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"Rules of Engagement"


Ralph's Place:
A Magical Experience
By C. Michael Bennis

Dangerous and Desirable

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Ralph's Place:
A Magical Experience

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Dangerous and Desirable

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Dangerous and Desirable

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Signs of Destiny

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Rules of Engagement Book
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Rules of Engagement

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Book Excerpt

 

The Signs of Destiny
By C. Michael Bennis

 

Chapter I. – Madrid, October 1973


Very rarely do I dream and if I do, I never recall the experience. Last night, I saw myself lying dead in the morgue.

 

I checked my watch, although I knew she was late. I wondered if my hopes had risen too far. We had an incredible rapport for a brief period when business demanded we work together. I was about to leave when I heard an exciting increase in conversation at Jose Luis. Instinctively, I knew this moment would be a touchstone of my existence as I stood to greet Gisele Alcoforado.

 

Gisele was instantly identifiable to every Madrileño. Her distinctive stiletto heels, shapely legs, angular face and exquisite designer clothing were the trademarks of Spain’s favorite starlet, who now stood before me with a twinkle in her eyes, “You’ve been waiting?”

 

I nodded with a smile as I delicately kissed both sides of her beautiful countenance,” and I then held the chair for her.

 

“You’ve been waiting for 30 minutes or more. I’ll bet you thought I wouldn’t turn up.”

 

“I admit it. I suspected you might find businessmen very boring.”

 

“Funny, you would say that. Those were my thoughts when they told me to audition for an insurance commercial that would be directed by a salesman who would shoot his first commercial. I almost refused the assignment.”

 

“What changed your mind?”

 

“I checked through back issues of ¡Hola! There you were, looking elegantly stunning at black tie social events, but never with the same woman. You photographed handsomely with a smile and the whimsical arbitrariness of aristocracy. My reaction was ‘why bother,’ until I checked the current issue where I saw you standing before a blackboard with the caricature of a dog at the International Primary School with twenty small, excited children and their teachers. Everyone was laughing hilariously, and the children’s eyes twinkled with delight. You were quite successful at teaching the children to draw animals. There was such depth to your persona! I knew at once I wanted to be in your first TV commercial.”

 

“You had the part the minute I saw you.”

 

“I know. I could see it in your eyes.”

 

“Admittedly, I saw your Curriculum Vitae before I met you. I knew you’re a polyglot and you studied in both New York and Zurich. Most importantly, you’re also the most recognizable beauty in Spain, thanks to your weekly appearance on Don Kiko Ledgard’s game program, Un, Dos, Tres, Otra Vez.

“You already could see me standing beside the reckless young man with the motorcycle?”

“Yes. I could envision you in this role despite your excellent education and your talented star quality in Spain.”

 

“You perceived me as a person who would be attracted to a young man without money? A daredevil? You think I’d climb onto the back of his motorcycle as he races through death defying stunts?”

 

I looked into Gisele’s eyes, “You would! Admittedly, it has to be the right young man.”

 

She looked hard, unsmiling into my eyes, “You’re right! I would do it.” She was laughing.

 

“Admit it, Gisele! You’re independent and uninhibited.”

 

“Guilty!”

 

“¡Por Dios, que haces aquí!”

 

“ Ah, ha! You didn’t expect me to appear. Admit it!”

 

“Exactly! I’m an uninteresting man whose only talent is in business!”

 

“This is so fascinating! It’s absolutely delicious, Rafael.”

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“You’re a lousy businessman!” Gisele began laughing.

 

“What are you saying?”

 

“The truth. Also, I’m not here because you’re the scion of one of Europe’s wealthiest men.”

 

“I am totally bereft of attributes. So, why are you here?”

 

“I’m here to be with the most fascinating man I’ve ever known.”

 

I flinched. “Please explain?”

 

“Truthfully, you are the furthest thing in the world from a businessman. You’re a chameleon, Rafael. You change colors to match your surroundings.”

 

My mind flashed back in time to when I stood as a hopeless child before my deceased mother’s closest friend. I was alone with no one else to turn to when Araceli advised me to be a chameleon. Gisele, perceived what no one else could.

 

I looked bewilderedly into the eyes of this glamorous twenty-four-year-old, who was eight years younger, and light years more intuitive. “Gisele, you truly astonish me.”

 

The waiter was standing beside our table. “What would you like, Gisele?”

 

Gisele held my eyes with a mischievous smirk, and requested a Cuba Libre with Gin and two highly seasoned pork tapas on a skewer with cumin and paprika. She was still looking into my eyes.

 

The bartender was waiting. “I drink Cuba Libres with rum.”

 

“I drink them with Gin, and so do the Spaniards! When in España Rafa, do as los Españoles. You’re no longer in Cuba.”

 

I ordered the drink with gin, and then I asked, “How did you perceive I was a chameleon?”

 

“In case you have forgotten, I’m an actress and I make a living by role-playing. It’s simple to identify someone who is playing a role they are unsuited for.”

 

“Gisele, I’m quite successful as a businessman.”

 

“It’s nothing more than a game. It’s a living form of Monopoly ™. One day it will cease to amuse you.”

 

“What should I be doing?”

 

“You should be an artist. You have the innate ability to create with the wonder of a child. I was amazed during production. You have such depths to your creative intellect. It must take only a fraction of your talent to convince prospects to buy insurance. I believe the day may come when you will be unable to hold back the creative energy. On that day, Rafa, you will wake up.”

 

This beautiful young woman was deftly shattering my persona as she searched for the real Rafael Valverde, as if such a person existed.

 

“Rafa please put aside what you’re feeling and tell me how you created the ad campaign for Sansert.”

 

I took a deep calming breath and looked into her expectant eyes. Gisele seemed fascinated and I smiled, “The whole idea was zany, given that I’d never written ad copy. One afternoon, I returned from lunch with a major corporate client, where the wine flowed and the cognac followed. I entered the office, feeling excited with the client’s commitment, when I was immediately ushered into the boardroom to face my boss and a creative director from the ad agency. They had reached a stalemate on the new campaign targeting single men.

 

“My boss, Julio Navarro, was interested to know if I had any ideas since my sales record suggested I positioned Sansert in a positive manner.”

 

“This is what I have been dying to know!”

 

“My idea was to convert an insurance policy for young men into something other than a drain on their limited resources. Time was narrowing toward the day the campaign was planed to air.

 

“I explained how I thought things out visually. I could see a handsome, athletic young man, clad in jeans and a black T-shirt, standing beside a high-speed motorcycle and talking to an attractive brunette.

 

“My idea was to place insurance into the category of fast vehicles and fine accoutrements. These were things most young men aspired to have. The copy would suggest gorgeous women loved danger, but needed security. The motif would be: Live dangerously, Love intensely and Leave a fortune.

 

“I was feeling expansive when I said, ‘Normally, life insurance delicately avoids mentioning how the policy cashes in at the morgue. Contrarily, I dared to suggest how some men could benefit from being a world-class risk-taker. For a few pesetas the insured would be worth as much or more than the guy driving his dad’s Ferrari. ‘What more could beautiful women want?’ The ad would be designed “to even the playing field for dangerously driven young men.’”

 

“I proposed this with the belief Sansert would reject my concept, and I could quickly return to my desk. To my astonishment, they accepted my proposal and you, Gisele, became the featured brunette.”

 

The strong drinks arrived and Gisele was now staring at me with a vulnerability I could never have imagined.

 

“You’re not a businessman, Rafael.” Her eyes were moist when she moved her chair closely beside me and took hold of my hands. “You did something that shattered my neatly organized life. I’ll never forget how you stopped the cameraman and whispered in my ear, ‘Gisele, do you remember when we met? You gave me a delightfully surprised and embarrassed smile. That’s the look I want. You own it. No one else in the world could duplicate that look.’”

 

“I remember, Gisele. The cameraman annoyed me by telling you to look lascivious. This was not what I wanted. You have the remarkable ability to be enchanting. One look at your special smile conveys the desire for romance. That is what I want young men to experience when they see the Sansert ad. The insurance policy is a subliminal ticket to romance with the woman of your dreams.”

 

“Rafa, you went beyond the needs of your production. You saw the real me! I live in front of artists portraying visual images. They film what they need to see. Not you, Rafa. You saw me as I truly am. You touched my intrinsic essence. I’m here because you are an extraordinary man.”

 

“Funny, but I have never considered myself to be extraordinary.”

 

“I’m astonished.”

 

“Keep that thought. Let’s celebrate your fortunate arrival and my acceptance of a new job.”

 

“You’re leaving Sansert?” She appeared shocked.

 

“As a matter of fact, I am.”

 

“You’re not serious?”

 

“Yes, I’ll be the Senior Vice President of ASSA (Asegurador Serpentario S.A.), and earn double my salary plus a significant commission on new business.”

 

“You should not do this, Rafael. Sansert is the best in España.”

 

“I have my reasons.” I stared into her troubled brown eyes.

 

“How could you do this? They love you! The Ad you created will air next week.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Rafa, why? You’re a Valverde, you couldn’t possibly need the extra income.”

 

“It was a spontaneous decision. ASSA came to me with the offer. They needed to build their client base, and they offered to appointment me Vice President of ASSA.”

 

“I’m missing something.”

 

I started laughing, “You’re intuitive ability is disarming.”

 

“Rafa, the 30-minute Ad production grew into four long days. You were continually changing everything. The production had to be exactly as you wanted it. The agency fought you, and you fought back, threatening to cancel their contract. I watched as the battle raged between you and the agency.”

 

“They wouldn’t listen.”

 

“Amidst all the trouble, you were attentive to me. ‘Was I okay with what you planned? What did I think? Did I need anything to eat or drink?’ And suddenly, you said, ‘this would make a fabulous poster, would you be interested? It could be great for your career!’ Rafael Valverde my eyes never left you. I was observing you!”

“The chameleon?”

“¡Verdad, hombre! Now, please tell me what I’m missing?”

 

“You’re missing my father. He is manipulative. He secured the job for me with Sansert in Madrid. Now, he’s pressing hard for me to take over the position as Sansert’s Vice-President. The current V.P. has a wife and four kids. He is not very competent. In a matter of time he might be forced out. But I’ll not be the cause of his dismissal!”

 

“So you left to save the ass of a man with no future?”

 

“Sansert is a family company. I believe Julio Navarro, might take care of this man. In any case, I will not be the cause of his undoing.”

 

She took a deep breath, “You’re a lousy businessman. You’re also the most fascinating man I’ve ever known.” She pinched my cheek, and laughed, “¡Eres incredible! A part of you has never grown up. The other part is enchantingly brilliant.”

 

“You’re the first to ever think so.”

 

“You’re starting a new job. Well, I have news. We’re both starting new jobs. For years, I have been one of several models for Loewe fashion, and they recently recommended me to a top Swedish designer.

 

Today, I learned the Swedish designer has selected me to model their suede and fur catalogue. So we’re both starting something new. What do you think?”

“I forgot what I was thinking.”

“You’re blushing, Rafael. A peseta for your thoughts?”

“I was actually thinking we might run away together and celebrate our new jobs with a week in Portugal. We could go to the casino, maybe visit some lovely places along the coast, and perhaps drive to your parents’ birthplace. We’d start off tonight with a suite at the Ritz in Lisbon, and in the morning, we could make our plans over breakfast in bed. What do you think?”

 

Gisele looked into my eyes without expression for an agonizingly long time. She was hunting for something only women know how to read in a man’s eyes, while I looked back into her dark brown pools of mystery. With the same look, she took hold of my hands and looked downward.”

 

“I forgot about Un Dos, Tres, Otra Vez! You’re probably filming another segment.”

 

“I have nothing planned except to be with you. “We should do it!” She began laughing, ‘Oof! It took you long enough to ask.”

 

“I was fearful you might refuse.”

 

“Secretly, I have been wishing you would ask me to go away with you. Yet you couldn’t sense this. It’s strange how perceptive you can be with some things and not with others.”

 

I could feel my face redden.

 

Gisele’s face creased into a delightful smile. “Phony businessman. You are absolutely outrageous! I can’t imagine anyone pulling off such an incredible ad! I often had to bite my tongue during the shoot to keep from laughing. You know there will be young Spanish machos lining up from Bilbao to Malaga to buy your policy.”

 

“For an encore, I was thinking of doing an ad for the black La Toja soap. It would show you as a shadow in the shower and proclaim how washing with La Toja could touch the senses. I would call it, La Toja, the shadow of desire!”

 

“Rafa, you must do it!” Then Gisele parted with a naughty, sensual laugh, “I was just wondering if Sansert will survive the ad’s first week.”

 

“Why do you say that?” I asked with surprise.

 

“Just imagine all the wrecked motorcycles and millionaire girlfriends that might result from the pleasure of extreme risk taking! You could sell a lot of insurance but you might loose it all to death benefit claims.”

 

“Honestly, I never thought of that. I had so much fun creating the concept. Lets hope you’re wrong. Admittedly, I’m not a copywriter. I earn my salary by selling stodgy, boring corporate insurance to CEO’s over expensive meals.”

 

“You’re a Valverde. You can do anything you want!”

 

“Ironically, that’s what Sansert said when they hired me. I had never taken a business course yet they contracted me at once, thanks to my father. Yes, there are advantages to being a Valverde.”

 

Gisele offered me the hot skewer of seasoned Pincho Moruno, and I carefully removed a bite of meat without burning my lips. Next, she served herself slowly, with her eyes locked onto mine, while her tongue slowly licked the residue from her lips.

 

She stared into my eyes and moved to extend the skewer to me, but hesitated, holding it teasingly just beyond my mouth. Then she placed the skewer down and her sensual tongue entered into my mouth seeking my taste and the saffron flavor. In this fashion, we slowly shared succulent morsels with a provocative sexual appetite until we finished both skewers.

 

Suddenly, I became aware of the Jose Luis audience. People were now standing, gawking and shouting, “Agua! Agua! Agua!”

 

Gisele grinned, “Chameleon, you’re delightfully delicious! ¡Huy, Rafa! Your mind traveled. Tell me, where you went. What are you thinking?”

 

I hate it when women do this. It means I have to lie or tell the truth. I took a deep breath, “I was thinking how very much I need to take you into my arms. Our seductive sharing has me desperately wanting to make love to you.”

 

“I was thinking the same thing, Rafa. I might be unable to wait until tonight!” Giselle burst out laughing, “I’ll bet you’re proud of yourself, getting me to come with you!”

 

“Not true. I’m fearful this is not real, it’s not happening and I’ll wake up.”

 

Gisele looked at me in disbelief. “I can’t believe it! You have no idea how handsome you are! Listen! I have never stopped thinking about you since I first saw you. I’ve lived with the fantasy of this moment, and it’s better than I ever imagined.”

 

We finished our drinks and I called the waiter over to request the check.

 

At that moment, Gisele stared at me expressionlessly. She was a placid lake on the exterior, yet beneath the surface, I suspected Gisele flowed with intense feelings. She could be playful, amusing and very refreshing. Yet there was an unknown depth to her persona.

 

The seriousness remained, and Gisele continued to look into my eyes with concern, “Rafa, you waste incredible talent while playing a role that doesn’t suit you!” She grabbed my chin. “I will help you find the man you were destined to become.”

 

I turned to watch the blur of passing cars, the motion of legs scissoring past, the murmur of conversation that rose and tumbled in cascades, the passing to and fro of smells from the kitchen… when the image was broken by a single word, “Hey, you’re Gisele!”

 

A scruffy, young reporter in dirty jeans and moccasins stood beside the table, unrestrainedly eager to scoop a scandalous story.

 

I felt protective of Gisele as I looked into her whimsical eyes. She was studying me. ‘Would I be willing?’ I nodded my approval and watched Giselle as she charmed the reporter with her eyes.

 

The reporter asked, “Gisele, who are you with?”

 

“This is Rafael Valverde. He is the most creative person I know. Rafael’s advertising campaign for Sansert will soon air on Televisa España. You must not miss it!”

 

“Gisele, are you featured in Rafael’s commercial?”

 

“Of course,” said Gisele

 

“Are you two linked romantically?”

 

She looked at me and then gave the reporter the delightfully surprised and embarrassed smile. The look she owned. No one else in the world could duplicate that look, and Gisele declared loudly, “¡Sí, señor!”

 

We posed for pictures, while the entire Jose Luis audience watched our every move. Now we were romantically linked together for 35 million Spaniards.

 

After the reporter left, Gisele looked up amusedly. “Now all of Spain will know we are sleeping together, and it has yet to happen!”

 

“Gisele, this is an incredible experience.”

 

“What we’re sharing is much more than an incredible experience. Do you forgive me?

 

“For linking us together romantically? Nothing to forgive! I’m honored.”

 

“No, Rafa, not for that. For seeing you as the chameleon you truly are.”

 

I shuddered, “You’re the first to know it!”

 

I paid the bill and asked, “Would you like to pack a valise?”

 

“No, Rafa. More clothes will be totally unnecessary. I’m feeling so happy, Rafa, that I’m frightened to leave you for even a moment.”

 

I led Gisele to the car, where my lovely companion slipped into the red E-Type convertible and tucked her long legs in after her. She smiled with her tongue partly distended between her lips and looked upward into my eyes with overt sexual need.

 

My mouth sought hers and our tongues danced as an electric stimulation tingled through my body.

“You know I want you!” said Gisele.

 

“I’m burning with desire. Shall we go to my apartment?”

 

“No, we’ll find a spot. It’s going to be risqué and wonderful. Then we’ll be in Lisbon in each other’s arms. Gisele drew my face toward her and kissed me deeply. Her face was inches away when she said, “You’re wondering if you can fall in love with me?”

 

“I wonder if I dare.”

 

“I have never felt this way. You’ll be safe, Rafa. I promise.”

 

“I sense that.”

 

“Rafa, let’s Live dangerously, Love intensely and Let passion show us the way.

 

“We’ve become my advertisement.”

 

“Only this is real and not imaginary. Let’s be on our way!”

 

I pulled back the ragtop and the sleek Jaguar transported Gisele and I out of Madrid with the signature rumbling exhaust that characterizes the E-Type Jag. We moved from the metropolis into parched hills, where the Extremadura highway snaked through the uneventful plains that isolated this province’s progress for centuries.

 

The afternoon was warm and relaxing. The red sun baked tiles along the scattered rooftops reflected a wavy blur of heat—no longer with the magnitude of summer coals—but rather with the glow of crumbling age and coming winter. The storks that had earlier perched on rooftops were now elsewhere.

 

We passed through Talavera de la Reina and Gisele propped her knees against the dashboard to expose black lace panties as she slid downward into her seat. She gazed intensely at me and a smiled formed on her lips when she arched her back and slowly turned her head sideways to stare at the bulge in my pants.

 

Gently, I fondled Gisele’s taunt nipples and I watched the effects begin to ripple through her glorious body.

 

Gisele’s fingers were now in my lap, and she toyed with the bulge in my pants, when the long tongue moistened her lips.

 

“Rafa, slow down, there’s a place!” Gisele pointed to a country road that led into a small clump of Madroño trees. I slowed and exited the highway to park on a hill overlooking the vast plateau of the Meseta Central. In the distance, we faced the beautiful Sierra de los Gredos mountain range. This was a spectacular location for our first sexual encounter.

 

I exited my side of the Jag and passed around the car to where Gisele already stood waited with a flushed smile. Her hands began unbuttoning my shirt, and caressing my chest and nipples. Frequently, Giselle would pause to peer deeply into my eyes, and to smile smugly as she redden with passion.

 

I found the condom in my trousers a moment before Gisele sent them downward with my briefs.

 

“¡Apúrate, Rafa!” We fought over my erection as we both tried to apply the condom at the same time.

 

“Huy!” Gisele began squirming, “Now, I need you now!”

 

I took hold of Gisele’s firm dairy-aire and lifted her upward until she was supported against the Jag. “Hold onto my shoulders.”

 

Gisele wrapped her beautiful legs around my waist as I gently entered part way into her moist vagina. My thrusts started slowly, gently at first and then quickened once Giselle accepted me fully inside.

Gisele’s legs tightened about my hips and we began moving together with an unexpected surprise: our bodies fitted together perfectly. Each movement stimulated incredible sensations. Minutes later, Giselle’s body trembled. “Oh, Rafa… This is wonderful. I’ve desperately wanted to do this. Never imagined … I’m so sorry… I can’t hold back!”

 

I watched her face tighten as Gisele writhed with pleasure. Slowly her head rested on my shoulder. She seemed almost childlike as she encircled her arms gently about my chest.

 

“We can continue, just say when.”

 

“No! Don’t you dare! I’m wallowing in pleasure.”

 

Gisele pulled back, her eyes were wide open and she laughed gently, when for the first time, I saw tiny freckles on her soft cheeks. Minutes later, she grabbed my fingers and thrust them into her mouth while her tongue darted along the fingertips, “Rafa, it’s your move. Now!”

 

Our hips moved rhythmically while we stared into each other’s eyes. Gisele’s face flushed, her eyes darkened, and her fingernails pierced into my shoulder as a primordial obsession overtook both of us. Our eyes witnessed the erotic effects of unrestrained passion as we whirled on our carousel of pleasure.

 

My breathing was coming in short gasps and I was fighting to control my orgasm as our movements intensified. Seconds later, we climaxed together. My legs were weak, my shoulders ached; yet I somehow managed to hold her firmly as she twisted and squirmed in my arms.

 

Carefully, I opened the passenger side door and sat into the seat with my last remaining strength. I was still inside Gisele and she sat facing me, astride my legs that supported us on the ground beneath the Jag.

 

Gisele looked sad and concerned when she whispered, “Did I frighten you when you saw the primal need in my eyes?”

 

“I saw nothing more fearful than the essence of profound passion.

 

“Rafa, my parents came from a rural Portuguese village that existed between a mountain and a deep, placed lake. The church bells echoed on Sundays and Holy Days across the lake and into the mountain. Life was primitive, needs were basic, and primeval emotions existed unchecked.

 

“Making love to you awakened primitive and ancient urges of my past. In your arms I again became part of the village, the mountain, the lake and the church bells. It could not have been pretty. For the first time in my life, I know truly who I am. On two occasions you have defined my life. There could be no greater gift.”

 

“Gisele, what did you see when you looked into my eyes?”

 

“I expected to see the sadness. On the contrary, I saw raindrops, sunlight and flowers. Rafa, I’ll never find the words to describe these brilliant images.”

“Try legendary.”

“Legendary. That’s it. And you?”

“¡Legendary! You’ve touched the very essence of my being.”

“What do you feel when I wiggle?”

 

“I feel my penis becoming engorged.”

 

Gisele hugged me tightly, and whispered, “your sensitive eyes told me about you! Do you suppose it would be lustful of me to ask for one more thrill?”

 

“Let’s do it, Gisele.”

 

The afternoon was languishing. We were still linked together with the euphoric pleasure of endorphins, while we looked upon the orange glow of the setting sun. Gisele whispered softly into my ear, “This moment will be a part of me forever.”

 

I kissed her deeply and hugged her tightly.

 

Gisele relaxed and stretched backward. She giggled, “My body can’t stop tingling with excitement!”

We were covered in our love juices when the two of us laughed in lively amusement. “I’ll bet you don’t have a towel in the Jag’s boot?”

 

“The sun was waning on the western horizon when we held hands while sitting on the hood of the Jag and smoking Benton Hedges cigarettes.

 

Gisele looked melancholy. “I believe this is my favorite place in the entire world. They say you have a chance when you die to visit one place. This is where I would come!” She stared into my eyes. “I truly would, Rafa.” Gisele rose, walked several feet and bent over to recover something.

 

“This is for you, Rafa,” and she extended a sprig with a cluster of small blue flowers. “Smell the sprig, it’s rosemary.” “Of all the gifts you could have given me, this is the best, and I don’t know why.”

 

I was overcome with a testosterone surge when we left our hill, and I pushed the powerful Jag to the outer limits of safety. We scooted around sharp curves, zipped over hills and darted in and out of the clumsy trucks. My heart accelerated with the whine of the engine and my pulse lowered when the compression exited booming through the exhaust.

 

Gisele intently watched me. “You’re becoming the motorcycle guy in your advertisement!” She admonished.

 

I quickly broke the car’s momentum as we entered into a large curve, and I had to swerve violently to avoid a truck that appeared dangerously on our side of the road.

 

“I’m damn glad you swerved!” said Gisele admonishingly, as she squeezed firmly between my legs, “Control the testosterone, Rafael!”

 

Afterwards, I drove more slowly. Spanish truck drivers were especially frightening inside the low E-Type Jag. Ahead, a modern-looking tavern appeared at the road’s edge, and I steered into the parking area.

Inside the bar, the décor was the same as every remote tavern in Spain: The long wooden bar with appetizers on top and a chalk blackboard listing the tavern’s specialties. We ordered two Cuba Libres with Gin.

 

“Gisele, you keep staring into my eyes. Please tell me what you see?”

“The sadness I saw before has returned.”

“That’s strange, I couldn’t be happier.”

 

“You’d be surprised to know the sensitive sadness is why I accepted your invitation. The real you exists inside the sadness. I’m drawn to it, Rafa. I am truly fascinated by what you conceal. I beg you to take me there.”

 

Gisele perceived what laid hidden in my past, in Cuba, on the saddest day of my life. I once thought I was a chameleon, and now I needed the drink.

 

In Spain, when they mix a drink, they have their own particular method of preparing it. I watched as a tall glass was first half-filled with Gin, so that there would be no question about receiving a fair portion, and then three ice cubes --always three with respect to the Trinity -- were inserted carefully with the least disturbance to the alcohol, and ultimately, the Coca Cola was added sparingly, for strong drinks were the standard of all bars in Spain.

 

I took a sip and then slowly turned to Gisele. “I can’t believe you found the sadness. No one else sees it. It was a door that closed when I was eight-years-old, on the day my mother died.”

 

Gisele kissed me gently. “Could you open that door for me?”

 

I looked into Gisele’s brown dark eyes that had suddenly become lucid with feelings of affection, and even need. I took a deep breath. “You’re seeing an eight-year old who was kicked out of paradise. Mother and I were inseparable buddies. Father was there but his mind was elsewhere, occupied with business.

 

“When mother died Father obliterated all evidence she had ever lived. He then raised me, as he deemed necessary for taking over his responsibilities. Try as hard as I might, I cannot visualize my mother’s face. That’s the sadness you see.

 

“Only twice in my life did I challenge father’s iron-fisted will. The first time, was at the University of Pennsylvania when I chose to major in art and not in business. The second time is now. I have just resigned from Sansert, the job my father secured for me. Truthfully, Gisele, my relationship with Father has been estranged since Mother died. And Mother is the horribly stubborn door I have lost the key to open.”

 

“Rafa, how were your grades when you majored in art?”

 

“My grades were flawless. I was the darling of the Art Department.”

 

“Por Dios, Rafa. Why didn’t you pursue a career in art?”

 

“Father only permitted me to study art if I promised to pursue a career of his choosing after graduation.”

Gisele put her arm around my waist, and we both left the tavern with the uncanny realization we might now be emotionally inseparable.

 

Inside the car, I again felt as one with the Jag’s long, powerful engine. The lights on the dashboard were dim blurs beneath the steering wheel, as the road ahead appeared to be a twisting twilight path where another vehicle’s red taillights led me through the darkening night. Beside me, Gisele sang softly in Spanish about a young boy, who entered into the pasture beneath the full moon, late at night, with his cape and wooden muleta. There he fought the biggest and bravest bull, but no one saw him. Only the moon witnessed his courage and only the moon saw him die.

 

Now there was no moon, nor were there stars in the sky, for while we were in the bar, enormous clouds had rolled in over the horizon. A dog howled in the night and a young boy whistled as we drove through his small village. Then, the taillights ahead disappeared and Gisele and I were alone on the road with the throaty growl of the Jag’s powerful engine, where we swerved occasionally to miss the stubborn trucks that absorbed the greater part of the road.

 

 

 

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