A Short Story
In the pre-Andean foothills above San Isabel, midsummer’s dawn banishes what little coolness it takes each morning all night to earn. Heat and humidity build to a smothering swamp by midday. In early afternoon even the breezes siesta, and a patina of sweat forms on everything.
Most afternoons, the aging señora spends three or four hours in her suite in the hacienda. Her household staff, vineyard workers, gardeners, and grooms are freed to take their meals, sigh, and rest. For some, however, these are lesser reasons to anticipate the interlude. For Pablo and Carlota, it is their time.
Pablo washes himself after the morning hours spent tending malbec vines. As almost every afternoon, he walks through the laundry and enters the linen room inside it. Sometimes Carlota is already there, but today he’s arrived first. He slips off his shoes, slides them under the cot with his foot, and folds his pantalones on the straight-back chair. He stands at the linen room’s small window, his back to the door, removing his shirt. The window frames a massive mango tree. The room glows white, redolent of clean cotton.
Hearing the door he turns as Carlota peeks in, enters, and locks the door behind her. She is already hastily shedding her pechera, the formal maid’s uniform la señora insists she wear on duty. Pablo’s breath quickens. Despite the heat, he shivers when Carlota smiles at him with her whole body. He holds her flashing gaze. Her softness melts against his chest. Their contact ignites the wildfire they share, and it engulfs them again.
A drumfire of thunder echoes from the hills. San Isabel waits, hoping rain will come soon to bring sweet release from the imprisoning heat. January days always hold the prayer of an afternoon shower, but often the possibility dissolves as clouds rush east to dissipate over the plains, leaving behind flaccid air and but a tease of rain. Today, though, a thunderstorm amasses beyond the mountain and moves down, soothing the parched sky in its path. Locals know this one is big enough to boom and blow, burst and soak. Anticipation tingles through the village.
Carlota and Pedro listen to the storm’s quickening breath, and each other’s. Their bodies engage in a practiced dance on the cot’s damp sheets.
The storm sweeps over the hacienda, its winds making the house shiver. Booming thunderclaps come close together. Pablo is glad Carlota need not be quiet today. To the tempest’s urgent rhythm, their taut, wet skins slide against each other.
The storm’s intensity crests in a finale of electrical discharges and rippling thunder. The hacienda, and the cot, shudder. Outside, first large drops announce the downpour. San Isabel sighs, and the rains come.