This was a warmer world than ours. South America was still a Spanish colony.
I was hired as a lady’s companion for Amea by her husband. I remember, she was newly wed, and she was beautiful – full of light, vivacious, sparks. You couldn’t help but love her.
No one could… but him.
There was something about Amea that made him want to break her… and there was a streak of… methodical cruelty in him that showed me from the beginning, he was a pro – he’d done this before.
I’ve always said that beatings aren’t nearly so bad as psychological warfare, and I’ve always been right. This was no different. The bruises, she could cover, and they would heal… but the things he did to her head were what began to kill the woman I grew to love.
One morning I came into her bedroom to help her plan her day, and I saw bruises on her neck and stomach. They were worse than I’d ever seen before. She looked like a broken, defeated flower, wilting in the heat. We locked eyes, and without a single word spoken we knew we were running.
A week later, we were outside at a bistro in town, a little cantina. She was drinking strong coffee, black and rich. I was shooting tequila. She didn’t take her cardigan off. Casually, she looked at me and said, “He’s going to Rio tonight. He’ll be gone for a week this time.” I nodded. We said nothing more, and listened to the birds and the vendors hawking their wares in the market.
That night, I helped her pack a bag – the size of a child’s backpack, with a few essentials. We left with nothing but the clothes we wore. We climbed out her window… she nearly slipped and fell. I clutched her hand until she got her feet under her again…
A year later, we had new names, we were a new class, we had new jobs, new careers. Her light was back. Oh, I loved her. She had the most beautiful eyes, her hair was like silk, and her skin was soft as rabbit fur. She had a laugh that turned heads, and she SHINED. We were in North America. She came home from her work to tell me, she’d finally done it – she’d gotten the promotion. We laughed, we planned a party. It felt like, finally, everything was OK – he hadn’t found us, and we were finally making it. We were free. It was our happily ever after.
They were doing maintenance on the elevator shaft that day. I heard a knock at the door, and went to answer. I didn’t look through the peep-hole, I just opened the door. The first thing I saw was the short-barrelled shotgun pointed at my face, barrel as wide as a roll of quarters. The second thing I saw was him. He was wearing maintenance coveralls, and on his back was a hiking insulated water bag.
He backed me into the apartment, while she shrank into a corner, trying not to be seen, frozen in terror. I didn’t look at her – I was so afraid, if I looked at her, he would, too… he’d see she was there, and he’d kill her.
He forced me into the next room, and had me open the closet door that backed up onto the elevator shaft for the building. He explained that in the bag on his back was a bomb, and he was going to force me to place that bomb onto the wall backing onto the elevator shaft, and if I didn’t, he was going to shoot her, and then me. My beautiful Amea.
He told me that after I had placed the bomb, he was going to shoot me… and then he was going to beat her with the gun, and leave… and then he was going to blow up the building.
I looked at that gun, I looked at that man. I thought of my beautiful Amea… and I began to talk. I told him of the seven years we had been in love, she and I. I told him about her thoughts and hopes and dreams. I told him where my hands had been. I talked about her birthmarks, and her freckles. I told him about the noises she made in the soft dark. I knew… if I could say the right things, he would lose control. He would shoot me, and the neighbors would hear him, and they would come running, and she might live. Such a very large barrel was sure to make a very loud sound – one that no one could ignore, could they? They might live… SHE might live… if I could just… make him lose control… make him shoot me.
I told him the most personal, intimate, beautiful things I could. I tormented him with our loving, taunted him to pull the trigger, tried to fill his head with hate for what we’d had without him, what I had taken from him. The whole time, I stared into his hate-filled eyes, but in my mind, I only saw her. She was the only face that mattered. I told him how I had loved her… and how he had failed. I never looked away, never looked at the last face I really wanted to see – I didn’t want him to take his eyes off me, I didn’t want him to look at her – I couldn’t risk it. So I stared into those eyes, and told him about what love really was.
The last thing I saw was his face, twisted up in rage, insane jealousy, purple with hate – the last thing I knew was I had won.
I went to the white place, after the darkness happened. In the white place were my ancestors – the ancestors of the woman I had been in the dream. They told me I did the right thing, that I’d done well – they welcomed me as I joined them.
I woke up hysterical.
I don’t know if she lived. My precious Amea. I don’t know if she’s OK… and I can’t stop thinking about her.