“Well, hello my long lost friend!” Palo Pedro smiled crookedly at Eddie handing both drinks to Rosalinda. “What brings you out of your hole?”
Pedro did not wait for a response, instead turned his back to face Rosalinda, “A cooling drink of refreshment for my beautiful and loyal companion.” Then he added, “You are still working tonight, yes?” His grin so wide his eyes were forced into thin slits from the pressure of his rising cheeks.
Eddie was trying to keep up, not privy to any new relationship between them. He hoped the introductions and pleasantries would soon die altogether and Palo Pedro would leave them alone. He wanted to enjoy Rosalinda’s company, and the soothing coolness of the fan, but mostly it was Rosalinda he wanted. To his great disappointment, that was not to be.
“Of course,” Rosalinda responded, “I am working. Am I not always available to you?” Her eyes were cast downward and didn’t appear to embrace either Palo Pedro or the tilt of the conversation. She smoothed her dress, folded her hands and placed them on her lap, like a schoolgirl waiting for the nuns to leave. She did not look up at Pedro, but straight at Eddie with a look he interpreted as pleading. Don’t just sit there, do something! Chase this ogre! Save me, my noble prince! He imagined her begging for salvation.
The trio of people, a rosary of personalities, separate but connected each to the other. Pedro looking at Rosalinda, she looking at Eddie and he looking inward, feeling the pressure to speak, confront Palo Pedro and save the precious Rosalinda, the woman with the romantic green eyes and jasmine scent that he could not smell but knew that scent he longed to breath deeply was lingering all around her. This was a woman with whom he had history, but none of it recent. This last fact made Eddie feel like he was treading on some dangerously unknown and unsteady ground.
Nonetheless, he pulled a hand through his straight dark hair, reestablishing the right-to-left swooping wave, and said, “I have not been in a hole, Pedro.” This he said flatly and immediately wished he had said something more worthwhile, more heroic.
Slowly, Palo Pedro swiveled to face him, “We must talk. Alone. Soon. Finish your drink, I’ll wait at the bar.” This was said with the tone of a school principal not wanting to alarm the children, said in such a way that all the adults would know that this is an extremely important matter that needed attention, like the stormtroopers were approaching the outer gates and the time, long known to be coming and greatly feared, has now arrived. Palo Pedro leaned over and placed both hands, balled into fists, on the table like he was preparing to perform a marine pushup. He looked at Eddie, moved to within six inches of his face to make his point, widened his eyes slightly, and tilted his head as if to say, You got that, Ace! Palo Pedro then turned without repositioning his fists punched into the table like twin-sculpted, knurled mushroom balls and smiled graciously at Rosalinda.
Palo Pedro slowly pulled one fist at a time from the table, letting the first come to a rest at his side before dragging off the second. He looked not unlike a Neanderthal man, posing at the natural history museum, while young children filed past and snickered. He looked back at Eddie and reconfirmed, “I’ll be at the bar. Don’t keep me waiting.” Palo Pedro stood up, straightened himself to his full height, readjusted the top button on his shirt, spun and paused, showing his back like a tango dancer and departed. His demeanor left no doubt who was in charge. His unseen grin widened with every step.
They both watched him make his grand departure. After a moment, still looking at Palo Pedro as he neared the far side of the room, Eddie said, “Do they always serve drinks like that here?”
He looked back at Rosalinda. “So over the top in my opinion. Way too dramatic, don’t you think?” He forced a smile. Rosalinda turned to look at him, shifting her weight on the chair, and frowned.
“Okay, I’m kidding, I’ll go talk to him. I swear, I’ll get this all squared away,” he hastily said when his attempt at humor fell faster than a lead zeppelin. The frown on her face did not change. Eddie added, “Although I have no idea what this is all about,” he lied. That frown of hers was serious, like a mad clown holding a banana upside down against his mouth. “Maybe you could enlighten me a little?” he inquired. Damn, that’s the mother of all frowns, he thought, it was plastered up there, unmoving, it was Mount Rushmore, for chrissakes! He whispered across the table to Rosalinda, “You were supposed to smooth this over with them, no?”
He reached across the table and pulled his drink over from in front of Rosalinda where Palo Pedro had placed it, leaving a wet trail along the tabletop and raised the glass to his mouth. Eddie turned it a few times to find a place on the rim without mint leaves blocking his way and took a small sip. He waited for her to say something. Anything.
“Oh Eddie, why must it always be this way with me? I mean, we can never be without something hanging over your head?” she said, mixing her pronouns. “You know how hard I try, but I do not understand men at all, not even my darling son, RuhMoan, who constantly disappoints me, even as you do, Eddie?”
Her grammar is so much better than it used to be, thought Eddie absently, and she still looks good for her age, doesn’t she? Always kept herself firm. Curves in place. She is not too old for me, although I am about the same age as her son… I wonder if she would hold that against me. Enter fantasyland… Maybe we, the two of us, could get out of here and…
His brain was processing the words she had spoken on some sub-level, when it came to one particular word, that name, the one that caused an involuntary jerking spasm to race up his spine. An internal alarm was initiated that quickly ramped up to a raging siren, saturating his brain, muddling his thoughts.
The mention of her son, RuhMoan! That name shocked him out of his fantasy drift, jarred him back to the present, like metal banging on metal. Alert! Alert! The memories flooded back in quickly, like a monsoon soaked current, overpowering, bursting the damn of resentment that he had painstakingly built over the years. That damn kid. That damn, worthless kid! His mood and expression dropped like a nautilus grade submarine on emergency dive maneuvers. Surely this is not about RuhMoan! Not Again! Eddie, dazed, raised his rum drink and gulped a bouquet of pointy mint leaves down his rapidly constricting throat. C’mon now! This was NOT the plan!