Here is the first chapter of the novel I am writing.
When I saw Ana Lucia Arismendi Obregon it was like time had stopped. She was sitting at a table at the back of the room. Her dark hair flowed over her shoulders and down into the middle of her back. She was no longer the awkward teenager that I remembered that loved gelados and having fun in the park. Her dress was stylish, grey with spaghetti straps. Suede boots covered her feet like slippers. Upon seeing her I almost did not notice that the bodega was almost empty. Only an older couple sat at a table eating enchiladas near the middle of the restaurant. The only light was from the windows that lined all four walls. The sunlight filled the room with a heavenly glow and illuminated Ana Lucia’s hair causing it to glow.
Her back was to the wall and she was sipping a glass of water. She set it down and it was then that she saw me. Her dark brown eyes locked on mine and in them I could see a mix of surprise and recognition. There was the slightest hint of redness in her cheeks and she looked away embarrassed. I made my through the tables and approached her table.
I stood at the edge of the table and smiled at her.
She did not look up at first but when she did it was as if she did not know me.
“I am sorry, sir you must have the wrong table,” she said.
“It is me! It is Jack.” I said smiling even wider.
My smile seemed to make her uncomfortable. She glanced at me and then back at her glass of water.
She continued to avoid my gaze. “No. I don’t remember you.” She said softly.
It had been ten years since I last saw her. She was just a 15 year old girl at the time I left. Now she was older in her mid twenties. My memories of her were fond ones. They were the only bright spot in a dark time. I remember how we used to play in her grandmother’s garden with my dog and would go and get ice cream in the afternoons and just laugh at my jokes and just chat about anything. Other than my friend Jaime, Ana Lucia had been my only friend when I was younger. Being the only gringos in the small town of Guadalupe in Sonora life was difficult, but also being misunderstood made life difficult. I was always a kid that preferred to spend time by myself. Making friends had been difficult for me. I wasn’t shy. It wasn’t until I left Guadalupe and went to live in Los Angeles with my grandfather that I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Ana Lucia could not have possibly known that when we were younger, but I don’t think that to her it would have mattered. She had been a true friend. An angel that lived in a house of snakes. Now here she was ten years later, pretending not to know me.
I knew she was lying and I told her so.
“I know you remember me, Ana Lucia,” I said. “You recognized me from the first moment you saw me.”
I sat down at the table. Ana Lucia did not try and stop me.
She looked up at me, her eyes pleading with me to forgive her. There were tears in her eyes.
It was such a wonderful feeling to see her again. So many things had changed since I last saw her. I wanted to tell her everything that had happened to me, but I didn’t. I just smiled at her.
There was a small vase of flowers in the center of the table. The vase was full of lavender like the ones she gave me once when we were younger.
“I have never forgotten you.” I said I plucking some of the flowers up with my left hand and handing them to her.
Tears welled in her eyes as she accepted the flowers, but as she did she stopped and glanced at my hand. I knew she was looking at the wedding ring on my ring finger. She looked up at me with what I thought was surprise, but it could have just as easily have been something else that I did not recognize. That look she gave me concerned me.
I knew I should have taken the ring off, but the scars of my wife’s death two years before were still fresh.
I wanted to tell her everything but I wasn’t here for a social visit.
I was back in Guadalupe to find out who killed my mother.
Ten years had passed since her death and the memories of those events had haunted me since the night she died. My memories of the events leading up to her death were still clear in my mind.
My father died when I was young. At least that is what my mother told me at first.
Seeing Ana Lucia, filled my heart with joy.
“Why are you lying to me?” I asked her again.
She opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a man’s voice.
Ana Lucia quickly hid the flowers I had given her in her purse.
I looked up and a young man in his late twenties, with short brown hair a mustache sat down at the table.
“Hello my dear.” He said to Ana Lucia as he leaned over and kissed her. I recognized him. He was Raul Pedregon the son of Juan Pedregon the president of the local Association of Farmers whom my grandfather and I had met with earlier that day. It was Juan who had suggested I have this lunch with his son. Juan probably wanted Raul and me to be friends in the hopes of gaining my grandfather’s good graces when it came time to do business.
Raul sat down and gave Ana Lucia a peck on the lips. She did not look happy about it.
“Hello Jack,I see you two have already met. Ana Lucia,” he said grabbing her chin and tugging on it affectionately, “is my girlfriend.”
Ana Lucia looked positively annoyed his gesture.
“Jack is the son of Raymond Dempsey.” Raul told Ana Lucia. “They came here to invest money and build a packing plant.”
“Yes,” she responded. “You already told me that.”
Raul turned back to me. “Well it is a good thing that you came to this state. If you had decided to go somewhere else we would have been screwed.”
I smiled at him reassuringly. He had no idea how long the plan to come back here had been in the works. Raul was already giving me the impression that he was a lazy ignoramus. The more he spoke the more I was sure of this. I was here not just to invest money. That was a pretext. I wanted to know who killed my mother.
“Oh don’t worry,” I said smiling wryly. “The decision to come here was made here some time ago.”
Ana Lucia gave me a look that was mixture of surprise and anger. The glimmer of anger was something that bothered me.
“Have you ordered yet?” Raul asked.
I said no.
Raul called for the waiter. “Waiter!” he shouted.
A waiter approached the table. “Would you like something to drink?”
Raul smiled and said looking at me, “Would you like some tequila?”
I shook my head no. “ Tequila? No Thank you?”
Raul seemed offended by my response. “Well then what do you want, wine?” he asked almost spitting out wine.
I turned to Ana Lucia “What do you prefer wine or tequila?”
She looked uncomfortable as if she was still uncertain as to what to say to me. “Wine.” she said tepidly.
The waiter handed Raul the wine list. Raul handed them to me “I will let you look at it because I don’t know much.”
Of that I was sure.
I took the wine list from him and glanced at it briefly. “What do you prefer to red or white wine?” I asked Ana Lucia.
Ana Lucia’s gaze returned to what it had been initially and had been throughout the entire conversation a look of happiness mixed with shock and surprise and uncertainty.
She responded uncomfortably,, “I don’t care.”Her response was not flippant as it was more uncertain than anything else.
Raul turned to her “He asked what you wanted.” he said with a slightly condescending tone. “Tell him what you want. You look like a rancher’s daughter without social graces.”
Ana Lucia turned her head quickly in his direction. Her dark hair whirling about slightly. I saw a glimpse of fire in her eyes. “Look, I am not a rancher’s daughter without social graces. You know perfectly well that I don’t like to drink.”
Raul seemed to back off his comment for a second. He shook his head and smiled at me. “She has character. And it is for that that I like her so much.” he said glancing at her. “Look I was just joking Ana Lucia. Get what you want.”
Ana Lucia was still visibly upset. “I don’t like jokes like the ones your father makes.”
Wisely I interrupted their conversation. “Let’s just get some wine.”
I handed the wine list back to the waiter. “Just give us whatever red wine you from Baja California.”
The waiter nodded and left.
The sun was hot on my face as we walked outside after we had finished the meal. Raul had his arm around Ana Lucia who by now seemed much more comfortable. Raul let go of the Ana Lucia
“Hey,” Raul said to me. “How about we go to the club tonight?”
I shook my head. “No I have some business to attend to tomorrow and need to go to bed early tonight.”
Raul pressed the matter.”I could introduce you to some women.”
Again I shook my head and said no.
Raul peered at me for a second. “Why do you have a girlfriend?”
Ana Lucia looked at me. Her eyes filled with interest.
“No,” I said. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”
Ana Lucia looked away for a second then returned her gaze back to me and my left hand. Raul followed her gaze and looking at my hand. “Or is it that you married? You know how wives can be. You tell them you are going somewhere especially to a foreign country and they get jealous. You step out once and they make your life hell.”
I hesitated before answering. I really did not want to answer with Ana Lucia watching but this idiot decided to press the matter. How to answer that question?
“I don’t think my wife would be jealous. She’s dead. I am only recently widowed.” I said.
The look Ana Lucia was similar to the one that she had given me earlier that I had not liked earlier. Only this time it was more intense.
Raul seemed oblivious to this. “Hey give me your valet tickets.” He said to us.
We both complied and he went to give our tickets to the valet.
Ana Lucia looked at me again. “You were married?”
“Yes. I was, but she died last year” I wanted to change the subject as quickly as possible. “How is your family?”
Ana Lucia sighed. “They are well.” she said. “My sister just got married.”
I was surprised by this news since Ana Lucia’s sister Carolina had always said when we were younger that she would rather bathe in acid than get married. I guess time changes people. Proof of this was Ana Lucia. She was no longer the teenager I remembered. She had become a beautiful and intelligent woman. It surprised me to that I thought she was perhaps the most beautiful woman I had seen in my life.
“You know,” I said. “I never thought you would end up with an idiot like Raul.”
She looked away. “Our families wanted it.”
It was clear that she did not.
Raul returned with our keys. He and Ana Lucia said her goodbyes. I stayed for a watching them leave. I knew that some how some way, I was going to see Ana Lucia again. Fate had a strange way of making things like that happen, but now I needed to attend to the business I had spoken to Raul about. I needed to see my friend Jaime, but first I needed to visit my mother’s grave. It was time to see her grave. I grasped my car keys and walked into the sunlight towards the curb where the valet had left my car waiting for me.