The sun was bright, but the beach umbrella was broad, and Cordelia muted the glare even more with properly stylish sunglasses. She could see the ocean from the hotel's terrace where (as promised) she rested poolside, and hear the murmur of the waves … and that was all the proximity she needed, she'd had enough Nature In The Raw lately to last her till the end of the year. (Or decade. Or millennium … and, since it was already 1998, that might not even be exaggeration.) On her return to the comforts of civilization, Cordelia had stripped, showered, and then slept for thirteen hours solid; when she woke, well into the afternoon, it was to launch herself into every spa treatment offered by her hotel or any of the nearby establishments. Full-body massage, a deep and agonizing (but oh so welcome) foot massage, steams, soaks, rinses, creams, lotions, oils, shampoos, wraps, facials … and, of course, the most comprehensive, exacting, meticulous pedicure of her entire life.

(The Danicas were in her suitcase. Beyond hope of restoration, they would be buried with honor when she got home.)

All of this was solo. Her mother remained secluded in her own room, her father was still away. (Oh, well, at least he didn't seem to have a secretary or 'assistant' along this time.) At the end of that, and another night's sleep, Cordelia was ready to proclaim herself almost fully human again. Not completely recovered, not yet, her ordeal was not to be so casually dismissed. But the horror was fading, and she felt … good.

And — no point in denying it — satisfied.

She wasn't about to get nostalgic over what she'd just gone through. Still, there were moments worth remembering, particularly the one where she marched straight up to the big bad of the moment, told him off in no uncertain terms, and then took that sucker down. Back when she'd first begun her involvement with the 'Scoobies', but before the unexpected involvement with Xander, he had once challenged her: "If you ever actually have to face a demon yourself, what're you gonna do, Cordy? Bitch him to death?"

Turned out, that was totally possible.

With a small jolt of surprise, Cordelia realized she had just thought of Xander and smiled. Huh. How about that?

A shadow fell beside her lounge chair, and a polite voice at her elbow said, "Good afternoon, señorita. Can I get you anything? Towel, sunscreen, refreshment, something to read?"

Cordelia looked up and thought, Ooh, juicy. Aloud she said, "What happened to Reynalda?"

The gorgeous newcomer said, "Her shift has ended, señorita, and now I am to serve you." He gave her a gleaming smile. "I am Pablo."

I'll just bet you are. For an intense, tempting moment Cordelia thought of the whole virginity issue, of exotic locale and vacation memories and what happens in Puerto Escondido stays in …

But please, seriously: a servant?

"I'm mostly good here, Pablo," she told him, with a potent smile of her own just in case she changed her mind later. "But, yes, a drink would really hit the spot right now."

The knowing confidence in his eyes cost him points, though it was questionable whether he would ever realize just how much. "And what is the señorita's pleasure?"

Cordelia thought about it. She really did like margaritas, but for the moment they were connected to unwelcome memories, and piña colada was just utterly off the menu. "I'll have a strawberry daiquiri," she decided. "And, Pablo? Keep 'em coming till I say otherwise."

He departed, and she settled back, content. Yes, better all in all to wait till she got back home. There was, after all, the boyfriend to take into consideration. Plus, the entirety of Senior Year stretched out before her … and, if Cordelia Chase had anything to say about it, that would be one for the record books!

The breeze from the sea was cool. The sun was warm, but kept at a properly respectful distance. And liquid yumminess was on the way.

Life was good.


Afterword: the author does not share Cordelia's opinion of Puerto Escondido. However, all descriptive details are accurate to the extent that research could make them; some things depicted here may not have been present in 1998, but every effort was made to provide an authentic representation. The Mixtec ceremonial site described in the narrative was 'discovered' in 2000 (i.e., local knowledge became more widely known), and the mask was of the type shown in the artwork at the beginning of this same story ("Oaxaca Nights") in the "My Fan Fiction" section of my home site at aadler-dot-iwarp-dot-com.