Authors: Nuria Solano
|What Men Don't Understand|
Finally translated to english.
From the best selling spanish author Nuria Solano.
Stories for women and about women.
Romace, suspense, loneliness, social pressure, lovelessness, and even science fiction come together in this book, which brings to the table the issues that matter most to us.
©2010 Nuria Solano (author)
©2012 Nuria Solano (translator)
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
La presente novela es una obra de ficción. Los nombres, personajes, lugares y sucesos en él descritos son producto de la imaginación del autor. Cualquier semejanza con la realidad es pura coincidencia. No está permitida la reproducción total o parcial de este libro, ni su tratamiento informático, ni la transmisión de ninguna forma o por cualquier medio, ya sea electrónico, mecánico, por fotocopia, por registro u otros métodos, sin el permiso previo y por escrito del autor.
1. The inner garden
2. The theory of love
3. This is not happening to me... and without leaving home
4. Patti's falling out of love
5. ... and without leaving home
7. There is so much to do ...
Three o'clock. Again, sleeping was impossible for Inma. During August, the unbearable humid heat of Barcelona make her skin dripping, and from tossing and turning in bed the sticky sheets would get rolled around her body, suffocating her. She had not sleep. There is nothing worse than spending the holidays without leaving home. Doing nothing. An hour earlier, bored to solve sudokus, though still uneasy, she had turned off the light thinking that sleep would come, in vain. The heat was not the real cause of insomnia.
In the dark, with the whisper of a useless fan, she kept spinning about the matter: Hugo had broken up with her a week ago after a two years relationship. Inma still couldn't understand why. Everything seemed to be going so well... Two months ago, when she turned thirty, she thought she was in the peak of life. With the love of her life. How wrong she was!
The holidays they had arranged together were canceled, and she was now spending her days off in the worst possible way, between mourning and anguish. Sibi, the lady upstairs, who also lived alone, had behaved beautifully despite being almost a stranger. Inma didn't not know what she would have done without her. The rest of her friends had left on vacation, and though they called her to worry, it was not like having them there to mourn over their shoulders.
She got out of bed and went to the small balcony of her room, instead of facing the street, it looked out upon a spacious interior zone. Below there was a garden with shrubs and grass, several poplars, and a beautiful fir with long branches, one of which came up almost to her window. The janitor kept it looking good, pruning, and watering daily. This was what she liked most about the flat she had moved in a month ago. Appart from not having the street noises, she had the illusion of nature in the middle of the city. And the flat got the same sunlight as one facing the street. Although, if she would have been superstitious she'd have thought that her misfortunes were to blame to the new place. Actually, for one reason or the other, she hadn't slept well there. Upon arrival, that strange allergy, that still was being diagnosed, made her exhausted. And in the office, tearful from sneezing and sniffle, she'd perform less. Her appearance also had suffered. But the last straw was that Hugo had left her.
She looked around at the other balconies and windows. It seemed that everyone was gone on vacation. Maybe Sibi and she were the only ones left in the building. How depressing! She went into the living room and turned the television on. A nature documentary was showing a snake devouring a bunny. Disgusted, she quickly changed the channel. There was a scramble of ads and teleshopping. Penis extenders, moisturizers made with snail slobber, pythonesses who insulted anyones inteligence. People were crazy! She snorted and turned off the TV. Calm was then absolute. A silence that hovered in the air, like a muffled beep. Dopey, Inma went back to bed.
Next morning things didn't seem better. The sound of running water woke her up. Benito, the janitor was watering the garden, punctually at eight o'clock. It was not an unpleasant noise, but woke her up when she finally had managed to collect a couple of hours of sleep. She leaned over the balcony and, to locate the janitor, she had to look at the tap of the eastern wall, and then follow with her eyes the path of the green and yellow hose, crawling through the vegetation to ending up in Benito's hands, who held it firmly. The image suggested a man strangling a snake with his bare hands. Perhaps that idea made her think she saw a small snake in the bushes, so she peered. But there was nothing; she had imagined it. She was still half asleep, and it was difficult to see things in the shaded area of the garden.
“How is it going in the flat? Are you now completely installed?
The janitor questions frightened her. She was really sleepy.
“Very well, thank you. Yes, but I wish it was cooler.
“You bet! But this is nothing compared to what I went through last week”.
“It's true. Have you been on holiday, right”.
“A short week in Venezuela; my wife and me. Mostly on the beach, but we also took a trip to the jungle. That is amazing!”
“I'm glad to hear it. Well, see you later”.
Inma returned to her bedroom. She noticed her hair was tousled, and she was wearing tiny shorts and a tank top. It was not the best look for socializing. Although Benito must have got used to see the neighbors anyway.
She prepared breakfast with an absent mind. Her head, once again, was with Hugo. Now it was his hypnotic smile, and this ability his thin hands had to slide down her body and find the vulnerable, sensitive slits. She kept then still, subdued. Hoping, wishing the slightest movement of his fingers, his tongue, searching the cleft.
The mug hit the floor and shattered. Warm milk, poured out over the tiles. With an uneasy restlessness, Inma picked up the pieces and mopped the floor. The bell rang. Through the peephole she saw Sibi's clear, transparent gaze, her slender body, and the almost perpetual smile drawn on her face. How old was she? Fifty?
“Hi honey. I hope I'm not bothering you, but look, I thought that maybe this would encourage you a bit”.
In a pan, Sibi brought a jar of freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, milk, two boiled eggs, croissants, ham, two rolls, and two cups.
“Oh, it comes very handy! My breakfast ended up on the floor. Come in!”
They had breakfast, and Sibi's small talk, like a whisper, had Inma distracted momentarily from her obsessions. Although in a moment of silence, she couldn't help to open her heart and talk.
“At times it looks like I'm going crazy. I even see things!
“Try not to think about it, let it go. This is all normal. You just swallowed a bitter pill, and you hardly get any sleep my little girl. The allergy drugs keep you dizzy, and above all, you have a lot of free time available! Look, you still have some unpacked boxes and stuff to organize. It's your new home! Why don't you put everything in it's place? What your hands do, so does your head”.
Inma smiled. This woman was a finding. Had it not been for her, Inma would be just mourning in bed.
After a shower and feeling savvy, she played some CDs to cheer up. Sibi had left a very nice little figure before leaving. He was a big headed man carved in dark wood that stuck out his tongue. He sat cross-legged. It smelled a little weird, as if it had been soaked in some concoction. “It is an amulet that wards off evil thoughts and spirits. Surely you don't believe in this nonsense, but hey, keep that out there. Any help is good. Don't you think?” While Inma held it in her hand, her eyes went to a framed photo on the dresser. Hugo and she smiled happily on a background of trees and a river. She put the photo face down, and she placed the little idol. Self-satisfied, she began to fix the house.
Several CDs were playing randomly. It began "Suffer Well" from Depece Mode, Hugo's favorite song. She pressed immediately to go to the next track, but the poison had already entered. "He told me to call him at any time, he didn't want things to end in bad terms". It may not be a bad idea. Hearing his voice, that always sounded like a lull at the phone, could make her feel better, but what would she say? "I fell terrible, I still have this allergy and I can't sleep. I spend the day crying, and my holidays are wasted". No, it wasn't such a good idea. She leaned over the balcony. There was still a veil in the morning. A haze that made the world more stifling, narrow, limited to everyone's misfortunes. She removed the soaked sheets from her bed and took them to the washing machine in the small kitchen gallery that, windows wide open, faced also the interior garden. Crouched, she was putting them into the drum, when he perceived something close, very close. She turned and saw, fixed on her, a look of cold yellow eyes, just a foot from her face. On the railing. Greenish scales. Long claws. She walked back trying to control her terror and not make sudden movements. Leaving the kitchen she yelled with all her might and ran in search of Benito. Down the stairs panting, arrived to the building entrance, but he wasn't there. She went to the indoor garden. There he was, digging to plant a small rosebush. When the janitor saw her, he stood up, but in doing so he complained and looked at his forearm. He had a little blood.
"Damn rosebush!" Benito protested. He was going to take a better look at the wound, but Inma was there, pressing.
"Benito!" She was suddenly breathless. She couldn't explain it. She shook his shoulder and pointed to the gallery. The janitor looked in that direction with uncertainty. On the railing there was nothing, but something green was beginning to move right where the brick wall started. Some kind of giant lizard, maybe an iguana, moved by the vertical wall as easily as if it were a plain.
"I've had it on my face!" Inma protested. "What's that?"
"Looks like on of those exotic lizards. It must had escaped from somewhere."
"Does anyone in the building have lizards?" Inma said startled.
"Not to my knowledge. But it may come from the buildings..., next door."
Benito looked at Inma. He stared at her, and was coming to her with an indefinable grin. Inma stepped back. The janitor moved his hands towards her and took another step. Inma screamed. Suddenly the man stopped. His eyes seemed to look nowhere now. He was sweating heavily, and his skin was turning yellowish. With his full height, he hit the ground. Inma's eyes widened almost out of their sockets. There was the janitor on the floor, shaking and foaming at the mouth. She ran to the building gate.
"Sibi! Sibi!", she cried while pressing the intercom button. No one answered.
When the ambulance arrived Inma appeared to be in a trance. She was barely able to respond to the questions that nurses asked her while trying to revive Benito, uselessly. Then Ado, Benito's wife, arrived with Sibi. The two were carrying grocery bags.
"What happened!?" They said in unison. Although Ado didn't wait for a response and rushed to embrace her husband, who lay on the ground, cold, with a bluish skin tone.
"It was horrible!", Inma said to embrace Sibi. "I called you, but you were not here. No one."
Ado screamed and they went with her. The nurses covered Benito's corps with golden shiny foil. They said they had to wait for the judge to arrive. Inma saw a nurse whispering to his colleague. She approached surreptitiously.
"Take it from me. I was in Africa in Doctors Without Borders. These are the symptoms of a poisonous bite. A scorpion, a snake ... ". When he saw Inma approaching he stopped talking.
Two hours later, Benito's mother and sister were crying too next to Ado. The body was already in the hospital, prepared for autopsy.
Inma returned home. She declined Sibi's offer to accompany her. She wanted to make some phone calls. Her mother's voicemail answered. She'd be on the beach, but she was so distracted that she might hear the message several days later. Inma tried her sister Gloria, who replied, but seemed not to hear.
“Inma, the signal is bad, I can't hear you. It seems that there is almost no coverage here. Wait ... No, nothing. Hey, I don't know if you hear me. We are visiting some incredible sites. I'll call you tonight or tomorrow, when we get somewhere with coverage. Big kiss.