Sandy is a Spider is a novelette of eight chapters, posted over eight week days -- by me, your clock punching host, Cheeseburger Brown.
Getting up for work after a long weekend is no fun at all. It's six o'clock in the morning and I feel about as enthusiastic for my early morning production meeting as cow feels for a winter's day milking. Nothing's worse than cold hands on your teats.
My family buggered off to a movie yesterday so I could get some writing done, which was awfully nice of them. It can be hard to prioritize when you've got too many projects gnawing at you, but nevertheless I did manage to make some progress on our upcoming Hallowe'en story for the end of this month.
But for now, let's get to today's chapter:
Come evening the throbbing heart of Ensenada de Arcos Iris Villas & Resort was the Disco Kukulkan, a doughnut-shaped dancefloor with a full service bar at its core below a crow's nest for the DJ emblazoned with a neon outline of a stylized feathered snake. The disco had a faux-thatch roof and its support columns were encased in imitation wood fibreglass. On the north side it connected to a hot tub and to the south lay the beach.
The sun was setting, a fading bronze eye behind a veil of grey atmosphere. Out over the water ribbons of rain dragged behind the swiftly moving clouds.
"Fugging hurricane," swore Lorenzo quietly.
"You think it's going to turn inland, boss?" asked the bartender, a pale Caribbean black from the Bahamas with freckles on his cheeks.
Lorenzo shook his head. "Probably not, mang, but I want all the equipment under plastic yust in case the wind decides to blow some rain in at us, jou know?"
"No problem, boss."
Lorenzo nodded curtly and continued making his rounds, inspecting a display of liquor bottles and then asking for a cable to be duct-taped down so no one would trip. He shot the cuff of his white suit jacket and consulted his Rolex. "Disco opens in five minutes, people. Les be ready. The guests have been stuck in their rooms all fugging day, and they're going to want to have some fun, jou know?"
The wide-hipped Maya girls tucked their inky black hair into neat buns and smoothed their blouses after strapping on their change belts. The DJ lay down his first vinyl selects and queued up some tight, buzzing New Wave from England. The coloured patio-lanterns around the periphery of the disco came on, and then the lights at the bottom of the hot tub.
The first guests began to wander over. "You think the weather's going to hold?" asked a rich old bird from Miami.
"It's going to be a beautiful night, Senora Penworth," smiled Lorenzo, nodding brightly.
An old, heavily jowled man with tufts of white hair sticking out of his ears ambled up, winded from the journey from his villa. "Give me the usual, huh? A table where I can see the young girls dance but isn't too far from the john."
"Right this way, Senor Coriander."
Drinks were dispensed, hands shaken, shoulders clapped. As the disco filled Lorenzo wandered over to lean on the bar, surveying the unfolding evening and smoothing down his thick black mustache. He took a moment to examine his own fingernails critically and when he looked up Ryan Billing was strolling casually up to order himself a little something. "Senor Billing," Lorenzo greeted him quietly.
"Lo," said Ryan with a polite nod. "How's it looking?"
Lorenzo glanced at the darkening sky. "I think we'll be hokay tonight. Tomorrow might be shit again though, jou know? I've got Marcus glued to the fugging radio."
Ryan took his drink from the Bahamian bartender and sipped at it, brushing invisible crumbs from the front of his silk shirt. "You seen Wendell around lately?"
Lorenzo gave Ryan a hard look. "Wendell's out, mang."
"What do you mean, 'out'? He's retiring? Did he strike gold with that Italian broad?"
"Wendell's gone, mang. Forget about him."
"Why the tight lips all of a sudden?" Ryan leaned in closer. "Did something happen to him, Lo?"
Lorenzo frowned, chewed the inside of his cheek for a moment. "Jou running something now, mang?"
Ryan shrugged. "Sure. I have a few things going on."
Lorenzo looked around and then pulled Ryan closer by the shoulder. "Jou might want to think about taking a breather, Senor Billing. Jou know? Listen to my advice to jou: take a vacation, mang. Take it now."
Ryan chuckled dismissively. "What are you talking about, you crazy spic?"
Lorenzo's green-flecked eyes bore down on Ryan. He whispered, "There's heat."
Ryan rolled his eyes. "The hell there is. I already paid Gonzales this month. I talked to him last night. There's nothing going on -- nothing here, nothing in Cancun, either."
"There's fugging heat, mang. Are jou listening to me?"
"You don't think Gonzales would know if something were going down?"
"It's not police."
"So what kind of heat is it supposed to be?"
Lorenzo looked around again, straightened his jacket. "Cut and run, Ryan. I'm fugging telling jou, as a friend. Cut and run tonight. Come back in sis months, jou know?"
"Six months?" Ryan frowned, his brow furrowed. He hissed, "What the fuck is this about, Lo?"
But Lorenzo would say no more. He nodded at someone over Ryan's head and flashed his pearly whites. "Jou having a good time?" he called.
Ryan stared for a moment longer but Lorenzo turned his back to him and wandered into the crowd, shaking hands, patting backs, exchanging pleasantries in a powerful voice over the increasingly loud music. He yelled up at the DJ: "Don't turn on the dancefloor lights until the place is full, mang -- it looks pathetic."
Ryan shook his head and turned away from the bar. He immediately spotted Sandy making her way toward the disco and smiled. He waved for the bartender's attention. "Give me a white wine too, will you?"
"No problem, sir."
He met her under the patio-lanterns, holding aloft a frosted glass of wine for her. She self-consciously brushed at her floral-print dress and tucked her hair behind her shoulders. "I'm so glad you came," he told her.
"I wouldn't leave you hanging," said Sandy brightly. "Did you think I would?"
"No. Not you, Sandy, no."
He kissed her hand and gave her the wine. She looked around the rapidly filling dancefloor and bopped her hips experimentally in rhythm to the music. "I think I want to have a fun time tonight," she said, biting her lip. "I think it's been years since I had a fun time."
"Would you care to dance?"
She pushed her empty glass at him. "I want another drink first, okay?"
When they got to the dancefloor Sandy moved with a new kind of abandon, pressing herself playfully against Ryan and, for the first time, showing no nervousness about the irregular pink birthmark that stained the right side of her face. She flung her head from side to side to the beat, laughing and fishing through the flashing colour and shadow of the disco's pulsing lights to find his hand.
When they broke for another round of drinks she squeezed Ryan's bicep and whispered into his ear, "I think I'm drunk. And I think I want to tell you something. Can I?"
"Anything," he said.
"I think I'm falling for you, Ryan Billing. Does that scare you?"
He took both of her hands. "I think you're wonderful, Sandy. If I haven't said so before it is only out of respect for your grief."
She shook her head. "I got used to the idea of Anthony being gone a long time before he went. It was slow. It...we didn't have much, anymore, in the last few years -- between us, I mean. He lived in a world of pain. The cancer, you know."
"I'm so sorry, dear Sandy."
She pursed her lips grimly. "It's been almost a year. Everyone tells me I have to move on. And, do you know what? In the past few days I've started to feel for the first time that maybe I can." Her tone changed suddenly, and she buried her face in Ryan's neck. "But I'm afraid."
"Afraid of what?" he asked tenderly, speaking right into her small, perfectly shaped ear.
She looked up again. "Afraid that somebody as amazing as you could never fall for somebody like me, I guess."
"Whatever do you mean?"
"You're so together and so confident -- you're sophisticated, and I'm not. You live in New York City, and I live in the backwoods. You do something that actually matters for a living, and I just do what I'm told."
He looked her in the eyes and sighed. "You are kind and honest and beautiful, Sandy. I can't believe I've been lucky enough to meet someone like you."
"I'm not beautiful," she said, dropping his hand to touch her own face.
"You are," he affirmed earnestly, putting his hands on her surprisingly muscular shoulders. "I think you must be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
"Then why do you look so sad?"
Ryan turned away. "Let's take a walk."
The short, squat shadows of Maya labourers pulled rakes across the beach, combing it free of seaweed and discarded straws and empty bottles of lotion. They quietly made way for Ryan and Sandy as they sauntered along the water's edge, the thump of the Disco Kukulkan's music becoming tinny and muted as they drew further away.
"I had a call from New York this morning," said Ryan carefully. "And it's looking like I might not have a job to come back to."
"Oh my God, Ryan," said Sandy. "What happened?"
He sighed. "We've been taken over by another agency. A much bigger one. Nothing is for sure yet, but it looks like they're going to be moving in their own staff, offering the rest of us layoff packages."
"Jesus," said Sandy.
"I think they waited until I was gone to announce it. I think they knew it would crush me."
Sandy squeezed his hand. "Oh Ryan, what will you do?"
"Honestly, I don't know. I've been a fool. I put everything into my job. It was my life. And now that it might be gone, what can I do? Go back to an apartment I can't afford and scan the classifieds?"
"I'm sure you could get another job, couldn't you?"
He shrugged. "Sure. Yes. Of course you're right. I'm just feeling overwhelmed right now."
"The whole idea of going back to New York sickens me."
They walked in silence for a spell, their feet just out of the reach of the foam washing in at the fringes of each wave of black water. Up ahead another squadron of Maya caretakers retreated from their path like shy Oompah-Loompahs.
"Maybe you don't have to go back to New York," said Sandy.
Sandy took a breath. "I don't suppose you'd be bored enough to want to see Sackville. I mean, my place is small, but..." She coughed. "But you'd be welcome," she concluded lamely.
"Sandy, I couldn't ask that of you."
"But instead you could ask that I give you up forever at the end of this week?"
"Sometimes a week is all we get."
"If you don't want to come, just say so."
"That's not it at all."
"Forget I mentioned anything."
"I won't." Ryan stopped walking and turned to face her in the dark, hands on her shoulders which shook ever so slightly. "I won't ever be able to forget your kindness, your compassion, your trust. I don't want to."
"What do you want?"
He stepped back from her, looked out across the dark ocean. "What do I want? Sandy, I want you all to myself. I want to go wherever you go. I want to hold your hand and never let go. I want to forget everything that's ever happened to me and start my life brand new, starting tonight."
There was no sound except the raking and the surf.
Ryan turned around. Sandy was still standing there, shoulders quaking. He heard a muffled sob. He took a step closer and then hesitated. "Sandy?" he called gingerly.
She pushed her hair out of her face. "Let's do what we want," she said, voice trembling. "Why shouldn't we?"
"This is too perfect. I don't want to ruin --"
"You think too much."
Sandy stepped forward, put her arms around Ryan, and kissed him. She felt his lips melt against her mouth, his body relax. They pushed closer into each other, uncaring when a wave washed over their ankles and turned the sand beneath their feet to mud.
The Maya combed the beach around them, their eyes courteously downcast.
Later, back on the walkway Ryan glanced up at his villa, squeezing Sandy's hand. "Would you care for a night cap?" he asked with uncharacteristic nervousness.
"Let's go to my place," countered Sandy. She giggled. "Come on."
Once inside her villa Sandy seated Ryan on the sofa and tended to the kitchenette, pouring out two glasses of rum over ice. He noted the pillow and sheet shoved to one end of the sofa. "Do you sleep down here?" he asked.
"Um, yeah," she replied, handing him his drink. "It's cooler."
The ceiling fan cut the air above their heads rhythmically. Sandy turned down the lights. Ryan sipped his drink appreciatively, watching her move around the room. She locked the front door. She kicked off her shoes. She pulled her dress over her head and stood before him in her underwear, hands on her hips, regarding him with one finely arched eyebrow cocked. "Finish your drink," she advised.
"Jesus Christ," said Ryan, doing as he was told.
Sandy pushed aside the ottoman with a grunt and then knelt on the tiled floor at Ryan's knees. She watched him with a saucy smirk as she unhitched her brassiere and let it drop away, then traced tickling circles on his thigh through the thin fabric of his slacks.
Ryan drained his glass and put it aside, smacking his lips and furrowing his brow. "This is strong stuff..." he mumbled.
"So am I," said Sandy.
"I feel a bit dizzy," he confessed.
She looked into his face expectantly. Ryan reached out to touch her, his hand heavy and clumsy. He frowned, then blinked and withdrew his hand to rub his eyes. "...Damn," he whispered weakly.
And Ryan remembered nothing more.