1"Just like that, you're going to leave?"
I watched the smoke trail from underneath that famous hat's wide brim in a steady flow, thinning in the aroma of thick wine and pouring blossoms danging from the vines circling the veranda. The back café was always crowded with the shell flowers, spilling over the old carved tables and framing the frosted windows of the grand hacienda that served as the center of that little village. I thought about the hat, a black Stetson that had seen bedposts of all heights and sizes, always hiding those cool amber eyes. I thought of how it seemed to keep his thoughts locked away, any emotion left out of sight. He sat in the back corner covered by the shade of a woven blanket draped between two sills, in perfect view of the girls dancing to the rapid guitar beats as the clear voice floated above telling stories everyone already knew. However, no one noticed him. No one until now.
In his worn hands was a faded letter, one that he quickly folded towards him before slipping it inside his old leather jacket. The other began to drum gently on the wood next to the smothering cigarette, showing once again how such strong grips could have a soft touch. I felt my lip trembling. A hand lifted to his shadowed chin and a sigh folded his wide chest. I bit any tears back.
"You knew I couldn't stay long." He looked up and matched my gaze. The red in those fiery-burnt hues flashed as he watched me with a cocked stare. I couldn't believe he was so stiff behind those master pretenders. Those feigning promises, how he could make those gems sparkle and shine when he wanted to make you believe in fairy-tale dreams. Now, they were cold. They were empty as they watched me fall apart.
"You knew too," I replied, standing straighter. "You said you didn't care." He folded his arms and leaned over the uneven table, sitting up as he bowed his round shoulders. I slowly slipped into the now open chair before me. The soft shawl concealing my shoulders was slipping into my arms, leaving only troublesome dark curls to cover the vibrant ruffles of that fiesta gown. He had said it brought out the green in my eyes.
"Rosita," he began as his expression turned to a hesitant excuse.
"No," I stopped harshly, eyes now stinging. "Do not make any more promises you do not intend to keep." He set his jaw, tipping the front of the hat and reclining again onto the chair with a curved arm draped over its back. I could see that letter on the inside of his coat. He watched me eye it and tucked it away.
"It's a good job," he excused.
"You have a good job," I replied in broken tone.
"It's not what I want."
"What do you want?" He narrowed his dark eyes as they drifted towards the hot Mexico sun, setting against a coral and orange sky. The silence wasn't recognized with the drifting music, light chatter and laughter of the customers, and clinging glasses as shots and tapas were passed all around. Still, between us, it was chilling. He was holding my heart from beating.
"I've never been able to answer that."
He had come with spring, sliding into the scenery of our quiet country town with the work that kept us all eating. I knew they were all passing through, just staying long enough to help with the spring foals before moving up across the border where there were cattle–months of pay–waiting. Although I was just a girl of eighteen in my mother's eyes, I was not naive. I would serve the men every night until they stopped coming, my sister and her friends spinning over the tile floor to my uncle strumming his old folk songs. One warm night in spring, he had come and sat in that very place, eyes burning if I walked past and inviting if I caught them. He would be there every night until my parents' friends only remained. Then, we would walk along the back garden until we saw the valley, and the stars spread across it. He had taken me, slowly, piece by piece each shining moon that we met.
"I thought you had given this up," I confessed over a whisper. I had read his passion, the way he spoke of forgetting fortune and finding a place to stay. I had promised in a kiss too many that his place could be with me.
"I wish I could," he quietly apologized, slowly asking for my forgiveness as he drew near me once more. "I wish I could do everything I told you."
"Don't speak," I begged. "I know what you are saying." I couldn't hear his empty dreams once again.
"I have to go. I can't stay here."
"I don't need your reasons," I interrupted, closing my eyes tight to avoid the enticing song of his own. His stubborn lip hardened as his fist tightened. He had to be right, I knew. He had to have purpose and direction, and most of all, he had to pick what he thought would be best for everyone. Never did he listen to his heart, even when it was breaking inside of him. "Don't tell me, Daniel." He turned away. "It...hurts."
He was shattering the both of us, tearing down our hopes and leaving me hollow.
I swept to my feet, keeping a hand over my mouth to keep from crying. Once again, I felt his gaze wrapped around me, but I couldn't turn around. As soon as I had taken cover behind the thick colored blanket hanging in the doorway to the hacienda, I buried myself into my bare arms, unaware until then that I had left the shawl behind. I didn't care. By the time I would return, he would be gone. How could I have thought that I would keep him here, that he would give up his life to start new?
He would remember the olive shade of her skin, the broken accent of how she said his name, and the eternities they spent under each shining moon that they met. The hacienda café where he spent his Mexican summer haunted him in his sleep beneath the open sky on whatever trail was paying best, a lonely dream, with a lingering question of why he left. In all his doubt, what would sting the void in his heart, settling in the depths of his soul, was how the last words she spoke to him fit against the falling chords of the background melody.
Don't speak. I know what you're saying. So please stop explaining, don't tell me because it hurts...