Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: "Who is This Guy Enrique and What Does He Want?"

Ronda wakes hours later to light that is low and creamy yellow.

Sitting up in bed, she tries the phone number in Lanjarón. It rings and rings. Frustrated, she slams the receiver back into its black cradle.

It occurs to her that she could leave Sevilla tonight, start driving right now. But how would she find a place to stay? And how would she find her way up into the mountains to Lanjarón in the dark?

It is well after nine p.m. when she goes down to the hotel dining room for dinner. When she finds Jesús, she will brag to him, tell him that she can now postpone her evening meal in the proper Spanish fashion. She no longer needs to rush down to dinner on her early American schedule.

She orders gazpacho and paella for dinner. And a half a carafe of sangría. She hands the waiter back the menu and as she does, she catches sight of a pleasant-looking older man, dining alone on the other side of the restaurant. He smiles, and it occurs to her that she could invite him to her table. She hates eating alone. But a certain fatigue grips her, as does a desire not to have to reveal herself to anyone, especially a stranger.

The waiter brings her wine, and fills her glass half full.

"Gracias." She sips from the glass.

"De nada." The waiter nods toward the older man. "Señora, the gentleman at the corner table asks if you are American."

"Yes," Ronda says. "I suppose that must be apparent."

The waiter, a stout man with black curly hair, smiles shyly. "He also asks if you are dining alone, because he would be delighted to share your table."
Ronda blanches. She sets the glass down. She would just as soon eat alone, but how can she say no?

"Tell him I may not be very good company tonight, but that he is free to join me." The waiter departs, and Ronda lifts her glass shyly in the man's direction. He holds up his cigarette in greeting, nods his head once in reply.

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