Why couldn’t she be honest with herself? She knew, from the moment she’d left the house, where she was going. Two blocks over she found it. La Noche. The sign was a wolf howling into the moon. She felt like a wolf on the prowl.
She pushed through a group of young men sharing a joint at the front door. Trendy Guadalajara youths hunched around intimate café tables playing dominoes and looking cool.
She heard him before she saw him.
A smiling waiter found an empty table in the corner close to the band. “Cómo estás, señorita? What can I get you to drink?” Two boys at the table beside her, still wearing their shorts from the beach, looked her up and down with half-closed bloodshot eyes.
“What’s a pretty girl like you doing here without a boyfriend?”
“Why? You want to apply for the job?”
The one with dreadlocks tried a seductive focus in on Layla. But she was laughing, so he gave up.
“No, I got a job already. I work on the beach at Los Muertos doing the parasailing trips. My friend Manuel runs the boat. Have you ever gone parasailing? You know, where you get strapped into a harness and you sail up into the sky while the boat leads from the ocean.”
“No. I haven’t. I want to do it sometime, but I’m too nervous.”
“Well, I will take you up for free! But then, you have to pay me to bring you down!”
“Very funny.” Layla gave them a smile, a kind of sloppy, stupid grin. They weren’t the only ones under the influence. She should really order a coke.
“Hey, we’re thinking of going to the Zoo. Do you want to join us?”
“No, I don’t even know you guys.”
“Come on. You’ve been talking with us for at least five minutes. What’s your problem? If you like us, we will even pay you for sex!”
Layla laughed. Fun. She needed some fun in her life. At first, she thought they were joking. But they weren’t laughing. Did they think she was a hooker?
“What’s the going rate? And I suppose you want me to go with the both of you at the same time?”
“Hmm, what do you think, Manuel? It depends. What do you like to do? They call me Ricki, by the way, nice to meet you.” Ricki put his arm around Layla and gave her a kiss on the cheek. They were really quite charming, considering their proposition and the fact that they were drunk.
“Well, actually, it would have to be at another time. I’m waiting for my novio. He’s a Federales officer and should be here any minute.” The waiter chose that moment to bring over her wine.
Instantly, the arm came off Layla’s shoulder.
“So, I think we should go. Hasta Luego. Let’s go, Manuel. Nice meeting you.”
She glanced at Omar playing his guitar. He had long dark fingers, lovely hands. She had been too busy checking out his body to notice his hands before. His voice was strong and focused; totally lost in his music. He sang from his heart with a depth of passion she hadn’t expected.
He turned slightly, maybe sensing he was being watched. She wanted to touch his silky ebony curls. He looked into her eyes. She flushed, her lust taking over.
Why had she come? This was stupid. She was in need of serious self-talk. Don’t act like a groupie. No, that’s not working. What about his age? He’s beautiful and hot, age never stopped her before. Okay, so none of that’s helping. Here comes the low blow: think of what he does for a living.
He finished his set and placed his guitar against the stand. Layla took a sip of her wine while he made his way over to her table. He was dressed all in black. She pretended to be cool, but a gorgeous dark Mexican man dressed in an Armani black t-shirt and pants? She was fucked. He could tell just looking at her face.
He leaned down and kissed her slowly on the cheek, his hand lingering possessively on her neck. She reached up, twisting his hair around her fingers and moved her head until their lips met. Her nipples hardened instantly.
“Layla. I’ve been waiting for you.” He pulled a chair closer to Layla so their legs touched. She could feel his heat. She didn’t move away. She didn’t want to.
For once, Layla didn’t feel like talking. Sometimes, she just wanted to feel.
The waiter put a tequila shot on the table.
“You’re very quiet, Layla.” Omar downed it quickly. “I have an idea. My place is very near here. We can walk. I will play some of my music for you. Let’s go.”
They walked hand and hand down the almost deserted Old Vallarta streets. Just around the corner from the Fajita Republic, they stopped at a steep set of stairs. Omar pointed to the staircase.
“Do I have to carry you, Layla, or can you walk on your own?”
“Very funny. I only had a little pot and little booze. I’m fine. Just walk behind me and watch my back in case I stumble.” Layla started up the steps. Her jeans hugged her butt and she knew it.
“No problemo. I will watch your back anytime, señorita.”
At the top of the stairs, a doorway led into Omar’s apartment. He struggled with his key. Nervous.
Two guitars sat on his bed; sheet music on his pillow. A half-burned candle and a half-smoked joint lay side by side on his night table.
Layla picked up a chunk of pink quartz in the shape of a heart.
“I got that from the interior here in Mexico.”
A funky ceramic lamp covered with a blue, green, and purple cotton pareo cast a nice soft and romantic glow around the room. An oversized poster of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones covered the wall above his bed. His studio apartment was neat and smelled of incense. Not what she had expected at all.
“Make yourself comfortable.” Omar turned the key in the lock and walked to the fridge in the kitchen area.
There was a chair by the table where more sheet music lay half completed. Other than that, the most comfortable spot looked to be the bed. Layla chose the bed, dropping her shoes as she made her way over to its edge.
“Don’t have a lot to drink, but vino blanco and some beer. Which would you prefer?” He smiled in acknowledgment of her choice of seating.
“Just water. I still need to make my way home.” She laughed self-consciously.
“Don’t worry. I will make sure you get home okay.” He handed her a glass of ice water.
“Sing something for me.” She smiled as she bunched the pillows together and leaned forward into them.
“Sure. Let me play the first song I ever wrote. It’s in Spanish. A love song, actually. I was sixteen when I wrote it.” Omar began to strum his guitar.
Even though it was in Spanish, Layla loved it. When he finished, she applauded and asked for a translation.
“Well, it kind of goes like this. It’s called ‘It’s Time to Let Me Go.’
Now that we are over, remember only the good part.
Remember how I loved you.
Forget how I hurt you.
Remember how we longed for each other when we were apart.
Remember how we ached to touch when we came together.
Forget the lies, the deceits.
Remember only the good parts.
Remember how we loved to make love, how we touched each other.
How we slept holding each other in our arms.
Forget the nights I didn’t come home.
Remember only the good parts.
Thank you for everything,
the love I never had before,
the love you gave me
and the love I could not return the way you needed
Remember only the good parts.
I will carry your love with me.
Forever in my heart.
“That’s beautiful, Omar.”
Layla stretched out across his bed.
Omar continued playing, soft and romantic melodies. Lost in the music, he closed his eyes and thought about the words. When he opened them, Layla had fallen asleep.
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