CHAPTER 30 – Open Throats
hat night was not like any other night Jahaira had ever spent with Lenox. What Hector had shared with her still sickened her as if she had been poisoned. A few vague words had nearly broken her heart. She had to force herself to look at Lenox since he came home and when she did, she struggled to recognize the man she thought she knew better than anyone. When they had sex, she held back, guilty and ashamed that she had given in to her sexual urges to try to bury her doubts in the familiarity of their intimacy.
Ever since she found out that she was pregnant, her sense of smell and her appetite had both gone into overdrive. Random scents sparked voracious cravings for unusual foods at abnormal hours. That’s why she was in the kitchen at ten o’clock at night with a chocolate cake that she had just baked in front of her on the table. Normally, she would give it a chance to cool but she couldn’t wait another second so she grabbed a sharp kitchen knife to cut herself a piece. Four slices and two glasses of milk later, she sat at the table with tears streaming steadily down her face. All of the pillars in her life that kept the sky from falling on her head were crumbling and there was nothing she could do to stop it. The only thing that would save her from feeling completely helpless was to try to find answers for the questions that had been planted in her mind. She knew exactly where to start to get those answers.
Lenox opened his eyes to find the razor-sharp edge of a chocolate frosting-covered knife at his throat. He hadn’t felt when Jahaira straddled him in bed but he stirred when he felt the blade against his jugular. There was a cold trickle of blood that ran down the side of his neck when she pressed deeper into his flesh. Her tears fell on him like hot rain drops from a storm that he had no idea how to calm.
“How did my father die?” she asked
Those five words started to break the first link of the chain that secured his closet of secrets. He had struggled for a long time to keep that door closed but he knew that everything was almost over. He wondered how free he would feel to be rid of them. He was ready to talk, even if it meant his life.
“You don’t understand,” he started to tell her.
“I understand that you’ve been acting different ever since my father died. I thought that it was because I moved in with you but I was wrong. I found out that you were at his store, right before he was murdered.”
“Who?” he started to ask, wondering if Carmen had finally decided to betray him.
“It doesn’t matter who told me! I want to know how my father died!!!”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“If you don’t tell me who killed my father, I swear to God I’m going to cut your throat!”
Just like dead bodies, ugly truths often wash up on shores, bloated, rotting and carrying a horrible stench. This was no different. With a knife to his throat, he was forced to finally tell her about that morning that had started an inescapable chain of unfortunate events. He took a deep breath and told her everything about the day her father died, from what it felt like when he first walked into the bodega until the moment the shelves came crashing down on Caesar Ruiz’s head. Because he had re-lived those moments so many times in his own mind, it was easier than he thought to tell her every vivid detail about what happened. In spite of the shame he felt, he didn’t leave anything out; not even his irrational fear, panic or feelings of dread. He knew that if she sensed a single lie, or half-truth in his story, she would kill him. He still didn’t tell her about the crimes he had committed for Carmen though. After he told her almost everything, he watched her struggle not to slit his throat anyway.
For the second time in less than a day, she heard news that she didn’t want to hear. Hector had told her things spitefully and Lenox told her some more because he had been forced to. No one around her was quite who she thought they were, not even her father who had tried to kill the man she loved. She kept the knife at Lenox’s throat but her hand had started to tremble. He put his hand on her wrist to steady it but he didn’t try to make her move the blade away from his throat. She looked down at him and saw indifferent acceptance. Whatever she decided to do next, she knew that he wasn’t going to try to stop her. A few nights before, he had told her that he would burn down the entire world for her. Now he looked as if he was ready to allow her to take his life if it would give her peace. He closed his eyes as Jahaira raised the knife high in the air above him. Then, she brought it down violently and buried the blade in the mattress, inches from his head.
“I need to leave. I need to think,” she said and climbed off of him.
Lenox didn’t say a word or try to stop her when she put her heavy jacket on over her nightdress, put on her sneakers, grabbed her keys and stormed out of the apartment like a hurricane. He was left alone in the dark with troubled thoughts, regrets and relief. He was glad to be free of some of his burdens but, his heart was close to breaking after smashing against the hard reality that he might have lost the woman he had been fighting to keep.