David Soto Writes

I think I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

Tag: chocolate

Panadería Diamanté (Chapter 13)

The next morning, just before the sun was fully up, Esperanza and Pierre made love again. This time, after Pierre blissfully erupted, instead of playing possum, he collapsed next to Esperanza, pulled her close, and held her till they both fell back asleep.

Sometime after noon, Pierre woke-up to find Esperanza standing at the foot of the bed wearing nothing but her black shawl over her shoulders, holding a tray of cookies in one hand and two cups of coffee in the other. “Some coffee, my love?” she asked him.

He didn’t answer her. He just sat up and took the two cups from her hand and let her sit next to him before giving one of them back to her. The two sat in bed enjoying their coffee together, not saying much, until Esperanza noticed an odd look on Pierre’s face.

“What is it?” she asked holding her steaming mug in front of her mouth with both hands.

“Your eyes,” he said.

Esperanza prepared herself to hear how beautiful they were, something she had heard many times through the years. She felt a little disappointed, wishing that her new lover had come up with something more original to say. Then, he did.

“Something has happened,” he said. “They are no longer green.”

“What?” she said. “That is impossible.” She got off the bed and walked over to the bureau. She put down her coffee and picked up an overturned hand mirror. “These eyes are the eyes of a serpent. It’s been a sign of my curse all…” She looked at herself in the mirror and quietly finished her sentence, stunned. “…these years.”

Her eyes were black. So dark there was no telling the difference between the iris and pupil. She looked over at Pierre but quickly returned her gaze to the mirror. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “What does this mean?”

“I don’t know,” Pierre said. “But maybe it’s for the best. I don’t know if I can be with a woman who has eyes of a serpent.”

Esperanza shot a quick glare over at him. “Oh? I got news for you, Señor. You are stuck with me no matter what color my eyes are!”

“If you insist, my love.”

“I insist,” she said as she walked back to the bed, taking the mirror with her.

She sat down at the edge of the bed and looked into the mirror once more. Pierre came up behind her, straddled her, and put one arm around her while he held onto his coffee with the other. He kissed her on the back of her neck and rested his chin on her shoulder.

“Did you make chocolates today?” he asked, not sure how long she‘d been awake.

“Shit,” she said as she got up to check the clock. “It’s almost two.” She put the mirror down and adjusted her shawl to cover most of her naked body. As she quickly tiptoed to the front door, Pierre enjoyed watching her bare ass jiggle until she was out of sight.

The women out front were surprised to hear the metal bolt slide, unlocking the door before two o’clock. Esperanza didn’t swing both of the large doors open like she usually did. Instead, she just opened one barely enough to stick her head through, “Sorry, ladies. There will be no chocolates today.”

The ladies giggled as they walked away, not saying anything in return and too hungover to notice the change in Esperanza’s eye color.

When Esperanza made it back to the bedroom, she found Pierre had finished his coffee and what was left of the cookies and was lying back in bed.

“You finished the cookies, I see,” Esperanza said as she spread her arms, opening her shawl and exposing her body. “Good, you’re going to need your energy.” She let the shawl drop to the floor and made her way into bed.

“Again?” Pierre asked.

“Twice is luck. Good or bad,” she said. “Three times is destiny.”

***

Pierre brought over his duffle bag from the boarding house that very day, and for the next nine months, he continued to fix things around the shop. One of his tasks was to redo the shop’s sign. It now read, PANADERÍA DIAMANTÉ.

Esperanza had assumed the key to her secret ingredient was her built-up passion, or whatever it was that kept her eyes green. Whether it was that her eyes were now black or that she had a satisfying lover, she now knew she could not offer her overpriced chocolates with a money-back guarantee. She now had to make a living as a regular baker. She didn’t mind it. It was a fair trade for finally being happy.

She stocked the shelves of her shop with conchas, niño envuelto, pan fino, pata de mula, orejas, quequitos, pan picón, bisquetes, and, of course, chocolate croissants. She made a good living and was happy in her new life.

One of Pierre’s tasks, one that Doña Luz prophesied, was to turn the bedroom with the ocean view into a nursery. Several miracles happened on the night their bedroom illuminated the town. One of them was the conception of Pierre and Esperanza’s first child.

The day of the child’s birth was an auspicious one. The whole village gathered outside of the bakery to await news that would signal the beginning of another all-night celebration, like the one they’d enjoyed on the night of the conception. This time, though, they’d had months to prepare. The villagers had decorated the town, swept the streets, and even made a banner that read, BIENVENIDA. Musicians from different communities were invited to play. Bar and restaurant owners ordered extra beer and tequila. When Esperanza went into labor, fishermen set out to sea to gather fresh fish and shrimp for the occasion.

When Pierre announced, “It’s a girl!” the crowd erupted in cheers, and the first of many bands began to play.

The delivery was flawless. The couple held each other’s hand and smiled with tears of joy in their eyes as the midwife cut the umbilical cord and bathed the newborn baby girl. Neither of them could believe that all those years of turmoil could have come to such a happy ending. But, as the attendant swaddled the unnamed baby, she couldn’t help but notice something peculiar. Curious, she looked at Esperanza and then at Pierre. Pierre and Esperanza looked at each other and then back at the midwife, losing their smiles and wondering what was wrong.

Finally, the midwife spoke unable to contain her concern. “Señora? Señor?” she said. “Excuse me, but does anyone in your family have green eyes?”

The Biggest Boy To Ever Join The Colombian Army (Chapter 10)

Pierre was born in a brothel in Panama City, Panamá. His mother, Pilar, who had come to Panamá from Colombia to work, thought she was barren. After working for years in the trade, not once had she ever missed her period.

Her favorite customer was a French engineer who would pay for her services for days at a time and take her away from the whorehouse. He would bring her back when his furlough was over and promised to return the next chance he got. The last time he dropped her off, he swore that when his work in Panamá came to an end, he would marry her and take her with him back to France. The day he told her this was the last time he ever saw Pilar. Soon after making his promise, he died of malaria, like many men did during this time. Nine months later, Pilar gave birth to a miracle and named him after his father.

Not only did Pilar think it was a miracle that she became pregnant, or that she carried the baby to term, but also that she was able to pass such a large baby through her vagina and not die in the process.

Though he did not have a father, Pierre was lucky enough to have several mothers. It was almost as if Pierre needed to be raised in a brothel. The boy was so large that his mother alone could not produce enough milk to satisfy him. In a whorehouse, there is no shortage of pregnant or recently pregnant women around. If Pierre wasn’t asleep, he was attached to a whore’s breast.

The women also took turns in the changing and bathing of Pierre. They were all impressed with the young boy’s endowment. All of them hoped to be retired by the time he became of age and earned his first five Panamanian Balboas. They feared the damage he might do to them should he decide to employ such a woman.

Within due time, Pierre started working in the brothel, mopping up secretions and washing soiled bedding. By the time he was ten, Pierre was as big as any man around and started coming to the aid of women who screamed for help from their chambers. At first, he would just throw the men out. Then one day, a frightened patron apologized and paid his fee before leaving. When Pierre presented the money to the whore, she promptly paid him a tip. From this point on, Pierre made sure to collect the fee first before he threw the men out even if he had to beat it out of them.

The respect Pierre earned from the women plus his new source of income allowed Pilar to become semiretired and eventually take over the brothel as the madam.

By the time Pierre was thirteen, he had mastered fighting and self-defense. He took a few licks and nicks over the years, but, eventually, it got to the point that he would always come out unscathed. If a customer pulled a knife on Pierre, that customer would quickly find himself no longer in possession of the said knife and that it was at his throat. If he pulled out a gun, he’d find himself looking down the wrong end of the barrel, if Pierre hadn’t knocked him unconscious with it. In time, the rumors that the women of this particular whorehouse were protected by the biggest, meanest son-of-a-bitch alive had spread, and no man who frequented the whorehouse dared to raise a hand to a whore or even think of not paying.

Peace in the brothel left Pierre with no purpose. Over time, his mother could see the fire in his soul start to extinguish. “It’s time for you to go, amor!”

Though the size of a man and with the strength of two, at fourteen, he was still a boy and cried like one at the thought of being away from his mother.

“Your job here is done, my son. These women are secure and safe because of you. There is nothing more for you to do. You have no purpose here, and without a purpose, you cannot grow into the man you are supposed to become.” Right then and there, she stuffed the boy’s pockets with dollars and Balboas and sent him crying out the front door of the brothel. She never saw her son again.

The boy headed south, and by the time he got to Colombia, he was out of money and hungry. At the border, he asked a soldier if he knew where he could get some work in exchange for food. Without looking up from the papers he was checking for authenticity, the soldier said, “What skills do you have?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have any,” the boy said. “All I’ve ever done is mop floors, do laundry, and fight men.”

The soldier chuckled and handed back the papers to their owner. “Sounds like you qualify to be…” The soldier finally looked up, and then gulped as if trying to swallow an avocado pit. The boy dwarfed him. “…a soldier,” he finished.

Turning his head over his shoulder, the soldier shouted, “Colonel!”

By the end of that evening, Pierre sat alone in a dining hall kept open just for him. Dressed in the biggest uniform they could find, shoveling spoonful after spoonful of rice and fish into his mouth Pierre felt content.

Pierre Bernal de los Campos (Chapter 9)

By the time Pierre made the trek from the bus station to the front of Esperanza’s shop, everyone in Barra de Navidad was aware of the big, handsome stranger in town. His looks were on par with only one other person’s in the village, Esperanza. Everyone felt, without a doubt, that he was there for her. Everyone except Esperanza—and Pierre himself.

When he happened in front of Chocolates Diamanté, he stopped—intrigued by the curious crowd of women gathered in front of the shop who all happened to be staring at him. The clock struck two, the metal bolt slid over, and the heavy double doors swung open. When Pierre saw who had opened the doors, he could not believe his eyes. Years later he would claim that that was the moment he fell in love with Esperanza.

Though he had traveled for months not knowing exactly why his destination was Barra de Navidad, he was sure of it now. It was for the most beautiful women he had ever seen.

The opening of the tall doors snapped the women out of their trance. Their attention turned to Esperanza, who was now in a trance herself. Her eyes locked with those of the giant man on the opposite side of the street. It wasn’t until one of the ladies cleared her throat that Esperanza was able to look away and say, “Come in, ladies. There are plenty of chocolates for everyone.”

Pierre was nearly two meters tall and easily weighed that of two men. If he were to put on some tights and a mask, he could easily pass as a luchador. Everything about the man was dark. His skin, his hair, and his eyes. He wore the green fatigues of a soldier, but there was no rank or flag anywhere on them. The only decorations he wore were the sweat stains under his arms and down his back, recently awarded to him by the heat and humidity of the Pacific Coast. His shirt was tucked in, with several buttons unbuttoned, exposing his hairy, tan chest. His leather combat boots were worn and now brown, as all the black dye had long faded. On top of his head was a black wool beret that had to be baking his head in the heat. He was so handsome that it would be easy for a man to think Pierre could steal his wife if that man thought his wife was worth stealing.

Being the good-looking world traveler that he was, Pierre had known and bedded hundreds of beautiful women, but none compared with the owner of this chocolate shop. He knew she was his destiny, and he was not going to wait to meet her. He bought a young coconut from a street vendor and cut a hole into it with his knife. He drank the cool water in the shade until the crowd of women in the shop dwindled to nothing. It turned out his destiny could wait a little while, especially if it involved the chance of being embarrassed in front of a group of townswomen.

When the coco was empty, he tossed it back to the vendor, who would no doubt cut it into chunks and sell the white pulp. With his duffel bag in tow, Pierre headed over to Esperanza. As he approached the shop, Esperanza’s last customer walked out. It was two-thirty. She nearly slammed the doors in his face, but he stopped her with his free hand. “Excuse me.”

“Yes?” Esperanza answered, opening the doors just enough to expose her face. Even though he stood on the sidewalk and she at the elevation one had to ascend in order to enter the shop (which was just one step), she still found herself looking up at the stranger.

“What kind of shop is this?” Pierre asked.

“It’s a chocolate shop,” she responded and attempted to close the doors again.

Again Pierre stopped the doors with his hand. “In that case, Señ — or…” he drew the word out as long as he could, hoping for help.

“Señorita,” she said.

Destiny, he thought. “In that case, Señorita, I would like to buy some chocolates.”

“I’m sold out!” she announced, once again attempting to close the doors.

He stopped her again, but this time without his hand. “Ah, ah, ah. Then I will come back tomorrow.”

“I will be sold out tomorrow too.”

“Then I will come the following day.”

“You do not want these chocolates, Señor. They are dangerous.”

“Danger is something I am accustomed to, Señorita.”

Taking a different approach, Esperanza said, “Didn’t you notice who my customers were? These chocolates are only for women. It helps with their menstruation.” She was only partially lying.

Realizing the chocolates were a dead end, Pierre quickly thought of another reason to come back. “I can fix your door.”

This caught Esperanza’s attention. In seven years, there was not one repair made to her shop. There were plenty of handymen in the village, but if they were bachelors, they were too intimidated by her beauty to enter the shop, and if they were married, they were not allowed.

“I see that at least two of your hinges are loose. If I can acquire some tools by tomorrow, I can fix this in just a few minutes.”

“How much do you charge?”

“I will do it for the pleasure of your company during the time it takes me to complete the task.”

“I will pay you twenty pesos an hour.”

“If you insist, Señorita.”

“Be here at two-thirty tomorrow,” Esperanza said. “I will have all the tools you need.” This time she met no resistance as she closed the doors.

“I’ll be here,” Pierre shouted through the closed doors. Before he walked away, he shouted again, “Señorita?”

“Yes?”

“What is your name?”

“Esperanza,” she said. “Esperanza Diamanté.”

“Esperanza Diamanté, I am Pierre Bernal de los Campos. Mucho gusto.”

“Mucho gusto, Pierre,” Esperanza said quietly through to door, her lips nearly touching the ancient wood. She stood there until she could no longer feel his presence.

Barra de Navidad (Chapter 8)

Esperanza arrived in Puerto Vallarta early on Easter Sunday. It was a long and miserable bus ride. While most people slept, she lay awake in the dark, wondering if what she had done was justified.

As soon as she disembarked, Esperanza checked the departures for a bus line that had Barra de Navidad on the schedule. There was only one, Tres Estrellas, but it didn’t leave until the next day. She bought a ticket, caught a taxi, and headed downtown. As she walked through the streets, shops began to open. The morning sun and fresh ocean breeze invited her to do something she hadn’t done in years, sunbathe on the beach. After checking into a hotel and dropping off her bags, she began shopping for a bathing suit.

She fell in love with a white crocheted two-piece that seemed more ornamental than practical. As beautiful as it was, it was overpriced and so delicately made that no sensible person would ever think of paying so much for it. It was something a rich woman would buy for sitting by the pool with a cocktail, not to actually wear into the water. Esperanza bought it nonetheless. She didn’t even take it off after she tried it on. “My God,” the lady working the store said. “Only a woman as beautiful as you could ever wear that.” Esperanza left the store wearing her new bathing suit under her blouse and skirt and headed to the beach.

Using her skirt as a blanket and placing her folded-up blouse under her head, Esperanza lay in front of the breaking waves taking in the sun. After a few minutes, something seemed to ignite at both the top of her head and the soles of her feet. If one were to observe what was happening to Esperanza, one could say she looked like a fuse that had been lit at both ends. The red heat and the crackling sounds of sparks burned, working their way across her body to meet in the middle. Like the controlled burn of a cornfield where fires are lit to prepare the field for a new crop, the stalks and weeds of Esperanza’s past burned away, leaving a rich and fertile soil for a new life to grow. After a few hours, she felt rejuvenated and wasn’t the least bit burnt, as one would expect from spending so much time in the sun. It was as if her body was doing some much-needed catching up after years of being away from the beach.

On her way back to her hotel, Esperanza entertained herself by walking through all the shops that had opened since she first walked through earlier that day. When she passed by the store where she bought her bathing suit, the same lady saw her and said, “I can’t believe it, Señorita. You are even more beautiful now than you were a few hours ago.”

In her hotel room, Esperanza took an unexpected cold shower. She spent several minutes trying to figure out which of the faucet handles was for hot water and which was for cold, but eventually gave up. She washed the sand and sweat from her hair as well as from her clothes and hung everything up to dry. Lying naked on the bed, she let the ceiling fan finish drying her off. Just before sunset, she put on her clean, dry blouse and turquoise skirt, and went off to have dinner. After some mediocre ceviche, shrimp cocktail, and two beers, she returned to her hotel and went to bed. By the next afternoon, she would be in Barra de Navidad.

***

With the whole village watching her, Esperanza easily found Doña Luz’s old bakery. Though she had retired years before, the shop’s sign still hung out in front. The faded sign read, “Bueno — Panadería y Pastelería” accompanied by a cartoon Mexican man wearing a serape and sombrero. Before she could even knock, Doña Luz opened the massive doors and said, “Welcome, Esperanza. Come in. I’ve been waiting for you. Lupita has told me so much about you.”

Certain that Doña Luz must have been mistaken, she was curious that she had used that name, of all the possibilities. “You mean, Evangelina? Don’t you? Doña Eva?”

“No,” the old woman said. “Doña Eva didn’t give much detail at all in her letter. I would have responded in the negative had it not been for Lupita.”

Doña Luz could see the look of confusion on Esperanza’s face and said for clarification, “Your wet nurse.”

“Señora, Lupita has been dead nearly twenty years.”

“Yes, I know,” the Doña responded as if talking to the dead was as common as gossiping with a neighbor.

Esperanza stood there, shocked, not knowing what to think. But as Doña Luz continued to talk, she understood that there was only one way Doña Luz could know the things that she knew.

“Come in. Come in. Let’s eat something,” Doña Luz encouraged. “You must be hungry from your travels.” She escorted Esperanza up to a small kitchen just past the bakery, where she had a pot of something keeping warm on the stove. Esperanza took note of the aroma coming from it.

As Doña Luz turned and lit the burner under the comal, she continued talking. “Lupita told me all about your travels and how you worked in that bar in Puerto Escondido. If I were as beautiful as you, I would have done the same. No shame in using what the Lord gave you. It is a pity things didn’t work out with you and that young man. She told me how you studied under Don Miguel. You plan to make your chocolates here I assume? That’s why you brought a bag full of cocoa pods? Anyway, just this morning she told me what you did the other night in Guanajuato. Good for you! He deserved it. It’s not often a woman gets to exact revenge like that. Flour or corn?”

Esperanza just sat there completely shocked, with her mouth opened. No one in the world could know all of those events. Yes, there were a few that could maybe put two of them together, but no one knew them all, especially not a woman she had just met a few minutes before. Trying to figure how it was possible, she remembered Lupita’s last words, “I’ll be looking after you the whole time. I promise.”

“Flour or corn, mija?” Doña Luz asked again.

“Huh?” Esperanza said, coming out of her daze.

“Tortillas. Would you like flour or corn?”

“What are we having?” Esperanza said with a warm smile.

“Caldo de camarón,” the Doña answered.

“Corn, please.”

***

Esperanza took great comfort in Doña Luz’s soup, as well as in knowing that Lupita had been watching over her all these years, though the soup was easier to believe.

She finished a bowl, and Doña Luz refilled it without asking. Esperanza consumed the second as eagerly as she did the first, alternating spoonfuls of soup with bites of rolled tortilla wrapped around salted pieces of avocado.

While still working on her first bowl, Doña Luz started to discuss the terms of their arrangement. “Lupita said it will take you a while to come up with the money, so I’ll accept installments until you do.”

“I’m sorry?” Esperanza said. “The money for what?”

“To buy this place, of course. What do I need it for, anyway? I might as well do some traveling before I die.”

It never occurred to Esperanza to put down roots somewhere. Maybe it was time. She could have her own shop and make a good living for herself. Though she’d never have children of her own, maybe someday she could adopt a child. And why not do it all here, in Barra de Navidad?

For the next couple weeks, Esperanza worked in the shop, cleaning it up and getting it ready to reopen for business. She worked all morning, and after siesta, she would head to the beach to take in the sun. Each night she had a late dinner with Doña Luz, and some nights they shared a beer.

When Esperanza started to make headway on the shop, she left work a little early to head out and sell some of the chocolates she’d brought with her from Guanajuato. She was a bit timid about selling her special treats but thought she had better get to work if she was going to buy Doña Luz’s bakery anytime soon.

She walked around town with a basketful of chocolates but found that people seemed to avoid her. On her first attempt, she wasn’t even successful at getting eye contact with anyone. That night at supper, she confided in Doña Luz.

“They are all intimidated by you,” the old woman confessed. “You are too beautiful.”

“What should I do then?” Esperanza asked with a mouth full of meatball.

“Be more aggressive. Time will prove that you are not here to steal their husbands. But, for now, assert yourself when it comes to selling your chocolates.” The Doña put a portion of a meatball in her mouth and began to chew it. “And charge a premium. They’ll pay it when they learn of its powers.”

The next day Esperanza went out determined to sell some chocolates. She walked up to the first pair of villagers she saw, two middle-aged women walking down the street. She didn’t wait for them to make eye contact, but instead stood in front of them and said, “Chocolates, Señoras?”

The ladies seemed stunned to be so abruptly halted by the stranger.

“I made them myself.”

“How much?” asked one of the ladies.

“One hundred pesos,” Esperanza told her.

Both ladies gasped. “Do we look crazy?” asked the woman who had spoken before. “I could buy two chocolates for ten pesos right there.” She pointed to a little store across the street.

“Those chocolates won’t give you the best orgasm of your life!”

The other woman who had yet to say a word dug into her brassiere and pulled out a neatly folded wad of pesos, and gave it to Esperanza without counting it. Esperanza took the money and handed over two chocolates wrapped together in cellophane and a little piece of red ribbon.

“Eat them both just before making love, and if they don’t do as I say, I’ll give you your money back,” Esperanza instructed.

With a big grin that exposed her gold caps, the woman took the chocolates and finally spoke. “I’ll tell you if they work tomorrow when we have coffee,” she said to her friend.

Jealous, as if the conversation over coffee had already happened, the other woman also reached into her brassiere and pulled out a neatly folded wad of money equaling one hundred pesos, and gave them to Esperanza. Esperanza wondered if every woman in Barra kept a hundred pesos down in her bosom, as she handed over another pair of chocolates.

“Enjoy yourselves, ladies,” Esperanza said as she held up the two bundles of money. “These will be waiting for you tomorrow if you are not satisfied.” She gave them a wink and walked off back to the shop, feeling as though she had conducted enough business for one day.

The next day, when she headed out to sell some chocolates, it was she who was abruptly halted by two different women this time. “We would like to buy some chocolates,” they said in unison as they each handed over one hundred pesos.

***

Realizing that her customer base was going to grow quickly, Esperanza made haste in getting the shop ready. She ordered a sign and made arrangements with a produce vendor to keep the cocoa pods coming in. Within no time, Chocolates Diamanté was up and running.

Over the next seven years, Esperanza made chocolates in the morning, sold them in the afternoon, and spent the early evenings sunbathing and walking on the beach. As a result of her chocolates, the population of the little fishing village doubled. The town even built a new school to accommodate the influx of children.

Within the first two years, Esperanza was able to buy the shop from Doña Luz. Upon receiving payment in full, Doña Luz set off to do some traveling before she died. Her last words to Esperanza before she got on the bus were, “Enjoy the bedroom that overlooks the beach while you can. In due time, you will find that it will be well suited as a nursery.”

Esperanza blew the old woman’s comment off, thinking that she may have forgotten about Esperanza’s dilemma. For the next five years, she didn’t even look at a man with the faint hint of desire. Until the day she opened the doors of her shop and saw the tall, handsome stranger in green fatigues, wearing a black beret, standing across the street.

Lover Number 2 (Chapter 6)

    Because he was dead, Don Raúl’s hand over Esperanza’s mouth relaxed allowing the sound of her screams to ring throughout the house. She had already been crying—her pillow wet with tears on each side of her face.

The first person to arrive at Esperanza’s bedroom was Lupita, followed closely by Doña Ángeles. Speechless, Lupita did several signs of the cross. Doña Ángeles, however, had something to say “What have you done?”

Lupita held Esperanza while they both wept.

Doña Ángeles had her husband’s body moved to their bedroom and told the servants who helped her, “You will not speak of this, ever!” She waited until the next morning to report her his death, claiming that he passed in his sleep. Though the man was as fit as a bull, the coroner concluded that he’d died of heart failure.

Not only did the servants never speak of what happened, neither did Doña Ángeles. To her, Esperanza was to blame for the loss of both of her husbands. Now more than ever, she resented the beautiful daughter of the devil.

It took Esperanza months to get over what happened, though she never fully recovered—not for a couple of decades anyway. The one who took the loss of Esperanza’s virtue the hardest was Lupita. Over the next year, Lupita seemed to age at ten times the normal rate. She eventually became bedridden, and the roles between her and Esperanza reversed. Now it was Esperanza who took care of Lupita.

One day, while Esperanza read to her, Lupita spoke for the first time in months. “Enough,” she said. “It’s time for me to leave.” Shocked to hear her wet nurse’s voice, Esperanza just watched as the old woman help herself out of bed.

“’Pita, what do you mean?” Esperanza said.

“This house has become too dark. I must leave.”

Laughing in disbelief, Esperanza asked, “Where will you go?”

“I’m going to be with the Lord.”

Esperanza watched Lupita scavenge through the room as if she was looking for something until she spoke again. “Ehh, what could I need?”

“’Pita, no. Not yet,” Esperanza said. She began to cry, realizing that Lupita was truly leaving, though she was not sure how.

“That’s enough tears for now. It’s time. It’s my job to look after you, and I can’t do it from here, not anymore.” Lupita started to levitate. “As soon as I am six feet under, remove the money from my mattress. Find the black thread and cut along the seam. It’s my life’s savings. Take it, and tomorrow after I’m buried in the backyard, leave this God-forsaken place forever.”

As Lupita started to ascend, a hole in the ceiling began to appear. A bright light pierced through the hole as it enlarged, and pieces of plaster and concrete fell to the ground. Looking at Lupita, Esperanza could see a glow about her. The ten years she had aged in that year seemed to have reversed. Also, for the first time since that horrible night, Lupita had a smile on her face. “Don’t worry, mijita. I won’t abandon you. I’ll be looking after you the whole time. I promise.” And she disappeared up through the illuminated hole in the ceiling.

Esperanza closed her eyes and cried as like she did when she was a baby anywhere in the house but the kitchen. Her mother came to the room and asked, “What’s going on in here?”

Through the tears, Esperanza choked out the words, “Lupita, she’s left.”

As if annoyed, Doña Ángeles said, “You can have the rest of the night to mourn. We’ll bury her in the backyard first thing tomorrow morning.”

Confused, Esperanza opened her eyes to find Lupita’s lifeless body lying on her bed and the ceiling intact. The Doña immediately walked out of the room, leaving her daughter alone to mourn.

The next day, after the funeral and during siesta, Esperanza followed through with Lupita’s request. She cut open the mattress where it had been sewn shut with black thread and removed Lupita’s life’s savings. She then packed two leather bags and left a note for her mother.

“Dearest mother, sorry I couldn’t say good-bye. I’ve gone away on a business trip.”

***

At seventeen, Esperanza’s body had been in full bloom for years, but she had lived such a sheltered life in Ojocaliente that she was unaware of the power of her beauty. In the year that she traveled the country, she became well aware that she had something that men desired.

At first, she thought they were just being nice, but it didn’t take long for her to realize that they all wanted what her stepfather had taken by force. She had no interest in that and kept men at a distance for a long time.

Being a young, beautiful traveler with plenty of money, one would expect Esperanza to be having the time of her life. The truth was, she was sad. She found herself alone for the first time in her life. With no chores or work to do, she had a lot of free time on her hands. It was during that free time that she thought about the only person who ever really cared for her, Lupita. The only time her mind was clear of any anguish was when she ate.

She found joy in trying all the different foods the different parts of the country had to offer. She found that the best food came from the people in the street or on the side of the road. As she tasted the different delicacies, she asked vendors about the ingredients and then made notes in a book she carried with her. Sometimes the vendors could answer her, and sometimes they couldn’t.

“I use cinnamon tea as the base for my mole,” a woman said. Or “I mix bacon grease in the masa.” Often though, the answer would be, “I don’t know. My mother made them.”

Esperanza got great pleasure in seeing a ball of masa turn into a quesadilla right before her eyes. She would have it cut into as many pieces as there were different salsas so that she could try them all.

One day, while eating a shrimp cocktail, she looked up and realized that she was in paradise. She decided right then and there that Puerto Escondido was her new home. By the end of that afternoon, she had found both a place to rent, a bathing suit she liked, and hit the beach to take in the sun.

It was on the beach that she realized how comfortable it felt to be barely dressed. She despised the attention it got her, though. Mothers would often cover their young sons’ eyes as they walked by, and men would often come up to Esperanza and try to make conversation without ever looking at her face. To hell with them, she eventually thought. I’ll wear whatever I want.

Puerto Escondido was a town filled with young tourists and foreigners, and it didn’t take Esperanza long to make friends. She spent her days on the beach and nights out with them. Smoking marijuana and drinking were habits she easily embraced until, one night, she found herself in a situation that reminded her of her night with Don Raúl.

The next day, a young German with a bandaged head apologized to her. “Next time, after I break the bottle over your head, I’ll take what’s left and stab it in your neck.” There wasn’t a next time.

Esperanza felt it best to keep her senses about her and no longer participated in the smoking or drinking when she went out. After a few nights of this, she began to dread going out at all. The beach also had lost its allure. After trying to surf, she had resigned to just sunbathing, but this bored her after a while. With boredom set in and rent using up most of Lupita’s savings, Esperanza concluded it was time she went to work.

The first place she thought of was where she used to hang out with her friends, Mariscos de Puerto Escondido. During the day it was a decent seafood restaurant, but at night it was the most popular bar in town. Not wanting to continue to be around drunks, Esperanza hoped to pick up a lunch or dinner shift as a waitress.

She walked in one morning before they opened and asked to speak to the owner. Ernesto was a handsome man not quite thirty years old. A close uncle had left him the restaurant when he passed away. As soon as Ernesto took it over, he immediately brought in a stereo system and kept the restaurant open as late as the city would allow it. Within the first week, he had doubled his revenue. As any young man who inherited a bar would do, Ernesto enjoyed himself on a nightly basis. He took liberties with his liquor and his female employees. Within seconds of seeing Esperanza, he said, “When can you start?”

“Right away,” Esperanza answered.

“Good,” he said. “Let me give you a tour.” The first thing he showed her was his office and sleeping quarters, which contained a bed big enough for three people. They stood there for a moment in silence. When Esperanza gave no indication that she wanted to test the bed out, Ernesto continued the tour. Next was a private area for servers to change into their uniforms and store their personal belongings, and then it was on to the kitchen.

It was in the kitchen that, for the first time in a long time, Esperanza became overwhelmed with joy. Of course, she thought. That was why all the food she had been trying made her feel so good. It was the closest she had been to being in a kitchen.

Excited, Esperanza addressed the owner. “Señor.”

Ernesto held up his hand and had a look on his face as if to say, “Please. Call me Ernesto.”

“Ernesto,” she continued. “I’ve changed my mind. I do not want to serve meals. I want to make them. Here in the kitchen!”

Ernesto let out a laugh and said, “Young lady, I’m not hiring you for either of those jobs. You are my newest cocktail waitress.”

***

The impact Ernesto had hoped for in hiring such an attractive woman was better than expected. The Mariscos de Puerto Escondido was packed every night, mostly with men who had come to see Esperanza. The uniform for servers was a white cotton blouse with elastic at the top. Waitresses tucked the bottom of the blouse into a white cotton skirt that had blue trim and the restaurant’s name embroidered on it in big letters. Ernesto took the liberty to make some changes to Esperanza’s uniform. The bottom of her blouse came to an end right underneath her breasts, exposing her midriff. The slit in the side the skirt came up a little higher than usual, and he bought her a pair of high-heeled shoes to wear.

Esperanza didn’t mind the sheer cotton top or skirt. It was as close to being naked in public as she’d ever been, and she quite enjoyed how comfortable that made her feel. She liked the uniform so much that she eventually bought some of the skirts for herself—without the embroidery or the slit in the side—and had them dyed different colors. As far as the shoes went, she hated them. And in time, getting rid of them was one of the demands she made on Ernesto.

***

Esperanza was not naive. She knew that she was the one the customers came to see every night. She teased and flirted with the men, and if a song came on that she liked, she’d select a lucky patron and take him out on the dance floor. Nobody cared that she didn’t know the difference between cumbia and salsa. Just watching her move to the rhythm of the music was enough. Each song always ended with a roar from the crowd and a round of applause.

One day, after months of serving drinks and continually increasing Ernesto’s profit, Esperanza came in early to negotiate new terms of her employment. Knowing that she could ask for anything she wanted, Ernesto waited in fear to hear her demands.

“First of all,” Esperanza said. “I do not want to wear these ever again.” She held the high-heeled shoes by their straps and then released them, letting them drop on Ernesto’s desk. “Next,” she said as Ernesto grimaced, waiting for it. “I want to make more money…”

There it was—what Ernesto had been dreading. How much did she want? Ten percent? Twenty? Thirty? Forget it! He would do 15 percent, tops!

“…by working in the kitchen,” Esperanza finished her demand.

“Deal,” Ernesto said thanking the Lord for her reasonable request. “What shoes do you intend to wear?”

“Pues, my huaraches of course,” she said as she gestured down to her feet.

Ernesto looked down and saw her favorite brown, tattered leather sandals covering up most of what he thought were the prettiest feet he’d ever seen. “As you wish,” he said, but with the thought that he would replace those horrible things eventually.

Esperanza started in the kitchen that night. She spent most of her first dinner shift chopping. Chopping onions, cilantro, tomatoes and whatever else the staff needed to be chopped. Though the work was menial, she loved every minute of it. She carried with her blissful energy she absorbed in the kitchen through her entire shift as a cocktail waitress.

She could tell that the kitchen staff was humoring her by letting her be in the kitchen. They had no intention of allowing her to cook anything. They all assumed she didn’t know how. Why would a woman this beautiful ever have to cook anything in her entire life? They thought.

One day the kitchen staff arrived to find Esperanza already in there. She stood at a table where a bowl of something sat along with a basket of tostadas next to it.

“What’s this?” someone asked.

“This is my fish ceviche,” Esperanza answered.

“We already have a fish ceviche on the menu!”

“Not like this,” she said and stood there, not inviting them to taste it, even though that was exactly what she wanted them to do.

Someone finally made a move and broke a portion of tostada off and scooped up a mouthful of the ceviche. He asked for a salt shaker, but Esperanza interrupted him, “Ah, ah. Taste it first.”

As soon as the staff member put the piece of tostada topped with ceviche into his mouth, his eyes widened. Still chewing, he went for another piece of the tostada. “It tastes like the ocean,” he said as he took a second helping. “An ocean with extra chilies.”

“Well, we are in the business of selling beers too,” Esperanza responded.

In the year that she spent traveling the country trying different food, it occurred to Esperanza that every dish was one special ingredient away from being elevated from good to great. The special ingredient in her ceviche was fresh ocean water instead of regular salt. She filtered that water through a series of coffee filters. What was left was a liquid salt solution that gave any seafood dish the essence of the ocean.

The last person to taste the ceviche was the head chef. With his mouth still full, he proclaimed, “This is going on the menu tonight!”

“It will have to be tomorrow,” Esperanza told the chef. “This is the last of it, and it takes twenty-four hours to prepare.”

“Then get to work,” he said. “And make plenty, for tomorrow it will not only be on the menu, but it will also be the special.”

With the head chef’s approval each time, changes were made to the menu as Esperanza introduced something else. Within time, Mariscos de Puerto Escondido was the most popular restaurant in all of Puerto Escondido.

***

“Do you like them?” Ernesto could already tell by the look on Esperanza’s face that she did. Stunned, she held the handmade sandals in her hands like they were a pair of baby bunnies. “Well?” Ernesto asked.

Snapping out of her daze, Esperanza said, “Yes,” and put them on right away.

“Good,” Ernesto said as he presented her with another box. “Because I got you two pair.” Ernesto spent months looking for a pair of shoes until he decided that what he would like best to see on Esperanza’s feet did not exist. He sent away to León to have what he had envisioned custom made. After sending several pairs back, the right ones arrived, and he thought that with all the effort it to took to get them, he’d better order a second pair. He waited till the second set of turquoise-and-silver decorated sandals arrived before he presented the first pair to Esperanza.

Esperanza started to have feelings for her boss. Gestures like this one helped, but he had made more significant changes over time. He’d cut his drinking down to the occasional celebratory shot, and his womanizing came to a halt, mostly. He was a man, after all, and waiting for Esperanza to come around had him so pent up with sexual frustration that he had to release it every now and then.

Esperanza’s beauty was enough to make any man want her. But her charm, charisma, and skills in the kitchen made Ernesto feel like this was a woman he could marry, forsaking all others.

One night after the bar had closed and Ernesto and Esperanza were the only ones left, Ernesto took a deep breath and said, “I’ve never seen you with a man, so I assume you are a virgin waiting for marriage. That being the case, I want to marry you. Not simply because I want to lie with you but because I love you and want to only be with you until the day that I die.”

For the first time in her life, Esperanza felt a man want her for more than just her beauty. She had gotten many drunken proposals over the years, but this was the first true, honest one. Her mind filled with visions of a happy life and children. It felt good to her to see this future. She’d never thought it was possible, but maybe she could have a normal life after all.

“I’ll marry you,” Esperanza said. “But I’m not a virgin, so I see no need to wait.” She dropped the towel she was using to clean on the floor and headed upstairs to Ernesto’s sleeping quarters. Ernesto immediately followed.

***

It had been five years since the night Don Raúl stole her virtue. It felt like an old memory to her—one that didn’t hurt so much. She thought she was ready to get on with her life and now seemed as good of a time as any.

By the time he got to the bedroom, Esperanza had already taken her sandals off. All Ernesto had left to do was lift her blouse over her head and pull her skirt down to the floor. “My God,” Ernesto said looking upon his naked betrothed for the very first time. It was a feat no other man in the world had the privilege of accomplishing. Still dressed, Ernesto walked counter-clockwise around Esperanza, lightly touching her with the tips of his left hand as he circled. He started at her shoulder and drew a line with his fingers down her body as if he was painting a barber’s pole. By the time he got to the front of her left hip, just below her waistline, her knees had buckled. Thinking she was going to fall, Ernesto grabbed her and then kissed her.

Esperanza responded to the kiss with overflowing passion. She kissed him back while boldly embracing him. Men had kissed her over the past few years, but none of them felt like this. None of them aroused her. And none of them had taken place while she was naked, feeling both vulnerable and comfortable at the same time.

Ernesto undressed himself in front of her. Like a little girl, Esperanza hid her face in her hands. She had never seen a grown man naked before. Hoping to ease her embarrassment a little, Ernesto got into bed underneath the covers. Esperanza followed his lead.

The kissing and caressing continued until Ernesto could no longer take it. He positioned himself on top of her, wedging his body in between her legs. He was more than ready to enter the most beautiful women he had ever known in his life, but Esperanza’s squirming thwarted every attempt he made. As much as he tried, he found the pleasure of Esperanza just out of reach. “Are you sure you want this?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m sure.” Now more than ever Esperanza wanted to make love. Though she was attracted to Ernesto and wanted him to be her lover, at this point she just wanted to make love to make love. She wanted to prove to herself that she could. That what Don Raúl had done to her no longer controlled her—that she was over it. She scooted down to meet Ernesto’s erection and accepted it inside of her.

As soon as Ernesto entered her, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and his eyelids fell closed. The pleasure overwhelmed him, and he felt as if it transported to another place. After a few seconds, Ernesto came back and opened his eyes to look at his lover. She had her face covered by her hands again. This time she was not hiding her embarrassment but her tears.

The experience was too much for Esperanza. As much as she tried not to let it remind her of Don Raúl, she couldn’t help it. The tears came without permission, and she covered her face to hide that fact that she was crying. Hoping that Ernesto would finish before he noticed.

As soon as he opened his eyes, Ernesto withdrew from her and lay next to her on the bed. “You’re not ready,” he said, without anger or frustration.

“I’m sorry,” she said wiping away her tears. “I thought I was. I wanted to be.”

“What happened?”

“Talking about it is something I know I’m not ready for.”

“Okay, my love. We have a lifetime to talk and to make love. We don’t have to start it all tonight.” Esperanza smiled, and he kissed her on the temple. “Here, lie on your side,” he said as he slid his arm under her neck to spoon her.

Esperanza welcomed this new position. She had never spooned before. She liked how she could lie like a child and be held. It was like being hugged but not having to hug back. It would have been the perfect had it not been for something hard poking her from behind. “What is th…” before she could finish her question she had Ernesto’s hard organ in her hand.

“Sorry,” he said. “It will go away in a while.”

A little embarrassed, Esperanza let go of his erection and turned back around. She couldn’t help but notice how close it was to her vagina. “Do people make love this way?” she asked Ernesto.

“Yes, of course.”

Esperanza lay there, thinking about what it would be like to make love in this position when she felt him gently slide inside of her from behind. Ernesto didn’t need any other confirmation that she wanted to try again, other than the mutual burning desire he could feel between the both of them. When Esperanza reached back, grabbing him by the hip and pulling him closer to her, he knew he was right to try.

As much as Esperanza like this position for cuddling, she liked it even more for making love. She enjoyed not having to reciprocate anything. Not because she was selfish, but because she couldn’t. Her lover would caress her, and she couldn’t caress him. Her lover could kiss her on the neck, but she couldn’t kiss back.

Don Raúl was the furthest thing from her mind. Nothing about this lovemaking session reminded her of that night in Ojocaliente. That is, until she realized Ernesto was dead.

Lover Number 1 (Chapter 5)

    Esperanza was born on Christmas Day in Ojocaliente, Zacatecas. The delivery was uneventful until the midwife, Señora Mondragón, saw the child’s eyes. The midwife looked up at Esperanza’s father, Don Eduardo, and then to Esperanza’s mother, Doña Ángeles, and said, “Excuse me, but does anyone in your family have green eyes?”

Puzzled, Doña Ángeles responded, “None that I know of.”

The first thought that came to Señora Mondragón was that the Doña had been unfaithful. Right away, she asked that Don Eduardo give the mother and child time to bond. The father, not knowing what was normal in childbirth, quickly agreed and left the room.

“Forgive me, Señora, but I must know. Have you stepped out on your husband at all?” the midwife asked.

“Of course not,” Doña Ángeles responded. “How could you ask such a thing?”

“Perdón, Señora, but I had to know for sure.”

Besides being a midwife, Señora Mondragón also served as the town’s lie detector. People, usually women, would come to her with the accused in tow and pay ten pesos to ask a question in front of her. She would then respond with, “He’s lying” or “He’s telling the truth.”

A mother once brought her fat, little boy to ask, “Was it you or the dog who ate all the empanadas?”

“It was the dog,” the fat boy responded.

“He’s lying,” Señora Mondragón concluded.

A young bride-to-be brought her fiancé to ask, “Were you at the whorehouse last night?”

To which he responded, “No.” They always said no.

“He’s lying,” Señora Modragón said.

Once a woman asked her husband, “Did you sleep with that slut, Anita Rojas?”

Her husband answered, “No.”

Señora Mondragón was forced to say, “He’s telling the truth,” because of the question asked in front of her. But she knew that it was Sofía de la Vega whom he had slept with.

So, when Doña Ángeles answered that she had not been unfaithful, the midwife knew that she was telling the truth.

“This child is the daughter of the devil,” said Señora Mondragón.

“How can you say that?” the Doña asked.

“Because she has the eyes of a serpent!” she said and handed the baby to her mother.

“Dios mío,” Doña Ángeles said as she did three signs of the cross before taking her daughter.

Esperanza had green eyes. They were the greenest eyes anyone had ever seen, so uncommon that people thought that they looked like the eyes of Satan—though all anyone had to go by were artists’ renditions of the devil found in churches. No one had actually seen him. Esperanza was not the daughter of the devil, but the dye was cast. She might as well have been.

With the daughter in her mother’s arms, the wet nurse, Lupita, was able to see the baby’s eyes for the first time. Regardless of what anyone said, when Lupita looked into the newborn’s eyes, all she could think was that they were those of an angel. Lupita immediately fell in love with Esperanza, and it was a good thing because the Doña promptly handed her daughter over to her.

With the baby in her arms, Lupita announced in protest, “This baby is no daughter of Satan.” And with that, as if on cue, Esperanza started to wail and did not stop until the next day when Lupita reported to the kitchen with the baby in her arms.

Hours later, after la comida had been prepared and served, Lupita gathered up the child and exited the kitchen. As soon as Lupita crossed the threshold of the kitchen, Esperanza started crying again and did not stop until the next day when it was time to prepare la comida again.

It didn’t take long for Lupita to figure it out. With the help of the other servants, Lupita turned the walk-in pantry of the kitchen into sleeping quarters for her and Esperanza.

For a while, the house was at peace, and everyone seemed to forget the declaration of Señora Mondragón—until Esperanza learned to walk. The child got into everything within reach. The lower kitchen cabinets were fitted with latches so that she couldn’t access the contents inside them. All decorations and trinkets within one meter of the ground were removed or placed on higher shelves, for fear of them getting knocked to the ground and destroyed. The family even had to give away their prized German Shepherds because Esperanza would not stop collecting dog shit and bringing it into the house.

For the next several years, the only time the house was quiet was when Esperanza was asleep. No matter what happened, though, Lupita never lost her temper with the little girl. And when it came time for Esperanza to say her first word, it was “’Pita.”

Don Eduardo was so distraught by the child’s behavior that he stopped making love to his wife, for fear of creating another devil child. Then one day, after years of tolerating both the little troublemaker and the rumors as to who her real father was, Don Eduardo packed two leather bags and left on a business trip, never to return.

For the next several years, the house of Doña Ángeles never had a moment’s peace—until the day came that Esperanza started school. The relief was short-lived, though. By the end of her second year in school, Esperanza was sent home with a letter pinned to her blouse asking Doña Ángeles not to send the child back.

This was when Esperanza started her first apprenticeship, under Lupita, in her mother’s kitchen. Along with learning how to cook, Esperanza learned how to read. Although she resented her, the Doña couldn’t stand the possibility of having a dummy as a daughter. So she labeled everything in the kitchen with its appropriate word. After Esperanza mastered every word in the kitchen, her mother moved on to labeling items in the rest of their home. The house looked as though Doña Ángeles had died and was hosting her own estate sale, but instead of prices on the cards, there were vocabulary words. Once Esperanza learned how to read and spell the words on every label in their home, Doña Ángeles started giving the child books and insisted that if Esperanza wanted to be in the kitchen, she would have to finish a book a week. It turns out this was all the education Esperanza ever needed.

After several years, Doña Ángeles resigned to the fact that her husband was never coming back. She was also broke and resorted to the selling the antique furniture that decorated her home, piece by piece.

One of the furniture buyers was the widower Don Raúl de la Serna, a foreman for the copper mining company in town. After he first laid eyes on the Doña, Don Raúl came by the house every day to either inquire about or buy another piece of furniture. Within two months Doña Ángeles had her furniture back, even the pieces purchased by others, as well as a new husband.

Don Raúl did not think of Esperanza as his own daughter. The wild child was just too much for him. But he did treat her with respect. She was, after all, his wife’s daughter. One Saturday, while peeling chayote in the kitchen, Esperanza got distracted, as she often did, and sent the tip of her paring knife into the end of her middle finger.

Though she was sixteen by this time, she let out a wail as if she was an infant who had just taken a tumble. She cried, not so much because of how much it hurt, but for the attention. Don Raul, who was in the garden, ran into the kitchen to see who was dying.

“What’s the matter in here?” the Don said.

Esperanza, crying and holding her finger in her other hand, shouted, “I cut my finger!”

The Don took Esperanza’s folded hands in his and took her over to the washbasin. As he unwrapped her finger, expecting it to be severed, he couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s just a pinprick,” he said. “There’s barely any blood.” The Don wiped the blood off Esperanza’s finger with his thumb and said, “Look. It already stopped bleeding.” The Don exhaled deeply and wiped his forehead with his sleeve. “Dios mío. You almost gave me a heart attack.” Looking at his thumb, he continued, “All that over a little drop of blood.” And then, without any thought, Don Raúl put his thumb into his mouth and sucked the drop of blood off of it.

Later that night, with a look of lust and desperation in his eyes, Don Raúl de la Serna crept into Esperanza’s bed. He slid between her legs and pulled her panties to one side. When she started to protest, he put his hand over her mouth.

By the time Don Raúl finished taking Esperanza’s virginity, he was dead.

Guanajuato Part II (Chapter 3)

For the next year, Esperanza continued her experiments. She hoped to find the right blood-to-chocolate ratio, who was best suited for the chocolates, and how many they should consume.

The women of Guanajuato never once feared or were intimidated by Esperanza’s beauty. Compared to Barra, Guanajuato was a much larger, more affluent city. If the women weren’t beautiful themselves, their fine clothing, houses, and jewelry made them feel good enough about themselves not to have to feel concerned about Esperanza. In fact, her peasant appearance and humility made the women feel comfortable around her. So much so that they came to her to seek counsel.

Every afternoon after siesta, Esperanza walked downtown to her favorite café to have coffee and read. From day one she was immediately engaged in conversation with men and women alike. Eventually, the women started to confide in her their deepest desires and secrets. When it came time to experiment with her chocolates, Esperanza knew that this group of women would be perfect.

Esperanza never did anything as blunt as saying, “Here these chocolates will help.” Instead, she listened to their problems, and when they finished, she would say, “I’m sure everything will work out the way God intends it.” She would then hand over two chocolates wrapped in plastic, tied together with a little piece of red ribbon. A few days later, when she met with the same woman, she would listen again to see if her problems did work out, and then would casually ask how were her chocolates.

When Señora Mendez reported that her husband had finally started making love to her again, Esperanza would comment something like, “Excellent” or “Congratulations” or even “Thank God!” Then she would ask, “How were the chocolates?” or “What did you think of the chocolates?”  To which Señora Mendez would say something like, “Oh, me and my husband both loved them.”

When the young Señora Escobar relayed that she finally had the first orgasm of her life, Esperanza replied, “Congratulations! Oh, and what did you think of my chocolates?” And the young Señora Escobar said that the first one had been so good that she couldn’t help but eat the second one right away.

When a woman complained about another member of her family, like a niece or goddaughter, Esperanza gave the Señora some chocolates and said, “Here, give these to your niece” or “your goddaughter.” When Señora Martinez reported that her only daughter was finally engaged, Esperanza responded,  “Excellent!” and then asked how her daughter liked the chocolates. To which Señora Martinez responded, “She didn’t even eat them. She gifted them both to her boyfriend—excuse me—her fiancé.”

Esperanza continued having these meetings for a year. She listened to each woman without interruption. Her only response to them was, “I’m sure everything will work out the way God intends it,” and to hand them her chocolates. Eventually, she had enough information to figure out the right combination of chocolates and amount of blood required.

The amount of her blood needed in one batch of chocolates was only six drops. This was easy to figure out as she reduced the amount of blood in each batch until reports came back that they did not affect the situation at hand.

To get a man to fall passionately in love with you, give him two chocolates.

To re-spark the flame between two lovers, one chocolate each.

And to help a woman either become pregnant or reach a hard-to-come-by orgasm, it was two chocolates for her. Coming to know this last one didn’t come without consequences.

After learning that Señora Dorado had not climaxed in over a decade, Esperanza told her, “I’m sure everything will work out the way God intends it,” and sent her on her way with two chocolates. When Señora Dorado got home, she had forgotten about the chocolates in her handbag. When her sixteen-year-old piano phenom daughter, Gabi, asked for money to go to the movies that night with her boyfriend, Señora Dorado told her to retrieve the money from her purse.

“Mamá!” Gabi shouted, not having any idea where in the house her mother was, but yelling loud enough that it didn’t matter.

“Yeah?” the Señora responded but not loud enough for Gabi to hear her. The Señora was not as boisterous.

“Mamá!” Gabi shouted again, not having heard her mother’s response. “Can I have these chocolates?”

This reminded the Señora that she had the chili-laced treats in her bag. “No, I want to try them.” Of course, Gabi could not hear her mother’s response.

“Mamaaaaa!”

By this time, an annoyed Señor Dorado couldn’t take it anymore and shouted at his daughter, “Take those damn chocolates and get the hell out of here!” To which Gabi happily did, along with some of her mother’s pesos.

On her walk to her boyfriend’s house, Gabi ate both of the chocolates. The two lovers never did go to the movies. Gabi came home having had the best (and also first) orgasm of her life—and having conceived Señor and Señora Dorado’s first grandchild.

The Introduction of Esperanza Diamanté (Chapter 1)

You wouldn’t think it now, but the women who gathered in front of Esperanza Diamanté’s chocolate shop used to hate her. Not anymore though, now they admire her almost to the point of worship. They bless the day she set foot in their little village. Not just today’s group of women, but all of the women who bought her chocolates. They feel sorry for her too, these ladies. For since the day she’d arrived in Barra, seven years ago, Esperanza Diamanté had yet to take a lover.

It was three minutes till two on Saturday afternoon. The women were waiting for Esperanza to open her shop, as they always did. The store’s massive floor-to-ceiling doors opened at two pm on the nose every day. By two-thirty, the goods were sold out. None of the women waiting were first-time customers. Many had been buying Esperanza’s chocolates from the beginning.

They’d had no reason to hate her when she first arrived. No reason other than what they made up in their heads. She came to town on a Monday. The flood of people that had poured in for the holy week of Semana Santa was receding. The buses arrived nearly empty but left full. For the rest of the year, until the next Semana Santa, the small fishing village of Barra de Navidad would be a ghost town.

As soon as Esperanza stepped off the bus, rumors started spreading. It was her beauty that disturbed the women of the village. A woman this beautiful could have any man she wanted. Of course, each of the women in Barra thought for sure theirs was the man she wanted.

In the short time it took for Esperanza to walk from the bus station to Doña Luz’s old bakery, the whole town became aware of the strange, beautiful, husband-stealing woman who had just arrived. She was so stunning that sections of the village seemed to freeze in time as she walked by. Even after she passed, it took several seconds for people to thaw out and resume their normal activities.

She carried two old leather bags, which contained everything she owned. Her long, black hair draped over her bare shoulders. Her white cotton blouse had elastic at the top and bottom. The top of her blouse was pulled down, exposing her shoulders, and the bottom fit snugly just under her ample bosoms—which bounced with every step she took. The cotton top was so sheer that if she ever got caught in the rain, there would be no mystery as to what she was hiding underneath.

From the bottom of her blouse to the top of her skirt’s waistband was nothing but exposed brown skin. If one got close enough, one could see a light trail of hair, bleached by the sun, that led from her belly button to deep, down into her panties, had she been wearing any. Her skirt was made of the same simple cotton as her blouse, but dyed turquoise. It flowed from her waist all the way down to her feet. She had the exact top and skirt in her luggage, except her second skirt was red. These two skirts and two blouses, a black shawl, and the bathing suit she’d bought the day before were the only clothes she had in her possession, the only clothes she owned.

On her feet were finely handmade leather thong sandals that had pieces of turquoise with red specks on the strap that went from her ankle to between her toes. The ankle strap had little silver charms that hung down and made a little jingle as she walked. It was as if the sandals were meant to draw the attention away from her figure or her piercing green eyes, but it was useless. Even her feet were arousing. They were flawless, except that her second toe was longer than her big toe. But even this flaw was appealing. As anyone knows, this is a sign of a passionate lover.

This was all in the past now. The women of the village not only loved and respected her, but they trusted her. Most of all, they revered her because of her chocolates. Because of the pleasure they brought. Because of what her chocolates had done to improve their lives and all of the village. They felt in her debt and wanted nothing but the best for her.

It was two p.m. when the ladies heard the metal bolt on the other side of the giant doors unlatch. Both doors simultaneously swung open. There she was, the beautiful Esperanza, with her green eyes, black hair, white cotton blouse, red skirt, and fancy sandals. “Come in, ladies. There are plenty of chocolates for all of you.”

 

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