Havana Jazz Club

Havana Jazz Club by Lola Mariné

Book: Havana Jazz Club by Lola Mariné Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lola Mariné
the window. “Can I give you a ride somewhere?”
    She shook her head and started walking again, faster now. The undergrowth stopped her from leaving the highway. The car started rolling slowly, keeping up with her.
    “There’s nothing for miles in that direction,” the young man insisted. “You’ll get dehydrated from the heat before you get anywhere.”
    Billie stopped again and looked at him. He gave her a cordial smile and opened the car door. She felt like her legs were about to give out beneath her, and she was exhausted. So she climbed into the car, not caring where she ended up, settled into the seat, and stared silently ahead. The young man put the car in gear, sneaking a look at the red marks around the girl’s neck, arms, and legs as he did so. Something bad had happened to her, but he didn’t dare ask any questions. Instead, he put some quiet music on in an effort to ease the tense silence a little.
    “Is the music bothering you?” he asked. She shook her head without taking her eyes off the highway. The man asked again, “Are you okay?”
    The girl nodded, her lips pressed firmly together. She didn’t seem to want to talk. He sighed and concentrated on driving. Still, he couldn’t stop looking stealthily at her and wondering what had happened. What was she doing walking alone on the highway at that hour of the morning? When he had spotted her on the shoulder, he had felt a shiver—a premonition that she was about to do something crazy.
    “Did you have a fight with your boyfriend?” he dared to ask, but got no response. After that, he gave up. “Fine. If you don’t want to talk, I won’t bother you.”
    “I need to go to the bathroom,” Billie suddenly said neutrally.
    The man was surprised to hear her voice.
    “Of course. There’s a service station a few miles ahead. Can you make it?”
    She nodded. Neither of them said another word until they got to the gas station.
    As soon as the car stopped, Billie jumped out and ran off in search of a bathroom. The young man watched her move away, intrigued, then filled the gas tank and went into the bar. He ordered some coffee and sat down at a table facing the bathroom, his eyes glued to the door.
    Shaking uncontrollably, Billie turned on a tap and dampened a wad of paper towels, then pulled up her dress and roughly scrubbed her thighs and genitals. The smell of the sticky semen between her legs repulsed her. She pressed the soap dispenser and rubbed compulsively, repeating the operation over and over again until her skin chafed, but the smell wouldn’t disappear. It was ingrained in her body, her brain, her nose, her mouth.
    She vomited.
    Then she washed her sweat-stained and tear-streaked face and breathed deeply, trying to calm down. She ripped off her dress in fury and washed her whole body exasperatedly, trying to contain her sobs and not scream. Suddenly the door opened, and a woman stopped, her jaw dropping at the sight of this nude ebony statue. Billie looked at her expectantly for a few seconds. The woman looked unsure whether to go in or back out again. She finally looked down and hurried into one of the stalls. Billie, suddenly calm, dried herself off, put on her dress, and went out to the bar.
    The young driver waved at her, and Billie walked over to him.
    “What can I get you?”
    “Nothing.”
    “Come on. Eat something. You’ll feel better.”
    At his insistence, she ordered a café con leche. He watched her in silence as she poured in sugar, her eyes fixed on the inside lip of the cup.
    “I don’t want to be intrusive,” the young man said. “But something serious happened to you. There you are all alone in the middle of a highway at dawn, with marks all over your body. You don’t even have a purse.”
    Billie suddenly realized the young man was right. She had left the house with nothing: no money, no documentation . . . But she could never go back there. Nothing in the world could make her return.
    “I don’t want to talk

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