“So what are we going to see here in Jerez, Mr. Tour Guide?” came the familiar chirp.
“There’s the King of Andalucia’s zoo and botanical gardens, if you’re not sick of flowers yet.”
She looked down at her diary with a smile, but did not open it to gawk at the rose pedals she’d stuffed in it that morning, after a smitten groundskeeper had gifted it to her, against all posted rules.
“And I want to check out the Clock museum, or as they call it, the Palace of Time. Maybe the curator will give you one when he sees you.”
My smirk made her blush, again reminding her of the rose of the morning.
She’d read earlier that Jerez was famous worldwide for its sherry and brandy, which made her wonder why I wanted to come here, until she discovered the town’s other claims to fame were horses and, of course, flamenco.
Once in town we drove around a little, since most of the sights were lighted for the tourists. The Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress from the eleventh century, was nice, she thought, but pretty much an afterthought after days at the Alhambra.
“All the palm trees almost make me homesick,” she laughed.
“Maybe we can visit a cattle ranch. Not quite Kansas, but the closest we’ll get.”
She shuddered, deciding against telling me whatever was on her mind,. “Maybe we can go to a horse ranch!”
“All the horsies will be at the shows. . . unless you want to see them breeding, and I recommend you don’t, for my sake.”
“So many places I could go with that,” she sighed, “but for the sake of the future, I shall refrain.”
“Wow. . . next time someone talks about your lack of fortitude, I will definitely have to defend you.”
“That’s all I ask.”
“Damn, you’re easy today.”
Powerfully hungry, she nevertheless couldn’t deny her instincts and stopped at a store that caught her attention while we were on our way to feed. Though it was closed, she forced me to translate all the girly stuff about silk-embroidered linen bedspreads with designs full of exotic flora and fauna, imbued with symbolic significance. “Two birds mean lovers, trees represent families, and so on. They were once woven for every rich girl’s bridal trousseau. . . it actually says it in French, because I have no idea what the hell that means.”
“That’s okay,” she grinned. “I know what it is, that’s what matters.”
“And now you want one.”
The entire world was grateful the store was closed. . .
Dinner for her was a magnificent feast consisting of conch chowder, lobster, sole fillets simmered in white wine and cream while topped with shrimp, and pineapple spring rolls with rum crème anglaise for dessert; she managed to identify every single morsel for my non-interested gaze. She appeared to be in what passed for hog heaven for her, and I found myself enjoying the sight: watching her pig out, savoring each bite, squeezing out the juices with her cheeks and tongue before chewing and swallowing. She had the most sensual mouth I had ever kissed. . . though my lips wouldn’t be touching hers until after she washed said mouth.
“I didn’t check the name of the restaurant when we came in, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was called the Stuffed Pig.”
She glanced an eye at me, but did not let it interrupt her savoring. In fact, she didn’t speak till it was over, and then it was only a sigh of deep satisfaction.
Until her usual after-dessert drink, which made her gag. “Gawd! If this is coffee, bring me some tea!” She looked down into the cup like something in it had bitten her. “On the other hand, if this is tea, bring me some coffee!”
“You are a true actress, stealing lines from Abraham Lincoln. . .”
She glared at me blankly, but the heavenly meal was over and she had to be content with coming back to earth. Blinking her eyes a few times while grinning, she managed to portray this fact to me. “This was the most excellent meal ever!” she sighed. “I’d love to meet the chef!”
So I stopped the waitress on her next pass and asked in Spanish if that was possible. Grinning, and not bothering to go back to ask, she waved us along, and as soon as the swinging door opened she started speaking Spanish so fast I couldn’t follow it.
Right behind the waitress, happy I was along to interpret, she allowed herself to be escorted through the impossibly cramped kitchen to where a bone-thin grandmother wielded a huge knife like an axe into a side of beef; She instantly gulped and tried to take a step back, but I was already occupying that space. Startled by this reaction, the old lady gasped and looked up at us, then realized what the problem was. Wizened and otherwise frail looking, she nevertheless had a smile that flooded us with kindness, and the eyes even flirted. A second later she smiled back, the world once again on its axis like it should be.
But before anyone could say a word, a man came around the corner behind the old woman, scowling as he wiped his hands on a towel. That scowl went away quickly as the waitress told him what was going on, and then he was glad he’d cleaned his hands, for he bent over hers and kissed it, making the actress blush.
The next few minutes consisted of Her heaping praise on the heaps of food she’d ingested and me struggling to come up with translations to words I’d never used much in English, let alone Spanish. When told the man’s son was the junior chef on the weekend, but was taking time off to care for his new baby, the actress looked shocked.
They could see the man preen as they walked away. “Good job,” I grinned. “There’s no place in the universe where it hurts to tell someone how young they look.”
She beamed just as much as the guy had. “In case we ever pass this way again, I want him to remember me.”
“Ha! You didn’t need the compliment for that. He was hooked even before he kissed your hand.”
Her head ducked down instinctively, but I could tell she was grinning.
The next morning she made a hash out of looking around the place, then out the window. “Is the town always so. . . exuberant?”
“Probably for the horse festival.”
“Most likely. So nice of you to come out of your way just for me.”
Sensing she’d made a mistake somewhere, but not able to spot it, she went with the truth, at least one truth inside her head. “Bringing me here instead of wherever you were planning to go.”
I tried to hold back that “you’re being an idiot” smile I’d had to use far too often on this trip, but failed. “As you see, it’s a festival, the kind where every hotel room is sold out months in advance.”
“Not for someone like you!” she tried, knowing it was doomed to failure but liking the alternative even less. “So you had a reservation because you were already coming here?”
“Nothing better than shooting babes on horseback, as you will prove later today.”
If that’s my punishment, I’ll take it! I’m just glad they didn’t make a fuss about your reservation being for one this time!”
I sighed, more dramatically than her usual. “Everything mine is yours, dearest.”
“Mi cosa es su cosa, right?” she giggled.
“My thing is your thing too,” came my answering grin.
She looked downcast, but of course it wouldn’t last, mostly because her coffee arrived. As always experimental when it came to her favorite addiction, she’d ordered a café solo, and now found it to be. . .
“Espresso in a shot glass.” She looked and sounded disappointed, but I was too busy telling the waitress “Todavia no,” because we’d neglected to look at the menu yet. Rectifying that now, we picked them up and instantly saw the shipwreck design on the front of each other’s cardboard food list.
“Did people actually survive ships going down like that?”
“In a storm? Not likely. If they hit a rock or such, they should be close enough to shore to float there. Or, if they’re not eaten by a petulant whale, they might be found years hence, anywhere on the seven seas, a drifting skeleton, yet another mystery of the unfathomable briny deep. . .”
She shuddered and decided to save such questions for when she wasn’t eating. “Nice voiceover,” she couldn’t help but praise, though. Then she settled in to finding something to eat. . . which would have gone well, had she not almost spilled her coffee by placing it on the cutlery.
Now that the tone has been set, we’ll get to the horsies next week.