Authors: Jenelle Jack Pierre
|A Mural of Hands|
|Jenelle Jack Pierre|
From the moment Antonio meets Natalie, he tries to win her over with the romance of Trinidad's beaches, hard work and charm, and by sharing his dreams. But Natalie is reluctant to let Antonio completely into her world. Determined, Antonio aims to knock down the walls that he believes are caused by the wealth of Natalie's family. What he discovers are issues deeper than love and money.
A MURAL OF HANDS
by Jenelle Jack Pierre
Copyrighted © 2012 by Jenelle Jack Pierre
Corazón de manos © Topanga
Licensed by Fotolia;
Old wall © Iwona Rajszczak-Borkowska
Licensed by Depositphotos
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing by the Author.
Table of Contents
A Mural of Hands
I was crouched down in front of the Camry, putting on a new fender, when I heard tires crunching over the gravel road behind me. The fender securely in place, I stood up and turned to see a silver Lexus a few feet away. Sunlight glared across the driver’s windshield, and I raised my hand as an impromptu visor as I tried to make out who was inside. Plump white clouds sat behind a beaming sun.
The door opened on the driver’s side and a lovely pair of long legs stepped out in strappy sandals. A young woman appeared, and for a moment I wasn’t sure if it was her appearance, or if it was the combination of an empty stomach and the intense heat that suddenly made me lightheaded. I grabbed the red handkerchief from the back pocket of my overalls and wiped away the sweat beading my forehead.
“Good morning,” she said, walking toward me. Her accent was American.
I stared, taking her in, light brown skin, long black hair like coal, almond eyes, and a small and curvy body that made her floral top cling to her. I caught myself. “Morning,” I replied. “Can I help you?”
“Something’s wrong with my car.” She motioned to the Lexus. “I heard Dilman’s was the best auto shop.”
“Yeah, this is the best shop outside Port of Spain.” She wasn’t from here. The car told me. It was a rare thing for a man in Trinidad, much less a woman, to have had that kind of ride, even one that was used. My stomach growled, and I glanced toward the trees further off the side of the road. The fruit on the orange tree was still green, not yet ready for picking. The calabash mangos, though, were perfectly yellow.
A couple had already fallen to the ground. Two or three of those would go down smoothly after I ate the corned beef sandwich I’d brought for lunch. “What’s the problem?”
She shrugged. “I’m not sure.”
“Let me take a look.”
“Do you know Dilman?” I lowered my eyebrows. “I’ve never seen you here before.”
“No, my dad referred me to him.” She crossed her arms. There was something about her that I liked, though I couldn’t put my finger on it. She unfolded her arms, and then rested her left hand on her hip. “So, where is he? I thought this was his garage.”
I ran my hand back and forth over my closely shaven head. Even though I was more interested in getting a date with this woman than fixing her car, I wasn’t about to take any attitude. I’d heard from a pal who traveled to New York City every summer that American women could be snobby.
“Dilman told us yesterday that he had to run errands before starting work for the day. I think he’s also visiting his folks. His family lives in San Fernando.” I pulled out the handkerchief and wiped my face again. “Only one other mechanic and I are here right now.” I inched nearer to her.
She looked at the dirt and grease on my hands, and raised an eyebrow. “Oh, okay,” she mumbled. “Are you ready to take a look at the car?”
I stopped staring. She was a bit of a smarty, my type. I grinned.
She dropped her arm and sighed. “This sun, man, it’s getting to me.”
I stretched out my right hand. “I’m Antonio, by the way, nice to meet you.”
She hesitated, and I wiped my hands off on the handkerchief to make them cleaner. “Natalie.” She smiled then, extending her hand.
The softness of her warm skin caused me to grip it. Her shoulders jolted forward slightly. So slightly, that if I wasn’t into her, I might’ve missed her reaction. For a quick second, her warm eyes appeared more curious about me than what might be wrong with the car.
I released her hand, encouraged. Women had told me that I was dark and handsome—my momma, my sister, and my numerous girlfriends. They’d told me that they liked how my body was strong and lean, and my skin smooth. There had been many meaningless flings, but I’d buckled down when I’d finished trade school, and started working at Dilman’s five months ago. And at twenty-two, I didn’t want to spend my time chasing women, like some of my friends. Every month, I saved up half of one paycheck to buy some property. And whenever the shop got busy, I would put in longer hours, knowing it would get me to my goal quicker. In about four years, I planned to buy some land then study about building a house on it.
I tinkered with Natalie’s car while she waited around on the grassy field. Dilman had built his garage on his own two-acre property, behind his house. It was a fairly good size and could fit up to four cars inside the garage when it rained, plus there was a tin roof extending out from the garage that could shade two more.
Eventually, I wanted to own my own garage. My dream was to be the number one choice for customers needing auto work.
After checking out the Lexus, I drove it to Ms. Jill’s Roti Shop and back. “The transmission needs to be fixed,” I told Natalie as I stepped out of the vehicle. I used the moment as an opportunity to show her that I knew what I was doing by explaining what caused transmission problems.
“How long will it take to fix?”
“Well, not long.” I pointed at a Mazda. “But, I’ve got another car to work on today. So perhaps, a day or two.”
Natalie pouted, clearly unhappy with this piece of news. I was turned on by the way her lower lip appeared fuller. “Fine.”
I spun the keychain around my finger. “You need a ride home or anything?”
Natalie shrugged. She seemed uncertain.
“I insist,” I said. “I don’t want those pretty manicured toes to get all dirty while you’re walking on this dirt road.”
She stuck her hands into the snug pockets of her short jean skirt as if she were thinking. “Okay, sure.”
I parked the Lexus in the garage before we got into my Nissan, the kind of vehicle you saw everywhere on the street. I was embarrassed by the dusty dashboard, sure that if I traced my pointer finger on its surface, there would be a visible line left. “Excuse the mess.”
Natalie took a glimpse of the back, where there were ripped seats, a few random, small car parts, and an oily t-shirt thrown onto the floor. She yawned and shrugged. “It’s not that bad.”
I smiled and started the engine. “Where to?” I shifted gears and turned the steering wheel. I placed my hand at the back of Natalie’s headrest while I reversed before turning the car around to face the road. She smelled delicious, kind of like a grapefruit.
“Home. Just a few minutes from here.”
I pressed a bit harder on the gas, taking a quick glance at her. “You live here?”
“Yeah, on Lennox Road.”
“How come I’ve never seen you then? There’s no way I would miss your face in a crowd.”
Natalie dipped her chin, blushed. “I go to UWI. I lived on campus my first year, but decided to move back home this year. Too much roommate drama.”
Huh, so she wasn’t too much of a foreigner. I exhaled loudly. I didn’t understand the roommate thing since I had never had any, and had lived on my own since I was twenty, when my parents and younger sister moved to St. Vincent after my dad’s job transferred him. It was only my brother and I; he slept most days, working nights as a security guard at Piarco Airport.
“So you’re going to the University of the West Indies. How come?”
“My dad’s originally from here. We lived in Rhode Island until my junior year of high school. Dad had been thinking of setting up his own business, leaving the corporate rat-race. Then when my grandmother got sick, he decided to pack up everything so he could make sure she was receiving good care down here. He started Sweet Thang,” she added, as an afterthought.
“What! You mean your father is the man behind that brand?” I chuckled. “The lemon-lime punch and passion fruit are my favorite flavors, girl.”
Natalie laughed too, gazing outside the passenger window.
We reached the corner of Lennox, a neighborhood filled with impressive, well-tended brick houses behind gates, and Brumfield Road, a neighborhood filled with people who almost had enough wealth to isolate themselves behind gates. I turned left onto Lennox Road. Natalie pointed out her house, and I pulled up in front of it. The bay windows glistened within their faded redbrick structure. From the outside, I could guess that the inside had many rooms filled with nice furniture.
“Well, thanks.” Natalie pulled on the door handle.
“Wait.” I shifted in my seat so that I could look at her directly. “I can’t let you go before asking you out. There’s a spot that I’d like to take you to.”
Natalie looked out the window, into the guarded house.
“Come on. It’ll be fun.” I didn’t want to beg, but once other fellas discovered a fine woman like Natalie, and realized she was a permanent fixture around here, I knew it’d become more difficult to go out with her.
“I’ll think about it.” Natalie turned and our eyes met.
Though I wanted a yes, I also wanted her to feel comfortable around me. “No problem. Your car will be ready by Wednesday.” She got out, slamming the door behind her, then pressed a few buttons on the panel attached to the wall next to the gate, and, in a few seconds was out of my reach.
When I returned to Dilman’s, I ignored the engine work on a Mazda I was supposed to repair. Wednesday seemed too far away.
I called Natalie on Tuesday, around noon, and told her that the Lexus would be ready that evening. She thanked me, asking me what time the garage closed. I told her five-thirty. She arrived by Maxi Taxi promptly at five.
Natalie looked even better than the first time I’d seen her. She wore a sleeveless orange shirt, exposing well toned arms, and jeans. Her hair was pulled away from her face in one French braid, exposing feline features. Those almond eyes seemed bigger and were darkened with black eyeliner. I gave her the car keys.
“It’ll be nine hundred dollars.”
She paid in cash, nonchalantly counting out some money from her wallet.
“It’s running fine?” It took me days to make that much money. Natalie glanced up at me, and I looked away, not wanting her to get the wrong idea.
“Like new,” I replied. I wondered if she’d enjoy a date with me and where to take her. In the past, I’d taken women to the coral reefs tour close to town. I decided that if Natalie agreed to go out with me, I would take her to the coral reefs in the country. It was a longer drive, but I’d heard that the water quality in the country was better.
Natalie handed me the money, but didn’t move. Taking it as a sign, I told her I’d been thinking about her. Then I asked her out again.