Woah! Melodrama! Melodrama! You all know how much I like that… bear with me… please. And no, as much as I wanted to, I'm not killing anyone this time. Geez…
This might look a bit quick-paced. I squeezed two chapters into one :P
Music (reggae): Wisin y Yandel — Dejame Hablar (Let me speak)
— Chapter III —
"So that's the way to dance salsa? Impressive!" Matt said as Betty arrived to the table escorted by Gio. "I didn't know you could dance at all".
"Well, you might not have noticed it" Daniel said with a grin, "but Betty is latina. It's in her blood."
She sat down and said coyly, "not all latinos can dance."
Gio looked deeply into Betty's eyes that trembled as if they wanted to escape but just couldn't manage to.
"Never deny your heritage. It's part of you and who you are" he said in a clear voice.
Matt frowned at Gio's words for Betty. Whoever he was, he had no right to scold her in front of everybody. He forced a smile and said: "Well, well, who would have thought this place was hidden right under the Brooklyn Bridge, eh? Honestly I had no idea".
"If I'm not mistaken, I think the bridge's pedestrian entrance is quite close by, actually. Very nice view of the city. Been there many times, gone once with Betty…" Daniel said looking around. "By the way, have you seen Janice?"
"You have?" Gio said ignoring Daniel's question. "You've even given your boss a date but not to me?" His eyes were mocking but hurt somehow.
"It wasn't a date!" Betty protested. It wasn't the first time she had to clarify that. She felt her head slightly spinning. Gio kept watching her from the corner of his eyes.
Matt felt even more bewildered —How many things he didn't know about Betty. "Well, that looks interesting. I've never heard of anyone that does that".
Betty found an escape, an idea. She leaned closer and whispered to Matt's ear: "Why don't we go there tonight? I'll show you" Matt was a bit surprised for her weird request when they were having such a good time: "You want to go, like, right now?"
Daniel laughed as he heard him and his face lit up. "What a great idea! I think we should all go. Don't you think, Gio?"
"Yeah, not a bad idea at all" Gio said looking intently at Betty. He was resolved to stop going against the odds that night and if he was being played by destiny, he was game. He had no intention to let her out of sight. Not anymore.
"Just give me a minute". Betty said suddenly standing up suffocated by the power of those black eyes. Matt and Gio stood up by her side at the same time.
"Are you alright, Betty?" they both asked.
Betty felt the need for some air. "I need to go to the washroom. I'll be right back… just a minute". She excused herself and left the party.
Then Gio turned to Matt. He was standing tall by his side, a full head above him —and a full bachelor and a master's degree too, apparently. But he didn't felt an inch of jealousy break his cool; instead, he let a cocky smile form in his smooth meaty lips. How he loved a good challenge!
Betty kept walking fast until she found the little common room that lead to the washrooms. She finally got out of all those people surrounding her and she could breathe.
She entered the ladies room and splashed some water to her face. The mirror in front of her trembled as a new song was heard from the distance.
Quiero decir que tú me haces temblar.
It must have been quite popular because she could hear cheering and singing as the music sounded louder even inside the bathroom doors.
Quiero decirte que eres fenomenal.
Estoy afuera. Déjame entrar.
Betty cleaned her face and, wishing the hours passed swiftly for that night to be over, she opened the door.
He was there.
Betty looked around the little waiting room: they were alone. His eyes fixed upon her.
She took a deep breath looking for strength and resolved to walk past through him.
"You didn't have to wait for me."
He blocked her way out with his body preventing her leaving.
"Did you bring him to spite me? Or was it that you needed protection from me."
"I— I'm doing nothing wrong, Gio. And I can do whatever I want because…" she dared to look at him in the eyes, "because you and I are nothing anymore."
He pulled her closer, taking hold of one of her arms.
Es que tú eres mía y yo te quiero tocar.
"Don't tell me you didn't feel it. That you didn't feel us, out there, in the dance floor."
Betty tried to break free from his grasp.
"Gio, what are you—"
As if he wanted to prove his point, he grabbed her and forced his lips into hers, his love devouring her mouth in a starving kiss, with a strength and ardor that boiled her blood in an instant making her feel in purgatory and heaven at the same time. He was killing her.
She managed to break free.
"How dare…" she couldn't speak. She lost her voice. She could barely breathe.
She slapped him across his face.
But he didn't let her go. He had an evil smile engraved in his face and his eyes were shining a defiant stare.
She stared back at him, her heart beating at an alarming pace, her temples pumping to the sound of the loud music around her, breathing fire through her nostrils.
"I'm not afraid of you" he said and, like a snake holds it's prey, he locked her tightly inside his strong arms, in a serpentine embrace, holding her neck steady with his hand pushing her closer to him and eating her lips slowly and quietly as if he had all the time in the world.
Y poco a poco te provoco
Y te empiezo a besar
She couldn't believe what her traitorous body did. She surrendered. He broke all her defenses. And suddenly, she didn't hear any sound anymore, his lips and his breathing became her music. She kissed him back with a hunger he didn't know she had in her. She got consumed and wasted inside his arms unable to satiate her appetite, feeling her body shake from its core, her fingers sinking deeper against his back, hugging him in feverish desperation, looking for salvation, pulling him as closer as their bodies allowed it.
He was the one to break apart pushing her back gently. He began laughing quietly behind that devilish smile. His eyes were the ones of a conqueror.
"I told you."
Betty felt betrayed and madly cursed him and blessed him —how she hated and loved that man that was looking down at her rejoicing scornfully in his revenge! The air was thick between them. Neither of them moved an inch, eyeing one another waiting for the other's reaction.
"Betty!" she heard and looked behind Gio's shoulders. It was Daniel. "We are leaving now".
She nodded and walked out in haste.
Gio touched his own wet lips with the back of his hand as he watched her leave the room. He could still smell her scent.
"What are you doing?! Are you drunk?"
Gio chuckled. He might be.
"Just teaching a lesson."
Daniel raised a finger and pointed at him. "Don't be an ass tonight or I'll—"
"Everything is fine. Actually, you know? I think the night just got better."
Betty couldn't find the front door quickly enough. Matt was there, with her purse and her coat, waiting for her. He welcomed her and didn't notice the upsetting expression in her features. Instead, he pointed at a place in the room.
"I guess the party is going to be smaller now".
Betty turned crimson red as she adjusted her glasses and wondered if Matt was pointing at Gio or if he had seen the whole thing. Instead, she discovered Janice making out with another guy near the bar.
"Your friends are really interesting".
Daniel approached them followed by Gio who was putting on his leather jacket.
"Oh well, I guess I didn't had much of a date, tonight anyway." Daniel gave one last look at Janice who seemed to be having the time of her life. "I was getting used to the idea of her fascination for your small charms, Gio. But, a bartender?!"
His pride was deeply hurt.
"You know how much she liked those flaming shockers."
"But of the bartender, really?"
"Welcome to my world" he said, looking at Betty taking hold of Matt's arm and following them outside the club.
Daniel was wiser and took Gio's advice this time so he didn't call back the limousine. It was already too much that they saw them in it earlier. They walked by the dirty empty streets. It was a pleasant cold night. The street turned into a little dark corner.
Three guys came out of the shadows and blocked their way. Betty screamed, she recognized their faces from the club.
"No. Wait" Gio commanded the rest to calm down. Daniel and Matt were expectant. "What do you want?"
They ordered to give them everything of value they got. The robbers looked young and feeble, most likely they would be easy to take down. But they were certainly drugged. Gio could smell it. They seemed nervous and that was even more dangerous.
"We've got nothing" said Matt suddenly enraged.
"We saw you at the club. This man is loaded" one of them pointed a knife at Daniel.
"Easy. Take it easy, friend." Daniel said taking off his expensive watch and handling it to them.
"Give them what they want" Gio said looking carefully for his wallet, keeping one hand up. "It's better if we make it easy".
One of the guys tried to get a hold of Betty's huge purse. But the adrenaline had already triggered inside Betty's body and, in an irrational outburst of rage, ignoring Gio's advice, she struggled to keep hold of her belonging.
"Leave her alone". Matt yelled and Betty screamed. The guy pushed her and she fell to the floor hitting the curb and passing out.
Gio took the opportunity and punched the guy in front of him. Daniel did the same to the one near him and managed to take hold of his knife. The thug, the one who took Betty's purse, yelled something and ran away followed closely by Matt. Unprotected, the other guys also ran from the scene in opposite direction.
Gio didn't waste a moment. He ran to Betty and kneeled in the street. Daniel's pained fingers managed to find his mobile and call for an ambulance while he looked around anxiously in case they tried to return back.
There was a stream of blood running across her face, her bushy hair in messy strands against the pavement, immobile —was she even breathing?
He had never seen her like that before. He felt like losing it. For the first time he didn't know what to do, what to say, how to act. He just held her there, in the floor, careful not to move her too much. He touched her face, pale and inexpressive. She wasn't angry or amused or making a face at him. He panicked. "Mi amor… amor…mi amor" he whispered as he held her close to his chest.
Matt returned and just stood there, watching the scene, Betty's purse in his hand, until the ambulance arrived.
The scorching feeling of the alcohol against her skin sutured her wounds. The nurse had been very generous and took care of her patiently giving her plenty of time to Betty to heal her own invisible wounds by herself, replaying memories and conversations, setting herself free to the wave of all the emotions that were flowing into her. She was human after all. She had the right to feel afraid of what she didn't understand, of things she never experienced before. How much she had been lying to herself all along and how she had hurt many people in her stubborn denial! She had been so stupid. Tears filled her eyes at her own realization.
"Are you alright, miss?"
"I'm fine" she replied, letting the tears run free. "I've never been better".
Daniel hit the floor with the sole of his shoes. They had been waiting for what seemed ages in the waiting room of that hospital. The doctor had explained them it was nothing to worry about. It was just a simple bruise and she had recovered her conscience. But still Daniel was still preoccupied and felt that the whole incident had been somewhat his fault.
A door opened.
"Where is he?" Betty said storming out of the emergency room.
Matt was standing against a wall. He was confused by her question. His heart sank inside his chest. He understood. He had so many revelations that night though he didn't want to acknowledge half of them.
"He left" he answered quietly. "Betty how are you feeling?"
"No, he is here. I know it."
She looked around anxiously and, without saying a single word, walked out through the exit door.
Matt walked to where Daniel was standing and handled him Betty's colorful purse. "I know when I'm not needed".
Daniel looked at him: he was a pitiful picture of a man. He had been there before, at a hospital just like that one, seeing happiness escape of him in front of his eyes, without anything he could do to change his fate. He reminded him of himself.
Matt kept staring at the door that Betty closed behind. He muttered, half to his own self "I just don't know what I did wrong. I gave my best. I—"
"Don't" Daniel commanded. Matt turned to look at him. "Don't punish yourself. Things are just the way they are. What life gives you; fate can take it away in an instant, no matter how hard you try."
Daniel pointed to the door and continued. "This was their story. We were merely tools."
Matt shook his head.
"I'm not sure I want to accept that".
Daniel watched him go, defeated, walk through the opposite corridor, away from Betty. He chuckled, surprised as his sudden wisdom.
"We just have to keep on living, keep on fighting, and trying harder until we find our own story".
She was right. He hadn't left. He cursed himself a million times those few minutes he had been waiting there, alone. He had a lot of time to think about everything and how he should be wiser and return back home and forget whatever happened that night. But he also knew he would never walk out of that hospital until he was assured she was completely safe and, for that, he pitied himself.
Then he saw her walk to him. She was smiling at him.
"You are always watching my back. Why is that?" she said.
He gave her a sad smile.
"Seems like you are okay".
"Yeah…" she said and couldn't find what else to tell him.
He stood up from the chair he was sitting. It was enough for one night. He knew that across that door her boyfriend was waiting for her. And he was tired. He put his hands inside the pocket of his jacket.
"Well, I'm glad you are fine."
He turned his back at her and motioned himself to the opposite door waving her goodbye.
"My love" she said.
He made a face and hit his forehead with his hand cursing for the tenth time that night.
"I heard" she continued.
She came to him and took his hand. He smiled ashamed of himself. "Well, who even says those things nowadays…"
Her voice was urgent and determined, imploring at him. He finally turned back to look at her. Then he noticed they were not alone.
"You heard the lady. Take her back home" Daniel walked to where they were standing and returned the purse to Betty. "Take my cab. It's waiting outside. Betty, you know you can take tomorrow off. And Gio, you'll owe me one."
How he hated to owe men favors. But Gio smiled in earnest. He was honored to have Daniel among his closest friends.
"I know. Thanks, man."
As they drove back to queens, Gio noticed how she was pulling her bangs, desperately trying to cover her face.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. I just—" she touched the bump in her forehead with her fingers. "I must be looking so ugly" she admitted embarrassed.
He stopped her hand with his and, slowly, he placed his lips against the delicate skin of her face, gently, taking away the pain with soothing kisses. She closed her eyes.
He pulled apart just far enough to contemplate her beautiful expression. She would never be ugly to him. She opened her eyes and she saw him staring at her.
"Betty, I can be gentle, too."
"Then —" he stopped. He didn't want to ruin the moment but his eyes said the words his mouth didn't dare to speak 'then why are you so afraid of me'.
Betty sighed. "You know? When I called Matt to come to the club, it wasn't to make you jealous; it wasn't to protect me from you. Yes, I wanted protection… from myself, from my own feelings… of how I feel when I'm around you".
She placed her hands on top of his.
"I'm not afraid anymore".
Gio nodded and then smiled. He smiled at his luck, at the night and his destiny, the same destiny that made a fool out of himself.
"So this wasn't going to be such a hideous night after all".
Betty looked puzzled at him. But he didn't answer. He just kept on laughing as the taxi rolled the streets on the way to his apartment, where he took care of her for the rest of the night.
The first night of the rest of their lives.
Translation of part of the song played in the disco:
Let me speak
Quiero decirte que tu me haces temblar
I want to tell you that you make me tremble
Quiero decirte que eres fenomenal
I want to tell you that you are phenomenal
Que estoy afuera. Dejame entrar
That I'm outside. Let me in
Es que tu eres mía y yo te quiero tocar
That you are mine and I want to touch you
Y poco a poco te provoco
And slowly I seduce you
Y te empiezo a besar
And I start kissing you
Y poco a poco yo te toco
And slowly I touch you
Y te empieza a gustar
And you start liking it