latino_menace: (19 - Curious/Relaxed/Smug)
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When he knocks on the door this time and hears those footsteps approaching, there is none of the anticipation and amusement of his last visit. This time he feels cold and his palms are sweaty and he wishes he were anywhere but here.

Her father doesn't look any more pleased to see him this time either, though almost as surprised.

'Where is she?'

'What are you doing here?'

Ramon gives him a dark look, unimpressed by the man's ignorance. Did he really think that word of this wouldn't get back to him? Is he really that stupid? 'I know about Maria.'

There's a panicked look in her father's eyes though he tries to look stoic. 'It doesn't explain what you're doing here. I would have thought you'd use it as an excuse never to come near her again.'

Ramon has had enough of standing on the doorstep and shoulders his way through the door, bumping the man aside as he does. He looks around at the bland furnishings, the colour scheme left over from the fifties. Sapito might be a lawyer but he's obviously not rich.

'Is that why you tried to have my child killed?' He wishes the man had succeeded and that word of any of this never reached his ears. 'Because you thought I wouldn't be around? Or is it simply that you don't want me around and thought that would be the best way to secure it?'

The man's face gives him away and Ramon sneers, finding a modicum of enjoyment in delivering the killer blow.

'I'm marrying her. Get used to the idea.'

He leaves him standing there as he walks to the stairs, assuming she'll be in a bedroom somewhere. As he heads up them, he sees her father cover his face with his hands, shoulders slumped; if he's not crying now, he soon will be.

* * * * *

Her room is small and clean, pink is the prevalent colour. There are no clothes lying around in an unsightly manner, no empty alcohol bottles, no loose change and money clips of cash. It smells of nothing at all and there are no pictures on the walls, just a crucifix. Of course there would be a crucifix. She's sitting on the chair next to her dresser, knees together, hands in her lap. She looks...demure. He lights a cigarette and eyes her darkly, not sitting down, trying to tally this image of her with the one he's seen before; the one who knocked him back then approached him to make her play on the same night, the one who said no and no and no until the night she said yes, giving up her virginity in the most spectacular fashion. The one time he saw her after that when she just happened to be in the same club he did, dressed like a slut, on her knees for him in the alley behind the place and then back in his bed where she let him do whatever he wanted.

Is this what she wanted? Is this what that second time was all about? Was she making sure?

'Happy, are you?'

He spits it at her and she merely smiles, more out of politeness than anything.

'It's not what I planned,' she tells him, but he hears no conviction in her tone. And worse, no apology. 'It must be what God wanted.'

He snorts in disgust and glares at her. Then his eyes shift downwards towards her belly. It looks flat as ever. Hard to believe there's a life in there. A life he created.

A life I created.

Ramon blinks, surprised at the sudden alien feeling in his chest. Just a touch of...something. Interest? Maybe. Not in her, of course. But if it is a son...

'My mother has started making arrangements,' he mutters, eyes dropping away. 'It'll be soon. You'll be collected tomorrow to go and find a dress. My parents will pay, of course. For all of it.'

There's an obvious sneer in his tone, derisive of her family's poverty. But she merely nods, like she expected all of this and his fears are rapidly being confirmed.

'Of course. My father is not wealthy.'

'And that's what you want is it? Money?' He is hit by a lightning bolt of inspiration. 'I could pay you. I could pay you a lot to go away and never return.'

He hates the note of desperation in his voice and the way he feels a cold sweat on the back of his neck. She seems to be considering and he wants her to say yes so badly...but he's looking at her stomach again and is again surprised by the pull of it. A son. A son.

'No,' she says, eventually. 'I don't want to be a disgraced single mother living alone. I want my family around me. I want a husband.'

She might as well have said, I want to be rich. He curses himself for being so stupid. 'There are millions of men in this city.' Why me?

This time her smile is not so polite, not so demure. 'Yes. But there is only one of you. And everyone who knows anything knows who you are.'

He wonders if she read one of her father's files, overheard a conversation, listened to a story. He knows there are people out there who are not connected to drugs, who live normal lives and stay relatively untouched by the crime that rules the city. They might not have heard of him. But most people know something - there are shootings on the street, for Christ's sake. Kidnappings. Revenge killings, drugs everywhere, people falsely arrested, corrupt cops and their families, politicians forced to take bribes while an axe hangs over their children's heads. Names are bandied about like whispers in the dark, Benitez, Monslave, Franco...and Salazar.

Yes, he's not surprised that his name is familiar. What surprises him is that she seems drawn to him because of it. Or maybe it's the money and the power, of which her father obviously has none.

He drops the butt of his cigarette and grinds it into the faded pink carpet. From his pocket he pulls a ring - diamond, large, tasteful enough. His mother chose it.

'Put it on.' He tosses it into her lap. The stone bounces off one of her knuckles and skitters along her skirt but she catches it before it falls. 'You'll be collected tomorrow, like I said. My father is deciding whether or not you're to stay here until he's born. He'll let your father know.'

'You think it's a boy then?'

She sounds eager suddenly, like this is something she's wanted, to talk about the baby with the man who will be her husband. Ramon's face darkens. He doesn't want to play happy families.

'It'd better fucking well be a boy after all this.' His eyes run over her, the stupid girl. He can't believe she caught him. Can't believe it. But at least she's beautiful. It could be worse but not by much.

He lights another cigarette and turns to the door, not being able to stand this any more. He supposes he should be glad that she hasn't made any demands though he's certain they'll come. 'I'll see you tonight, with my father. Wear something decent.'

If she responds, he's gone too soon to hear it. There is no sign of his future father-in-law in the hallway and he has yet to set eyes on her mother. He'd like to set fire to the place and get rid of the problem once and for all.

But as he drives away, her conniving little face is not the thing that stays in his mind. It's that feeling as he looked at her and realised, really realised, that he's going to be a father. He's never felt anything like it before and what he can't get over is the way that, against all odds, it doesn't feel bad. It really doesn't feel bad at all.

He's sure it'll pass. But for now, he lets himself dwell on it and there might even be a smile on his face as he does.
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Ramon Salazar

September 2010

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