The Swamp (Part Nine)
Hendricks looked up at the girl, sweat pouring down her face. He realized that the encounter with the terciopelos had tested her mettle, though she appeared to shrug it off.
Suddenly she seemed evasive, not meeting his gaze.
"I know you want to leave...as soon as you can, and I think, I mean, I know, I...I've found a way." She added, a hint of a smile crossing her sly face. She drew some rough figures in the dirt with a stick.
"This is the coastline, about four miles from where we are right now." she indicated.
"We're that close." Hendrick's eyes went wide in amazement. He stood up and looked towards the west, inhaling sharply. The smell of brine and surf returned to him as on a summer's day at the beach.
"And this is where my father lives. Over here," she pointed at a jetty she had drawn, "is the pier. My papa's fishing boat is moored there."
"So we ask your papa for help?"
She laughed and looked away, covering her face with her hands, then turning back to him. "That's not going to happen. No. We shall take it."
"What? Just take the man's boat? Despite my appearance, I am not a criminal. I can't just take someone's boat."
"Not you. We. We will take the boat." she concluded with a ringing finality.
"But..." he stammered.
"Don't worry if you think you are doing something to a good person. My papa, my papa..." she turned away, tears gushing from her eyes.
Hendricks instinctively took Luz in his arms, cradling her while she was wracked with sobbing and then, miraculously, the hiccups. Hendricks held her out at arm's length while she hiccuped wildly. They both began laughing hysterically, doubling over.
"You are the funniest little thing. Look, I'm very grateful to you, but I think it's really best for you if you just go back home now. Forget you ever met me." he looked directly at her, serious now.
"You must. Don't you see? If they know you're helping a fugitive, you'll end up in jail for sure." he pleaded, angry now.
"I can't go back home. I can't." she put up a hand to silence any response from Hendricks. She sat back and drank from one of the water bottles, which she then put up to her sweating brow. The early afternoon was scorching hot, and the sweat had soaked portions of her shirt, revealing to an embarrassed Hendricks that the lovely Luz was not wearing anything underneath. He tried to dart his eyes away, but she was a smart girl and she did not miss much of anything and smiled behind the veil of long bangs that fell across her eyes.
She looked at Hendricks who had turned away. Luz studied the tall, muscular man, ragged from the treacherous journey alone through the mighty jungle. That he was even alive at all spoke volumes to the man's courage and determination. She wondered briefly if he was insane, but then she had looked deep into his aquamarine eyes and felt the goodness there, the nobility. Whatever this man was, he was no criminal, and she hoped to God that he was not insane. Luz believed in fate and this man had been placed in her path for a reason. She did not know what that reason was, but she decided that she had to trust him.
She turned and took his hand, looking up into his eyes. "My papa. He is a very bad man. He drinks, and fights, and comes home in the middle of the night and hits my mother. Then. Later. He comes to my room." she turns away, arms crossed at her chest.
"You have to understand. It's just me and my mother against him."
"I understand, Luz."
"No, you can't ever really understand. No one can. What he does to me...it's horrible." she sobbed with more than a touch of anger in her cracking voice, "he was my papa, my hero, and he, he does this to me. To me, his little girl. And I hate him, but I won't let him touch me again. I swear to Jesus Christ. I will kill him first." She turned to him, pleading and proud at the same time, "Henrique, you must help me. You must."
Hendricks put his arm on her shoulder from behind. "I...I really want to believe you. And I do believe you, but what you are asking, it's just crazy. We could never get very far, you have to see that." he protested weakly.
"I don't care. I have to try. With you or without you, I have to try. I can't live like this anymore. One day he will kill me. He has already destroyed me in a way. I will never be the same again, but I can't live like this forever."
"What about your mother?" he asked, too late to stop.
"I can't protect her anymore. I don't think I ever did really." she looked dazed. "I need to think of myself for once. But I am being a silly girl, no? You are not interested in me, or my horrible life. You probably think these problems are nothing compared to what you're going through. It is alright. I will forget about you and don't worry, I won't tell anyone. Goodbye Henrique."
She started to walk away and then came running back to Hendricks, planting a kiss on his lips. Luz turned rapidly and ran into the forest.
Hendricks ran a fingertip over his cracked lips, his eyes wide open.
to be continued
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