Part Two: Chapter Ten

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Esperanza meets Atlas by the fountain, as promised. He wears regular clothes on top of his black suit so she doesn’t suspect anything, and holds a chai tea latte, Esperanza’s favorite, in either hand. Luckily, the park is deserted, and only the whisper of leaves and the occasional speeding car interrupt the scene. A homeless man lies on a bench at the other end, an empty whiskey bottle half hidden in a nearby bush, but otherwise, there are no witnesses.

“I brought this for you,” he tells her as he holds out the peace offering.

She takes it in her two small hands and innocently brings it to her puckered lips. “Thanks. I was a bit surprised to hear from you after you disappeared the other day.” She puts his hand on her leg and begins to massage it. “But I’m glad you’re here now.”

“Listen, Esperanza, I need to talk to you—”

She kisses him full on the mouth, preventing him from saying more. “You’re always trying to talk,” she says in what she’s trying very hard to make her sexiest voice. “Let’s try doing something else for a while.” Her lips taste like chocolate coated strawberries—literally. She must have just applied a gloss for this exact purpose. So many men would kill to be him right now, and all he can think about is Aria.

In order to stop Esperanza from making out with him, Atlas has to physically hold her at arm’s length. She struggles like a fish, flipping her shoulders back and forth in order to escape his grasp, and is surprisingly strong for a dancer.

“I’m serious, we really need to talk.” His voice drops lower. “It’s about your father.”

That stops her fast. “What about my father?” she says in an unfamiliar, hostile tone.

“I know you’re really close with him, so I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, but…” What he’s about to say will shatter her world. He hates being responsible for opening her eyes, yet at the same time, she deserves to know. “Your father is an international drug smuggler.”

Her face, normally smooth and perfect as Mary’s mannequin’s, crumples. She pulls her hand away from his, and he can see a few tears collecting in the corners of her eyes. 

“He’s a what?”

“A drug smuggler. I’m so sorry,” Atlas says, but she stops him with a wave of her hand. “Please, don’t cry. You didn’t know—”

“I’m not crying because I didn’t know,” Esperanza says, and now there’s a hint of a smile. “I’m not an idiot. I’m crying because I did know. You think he gives me all that cash for nothing? I get everything I want—cars, clothes, trips to Europe—and in return, I keep quiet about Daddy’s little escapades. But now that you know too, Daddy’s going to have to kill you.” She runs a finger down his cheek bone. “Such a pity. You really were such a good-looking catch.”

Still in shock, Atlas can’t even react as Esperanza flips her phone open, hits dial, and brings the ringing phone to her ear. “Goodbye, Atlas.”

“Not so fast,” a voice says behind them. Mary drops out of the tree, where Atlas totally forgot she’d been spying on their reunion, snatches the phone, and closes it as a man’s voice says, “Hola, mi hija.” In one smooth move, Mary throws the phone to the ground and smashes it with a violent kick of her heel. In her black spandex suit, leather boots, and reflective sunglasses, she looks like a cross between an agent from Men in Black and Trinity from The Matrix. True to character, she has sewn skull patches onto the tops of her boots.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Mary says, giving Esperanza her most convincing Oops, silly me faces. “Did you need that?”

“Are you crazy?” Esperanza screeches. “That version of the iPhone hasn’t even been released yet! I’m going to kill you!” The skinny dancer flies at Mary like a feral cat, claws out and ready to pierce skin.

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