We’re waiting for Valeria’s eighteen-year-old daughter to join us. Lolita. She’s been tucked away at boarding school in Switzerland these past months and I’ve never met her. Now she’s finished high school and she’s coming home. I glance around the square, trying to spot a younger version of my wife. The medieval village of Segova sits among sandstone hills and vineyards. It’s peaceful and wealthy. Atop the hill, at the end of three miles of winding road, sits my wife’s castillo.
Valeria regards me uncertainly, pursing her perfectly painted red lips. “Are you sure you don’t mind that Lolita is coming to live with us?”
“It’s a large castillo, and it’s more her home than mine. Of course I don’t mind.”
“You say that now, but…” Valeria hesitates, and then finishes in a rush, “My daughter can cause problems.”
“Oh?” I want to smile, imagining the petty sort of problems an eighteen-year-old schoolgirl might cause.
Valeria takes a fortifying sip of wine. Under her breath, as if she’s ashamed, she whispers, “Lolita is a liar. She makes things up. Harmless little things, usually, but as she’s grown older, the lies have become more dangerous.”
I feel a prickle of unease travel down my spine. “What sort of lies?”
“We wrote to each other weekly. Lolita kept me updated with her progress at school and she told me how well she was doing this year and that her marks were excellent. When I got her report card, I found a very different story. She failed most of her classes. I don’t know what she’ll be fit for, now. And she—” Valeria breaks off, clenching her hands in her lap. “She tried to seduce two of her professors.”
My confidence of a few moments ago evaporates. I wanted a peaceful life, and now it sounds as if I’ll have a little troublemaker on my hands.
“I don’t know where I went wrong with her,” Valeria confesses. “I failed her somehow. She barely knew her father before he died, so it must be all my fault.”
I reach out, and Valeria puts her hand into mine. The diamond ring I gave her sparkles in the sunlight. “I’m sure it’s no one’s fault. Some teenagers are troubled, but she’ll grow out of it.”
“Perhaps you’re right.” Valeria doesn’t sound like she believes me. She glances over my shoulder and sits up. “Ah, here she is.”
I turn and look. A slender young woman with long, long dark hair is coming across the square toward us. She picks her way over the cobbles in high-heeled espadrilles. A spaghetti strap on her sundress slips down over one olive-toned shoulder, and she raises a hand to slide it back up. I swear I can feel the way it slides against her delicate flesh; hear her soft intake of breath.
The church clock starts to chime midday. Each peal gets further and further apart as the world slows down.
Distantly, I hear a woman’s maniacal laugh. A cruel laugh, one I’ve heard only in my nightmares.
Lolita. Lola. Little Lo.
The lines of her body are graceful and curvy, and her breasts are full and bounce as she walks. It’s not even that she’s a beauty that’s making my heart pound and my mouth go dry.
It’s that she’s mine.
I know it with more certainty than I know my own name. This girl is mine.
Time has become molten as I get to my feet. I reach for her hand, the milliseconds ticking past like centuries. Her cool fingers touch mine, and in that moment I know I will kill for this girl. I’ll slay anyone who keeps me from her.
“Darling, this is Zacarias. Your new stepfather.”
Her brown eyes gaze into mine. Whole universes are held within those warm depths and I want to tip forward and fall into them, floating in bliss forever.
The last hour chimes.
My world shatters.
“Hola,” my angel murmurs, a shy expression in her eyes as she looks at me through her lashes. She comes up to my chin. Her waist is perfectly proportioned to be encircled by my arm. The way she sings in the shower makes flower blossoms patter against my heart. Watching her talk with her hands when she’s excited by an idea is a balm to my tired soul. I know all this as if I’ve already witnessed it. How do I know all this?
The laugh goes on and on, ringing in my ears like the peals of doomsday.
“How did you go in your exams, darling?” Valeria asks.