No spoiler in here, more like a glimpse into what happens when Joy gets thrown into the madness at last! 🙂
Our first turn was a close call too, but I think she’s getting the gist of that seven-speed gearbox: we’re now lurching up the highway leading to Cancún’s Hotel Zone to the roaring guitar of Miami Vice. We ultimately voted it a more appropriate theme for us, because—quoting Joy here—“You can literally hear your boobs bouncing to those drums.”
Well, hers anyway.
I know Angel is driving with March in that black SUV following us in the mirror, and I can only imagine the level of stress he’s being subjected to, watching his priceless Italian toy jolt and brake over and over along the many shades of green hemming Tulum Avenue. I hold on tight to my seat belt’s shoulder straps and mentally picture Angel’s tight-fisted grip on his crucifix when Joy swerves to pass a rusty pedo van. I hope Jesus’s on this.
“So, what does he do in life?” Joy’s quiet remark snaps me off my thoughts about Vince’s predicament as we’re driving up around Nichupté lagoon towards the resort.
“You mean Angel?”
Vast question. My gaze focused on the specks of blue sea flashing through the bushes and palm trees lining the road, I mentally flip through my options. Lying, dodging… those were easier done before Joy got propelled into March’s and my world. I slump in my seat like a treacherous slug. “Can we still be friends if I lie?”
She’s no longer smiling, her gaze focused at the horizon line beyond the traffic. “It won’t be the same kind of friendship anymore. More like we’ll stay in touch.”
In other words, it’s time to progressively come clean. After nearly a year of crafting up excuses and half-assed plots since the day March brought me home after my eight-month long disappearance. Joy knows he found me, but she doesn’t know how, and what really went down since the day he first broke into our apartment two years ago. She’s giving me a chance to lift the veil one corner at a time: I just never expected Angel would be where we started.
When I remain silent, she probes on. “Is it drugs? All of his men… they have guns. I saw them. And he didn’t buy that seafront villa running churros stands.”
“No,” I reply, and immediately I feel my world shake and right itself all together. We can start here. “He’s…” The next part takes some effort, as if the words were stuck at the back of my throat. “He’s an arms dealer. Based in Ecuador, but I think he sells internationally.”
Joy’s loll back and forth as she takes in the news. “Oh wow… wow.”
“But eighty percent of his business is legal,” I quickly add, spewing March’s pitch word for word. I’ve become a monster.
As expected, she won’t take any bullshit. “And the remaining twenty percent?”
I don’t want to lose her, and I’m terrified she won’t want anything to do with me once she sees me whole, all the strange people I call my friends, whom I owe my life to. But she said it herself, lying is simply off the table at this point. “I don’t know the specifics,” I admit. “But he has this… compound north of the Ecuadorian jungle, close to the Colombian border, and I think he sells to drug cartels. That part is definitively not legal.”
Let’s stop here for now. Her breathing has gone shallow and this is not the time to recount how March casually admitted he and Angel once had this deep conversation about faith and religion while burying half-a-dozen bodies in the jungle.
Her fingers quiver as she reaches for the gear paddle on the wheel. We’re gonna stall again at this rate. “You said March used to work for him,” she notes, her voice even.
I flinch. “He wasn’t selling anything…”
“Please don’t tell me was working the desk.”
“He wasn’t.” I can feel my nape grow damp with sweat the longer we discuss all of this. “Look… Not everything March ever did in his life was legal. But he wants a new start, and I don’t know how to juggle telling you the entire truth and respecting that he wants to move on. I’ll do my best—” I try, but my voice falters anyway. “I just don’t know where to start.”
She keeps nodding, her features pinched in concentration. She’s filing everything, every single word, non-verbal cue, Processing it all. “So it’s not drugs?” she says at last.
“No. It was never about drugs.”
“Has anyone ever died?” She goes on coolly.
I grip my knees, staring down at the little pineapples bouncing all over the printed fabric of my dress. “Yes.”