I received a message from Eddie, begging me
to visit him. He said that he might lose mobility
in his legs. My stomach turned at the thought of
this. It was excruciatingly sad. Somehow I felt that
I needed Carlos’ permission. I figured he might
flare up with jealousy again. This time it would
mean a major confrontation, and I hadn’t the nerve
for that. Carlos’ sultry silences gave me the
shivers. I didn’t feel like a subjugated woman.
In fact something about Carlos’ possessiveness
thrilled me. It frightened me too. I pulled out my
phone, cleared my throat courageously, and
Carlos said he abhorred social media. I tried to engage
him in conversation on Instagram and Twitter. He didn’t
even have an account. I texted him a number of times.
He rarely answered promptly, unless I pressed him, or
we’d planned to meet up. I quickly realized that Carlos
thoroughly despised his phone. Unlike other teenagers,
he never had his device constantly out on show. When
we were apart, time dragged miserably. There was a sore
ache deep down in my soul. I’d never felt this with Eddie.
I wasn’t stupidly sentimental, but I did wonder if it meant
I loved Carlos. Did Carlos feel this way too? He’d not
uttered a single word about his feelings for me. I didn’t
wish to be demanding, or neurotic. Uncle would have told
me to bide my time, and let love bloom. So this is exactly
what I’d do.
Carlos took me home. We kissed rapturously at the door.
I felt raw electricity surge in me. Locked together thus,
the blemish on our day was already ancient history.
When Carlos finally stalked away, I observed the curtains
twitching back into place. Somebody had been watching
us. If it was William, I swore to lynch him. Nobody was
going to get a gratuitous thrill out of Carlos and me. I
turned the key and barrelled meaningfully into the lounge.
Only Mr Steinberg slept in his chair. It was cold. I drew
a rug gently across his legs. I was imagining things.
I told Carlos about Eddie. It wasn’t like I had any guilty
secrets. There was no concrete reason for jealousy.
Nevertheless Carlos grew grave. Tension rose into his
shoulders. His eyes smouldered like fierce coals. For a
moment I felt frightened. I finished my story. There was an
uncomfortable silence. Carlos played murderously with
his coffee spoon. Slowly, very seriously, Carlos asked if I
still harboured feelings for Eddie. I tutted and denied it
firmly. It was like the sun had risen after a winter of
darkness. Carlos reached across the table for my hand.
Our first rocky moment had passed.
At the breakfast table, Uncle shared some disturbing news.
Eddie had come off his bike and landed in hospital. He’d
suffered a fractured pelvis. It was a complicated injury.
Uncle said he’d be going to visit Eddie and asked me if I’d
like to come. This startled me. I said no immediately. I
didn’t want Eddie to feel encouraged, when my whole heart
was with Carlos. Uncle said he understood, I had new
loyalties now. We finished our cereal in silence. I could tell
Uncle was nettled. I rose from the table. My chair grated
until I clenched my teeth. Grabbing my bag, I bolted for the
door. I had to see Carlos. He would smooth the anxiety
that welled in my soul.
In the ill-lit hallway, Carlos kissed me. He was both
masculine and immensely tender. Afterwards, I pressed
my face into his shoulder. Our bond was sealed. I closed
the door gently. I could hear Carlos’ heels clacking down
the pathway. This was the way love was meant to be. I
skipped briskly upstairs, and cast myself onto my bed.
Uncle and William could do the washing-up.
A kaleidoscopic beauty glowed in my head.
Uncle didn’t pry but I could see him casting penetrating
glances in Carlos’ direction. We were sitting awkwardly
at the dinner table, chewing through my deluxe pizza. Mr
Steinberg praised my culinary creation. He was warm with
Carlos too, clearly liking my young man. Slowly Uncle’s
severe mood thawed. I wanted everybody to love Carlos.
Uncle asked after Carlos’ family. I realized with shame
that I knew nothing. Carlos adroitly explained about his
Mother. She was from Brazil. There was zero mention of
his Father. I hoped that Uncle wouldn’t press and
embarrass my man. Fortunately Uncle’s questions
suddenly ceased. William asked loudly if there was
more pizza. Everyone smirked. Uncle tousled my brother’s
shock of chestnut hair. Carlos had passed the test. We
would all be friends.
I shopped liberally for ingredients. After all, I was no
longer on a budget. I wanted to impress Carlos, without
making him think I was a reckless heiress. I stuck to my
guns, we’d have a vegan meal. The whole family would be
invited. If William griped, I’d shoot him down. Carlos had
once admitted he had a serious passion for mediterranean
olives. I would make a tomato and olive pizza, using my
own base. This way the crowd would be pleased. I mixed
my dough and left it to rest under a cloth. It rose
impressively. Uncle whistled when he saw my finished
masterpiece, stacked generously with topping, ready for
the oven. It was time to dress.
Carlos was more than understanding. He had genuine
empathy. I spoke for some time about Mr Steinberg.
I even talked of his sons in South Africa, and our recent
visit there. Carlos listened intently. I couldn’t sense the
slightest trace of boredom in his voice. In fact he asked
when he could meet Mr Steinberg. It wasn’t just some
empty enquiry. I was thrilled. Carlos could come for dinner,
and I’d introduce him to my whole family. Uncle would be
enthralled to meet and grill my mysterious young man.
A date was agreed upon. My relationship with Carlos was
racing ahead. After some tender goodbyes, I hung up the
phone. I tilted my head back, glowing inside, and thanked
God for my good fortune.
Mr Steinberg’s health was on a downhill spiral. I felt
immensely guilty. I had been so consumed by Carlos,
that I’d neglected to observe my dear friend. But Uncle
shocked me one evening. He spoke earnestly about
hospice care. I immediately hated the whole idea.
Surely Mr Steinberg couldn’t be abandoned and left
to die sadly in one of those hideous places. Moshe
would be horrified. Uncle said I couldn’t understand
the pain Mr Steinberg suffered, because he was such
a stoic. I blanched at this, but I knew it was true.
I promised Uncle I would make time. Carlos must
understand. I rushed upstairs to call him and explain.