A disagreeable man has just been murdered.
Epifanio, the main character, finds himself thinking of a lost sweetheart named Sheryn.
Had to edit out some sections to avoid trigger warnings. Whew! It is hard work typing everything.
She also had a more winning manner, a more inviting style.
She had not exactly been a closed door. That, at least, was the implication of the smirk that had accompanied the dead man’s comment about “morning sickness.”
But — was he really dead? What if he had merely been wounded, and the ambulance had rescued him in time? What if, even now, he was lying some hospital, with a drip affixed to one arm?
Was he the father of the young woman’s baby? Epifanio was surprised at the despair that accompanied this thought.
To hold a woman, any woman — to know the warmth of a woman’s embrace.
Epifanio’s parents had loved each other with a purity and single-mindedness that he had tried to emulate. But the ferocity of Sheryn’s desire had unmanned him. They had been classmates in high school but Epifanio never dreamed of courting her. Then, one day in October, right in the middle of the Masskara Festival, she came up to him in the plaza. Her tone was teasing. “Do you want me? O, tilawi!” Try me.
Their first time together: she had grabbed him and drawn him close. She had called up his courage. She had luxuriated in his desire.
After, when Epifanio and Sheryn encountered each other on the street, they feigned aloofness. Her family was not rich, but they were better off than Epifanio’s; his father eked out a hard living as a fisherman. Epifanio had done many things: he had been a tricycle driver. A waiter. A traffic enforcer. Sheryn had graduated from college, whereas Epifanio had dropped out after two years. She worked as a bank teller, and wore nice clothes to work. Still, Sheryn wanted him! When they caught each other’s eyes, they smiled surreptitiously, like conspirators.
Then, disaster: I am carrying your child, she whispered. The future shrank to the width of one hand. Her desire withered. There was a new, hard determination in her face. He talked of marriage; she said, Wait.
Sheryn’s voice was strong near the bar. A sign said, Deep and Deeper. Epifanio had passed it before, had noticed the women going in and out. They wore tight clothes, they walked languorously, aware that men were watching.
Epifanio lurked, throwing quick glances at the door. A tall man with a smooth-shaven head and tattoos running down both forearms stood just inside, where he might easily have been mistaken for a shadow. He uttered a warning and made a derisive gesture with his hand.
(To be continued)