Monday, September 2, 2019

Cameron and Lucia by Clive Aaron Gill

Clive Aaron Gill tells a story of lust, betrayal, and long-borne grudges.

"I... I'm pregnant," Lucia said to Cameron at the San Diego Magnet High School.

"No way."

She moaned, her face turning a deep red. "Yes, way." She removed the black windbreaker she had outgrown two years earlier at fifteen. "I missed two months. Got morning sickness. I took a home pregnancy test. Must have happened that time you forgot..."

He inhaled a short breath through his teeth.

"We need to talk," she said. "I have fifteen minutes before I start work at the library."

Lucia Martinez, who lived with her mother, studied performing arts and had received a scholarship for her living expenses in the spring of 1984. When she was one-year-old, her father had been killed by gang members.

When Cameron Williams first asked Lucia to go to the movies with him, she had refused. Undaunted, he continued to visit her in the library. A few weeks later, he won her over.

At night, Lucia dreamed of his blue eyes, fair skin and dimpled chin. And she appreciated his gifts of flowers, his tenderness and the way he concentrated when listening to her.

Cameron placed his hand on the small of Lucia's back and guided her to one of the empty benches outside the cafeteria. They sat and held hands.

"The thought of being a mother scares me. What are we gonna do?"

"Do you want the baby?"

"Our baby," she cried, her fist clenched. "What do you want? Huh?"

"Oh, my God." He stiffened his wide shoulders.

Cameron studied science and technology. He lived with his parents in an oceanfront home, and during vacations, they took him to the Pacific Islands.

"You know my parents are sending me to college on the east coast," he said. "I can't be tied down with a baby." He stood and paced back and forth. "You could get rid of it."

"What? No." Her nostrils flared. Beads of perspiration formed on her forehead. "Mamá would die if I had an abortion."

Lucia attended free church summer camps and church on Sundays. A framed image of a compassionate Jesus hung on her bedroom wall.

Cameron shook his head and groaned. "I'm so bummed."

"Seriously? Do you care how I feel?"

"I do. But... but you could have it adopted."

"And feel guilty for the rest of my life?" She clasped her hands.

He sighed. "I uh... I don't know what to do."

"Ay Dios mio. You're pathetic."

His lower lip trembled. "I'll talk to my father. He'll be pissed."

"Just do it. And soon."



The next day, Cameron met Lucia during a break between classes. They sat on a bench outside the library where no one could hear their conversation.

"I talked to my dad," he said.

"And..."

Cameron tightened his jaw. "He said getting married at my age wouldn't be acceptable to him or my mother."

"Not acceptable?" She raised her eyebrows and glared at him. "What does that fricking mean?"

"This will sound awful."

"What?"

"He offered to make it worthwhile for you and your mom to move to another city if -"

"If what?" Her dark eyes narrowed.

"If you won't tell anyone I'm the father."

"What the hell?" She growled with bared teeth. "You mean, he'll pay us to keep quiet and disappear from your life. And you'll go along with that?"

"I'm so sorry, Lucia."

"You just gonna blow me off? For real? You're selfish and stupid." She moved away from him. "That hurts. Really hurts. God, I knew having a rich boyfriend would never work."

"I love you."

"Love me? Ugh. You humiliate me." She jumped up and strode away.

"Wait," he called. "Will you talk to your mother?"



That evening, after Lucia had worked in the library, she rode the bus to the apartment where she and her mother lived. Window frames held cracked glass. Plastic bags, broken furniture and paper littered the sidewalks. Graffiti covered the sides of buildings, and weeds flourished in vacant lots.

She sat opposite her mother, Maria, who lay on a threadbare couch, a damp washcloth over her eyes. She told her mother about her pregnancy and the offer Cameron's father had made.

Maria sat up. "Ay, caramba." She caressed Lucia's warm cheeks, then extended her arms to embrace her. "Not a good time. So young."

Lucia whimpered.

"Taking care of a baby without a papá is no good." Maria patted her chest over her heart.

"Sí, mamá."

"The child will not know its father." She bit her fingernail and rocked from side to side. "I have no time to help you much with the baby."

"I hate for you to work two jobs."

"My arthritis is bad."

"." Lucia looked down, her hand on her tummy.

"Mija, I will pray for you and our baby. On my day off," she said, her voice hard and low, "I will meet the father of Cameron."



The following week, Charles, Cameron's father, met Maria in a bakery café at nine in the morning. The fragrance of freshly brewed coffee drifted through the busy eatery.

Charles bought her coffee, and they sat opposite each other at a corner table.

He offered Maria $25,000 to move out of San Diego with Lucia.

She grimaced as if the amount was trivial. "Señor, if we go, your grandchild and my grandchild will not know its father. No good for a family."

He scowled and tightened his lips.

"What you are asking me to do... I cannot," Maria said.

"How much will it take?"

"Money cannot replace a father." She sat erect, her face impassive.

Charles round cheeks reddened. "I can give you $35,000."

Maria shook her head and rubbed her puffy eyes. "My daughter will not have a husband."

"I'm offering you a lot of money."

"Me and my daughter, we like San Diego. We got friends. A good church."

The veins in his forehead swelled and darkened, and he rubbed his bulbous nose.

"To pack and move is difficult," she said.

"I'll pay your moving expenses."

"I have too much pain to travel."

He leaned forward, his elbows on the table. "Listen. I'll pay for your flights to wherever you go."

"Money is not everything." She stood. "I go to my job. Adiós."

"Wait," Charles said, his voice raised. He reached for her arm, but she stepped back.

"Do not touch me, señor."

People sitting at nearby tables stared at them.

"I'm sorry," he said. "Please sit."

She lowered herself onto the chair. "Only five minutes."

Half an hour later, he increased his proposal to $50,000.

"I must think." She pursed her lips.

He held his breath, sweat running down his back.

With open hands as if she was losing patience, she said, "Okay, señor."

That same day, she deposited his check. When the funds became available, she made plans to move to San Francisco with Lucia in the summer.



Twenty years later, Cameron, his waist thick and his hair thinning, had established a successful business as a marketing consultant for large corporations. He loved to talk to people about golf and expensive cars. At parties, Cameron gave impromptu speeches with ease. He could whisper to a woman in a way that would cause her to blush and giggle.

Cameron traveled to San Francisco to meet a customer and stayed at the Fairmont. He gave a business presentation and after negotiations, Cameron and his customer signed a contract.

The next evening, Cameron took his client and his client's wife to see the musical, Cats. They sat in the packed theatre, and he checked the cast listed on the playbill.

He gasped. "I don't believe this," he said to his client. "Lucia Martinez is playing Grizabella. I knew her when we were teenagers."

"Really?" his client said.

"Yeah. She won the best actor award at high school."

The auditorium lights dimmed, and people in the audience coughed.

Lucia stepped into the spotlight. Cameron leaned forward and stared. Shivers ran down the back of his head. When he heard her voice, he knew he had to talk to her.

At the end of the performance, the audience stood, applauding the cast and cheering. When Lucia stepped forward, they applauded longer and louder.

Cameron exited the theatre with his guests. They thanked him for an enjoyable evening and took a taxi. He returned to the theatre, and when he tried to go backstage, a broad-chested guard told him to wait outside at the stage door. There, he joined a group of waiting fans. Unable to stand still, he strode up and down the street in the cold fog. Would Lucia welcome him? Did he have a son or a daughter?

After most of the cast had walked out of the stage door, Lucia appeared. People cheered and applauded and crowded around her. She posed with admirers for photos and gave autographs.

Lucia excused herself and hurried away. Seeing Cameron, she stopped, her eyes wide. She shrank back although she had visualized seeing him again hundreds of times.

"Cameron? What do you want?"

"I had to see you after your great performance tonight. In high school, I always loved your acting talent. Can we go somewhere and talk?"

She drew her woolen coat tight. "That's not possible."

"Lucia, I beg you."

"I'm exhausted."

"Another time?" he asked.

"I never thought I'd see you again."

"There's so much for us to talk about, Lucia."

"I was wounded when my mother and I had to leave San Diego."

"I'm so sorry. I never stopped loving you. We must talk."

She gripped her hands. "I don't know."

He noticed she was not wearing a wedding ring. "Can we meet for dinner? Please."

Lucia stared at him, seeing her son's blue eyes in his.

"Well... all right," she said.

He wrote her phone number on the playbill.



Two days later, Cameron waited for Lucia at a corner table in McCormick & Kuletos restaurant.

She arrived wearing a strapless, orange dress, her broad hips swaying. The maître d′ welcomed her and led her to Cameron's table.

Cameron stood and gazed at her blue-black, lustrous hair and cinnamon-colored skin.

"It's great to see you, Lucia."

"Good to see you, Cameron."

They sat opposite each other and ordered wine and dinner.

"Cameron, we have a son."

"A son? What's his name?"

"Brandon."

She showed Cameron a photo of him.

"Oh, my gosh," Cameron said, "he looks like me twenty years ago."

"Yes, he is handsome. He received a scholarship to study drama at Juilliard School."

"He inherited your acting talent."

While they ate, they talked about their lives since high school. Lucia told him about her mother's death five years earlier. She had acted in local and regional plays. Cameron was married with two daughters.

He put his hand on hers with a soft touch, his eyes dipping to her low neckline.



Cameron made frequent trips to San Francisco, ensuring he had time to meet Lucia, his lover. His work required him to travel, and his wife accepted that. When away from Lucia, he dreamed of her laughter and her curvaceous body.

Eight months after his and Lucia's reunion, they checked in at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, a golf resort. From the nearby cliff, they watched the golden-rose sunset. Furious waves crashing onto the rocky shore. Yellow and orange leaves carpeted the ground.

In the relaxed atmosphere of the hotel's Navio restaurant, Cameron raised his glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. "To us," he said. They clicked their glasses and sipped.

"I'm not used to expensive restaurants," she said.

"I love spoiling you, Lucia."

They enjoyed lobster bisque, duck with chestnuts, and maple-roasted pear with persimmon cake.

When they returned to their room, she approached him, her hands outstretched. They rubbed noses, and she pushed out the tip of her tongue, moistening her lips. She caressed his cheek, and they embraced, then undressed each other leisurely. He kissed her neck once, twice, and continued to kiss around her neckline, as if making a necklace. She steered him to the bed.

The candles on the nightstand flickered in the cool breeze. The wax melted into clear pools in their containers.

Cameron slid into her, feeling the supple roundness of her belly.

Lucia pressed her mouth against his. She pushed her heels on the back of his thighs, her hips rolling like a smooth wave, her fingernails digging into his back.

Her feminine scent stimulating him, he moved inside her with increasing urgency, then groaned as a spasm gripped him.

Cameron withdrew and rolled off her, panting.

Lucia kissed his drooping eyelids and dimpled chin and snuggled against his hairy chest. "Cameron," she whispered.

"What, my darling?"

"I must tell you something. I um..."

He turned and kissed her nose. "Tell me, sweetheart."

"I'm pregnant."

He shook his head. "You can't be."

"This time you and your child must know each other."

Cameron recalled his wife's words when she had discovered his two previous affairs. "Once more," she had said, "and I'm leaving with the girls. And you'll pay big-time alimony and child support."

But how could he end his affair with Lucia? Even if he never saw her again, he knew he would dream about her.

"Cameron, why are you silent?" She pushed herself away from him.

"I... I'm in shock. I just don't know."

She raised her voice. "Know what?"

"How to... I mean how...?"

"Really? Are you planning to abandon me again?"

"I can't think straight," he said, his voice hoarse.

"What the hell is there to think about?"

He held his hands up in a gesture of surrender.

"You're just like your father. You assume you can pay me to keep quiet about the baby and never see you again."

"Lucia."

"Maybe you do need to pay." She jumped out of bed.

She dressed fast and grabbed her overnight bag.

"Lucia, let's talk. Please."

"Go to hell."

She left the room and slammed the door.



Cameron returned to San Diego, worried that Lucia would contact his wife or demand hush money.

A week later, he received a call from a lawyer who said she represented Lucia Martinez. Financial negotiations lasted a month. Then Cameron agreed to pay Lucia half a million dollars in installments over a twenty-year period. But if Lucia informed anyone he was the father of her children, payments would stop.



Nineteen years after Cameron last saw Lucia, he browsed through the morning newspaper in a San Francisco hotel restaurant. In the bottom corner of the second page, he read the headline, "Local Actress Dead."

He paled, and the furrows in his brow deepened.

He read, "Lucia Martinez, the San Francisco actress, died in a head-on collision. She was unmarried and survived by her only child, Brandon."

4 comments:

  1. Wow very sad story. Everyone using everyone else. Good to know Brandon did well. Cameron made his choice and thereby his path in life. Lucia sold herself. She was smarter than hi though.

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  2. Would have preferred that Cameron died, but then it would have been a worse story, and this one is good.

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  3. Very well-crafted...I almost missed the twist hidden in the very last sentence. Nice work.

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  4. Fast moving and nicely set up.

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