Welcome again to my paranormal novel Garlic for Breakfast.
If you missed the previous installments, please check below.
by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Madison rolled her eyes when I picked the black lace dress from the rack.
“That won’t do, Mom. It’s Halloween. It has to be a costume party. Why don’t you call and ask.”
But I didn’t have Becquer’s number and, even if I had, I doubt I’d have gathered the courage to call him. So instead I bought the black dress, for wearing no costume to a costume party seemed to me less embarrassing than to show up in disguise to a regular one.
The dress was too fancy for me and way too expensive but we didn’t have time to shop any longer. As it was I had barely finished my make up when the doorbell rang.
I called to Madison to open the door while I put on my earrings and struggled with the reluctant clasp on my necklace.
Downstairs, I could hear a male voice pronouncing my name with a Spanish accent that mimicked mine.
“Mom,” Madison called as I left my room. Without inviting the man inside, she climbed the stairs. “I told you it was a costume party,” she whispered as she reached me.
I looked over her shoulder, at the man framed in the doorway. He was dressed in an ivory suit that would have been in fashion a century before. Yet, by the easy way he carried it, the jacket open revealing a white shirt with the two first buttons undone and a red handkerchief loosely tied at his neck, I knew it was not a costume. I also knew, by the wide smile spread across his face, he had heard Madison’s comment.
I smiled back at him and, without apologizing, as doing so would have made the situation even more awkward, I offered him my hand.
“I’m Carla,” I said, “and you must be Matt.”
He was handsome, I noticed, with black hair and sensitive eyes that stared openly at me.
“Federico, actually,” the man said.
I looked at him with renewed interest. Federico. The friend Becquer didn’t want to pick up. The one who didn’t want to rent a car.
“Shall we?” Federico said and took a step back.
In the dim light of the porch, I noticed a reddish glow in his eyes, a reddish glow that could only mean he was an immortal.
I hesitated. Why had I agreed to go to this party? What if they were all immortals and I was meant to be their dinner? Not all will be immortals, I reassured myself. For Beatriz would be there and Beatriz, I was certain, was human. Human maybe but no help to me. The look of hate she had thrown at me when leaving the Coffee Shop had told me that much. She would not help me if her boss decided to kill me.
But that was absurd. I had no reason to mistrust Becquer. He had been nothing but polite when we talked and I had no proof that he fed on humans. He had a coffee in front of him when I met him. I couldn’t remember him drinking though.
I was about to say no, claim a killing headache, a previous engagement. But Federico’s eyes were still on mine and I couldn’t bring myself to lie. Besides, I needed to see Becquer. I needed to ask him why and when had he given his business card to Nico.
I nodded to Federico. “Of course,” I said, grabbed my coat from the rack and followed him into the gathering dusk.
“I thought you didn’t like driving,” I told him as we reached the silver convertible parked by the curb.
“You’re right, I don’t like driving,” Federico said holding the door open for me. “But listening to Becquer and Beatriz argue I like even less. Believe me, Madame, I am in your debt forever for giving me an excuse to leave the house.”
“Why were they arguing?” I asked after we joined the traffic.
Federico stole a quick glance at me, as if wondering how much I knew, then shrugged. “The usual,” he said. Without warning he switched to Spanish, his words flowing fast, in the clipped pattern of Southern Spain. “As far as I can tell, she didn’t want to publish your book.”
“I wouldn’t be offended if I were you. On the contrary. Beatriz has no literary talent. Yet she has taken upon herself to save humanity. Through books. She believes only Philosophy treaties should be published, and literary books dealing with the human condition. You know the ones where nothing happens and the authors are so much in love with their own writing, they forget to tell a story. I don’t understand why Becquer has put up with her this long.”
“You don’t like her much.”
“The feeling is mutual.”
“That wasn’t my impression. This morning, he convinced Becquer to go to the airport to pick you up.”
He braked sharply and swerved out of the road until the car came to a halt on the dirt shoulder.
“Becquer didn’t want to go?” He asked, his voice tense with anger.
“He… he had things to do and–”
“Things to do. Like what? Decorating the house? I haven’t seen him for over a year, and he needs convincing?”
His voice rose as he spoke so that by now he was almost screaming.
I looked ahead at the trees caught in the headlights and waited for his anger to pass.
“What else did he say about me?” he asked after a moment.
“Nothing. Really. He left right after Beatriz came. Well, not after she came. For first, he stopped time so she wouldn’t interfere with my signing–”
“He stopped time?”
“So you know? You know who he is?”
“What about me? Did he tell you who I am?”
I shook my head.
“No. Of course not. I am not important enough. For two decades I was his lover. And what I am to him now? An inconvenience when I come to visit, an errand to add to his list of things to do before the important guests arrive.”
He grabbed the wheel so hard it broke in two. He stared at it for a moment as if puzzled, then shook it loose and, opening the door, threw it against the darkness. His eyes flaring red, he turned to me.
He hates me, Becquer had said. He doesn’t, Beatriz had told him. And she was right. Federico didn’t hate Becquer. He was in love with him.
I stood still, eerily aware I was sitting next to a man who was not human and that, for all his gentle appearance, could break my neck without even trying. As he had the wheel.
I had to leave. Now.
My hand trembling uncontrollably, I reached for the door.
To be continued …
If you missed the previous installments, please check below.