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Fraudulent Fertilisation

Episode 85

Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink Ebook MapMar del Plata, Bosque Peralta Ramos
Saturday 24 March 1990

“What do you think of him, Julieta? You like Agustín, don’t you? He looks a bit like you.”

“Yes, Dad, he’s got two eyes. Come off it...”

“Well, I didn’t say he was exactly like you, but if you look at him closely, you’ll see I’m right...”

They were in Roberto Burán’s house; his daughter had gone to see him. She thought he was very lonely. She was afraid that the tension he’d suffered over the last few months could affect his psychological equilibrium. He’d been under the weather lately and that, in her father’s case, was serious...

“Look, Dad, you’re turning into a lovey-dovey wet nurse, aren’t you going too far? You go from one extreme to the other, it’ll do you no good, cutting yourself off like this.”

“It’s not that bad, don’t exaggerate, Julieta. It’s only been a few days since Rocío left, it’s never bad to have a bit of a rest. I need to ponder a bit, stop living at a hundred miles an hour, do you understand?”

“Yes, I understand, but I know you... This is not for you, you’re going to destroy yourself, you need affection...”

“Oh good! Who are you going to introduce me to? Some young girlfriend? No thank you, I’ve learned my lesson...”

“I wasn’t thinking of that... Dad, I’m serious, you don’t look well, you’re very lonely. Listen, don’t joke about this, I want to talk to you. What are you going to do? Are you willing to talk to me? I don’t want to force you.”

“All right, don’t worry... I’m not bad, what did you expect? Suddenly I’m forced to fulfil the role of wet nurse, as you say... It wasn’t because I wanted it, you know the story. I’m assuming a duty, beyond my wishes, my hopes of freedom. The truth is that now I haven’t got any freedom... But don’t suffer, I’m going to sort myself out, look for someone to help me, some woman who can look after the baby properly. Everything will go smoothly, you’ll see. But I must be present, the kid needs me, I’m irreplaceable for him...”

“And what about the mother? Doesn’t she visit him?”

“Not at all... at first she seemed very interested in Agustín, she saw him frequently, then she disappeared.”

“She’s planning something, I’ll bet. What do you think, Dad?”

“I’ve no idea, I get the impression she’s chosen the easiest path: to forget her son... She’ll try to avoid the pain by imagining Agustín doesn’t exist.”

“Could she be that evil? To that point?”

“Wasn’t what she did to me enough, Julieta? What did you expect from that woman? She won’t accept playing in the second division, she wants to have control of the child. She knows that with me against her, it’ll be impossible, that I’ll be implacable with her. Legally, she’s been left worse off. She can only aspire to a few crumbs of the child’s affection, and being sorry, behaving with humility. That’s difficult for her , she’s too haughty.”

“She could go to prison, couldn’t she?”

“Of course she could: both she and Álvez are out on bail. But I’m sure they’ll be found guilty, all the evidence implicates them. Doctor Dickinson and two people from his practice recognised Esteban Álvez as Eugolio Farías. It was plain that he planned everything, that he took legal advice to defraud me. He can’t explain the notes he made in his diary, in which he acknowledges having inseminated Juanita. Nor how my sperm, which he deposited in the laboratory, came to be in his power. Do you know who he took it there with?”

“Don’t tell me, Dad. With Juanita?”

“Exactly, the manager who had received them both recognised her. That and the naming of Álvez as guardian showed she was involved. I have confidence in justice, judges aren’t stupid.”

“You always say the judiciary is bad. Have you changed your mind?”

“No, it’s like the whole country: it’s a disaster, but out of everything, everything pertaining to the state, it’s the best we’ve got. I don’t know why it hasn’t sunk deeper... With these salaries, this scrabbling to name the judges and to remove them. There are some that have a real vocation. Well, I hope they treat me fairly, I can’t do anything else. I can’t deal out my own justice. In a way I’m already satisfied: I was able to prevent them keeping the baby and getting rich off me, it’s not to be sniffed at, is it?”

“But if they’re absolved, what could happen, Dad? Could they take the kid off you?”

“I don’t think so, and neither does Rocío; their little manoeuvre has been shown up, news of it spread around, the whole city was talking about it. Do you think a local judge would give custody to Juana?”

“I don’t know, Daddy, I haven’t the slightest idea.”

“Well, I hope I have, I wouldn’t like to be wrong about this. I don’t think they stand a chance: there’ll be a thousand excuses to reject any of Juana Artigas’s wishes. What’s more, Agustín is with me; it would be almost impossible for them to take him off me once he’s got used to me. The incapacity adviser would go wild, all the more so being convinced of the truth.”

“That’s why you’re so relaxed, isn’t it?”

“With regard to the custody, yes. But apart from looking after the baby, I must lead an exemplary life. They could use any scandal against me, I mustn’t take any risks. Rocío laid special emphasis on this piece of advice.”

“Haven’t you seen any more of her?”

“I spoke to her on the phone, very affectionately... She’s an extraordinary woman, very brave.”

“But you’re here and she’s in Buenos Aires. Why?”

“Because real life is hard, Julieta. She’s going through a spiritual renaissance, she’s learning to live anew, to feel. She only recently came to understand that she’d left fundamental things to one side. In her youth she didn’t dare love, to give herself up. She’s changed her ways, she wants to make up for lost time. I’m not an appealing programme now. Can you imagine Rocío giving everything up, her activities, her family? Bringing up someone else’s baby? I wouldn’t ask her to, it’s not for her, at least not at the moment.”

“Did Rocío tell you that, or did you make it up yourself?”

“She told me, in a way... We human beings are very complicated, she loves me, in her own way. I served as a launching pad for her, she came out of her emotional lock-in, she was able to feel like a woman...”

“That’s not to be sniffed at, Dad, don’t you agree?”

“Watch out! Don’t go thinking I’m a saviour of lost souls. I was a mere accident, a kind of catalyser. I helped her change without intervening too much. The truth is that the revolution was already underway before she met me. Rocío had started to warm up a long time ago... I saw that clearly, from the first moment...”

“I don’t think you’re a saviour, but neither do I think you’ve been unimportant for Rocío...”

“I’m not taking you for a ride: she didn’t say anything to me about us carrying on. The last time she told me she felt very happy, although she missed me a bit. She’s changed atmospheres, she’s more open to the world. She deserves complete happiness...”

“What about you, do you miss her?”

“Well, yes... It was a fantastic relationship, I’ll never forget her.”

“But do you love her or not?”

“How should I know! What do you want me to say! The answers aren’t black or white: sometimes there are many shades of grey.”

“Don’t give me metaphors, Dad. Don’t you want to tell me...?”

“I’m not used to you interrogating me like this, pressurising me. There’s something strange about you, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, Daddy, what are you thinking?”

“I don’t know, Julieta, I’m not hiding anything from you... Well, there is something, the truth is I thought about sticking my neck out for Rocío many times, trying to conquer her once and for all, in spite of her resistance... She’s got everything, I couldn’t ask for more. I know it would be very difficult for us to adapt to each other, but not impossible. We could maintain a relationship based on our mutual freedom.”

“So?” said Julieta with a somewhat ironic smile.

“So, nothing! What are you smiling at? It’s as if Rocío’s insecurity was contagious. Perhaps that’s why I can’t decide: it’s like there’s a barrier, an obstacle I can’t get over.”

“I know what that barrier’s called...”

“Oh yes? What’s it called then, eh?”

“Alicia, Dad.”

This statement was followed by a prolonged silence. Roberto was dumbstruck, he didn’t know what to say. Finally, he spoke:

“Julieta, you’re watching too many soap operas: life isn’t that romantic. There’s a lot you don’t know. Alicia’s not for me. Are you forgetting that I’m twenty-five years older than her? Did you hear me? Twenty-five! I’m no good for her, even less so now I’ve got such a small baby... Besides, there are a lot of painful things in our past, wounds that’ll never be healed. It’s absurd, can you imagine? Each time she looked at Agustín, she’d be reminded of everything. Look, leave Alicia alone, will you? She must be in good company by now, with a young man of her own age...”

“All right, Dad, but it’s a shame...”

“A shame? What’s a shame?”

“For her to go...”

“Who, Julieta? Who are you talking about?”

“Alicia, of course, she’s waiting for you...”

“What? She’s waiting for me?!”

“Didn’t you hear properly, Daddy?”

“Yes! I mean... No! Tell me, hurry up!”

“I said Alicia’s waiting for you.”

“Right now?”

“Look, Daddy,” said the teenager smiling and looking at her watch, “Yes! She’ll be waiting for you for exactly fifteen more minutes...”

“But, where? How?”

“As for where, in the Patisserie Plaza, which is on the Boulevard... as for how, don’t ask so many questions...”

“But, what will I do with Agustín?”

“Why do you think I came to visit? To see you? You’re not that interesting...”

“Well, Julieta, I think I ought to go, don’t you think so?”

“I don’t know, it’s up to you. Nervous, eh?

“Can you tell? After all, it’s hardly surprising, is it?”

“I don’t know, Dad, it depends what you feel...”

Another ironic smile bloomed on Julieta’s lips.

“Well, I’m off...”

“You’re not going in your slippers, are you? They don’t go with your playboy image.”

“You’re right, I hadn’t realised, hold Agustín... I’ll try to be back soon, how long can you wait?”

“Well, it’s six in the evening, not much longer... Let’s say until twelve o’clock midday?”

“So long? What are you going to do? How will you manage?”

“Everything has been clinically calculated, Doctor Burán, you relax. Agustín will sleep with me tonight. A friend of mine is coming to give me a hand. Everything will be fine, don’t worry.”

Moved, Roberto embraced his young daughter, kissing her sweetly.

“I love you very much,” he said. “Thank you...”

“I hope you’re very happy, Dad.”

Translation: Peter Miller (© 2002)
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Copyright ©Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli, 1990
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Date of publicationNovember 2002
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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