Marta stepped out of the shower and shook her head. With each pass, her black hair whipped lashes of water over the steamed mirror.
She stamped her feet and swung her arms. This is how she dried herself.
Lorenzo watched her from the bed, limbs splayed to each corner, the aftershocks of their recent lovemaking still surging in his pelvis. Not a single ripple, not a lonely nugget of fat had corrupted Marta’s form. Her skin bore no signs of incision, no bleeding birthmarks or dimples. There were only the welts. Swollen and flushed from the scalding temperature at which she showered; they ran like a chain of pink grapes from her left shoulder blade down to the small of her back.
“You shouldn’t have said anything to him.”
The gentle rhythm of Pacific waves, washing against the sandy coastline.
“Oye, are you listening to me?”
“What?” Lorenzo pulled out his ear buds.
“You know what’s gonna happen next time he sees you. Es loco este hombre.” Marta snapped out her consonants. “The guy is crazy.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“You told him to fuck an enchilada.”
“He’s not Mexican.”
“He smells like one.”
“You shouldn’t have said anything, Lorenzo.”
“He provoked me. Or do you like being abused by your psychotic brother?”
“You were muy borracho,” she said. “You were very drunk.”
Marta wrung her hair and a final stream of water cascaded onto the tiles.
“What’s he going to do?” Lorenzo said lazily.
“Cut off your cojones and then feed them to Paco and Alberto.”
“Why would anyone want to eat my balls?”
“You have nice balls, guapo.”
Lorenzo cupped his scrotum in his hand.
She’s right, I do have nice balls.
Marta approached the bed and frowned. “Zulo is very protective.”
“He follows you around like a bodyguard.”
“Are you jealous?” She reached out for his foot, but he moved it from her reach.
“Jesus, of your brother?”
“Don’t say that!” She yelled and slapped the bed. “You know I hate it when you say that.”
Marta made a hasty sign of the cross. Lorenzo laughed.
What a crazy bitch.
“What are you going to tell your wife?”
“She’s not my wife.”
“She acts like it. I hear you on the phone. You don’t speak to her like you speak to me.”
“How do I speak to you?”
“With your corazón, your heart. But to her you are like a donkey. You do what she tells you and you say nothing of yourself, of what you feel or what you want. Are you her donkey?”
Such loose confidence. Hand hooked to her hip. A look of confused annoyance; the same look she gave incompetent waiters, ticket inspectors and small children. Lorenzo rose to his knees and pulled her warm body towards him. “Do you want a ride, señor?”
“Señorita,” she corrected. “When are you going to tell her?”
“Tell her what?”
“What the fuck do you think?”
“Soon, soon. What does it matter? She’s half way across the world. We’re here.”
Marta’s eyes softened. “Yes, we’re here,” she said and then drew his head into her stomach. Lorenzo could hear her heart beating through her abdomen, quick and light like a bird’s. “Enzo…”
“Yes, my little martian.”
“What would you do if I became embarrassed?”
“Embarrassed? You? Impossible!”
“No, not that. Embarazada. If I was going to have a baby.”
“Pregnant?” It felt like the first time he’d ever said the word. “I don’t know.”
“Would you want to kill it?”
“Why do you have to creep me out all the time?”
“I wouldn’t want to kill it.”
This is not good. This is not good. Please, don’t let her be pregnant. Please don’t let her be pregnant.
“Are you pregnant?”
“Good. I think two of us is enough already.”
“What are you doing today?”
“You mean besides being hungover? No idea.” Lorenzo’s mind churned over his appointments: doctor’s at ten, he might close his bank account if he can work up the courage to face the balance, pub with Clyde, travel insurance. Marta grabbed him by the hair and pulled his mouth towards hers. She fired her tongue into his, grinding her wet lips into his unshaven chin. The taste of garlic made him feel nauseated. When she withdrew a string of spit bound them for half a second before it detached itself from her lower lip and swung under his chin.
“I want you to come to Barcelona with me,” she said.
“This weekend. To my father’s apartment in Sitges. This time you cannot say no.” Marta gripped the scruff of his neck.
“Marta…” He wanted to shout at her; tell her to get out and never come back. He imagined pushing her, hitting her, and then driving her against the cabinet mirror. Ashamed, he blinked the idea out of his mind. “Let’s talk about it later. You have to go to work.”
“No, we have to get the tickets today – before they are expensive.”
“I’ll pay you back. I have money.” Moahnee, she said.
“You always say that.”
“You will love it. It’s warm and the food is better.”
The fabrications he’d rehearsed during the past week – the sick father, the economic crisis and a family on the verge of collapse – scattered and plummeted back into his subconscious. Marta’s slight features, her hazelnut nose and eyelashes, even her nipples, made her appear seraphic, yet there was a power to her – a monstrous heat that seethed under her skin. This power had given way to a liberation he’d never experienced with Gwen. But it had also found its way into his apartment, changed his eating habits, stolen his sleep, commandeered his social life and compelled him to lend her hundreds of Euros.
“Sure,” he said.
She hugged his neck and pushed her breasts in his face. “Leaving Friday night.”
“Ti quiero, guapo,” she said. “I love you, handsome.”
Lorenzo winked at her. He did not say them out loud but the words came plainly and without hesitation.
I don’t love you.