After Rod left we stared at each other in disbelief. What had we gotten ourselves into?
“He’s a freak,” I tossed out.
“Totally,” Michael replied.
Then, without another word, we sprang into action—our usual antidote to all things negative.
In a blur of activity, we assembled the bed frame, divested the mattress and box springs of their plastic swaddling, and flopped them over onto the bed.
At least we’d have a place to crash at bedtime.
Then we finished unpacking, showered and drove to dinner in Esperanza.
We were dead tired and more than a little discouraged. Dinner was a quiet affair, though after a couple of drinks we managed a few lame jokes at Rod’s expense.
When we got home we switched on the ancient window unit and were soon lulled to sleep by its old-fashioned clank, which had the benefit of drowning out the neighbor’s barking dog and the roosters that crowed like banshees all night.
The next day was my birthday. Despite all that had happened, it was bliss waking up in our new house for the first time. Michael got up early and made coffee. By the time I dragged myself out of bed he was already opening boxes and unwrapping furniture.
Before pitching in, I wandered out onto the balcony and drank in the stunning view.
It was an almost unimaginably clear morning. In the middle distance, to the right, lay the gentle mound of Isabel Segunda, dotted with red-roofed buildings. On the horizon, across a dreamy patch of azure water, rose the gray-blue ridges of Culebra, Vieques’ smaller sister-island to the north. The breeze rustled the palm trees fringing the driveway.
A wild mare and her colt grazed in the pasture below our house.
I turned back inside with a renewed sense of purpose.
We worked hard those three days, but it was rewarding. By Monday, the day before our return to D.C., the house was actually looking almost habitable. Everything we’d bought during our February shopping blitz in San Juan was now unpacked, wiped down, brushed off, and in place—sofa, coffee table, wicker armchairs, the works.
However, one major piece was missing: a large mahogany corner cabinet with louvered doors. Ironically, this was the most expensive piece of furniture we’d bought, not to mention the largest. We were totally mystified by its absence.
Another question for Daniel, if we ever got to talk to him.
Speaking of which…considering our recent conversation with Rod, we hadn’t exactly expected Daniel to sprint to the phone to call us, but we had thought we’d hear from him at some point.
Not so much.
In total frustration I dialed his cellphone later that morning and was astonished when he picked up.
“Happy birthday!” he exclaimed. Now I was even more surprised—and a little touched in spite of myself—that he remembered.
“Thanks,” I said. “By the way, Rod may have told you we have a few questions. Do you think you could stop by later today? We leave tomorrow.”
“Absolutely,” was his prompt reply. “I’ll be right there.”
“Maybe he’s realized what an ass he’s been,” I said to Michael when I hung up.
“And maybe someday pigs will grow cute little wings,” he nodded, patting me on the back.