They once hated Esperanza Diamanté, these women who gathered in front of her chocolate shop. Now, now they admired her almost to the point of worship. But they felt pity for her too. Not just today’s handful of women, but all of the women who ate her chocolates. For since the day she’d arrived in Barra, seven years before, Esperanza Diamanté had not yet taken 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 sharp every day, and 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 Semana Santa was receding. The busses were arriving nearly empty, but leaving completely 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 raw beauty that struck fear more than hate into the women of the village. If Esperanza didn’t steal their husbands, she would at least steal their husbands’ attention.

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 beautiful 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 breasts. The material was sheer enough to leave no mystery about the color and size of her nipples. Even though the blouse was baggy, you could see that she was well endowed, a chichona.

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. Unlike her blouse, the skirt did leave a mystery of what her body looked like underneath, unless the sun gave away her secret. She had the exact top and skirt in her luggage, except her second skirt was red. These two skirts and 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 the only items that did not resemble those of a peasant girl. They 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.

Her beauty was so prominent, so bold, that she not only stole the attention of the men in town, but that of the women as well.

This was all in the past now. The women of the village not only loved and respected her, but they trusted her. They no longer feared she would steal their husbands. In seven years she had not only not stolen anyone’s husband, but hadn’t even taken an available man to her bed. More than anything else, they revered her because of her chocolates and the pleasure they brought.

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. “Pásanle, mujeres. There are plenty of chocolates for all of you.”

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