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To approach the stranger is to invite in the unexpected, release a new force, let the genie out of the bottle. It starts a whole new train of events that is beyond our control.
Hannah and I saw each other again; the night before I left for my little journey to hell. We arranged to rendezvous in the guest house. She arrived ahead of me and had set out a wonderful “picnic” of the most delicious chicken salad sandwiches with avocado, a personal favorite, and tall glasses of iced lemonade to finish things off Vera’s fresh baked shortbread. The flicker of candles made the room warm and inviting.
“Wow this looks great! Thanks.” I walked over to her and wrapped my arms around her delicate frame. Nuzzling her neck I could detect the slightest scent “Ahh roses”
“Glad you like; now the fragrance reminds me of more than home.” Her voice was cautious “I hope you don’t mind; I fixed some supper, you haven’t been eating and thought maybe….”
“Mind? Why would I mind? My stomach’s been twisted in knots at the prospect of traveling with my father; day after day, night after night with that hateful excuse for a man.”
She pulled back ever so slightly from my embrace and thoughtfully studied my face “You know we all hate our parents sometimes. Maybe he’s not really as bad as you think. Please don’t take it the wrong way but its possible…isn’t it? There is good in everyone we just need to know where to look.”
My hands dropped to my sides; I felt as though I’d been sucker punched. “You’re joking right? If you knew half the things he’s done you’d run for the hills. Like this for instance, if he ever found out about us – here - now he’d make your life miserable.”
“Well…tell me then. Tell me what has he done?” Her matter of fact tone took me by surprise.
“The question should be what he hasn’t done. Trust me, Hannah, he could teach Tomas de Torquemada a lesson or two in torture; but not physical, no my father’s specialty is head games.” I shook my head suddenly feeling out of place “Maybe I should go, maybe this was a mistake.”
“Please don’t leave. I’m sorry.” Regret filled her eyes “There I go again letting my mouth run off and get the better of me….please forgive me I won’t go there again. Stay, please.” She softly outlined my lips with her finger then traced my jaw line. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing you for days.” Moving closer our lips almost touched “Please….” She undid the first few buttons on her blouse “don’t….” She dropped the blouse to the floor “let my mouth…” She loosened my belt “ruin our….” My fingers circled her nipples as we moved closer and closer. Her delicate skin and tender embrace caused my heart to race; uneasiness vanished as we gently explored each other’s bodies. Breathe mixed with breathe, sweat with sweat, moans mingled with sighs; together again we helped each other through another day of unbearable isolation and sorrow.
With our hearts and minds lightened we sat wrapped in a blanket laughing about silly things that I can’t even remember. All I remember is the laughter and the feeling of freedom; it was only for a moment but it gave me a taste of my future, at least what I dreamed for my future. Suddenly I realized how hungry I was, announced by the thunderous rumble in the pit of my stomach. Hannah and I looked at each other and burst into laughter.
“Guess you worked up an appetite…eh?” her broad grin and sly wink caused me to almost blush.
“I’m starving let me at those sandwiches.” We sat side by side on the sofa. She delicately nibbled on her sandwich while I ate ravenously. The slightest glow of daybreak began to peak through the open window; for many a beautiful sight but for me most unwelcome. “I have to go Hannah; we are leaving for Mexico in a few hours and I’m sure Alexander will be looking for me.”
“Thank you Alex, thank you for…” tears began to pool in her eyes
“No Hannah, thank you. I desperately needed this escape from the real world and you knew exactly what to do.”
“So glad to be of service.” Hannah chimed in with a smile and a demure curtsy.
I saw Hannah only once more, after my trip, and as hard as she tried her ability to comfort me had evaporated. Upon my return my self loathing had reached a new high and I felt unworthy of her attention; spurned all acts of kindness and found myself quick to anger. As I look back now I wonder if my mood had not been so dark, my spirits had been lighter would she have told me of our baby? Unfortunately in my agitated state the news would not have been well received and I vaguely recall saying there was no way I would ever satisfy my father by bringing an heir into this family sideshow. The reasons for my foul state of mind were directly related to that trip and my dear father’s antics.
Trepidation filled me as the hour of departure arrived. Lyn, on the other hand was busily packing; filled with the excitement of leaving this spiritual vacuum as she called it; confident that wherever she ended up would be a far better place than this. Any place without our father would be favorable; on this we both agreed. As usual Katherine was holding me responsible for her losing yet another daughter. I guess I was the easy scapegoat; it is much easier to blame someone else rather than looking inward. If only she had been a better mother to Claire and protected her from that repugnant man she married; would it have been possible to prevent these terrible things from happening? I would have never been born; that should have put things right immediately, being a major plus for everyone involved, Lyn would not have been sacrificed… for my school record; the irony here was I knew full well I would never attend college; I planned on putting the world right by killing off Alexander Cambias Jr. If only I had told her then she could have stood up to father without sacrificing her impeccable sense of honor, but no…I didn’t. Michael, well he would have the place he coveted at his father’s right hand, and Claire….sweet Claire would be running her art gallery and living, living life to its fullest with the love of her life Todd. These thoughts sickened me and filled me with regret.
Days spent with my father were, for me, horrendous; Alexander on the other hand relished our time together. The relationship was uncomfortable, to say the least; his love and for me, twisted as it was, a macabre reflection of what love should be or at least what I thought love should be. I really wasn’t sure I knew what love was anymore, maybe I never did. That summer was beyond difficult for me as I repeatedly watched my father do things, horrible things to each and every person we met. The pain he’d caused was reflected in their eyes, each one defeated, stripped of all confidence and laden with self doubt. He had even succeeded in doing the same to me. The more time I spent with him the more I began to doubt my decisions, doubt my reasoning and doubt my purpose on this earth.
We traveled from Mexico to Brazil then on to France meeting with one person after another working deals; trying to get more than they bargained on giving. Alexander always had a hidden agenda, always spoke in vague concepts and made his “guest” feel as though they were getting the upper hand. One of my father’s mottoes was ‘Never interrupt your enemy when they are making a mistake’ these were words he lived by faithfully especially since he felt the world harbored more enemies than friends.
Arriving in France I was surprised we did not stay in the house where I was born, it was still part of the Cambias estate but Alexander said we needed to be closer to out business contacts in the city, so we booked a suite of rooms on the top floor of Le Bristol. I found the rooms to be stuffy and formal a far cry from my taste but dear old dad seemed pleased. Everyone certainly knew who he was and his likes and dislikes which in turn made Alexander puff up with arrogance.
The night of our arrival we were scheduled to connect with an acquaintance of Alexander’s. I was given no background information which should have set off all the bells and whistles in my brain but there were none. As we sat down Claude, the bartender immediately pulled a bottle of his finest cognac from a hidden corner and showed it to Alexander. With a nod he raised two fingers and Claude quickly grabbed a second glass.
“I don’t want that Father. I’d prefer a beer – Heineken – bottle.” His look of disdain brought me remarkable pleasure.
“We don’t drink beer Alex, especially from a bottle.” The pinched look on his face showcased his haughtiness perfectly. With a wave of his hand Claude returned the bottle to its cooler and placed the cognac in front of me. “This is what we drink my boy. It’s a special vintage from a very small distiller.” He took a sip and let the tea colored liquid sit in his mouth for a moment.
“This is here just for me and you would be foolish not to partake.”
“Thank you…NO. Claude, beer please.” I carefully poured Alexander’s prized cognac into the ashtray with a cocky grin. “That’s what I think of your precious cognac.”
“Aren’t we feisty tonight, well I see my friend has arrived just in time for me to leave you with your foul mood and green bottle. Enjoy your….beer.” A slight shiver of disgust traveled the length of his debonair frame.
As he left the bar he spoke briefly with Claude, I assumed he was giving his approval for my beverage choice; since one knows I am not capable of making those decisions on my own. I found it infuriating that I could not even order a beer without having to go toe to toe with that disgusting excuse for a man. Well, regardless of his displeasure I enjoyed that beer immensely.
The two gentlemen met at the door and shook hands. I never did catch even a glimpse of the man’s face and I was a bit confused; up until this moment I had been included in every tedious and mind-numbing appointment but for some reason I was not to be privy to this one. Their demeanor was more of friends than business associates which put my mind immediately at ease; on further examination it should have sent up a red flag because Alexander Cambias had no friends, but I was so glad to be rid of the bastard; I wasn’t about to let thoughts of him detract from my moments of solitude. I wish now I had attempted some investigation, at the very least to learn his name. This information would have help me to keep my world from falling apart years later; when the fallout would rip Kendall and I apart thanks to my father and his acquaintance Dr. Greg Madden.