Today, the third instalment of my short story. If you haven’t read the first two, click on:
The plot thickens here:
“No more gin martinis,” Peter said, “For this month in Merida, it’s margaritas for me. ‘You want one?”
Monica whooped with the enthusiasm of a first-timer at an all-inclusive resort. I can’t believe I’m here, she thought. The sky, striped with every shade from soft melon to shocking scarlet looked like one of her own too-vibrant-to-believe paintings. A flock of starlings screeched as they flew over the pool, and a lone guitar strummed somewhere close by. She watched her travel companion pour lemon juice, tequila and triple sec into the blender – add ice – then turn away to rub one of the squeezed lemon halves around the rims of two blown-glass goblets. “Do you like salt?”
She nodded and grinned.
“Me too, but not too much.” With a flourish, he pulsed the Osterizer for just 5 seconds. “I don’t want the ice get to the slushy stage,” he said, “Tell me if you like it.”
Monica let out another whoo-hoo. “It tastes like a salty-sour snowstorm. Peter, where did you learn to make these?”
“My aunt gave me the recipe,” then he added, “My Aunt Augusta.”
Monica settled deeper into the wicker rocker, and took another long pull of frosty flavour. “I think you need to explain why you look like a kid who just found 50 dollars.”
Peter stretched his arms out wide. “What a great way to describe how I feel,” he laughed, then turned serious. “When we met, I felt overwhelmed by your sense of adventure. Let’s face it, not many women your age would agree to take off for Mexico with a stranger.”
She could not help but contrast Peter’s acceptance of her as a person, with that of her daughter. All the way from North Vancouver to YVR, Janis had hurled a barrage of hm-hm-hms, tsk-tsk-tsks and oh-oh-ohs at Monica. She sounded like a vinyl album with the stereo needle caught in one of its grooves. “Mom you have to re-think this again-again-again-again-again.”
When did the role reversal start? What event or circumstances got her daughter thinking like some kind of authorative figure who had to closely supervise Monica’s every move? She would make a point to ask about this when she returned, but right now, she needed to show this broken-hearted man that life would go on – he’d meet another – his love would find a true home.
“OK Peter, let’s toast our escape, and freedom from conventional judgements, from ageism and from past hurts. Let’s keep open minds – I hope you’ll make the most of this month – Carpe diem.”
Their second margarita disappeared as fast as the first. “I will make the most, of this month; I promise, and what do you say if we go find some dinner? I’m starving,” He showed her a magazine left on the coffee table by the villa owner – Yucatan Today – it featured full page photos of scrumptious-looking meals offered at the local eateries. He flipped through and pointed. “This place – Alberto’s Continental Patio – it’s close by and rated with 4 ½ stars. Let’s go find out why they lost that half-star,”
“I’m more interested in seeing why it got 4 ½,” Monica rejoined. She unfolded her sore knees and stood up, more-wobbly-than-expected. Get over it, she told herself. No way would a few aches and pains make her miss her first foray into magical Merida.
The restaurant’s towering mahogany door stood ajar. Peter and Monica stepped over the threshold onto a stone floor oozing with age. Copious green vines cascaded from the rafters and crept into shady corners. Baroque art – a few originals and lots of copies – covered every wall. Three brightly painted carrousel horses romped by a fountain filled with goldfish. “Those koi look big enough to end up on the menu,” Peter warned.
A man with caterpillar eyebrows approached, “Hello there, my name is Alberto, let me escort you to the best table we have.” Amused, Monica waited for a bit more flattery from their dapper host. He looked over at Peter – “This is your son?”
“No, I’m his Aunt Augusta.”
Alberto’s face turned radiant, he wrung his hands with disbelief, and quoted: “I have never planned anything illegal in my life,’ Aunt Augusta said. ‘How could I plan anything of the kind when I have never read any of the laws and have no idea what they are?” Are you THAT Aunt Augusta?
Monica gasped and clapped her palms together. “One’s life is more formed, I sometimes think, by books than by human beings: it is out of books one learns about love and pain at second hand.”
Tears of true joy leaked from Alberto’s eyes. He sighed, “I knew Graham Greene, during the period of his life when he wrote about ‘you’. Back then, this restaurant was not ‘a faded lady of Merida’. No, no, no. In this very spot, the who’s-who of Mexico’s tourism, entertainment, political, and artistic circles gathered. I had to be ruthless at running off the social climbers.”
They both looked at Alberto – and obviously – he was not making up any of this. Peter nudged Monica, “Let’s remember what we said about freedom and keeping an open mind; I think we might learn a thing or two tonight.”