Hector returned later that day. He came upon us sitting on the veranda swing
reading poetry to each other. He wore a steely smile and pulled Alma up out of her seat and into a rough embrace. Alvarez lifted her up off the ground and swung her around. “Ah yes my dear wife, it is always so good to see you. You look so radiant,” he hissed through a forced smile.
I hated to see him manhandle Alma. I controlled every urge to stand up and pull Alma away from him. I knew I couldn’t.
Alma hung limp in his arms. She showed no emotion and moved her head in such a way to only allow him to kiss her cheek. He set her down, but gripped her by the wrist until her lips pursed in pain. “And you Aguila, I hope our projects are going along well.”
I couldn’t look away from the way he held on to Alma and the pain she was in. I had to bite back my anger, and spoke as calmly as I could. “Ah yes sir, perhaps…perhaps we can revisit the land bridge. I would like to make sure the supplies and materials can be transported as safely as possible. You say it is only passable in July?” I hoped my question would divert his attention from Alma. My heart raced with indignation. I tried very hard to keep my voice even.
Alvarez gave me a curious look. “That is the most opportune time,” he knit his brow in reflection. “Tomorrow or the next day we will go. I would like to rest first.”
“Of course, sir. Yes, I quite understand.” I let some resentment slip into my tone of voice.
Hector gave a little chuckle, “Back to sir, is it? We share so much.” He threw her hand away from him.
Alma rubbed her wrist, “Take a bath. You reek of women.” She said through clinched teeth.
“Oh, do I?” he said with false innocence. “Very well, I will wash away my sins, just for you my dear.” Alvarez looked at Alma’s light little sundress. He shook his head and before he left us, added, “Do dress for dinner. And Alma, put on something a little more substantial.”
After Alvarez left I went to Alma and kissed her wrist. We sat there in shock. He was back. Neither one of us was as prepared for his return as we thought.
“We can’t let him know how we feel,” I said, although my body language and defensive tone of voice when I spoke to Alvarez would be near impossible for him not to interpret as a man in love. Or he may have been so deeply in the throes of jealousy of his own making that he could only think of punishing Alma for doing what he wanted her to do. I couldn’t tell.
Alma didn’t say anything. Tears came to her eyes, one rolled down her cheek. I stopped it halfway with my fingertip. “Alma, we must be strong and clever.”
“I’m so tired of fighting, so tired… I don’t want to be in the same house with that man. I don’t want to be in the same room, or the same bed.”
The thought of Alvarez pawing Alma and forcing himself on her sickened me. “We’ll figure a way to leave as quickly as possible.”
Alma put her head on my shoulder. “Our being in love is Hector’s doing.”
Hearing her tell me she loved me eased my heart and strengthened my resolve. “Yes, it is. But we can’t let him know, we must go on as before. We can trust Maria Terèsa and Leòn, yes?”
“We will have to…oh Emilio, I wish we were far away from here, back in America, anywhere but here.”
“We will, we must be patient, my love.”