was one of his son’s friends, wealthy and powerful he would have never thought of inviting himself to my date. Papa and I walked back to the house and every couple of seconds I turned back and stole glances of Tony. He was a hunk of a man and all of me wanted him.
“Papa, where is Tony from?” I tried to make my voice to sound as casual as I could.
“I think he is from Toluca, why do you ask?”
“Nothing, I was just curious.”
The rest of the day dragged on. I had lunch with my family and helped my Papa plan my welcome home party. It was unnecessary, seeing that I had already been home a day and the party was for that weekend. But it was an excuse for my Papa to have his friends around, drink and brag about my accomplishments.
That night I sat out on my bedroom balcony, looking out at the fields. Everything was so peaceful and still, there was no noise to drive me crazy allowing me to fantasize about Tony in peace. My mind was the only place our relationship would thrive. He would be my fantasy boyfriend as my father went on a search for my husband.
I went to bed that night more frustrated than ever.