She knew that her treason would be unforgivable, she’d be bound to lose Roberto. That idea tortured her; again she decided to ignore reality, to think less, to defer her worry until the moment to fulfil her obligations with Álvez arrived, then she’d see. Alicia would have liked to talk more, but she was struck dumb by the situation, by the need to keep her terrible secret, invaded by a lacerating feeling of guilt. She yearned to get close to Burán, he represented many things she had never had: an understanding and affectionate father, a balanced and good friend, a lover. She needed to feel sheltered and loved, not just a nice object. Roberto made her feel good. The age difference between them seemed to have dissipated; neither of them felt it, they needed to lavish affection, to comfort their souls. That was the main thing. For Alicia, Roberto was mature, but attractive. He wasn’t afraid of comparisons, neither was he surprised by her previous amorous relationships with younger men. Perhaps it wouldn’t be like that later on, time would tell. On the other hand, although she wasn’t too conscious of it, Burán’s economic position gave Alicia the security she needed. It wasn’t a selfish feeling, an intention to make a profit from the relationship or to take advantage of his money in some specific way. No, it was simply that in that aspect he filled an emptiness that the girl had had since childhood, her poor parents, the need to always fight alone against the adversity of life. She had made a great sacrifice to go through secondary education and had suffered privations. Now, Mabel’s problem caused her anguish, she faced moral degradation because she was poor. She even felt tempted to ask Burán for money; but she didn’t dare; she was scared of risking everything, of damaging her sister. After all, she didn’t expect to hurt Roberto with what she was going to do; to tell the truth, she didn’t have many options. She had signed a compromising letter, the gynaecologist had it in his power: if she didn’t get the semen he would show it to her father. Meanwhile, her sister’s pregnancy was advancing; this tormented her, she couldn’t get the thought out of her head. She was prepared to sacrifice anything to help her. Alicia thought that, after tricking Roberto so cruelly, it would be impossible to go on seeing him. This eventual loss hurt her, because she felt very much at ease by his side, but she thought it pointless to worry, given that she did not have real freedom to do her will.
It was already half past nine at night when they went for dinner together. Roberto chose a very intimate candlelit place in the port area. It was an expensive restaurant normally frequented by a select public; people with a great deal of purchasing power. The atmosphere there didn’t fail to make an impact on Alicia, although she was not easily impressed by such things. She was simple and she liked simple things, but she enjoyed being there with Roberto, letting herself be transported by gentle melodies in the semi-darkness. Hand in hand, they both found themselves in the best of worlds, letting themselves be carried away by their sensations, inhabiting the special territory that only people in love can cross. Roberto couldn’t help thinking that everything he felt seemed to be the fruit of an hallucination. A few hours ago, he was a solitary man, and now he saw himself in a kind of emotional drunkenness. He was afraid of waking up with a start at any moment; nothing that he was living through was in keeping with his rational nature. But such was his enthusiasm, his joy at living so intensely, that any idea of treating it cerebrally was rejected in the most radical and absolute manner. If being awake implied coming out of such a wonderful mood, there was no way he wanted to wake up; it was worth living in a dream. This didn’t mean that he was fooling himself. On the contrary, he knew perfectly well that everything could collapse at any moment; precisely for that reason, he wanted to enjoy it fully.
“Just lately I’ve become aware that there’s nothing tastier than the ephemeral,” he said. “The funny thing is that, if truth be told, that’s all there is, it’s just that ignorance doesn’t always allow us to comprehend it.”
During dinner, they informed each other of the essential parts of their respective histories. Alicia didn’t want to leave anything hidden: she outlined the romances she had had, her teenage loves and passions; she referred to her latest relationship, which had almost ended in matrimony. Without beating about the bush, she told Roberto about her modest origins, the efforts of her parents; how she had to renounce university due to lack of resources. Roberto liked this sincerity; he appreciated the fact that she knew how to fight to support herself: nothing bothered Burán more than mediocrity and laziness. Since the passing away of his father, he had developed a unique alarm system in his spirit. He was on the defensive, he didn’t want anyone to try and feather their nest with his fortune. The circumstance of being a millionaire had produced many changes around him; a multitude of new “friends” appeared, all wanting to strike up a relationship with him, and those he had drifted apart from. He wasn’t stupid, he refused to be used. For that reason, he placed more emphasis on keeping his old friends, on appreciating what he really considered important. He tried not to let himself be fooled by appearances, he learned to distrust the women who approached him. He had already had several discouraging experiences of this type. Specifically, they were after his money, but Burán was still extremely perceptive; money hadn’t blinded his intuition. he immediately realised when “something wasn’t going right”. With Alicia something different had happened: he had a feeling that she was sincere, and basically, he wasn’t wrong. What Burán couldn’t imagine was that she had to comply with a sinister order, that she was in a state of necessity, obliged by circumstance. Alicia was comfortable with him, anyone could tell she had no economic interest, it showed that this wasn’t the predominant factor. Roberto perceived this situation with total clarity. He was relaxed and enthusiastic, allowing himself to be sincere with her. He told her that he was separated from his wife, that she had resisted divorce, although she no longer loved him. He spoke about his beautiful eighteen year-old daughter, Julieta, whom he loved with great fondness. Burán had a harmonious relationship with her, full of affection; he became emotional when he talked about his little one.
The ties connecting Alicia to Roberto became closer and closer. Both were surprised that they wanted to embrace, kiss and love each other. The exquisite red wine, the relief of their mutual confession, brought them closer together. They both needed to merge spiritually and materially. He took the first step and said straight out,
“Do you know what I’d like to do right now?”
She couldn’t help shuddering slightly; the time had come to carry out the thankless task that Álvez had entrusted her with; she wanted to cry, to curse. Although what she was experiencing was moving and pleasant, given the circumstances, it was also painful.
|Copyright ©||Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli, 1990|
|By the same author|
|Date of publication||June 2002|
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