It was past 9 a.m. when my pair of dreamy eyes first opened the next day. The pristine and blurry whiteness of my surroundings felt heavenly, as the bright sunlight passed through the flimsy curtain of the Marbella Acropolis Hotel’s penthouse suite. Located at the heart of a major city Burgos, I heard the muffled sounds of traffic below the hotel – car horns and ambulance sirens – yet, not in a disturbing way. The perks of having an expensive room. The crystal pendant light chandelier caught my eyes as the prism sparkled like fizzy mineral water on glass. I felt my head pulsed by looking at its intricate beauty, so I closed my eyes again. I stayed in bed for a little while and mused upon last night’s engagement party. My families might have left after the breakfast buffet. We all agreed to meet at home for dinner.
I felt the urge to check on Leo. I rose to my feet, and placed my ear against the adjacent door and listened. I heard faint sounds of movements inside. He was awake. Half an hour later, my morning bathroom ritual was done. I took out a white long sleeve summer shirt and a pair of faded jeans. I wore a little dash of blush-on powder and did a messy updo on my hair, in case people decided for a surprise visit.
The uncomfortable hunger pangs hurt my stomach and made me uneasy. I just dialed the phone for room service, when Leo came out of the adjacent door. I placed the phone back on the receiver and flashed a faint smile on my lips. The smell of whiskey and the glossy appearance to his eyes were gone. It was clear he already showered. The scent of his shower gel and expensive cologne mixed with the breezy air of the penthouse suite still lingered in the air and gave me a soothing feeling. He looked fresh and clean in his grey sports shirt and jeans. I loved seeing him that way. Young and carefree. Without an air of importance.
If only no secret was spilled. I thought.
“Good morning.” Leo greeted me and gave me a quick kiss on the cheeks.
“Good morning. How’s your sleep?” I inquired.
“When you’re getting older, hangover lasts longer. I just need a double shot of espresso.” He conveyed.
“All right then, I’ll call the room service now.”
Minutes later, I swung the door open and the room service guy came with our orders on a food trolley. Leo took the cup of espresso and sat comfortably on the sofa beside the bed, while I enjoyed my tuna croissant sandwich.
Truth was, I had mixed feelings about last night. Though I was aware, a heavily drunk person might have had a lower inhibition - he could say or do things a person under normal condition would not do – still, a nagging feeling inside was too strong to ignore. As a newly engaged woman, I needed to know the truth. Things cannot be swept under the rug.
I trudged my feet forward to his direction, sat on the other sofa facing him, while he finished the second cup and took a few last bites of his blueberry pancake.
“Uhmm, Leo - there was something I need to ask you.”
“Wait, honey, I will reply to an email.” He responded.
A few seconds later, he said, “Yes, honey, what is it?”
“Last night after the party, while you were drunk - you mentioned a woman’s name twice before you lose your consciousness.” I began.
“Me? A woman’s name? Of course, it was your name, honey.” Leo responded casually.
“No. It wasn’t me.”
“No?" “Well, I can’t even remember it – you said it yourself, I was intoxicated!”
“Ana Nieves. My comadre. My best friend. And said… y-you loved - her.”
Leo was taken aback. His eyes widened. He placed the empty cup on the table and faced me.
“A-Ana? Are you out of your mind? How can you accuse me when I wasn’t even conscious?
I agreed he had a point. “I know Leo. I asked several times and you gave me the same answers.”
“You are always imagining things! Didn’t you too have a couple of drinks?”
“Yes, but I was sober all night.”
Leo felt cornered, “Why do you keep bringing up topics like this?” “I gave you an engagement party in an expensive hotel. You slept in a grand suite and bought you a nice diamond ring and a dress. Are these not enough?”
I looked straight to his eyes and said, “NO! These things do not matter because … you lied to me!”
He trumped around the room, banged the coffee table and spilled a bit of my macchiato on the carpet, and walked towards me in haste. He held me on both arms and with great force, he pushed me up against the wall. Threatened by my words, he declared,
“NEVER! NEVER SAY THAT I’M A LIAR! ENTIENDE!! Leo yelled at me.
Almost choked from the weight of his heavy hands on my neck, I struggled to break free, but I can’t.
“You’re hurting me!!!” I screamed at his face.
My body shook in an odd rhythm, trembling, and convulsing. Fear froze every muscle. I gasped for air as if I was drowning. During that sudden moment, one thing flashed back to mind - the first time I argued with him at the library.
The real Leo. Exposed. I should have known.
Leo gave me a frightening look in his eyes, and then his facial expression shifted into a more sober one. He released his hands and said in a lower voice.
“I would have asked Ana to marry me a long time ago, too bad I can’t! You know why?”
Without batting an eyelash and no response, I braced myself for what’s coming.
“I am not as rich as Don Nieves!”
Leo had just started as young sailor then. He didn’t have the means to marry one of the richest clan of empresarios in Frias. Ana and Diego Soliman’s wedding was held in Paris. With a meager salary of an ordinary seafarer, how could Leo fare against that?