Gilberto Rides Again: Chapter 2
by Stephen Halpert
As Gilberto had requested, Maria had made the reservations, and now it was Friday afternoon. Somehow, they managed to start their getaway before dinner. At first, she had thought of checking into a local place, but with the good weather finally having arrived, she opted for the Cape at Surfside, a seaside resort just outside Hyannis.
A young bellhop hauled their luggage into their beachfront room. Gilberto tipped him generously. The young man responded with a big smile. “I’m Billy. If you need anything at all, just call the front desk.”
Gilberto looked at the luggage. “Why do we need all this when all we’re going to do is stay in bed?”
Maria giggled. “You haven’t changed since Niagara Falls ten years ago. You’ve got a one-track mind.”
He reached for her. She slid into his arms and gave him her most seductive smile.
“You mind that?” Gilberto asked. “I thought you liked my caveman persona.”
She kicked off her flats. “I do. But don’t Neanderthals like getting dressed for dinner?”
“Not especially. I mean we’re married. Who needs to impress anyone? We could just get some fried clams an onion rings and sit in here, maybe watch some of the ballgame. The Sox are playing.”
She frowned. “Sometimes it’s nice to take things slow, you know, be seductive and romantic. But if all you want is my body…”
He grinned. “I want lots more than that and you know it.”
His cell phone chimed. It was Joey. He sounded frantic, almost hyperventilating. “She left to go to Dartmouth to see him!”
“Calm down, son,” Gilberto said. “Breathe slow deep breaths. I’m going to hand the phone to your mom, okay?”
Maria smiled and held out her hand. “Joey, I want you to stop all this fretting.” Her voice was firm, but motherly and very loving. “It will only keep you from your serious work. You must understand she’s not under duress. She’s stretching her wings and finding her independence. You wouldn’t be able to stop her no matter what you did. Focus on your history paper, and let Sophia live her life.”
“But mom, I don’t want her to be in trouble. I’m worried about her.”
“You’re trying to be a good friend—showing her how much you care—but you must take a step back. We’ll be home in a few days.”
“Yes. All right,” he said. “I understand what you’re saying, mom. It’s just… it’s just… so hard right now,” he stammered. “I never realized…” he paused, searching for the right words. “Um… how much I care about her.”
“Then know she’s strong and able to take care of herself,” Maria said. She smiled as she said it. Gilberto could hear the caring in her voice.
Maria said good night and handed Gilberto’s phone back to him. She shook her head and sighed. “I guess he’s growing up fast.”
“Emotional situations can do that,” Gilberto said.
“Speaking of emotional situations…” Maria pointed to his attaché case and scowled. “Work! You brought work?”
“No,” he said. “Fun stuff for us to look at. Catalogues, yacht brochures. Good stuff to buy.” His eyes lit up as he thought of what he wanted to show her. For some time he’d had his eye on a yacht they could use to go on little trips, maybe just the two of them.
Maria shook her head. “But, why? We have everything we need.”
“Don’t you like getting presents?” he asked.
“Of course, I do. Everyone likes presents. But sometimes I think of the people less fortunate?”
“I make donations. Maria, there will always be people in need, otherwise there wouldn’t be charities, and then people would be out of a job.”
“You’re so cynical.” She replied, sliding out of her dress.
He reached into his attaché case and pulled out a small package. He grinned as he handed it to her. “For you. Happy summer. Open it,” he coaxed.
She smiled and carefully opened the fancy wrapping paper. Looking perplexed, she held it up. ”It’s knotted string… some kind of a plant hanger maybe?”
“No!” he exclaimed. “It’s a bikini. Put it on.”
“You’re kidding! I’d be arrested.”
“It’s special imported twine from Greece. You won’t even know you’re wearing it.”
She glared at him and then repeated flatly, “You’re kidding.”
“It’s from a classy shop on the French Riviera. Very fashionable, and way pricey.”
Maria sighed in defeat, undressed, and then slowly managed to get herself into it. She looked in the mirror, frowned, and shook her head. ”I’d feel too self-conscious. Everything about me is way too visible.”
He put his arms around her. “Visibility is good. You look amazing.”
She gave him a kiss on the cheek and nodded. “Then I’ll wear it for you when we’re alone at night.”
His face fell. “You don’t like it. I can tell. It’s imported Grecian twine, very expensive!”
She grinned and hugged him. “Twine’s another word for string.” She pulled a tee-shirt and shorts on over the bikini. “Okay, Tarzan, time to feed Jane. There’s a lobster place just across the parking lot. We can walk. Expensive string makes me hungry. But please, Gilberto, at your age, be careful of cholesterol.”
He huffed and reached for the room key. “What do you mean at my age? I’m fine.”
They dined well. Maria had a crabmeat salad with lettuce and cucumbers. She sipped her glass of white wine slowly. Gilberto put away a two-pound baked-stuffed lobster with a side of fries and two tall draft beers. He sat back, a satisfied smile on his face. “Don’t you want more wine?”
She shook her head no. “I’m doing my liver a favor.”
“Do me a favor and get blasted.”
She raised her eyebrows at him. “And have a hangover and be grumpy for two days? That’s what you want?”
He sighed and shook his head. “Okay, forget it. But we’re on holiday.”
Maria laughed. “Every day’s a holiday with you.”
After paying, they left and strolled on the beach, hand in hand.
Back inside their room, Gilberto went to the toilet. There was blood again. He grimaced when he saw it. Maria followed him into the bathroom. Peering into the bowl she asked, “Did you hurt yourself?”
Gilberto shook his head. “I’m not in any pain or uncomfortable. It’s nothing, really. Just a little blood.”
Her breath caught in her throat. “How long has this been?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Oh, on and off… for a couple of weeks… maybe a month?” He tried to sound casual.
Her voice sharpened. “I’m taking you to the clinic Monday. This could be a bigger problem than you might think.”
He huffed. “Don’t go there, please.”
She put her hand on his shoulder. “Darling, this could be very serious.”
He sighed. Why did she have to walk in just then?
Maria glared at her husband. “You weren’t going to tell me, were you?” Her eyes bore into his wavering sense of truth.”
“I would have… eventually?” It came out more like a question than a statement.
“Gilberto, for you, eventually could be light-years from now.” She sighed, then smiled. “Oh Gilberto, in some ways you’re still just a little boy.”
“Who, me?” he chuckled “Don’t you know that all us men are little boys? That’s part of our charm!”
To be continued…
About the author…
A graduate of Emerson College, Stephen Halpert has been a published author since the 1970s. Most recently, his weekly column “American Scene,” which ran in The Grafton News from 1989 to 2022, featured humorous vignettes of his life with his wife, Tasha, and serial fiction. Since 2020, Halpert has authored a trilogy, The Loves of Gilberto, which he describes as, “a love story with a hint of murder.” In 2018, Halpert published his first collection of fictional tales, Abracadabra Moonshine and Other Stories, available on Amazon. His next writing venture is titled “Mona Lisa’s Eyebrows and other stories.” Contact Stephen to learn more.