The Swamp (Part 15)

The party in the Grand Ballroom of the El Dorado Country Club was in full swing and it wasn’t even midnight yet. Most parties didn’t even start until eleven and many times went on all night, until the last stragglers emerged squinting into the light of the morning sun. The band was playing frenetic salsa music and many couples were twirling on the hardwood floor, trying to outdo each other with wild turns and dips.

Blandon stood near the buffet table trying to get a few bites to eat without looking too much like a glutton. He was nervous after the phone call from the warden and he kept pulling his cell phone out, flipping it open and checking for text messages. Nothing yet, but he expected some news, hopefully good news, and soon.

Celia had found some diversion in a group of younger socialite wives. Many were like her, young women who had married older, well connected and well-heeled men. Stefania Perez, wife of the Vice Alcalde of Panama City grabbed her by the elbow and led her away from the party to the private women’s room in the clubhouse where they went into one of the stalls together and did a few snorts of cocaine from a glass vial.

“What if somebody comes, Stefy?” Celia was scared of the wives. She had grown up dirt poor and these fancy ladies with all of their money and things frightened her. She was not sure if she would ever get used to them. They were always so excessive in everything they did. They spent their days bossing around their armies of servants, running their immaculate households with iron fists. The working men and women often toiled from seven in the morning until very late in the evening and most of them slept in modest servants’ quarters adjacent to the opulent homes of the socialites.

The average pay for one of these servants was around one hundred fifty dollars a month and this included a generous three days off per month. Celia, who had worked hard all her life since she was very young secretly thought that these working conditions amounted to little more than slavery. But these servants, mostly female maids and nannies, were fiercely competitive about keeping their back-breaking jobs. Most of them had many hungry children to feed and clothe and even more had unemployed or severely under-employed husbands who were unwilling or unable to contribute to the care of their own families.

Most of the wives were married to deep-pocketed government men, but a few of them were married to rich ex-pat gringos or business tycoons. Some of the wives had been born with a silver spoon, coming from rich or well-to-do families. These ladies were generally white and most of them did not socialize with the younger girls and regarded them as nothing more than gold diggers. This was not far from the truth. A whole bunch of the younger, darker skinned gals had latched on to some rich geezers, hoping to better their miserable lives.

But the other reality was that the older, stuck-up white women envied the fantastic good looks of the girls with Indian and black blood and not least of all their wildness and sexual freedom. They could never dance like that, they thought, with such abandon, grace, and passion. They wished they were them, and that made them bitter. Their revenge was to look down on them and not let them into their inner circle.

Celia was considered one of the gold diggers by virtue of marrying the very rich Federico Blandon, though her circumstances were dramatically different owing to the fact that she had betrayed her first husband, the father of her two kids. Although Celia now enjoyed a life of luxury, she absolutely despised the toady Blandon and was wracked by guilt over what she had done to Hendricks.

It was her call to Blandon that had alerted him. Hendricks had thought she was asleep when he left, but she knew what he was planning. She could not let him go and confront Blandon. He was her boss after all and she knew how dangerous and hot-headed her husband could be.

Also, she had not told Hendricks the entire truth. Yes, Blandon had made advances towards her but the grim truth was that she had not resisted all that much. Even though the man disgusted her, every time she flirted with him and gave in to him, he would give her little gifts. Extra money, jewelry, clothes. She thought that she had gotten used to not having much money, but she resented the fact that even though she was married to an American, she still had to work like a fucking slave.

“Watch out, you’re dropping it! That shit’s expensive, mi hija.” Laughed Stefy, though they both knew she never paid for coke. Her young boyfriend Puente was a dealer and gave her all she needed. “Come on, Celia. Let’s go back in before they start to think we’re having sex or something. You don’t want all those old bitches thinking we’re tortilleras, do you?”

Celia sat on the toilet, her mascara running.

“What’s the matter, baby? Shit, don’t cry, chica. You’re going to ruin your makeup.” Stefy tried to comfort Celia.

“It’s alright. Go back inside. I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Are you sure? You want me to get Freddy?” Stefy rubbed Celia’s shoulders.

“No. No, really, I’ll be alright. I just need a few minutes.” She added quickly, not wanting Stefy to see how badly she felt. Even though Stefy had been her closest friend since her life had changed do radically a year ago, Celia still did not trust anyone. Stefania was a blabbermouth and she would spread calumnias, evil gossip, without hesitation or a moment’s thought about the ramifications to her so-called buddy.

Celia washed up then looked at herself long and hard in the mirror. God, she looked terrible. There were bags under her bloodshot eyes that no amount of makeup could hide. Her hands trembled and she felt dizzy. She knew she had been doing way too much cocaine and drinking too much booze but she felt she had nothing left. The kids were too young to even remember their father, but they sensed her guilt and anyway, they spent most of their time with the nanny.

If only she had not made that call, everything would have been different, she thought. She looked at the little vial of coke that Stefy had left for her and she opened it. One more snort wouldn’t kill her.

She looked up at the mirror, wondering what exactly it would take to kill herself.

to be continued

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