By Celia Rosales
Roxanne took off her cap and ran her fingers through her damp, blonde hair. She really hadn't wanted to do an early Saturday ten-mile loop with Eric. Five miles would have been fine but, the farther they ran, the better she felt and now, relaxing on the restaurant terrace in the shimmering morning sun, she thought of Madrid. She removed a small, silver box from her running pack, took out a couple of white pills and swallowed them with a gulp of ice water. She pushed the box across the table towards Eric. He ignored her, so they sat in silence until he caught the waiter's attention.
"Could you bring us a couple of lattes, double tall, and I'll take a whole wheat scone with blackberry jam. You want anything to eat, Roxanne?"
Roxanne disregarded Eric, but beamed at the waiter. "A tall latte will be fine, Antonio," she said, reading his nametag. Eric pursed his lips and glanced down at the tabletop. She sensed his irritation. She took an ice cube from her water glass, rubbed it up and down between her breasts, and giggled mischievously as the icy trickle ran into her jog bra. She knew the hardened nipples would taunt him. They sat in silence again until Antonio returned with their order.
"So, as I was saying," Eric said, "we've got two more experts to depose before the trial starts. I'm flying to San Francisco Monday morning to meet with one of them. I've used his testimony in another amputee case, you know, the one where the kid fell off the motorcycle. Luckily, our plaintiff is a quad so the damages are going to be huge. They've admitted liability and the products liability case against the manufacturer is solid."
His inane banter was not piquing her interest. She stared from behind her mirrored sunglasses as a brown chickadee fluttered around the patio, its wings fanning the hot air. She picked at Eric's scone, lethargically sprinkled a few fragments on the table, and watched as the chickadee pecked the crumbs. She was beginning to sense the soothing, hazy buzz from the medicine-mixed caffeine and her thoughts turned to Madrid. She visualized the day when a tall, slender American man with a ponytail had unexpectedly joined her as she sat alone at the plaza de toros, awaiting the start of the bullfight. They sat together, talked and watched as children chased white pigeons on the terraza. Her new-found friend, soon-to-be lover and life-long mentor had explained which tickets to buy and, over several glasses of sangria, had described the eloquence and intricacies of the bullfight and its pertinent applications to everyday life. Later that day, they had relaxed, hand-in-hand, on the cool stone seats inside the Plaza Monumental de las Ventas, surrounded by the feisty locals of Catalan.
Eric's excited discourse interrupted her imagery. "Veronica left early this morning. We'll need a paralegal at all the depositions because we've got to get the database summarized before we depose the last few experts…"
"Yeah, Veronica told me she was going," Roxanne interrupted, "she figured she'd be gone almost a week."
Eric continued, "The defendants' counsel will probably file a motion objecting to this expert."
"Gene is taking some clients to lunch today and wants me to join them," Roxanne said. Eric looked down, and didn't respond. "Bill is flying in from California and I have to pick him up at the airport later tonight," she continued as she crumbled what was left of the scone and tossed it toward the chickadee.
Eric looked across at her, sighed and then got up from his chair. "We should probably get going. I need to go to the office and pick up my laptop." He placed a twenty-dollar bill on the table and they walked toward Roxanne's car.
"I'll drop you off at your place so you can get your car," she said. "I've got to pick up my dry cleaning and then get a manicure." She unlocked the car door and, as Eric got in, she started the engine, inserted a CD into the player and turned up the volume. "I can't believe I am leaving for Madrid on Sunday afternoon."
The lunch and the guests had been neither impressive nor entertaining, so Roxanne and Gene had made a quick segue from the restaurant to Veronica's condominium. A couple of hours later, Roxanne arose naked from the bed, rolled down the duvet and languidly pulled back the top sheet. The bottom sheet was streaked with red. She removed both the top and bottom sheets, bundled them up and stuffed them into the hamper. "Guess I'll have to get Veronica some new sheets," she called to Gene who was in the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, brushing his teeth. He put down his toothbrush, picked up a towel and walked over to Roxanne with a broad smile. He liked it when she was on her period. "Let me wipe you off. You've got some blood on your back and legs."
"No, that's okay. I'm going to take a quick shower and then get out of here. I have to be at the airport in a couple of hours to pick up Bill. He's on the direct flight from Sacramento. Straight outta Folsom."
"Straight out of Folsom again, you mean," responded Gene with a sneer.
Roxanne ignored him and continued. "He's going to stay here awhile and then head down to Mexico on business." She turned on the shower, stepped in and started dabbing at the streaks of blood on the backs her legs.
"Where did you say Veronica is this week?" Gene asked, calling over the shower door.
"She left for San Francisco early this morning. She's working with Eric on the snowmobile case. He is leaving Monday and they won't be back for almost a week, depending on how the trial goes." She started washing her legs and continued, "Look on the shelf over there and see if Veronica has any jeans. My dress has to go to the cleaners. Thanks to you."
Roxanne adjusted the shower to massage mode and a soothing vapor gently covered her body. Warm rivulets ran down her legs, and a crimson Muleta-like crescendo swirled into the drain. She heard Gene come into the bathroom and, through the mist on the shower door, saw him begin to dry his hair.
"Why don't you stay away from that asshole," he called over the shower door, "he treats you like shit."
"Eric treats everyone like shit."
Gene continued, "he charges around the courtroom like a bull and throws a fuckin' fit if the bailiff doesn't have a pitcher of ice water at the counsel table. His partners hate him. Most of the judges detest him and I've heard that some of them refer to him as Franco because his final summations are so theatrical."
Roxanne called back, "he lets me work on some of his biggest cases and pays well. Maybe I can get Bill to pay him a visit before he leaves town." She thought of Madrid. "You know, the matadors don't really hate the bull. They just do their job."
She knew Gene had heard her last remark but the dryer muffled his response, and she didn't ask him to repeat it. She stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around her head and slowly wiped herself dry before she pulled on the jeans that Gene had put on the bathroom counter. As she applied her makeup, she looked out the window. "The sky looks clear. Bill's plane will land on schedule," she said.
"How long did you say he's staying this time?" Gene asked.
Roxanne shook her head, "I don't know. He does his loving on the run. No, seriously, he has business south of the border and, if that goes well, he might join me in Madrid."
Roxanne vacillated between calmly studying her manicure and anxiously watching passengers shuffle through the airport tunnel into the waiting area. She smiled as Bill came through. Tall and still slender, he was Michelangelo's David with a touch of Cherokee. He looked a little worn in his dark jeans and full-length black coat, but you could have heard a pin drop as he strolled in if the ambience had been quieter. As she hurried towards him, he smiled, put down his bag and spread both arms.
She snuggled into his open arms and put her head on his shoulder. "Missed you baby, " she said.
"It's been way too long Roxy. I'm not going back."
She kissed his lips and then rubbed his cheekbones. "Yeah, right," she laughed, "I've heard that before."
"I am not going back. I mean it." He laughed and, as they hugged again, he ran his hand over the front her jeans and then down between her legs. "You look great."
"Do you have any luggage coming through?" she asked.
"Nope. I always travel light. Just what I have here." He picked up his bag, planted his feet, and struck a pose as he brought the luggage past his body - the epitome of a matador performing a classic derechazo. "Let's get out of here. I'm wasted," he said. "I need some loud music and a couple of shots of tequila. Can we stop off and shoot some stick on the way to wherever we're going?"
"Yeah, there's a tavern on the way. We're staying at Veronica's. She's out of town." Roxanne continued, "My car is in the parking garage." They hugged again and walked arm-in-arm through the main terminal toward the exit. As they got in the parking garage elevator Bill asked, "Did you do my little favor?"
Roxanne smiled. "Yeah, you taught me good -- a one-way to Mexico City. Leaves tomorrow afternoon and connects in Houston. The tickets and your passport are over at Veronica's," she grinned and continued, "I got you a cell phone, a leather jacket, a laptop and a very sharp knife.
"I'll need a little something for the road, too, if you know what I mean." Bill looked over at Roxanne and tapped his nostril with his index finger
"I know the bartender. He's got what you want, but remember, you have to clear Seattle and Houston."
"I can handle Seattle. Houston's easy," Bill replied.
"It's been awhile. Things have changed," she squeezed his arm, "besides, I want you around for awhile."
"Believe me, I can handle fuckin' Houston."
They reached the car and Roxanne unlocked the passenger door for Bill. Before he got in, she looked directly into his brown eyes. "You owe me big-time and I'm calling it in now."
"Anything for you Roxy. What's the favor," Bill asked as they drove out of the parking garage, "three diamond bracelets and a Rolex watch by midnight?"
"No, it's a bit more complex than that. I'll explain on the way to the tavern."
Bill got up from his bar stool and Roxanne watched as he sauntered over to the pool table, effortlessly entertaining his audience as usual. "I'll break. Three ball, side." Bill took the shot, pushed his dark hair behind his ear, and then strolled to the other side of the table and bent forward. "Six ball, corner." He took another shot, stepped back, handed Roxanne the cue, and then walked over to talk with the bartender. She took her shot and then listened to the edgy tête-à-tête between balls and cues on the other tables, as she waited for Bill to return.
"So tell me more about the favor," Bill asked, handing her a shot glass of gold tequila. "I hope it's not too complicated. Remember, when the sun comes up I have to leave this town…."
"I want you to be my matador."
Juan positioned the stethoscope around his neck, invented a smile and headed toward the din of overhead pages, telephone rings and reverberating conversations. Seven more hours in the Emergency Room and he would be free for a week. He picked up a stack of charts from the desk and turned toward Sharon, the triage nurse who was staring blankly through the throng of agitated humanity in the waiting room. "Well, what've we got today?" he asked.
Sharon snapped back into reality at the sound of his voice, looked over at him and smiled, "Hi Dr. Benitez. Just get here?"
"About a half hour ago. I was in my cubicle dictating some charts."
"Glad you're here. It's the usual Monday zoo. All the beds are full." She took the charts from his outstretched arms and started arranging them on the desk. "For starters we have a 33-year-old male in room one with a heroin overdose. His blood pressure was 136/80, but he seemed to be ambulating okay. We can probably discharge him after you take a look." She handed him a chart and continued, "The guy in room two is status-post assault. Claimed he was hit on the head with a stick. He is intoxicated so we're watching him closely." She took a deep breath and continued, "in room three we have an elderly …"
"What the Hell is going on in room four?" he interrupted, "is that the patient yelling?"
Sharon simultaneously winced and sighed, "Yeah, that's the lawyer. The medics brought him in a couple of hours ago. His left ear is severed and he has a stab wound between his shoulder blades."
Juan sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Were the cops involved?"
"Yeah, the cops were called to his home. When they arrived, they found him in a delirious state minus his ear, so they called the medics."
Juan sighed again. "Was the ear with him when he arrived?"
Sharon either didn't hear his question or ignored it. "The medics said they gave him a sedative on the way here but it's obviously not working. They would not transfer him to the bed so he's still on the gurney. I tried to take his vitals and change the gauze pad but he is agitated as Hell and has been yelling and swearing since he got here. He's probably ripped off the gauze by now and…"
"Was the oreja with him when he got here?" Juan interrupted, raising his voice over the din.
"Huh?" Sharon looked puzzled.
"The oreja. That's what they call the bull's ear in a bullfight."
Sharon chuckled, picked up a chart and started thumbing through the papers inside, "There is no mention of an ear being with him when he got here. The medics are still here if you want to ask them about it. They're outside having a smoke."
"I don't have time to talk with them now," he said, picking up the chart.
"Well, have fun and be sure to yell ole when you walk in the room," Sharon called to his back as he headed down the hallway.
On the first ring, Roxanne returned to the real reality. On the second ring, she turned over in bed, reached toward the bedside table and picked up the phone just as Bill's voice started.
"Roxy, I'm on my way to the airport. I just want you to know that I went to the fiesta brava," he laughed loudly and continued, "but was I not valiente. I granted the bull an indulto."
"You gave him a pass?" She sat up in bed.
"Yeah, I spared his life. His head was down at the moment of truth, but I didn't place the sword. Your favor has been done. We're even." They laughed simultaneously and Bill continued, "Next week when you go to the plaza de toros, get two tickets. You know to get sombra. Then sit on the terraza and don't forget to order the sangria."