The Swamp (Part 11)

Luz hurried through the jungle, angry and frustrated, wiping the tears from her face furiously. She could not really blame the American for not coming with her. Her problems were her own and had nothing to do with anyone else. What she could not swallow was the reason he gave. She didn't care that he was a fugitive. She wanted to help him, and selfishly help herself in the process.

She was much tougher than he gave her credit for. Anything, even imprisonment would be preferable to the living hell her life had become. She tried to forget about Hendricks but her mind kept going back to him, to his smile, his beautiful long hair, his strong but gentle hands.

She pushed these thoughts out of her mind. What happened in the jungle with the handsome gringo didn't matter a bit now. She had decided that her situation at home was intolerable and that she was going to leave no matter what. She had to admit that wanting to help the gringo had just been an excuse, though with good intentions. She liked him and sincerely wanted to help him. Hendricks may have been an escaped prisoner but she sensed something instinctively good in him, something deep down in his soul. Luz was certain that Hendricks was not a bad man.

Just because he had been imprisoned for supposedly committing some sort of serious crime did not mean much either, not with all of the corruption. It was common knowledge that the entire criminal justice system in Panama was a total clusterfuck. Hell, half of the men she had ever known had been locked up at one time or another in their lives. Everybody knew that the policia could take you away for any reason or for no reason at all.

She reached the edge of her village and walked down the dirt road that led past several huts elevated from the water, like shanties on stilts. She could see the wide, brown sand beach from here, the full moon sending shivers of light cascading over the breaking waves and tidal pools. This was one of the few beaches on this side that had volcanic brown sand, though there were no visible volcanoes on the island of Coiba itself. Nearby Costa Rica however, had plenty of them, and the entire region was full of active volcanoes, though none had erupted since Luz could remember.

She spotted her father's motor boat beached near their family hut. There were no lights on inside and that was a good sign. He must be out drinking again. This was her only chance. She would go inside, grab the keys and go quickly. For once, maybe she would have some luck.

The boat itself was not much, just a small two seater with a single outboard engine, the only thing in the world that her father owned and he kept it meticulously clean. She knew that it would be easy to push it into the mild surf, start it up and be on her way to freedom. Luz had no idea where she would head but anywhere would be better than staying here. She had decided in that hard-headed way of hers that always seemed to get her into trouble at school. Once she had made up her mind about something there was nothing and no one that could make her change it.

She went up the rickety stairs carefully after standing at the bottom listening for a couple of minutes. Her dad's bicycle was not there so she figured it was safe to go in. The door creaked open and she moved gracefully through the dark front room to her corner in the back, not really a separate room at all, but shielded by a tethered blanket. She saw her mother curled up and snoring on her ancient, sunken bed.

They were too poor to buy furniture. Her father had made the few items that could fit into the tiny hovel. She had grown up dirt poor but she knew that there was a whole other world out there and she was determined to discover it and to let the world discover her. She knew that she had so much inside of herself that she wanted to share. Luz was bursting with life and this rundown crappy-ass town was too provincial for her. As she got older she dreamed more and more about going to the United States or France, living in a big apartment, having her own car, and shopping at those big malls she had seen on her few trips to Panama City.

Her dreams were about to come true, she thought, and no one could stop her now.

Luz searched the room and found the boat keys exactly where he always kept them, hanging on a hook by the cast iron stove.

The young woman grabbed a few things and stuffed them into her backpack. She did not own much but she took her hairbrush, toothbrush, a couple of torn paperback books she was reading by Maria Vargas Llosa, and her little stuffed bear Peluchi, which had been her constant companion since she was a baby.

She paused, looking down at her mother. "I'm sorry Mami," she whispered, her throat constricting with emotion. "Te quiero mucho. But I have to leave now."

Her mother sighed and turned over, still fast asleep. Luz kissed her hand and put it on her mother's forehead, smiling sadly. "Some day I will return and take you with me."

A rough hand grabbed her and spun her around.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going, mocosa de mierda?" growled her father Rafael Cardenas, holding a pint of rum in his other hand. He looked down at her and his face went from fury to drunken lust in the space of a few seconds.

to be continued

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2 comments

valeriebelew profile image

valeriebelew 6 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

Yuck, can't relate to a man who'd mess with his own daughter, so opposite of my Dad. Sad story. v


bludstream profile image

bludstream 6 years ago Author

No one can, but the awful truth is that alcohol and drugs can bend and change people. I have seen and heard many stories about things like this while traveling in other countries.

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