The beginning of the following week passed without a word from Alex, and Eva wondered if he’d been kidding about his invitation to her, or changed his mind. He made no attempt to speak to her, although she did catch him staring at her, often with a distrustful gaze that Eva found disturbing.
By Wednesday morning Eva was convinced that Alex had reconsidered. She didn’t know whether she was relieved from having to make a decision or disappointed at having lost an opportunity. She frankly had not yet resolved how she was going to handle this, and her own indecision infuriated her. Eva despised indecision or weakness or fear. Aunt Loretta had been indecisive and weak, and it had destroyed her. At the core of her internal debate, however, Eva was positive of one thing: she would only submit to Alex if she were completely satisfied that she, in fact, was the one in control, the one with the power, as Melanie had described. Can I do it? Am I strong enough for it?
The Wednesday-morning breakfast crowd was thinning as Alex caught her eye, grabbed his crotch, and winked at her. His invitation stood and her decision was at hand.
Eva looked back at him, her face impassive. He motioned for her to come over to him and Eva’s stomach tightened. At precisely that moment a party of five came through the revolving door, and Eva spotted them. Making a split-second decision, Eva turned away from Alex’s stare and immediately headed in their direction.
“Table or booth?” she asked, flashing her warmest smile.
“Table,” said the man, smiling back. He had a slight Hispanic accent, but his English was faultless.
Eva grabbed two adult’s and three children’s menus and led them to a round table in the center of the room. A few steps away Eva spotted Betty glaring at her. She was fuming. Betty and Eva had never gotten along, and Eva stealing Betty’s customers was certain to inflame the rivalry.
“I’ll be right with you,” Eva said to them as they sat. “Coffee? Water?”
The man stared closely at her, ignoring his menu. “Two coffees, three orange juices, and five ice waters,” he answered with a crisp Hispanic accent and a confident smile.
“Right away,” said Eva. Turning quickly, she headed directly for Betty.
“What the hell you doing?” snarled Betty under her breath. “That’s my table,”
“I know,” Eva whispered, “I’m sorry, but I had to get away from Alex.”
Betty observed Alex across the room; he was staring at both of them and Betty immediately understood. “That’s your problem,” she sneered. “You’ve been egging him on, so now it’s time to pay the piper, or should I say ‘fuck the piper.’” Betty scrunched up her face like a wet sponge.
Eva suspected that Betty was simply jealous of Alex’s attention to her. Betty had hinted many times that she would happily “entertain” Alex at her place, but he had never bothered with her. Betty took a step toward the table and Eva placed her hand on her arm, stopping her.
“Let me take this table,” Eva said, “I’ll owe you one.”
“Why? What’s the problem? Lover’s quarrel?” she said snidely.
Eva looked over Betty’s shoulder at Alex who continued to stare at them. The intimidating hostility on his face was mounting.
“Please,” Eva said, “I’m just not ready to face that Greek pig right now. I’ll make it up to you somehow, I promise.”
Betty shook her head. “I don’t see why I should,” she hissed. “What’s in it for me anyway?” She leaned forward and put her face just inches from Eva, and screwed her face into a haughtiness that Eva detested.
Eva realized that any further attempt to persuade Betty would be useless. “I’ll tell you what, Betty,” Eva said, “if you help me out here, how about I won’t punch that ugly, smug face of yours into mashed potatoes?”
Betty immediately backed away and her defiant expression faded into a sulking smirk. Shifting her eyes left and right, she snatched a pack of cigarettes from her apron pocket and said quietly, “Okay, but I want half of that tip.”
Eva nodded agreement and immediately headed back to the table to get the order. From the corner of her eye Eva saw Betty approach Alex and stand next to him while she lit her cigarette. He appeared to be watching Eva while ignoring Betty.
The party of five was clearly a family of five tourists: father, mother, three children all under the age of ten, two boys and one girl. Both of the little boys wore sun glasses identical to their father’s and so the three males resembled each other in different stages of life. With their black, curly hair and black-rimmed sun glasses all three of them looked like movie stars. The little girl was clearly the oldest of the children: eight or nine, hair as black as raven’s wings, fair complexion, dimples, and large, expressive, dark eyes.
Something about this little girl reminded Eva of her cousin, and she briefly pictured Tina sitting alone, teary-eyed in the hospital waiting room. Over three years ago, abandoning Tina seemed the only choice, but Eva’s regret had grown each day, each month, each year since then. Did I do the right thing? What’s happened to Tina? The heartache was much sharper now than the day she’d snuck away leaving Tina to the whims of fate. Eva fleetingly shivered and rubbed her arms to warm them.
As the family ate their breakfast, Eva hovered close, attentive. She wanted to continue to avoid Alex, and she was hoping for a large tip, having agreed to split it with Betty. The children chattered away in English while the parents spoke primarily to each other in Spanish, both of them giving Eva frequent glances.
The third time she filled their coffee cups, he pointed at her name tag and said, “Eva, that’s a pretty name.”
“Thank you,” she smiled. “Can I bring you anything else?”
Eva spotted his sensual, approving gaze, the gaze men nearly always gave her. He turned toward his wife and said in English, “Hmmmm, I’m not sure, Carmella? Is there anything else we’d like?” Eva held their check in her hand, pencil at the ready, waiting to either place it on the table or add to it. The woman stared directly into Eva’s eyes while a crafty grin gradually appeared at the corners of her mouth. It seemed to Eva as if the woman was radiating the identical sensual expression as her husband.
“Yes,” she said, continuing to gaze directly into Eva’s eyes, “I think there is more we want.” Her Hispanic accent was more pronounced than her husband’s. Leaning forward, her smile broadened and she said, “Perhaps, much more. Your name is Eva, my sweet dove?”
The woman smiled. “And do you like working here?”
Out of the corner of her eye, Eva could see Alex prowling close to the kitchen door. “It’s all right, I guess.”
“Ah, as I thought,” said the woman. Grasping her purse, she clicked it open, reached inside, and drew out two bills. “Here, Eva,” she said. Her eyes were dancing as she stretched to hand the bills to Eva.
“I don’t take the money,” Eva said. “You pay at the register when you leave.”
“I know,” said the woman. “This money is for you. This is your gratuity, your tip.”
Eva suddenly realized that the woman was offering her two fifty-dollar bills, a hundred-dollar tip! “Honestly,” she said, “for me? All of that?” Eva’s heart beat faster; she found herself afraid to reach for the money, afraid the woman would pull it back again the moment she tried.
“Yes, my dove, all for you. Go on, take it, please.” The woman stretched further forward. Eva grasped the money and slowly withdrew it from the woman’s hand. The woman’s husband smiled with obvious approval and took a business card from his shirt pocket, which he offered to Eva as well.
Speechless, Eva held the money in one hand and took the business card in the other.
Juan Blanco, Esq.
Importer / Exporter
Corpus Christi, Texas
“Thank you,” Eva said, finally finding her voice. “Thank you so much. I … I don’t know what to say.”
The woman leaned back contentedly into her chair and snapped her purse shut. “No need to say anything. We are happy to do it. Tell me, do you like living in Las Vegas?”
Eva shook her head noncommittally. “It’s all right, I guess.”
The woman smiled. “Texas is much nicer,” she said.
“Is it?” said Eva. “I’ve never been.”
“Do you like children, Eva?” the woman asked, cocking her head like a parrot.
Eva looked at the three children in the booth. The little girl stared back at her with big eyes and an expression of melancholy that Eva could not quite fathom.
Forty-eight hours later Eva sat in the Blanco’s’ private plane surrounded by the three Blanco children whom she served dutifully as their new au pair. The little girl, Alicia, sat next to Eva, reading a children’s book about a nervous ballerina. The little boys, Antonio and Alejandro, were at Eva’s feet playing with their toy soldiers. The Blanco parents sat together in the forward cabin engrossed in whispered conversation. They spoke to each other in Spanish.
“She is beautiful.”
“Yes, lovely. Even more than Helen.”
“She makes my mouth water.”
“Then we need to quench your thirst soon, don’t we?”