My father entrusts me with an important task.
|Gabriela scrapes velvet painted nails across the series of small pebbles that surround her outline, her legs stretched out across the sand, her toes hidden from view by the ocean foam and seaweed. As the sun settles on the horizon, her body begins to glow bronze, natural red highlights woven into black curls caught by the orange rays and bursting into flames. I crouch a few feet away, my eyes hidden behind shades, watching my little brother and sister giggle as they sprinkle sand onto her skin and hair, marveling at the calm detachment she maintains, refusing to rise to their provocations, the smallest hint of a smirk curling the corners of her plump lips, just enough of a tease to entertain them.
"That WHORE!" My father screams, slamming his palm upon the desk, pale eyes widened in splintered emotions. Too many that pass across his face, I can hardly make them out. "I know she's been sleeping around! I'll kill him! And I'll kill her too!"
I flinch, watching him smash the World's Greatest Husband mug Gabriela had bought him the year before, the painted ceramic pierces sprinkling through the air after hitting the wall. My father takes a few shuddering breaths, falling back into his chair, a hand running through white hair. He calms down a little.
"Keep an eye on her, won't you, Danny?" He smiles at me, a grimace hidden just behind bared teeth. "Don't talk about this with her, or with anyone. See if you can find out who he is. I know I'm not crazy."
Night stretches over the beach, stars hidden by clouds, wind picking up. Gabriela leads the way, a brisk pace up the sand dunes, wrapped up in an orange beach towel, its neon color dulled in the darkness. The little ones breathe a little heavily, running to keep up and not get left behind. Our beach house is partially hidden by the Santa Monica palm trees, their spines arched over the porch, leaves brushed against the windows. The light automatically turns on as we climb up the steps, and Gabriela disappears inside with her children while I stay behind, lingering in the darkness.
"I can't leave her, Danny." My father clutches his head, gripping hard, as if trying to rip it off his shoulders. "I'm consumed by her. I'm possessed by her scent, her smile, her voice, her beauty!"
I fidget, trying not to listen, trying not to look, but his pale eyes meet my own. I can't look away.
"But with this betrayal, she's proved herself unworthy. You see that, don't you, Danny?" I say nothing, do nothing, but my lack of contradiction is enough. "And you will help me, won't you?"
Pressing my palms against the railing, I lean forward, listening to the roar of ocean waves crashing against rocks. I inhale the rich scent of salt and vague hints of gasoline from the nearest station. Suddenly cinnamon invades my senses, strawberry and vanilla mingled together in Gabriela's perfume as she steps forward and molds her breasts into my back, her velvet painted nails slipping across my face, covering my eyes. Against my ears, she smiles and breathes, "Guess who?"
Bath time has ended, and after the hours spent under the heat of orange sun, her children are tucked away, fast asleep. I grip Gabriela's hands in mine, lower them from my face, pressing my lips against soft skin. "You."
"Lucky guess," She nuzzles my neck, warm breath spreading frost flames and fireworks. "How long until Robert comes?"
"He called this morning... his flight was delayed. Dad won't come until tomorrow."
"You're telling me we have all night to play?" Gabriela wraps her arms around my stomach, pressing the curve of her cheek against my back. I feel her heat pulsating down my spine. "No one to ruin our fun?"
I raise my chin, greeting the ocean spray, salt crusting my face. "All night, yes."
My father grips my face in his hands. "Thank you," He murmurs, and bends to touch his forehead against mine. "Thank you, Danny."
"And you won't hurt mom, right?" I fight off the fear clawing up my throat, and the sickness twisted like a serpent around my heart, squeezing tighter. "And you'll let her out for just a little bit? A day?"
"If she's good, I'll even let her out for Christmas." My father smiles kindly down at me. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
I swallow, the serpent scraping its teeth across the outline of my heart. "Okay," I push back, and stand from my seat, the imprint of my father's hands still pressing against my head and cheeks.
Before I make it to the door, my father clears his throat. "You can't be gentle like the last one, Danny."
A few sleeping pills slipped inside Monique's wine glass, my tears falling on her cheeks before a pillow covered her face, her unconscious body writhing, and I wondered if she dreamt she was drowning.
"You have to make Gabriela know she's done something wrong. She hurt me so much, Danny, you cannot imagine. Make her feel that pain."
Gabriela stumbles backwards as I push her against the wall, exchanging a language of heated kisses and breathless pants, faded laughter stifled in her throat as I bite her bottom lip and force her to open up. The house is in the middle of renovations, the walls recently painted white. I crinkle my nose at the scent but it's overcome by cinnamon as Gabriela wraps her arms around my neck, begging my attention with her tongue. I press into her body and together we make heat, we make flavor, we make color, and with her legs wrapped around my waist, heavy lidded eyes fluttering between desperation and lust, we make love.
Satisfied, she slumps against the wall. I reach for the lamp, swing it hard, crashed against her temple and she's gone. Blood drips down the wall, and my tears splash within the ruby puddle.