Barcelona, Saturday 31st of July 2004
The horror would come some hours later. But right now, Helena, twenty-two years old, was exhilarated.
“My ears always go funny on board,” she told Enrique, settling back in her seat in the jet. They had just had the proverbial “shower after” in the small bathroom. “My first flight was somewhat illegal. It was in an RAF plane and I was scared stiff. Then Grandpa, an RAF commander, told me to hold my nose and gulp. Always works especially at takeoff.”
“I prefer the sweets.” He leaned back on his seat, eyes closed and hands cradling the back of his head. Enrique was thirty-three. Unlike her he had not got back into his clothes. A towel was wrapped around his hips.
Helena was very excited about the coming prospects. She was going to meet her future parents-in-law and the extended Spanish family. She had just left her lifelong family in Cyprus worried about this future of hers. They were not as confident in her relationship with Enrique as she herself was. He was her first lover. They had known each other for over two months. And she planned to tell him all about herself before this night was over. The vile knowledge wedged between them was an imperfection that had to be removed by surgical words. This was the only unpleasant prospect ahead of her, to deal with tonight when they finally arrived in Barcelona. Tomorrow could be too late. Be honest with him, darling, before you meet his family, Mummy had said – for the umpteenth time.
From her porthole, Helena watched Paphos diminish in the widening blue mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. Cyprus the golden, like an autumn leaf tossed onto the sea by a careless Divinity, rocking on a glittering endless blue hammock.
Earlier today in Limassol, she had called Ramón and asked him to meet them at the airport but Ramón had rejected her request. She couldn’t blame him. There was only so much selflessness a man could afford, especially for the love who had chosen his cousin over him. Still, if Ramón had met them, she had planned to tell him her story first and ask him how he thought Enrique would react to it. It was ever so easy to talk to Ramón about anything and everything. On the other hand something about Enrique made her want to really be nothing other than perfect. His Star of Cyprus. No warts on the cheeks, no growths in the heart. She shared in Enrique’s idolized “sexiest star advocate in the international business community” image, and revelled in having bulbs flashing and cameras whirring wherever and whenever they were part of the public life, as he called it. Helenrique! Helenrique! Had it really been the media who had coined that one or was it Enrique himself? Mummy and Daddy termed the coinage “a vulgar imitation.” No matter. Her new world was intoxicating. On the screen, Enrique became so present, so crackling with energy, the perpetually stray black strand of hair hugging his eyebrow making its own statement, his forget-me-not blue eyes so intense – everything about him was so three dimensional that he almost blasted into the room straight through the TV screen.
“A penny for your thoughts, Corazón?”
“Enrique.” She pealed her eyes away from the porthole and sent her current thoughts into temporary exile. She blushed furiously, startled, and felt as if Enrique had caught her thinking about Ramón through an aria in the Mathew Passion, although Ramón had been but a backdrop in her ruminations. “Are you sure you should be walking around like that?” The towel revealed more than it concealed.
“Nobody’s complaining but you. Awhile ago you didn’t mind my complete nakedness, Corazón.” With a suggestive tone of voice.
“You’re impossible. But anybody could walk in now, perhaps. The crew and your media people, I mean. When will we be in Barcelona?” Zero hour approaching.
“Eight, eight-thirty. Depends on the wind. Don’t mind supper on board, d’you?”
She shook her head. “More reason you should put something on.”
“The crew may burst in here after a discreet knock or throat-clearing, Corazón. The media – never, unless invited to, okay?” She nodded.
Three hours later, they were under the shower again, having sweated rivulets on the drive from Barcelona airport. This time they were in a bathroom that was large enough to be an executive office. The whole duplex apartment made her too enthralled to find the right words for it. When they had come in she simply let him take her hand, like a trusting child, and show her the rooms and the several remote control and safety gadgets. Even in the shower where they were now, all one had to do was to press buttons for “shower”, “temperature” and “start”. She personally thought it all a bit too much, unless one was an invalid or something, but she was determined to enjoy the pleasures he enjoyed, be proud of the same things he took pride in.
They trailed from the bathroom past the dressing room, wrapped in towels, into the huge bedroom dominated by an enormous bed. He lowered her onto the bed and then touched switches and there were soft lights and music and an electric fireplace. There was a bottle of chilled champagne in a bucket and two crystal goblets. He poured the champagne and they drank the first sips from each other’s mouths. He poured some on her navel and sucked on it, making her tingle.
“I have to learn Spanish,” she murmured. “The music sounds so erotic, but the words!”
“I’ll translate… sort… of… in… between… Corazón…”
Then much later, sipping champagne and listening to endless music from some invisible central source, she felt relaxed and confident enough to tell him. She had gone over the HOW many times in her mind and had long decided that the best way to do it was the way Mummy had told it to her. From the beginning. The same way Daddy, too, had confessed to Mummy. Straight. Don’t try to garnish it with flowers and ribbons, darling.
“Darling…” she raised her shoulders off the bed, supporting herself on her elbows, and looked at him in the eyes. With the soft lighting, his eyes were ink blue and glistening in their deep sockets.
“There’s a family story I have to tell you. I want you to know it before we meet your family tomorrow and…”
“Today, beautiful. It’s already past midnight.” He put an arm around her and pulled her down closer to him, punching the pillows on the headboard for comfort. “What is it, then?”
Her heartbeats accelerated. She reached out for and drained her glass and placed it on the bedside table next to the bucket with the champagne bottle. She was shaking badly.
She pushed her long loose hair to one side of her using both hands. “I’m all right. But, err, … oh God…! It’s about Daddy. About me and Daddy…” Because Mummy had nothing to do with this, in all fairness. Why, oh why, hadn’t Daddy just been normal and be her Daddy?
“Please don’t interrupt me or my courage will fail me, Enrique,” she said with renewed determination.
Then she told him. Everything from the days in Timberlake Priory in Yorkshire to moving over to Cyprus. She quickly ploughed on and on and on, leaving nothing out. She didn’t look at him anymore. But she felt his reactions as she told him the story. His arm slid away from under her. His body continuously inched away from her. Was it shock? Was it empathy? Was it pity? Or did he feel disgust?
She didn’t look at him until the end of her story. Then she did.
He jumped out of bed and paced up and down making strange noises. He came back to her and stood close, a little bent from the waist. On her side of the bed. At first it was shock that she saw etched in his handsome features. His mouth kept opening and closing before whatever he wanted to say could be said. But slowly, disgust replaced the shock. He said perdón rapidly several times, giving the word no time to breath between the repetitions, the word an ugly protrusion prodding his tongue and consciousness.
Then the rest of the words thundered out of him.
He screamed them at her. She had never seen him so sentient.
She closed her eyes in order not to see his face, so contorted with disgust at her.
He kept on screaming at her. As if it was all her fault. As if she had had any say, any choice in the whole thing. As if she had happily rolled herself around in the mud like a baby elephant. As if she had been the evil architect who had planned and constructed it all.
She curled up and hoped to disappear from the face of the earth, too hurt to even cry.
“Wait a minute;” he said and walked to one of his gadgets and rolled the light on from soft to a stark white, to illuminate her better. He turned off the music as well. She felt all skinned raw. Her golden skin refused to own up, remaining innocent, perfect and beautiful. As innocent as an infant’s, untouched by anything but a mother’s loving hands. He pulled the sheets off her. She made herself into a ball and the humiliation began to set in. What did he expect to discover, that she grew horns at night or turned into a vampire? That she had a supple long tail whipping on the bed sheet? She began to tremble like a leaf and did her best not to sob. She endeavoured to marshal her whirling thoughts and senses, willing herself to remain as calm as she could.
But his words crashed on her skin like savage whips, then inside her head like electrical torture, over and over again. They sliced her flesh into strips. Plunged deep in her vital organs like a dagger handled by vengeful demonic hands. Over and over again.
Nasty and cheap words she never expected from him were streamers in her brightly lighted ears. They broke her bones to splinters, dismembered her. Precisely what she had carefully skirted around all her life, in self protection. Self-preservation.
She began to sob relentlessly. Thinking about her father, she sobbed even harder.
Enrique’s mind spun out of its natural revolutions. His disgust acquired other tinges. For himself – being the rakish bounder, the self-centred trailblazer that he was. Deep black tinges. An abyss. Losses instead of gains in prestige. The media, all these several weeks. How was he going to undo all that? And how was he going to explain all this to the family? Well, the family will understand. That he nearly made her his wife! The mother of his children, for God’s sake!
His rage and vexation soared and roared to an inferno, like a building on fire whose windows shatter to let in the oxygen. He turned to her. On her.
“You bitch! How could you have done this to me, huh?”
If she had told him the truth from the very beginning, everything would have been slotted in their correct compartments. He would have enjoyed being with her, sleeping with her, buying her expensive presents. But not going so far as to get engaged to her.
“All right, Helena. Now we can fuck.” The voice solid like reinforced concrete.
She saw the madness in his eyes, began crying in pleas. She was no longer on a silk-gilded bed with a man who could take her to heaven and back. This was the beast Daddy had warned her against, not the noble savage of her fantasies with Mummy. But even Mummy had warned her against this particular beast, warned her that she might find herself out on a limb with Enrique. Her mind was running marathons but in a circle. The pain, the fear, the disgust and revulsion as he tried to pin her down. He pried her thighs apart with his strong legs as his hands pinned her wrists to the headboard. She screamed and fought him.
“Shut up! You’ll love it rough, won’t you?”
He was too strong for her but still she combined pleas with fighting back. “Enrique, please! I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before… I was scared of your… Please don’t do this to me! Don’t…! It’s still me, Enrique, your Star of Cyp…!”
They had been making love for half the day and night. He penetrated her painfully but effortlessly. Only her wild struggles disconnected them, throwing him off before he would thrust into her anew. He decided to do something in order to achieve his intentions. He released her right hand in order to use his own hand to guide himself into her and hold her to him.
It was her chance.
She used her released hand to whip the champagne bottle out, knocking the bucket almost noiselessly to the fluffy floor. He was so busy in his mad endeavours that he didn’t notice her grab the bottle. She raised it in the air and brought it down, with all her might, on the side of his head. The bottle broke, shooting off a stream of champagne. A noise caught in his throat and he slumped. She pushed him off her and made for the dressing room.
But he was so still that she stopped to look at him. He lay lifeless across the bed.
“Enrique?” What to do… what to do… what…to…do? Was he dead? The police…
Too many things bowling around her head. “Enrique?”
She rushed back to him, holding the top half of the broken bottle as a weapon. She tilted her rumbling head to one side like an intelligent dog. Enrique said nothing and the room was full of it. Before she could think she prodded him with the broken bottle on his naked side. He remained still. His head was lying in a pool of blood, the pool widening. More fresh blood welled out from his side where she had prodded him. She stiffened.
Think! Call an ambulance! The mobile! Where’s the mobile… my handbag… the dressing… no – the bathroom!
She ran into the office-sized bathroom and found her bag on a dressing table. With one hand she opened it and shook the contents out as she ran back to the bedroom. The mobile thudded to the floor in the dressing room and she picked it up, dropping the handbag. She had only one free hand. The hand with her weapon, she poised ready for any eventualities. Her head was spinning and droning. She reached the bedroom.
Enrique was gone.
God almighty, he’s not dead! He had moved! Where to? “Enrique?”
There was a weak groan from the other side of the bed, then bloodied fingers clawed on the bed sheets. The dark half dome of his head matted with blood, glistening as it caught the light, appeared. She screamed involuntarily before worrying about her safety.
He’s dangerous! Call the police! Bring yourself to safety! Explain to the police! You didn’t mean to kill him! Bring yourself to safety and call the police!
“BUT HOW!” she screamed out aloud. “HELP! HELP! HELP ME!”
His naked shoulders, tattoos of fresh blood on them, appeared from the opposite side of the bed.
The gadgets. What had he said, showing off his gadgets to her? When you don’t want the servants to surprise you in the bedroom, dressing room or bathroom, this button makes it impossible for anyone to come in from the outside…
He was clawing halfway across the huge bed towards her. She bolted to the bathroom, locking up the dressing room. Oh shit! Simply a sliding glass screen between the bedroom and the dressing room. No lockable door. Oh God!
But there was one between the dressing room and the bathroom. She had dropped the remote control and bent to recover it, mobile phone in the same hand. Through the glass door to the bedroom she saw him still creeping across the bloodied bed sheets towards the dressing room, calling her dreadful names. She bolted out of the dressing room, collecting her dropped things and the half empty handbag. She ran into the bathroom and, feverishly reading and deciding on the codes on the display, she locked all the doors leading to the bathroom, grateful for the English language. Stop. Start. On. Off. Lock. Unlock. She heard him pounding on the dressing room door to the bathroom. What if there was another reserve gadget? She wanted to cry but told herself she had to think. She had put herself in this situation. She had to get herself out of it.
The police. He wasn’t dead after all. They would understand a foreign girl panicking. She had acted in self defence. But how did one dial the Spanish police…?
Enrique was getting louder both in voice and the pounding. Was he nearer? Outside the bathroom door perhaps? Which one of the doors? How long before he worked that or any other door open? Flinching with each pounding outside, she punched the speed-dial for Mummy. Then she remembered she was in Spain and it was in the middle of the night anyway. Mummy and Daddy would more likely die of a heart attack than arrive in time to rescue her. Uncle Alex! Maybe he knew at least the Spanish police or fire brigade number. But what time was it in Tokyo? Was he on stage? Tokyo code?
“You fucking bitch, open the door! Open up…!”
For a moment she broke down crying. That was Enrique out there calling her names. She had loved him. He had loved her. What happened to it all? She wept bitterly but the banging and abuses and insults propped up her mental spine. She had NOT loved him, she had loved a fake. Just as he had never loved her, Helena. He had loved his own dreams.
“I’ll kill you if you don’t open this door at once!”
He couldn’t get in. That threat says he can’t get in!
She felt much better. Her head cleared. Well, fuck you too mate. She rummaged in the cupboards. A boiler? Anything where some kind of telephone number was written even if it belonged to a plumber or the electricity company. But everything was high tech to a fault. It was like being in a luxury clinical ward of a spaceship.
And then his name hit her memory with a force that made her stop searching and sit on the floor in her nakedness. Her hands were shaking as she punched his speed-dial. Her tears began to flow again – with relief. The number started ringing.
The banging and insults outside the bathroom door jarred her nerves.
Please, Ramón! Have the phone on! Wake up! I need you desperately!
Oh God, he was a Ruíz de Alarcón too! Would he want to have anything to do with rescuing her after this? After knowing she had nearly killed his cousin? She had chosen Enrique over Ramón and therefore hurt Ramón in the worst way possible. Would his large heart be able to deal with this? In panic, she disconnected the number. Her fear mingled with a sudden sense of doom. Both hovered above her like a dark starless sky about to drop and squash her on her last leg to hell. But the banging from the door was getting incessant.
“I need the fucking first aid kit, you bitch!”
Dear God. Her brain was doing everything to detach itself from her body and she had to summon something to assist her in not reinforcing such a situation. She crept as far away from the doors as possible and crouched in a corner, bitterly sobbing. Twenty-two years, a first lover eleven years older, out in a foreign country, and now this.
But maybe Enrique was bleeding to death! For him Ramón would surely come. And if he came for his cousin she would also get out of here. She punched Ramón’s speed-dial again and was determined to wait. If it was the inbox, she was ready to leave a mess…
“Mi vida? Is anything wrong?”
And all else broke in her anew, slithering into her like the moment of birth but in reverse. Between bitter sobs she managed, “Ramón, please come and help me… Please come and help me, Ramón… Enrique…hates me… Help me… or send… the police… to… help me… Ramón… Please… please… Ramón… help… me…”
On the other end of the line, Ramón shook himself wide awake. He could hear her desperation. “Helena? Please calm down, mi amor… what’s…?”
“Send me…. some… help… Ramón…”
“Hey, calm down. I’m on my way. Tell me what happened, Helena.” She could hear him already frantically stepping into his clothes, almost hear him ask himself: What on earth has Enrique done? “Helena?”
“Help me… please… Ramón… I’ll never… ask you… for anything… again…”
“Why should I send the police?” Then he heard the banging and gabbled voice in the background. Jesus! What was going on?
“WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING TO, YOU BITCH? OPEN UP NOW!
Enrique’s words sent her into fresh paroxysms. “Please, Ramón… get…me… out of… here…!” Dear God, please make him come to me. Or send the police.
“Helena, don’t disconnect the line, okay? Where’s Enrique? Are you hurt ?”
“He’s outside the door… I’m… in the…bath… roooom…!”
“Okay, I’ll be there in a moment, mi vida. Stay where you are and don’t disconnect.”
Relieved and much stronger inside, she curled up on the floor under the sink, her mobile pressed to her ears, listening to Ramón’s encouraging as well as soothing words until they were more like a lulling mantra repeated again and again.
As if Ramón had miraculously arrived and slain him, Enrique had gone quiet. Had he fainted or had he bled to death? Well, he could go to hell!
While listening to Ramón, her mind drifted back to the day she had first met the cousins and made the biggest mistake in her life.