‘What would you say, ladies, to going in to town?’ Gabriel asked gallantly.

Dona Flora glanced furtively towards Maria.

‘I can’t,’ she explained with some hesitation, ‘I have dinner plans and my father would be furious if I were late. We have just the one car.’

‘Well, I’ll take you home then,’ piped up Gabriel ‘I can come back and pick up the two of you and we can go into town.’

Maria was having none of it. ‘I’m not waiting here for you to deliver the princess to her castle.’

‘Forget it,’ said Jamil. ‘I’ll drive Dona Flora home and come back for the two of you. Hopefully by then you will have thought of something nice to say to each other. I don’t want to come back and find Gabriel with no eyes.’


They were silent in the car listening to the radio play salsa. The windows were rolled down and Dona Flora’s long, dark flag of hair flapped as it tangled in the wind. The air was hot but it dried her skin and gave her a little chill.

Jamil glanced over at Dona Flora and smiled. She smiled back. Then he reached over and placed his hand on hers. She did not withdraw it, but clasped his in hers and shook it in a friendly way. Not far from Dona Flora’s house Jamil pulled over onto the shoulder of the road.

‘What are you doing?’

‘I want to kiss you.’

Dona Flora pulled herself back towards door.

‘You are Maria’s, Jamil. Have you no shame?’

‘Maria is only after my father’s money.’

‘So, it’s true then. You won’t marry her after all.’

He threw his head back and laughed.

‘Like you, it will be my father who picks my partner.’

He reached over to pull her close to him. Dona Flora opened the door and jumped out of the car, slamming it closed behind her. Jamil watched her walk away, and, turning the car around he sped away, a plume of dust rising along the dirt road behind him.


The next week Maria and Dona Flora met for tea in town. They sat in the shade beneath an orange tree on the terrace of a small cafe. In a fountain close by a trickle of water sprouted from the hand of a bronzed Venus that was raised to the sky above.

‘Gabriel has been asking after you. He told Jamil he thinks it’s over between you.’

Dona Flora wasn’t listening. She was noticing, for the first time a streak of grey at Maria’s temple.

There was a moment of awkward silence as she sipped her tea. Finally, and with a sigh, she agreed.

‘Yes, I suppose Gabriel has lost all hope.’

They sat quietly, each in their own reverie, when suddenly a grin appeared across Maria’s lips.

‘I think it will be this weekend’ she said wistfully as she played with her hair.

‘What will be this weekend?’ Dona Flora asked coyly.

‘Why, the weekend Jamil asks me to marry him of course.’

Dona Flora smiled.

‘Yes, Maria, I’m quite sure it will be this weekend, too.’

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