“Restaurante De Lemus,” Mar reads. “Latin?”
“You like Latin food, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I love it,” she murmurs.
I’ve been waiting for over two minutes for some old lady to get in her car and drive away so I can take her spot, but she won’t stop flirting long enough to get in the damn car. Finally, the younger guy she is with opens her door for her. The way he caresses her tells me she’s a cougar. It makes me want to vomit. She could be his grandmother. She must be rich, why else would he be with her. Bee’s to honey.
I pull in and shut off the engine.
“Do you think I should take my sweater?”
“Umm, yeah. You might want one, restaurants are usually kind of chilly.”
I hold open the door and we enter a waiting area with leather chairs lining both sides. The room is much cooler than outside, just as was expected. I hold open the second set of doors which opens to the restaurant itself; it’s cooler still. I’m glad I advised her to bring her sweater. The receptionist greets us warmly. I ask for a private table in the non-smoking section. She takes us to a quiet table in the back. Good, more private. I won’t have to be bothered by the hum of voices or the clatter of utensils meeting dining ware.
I pull out her chair for her before I get seated.
“Someone will be with you momentarily.”
A few seconds later a waiter appears giving us our menus. He gives us a few minutes to figure out what we’re going to order while he tends to some of the other tables.
“May I take your orders?”
“I’ll have the Enchilada Grande and a coke,” I say to the waiter as I hand him my menu.
“And you miss?”
“The same please, thank you.” He nods and walks away.
“So, how do you like the place?” The place is big, nice, and expensive. The tables in the area closest to us are circular and covered in pristine cloth like ours. The room is lit by little lamps that dangle above the table. The walls have murals of Latin girls dancing and what not. The waiters and waitresses are all young and most of them good-looking. I was concerned about having a waiter instead of a waitress, but my luck seemed to change because he was ugly. No competition there. I would have liked to take her to a nicer restaurant, but I can’t afford it and besides; if I use all my spending money I won’t be able to take her anyplace else. Marimar’s looking around the room taking it all in.
“It’s nice, thank you. You know, you didn’t have to go all out. A burger place would have sufficed.”
I know, stop reminding me. “It’s fine. Don’t worry, besides, you are totally worth it.” She blushes, the color of her cheeks turn to a rosy red, her eyelids drop revealing her long black eyelashes as she tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear.
“Here are your two cokes; the meal will be out in just a few minutes.” Just before the waiter turns to leave, he takes a look over at Marimar not realizing that I am watching. Mar doesn’t seem to notice, she’s taking a long draw from her coke.
I sip my coke trying to think about what to say, when Marimar starts to speak.
“How did you know about this restaurant?”
“A friend of mine told me about it.”
“Why do you ask?”
“I just thought that you might have taken your ex here.”
“Nope. Never been here in my life,” I respond. “Let me ask you a question?”
“Is this your first date?”
“What makes you think that?”
“First of all, girls don’t usually say you can take me for a burger, that’s not how it works. Now I figure you either had some crappy boyfriends or you haven’t ever dated. That, and every other guy who ever tried to ask you out is buried in the basement of your old house.” Mar laughed so loud I could tell she embarrassed herself. I love her laugh.
“You’re very perceptive,” she says still chuckling.
“Mmm-hmm. Why is that? I mean I bet — I mean I know you had a lot of guys interested in you?”
“I wasn’t interested.”
“So, you’re telling me you weren’t interested in one guy? And you say you aren’t picky?”
“That’s what I said.”
“Mmm-hmm, sure.” She rolls her eyes — that seems to be a habit of hers — and takes another long sip of her coke. “Alrighty then, let me ask you another question.” I hesitate.
It’s too late, man. You already caught her attention. You have to ask her now.
“Why did you accept my offer?” It’s her turn to hesitate.
“I accepted because … I thought you might be a nice guy and you don’t seem like a wuss. You still took me out even after you met Papa. All of the guys that knew my Papa wouldn’t even think about asking me out —” She stops suddenly, like she hadn’t meant to say that last part. That took me for a loop. So she wasn’t being picky. Nobody had ever asked her.
“How can that be?” I ask, beside myself. I should have probably left it at that.
“Like I said, they were all too afraid to ask with Papa around giving them the third degree,” Mar says carelessly as she flips strands of curls back behind her shoulder.
“That’s why he put out all the stops for you. He wanted to see if you were going to go anywhere.”
I’m not going anywhere, I think. Before I can say anything our waiter shows up with our food.
“Here are your orders, call me if you need anything.” He directed that last part to Marimar.
“Thank you,” we both reply. Marimar straightens up in her seat and takes the utensils off of the napkin and places them onto either side of her plate, she places her napkin down onto her lap.
The smell is mouth-watering. I take a big bite.
“Tasty. How do you like it?” Mar asks.
I can’t reply. I’m trying too hard to swallow the piping hot mass in my mouth. My mouth feels as if it’s blistering. I gotta spit this sucker out! It’s sticking like napalm! Ugh, she’s looking at me, waiting for me to reply. Suck it up! Be a man! Swallow the stupid thing!
Swallow. I clear my throat. Ugh.
“Mmm, it’s good. I just burnt my tongue is all.” My voice is hoarse and my eyes are tearing up. I gulp down some of my coke to help to relieve the burn.
“Didn’t you see the excessive amount of steam hovering over it? Didn’t you see me blowing on my food?” she asks while giggling.
“Nice. Kick me while I’m down,” I say to keep her laughing, even if she is laughing at my expense. I love the sound of her laugh, it’s soft and sweet. Sexy. I can’t get enough of it.
“Now you know why you don’t scarf down your food.”
“Rub it in.” I take another bite, this time making sure that it cooled off first. “Great. I can’t taste anything.” That really kills her, she almost spat out her coke — at least we’d be even — and she is now holding her sides; she’s laughing so hard. Tears of laughter are streaming down her naturally rouge filled cheeks. I join in. I have to admit that was pretty stupid of me.
“So, tell me about yourself?” I inquired after her laughter subsided. She wipes her eyes with the back of her hand; if she had makeup on she’d have raccoon eyes.
“What do you want to know?”
“Anything, you can start by your favorite color.”
“Army Green. Favorite food?”
“Mama’s Guatemalan enchiladas.”
“I’d bet they taste better than here. Mine is steak and a baked potato. Movie?”
“Bourne Identity. Hmm, Book?”
“Little Women. Your turn.”
“The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. Flower?”
“Chocolate. Especially, Nutella.”
“Who doesn’t love Nutella.”
“My turn to ask you some questions.” Uh-oh, just when everything is going great. I bet she’s going to ask about my parents. My most dreaded subject. I don’t even talk about them among my friends — I avoid it like the plague. They’ve learned early on not to ask me about them if they don’t want me to shut off. They get it. They’ve seen the bruises, scrapes, and what not. When my teacher’s try to ask me about them, they sometimes help me with an excuse like, I tripped down the stairs again or something stupid like that. The funny thing is that I’m not a klutz and I’m very coordinated, and come on, how many times a week can somebody fall down and hurt themselves? I’m on the wrestling team and I never walk out of practices or matches as banged up as I do coming from home. Anybody can add up the facts. It’s just that the truth isn’t pretty and people like to live in the dark. People just don’t care.
“Why did you ask me out?”
I’m bewildered. That caught me off guard. I thought I had already made that clear. “Umm …” Why am I so nervous? I’ve never been so nervous with any other girl. “Umm … when I first saw you I felt like I … I had to know who you were and I had to get to know you. So, here we are.” That seems to please her. Mars face radiates like what I had said helped with the obvious insecurity hidden behind her sarcasm. No matter how indifferent she may try to act she’s not going to fool me. Marimar has the same feelings for me as I have for her.
“What else do you got for me?” Now she’s definitely going to ask. Something has to give.
“I don’t know … let’s see … hmm … I got one. Not that it matters … I’m just being curious, but … what religion do you belong to?”
“Oh, that’s all. My parents consider themselves Born Again Christians, but I don’t know about me. I do sort of believe in some of the fundamentals like heaven and hell.” I hope there’s a hell, because I’d sure would like to see Bubba; my stepdad, down in it. “So I sort of have to believe in God, but a denomination of religion … I’d have to say I don’t have one.” I hope that telling her the truth isn’t going to push her away from me.
“You’re not religious,” she says more to herself than to me. “I’m glad you said that, because my parents and I are atheists.” Mar analyzes my face for a few seconds. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“What do you want me to say?”
“That it doesn’t bother you,” she replies, articulating each word.
“It doesn’t, I told you already I wasn’t religious. Did you think I was lying?” She hesitates.
“No,” she says as she twists a curl in her hand.
“Now I know what you look like when you’re lying,” I point to her hand. She looks down at the curl in her hand and releases it. It bounces back into place.
“I was playing with my hair,” Mar states, defensively.
“Sure you were.”
I take another bite of my enchilada. Mar doesn’t touch her plate; she leans back, slouching as she bites the inside of her cheek in concentration. Her face lights up like a light-bulb went off in her head.
“I know, what kind of career choice do you have in mind?” Huh, I’ve never had given that much thought. My only plan for the future is to get a place to live when I turn eighteen in a little over a year. I pretty much have to. The day that I turn eighteen is the day that I’m going to be kicked out of the house. If I don’t find a place I’ll be living on the streets trying hard to scrape by, unless one of my friends make good on their promise to take me in, but even then their parents might not be so welcoming.
“I don’t know actually, I’m kinda undecided. How about you? What are you going to do with your life?”
“My Papa wants me to be a doctor, but I don’t think I have the stomach for that kind of thing. Mama wants me just to find a husband and give them grandchildren. Don’t laugh, but when I was little — like all other kids — I wanted to be an actress. I always wanted to be in the lime-light until I realized that I hate to perform in front of people, so now I guess I’m undecided as well.”
Hmm, not surprising, she has the looks for it and probably the charisma. Selfishly, I’m glad that she can’t act, because if she became Miss Hollywood I’d have even more of a rat’s chance in hell to ever be her boyfriend.
“I’m all out of questions, your turn.”
I pause for a moment thinking of what else I’m going to ask and to take another bite. I’m finding this difficult to accomplish with her staring at me, waiting patiently for me to speak. I find myself lost in her luminous copper eyes. Her red glossy lips are turned up at the corners into a slight, gentle smile; coinciding perfectly with her light brown skin. Her eyebrows arching up as to say, “I’m waiting”— her lips separate into a wide smile exposing perfectly white, gleaming teeth. Stunning.
Tap. Tap. Tap. I peel my eyes away from her face to gaze down at the table. A petite hand is drumming its fingertips on the table impatiently. Redirecting my attention, I trace the design on the tablecloth, trying hard to keep focused. Concentrate. Think. I take another bite to buy me some more time to think. Only seconds have passed. What else, what else? Ah, I got it. Perfect. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I swallow quickly not bothering to chew. I look up from the cloth and into her eyes and say, “How do you like your house? Anything weird happen yet?”
“No, nothing, nada, zip. I think it’s just an old wives’ tale. You don’t actually believe in all that nonsense do you? You were just telling me that story to freak me out, right? You didn’t think I was going to buy into that story did you? I mean, you didn’t experience anything, or is there something you haven’t told me? Had the house given you the creeps or something?”
“No,” I utter slowly, “but I was only really in there for twenty minutes, that’s not long enough for anything to happen.” Actually I wasn’t really concerned about the house; I was more worried about the madman who wanted to kill me. Who wouldn’t be? “And yes, I do believe that the story is true. And no, I wasn’t trying to freak you out. I just wanted to make sure you knew what you were walking into. If our roles were reversed I would want someone to tell me.”
“Thanks, but I’ve slept in the house for two whole days and nothing has happened to me,” Miss Know-it-all says dismissively, while flipping her hair back.
“… I’ve slept in the house for two whole days and nothing has happened to me.” I imitate her tone, to add a touch of flare I even pretend to flip my hair back. She’s not amused. Her eyebrow arches and her mouth forms a pout in distaste. Jeez, women! They think they know everything.
“Haven’t you ever seen paranormal shows? These things take time.”
“Hmm, I recall you saying that the Realtors and the cleaning crew were the last ones to step into the house,” her eyes are squinted in suspicion, “right?”
“And it doesn’t take a month to fix up the house. Only a couple of weeks and like you said, these things take time. So when did these strange anomalies occur? Three weeks? That’s not a lot of time. Don’t you think?” Her lips turn up in ridicule, and her eyes express contempt — haughtiness leaks out of her from every pore. I’m just trying to caution her so that she is aware of her situation. Why does she have to be so difficult? I suppose that she wouldn’t be half so interesting if she wasn’t. You have to take your good with your bad, but her superior attitude is pretty provoking. I never specified how long it takes, and a couple of weeks are plenty of time for strange anomalies to occur. I tell her so.
“Whatever.” That shut her right up — that’ll teach her to be so uppity. A few minutes of silence follows on her part. Not surprisingly. So much pride for such a small creature, amazing.
I try to start up a conversation, but after a few minutes I give it up. She refuses to look at me and when I try to talk she just brushes me off only answering with a simple yes or no.
I have to do something to salvage this date. Little Miss high-and-mighty doesn’t seem to have an urge to do anything of the sort. I sigh sharply before I speak.
“Look, I was only trying to help … I didn’t mean to piss you off. I’m sorry if my words rubbed you the wrong way.” My mouth tastes bitter from the pride I just swallowed. Her expression softens. Mixed emotions are painted on her face; remorse playing alongside civility.
“No, don’t,” Mar sighs, “don’t apologize. I was in the wrong.” She swallows hard. Looks like I wasn’t the only one having a hard time swallowing their pride. “You were trying to be helpful and I should have taken it as beneficial. And you’re right; most of the paranormal shows that I have watched have shown that some paranormal activity doesn’t happen within the blink of an eye. I apologize. Forgive me?” Truly she meant it.
“There’s nothing to forgive.”
“Good, ‘cause you’re my ride home.”
I pull up to her driveway. Before I can turn off the engine, her father is there, looking threatening as ever. Their driveway is so far up the lane that nobody would be able to see us from the street. He knocks on my window; actually he’s more like pounding on it. Who put a burr in his saddle?
“Roll down the window.” His voice is distorted through the glass. “Now!” I crank it down reluctantly. He looks pissed. His veins are practically protruding out of his neck. I hope he doesn’t have high blood pressure. If he drops dead because of our first date she’ll never see me again.
“Marimar, get out of the truck and go into the house.”
“Bye!” she says quickly, while unbuckling her seatbelt. We lock eyes for one brief second, and then she’s gone. I can’t watch her leave; her father is demanding my time.
“I,” wicked maniacal chuckle, “can’t believe that I let her out of the house with you.” I don’t know if he’s talking to me or himself. Though his eyes are set on me they are distant, unseeing. They seem to be going right through me as if he is somewhere else. He doesn’t look to be all there. Great!
For a moment the fire within his eyes seem to extinguish and then there they are again, rekindled; blazing hotter than before.
His face warps into a scowl before he softens his features, as if taming a wild beast. His voice is even and steady. I could almost say that he looks calm, if I didn’t notice the fire raging in his eyes. He opens his mouth and says, “Nice truck, It probably would suck if someone banged it up, wouldn’t it?” Like father like daughter.
Click. Oh, crap!!! Now I understand. The strange expression on his face as I was driving away was RECOGNITION!!! He knows I’m the guy that almost killed them. I’m screwed. I’m in for a world class beating.