After a day had passed, a car arrived at her house. A man holding a package got out and came to her door. When she opened it, he bowed slightly and said he had been sent by Señor Sierra Vargas. He handed her the package and withdrew to the car.
Isabel had drunk all the wine in her house. She had gone to the store and bought four more bottles. And one of tequila, along with some limes. The empty wine bottles now sat on the kitchen table. The tequila had not yet been opened and the limes remained uncut.
She couldn’t imagine she had consumed so much, but the bottles stood as silent accusers, staring at her like a small glass firing squad.
She opened the package by tearing at the paper, not really wanting to find out was inside, but it seemed the man in the car was awaiting something in response from her, so she felt compelled. The first thing she saw was a first-class plane ticket to New York. Then a hotel reservation and another paper with an address where Lita was supposed to be staying. At the bottom of the package was a hand written note and a small box.
The note read:
Isabella mine, I offer this small token as the first in what will be many tokens of adoration. Your trip to New York and your show is all arranged. Soon your show will open. Spend the intervening time in working out arrangements for bringing your darling home. It is my understanding that the young man she followed has not proven as ardent towards her now that he is back in America. Upon your return we shall make our wedding arrangements and then the campaign will begin. This will be a glorious time for us, and all of Mexico will be a part of our year- long celebrations. Adios for now.
And he signed it with a large E for Eduardo.
Isabel let the note drop onto the floor. She felt a wave of nausea sweep over her as more memories she could not control swelled like a tide through her mind.
He was on top of her and then inside of her, his hand pulling her legs apart, inserting himself forcibly into her, his barrel chest heaving against her. She tried now to erase the memory of it but the scene replayed itself like a movie clip taken out of context. She remembered begging him but he mistook this for pleasure and she remembered when he came it was with a rush of breath scented from cognac.
And it had not ended there. He was not satisfied to have taken her once. He would have her again. Simply looking at her excited him and now as she lifted the small box out of the package, it came back to her clearly that she had come home so late because his appetites had not been satisfied for many hours and he had relished having her naked in his bed to do with as he pleased.
She opened the small box. Nestled inside on a bed of black velvet was a diamond ring. One very large sparkling stone surrounded by many smaller diamonds and rubies in a circle. It was the kind of ring she had seen on the fingers of some collectors’ wives, wealthy people with money to burn. Holding the ring, she walked to the door where she leaned against the door frame for support as she waved to the driver. He touched a finger to his hat and drove off.
There was a place in her house where she kept the few valuables she had. A note written to her once long ago by a young man in Florence, a note promising to join her in Mexico, a promise never kept. Now she went to this place in her house, a small wall safe behind one of her own paintings. Taking down the painting, she unlocked the safe and tossed the ring carelessly inside and only as she was about to close the heavy door did she notice the lid of a box that held her only other precious possession was slightly open. She reached in and lifting the lid saw immediately that the box was empty and knew what Lita had sold to pay the smuggler to take her across the border. It was the one heirloom handed down through many generations of women in their family, an emerald necklace that had originated in Spain before her mother’s family had come to Mexico. Isabel’s mother had given it to Estrellita at her confirmation when she was fourteen. And now it was gone and Lita was gone and Isabel was left with this feeling of dread and loss. But in another part of her, the wounded part, she felt release, for Lita had not done the unthinkable after all. And for that Isabel was grateful. She closed the safe, replaced the painting and went to the kitchen table.
She turned to the bottle, opened it and poured a glass of tequila as she reached for a knife to cut the lime. In her mind she saw Eduardo standing up, pulling on his trousers, puffing up his chest, leaning over her, stroking her face and saying over and over, “Finally, finally, finally.”