I said I loved her.
The words just slipped from my lips before I gave them a second thought, before I could stop myself. I didn’t realize I had spoken aloud though, that is until she chuckled sadly, climbing out of bed, her gaze never leaving mine.
It’s not like I haven’t said it to her before, in fact I lost count of how many times I said it in the past, but back then there weren’t doubts clouding my heart. I knew for sure I was in love with Hanna, I loved her without reservations, and those words held a meaning beyond question. But now, my heart and soul are heavy with other feelings that weren’t there before such as anger, pain and bitterness.
Those emotions started sharing the place that had been taken up by my love for Hanna the day she betrayed me. Over the months I spent imprisoned in Lompoc, that banked rage and my disillusion were slowly pushing my love for Hanna away, putting it in a deep dark corner of my soul, keeping it as locked away as I was. And that fact is now making the words ‘I love you’ sounded false, empty, as if their real meaning were gone forever.
They were much more than mere words for me because I never used them lightly. Come to think of it, I never used them at all, not even with Letty. Certainly, I said I loved her, but the worth those words held had nothing to do with what they ended up meaning for me.
A few days ago, I was still keeping my love locked in that far corner, pretending it wasn’t there, determined to leave it dying alone, waiting for it to extinguish from exhaustion and starvation. I was entrusting my anger to help me on my task though, but that little fucker is too stubborn and refused to disappear, fighting for its survival, using the little strength it still had.
Staring at her teary eyes, I guess she thinks I said those words just to make her feel better somehow. That’s not true, but I don’t know how to explain that to her because I can’t explain it to myself either. I don’t even know why I said it and I bet she didn’t believe me. Can I blame her for that? I guess I can’t. How could I do that?
Since we saw each again other I’ve been showing her my rage, my pain, my disdain, my contempt. I’ve been treating her as if she was shit to me. I have disrespected her, doubted her and fucked her. I’ve been telling her at every chance that I hate her with all my heart and soul, so I guess I deserve her lack of trust in my words. How the hell could I expect her to believe me when I said that I loved her?
I guess I underestimated my love’s power and, right now, I’m starting to suspect that my anger is turning into an ally of my love more than an enemy, taking sides with it. I figure I’m too weak right now. Definitively, it was easiest when she wasn’t around. Her picture and her memory were strong enough to just keep it alive, but not to make it regain its strength.
Then, I saw her again, face to face and without being aware of it, Hanna started feeding my love behind my back, and I’m not sure anymore if I’m letting her or if I’m lying to myself one more time or even if she’s aware of that fact.
However, I can’t help but wonder her reason why for not believing me? I mean, I thought Hanna was dying to hear me say those words to her and now that I said them, she shut herself off, keeping herself at distance. I wonder if she’s as scared as I am of ending up hurt again.
Maybe the Ice Queen needs to exist in order to keep Hanna from hurting, maybe that cold heartless bitch role is a disguise, an invisible veil that provides her with the strength Hanna needs to face each day, somehow protecting her. I wonder if I have got one as well. I wonder if being a tough guy 24/7 is my own way of keeping myself in one piece, protecting my heart and my soul from dying one more time.
I took it for granted that Hanna was fucking Reynaldo. Never crossed my mind that she wouldn’t be able to, considering her past.
I guess my rage was blinding me, not allowing me to read the signs. However, I figure I’m not as good at reading signs as I thought I was, maybe I’m too confused now, or maybe it’s just that I don’t care. Who knows? Not even I know what I’m doing, let alone what I’m going to do in the future. This is all new territory for me; I’m out of my element, out of my place. I wonder if I was safest locked in Lompoc.
At least, while I was in prison, being an inmate, the world around me seemed familiar, if a bizarre one. I’m not saying I would go back, not that I’m thinking about going back to that fucking hell. There’s no way I’m going to spend one more day inside those damn walls, but I felt safe from Hanna.
This new side of Hanna is almost scary and I wonder if what happened between us changed her as much as it changed me. I wonder if being around me back then affected her more than I figure. Could be possible that my love for her really touched her? Anyway, I don’t think I know her anymore; I don’t know my own woman anymore.
I wondered how far Hanna would be able to go to catch Reynaldo. Well, here is my answer. As far as it takes. I don’t think that what she went through tonight was part of her duty and I bet she won’t tell her boss shit about this. Now I understand why Hanna always works alone in a case, not allowing interference from anybody.
I shouldn’t be wondering about this because I know pretty well how far she went regarding my case, so why am I so shocked? Why was she going to act in a different way with Reynaldo? We are just targets, nothing more, nothing less.
The Ice Queen is a winner and she never fails and I bet that if she has to drag Hanna with her, she won’t think twice about the consequences even if that cold heartless bitch ends up killing both of them. Winning is winning and I guess the Ice Queen doesn’t take it good when she loses.
Right now, I can’t tell where the FBI agent ends and where the woman starts. I’m unable to distinguish between Hanna and the Ice Queen. And I can’t help but wonder if she’s asking herself that same question.
I’m leaning against the wall, staring at Hanna’s feet as she showers, looking for any sign of blood. None. The water is running down the drainpipe stained with the body paint and, closing my eyes, I let out the breath I’ve been holding for quite some time with a painful sigh, feeling my lungs burning with the effort.
I made her shower first only with water, so I could see if she was bleeding. Reynaldo could have ripped her apart and we wouldn’t be able to know until now. It’s not the first time something like that happened with a chick that sick bastard fucked.
Raising my head, my gaze slides slowly along the surface of her skin, millions of drops of water running down. My heart skips a beat watching Hanna scrubbing so fiercely at her body; I’m afraid she’s going to end up flaying her soft skin.
She goes again and again over the same spots like a woman possessed, the sponge tightly gripped in her fingers. I feel the tension radiating from her body, like invisible waves of heat, as she pretends I’m not here watching every single move she’s making.
Hanna bends at her torso, her hiss of pain muffled by the sound of the shower, and if I wasn’t so focused on her with all my five senses, I wouldn’t have been able to hear it. But I do, and my stomach clenches painfully, and all of sudden I’m forcing back my nausea.
There was a time when I felt proud of myself because I was the reason why she was sore. That slight hiss of pain was always followed by a blush and a sexy wicked grin I swear I would kill for. That male pride was burning inside my veins, knowing she was sore, but satisfied and happy. But now…now I just want to die here, knowing what caused it.
Hanna keeps cleaning herself, scratching her skin fiercely; at this point is already slightly inflamed and irritated. Her teeth are gritted and her muscles are tensed. I don’t even dare to open my mouth, telling her to stop doing that before she ends up seriously hurt because I know that’s not possible. There’s no way Hanna’s going to be more hurt than she already is. However, what the hell am I going to say? Are you ok, Hanna, baby?
I know she’s not okay. How the fuck is she going to be okay? She has been raped tonight. Of course, it could have been a lot worse, I already know that. But that fact doesn’t change the sickly reality.
Hanna has been raped by Reynaldo and even though I did what I thought would cause the least amount of damage; that damage is still there and I feel it, tearing me apart. But I can’t bring myself to open my mouth and I don’t know why.
I can’t even begin to figure out what she’s feeling right now. What would you say to someone who has gone through what Hanna has to make her feel better? That she will get over it soon? That everything will be fine again? I know that’s not true. I know too damn well she won’t get over it and she won’t be fine soon either.
Hanna, the FBI agent, the Ice Queen will use this as an incentive, going on with her investigation and she won’t let even this distract her from her real purpose, her main goal: to drag Reynaldo’s sorry ass to prison, making sure not even one single damn lawyer around the country is able to reach a ‘non guilty’ verdict.
Hanna, the woman, will learn to live with this horrible experience, adding it at her private and personal living hell. She will mark another painful page in her life, another tearing notch on her soul, and she will move on because she can’t do anything else.
It’s not the first time though. Unfortunately, she has a lot of experience doing just that. Hanna told me she grew up facing each day, going to school, doing homework, pretending everything was okay, playing a role. Just like now.
But, what about me?
That fucker didn’t lay a hand on my body; in fact he didn’t touch me at all, at least not physically. But I have the bizarre sensation like he was touching me. I can’t push aside the strong feeling that’s overwhelming me with every second. I feel as if I lost something tonight, even though I don’t know what exactly. I’m feeling empty and dirty.
I did what I thought was best. It worked somehow, because Hanna is not physically hurt, but watching how she has been acting since that fucking bastard finally passed out, I’m not sure anymore about her soul.
I have no damn clue how a woman must feel after a rape. I never touched a chick who didn’t want to be touched. I never forced myself into a chick’s body, not even once. Not even when I was high or drunk. There were plenty of girls around us 24/7 when Vince and I were hanging with Reynaldo. So if some chick said she didn’t want us, we always went in search of another. No big deal.
I’ve seen guys in prison who were raped by other inmates. Some of them were acting in a way much like Hanna now. Scratching their skin. Maybe in a lame attempt to wipe away any rapist’s trace, the scent, maybe the marks. What the fuck do I know? I’ve never been raped. My size was my main advantage over the most inmates at Lompoc.
Hanna is avoiding my gaze again. I don’t know if it’s because she feels ashamed or if it’s because she’s angry with me. The only thing I know is that she has been in some place far from this bathroom for the last half an hour, acting as if I’m not even here.
Hanna takes a deep breath as she steps out of the shower and, grabbing a big bathrobe, she puts it on. Then, she closes her eyes for a couple of seconds and taking a few deep breaths, she heads towards the bedroom.
Reynaldo is still passed out, sprawling all over the big bed with a satisfied expression plastered on his fucking face. Miguel is speaking on the phone, making arrangements for his boss’ schedule for the next day.
He glances at us, grinning as he gives Hanna the once over. In response, she winks at him and we both leave the suite, padding toward the yacht’s deck.
As we walk, we cross paths with a group of cleaners who are already wiping away any trace of the mess Reynaldo’s guests left behind while partying. Some of his men are dealing with the scum who are still around; taking care that they leave the yacht as soon as possible.
Lydia and Jazmine are sitting together on one big couch, giggling and laughing. They are chatting in a low tone of voice, so no one can hear what they are saying. Looking at their faces I bet that whatever they were plotting last night for the fat fucker worked, because if not, I wouldn’t think they would be so happy.
As soon as they lay eyes on us, Jazmine calls Hanna and she heads toward them. At that moment, Miguel calls me, asking me to not leave the yacht because Reynaldo wants to talk with me when he wakes up. In fact is not a petition at all, it’s more like an order. In response, I nod ‘yes’ as I glance at Hanna.
She’s still talking with Lydia and Jazmine, sitting on a small stool in front of them with her back to me. Renee is now there as well. I watch how Jazmine strokes Hanna’s hair gently and a warm smile graces her lips as Lydia squeezes Hanna’s hand. Both girls have in her eyes a gaze full of understanding.
I frown deeply thinking about it for a couple of seconds. I figure Reynaldo fucked all of them too, in the end for that sick bastard, these girls are his employees and all of them are at his damn beck and call.
A heavy sigh escapes my lips as I head toward the bar, taking a seat on one of the stools. There’s a waiter making coffee for the girls. He glances at me from the corner of his eye and offers me a cup of black coffee. I’m not in the mood for a damn cup of coffee, but I would kill for a shot of something really strong right now.
However, I don’t think it’s a wise decision to get drunk if in a few hours Reynaldo wants me with him at his side in whatever shit he’s plotting. Maybe I could use the chance to try and find something about those weapons. I have to be careful though. I don’t trust him for a second and if I’m not smart enough, I’ll end up with a bullet between my brows, and definitely, that’s not an option. So, I guess that keeping my brain as clear as possible is the best decision even if it’s not what I need right now.
Jenn enters the salon and heads directly to them. Now the girls are sitting around a big table, talking with each other, smoking and drinking coffee. With the exception of Hanna, all of them are dressed in the same silky robe, only the colour is different.
Elaine is the last one to show up, dressed in a black silky robe and she’s walking funny. I guess that big dark guy was enough man for her and I bet she’s going to be sore for a couple of days. She has a wicked grin on her face and her eyes are sparkling. Now that woman’s expression means just one single thing: she has been having sex six ways from Sunday and she has been enjoying every second of it.
I can’t help but grin, remembering how many times I’ve seen that same expression on Hanna’s face after a night full of mind blowing sex, passion, desire and love.
“She’s not like the rest of us.”
Crystal’s voice brings me back to the present. I didn’t realize I was staring openly at Hanna. I blink a couple of times, looking back at Crystal. She’s wearing jean shorts and a top. She smiles a sweet smile, batting her long lashes as she takes a seat at my side.
“You’re not like Rey either,” she whispers softly, so no one can hear her, not even the waiter.
“What do you mean, babe?” I ask her, making myself a little bit more comfortable, leaning my body against her. Crystal narrows her blue eyes in suspicion as she tenses lightly. I knit a brow, waiting for her to elaborate.
Crystal looks for a second to Hanna and then back at me.
“I’ve been selling my body since I was fifteen years old ‘cause is the only thing I knew how to do,” she says, looking away for a second, “I’ve learnt a lot about men, you know?” She’s rubbing her hands nervously. “Hanna always showed me respect even knowing what I am. She’s a decent woman so… please, Dom…” Crystal cuts herself as she looks back at me, staring at my eyes. “Don’t hurt her, she’s not that strong.” And with that, she stands to her feet, heading to the table where all the dancers are chatting.
I frown deeply, lost in thoughts about the meaning of Crystal’s words. I thought she was just a brainless bimbo, I guess I don’t know shit about women after all. Since we were kids, men are taught that women are the weak sex. My ass, they have more balls than us.
Looking at those seven women sitting around that big table, laughing and making jokes, after being auctioned last night, I realize I have learnt a new universal truth. Women are the strong sex and we are scared to death about that undeniable fact. That’s why we use them and abuse them in a lame attempt to destroy their spirit, breaking them so they will end up believing they are weak and worthless. Damn, how wrong we are.
I stand to my feet and head toward the yacht’s deck, looking up at the open sky.
The day is breaking, tinted with different shades of orange and red, mixed with some brushstrokes of yellow and light blue. Taking a deep breath, I fill my lungs with the scent of salt and sea as the soft fresh breeze makes gooseflesh on my skin.
I can hear the girls, laughing and talking as I take a seat in one of the hammocks, making myself comfortable. I pull one of the joints out of my jacket, light it up, taking a long puff, filling my lungs.
I close my eyes, relaxing my muscles as I keep smoking the joint, feeling the effects almost immediately. I was right. This shit is the best quality. I’m starting to feel a little numb, smelling the sickly sweet scent of the cannabis, floating faintly around me.
Suddenly, I sense somebody at my side and opening my eyes, blinking slightly, I see Hanna standing there, staring at me. Her lips spread in a tiny smile, almost shy as her eyes flash me a non spoken question. And without saying a word, I spread my legs apart, making room for her.
Hanna makes herself comfortable, pulling her legs to her chest as she curls like a ball. Taking a deep breath, she turns her torso slightly, so her shoulder is resting against my chest and burying her face in my neck, she closes her eyes, whimpering softly.
I throw the joint away and my arms move on their own accord, wrapping around her and pressing her even more against me as I took her hands, interlacing our fingers. Hanna sighs as she squeezes my hands, making my pulse speed its rhythm.
I can’t explain myself but the fact that Hanna is letting me touch her is making me feel sadly happy. We survived another day in hell, but the price we paid was too damn high.
Crystal’s words are echoing faintly inside my brain.
“Hanna,” I whisper, swallowing hard.
“I’m ok, Dominic.” She replies, sighing softly. I frown deeply, tensing.
“Don’t give me that shit, woman.” I hiss, forcing myself to keep a low tone of voice. I don’t want anyone hearing us. “I damn well know you’re not okay, baby.” Hanna chuckles sadly, tilting her head back a bit so she can look at my eyes.
“So what? I’ll be okay, Dominic.” She retorts, mimicking my tone of voice. “Besides, I don’t want to talk about that, at least not now. Anyway, it won’t help us in this case.” I clenched my jaw, feeling my temper getting the best of me.
“Stop acting like the damn Ice Queen, Hanna, you’re not her, fuck!” I mutter in disgust. Hanna gasped as she narrows her green eyes, the grayish sparks around the pupils are more intense than ever and I feel them piercing my soul.
“That’s what you want? Meet the real Hanna? And then what, baby? Break her so you can satiate your thirst for revenge?” she hisses, gritting her teeth. “I don’t think so, Dominic,” she adds, struggling so I release her from my arms.
Damnit! I don’t like where we are heading, this is getting out of hand too damn fast. Shit, Hanna, you’re making this a lot harder.
I held her gaze, tightening my embrace around her body. Her eyes are pleading with me to let her go, but I can’t and I won’t, at least not now.
“Hanna….I…I need to know.” I cut myself off, searching for the right words. My brain is racing but not as fast as I would like. Shit! What was I thinking, smoking a damn joint. “There was a time when we could talk about anything, baby, and…and right now I …I want my woman back, Hanna.” I swallow hard, frowning, staring at her eyes.
She’s fighting back tears as she squeezes my hand tightly.
“Dominic…please…don’t do this to me…I can’t take it… not now, please…” her voice is a strangled murmur as she takes a shaky breath, shivering lightly.
I disentangle my other hand, lifting it up so I can brush her face. Hanna closes her eyes, a soft whimper escaping her mouth as I trace the line of her bottom lip with my thumb.
Bending my head, I press my forehead against hers. Hanna opens her eyes, they are brimming with unshed tears that are about to fall. I swallow hard, nuzzling her cheek, my eyes flickering to hers.
“I need to see my woman, Hanna. I can’t do this if you don’t let me see you, baby. At least once.” I whisper, my lips brushing hers.
Hanna tenses lightly in my arms, relaxing a bit when she touches my nape, stroking it gently. I close my eyes for a second, enjoying that soft almost imperceptible brush on my skin. My soft hair rise all at once. God, I miss her.
“Please, Hanna, let me see my woman, please…” I feel her tensing again between my arms as she tilts her head back a bit, staring at my eyes.
“Ok”, she breaths. “Take me home, Dominic,” she adds, shivering as I let the air I was holding, nodding ‘yes’.
I would have thought Hanna was shitting me if I hadn’t watched her face closely. No trace of doubt or lies. This is her home. Fuck me!
As I park the car in front of the front yard, I sigh heavily, staring wide open at the house in front of me. Her place, my place, our place.
The house is exactly as I remembered. Nothing has changed. Inside, Hanna hasn’t moved one single piece of furniture or object from where they were placed originally, even a book I was reading is still in the same place where I left it more than one year ago. Damnit!!!
My eyes are wide open and my mouth is hanging. I’m so shocked I can’t think clearly, let alone speak aloud right now. I wasn’t ready for this. Nothing would have been able to get me ready for this. Not in a million years. Fuck, fuck, fuck!!!
Hanna looks at me, biting her lower lip, just the right corner as she smiles sadly.
“I bet you thought that back then I rented the place, huh?” she says, tilting her head to one side, staring at me through narrowed eyes. “You were wrong, Dominic.” Hanna adds and with that, she turns on her heels, heading toward her bedroom.
I’m frozen in place, unable to make my muscles move. I’m too stunned, too caught by the sensations that are overwhelming me so fast I feel my brain spinning. This is too much. I take a ragged breath almost painfully, searching for an explanation, trying to understand.
I don’t know how much time I had been out of the reality surrounding me, but suddenly I hear Hanna’s high heels echoing inside my brain. I shake my head slightly as I look at her.
She’s dressed in a pair of tight white jeans that seem painted on her skin and a red top that is revealing much more than I would like to see. Hanna clears her throat, raising a brow when I give her the once over.
“I have things to do. I’ll be back in a couple of hours.” She says, grabbing her purse and car keys. “There are drinks in the fridge and the numbers of several fast food places are where they always were.” I can’t help but grin a little at that.
“Some things don’t change, huh?” I say as my grin widens. Hanna chuckles as she walks to me. I tense lightly, narrowing my eyes. She grins wickedly and tiptoes up on her heels, kissing my cheek, lingering in her caress.
“I’m still a shitty cook,” she whispers softly against my skin. “I didn’t lie about that either,” Hanna adds as she turns around, leaving the house.
I frown slightly, thinking about her words as I head toward the kitchen. The fridge is full of diet cokes and Coronas. I grab one, sighing hard.
It was always like this. Back then with the exception of some fruit and milk, there were only drinks.
I take a long draught, closing my eyes. It hurts too much. These walls were witness to our love. It hurts like a bitch. Visions are coming back without warning, dragging me in seconds to a place I don’t know if I want to visit anymore. Fuck! I need to get a grip. This is too intense, too painfully intense.
I’m walking around, making a small tour, not knowing exactly where I’m heading. Maybe I’m trying to find a corner inside this house that doesn’t bring memories back, but there’s no point in that. Each and every single room is full of memories and her scent is everywhere.
I come to a stop, closing my eyes as I lean against the wall at the hallway. Who am I kidding? I can’t do this. Not now. I’m not strong enough to face the real Hanna. It’s too much right now, and I can’t deal with it.
The last 48 hours of my life have been complete craziness. So many things took place in such a short period I need more time to digest all this shit. Fuck! I’m so tired of lies and half truths…
Sighing hard, I gulp the rest of the beer in one long draught, heading back to the kitchen. As I’m walking, I cross in front of the door that leads to the basement. Hmmm. I narrow my eyes, thinking. I’ve never been in the basement.
I leave the empty bottle on the counter and head toward the only place inside this house I figure won’t spread visions and memories of Hanna.
Wow. This basement is probably the tidiest one I’ve seen in my life. Judging by the rest of the house, I would never suspect Hanna was a clean freak. She’s a hell of an organizer, that’s for sure, but this is beyond reality.
There are several big boxes piled all around. Each and every single one has a big label, describing what it contains and there are several that have drawings so anyone is able to know what is inside without opening them. Shoes, glasses, books, clothes.
I don’t know why but I have the bizarre suspicion that this basement wasn’t so tidy when I was around. Damn, she sure as hell spent some time doing this shit. I wonder when Hanna did it. I don’t know for sure, but this kind of packing requires a lot of hours, days even. Maybe she asked for a vacation after she closed my case. Who knows? That woman is like a box of chocolates. She’s full of surprises and just like with chocolate, not all its varieties are sweet.
I look around, taking in the details when something catches my attention. A closet built into one of the walls. Its dimensions are huge and there’s a safe lock. I narrow my eyes, licking my lips. What are you storing with so much zeal, Hanna, baby?
Chuckling at my own thoughts I pull out a penknife from the back pocket of my pants. I never was too good at waiting for Christmas’ gifts and December is still too far from the present time. However, I’m not expecting Santa will visit me anytime soon. I haven’t been a good boy this year.
A couple of minutes and the lock spread open like a flower in March. Piece of cake. Like I said, Lompoc is a constant source of knowledge if you are smart enough to keep your ears open and your mouth shut. Yeah, here I go.
There are several cardboard boxes piled upon each other and all of them have a serial number written at the front side. Now look what we have here. Miss FBI’s private and personal filing cabinet. I guess William is not the only one who likes to file his files using this archaic system.
There’s a shelf at the top and it seems that there’s only a single box. That one hasn’t a serial number written down. Instead there’s a surname.
It was written in black marker on the front of the box. I frown deeply as I grab it, pulling the cardboard box out of the closet and placing it on the floor. Glancing at the door for a few seconds, I take a deep breath opening it.
There are several folders inside, with Mia’s name, those of my team, and my own written on each of them. I close my eyes, wondering if I want to know what is inside. I know I’m struggling again, trying to find the courage to face whatever is inside of this damn box.
I suspect what it is but that suspicion doesn’t change the fact that I’m doubting I have enough balls to face the painful reality. I frown deeply, fighting an interior battle with myself.
I wasn’t just any target for Hanna. Ok, I understand that, but I was still a target, if a unique one.
Fuck it! Curiosity takes the best of me and taking a deep breath, I open the folder.
Like I had guessed it’s full of papers. Mostly official documents, notes and pictures. It figures. The reports contain all the intell Hanna had about me and my life. By now I’m familiar with these damn FBI’s reports and documents. I had been reading the ones containing Reynaldo’s intell. Damnit!
There are pictures of Mia, the team, our cars, the café, the garage, the house. There are pictures of Hector, Edwin and one of Harry. Fuck! There’s even a picture of my parents. I knit a brow when I notice something. There are no pictures of me alone, not even one. Where are my pictures? What the hell did Hanna do with them?
Leaving the folders on the floor I get to my feet as I stretch my back, trying to see the top of the closet. I tiptoe on my feet, stretching my arm, touching. There’s another box, but I can’t grab it. Damn, it’s too deep. Sighing hard, I turn around; looking for something I can use to climb. There.
A little stool, with a lot of big books on top of it, is serving to keep balanced an old table with a missing leg.
Glancing at the door one last time for any sign of Hanna, I grab the box, pulling it out of the closet. This is smaller than the other and there are no names on its surface. It’s white and sealed with adhesive tape. Hmmmm. What is Hanna keeping so deeply hidden?
I shake it slightly, trying to find what the box contains without having to open it. As soon as a melody sounds, I freeze in place. What the…? Suddenly my heart jumps inside my chest, skipping a beat when I shake it again, but this time harder. There it is again. That soft melody is coming from inside the box? What the hell are you keeping inside this box, Hanna?
Pulling out a small penknife from one of my pockets, I tear the tape, opening the box. My eyes widen and my heart stops dead when I see what’s causing the sound; a baby’s rattle.
No way….please, God….
As if in slow motion, I pick up the baby’s rattle, shaking it again, making sounds. The soft melody starts again and, all of sudden, a vision of my dad humming that same song to Mia when she was a baby pops inside my brains, causing my blood to freeze. In my vision, I see my dad, rocking my kid sister back and forth cuddled in his arms as he hums this melody. A lullaby.
I close my eyes for a second, swallowing hard, my heart suddenly racing inside my chest and my legs are shaking. Blinking, I open my eyes as my gaze fixes on the pictures that are filling the box. My pictures.
Oh, my God, please… have mercy on me…
Feeling my legs bending without my consent, I find myself on my knees, sitting on my heels with my thighs spread apart and the box between my legs. Taking a deep breath, I force the air to pass through my lungs, swallowing dry as I leave the baby’s rattle at my side. The melody is still playing but I hear it as if it’s far away, my own heartbeats are muffling the soft tune.
Picking my pictures up in trembling hands, I look at them. Here are all my pictures. There’s even one from when I was a baby as well as several from when I was a kid. I guess these ones Mia gave Hanna when I wasn’t around.
I can’t help it, a huge grin spread on my lips as I look at myself when I was two years old, maybe a little older. In this picture I’m playing in what seems to be the back yard of our house and I’m grabbing a car in my little hands.
My dad is kneeling at my side and he has in his hand a car too. Mine is red, his is black. I don’t remember that day, but judging by the expression I had written all over my face, I bet we were playing together, racing with those cars against each other.
All these pictures are bringing back countless memories. My childhood, my adolescence. The ones linked with my dad and his garage are really happy. I remember those past days when I used to spend my time after school, helping my dad, repairing cars instead of doing my homework. I laugh lightly, shaking my head, remembering how I had to roll up the sleeves and the trouser legs of one of my dad’s coveralls so I could walk and move in it.
Before I realize it, my mind fills with vision of us, working together on his unique car, his precious Dodge. The one I crashed while escaping from those damn cops after the biggest fuckup in my whole damn life.
I keep looking through the pictures, I find one in which my dad and I are together. He has his massive arm encircling my shoulder. I was twelve years in this one. I chuckle sadly when I notice the resemblance to him now that I’m all grown up, all but the hair.
My dad’s hair was black and curly even though it was really short. I look like a skinny brat at his side. He was tall just like me now and he was at least 190 pounds. I grin like a loony, staring at my dad’s face. I inherited from him my nose and the baritone voice. My eyes and the colour of my skin are my mom’s.
A mischievous gleam is sparkling in his eyes and they seem so full of pride while he’s hugging me. I bet my mom fell in love with my dad as soon as he flashed her with that mischievous gaze.
My fingers trace the contour of his face as I blink away my all of sudden blurry vision, remembering our man to man conversations about women and cars, while sipping from bottles of beer, always Corona.
He was always there to guide me with his advice full of wisdom, to show me the path to follow, teaching me how to lead my life in the right direction. We always waited until Mia was in her bedroom and we moved to the kitchen, taking a seat at the table. His rich deep voice, talking about respect, loyalty and honesty as he was sipping from his beer.
I would kill to have the chance to talk with him now. I’m so lost I want to scream at the top of my lungs. Now more than ever, I would give anything to hear my dad’s deep sultry voice one more time, showing where to go from here. Damn, dad, I miss you so much, old man.
Removing all those photos, I find a big yellow padded envelope. It seems that it was ready to be sent by post. The address of Lompoc is written on it and I am the addressee, but there is no sender.
I sniffle lightly, cleaning my wet cheeks, wiping my tears and with trembling hands I tear the top side. Carefully I pull a document from inside the envelope as if it’s a time bomb about to explode in my face. Fixing my gaze on the paper in my hand I realize it’s a photocopy of a clinic report. Hanna’s clinic report.
It’s signed by a doctor named Dr. J.L. Jurado. I narrow my eyes, reading silently all in one go when one word makes me stop dead, causing my throat to close with an invisible knot.
Oh, my God, no, please, no…let me be wrong…please….
I force myself to take a deep breath, causing my heart to ache like an invisible shiv is stabbing at it as I look inside the envelope. There’s as picture as well. Hanna’s.
My gaze slides all over the photo, taking in the details, watching Hanna sitting on the stairs that led to the kitchen from the small garden at the back side of this same house, right on the last step. It’s a sunny day, but it seems that the picture was taken at dusk.
She’s looking at some point far in the distance. It seems that whoever took this picture did it without Hanna being aware. Those beautiful green eyes, their grayish sparks around the pupils are sparkling with a mix of joy and sadness. Her hair is loose, falling down her shoulders and she’s dressed in a big red t-shirt I recognize in a second because it was mine. Hanna’s wearing my favorite red t-shirt, its hem resting at her middle thighs.
Her legs are extended and her bare feet are crossed at her ankles, resting on the green grass. Her back is pressed against one of the wooden columns that are supporting the beamed roof of the back porch that is covered with grapevine and a glass of what seems to be ice tea is at her side.
My eyes come to a stop on their journey over her body as I fix my gaze on her hands. I feel the air being knocked out of my lungs with such force that a sound gasp left my mouth. Her hands seem to be stroking her belly as she’s looking at the spot where the sun goes down.
I blink my suddenly blurry vision as my brain registers what I’m staring at. Hanna is stroking her belly, her lightly rounded belly.
I turn the picture around in my shaking hand, trying my best to read the words written on the back side of the photo. I’ve seen her handwriting, that’s how I know someone else wrote them on the back of the picture.
“Hanna and her little Dominic.”
There’s a date written down. Three months after the date of my incarceration.
Please, God, please don’t do this to me…not now, please…I can’t take it….
Silent tears are rolling down my cheeks unrestrained when I realize what it means. Hanna was pregnant with my baby, our baby.
“You should know it’s not nice to be rummaging through other people’s shit, pal.”
I snap my head up fast at the sound of a male voice and I find myself looking at Elaine’s dark guy who is leaning comfortably against the doorframe of the basement.
“You didn’t cross the border, so I guessed you would be still around.” He adds, narrowing his dark eyes. “I see I was right.”
I jump to my feet in one fast move, clenching my jaw as he crosses his arms over his broad chest, moving forward a step, stretching his back.
“You found what you were looking for, Dom?” He asks me, arching a brow. In response, I narrow my eyes in suspicion.
What the fuck is this fucker doing here? Why is he inside of Hanna’s home? Who the hell is this fucker? All these questions are popping inside my brain at once as I go through my options. I feel my heart pounding inside my chest and a shot of adrenaline runs through my veins in anticipation.
The guy must notice the tension radiating from my body because he relaxes his stance, chuckling as he plunges.
“I’m Richie, but call me Ricardo.”