Eduardo gave me directions to some hole-in-the-wall place where he last saw Lisette. He said that when he last saw her she hadn't changed a bit. He said he had gone there with the intentions of confronting her, but had become weak under her gaze. I don’t know how I will react to seeing Lisette, but I pray that I will be able to keep my counsel.

Lisette works in a strip club outside of Jacksonville. By the time I get there the day is waning and the sun has begun to set. The place has no windows. A flashing neon light informs you of what type of establishment it is. 'Girls, Girls, Girls', it boasts. 'Live, Nude and Beautiful', it promises.

I stand in the parking lot for a long while. Too afraid to enter. Too afraid to leave. Finally, once it is completely dark, I muster what courage I can and go inside.

The place is crowded with all sorts of seedy types. Truck drivers who are passing through. Lonely-hearts club members with no hope for intimate contact except the kind they have to pay for. Sailors and soldiers from the local military bases. I find a place that is dark and separate from them all, to be as inconspicuous as possible. I don't want Lisette to see me before I see her. I order a drink, but don't drink it. I want to be sober when I see her so that there is no excuse for me not to be able to control myself.

The ice in my drink melts as the night wears on. It is nearly eleven o'clock. I’m beginning to think that she took the night off. I know that Noor and my mother will be worried, but I can't leave. Not until I see her.

"Would you like a dance?"

I shake my head, turning down my second or third invitation. In a room full of men I seem to be the hot commodity."No, but do you know if Lisette is coming on tonight?"

"Of course. She doesn't miss a shift. She goes on at twelve. Do you want me to tell her you're looking for her?"

"No, no...I don't want her to know I'm here. It's a surprise." 

The dancer eyes me quizzically. "Okay," she says finally as if she's given up on an attempt at a complex thought. "Are you sure you don't want a dance while you wait for her?" she asks hopefully, jiggling her enormous, augmented breasts.

"No thanks...I'll just wait."

She sighs heavily as she stands up straight. "Fine then. Have it your way," she mutters as she marches away.

At midnight Lisette comes on with much fanfare. She seems to be a crowd favorite. They crowd around the stage clapping and cheering for her.

The first glimpse of her she takes my breath away. She defies logic. Chronologically she is in her thirties, but she looks no older than she had at twenty-one. Her body is lean, fit, and lithe as a cat.  Her mouth still has that secret smile in both corners. From a distance, she looks the same. I find myself moving closer. Inching toward the stage. I need to see her eyes. She has to look at me. I have to know if what I felt was real or some just some twisted fucked up wet dream.

I stand at the edge of the stage and watch as she hypnotizes the men before me, leaving them drunk off of her scent. My heart starts to pound as she draws closer. She’s mere steps away. Once she is finally standing in front of me I feel myself being pulled in. She sets those brown eyes on me...and it’s as if no time has passed at all.  She is my goddess and I am that little boy she took in hand. She kneels in front of me in one fluid movement. A slow smile spreads across her pretty face.

"Joaquin..." she whispers in my ear then pulls away. "I always knew we would find each other again."

I looked into her eyes. The sparkle is still there. Her smile broadens and then something just over my shoulder draws her attention away. Her eyes grow wide with wonder and then she falls forward—off the stage and into my arms.

“Lisette?” I whisper against her cheek.

Her head tips back. Gentle brush of her lips against mine. I close my eyes. Her lips are warm. Soft. But they taste nothing like I remember. There’s a strange taste under the hint of cherry lip gloss. A metallic taste. A taste like—


I hold her away from me. A strange gurgling sound seeps from her lips and her mouth quirks into a strange smile.

“Joaquin…” she whispers and blood bubbles out of her mouth. She touches my face then her hand drops to cover her heart. Dark red blood spurts between her fingers. She’s been shot!

“Lisette!” I screech in horror. She sags in my arms. Her mouth gapes. Her eyes loll blindly in their sockets. She’s gone. “Oh, God!” I sob, crushing her to my chest. I’ve only just found her and now I’ve lost her again.

Suddenly the room seems flooded with soundwomen screaming, men pushing and shoving, trying to find their way to safety.

Dropping her gently to the floor, I turn around to my right to see who has done this thing. To see who could wipe this beauty away in such a cruel and decisive manner. When I turn I find myself face to face with Eduardo. Reality comes crashing in as Eduardo's face contorts with tears.

"What have you done?!" I roar at him.

"I did it for you..."Eduardo sobs, "One of us has to be free, Joaquin."  Then, before I can even think to react, Eduardo puts the gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger. 

It feels as if I'm trying to run through chest deep water. Somehow I think that if I catch him before he hits the ground that he might still be alive. As I grab his shirt and feel the squishy tissue seeping from the gaping hole in the back of his head I pray and pray for a black out…

But none comes.


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