Justin woke the next day, not in his bedroom, but on a leather couch in the hospital. Gisela was immediately admitted on arrival when the doctors detected some vaginal bleeding and a few
contractions. She could’ve suffered a placental abruption, possibly caused by the fall or Katelyn’s kick.However, by midnight, the obstetrician ruled out all danger, and she only
waited for dawn to be discharged.
He sighed and thought about how they’d all gotten here. It was done and dusted. Katelyn wouldn’t forgive him. But who cared? At first, he couldn’t stand the shame of divorce, but, as time went by,
his infatuation for Gisela got the better of him. He was happy to be with the woman he loved.
He tried to sleep again, but with all the drama churning in his brain, it was impossible. He swung his feet to the floor and rubbed his hand across his face. He’d never seen Katelyn act so...
violent. Unstable. He shook the thought away and examined the Christmas tree in the corner. Adorned with golden ornaments and twinkling lights, it reminded him of happier times with his children.
He crossed to the bedside where Gisela lay, asleep.
“Merry Christmas!” He planted a kiss on her cheek.
“Ah.” She sighed and opened her eyes. “Umm, Merry Christmas.”
“We’d better get out of here.”
Gisela sat up and pulled her knees to her breasts. “This is crazy. Where are we going?”
“Leave that to me.”
Things moved so fast. Discharge from the hospital. Air ticket booking. Cab to the airport.
Two hours later, they were at the coast.
The bellman tugged at his tie as if it was a python squeezing the life out of him. He held the door to the room and motioned for Justin and Gisela to go inside, then rolled in the luggage cart
The Madison hotel was tucked away in a crescent-shaped bay with villas sprinkled along the beach. Their room overlooked a swimming pool with a bar in the middle where red leather stools rose
from the water like crimson mushrooms. The whole place seemed to be asleep. This was certainly true of the few guests Justin could see, lying motionless on sun beds.
“Oh, this guy has a taste for finer things,” said Justin.
“Sorry, sir!” asked the bellman, most likely thinking Justin had addressed him.
“Which guy?” asked Gisela.
“Ambrose… he’d selected this place for the Christmas party.”
“Uh-huh, he must be a Casanova…”
“Oh—ha—ha… You’re nuts…” Justin turned to the waiter. “Excuse our bad manners. I guess we’re fine, you may go.”
“Anything to eat?” asked the waiter.
“Oh. Umm.” Justin grabbed the menu from the table and scanned it. “I’ll have asparagus, King size prawns and dry red wine.”
“Any accompaniment, Sir? French fries, mashed potatoes, bread…”
“I need to cut back.” Justin clutched his tummy. “I’m managing this.”
The waiter deftly tapped the screen of a mini-computer. Then he beamed at Gisela. “How ‘bout you, ma’am?”
“Mm… I’ll have the same…”
“Okay, why not just make it a seafood platter,” Justin replaced the menu.
After the waiter left, Justin shut the door. Worry lines crinkled at the corner of Gisela’s eyes. Considering what she’d been through, he expected it. He put an arm around her waist and pulled her
closer. “What’s up, sunshine?”
“Err… I dunno how to put it, uh, I feel kinda guilty.”
“Don’t torture yourself. It’s not our fault we love each other.”
“Yeah… but I can’t help but also think about her.”
“Trust me, she’ll be fine. It was wrong of her to hit you.”
Gisela pulled away and plopped on the couch. “Oh no, you can’t blame her. She’s hurt, and it was only human for her to lash out the way she did.”
Justin accepted what he’d done was awful. All the excuses in the world couldn’t justify his behavior. But he couldn’t control how he felt about Gisela, and his guilty conscience didn’t excuse what
Katelyn had done.
He poured himself some whiskey from the mini-bar, sat on the bed and motioned Gisela to sit on his lap. “I know what we did was wrong. But we can’t help the way we feel.” He ran a finger
along her cheek. “Let’s not talk about it anymore. After we eat, we’ll go shopping.”
“Oh, I love shopping.” She grabbed a chocolate from the mini-bar. “Well, window shopping, at least.”
He lifted her chin. “I’ll do with some of that...”
“No, this is mine… there’s more in the fridge.” Gisela brushed her lips across his. “You don’t take no for an answer. Do you?” She broke off a piece of candy, skimmed it across his bottom lip, then
licked it clean.
He swallowed the bite whole, pulled her closer and deepened the kiss. Everything about her excited him, and he refused to feel guilty about it. They belonged together because no woman had ever made
him feel this way. She relaxed into him, warm and loose—and eager. So eager. She moved her fingers to his shirt and released the first two buttons. He shifted her body so she straddled him—and
someone knocked on the door. He groaned.
“Whoever that is has terrible timing,” he said. Gisela giggled, removed herself from his lap and answered it.
Two waitresses delivered their orders and set the food on the table next to the window.
After they finished their meal, Justin leaned back against his chair and rubbed his belly. “I’m too stuffed to shop. Let’s save that until tomorrow.”
“No way. I don’t have a bikini for the beach… speaking of which. I’ll look funny with this bump.”
“On the contrary, the bump makes you prettier.”
“Just say it guards your territory better.”
Justin’s phone chimed. It was a message from Ambrose.
Hey, Can’t get thru your #. What happened? Everyone’s talkin’ bout u and Gisela. Pls call.
“Gimme a sec. It’s Casanova,” said Justin, dialing Ambrose’s number.
“Take your time…”
Ambrose picked up on the first ring. “Ambrose. It’s me. What’s going on back there?”
“Dude, you ran away with Gisela?”
Justin moved away so Gisela wouldn’t overhear their conversation. “What are they saying?”
“Man, why didn’t you fill me in? Katie almost bit my head off.”
Justin crumpled into a chair, clutched a pen and tapped on its arm. “It’s a long story. I can’t talk about it over the phone. Why don’t you come over?”
“Where are you guys?”
“Man, you got the taste. The same hotel you’d selected for the Christmas party.”
“Say what? When did you guys get to the coast? I thought Gisela was in the hospital?”
“We took the morning flight. Ah, don’t remind me of that… Katie almost killed her.” Justin crossed his legs. “You got to come. I’m booking you on the next flight.”
“Sorry. Got roped into spending Christmas at the hospital. It was Martha’s idea.”
Justin wanted to know how his kids were doing, and only Ambrose could give him a better picture. “Here’s the deal. I’ll book you a return ticket too. Only come for an hour and you go back.”
“Man, you can be stubborn. Okay, you win.”
Justin came over and stroked Gisela’s back. “I’ve changed my mind. Let’s go shopping. Can’t wait to see you in a bikini.”
“We must be making headlines back there.”
When they came back from shopping, dusk was falling. They changed their clothes and rushed to the beach. The water was gentle as Justin and Gisela waded through it, and the sunset like orange paint
on a blue canvas.
As they crisscrossed the sandy shore, Justin lifted his eyes to the horizon ahead. “I hope you’ll not stop loving me.”
She rubbed her tummy. “That’s exactly what I’m hoping for. That you’ll always love us.”
Beyond those magical waves was something even more amazing and breath-taking: The sunset.
His eyes watered. Gisela’s insinuation to the baby worked on his nerves. “Of course I’ll always love you… and my boy.”
Beautiful smudges of coral, lavender, turquoise, and a fiery orange blended together to create a sight so astounding it swept him away from the bad feeling he’d been having after the phone
conversation with Ambrose, just like the waves crept over seashells and stole them in a matter of seconds.
Justin stepped on a coral as he drew Gisela’s attention to the sun. “Whoa, look at the sun disappearing.” He picked up the coral. “Have you selected a name for him?”
“I’m all ears.”
She looked down at his hand. “Coral. His name will be Coral.” She closed his fingers over the shell.
“Whoa, I wouldn’t have thought of it that way in a million years. You’re just a genius.” He pulled her close and kissed her.
Three hours later, Justin still wanted to hang around the beach, but Gisela shivered in the cold breeze, and he rushed her back to the room.
Gisela had agreed to go down for dinner with him, but after showering, she changed her mind. While Justin washed down the food with dry red wine, the telephone rang. He beamed with excitement and
grasped the receiver. Somehow, he knew why the reception was calling.
“Hello… yes… he’s name is Ambrose. Bring him to my room. Sorry, tell him to wait. I’ll be there in a bit.” Justin added quickly when he saw Gisela shaking her head.
“You don’t have to worry about him.” He returned the receiver. “Come with me.”
“Nope. I’m sure you guys have a helluva lot of catching up to do.”
“Yeah. But he’s only here for two hours, then goes back.”
“At least I’ll be well-rested before you come back.”
Justin pecked her forehead and stepped out.
Ambrose waited in a lounge. Justin smelled his cigar long before spotting him. They hugged.
Justin licked his lips when he heard the chinking of the ice cubes as Ambrose swirled the whiskey in a short round glass. He started laughing. Old habits die hard.
“Oh, thank God, I dunno if it’s the chemo or the prayers, but she’s really improved.”
“Wow, that calls for a toast.” Justin raised his glass. “I’m so happy for you, man.”
“I pray she comes home soon.” Tears shined in Ambrose’s eyes. “Man, it’s been tough.”
Justin gently patted him at the back. “She’ll be fine.”
“Sorry. Let’s talk about you. How’s Gisela?”
“Oh, she’s great. Can’t have enough of her.”
“I can see it in your eyes. But... um, man, you’ve crushed Katie.”
Justin dangled his hands between his knees. “I know. But... well, what could I have done?”
“Anything but abandon your family. Your children are desolate. Olivia hasn’t stopped crying. She blames herself and feels if she didn’t bring Gisela to your lives, this wouldn’t have happened--”
Justin stroked his mustache. “It’s not her fault. If only Katie had handled this with decency…”
Ambrose sipped his whiskey.
“All the while I’m here with Gisela, I can’t help but reminisce my first years with Katie. She really changed along the way.”
“Mmm. They all do.”
“First, she stopped being my wife and became God knows who… my mother? So uptight I couldn’t joke with her as I used to and--”
“The sex reduced too, right?” Ambrose swirled his glass. “Sorry, just kidding…”
“Yeah, that too. In fact, each time I complained she’d say I gave too much importance to sex.”
“I told you the cure for that, but you ignored me. All you needed to do was to get a girlfriend.”
Justin still believed there were men who were faithful to their women. What had happened to him was just a slipup that shouldn’t justify infidelity. But he’d lost the moral ground to argue his
case. “You know I didn’t want to cheat on her...”
“C’mon man, you can’t ignore facts. Once the kids come, women change and their sex drive slows down—that’s if any is left. What’s a man supposed to do?”
Justin rubbed his chin. “She’ll come to her senses one day.”
“By the way, um, only Olivia knows I’m with you.”
“Oh no, she knows I’m at the coast with Gisela?”
“No-no-no. She followed me when I came out to answer your call. That’s how she knew I was talking to you.”
“What did she say?”
“She wants you to come home… to quote her exact words… ’tell dad to come home and we can resolve everything.’”
Justin’s eyes watered. He pictured his home, his kids… what he’d done presented itself in a different light. “I’ve not abandoned them.”
Just then, Ambrose’s phone vibrated. He emptied his glass and patted Justin on the back. “Don’t be hard on yourself. Have fun… err… but remember to come back home.”
He read the message.
“Oh, my driver’s here. Got to go, buddy,” said Ambrose.
When Justin went back to the room, Gisela was asleep on the couch. He carried her to the bed. She didn’t stir. He looked at her closed eyes and wished she’ll never become like his wife. Wished
she’d stay young, exciting and vibrant.
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