Gilberto Rides Again: Chapter 4
By Stephen Halpert
After lunch with Maria, Gilberto went to work. Avoiding his usual chitchat with front desk security, he headed straight for his office. Despite Maria’s reassurance that he’d get through this cancer procedure unscathed, he remained shaky.
Once at his desk, he tried losing himself in his work. Atlas was engineering a hostile takeover of a shoelace manufacturer in South Carolina that had been in business since before the Civil War. Sadly, this acquisition would not occur peacefully. Stockholders in South Carolina wanted to keep their shoelace empire to themselves, free of Yankee interference.
Suddenly his office door opened.
Ramon strode in, shut the door, and pulled his chair closer to Gilberto’s desk. He seemed nervous, concerned, not his usual laid-back, jovial self. “We must talk,” he said.
Gilberto wondered if, despite her promise of confidentiality, Maria had shared Gilberto’s diagnosis with Rosa, who would immediately have told Ramon.
Gilberto nodded solemnly, giving Ramon his full attention.
Ramon stood up abruptly, pounded his fist into his palm, and began pacing. When he stopped, he looked pleadingly at Gilberto. Help me, I’ve fallen for this woman,” he said in a weak voice.
Gilberto nodded; he felt relieved that this exchange wasn’t about him. He was curious, however, about what was going on between Ramon and Rosa.
“You must promise,” Ramon said earnestly, “utmost secrecy.”
Gilberto nodded. “Tell me.”
“She’s so overwhelming, a fast-paced New Yorker who cuts through the bacon and gets whatever she wants.”
Gilberto smiled, remembering the young Ramon, constantly sought after by smitten young women dazzled by his soccer prowess.
Ramon gulped. “I didn’t expect this.”
Gilberto nodded. “Lust can come on totally unexpected. Who with, may I ask?”
Ramon’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Sara Midgley.”
Gilberto’s eyes widened. “The new Board member?” Gilberto remembered seeing her at a meeting. To him she seemed bulky, maternal, the total opposite of the energetic Rosa.
Ramon nodded. “She heads up Atlas’ Merger and Acquisition Division. We met at the regional conference in Newport.”
Gilberto smiled. “And you charmed her…”
Ramon snorted. “She charmed me. We spent that first evening drinking champagne, discussing Atlas’ growth potential.”
Ramon frowned. “Then one thing led to another.”
Gilberto smiled at him. “As it usually does with you.”
Ramon’s eyebrows rose and he sighed. “How could I resist? I always fell for redheads.”
Gilberto smiled. “That’s true. I remember how they flirted with you at the soccer matches.”
Ramon smiled. “But not like this. She told me her life story. Her deceased husband sailed with Cousteau. Six years ago he was swept overboard in the South China Sea, his body was never recovered. She’s been to law school and had a position at a brokerage house on Wall Street before joining Atlas.” He sighed again. “I thought it was the champagne.”
Gilberto nodded. He couldn’t help but smile. Same old Ramon, innocent to the point of absurdity. “How long?”
Ramon shrugged. “Since that weekend we’ve been texting and talking on the phone. Now she wants to meet in her car. She tells me my charisma drives her wild.”
Gilberto grinned. “So, as long as you can get away with it, what’s the problem?”
Ramon’s shoulders hunched. He seemed to shrink into himself. “Now she’s insisting on meeting Rosa. Says she wants to check out her competition. Wants to meet Rosa at the Atlas 4th of July picnic. I just assumed she’d be discrete, and we’d have a little fun… but now this.” His brow furrowed.
Gilberto felt for his friend and his dilemma. He also understood how this could happen. Rosa and Ramon had been married for close to twenty years. “And…?”
“She doesn’t know Rosa. Rosa told me once that if she ever caught me with another woman…”
Gilberto shrugged. “Wasn’t that said back in the day?”
“Please, Gilberto, I know Rosa. We might not be so hot and heavy these days, but that doesn’t mean she’s any less possessive.”
Gilberto sighed. “You always did like living dangerously.”
Ramon frowned. “I didn’t expect this! One minute we’re looking at sales figures and talking about a shoelace acquisition, and the next…” He went to the window. “She called it chemistry, threw her arms around me, pressed me against her, pulling me into her.”
Gilberto grinned. “You’ve still got it.”
“She told me I was the most exciting man she’d ever met. Wants me to run off to Paris for a weekend with her, be together in some enchanted evening where it never turns into the next day.”
Gilberto grinned again. “Nothing wrong with any of that.” Then he paused and frowned. “What will you do? You know this is against Atlas policy.”
Ramon looked terribly pained. “She insists on confronting Rosa.” Then quickly added. “But I want you and Maria there. We’ll all meet, and then maybe Rosa won’t murder me.” He rubbed his forehead.
That raised Gilberto’s eyebrows. “You think?”
He lowered his voice. You’ve seen Rosa when she goes to war. I prefer avoiding confrontation. But Rosa’s like Napoleon.”
Gilberto nodded and consulted his calendar. “Joey has a soccer game that Saturday, but the picnic’s Sunday. We’ll be there.”
Thank you,” Ramon said meekly. “I don’t want to lose Rosa,” he added, his voice was barely audible. “Maybe if it rains, I’ll get a reprieve.”
Gilberto smiled compassionately.
“Sara says I’ve awakened something in her, says I make her feel young again. Gilberto, she’s overwhelming. Big full body, deep soft blue eyes, thick red hair, Irish freckles all over her nose and cheeks.”
Gilberto sighed. “Maybe you’ve nothing to worry about. Maybe Sara just wants to meet Rosa, casual curiosity. I doubt it, but…or don’t you want her to?”
Ramon frowned. “I’d just as soon she didn’t. I play it careful. I always have.”
Gilberto nodded. “Before, when we played soccer, you kept your affairs a secret. None of us ever knew who you’d be with or for how long. Maybe you could pull it off… having two wives.”
Ramon smiled. “Rosa changed all that. She took charge of everything; all I had to do was take off my shoes.”
Gilberto smiled. “And that’s what you did with Sara, just took off your shoes….”
“I guess,” Ramon smiled, then sighed. “But her attention is flattering.”
(To be continued.)
More about authors Stephen and Tasha Halpert…
ABRACADABRA MOONSHINE & OTHER STORIES by Stephen Halpert
This collection of original, unusually intriguing short stories is an exuberant tour de force of wit, humor, and insight into the human condition. The collection of magical tales will entrance, entertain, and prompt readers to ponder the true nature of reality. They will definitely entertain you and make you wonder a bit about the twists and turns that life can take. You may even fall in love with some of his characters and wish they were real and present in your life.
Heartwings: Love Notes for a Joyous Life by Tasha Halpert
This heartwarming book brings a breath of sunshine against the cold of any day and kindly and gently reveals a deeper level of understanding for all. It provides a helpful path for anyone concerned with personal self-development to follow. Sharing a lifetime of comforting knowledge gleaned from living and loving life, the emotionally intelligent author leads readers on an introspective journey to a greater sense of realization, joy, and inner peace. Her poetry is moving, and a poem follows each thought-provoking essay.
Up to My Neck in Lemons by Tasha Halpert is a collection of practical as well as metaphorical uses for life’s lemons. This collection of essays and poems provides insights gained from daily life experiences, both happy and sad. The stories illustrate how to appreciate what might at first have seemed unfortunate.
The recipes are author favorites, and are both sweet and sour, cleansing and therapeutic. This book will bring comfort and insight on turning life’s lemons into lemonade. The poems that follow each essay form an enjoyable adjunct to the wisdom and insight this book brings the reader.
Each book is $15.00 postpaid autographed by the author. Write to Tasha Halpert at P.O. Box 171, North Grafton, MA, 01536 and include a check to receive a copy of any of these entertaining and even perhaps helpful books.
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