Esperanza was not the only one living with Doña Eva. María Elena, the head housemaid, and her oldest daughter, Ana, also resided in the house. The rest of María Elena’s family lived in Guadalajara. Every few months, Mariá Elena traveled home by bus for an extended weekend with her family. Ana had a special bond with her mother, especially when it came to cooking. The months-long separations from her mother were particularly hard on the young girl. When María Elena told Doña Eva that she might not return from her next trip to Guadalajara, Doña Eva insisted that she bring her daughter back with her to Guanajuato.

In awe of Esperanza’s beauty, the twelve-year-old Ana looked up to her and started splitting her time between the kitchen, with her mother, and the bakery, with Esperanza. The two bonded and became like sisters. They would laugh, play games and go for walks in the city, shopping along the way or trying pastries from other panaderías. When Ana started her first period, it was Esperanza she broke the news to first, not her mother. Although honored that Ana had confided in her, Esperanza sternly told Ana, “That is something you need to tell your mother first, not me.”

***

Ana wanted so badly to emulate Esperanza that she started to mimic her voice inflections, mannerisms, as well as her kindness. Nobody thought anything of it until Ana began to imitate Esperanza in ways she could not control.  As if by magic, Ana’s body started to blossom into that of a mature woman— that of Esperanza.

Ana’s twelve-year-old girl clothes began to swell with breasts and hips. It got so bad that both María Elena and Esperanza spent a good deal of money and time taking Ana shopping though it was no use. The girl seemed to outgrow her clothes every week. Ana’s new curves brought her a lot of unwanted attention from older men. One of these men was Esperanza’s fourth lover, Miguel Sandoval.

Miguel Sandoval was a bachelor who made a decent living delivering water. Between drinking and baking, Doña Eva’s house went through so much water that she had to have it delivered every day. Doña Eva’s house was on his route. Every day—except Sunday—Miguel Sandoval counted the empty blue five-gallon water bottles, hauled them up to his truck, and carried full ones back down, two at a time, to replace the empties. He alternated trips from the truck between the bakery and the kitchen until he replaced every empty bottle with a full one. When he finished, Doña Eva paid him for each bottle, plus a generous tip.

His tips were why Miguel Sandoval made such a good living. He was polite, courteous, and charming. He never left a house without a generous tip. The only person who saw through his deceit was Esperanza. No matter how polite he was to her, she could see his real intentions. Just by the feel of his lustful gaze, she could tell that he was in the bakery without ever seeing him. Luckily for Miguel Sandoval, Esperanza was not in charge of paying for the water.

Every time Miguel Sandoval delivered water to Doña Eva’s, he would hope to catch Esperanza still in the bakery, mixing something or maybe washing dishes, so he could get a glimpse of her breasts gyrating underneath her sheer white cotton top. Then one day, Esperanza noticed that all the empty water bottles had been replaced. Miguel Sandoval had come and gone.

This was about the time Ana had started to blossom. Miguel Sandoval had occasionally seen Ana during his deliveries. He had thought nothing more of her than that she was the head maid’s little girl—until the day he carried in two full bottles, one on each shoulder, into the kitchen and saw a large pair of breasts swaying with the rhythm a woman used to knead masa with her bare hands. When Miguel Sandoval finally looked up from the woman’s jiggling breasts, he realized that the woman was not a woman at all but the twelve-year-old Ana.

Now, during every water delivery, it was Ana he was hoping to catch in the kitchen, instead of Esperanza in the bakery. It didn’t matter to him how young she was. Her purity turned him on even more. The young college girls that he seduced on a nightly basis at the bar no longer satiated him. He knew he needed something different but wasn’t sure what it was—until the day he started to notice Ana.

***

María Elena’s scream seemed louder than it actually was, being as it came during siesta. Immediately, both Doña Eva and Esperanza tracked the cry down to Ana’s room. On the bed was Ana, curled up in the fetal position sobbing. Standing next to her, holding a pair of Ana’s panties soiled with a pink liquid, a distinct mixture of blood and semen, was María Elena. She also sobbed.

María Elena thought her daughter had given up her virtue at such a young age. This was not how it was supposed to happen. María Elena had visions of a big wedding and a white dress. She had hope that her beautiful daughter would be a good Catholic girl and save herself for her wedding night. Not that María Elena did, she herself was pressured into giving up her virtue at a young age to someone who said he loved her but didn’t. She wanted something different for her daughter—something better—but it seemed that Ana had followed in her mother’s footsteps.

Esperanza knew better. It all seemed too familiar. Seeing Ana lying in bed—that distant look in her eyes. “She’s been raped,” Esperanza announced. The other two women gasped simultaneously, both doing the sign of the cross.

“Is this true?” María Elena asked her daughter. Ana did not respond.

“It’s true,” Esperanza answered for her. Lowering her voice, she continued, “Burn those clothes, so that she never has to see them again. She’ll need time heal. I’ll handle this. I’ll find out who did it and I’ll get revenge. Doña Eva, my time here has come to an end. Do you know someone in another city I can apprentice under? I’ll have to leave as soon as…” She hesitated for a second. “It happens.”

Both María Elena and Doña Eva were shocked at how Esperanza sounded more like a general than a baker’s apprentice. They followed through with everything she requested.

Esperanza knew it was Miguel Sandoval, but would need confirmation before she committed the deed. It would have to come from Ana herself. Esperanza knew the child would tell her when the time was right. In the meantime, María Elena burned the soiled clothes Ana wore that day, and Doña Eva sent off a letter to Doña Luz in Barra de Navidad.

It took several weeks before Ana started to resemble her old self. Miguel Sandoval had given up his profitable water delivery route, trading it with someone else in the company and claiming that he needed a change of scenery. When Esperanza felt she would get an answer, she asked Ana what had happened.

She learned that Ana had been walking home from school and was about to start up a steep hill—the kind of hill Guanajuato was famous for—when Miguel Sandoval pulled up next to her and offered her a ride. Innocent of any intentions he may have had, Ana gladly accepted. Halfway up the hill, Miguel Sandoval pulled into a small parking lot of an apartment building, claiming he needed to make a quick water delivery first.

Sitting in his truck, he couldn’t help but notice how her breasts filled her white school-uniform blouse so much that the buttons looked as if they were going to pop off. And how sitting down caused her navy blue skirt to expose a good portion of her thighs. Right there, in the apartment building parking lot, in the cab of his water delivery truck, Miguel Sandoval stole Ana’s innocence.

Upon hearing this, Esperanza knew that Miguel Sandoval would be dead that night and that she would leave Guanajuato, never to return.

***

Late that night, Esperanza walked into the kitchen where María Elena and Doña Eva were having a late supper. The two women froze when they saw with her two leather bags. “I’m leaving tonight,” Esperanza announced. Upon hearing this, Doña Eva walked over to a drawer and pulled out an envelope which contained a letter of introduction to Doña Luz and a wad of cash.

“Doña Luz is a retired widow now,” Doña Eva said. “Her bakery has been closed for years. There is enough money here to rent the shop for three months. That should get you started. You no longer need to apprentice under anyone. I assure you. Open your own shop and find an apprentice of your own.” Doña Eva placed the envelope in Esperanza’s hand and followed it with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Take care of yourself,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Esperanza then made her way to a crying María Elena. “When Ana is a woman, tell her what happened.”

Through her tears, María Elena said, “Thank you for this, Esperanza. God bless you.”

Esperanza embraced María Elena once more and made her way to the front door. Before she closed the door behind her, she turned around and said, “It was Miguel Sandoval.”

***

Had she gotten Ana’s confession a day later, she would not have known where to find Miguel Sandoval. It would have been Easter Sunday, and no businesses would have been open. Thankfully, it was Saturday, and she knew he would be at his regular spot, trying to seduce a tourist or an exchange student on the dance floor.

She had the taxi driver park on a quiet street. She asked him how much he made in one night, and offered him half that amount up front and told him she would pay him the rest by midnight if he waited for her. He agreed. Leaving her two leather cases in the car, she went off to the bar with nothing but two of her seductive chocolates.

As soon as she walked into the place, she spotted Miguel Sandoval trying to dance with an awkward, but pretty, blonde student from the States. When the song ended, they sat down at a table, and Miguel Sandoval mixed the pretty blonde a drink of sweet limeade and tequila, heavy on the tequila.

Esperanza had to turn down four offers to dance on her way to Miguel Sandoval’s table. When she arrived, she asked, “Can you mix one of those for me?” Miguel Sandoval was shocked when he looked up to see that the request had come from the woman he had been lusting after for nearly two years.

“You can have this one,” he said as he scooted over, making room for her to sit. Completely ignoring the pretty blonde student, Miguel Sandoval handed over the drink intended for her to Esperanza.

“It’s too sweet,” Esperanza said. “More tequila.” She handed the drink back to him. “Do you think I never noticed how you looked at me at Doña Eva’s house?” Miguel Sandoval topped off her drink with more tequila. She took a sip. “Ahh, that’s better. Why did you stop looking at me like that?”

“I didn’t think you were interested.”

“You give up too easy.”

“It was two years!”

“Well, I’m here now. I want you to look at me like that again.”

Usually the ladies’ man, Miguel Sandoval stumbled over his words. He was in disbelief. Never had he seen Esperanza outside Doña Eva’s house, and never had he thought he had a chance with such a beautiful woman.

“I want to dance,” she demanded.

“Of course,” he responded as he offered her his hand and took her to the dance floor. Miguel Sandoval then took both of Esperanza’s hands in his, and they immediately fell in step with the music.

Feeling something between their fingers, Miguel Sandoval took a look and asked, “What’s this?”

“Those are my chocolates. I brought them for you.”

Confused, Miguel Sandoval said, “Oh,” and went to put them in the pocket of his shirt.

Still in step, Esperanza stopped him and said, “No, try them. They’re made with chili.”

Reluctant, Miguel Sandoval unwrapped the chocolates and put one in his mouth, all while staying in step. He faked a smile to show that he liked it and attempted to put the other in his pocket, but Esperanza stopped him. She held up one finger and ticked it side to side. “The other one,” she said just before doing a solo turn. When she came back around to face him, she followed with, “Eat it.” To get it over with, he popped the other chocolate in his mouth and put the wrapper in his pocket. He then took her hand again, and they continued to dance.

Esperanza was pretty sure she could have the man if she wanted, but decided it was too important to take a chance, so she’d brought her chocolates. They continued to dance for several songs while she waited for the chocolates to take effect. Had it not been for the task at hand, Esperanza would have enjoyed herself. Except for a little dancing now and then while she baked, it has been years since danced particularly with a partner. Just as she was about to get lost in the music, she refocused her attention on Miguel Sandoval and saw a familiar look of lust and desperation in his eyes. It was time.

Not waiting for the song to finish, Esperanza took Miguel Sandoval by the hand out of the bar. Looking for some privacy, she dragged him to the back of the building. When she came to a staircase, she let his hand go and climbed the stairs to the roof of the building. Miguel Sandoval was close behind.

On the roof, the salsa music seemed far away but was still quite loud as it made its way out of the windows of the building and into the crisp air of the night. Esperanza saw a curious wooden table that was so large, it had to have been built on the roof. Better than the floor, she thought. She turned to Miguel Sandoval, hopped on the table, pulled her skirt over her knees.

She lay back on the table and lifted up her blouse, exposing her breasts, hoping that the visual would aid in Miguel Sandoval’s quick climax. Looking up at the stars, she wondered if they were being watched and patiently waited for Miguel Sandoval to enter her.

After two years of lusting for her, two years of pent-up desire, not to mention the influence of Esperanza’s chocolates, there was no holding back his orgasm. The excitement was too much. Within thirty-seconds of sliding his erection into Esperanza, Miguel Sandoval was dead.

***

As soon as she heard Miguel Sandoval climax and drop to the floor, Esperanza pulled her blouse back down over her breasts, got up, and walked down the stairs. She was relieved to see that her taxi was still there, waiting for her. As promised, she paid the driver the rest of the sum she owed him after he dropped her off at the bus station. When the overnight bus to Puerto Vallarta pulled out of Guanajuato’s Estación de Autobuses, she let out a big sigh and wept.