I just couldn't get this episode out of my head, and I figured on doing what I did for Dog Day Afternoons, for Lilly/Ray. I loved Sancuary, and it wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it. I plan on doing Scotty-1998, then Ana, then Lilly, then Scotty-2006
I cough up a ten dollar bill, hand it over to the lady selling 'em. No big thing, it's just a way to put a smile on a pretty face without too much work being it. Besides, women are suckers for flowers. I swear, it's in the chick handbook: Guideline #2, Guys are losers if they don't give you flowers. Ana ain't like that though. She don't expect, and she don't have all these hidden rules. She's easy to be with, and these days, I can use all of that I can get, 'cause I ain't getting much anywhere else.
Scanning the area for trouble, I plant myself in the middle of a crowd, my fingers closing tighter around the paper protecting her flowers. There's always the chance something will go wrong. This line of work is a constant highwire act, especially for the girls. One false step, and they're history. Ana's good, maybe the best Ramiro's got, but even she ain't immune from a slip up. If she does, she's screwed on either side, no winning there. Dead or in prison. What a great choice.
If somebody looked at Ana, they'd never guess. She looks more qualified to be a nun than a drug runner. Just proves you can't go on looks. She don't belong in this line of work, but who does? Like a lot of the girls, she was suckered in by what she could do for her family, what the money could do. A thousand bucks is peanuts compared to what the goods in 'em are worth, but to Ana, that kind of cash might as well be a million, for her family too. Where Ana's concerned, her family's everything.
Finally, I see her get off the esclator, and when I see her, it hits me. I've missed her, and it don't sit right. It means she's getting under my skin, in my head, and that's bad news. Six billion people on the planet, plenty of them gotta be chicks, and she's on the list of people of billions of chicks off limits. Besides, there's Elisa. Even if things are screwed up, I love her to pieces. Sure, being with the same girl since you're fourteen makes a guy wonder, but I know when I look at the future, one without Elisa just don't make sense.
That train of thought takes a nosedive when I see Anna. Nothing flashly about her. The only jewlery she's sporting is a pair of earrings, ones I've seen before, a gift from her 13th birthday, and thin gold chain around her neck. She's wearing a denim skirt that brushes up around her knees, a red pull-over sweater, and a tan jacket. She's wearing those curls down, framing that cutie-pie face. She ain't one to slap a lot of make-up on it, a little lipstick, some mascara, maybe some foundation to smooth it all out. Too bad my sisters didn't operate that way, who used to hold up the bathroom for two hours, making my mother scream her head off, and all of us late for school for about the thousandth time.
It ain't my sisters I'm thinking of at that moment though. I hand her the flowers, feeling good about seeing her. "Hola, carino."
"Hola!" She sees the flowers, and her face lights up like Christmas. She takes them from me, fingers them like she's never gotten a bouquet before. Touched, I reach out, take her chin in my hand. Those eyes connect to mine, all innocence and curiousity. Without giving myself time to think it through, I lean down, land my lips on hers. There's electricty in it, and I feel Ana shiver. Sometimes, it's too damned bad how things work out.
"You look good," I tell her, caressing her face with the side of my thumb because I want to. She looks stunned for a couple seconds, but recovers pretty quick, smiling.
"Mentiroso. No, I don't," she argues with me. I still say I'm right.
I don't want to confuse her anymore, this ain't a game, least not to me. I pick up her bag. Gotta admire a woman that travels light. "Come on, let's hit the road."
The whole way to the car, she entertains me with stories from home, mostly about Sofia. Five years between them, and she was Ana's baby from the start. From what Ana says, she was the one to name her, was the one who let a crying baby sleep in her bed, the one who looked after her while the folks worked longs hours. 'Bossy' is how Ana describes her, 'smart-mouthed' more than once, but you can tell the sun sets and rises on the kid, and not just with Ana.
I pull out of the parking lot, craving the speed. Everybody's born to die, why walk on eggshells in the meantime? If you ain't got a rush now and then, but what's the point of being alive? Ana lets out of gasp, then giggles, shaking her head at me. I wink, and she averts her eyes shyly, before looking back at the flowers, fingering them almost tender like. I return my eyes to the road.
"You never brought flowers before," she says.
"Well, there was a lady selling them outside." One that looked like she could use the ten dollars, so why not?
"You never kissed me before either," she points out, keeping her eyes focused straight ahead. I can't tell by her voice if she's pissed or not.
I decide to go for the easy out. In this case, no point in taking the other way. "Just making it look good." I take a good look at her, and she's not pissed...just amused and a little off guard. I reach out my hand for her passport, playing my part.
Ana shakes her hand, digs out her passport. "You must be fighting with your real girlfriend."
Okay, so she thinks I'm rebelling. I wish it were that simple, just a normal fight between a normal couple. No, Elisa hasn't been giving me any grief, not that she can't help anyway. I try to laugh it off, but it ain't so funny when you know the whole story. "What makes you say that?"
"I'm right, yeah?" she persists, then chuckles.
"Eh, she wants a wedding date." It's the last thing we need, the hassle of a wedding, on top of everything else. "I don't know what the big rush is."
Leaning her head back on the headrest, Ana gives me one of those long looks. "You should be happy you have someone, Alvaro."
I know that. In spite of everything, Elisa's one in a million, and my life would suck without her. Still...the idea of getting married at 22, with or without her baggage, makes me edgy. Ain't that kind of a bad sign? "I just don't see doing that till I want kids."
"When's that?" she wants to know.
That earns me a light punch on the arm. "You're like my sister, Sophia," she informs me. "We call her la princesa because she wants everything."
"Asi." Why not? Life can be a party, you play your cards right. I gotta laugh at the face Ana's making at me. When's the last time she did something for the hell of it, because she wanted it? Almost like she's answering my question, she takes out a folded up piece of paper. It looks like it's something out of a magazine. "What's that?"
"It's what I want. Get a job for a big company on the Bigota. Work by a window with a nice view, flowers on my desk." The way she talks, I can tell that she's had the picture in her head for a long time, everything she wants out of life in one lump sum. It must be nice, knowing exactly what you want.
"Bet you can make that happen." Knowing Ana, she can get anything she sets out for. Now, for the question of the hour. "So, are you going to stop this work?"
"I'm telling Ramiro tonight," she announces firmly.
I go for understatement of the year. "You know he won't let you go easy."
Ana wanting out ain't exactly the shock of the century. Some people dig this life, life on the edge, every second a thrill. I got to admit, I get what hooks people. This life can be as much of a drug as the heroin these girls carry around in their gut. It ain't like that for her though. She's doing it for her family, and now she's got other options to check out. Hey, I'm all for her getting out of here, I don't want her to get twisted up when the bust goes down. I just don't think it's going to go as smooth as either of us are hoping.
I pass a guy, doing it fast and neat. They call it the fast lane for a reason, jackass. The speed goes up to 70, and I ride the road, hugging the curves hard. "You drive fast," my passanger observes.
"It's the only speed I know." The only speed I wanna know.
"You like the rush."
Like it? Hell, it's what gets me through the day sometimes, the burst of energy bursting through your system, making you feel alive, for a while anyway.
I bet I ain't the only one. "Don't you?"
"Nah." I scoff. Yeah, right. "What?"
"Come on." Who you trying to sell, Ana? "When you're lying to the ball-buster Customs cop, all those drug dogs are sniffing at you, and then he finally waves you on through...how do you feel?"
The whole time I've been talking, she's smiling and laughing, and I just got to notice how she ain't just pretty when she does that. She's beautiful. "Great," she admits a little sheepishly.
"Ah!" Caught you, didn't I?"
"Yeah, it feels great." It don't sit right with her, liking something like that. It isn't part of the world she wants for herself, or been programmed to want. Just like wanting her don't sit right with me. There's a hundred reasons for her being off limits, and maybe that's part of why I want ignore the 'touch and die' sign.
"'Cause it's a rush, right? That's what I'm talking about." It's okay to feel that way, it's human.
"I pretend I'm someone else when I talk to them," she tells me. "Someone who is not scared."
It hits a little too close to home. The lie within a lie. "And it works."
"You do the same thing?" The way she asks that, like she knows the answer, has me looking over. I study her for a minute, trying to read her, then focus my eyes back on the road. Don't get paranoid...
"I took your phone, Alvaro," she says, taking it out of her purse. I keep my cool, take it from her. Maybe she hasn't put two and two together. Then there's a part of me that wants her to solve it, so I can get rid of these damned lies I want to choke on.
Keeping my mask on, I take it from her. "I thought I lost it at work." It's thin, but the best I can come up with on short notice.
"I saw the names on it. I know who you really are. It makes sense." I played this moment over and over in my head, what would happen if she found me out. What would she do? Would she be pissed? Would she go and snitch on me? Or would she look at me with quiet hurt because I'd lied to her?
I didn't see this one coming, and the cop in me is telling me to shut her down, the man, the one that's connected to her, wants to put myself in her hands. Obviously, she ain't gonna rat me out. If that was her plan, she'd have kept her mouth shut, and gone straight to Ramiro. I can trust her, but I'm a cop. It might be corny, but doing my job means a lot, and I can't loose sight of that.
Oh, she's just got to keep on going. She's leans forward in her seat, keeping at me. Hell, she might have made a good cop. "That you're more than just this...driver."
God help me. "Ana, don't talk about it! I mean it!"
She falls back into her seat, the slap of my words sending her into silence. Still, we both know I ain't denying nothing, that I've confirmed what's been brewing her in mind since last trip. I just don't got it in me to keep lying to her, since I'm busted anyway. I tuck the phone away, although I have the urge to chuck it out the window. Given away by my own cell phone. That's rich.
Switching lanes, I pull into the hotel parking lot. It's the last thing I want to do. I hate leaving it like this, all I want to do is speed off with her. And to hell with the job? A sinister little voice buzzes in my head. To hell with Elisa? Okay, I got it!
"You ready?" I ask her.
"Will you give me your phone number?"
Love to, but...there's only a zillion ways that could screw up everything. "I can't."
"So this is goodbye, then." She won't look at me, keeping her emotions cut off, and I am too. The masks are back on, and it's so fucked up, I want to scream. Then I feel her eyes on me, and have to swallow over a lump in my throat. When did I get to be such a wuss?
"It's been good...talking to you." Even if live to be a hundred and ten, I ain't ever forgetting the short time we spent together. That scares me, 'cause it doesn't make sense.
Then she's smiling, so sweet, and I feel my resolve start to crumble. "Be nice to your girlfriend. She won't wait until you're 40."
"Ana." Her name is out of my mouth before I can help it. I make sure no one's looking, and scribble a number down. It's against my training, against the rules...everything I'm supposed to stand for. "Only if you're in trouble," I tell her, praying she'll never have to use it, but at the same time, hoping she will, so I can help her get free of this trap.
Giving a little nod of agreement, she grips the paper, wrapping her fingers around mine in the process. The contact feels right, and I never want to let her go. Then she's getting out of the car. How was I supposed to know that I'd never see her again?