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For Every Ending

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"See? Lucinda somebody's wedding. Everybody is with couples. Husbands and wives, they all pose. But she is the most special."

-

She says, "Thank you," when Frank drops her off, and he doesn't smile or nod his head in acknowledgment, and she wonders if he's a cop as well. Wonders when she'd become so stupid that she couldn't tell. Wonders if she'd make the same mistake again if given another chance. Wonders when it'll be that Jesús will catch up with her, and she'll become just another name on the long list of victims of the drug trade.

It's easy enough to forge a different identity, she always had money hidden away in an offshore account, just in case. New name, new history, new person, almost. She memorizes all the details until she feels they're her own, always have been, as if her actual past is the one that's fake.

-

She writes letters to him sometimes, from the balcony of the apartment that she rents, away enough from the city that she's afforded some measure of privacy, and yet not opulent enough that she draws attention to herself. Half of them say variations of "It's hot here and I can't drink," and half of them say, "You ruined my life, cop." Both are love letters, and one day she'll bundle them all together and send them to him, and he'll come. Or he won't, and she imagines he won't, because it's too dangerous and he's not that stupid. Or maybe he won't because he doesn't care anymore, or never did, because it's six months now and he probably has work to do, always. More bad people to put away. More lives to destroy.

Possibly, some part of him still thinks he rescued her, her knight in shining armor. Possibly, some part of him is right. Drinking non-alcoholic beer on a balcony while the sun sets heavily on a lazy Havana night doesn't seem like such a horrible way to live your life. She's never had the luxury of such peace before.

-

There's a man who lives in the apartment downstairs who's sweet on her. He's in his fifties and he has a scar bisecting half his face and that's the most distinguishing feature about him, the only one that anyone ever remembers. American even though his accent says otherwise, and she doesn't ask who he is and he's careful with his own questions, they have dinner maybe once every couple of weeks and sometimes he takes her dancing, and she spins around in the dizzy heat of a drum beat and indulges in perhaps a little more alcohol than she should, considering. He only dances with her during the slow dances, and he never touches her too intimately, and when she gets too big to do more than the slow dances he waltzes with her, not caring that the music doesn't fit.

Once, at dinner, she says dreamily, "Sometimes I-"

"Miss the life?"

She smiles then, at him, too content to be truly guarded, but verging on the edge nonetheless. "Perhaps."

"None of us ask to retire. It mostly just happens. Besides, don't think your life will not be crazy once again." He points at her belly, and she caresses it instinctively with her hands. She'd never thought about being a mother. Never wanted to. It was something other people did. Other women who didn't have empires to run and who didn't treat relationships as if they were business transactions.

"I miss him, sometimes," she says, and she's not sure who precisely she means.

-

Strangers often ask her if it's a boy or a girl, and her answer always changes, depending on what she happens to want at that moment. A little girl who will look like her or a little boy that will have his hair and his eyes, and either way they will have a fake passport and a fake identity, and if that's not the way most babies should start their lives that's the way hers will, even if she makes a silent promise to herself that she will want for nothing, and he will know who his father was, and that she will be loved, without reservation.

She's not afraid, most of the time, even though sometimes she's bored, and sometimes she wants something more than this, more than what he's forced her into. She understands, mostly, that the alternative is prison, or worse, that this is a gift of, if not love, then compassion at least, but the months fade and sometimes, she can't remember the way he touched her at all.

-

Seventeen and Jesús took her in and he had use for both her body and her brain, and she learnt from him, everything she could. Never imagined that his generosity would one day wear thin. Never imagined she was replaceable, even if her mother always told her that she wasn't to rely on anyone but herself, that she needed to be strong because men weren't, but they had power, and that made them dangerous.

Her mother also sometimes wept over her father when she thought her child was sleeping, and sometimes, when she's alone and afraid, she wonders what kind of a mother she will be. What stories she will tell her child, about what type of person she used to be. The type that traded in death by the kilo and thought nothing about it. The type that slept with murderers and monsters, that looked the other way when they caused such grief. The type that felt blood, sometimes, splash hot on her face, and wiped it off without another thought. The type that misses it still, despite the beauty and peace of this.

Time is luck, and luck says that her water will break, that she will go into labor and give birth alone, but in a place that she loves fiercely, despite everything. That she will give her child all she needs, keep her safe. She goes out onto the balcony and pours herself a glass of wine that she won't drink, waits.