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La chaqueta de cuero

The Leather Jacket

By Kenny PennPublished 8 months ago 30 min read
9
Midjourney AI + Kenny Penn

White people, Miguel mused, have the craziest names for alcoholic drinks.

Take this shot, for example. A little Jäegermeister, rum, and some Goldschläger, and you had a drink they called, 'Liquid Cocaine'. The color reminded him more of caramel candy than any of the white powdered stuff he'd ever seen. Maybe cocaine is brown before the refinement process starts, who knows?

Before he could put more thought into it, a voice beside him asked, "Are you gonna drink that, bro, or just sit there staring at it all night?"

Miguel grinned. Picking up the shot glass, he turned and saluted his friend with it. "I guess drink, but I usually hate Jäeger, John. Tastes like licorice, the nasty kind."

John punched Miguel playfully on the shoulder. Nothing more than a tap, really, but Miguel had to suppress a wince. John was a big man, a solid six foot two inches and built like a college football running back. Sometimes his friend forgot Miguel weighed less than a hundred seventy pounds soaking wet.

Laughing, John said, "Don't be such a fucking pussy, man! That shit'll put some hair on your nuts!"

Miguel raised his glass. "To hairy balls," he said, and tossed it back. The drink went down surprisingly smooth, not overly sweet, the taste of licorice nearly non-existent. The schnapps added a little heat to it, too.

"Haaa!" John laughed, slapping Miguel on the back. He nearly fell off the stool. "That's what I'm talking about, bro! How about a few more? The party don't start 'til you're at least buzzed."

Well, you're already at least halfway there, Miguel thought. He wasn't sure he wanted that for himself though. Which was strange. You weren't supposed to drink without getting shit-faced, right? Really, who goes to a beach bar without getting smashed? Only the idea didn't hold the same level of excitement it usually did.

Why is that?

Maybe he was simply becoming bored of this scene. He'd turned twenty-seven just a couple months ago. He wasn't a freshman in college anymore. As of last week, he was technically a doctor. A medical doctor without his own practice yet, but perhaps it was time to hang up the dance shoes.

He shook his head. That couldn't be it. After all, they were here to celebrate receiving his doctorate. Leaning forward, he waved the bartender over and ordered another round.

"Hell yeah!" John said, and clapped Miguel on the back. To his credit, he swayed only slightly. "Drinks are on me, man, so get whatever you want!"

"This one will be my last shot for awhile," Miguel said. "I think I'll stick to Corona for the time being."

"Whatever floats your boat, pussy. I won't judge. Beer hangovers are the worst, though."

Miguel had no intention of drinking enough of anything to experience a hangover. He decided to change the subject. "Where's Mia?"

John stood and made a show of looking around, then shrugged. "Probably dancing. She's already way past the buzz train. Which is where you need to be. How about just one more after this one?"

Miguel shook his head. "Nah, maybe later. I'm gonna take it slow tonight I think."

His friend sighed and absentmindedly rubbed a spot on his elbow. "Ok. Let's go find Mia, then. There's a lot of eye candy in here to dance with."

"In a little bit." Miguel said, looking away. "Don't let me stop you though. Go find Mia, have fun, that's why we're here."

"Are you sure?" John asked. He looked longingly at the crowd of dancers. "Alright, but don't keep us waiting, bro."

Miguel grunted something noncommittal and watched his friend disappear into the crowd. I should quit moping around and join them, he thought. They were here for him, after all. He wanted to have fun, he really did, but it seemed he'd picked the wrong place.

He and his friends had been coming to Boogie's Bar for almost six years now. A small place out on Las Olas Beach in Fort Lauderdale, right down the street from Bubba Gump Shrimp and the International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum. It was their favorite hangout spot. You could drink and dance and if you got too hot you could take a walk right outside the door to the beach and wet your feet.

So many good memories here. So, what's the big deal then? Why do I feel so . . . apathetic. That's as good a word as any. Uninterested, bored, blah, almost a malaise.

He'd finally received his doctorate. That was reason enough to celebrate. Eight years at UM busting his ass and he finally had something to show for it. He'd achieved a worthwhile goal.

Turning around, he leaned back against the bar and tried to relax. 'Do It To It', blared loud on the stereo speakers, a song he'd danced to many times. Strobe lights flashed in between clouds of lite gray smoke. Anyone could dance in a place like this, even guys with two left feet like John.

A couple close to him drew his attention. A dark-haired, brown-skinned woman pushed back against a tall, skinny black guy in provocative, hypnotic movements. She wore tight leggings with a white shirt that hugged her curves in all the right places. She held one arm cocked lazily over the back of her head as she swayed, the other held a clear plastic drink cup, mostly empty. Miguel could make out tiny beads of sweat on her skin. Her arms were slick with it, giving her a beautiful sheen. The black guy had an arm around her waist and moved with her to the beat.

A month ago, watching them grind on each other like that would have set Miguel's hormones racing. Now, it did nothing for him. He sighed and began to turn back around, thinking to order another mixed drink after all.

Then she walked through the open door.

Miguel's breath caught in his throat, but he barely noticed. Beauty didn't begin to describe her. The word barely scratched the surface, but it was her attire that caught him so off guard. She dressed differently than anyone else in the room, wearing a short white skirt with a pink sleeveless blazer over a buttoned grey shirt. Long, shapely, bronze legs ended in open toed platform heels.

Breathtaking, she glided easily through the crowd of people gathered at the bar, searching with a confidence he both admired and envied.

Her eyes roamed as Miguel watched. She seemed to be searching for someone or something, like a lioness on the hunt. Brown eyes, irises large and bright, caught his from across the room, saw him watching, trapping him.

She smiled then, with full, lightly colored lips, and made her way toward him.

#

"Hi," she said, taking the seat next to him. "I'm Luna." Her voice sounded lite, warm, and soft, like summer rain.

Miguel had to clear his throat before responding. "Ahem. Um, h-hi." How could he have thought her simply beautiful before? All the moisture in his mouth suddenly dried, his tongue felt thick and heavy. "Can I, uh, would you like a drink or something?"

Luna smiled again, and warmth spread through his face and chest like wildfire. Before today he had never understood how someone could shiver from heat, but he did now. It flashed in his core and left his extremities numb.

"No, thank you. I'm good for now, I think. What's your name?"

"My name?" He blinked, unsure of what she meant. She continued smiling until he got a hold of himself. "Oh, sorry," he said, feeling his cheeks warm. "It's, uh, Miguel. Nice to meet you."

"Miguel," she breathed, as if tasting the name. "Mucho gusto. Are you South American?"

"Yeah, my grandparents are from Chile. ¿Y tú?"

"De Mexico. ¿Vienes aquí a menudo?"

Miguel's cheeks warmed again. He should have known better than to try showing off what little Spanish he knew. "Uh, sorry, I don't really speak that much. I've lived in South Florida my whole life." Which, if you think about it, means you should be fluid, idiot!

Her lips turned down for a moment, but she smiled again quickly. "That's ok. I asked if you come here often?"

Swallowing the sudden urge to blurt out how much he wanted to learn Spanish now, he said, "Oh, ok. Sort of. My friends and I are celebrating. I've recently finished my doctorate."

"Oh, qué bueno! So, you're a smart one then. They don't make you take a foreign language in college anymore?"

"Well, actually, um, yes," Miguel said, rubbing the back of his neck, "but I took French."

Luna laughed then, the sound hearty and musical. "Smart but unwise, that's ok. I like a little stubbornness in a man sometimes."

Miguel let out a breath and laughed shakily. He hadn't ruined his chances yet, thank God. He didn't want to lose out on this one. What to say now though? Tell me more about yourself? Lame. Do you come here often too? God, that sounded worse.

Thankfully, she spoke first. "So where are these friends of yours? Shouldn't they be here celebrating with you?"

As if on cue, a short Latina woman broke through the crowd of dancers and approached. She wore a black mini skirt and a white T-shirt cut short above her navel. Her black hair had been cut close to the scalp on one side and dyed with bright red streaks on the other. Grinning at Miguel, she walked up and pinched his ribs.

"Hey, loser! Why are you still sitting at the bar? Come dance with us!"

"I'm a little busy at the moment, in case you couldn't tell," Miguel said, rolling his eyes.

"Doing what? Jacking your pingita?" She turned and leaned across the bar. "What does a beautiful Latina have to do to get a drink around here? Excuse me!"

Miguel looked apologetically at Luna. "This is my friend, Mia. She's a little rough around the edges but she's good people."

Luna smiled and shrugged. "She's not bothering me."

Mia ordered her drink, reached into her pocket, then seemed to think better of it and turned back to Miguel. "You're a doctor now, right? Drinks are on you, then, perra."

"Hey, I don't even have a job yet!" Miguel said, but too late. Mia had already pointed him out to the bartender and taken her drink. Whatever. John was paying for Miguel's tab, so it worked out even.

Mia draped a lazy arm around his shoulder and took a sip of something green from her glass. "Come on, let's go dance!"

"Like I said, I'm busy."

She looked right at Luna then and rolled her eyes. "Yes, I can see you're with such great company," she said, her voice thick with sarcasm. "Come on, don't be such a little bitch!"

Miguel frowned and pulled away from her. What the fuck, man? Where the hell did that come from? "Don't be so fucking rude, Mia!" He took a deep, calming breath. He didn't want to be angry with her, maybe she'd had one too many shots. She could drink both he and John under the table when she wanted to. "Look, it's ok, just go on ahead. I'll be there in a few minutes."

Mia cocked her head and gave him a tight smile. "If you say so, loser. Don't wait until I'm too drunk to dance with you." Glass raised in the air, she turned and began swaying her way into the crowd and was soon lost from sight.

"Well," Miguel said, rubbing the back of his neck, "you've met one of my friends. Sort of. Sorry about that. She's a little tipsy, obviously."

Luna laughed, and again he was struck by how warm the sound of it made him feel. "I can tell. Close friends can sometimes be jealous when they see you spending time with someone else. She meant well, I think. That's what matters, right?"

"Right, I guess." Maybe he was the one being rude. She wouldn't have come if not for him. Whatever. Not like she hadn't ditched him for some dick every now and then. "I can drink to that. Sure I can't get you anything?"

Luna shook her head. "Really, I'm good. I'm not very thirsty anyway."

No one drinks alcohol when they're thirsty, he thought dryly. That only makes you thirstier. Probably couldn't get away with saying that without sounding like a pretentious douche bag, though. "Me either, really." He ran a hand through his hair. Actually, a beer would go down delicious right now. "So, um, what about you? Do you come here often?" Ugh! I said it! So lame!

She didn't answer, and he was sure he'd just made her think he was the world's biggest moron. A loser, like Mia always joked about, but it wasn't that. He realized her eyes were closed. She smiled faintly at a new song beginning to play. This one came from the early two thousands, a good reggaeton hit he'd always liked even though he didn't understand most of the lyrics.

Luna's eyes popped open. She gave him a dazzling smile and grabbed his hand. "I love this song! Baila Conmigo! Come on, let's dance!"

It was either go with her or have his arm pulled off. Miguel laughed and let himself be led to the dance floor. I guess I'll be dancing sooner than I thought.

Miguel was no stranger to the two-step, but he still felt clumsy, as though dancing with half a foot missing, compared to Luna. She moved like flowing water, naturally, as though she'd danced her whole life. Her hips weaved in patterns that left him breathless. She let him lead, so he took the opportunity to spin her around. She gave a delighted laugh as her hair floated carelessly behind her, as free and happy as a child.

People around them stepped aside when they came close, watching as the two of them circled each other. Some people nodded and smiled appreciatively, while others hid grins behind their hands and laughed with their partners. Oh well. He knew she was way out of his league but didn't care. He didn't think it was possible to care what anyone thought when you had someone like Luna on your arm.

The song ended much too soon. She looked only slightly disappointed though and leaned in to murmur breathlessly in his ear.

"Wanna get out of here? Take me for a walk on the beach?"

#

The moon hung full, huge and gleaming white in the night sky. Luna seemed to almost shine in its glow, beautiful and serene. She glided along beside Miguel, silent as they padded barefoot through wet sand along the shoreline. A slight breeze blew in from the ocean, chilling the skin and carrying pleasant scents of salt and seaweed.

Luna's arm looped snugly through his, her head resting slightly against his shoulder. Where their skin touched, he felt flushed and tingly. He thought, God, I feel like a teenager falling in love for the first time!

What a perfect night it turned out to be, too. Florida winters didn't last long, and the nights weren't typically very cold, but they could be. Especially when the weather forecasted rain. One minute it would be nice and clear, the next you were caught in a torrential downpour and your earlobes about froze. Tonight though, not a single cloud loomed above them. The air was chilly but not unbearable. The night sky seemed visible forever, stretching as far as the eye could see.

I should say something, Miguel thought, but what? He wasn't good at small talk. Plus, what if he ruined her mood? She seemed content for the moment, if a little contemplative. Perhaps she had a lot on her mind. God knew he did sometimes.

Opening his mouth, he started to ask her to share her thoughts, but then she asked, "Your friends didn't mind you leaving?"

Miguel hesitated. Their reactions had been strange, to say the least. They had both not only tried to keep him at the bar, but they had also treated him like he was Edward breaking up with Bella in the movie Twilight.

"Come on, bro!" John had said. "The night's just getting started. Where are you going already?"

"I told you, man, I have someone waiting for me outside."

John had looked at him as if he'd said the sun rose in the west. “We came here to party over your graduation, man. You don't think you're bailing out on us a little early?"

"Don't be like that, man. You're just upset I grabbed a girl before you this time. Lighten up. We can come out here again tomorrow if you want."

John had shrugged, given a small smirk and said, "Whatever you say, bro. I'll see you later I guess."

Mia had been even more weird. "The same girl you were talking to at the bar?" She'd asked, not bothering to hide a sneer.

"Yes, her. Why are you acting like that? She asked me to go for a walk."

"Whatever, mentiroso," she’d said, shaking her head. "If you didn't wanna hang out tonight you could have just said so instead of wasting my time." Then she'd turned and left him before he could get in another word crosswise.

Miguel shrugged and combed his fingers through his hair. He'd apologize later, though he wasn't sure he should. "They were fine with it," he lied. "They do the same thing all the time."

Luna chuckled a bit. "Bueno, that's good. It is a beautiful night for walking."

"Yeah." He looked up along the beach and saw a familiar lifeguard station. It'd been repainted a few times over the last nineteen years or so but looked essentially the same. Finally, he had something interesting he could talk about.

"You see that lifeguard stand over there?" He asked, pointing it out.

"Yes, you can't miss it."

"I almost died there once. Well, I say there, but really in the ocean. Anyway that spot is basically where the guard pulled me out of the water and saved my life."

He felt a tug on his arm and realized Luna had stopped. She stood still, staring at him with wide eyes. "Really?"

He shrugged, as if the memory of it didn't still give him occasional goosebumps. "Yeah. When I was ten. Got pulled under by a rip tide. Swallowed a bunch of water and passed out. The lifeguard had to do CPR on me and everything, like you see in the movies. They said I threw up about five gallons of water, though I think that was a little exaggeration."

Luna covered her mouth, eyes wide and impressed. Absurdly, it made him want to stand up straighter. "Ay, Dios Mio! You are lucky to have survived!"

"For sure. The crazy thing was a young woman had drowned there earlier that same day. Got stung by a few jellyfish, went into shock and drowned. My mom looked it up later and found out those jellyfish were still out there when I went in. That could have been me. Guess I was lucky in more ways than one."

Luna shivered and gripped his arm again. "That breeze is giving me the chills. Let's keep walking."

Only then did Miguel realize she wasn't wearing a jacket. He hadn't noticed before because she hadn't seemed the least bit bothered. Of course she's cold, she only has that blazer to keep her warm!

"Here," he said, and removed his heavy leather jacket. He immediately felt colder but suppressed the urge to shiver. "Put this on. It'll keep you warm."

She accepted the jacket gratefully, letting it settle around her narrow shoulders. "You're a very nice man, Miguel. I don't think I've ever met anyone like you."

"Me either." He said, then felt his cheeks warming again. "I mean, not me, but you, I've never met anyone like you before." Christ, when will I stop tripping over my own damn tongue?

She didn't laugh at him though, only squeezed his arm softly. "This is nice."

He couldn't agree more. "So, wanna keep walking?"

"Yes, just a bit longer, please?"

In answer, he began pulling her along across the sand once more. "For as long as you want, hermosa."

Eventually, they stopped under the foot of a long pier. The tide was low enough to let Miguel point out large clusters of barnacles stuck to the legs of the pier, just above the water's edge. Smiling, she nodded and turned to him, took his hands and looked him full in the face.

Is this it? Miguel wondered, swallowing down the swarm of butterflies threatening to burst out of his throat. Don't fuck this up, man, be cool!

"Miguel," she began, staring into his eyes. The moonlight reflected off the water's edge and pooled in her irises, like a girl in one of those Japanese animes. "Do you believe in fate?"

The question took him off guard, but he recovered quickly, pausing to think about it only for a moment. "Well, no, I suppose I don't. I don't like the idea that I'm predestined to do something or end up somewhere. It takes away from the idea of free choice."

Luna bit her lip. "But we're all destined to die someday, no?"

"That's different." Miguel replied, frowning. "Anyone who's ever been born will die someday. But I don't view that as destiny. I don't believe my life has been mapped out. I believe in choice. Destiny essentially claims that everything that happens between your birth and death is planned, so there is no free will."

She favored him with an amused smile. "And yet God knows all of our choices before we make them, doesn't He?"

Miguel shrugged and glanced away. He found it harder to think while looking directly at her. "If you believe in God, then yes, I guess that could be true."

"You don't believe in God?"

"No, not since I was old enough to reason." He smiled and gave a half chuckle. "My parents weren't too happy about that; I can tell you."

Luna smiled too, but Miguel was shocked to see tears swimming in her eyes. Was she upset about his non-belief? Or had he said something else to offend her?

"Luna, I . . . I'm sorry. Did I say something wrong? I'm not trying to imply anything wrong about what you believe."

She shook her head, but her tears continued flowing freely down her cheeks. They formed thick droplets at the base of her chin before falling to the wet sand below. "I . . . " She paused and took a deep breath. "I only wish we could spend more time together, Miguel. You are an interesting man."

"We can! Whenever you want, Luna." He tilted her chin up and stared into her brown eyes. They gleamed with her tears, like polished jasper stones mined in Brazil. Those eyes searched his own, seeking answers to questions only she knew. He leaned closer, willing himself to give her what she sought, what she needed.

He didn't know how long they kissed. It might have been only a moment, or it could have lasted minutes. He only knew she tasted as sweet and warm as her laughter. She held to him as he held her, wrapped in each other’s arms like young lovers in a Shakespearean play.

At some point they knelt down together in the sand and spent the next few hours between passionate kisses and desperate embraces under the full moon, until finally the early morning hour approached, and Luna asked Miguel to take her home.

"I've had such a sweet time with you, Miguel. Will you forget about me in the morning?"

Miguel laughed. "Forget you? God I can hardly wait to see you again! Come on, I'll take you home. And tomorrow we can grab a bite to eat at a little Cuban place I know of."

Luna reached up and traced a gentle finger across his cheek. "You're a sweet man, Miguel. The sweetest I've ever known."

#

Miguel woke the following afternoon stiff and sore, but in high spirits. He only waited long enough to shower and brush his teeth before calling Mia.

"You finally woke up, loser," she answered, but didn't sound angry or annoyed. A good sign. "Where did you go last night after you abandoned us?"

Miguel snorted. "I didn't abandon you. I told you I went walking with that girl I met. You know, the one you were rude to at the bar?"

A pause, then, "I thought you were kidding about that. You really met someone?"

"Yes! Duh! She was sitting right next to me when you ordered that drink and put it on my tab, remember?"

"No, but by then I was already fucked up. We were supposed to be celebrating, remember? Not ditching your friends. I hope she was hot, at least. Anyway, tell me about her."

So, he told her, everything from meeting her to how they'd spent their last few hours together. He was surprised by how wonderful he felt in the telling, like he was living it all over again. He needed to see her again, soon.

"She sounds un poco loca, if you ask me," Mia remarked. "I mean, who the hell talks about destiny and cries on a first date?"

Miguel frowned. "I don't know, maybe she had a bad day or something. Maybe her parents are assholes. Who knows? But she's not crazy, Mia. She's beautiful, intelligent, and interesting. Best of all she thinks I'm interesting too."

"Yeah, loca, like I said. Well, you certainly seem to think she's great. When are you going on the next date then?"

"I don't know, I need to call . . . " he trailed off, feeling as if a wall of ice had closed in around his chest. "Oh shit! Fuck!"

"What happened? Did you see yourself in a mirror?"

"I never got her number! I forgot! Agh I'm such an idiot!" Miguel slapped himself on the forehead. How could he have been so dumb? He'd have to go back to Boogie's Bar every night now, hoping to see her. Even then the chances of seeing her again were slim. He'd never seen her there before. What if she never come back?

"Yes, you are an idiot. But didn't you say you dropped her off at home? Just drive back over there and talk to her."

All the tension bled out of his muscles. "The house, of course! You're right, why didn't I think of that?"

"Porque eres un loser, that's why." Mia said, then hung up.

#

An hour later, Miguel pulled into the driveway of Luna's house. Her place was much nicer in the daytime than he had given it credit for last night. At least a four bedroom, it sat on a lot surrounded by pristine grass and flowery bushes that could have been trimmed by hand. A glass-enclosed porch led to the home's front door. Luna's parents must be pretty wealthy to afford a place like this, he thought.

Gathering his courage, he took a deep breath and pushed the doorbell.

After a short time, the front door opened, and an older woman stepped out. Older, Miguel thought, but still quite pretty. He could tell where Luna had gotten her good looks from. She wore a flower-patterned blouse with a long beige skirt and open toed sandals. She looked at him through the porch's glass door warily.

"¿Puedo ayudarle?"

Miguel cleared his throat. If she only speaks Spanish, I'm screwed. Abuela would laugh at me from her grave. "Ahem, um, hola, ma'am. Um, Buenos días. My name is Miguel. Is Luna here? I need to speak with her."

The woman stared at him for a moment, then turned her head over her shoulder and yelled, "Pedro! Ven! Este hombre habla inglés!"

Another minute passed before an older man wearing a t-shirt and a pair of Dockers stepped out, presumably Luna's father. He stood no taller than Miguel's shoulder but carried himself like a prize fighter. A receding hairline and a mustache streaked with gray hair did nothing to diminish his presence. This was a man used to getting what he wanted.

The couple spoke briefly in hushed tones, but Miguel thought he heard Luna's name mentioned by her mother. Pedro turned and regarded Miguel with a suspicious look.

"What do you want?" Pedro asked. His tone was a little more than hostile. Miguel had to fight the urge to take a step back.

Oh man, did I get her in trouble, shit! Perhaps Luna had more traditional parents. He hoped he wasn't about to get her into more trouble. "Um, hello, sir. Is Luna available? I need to speak with her."

Pedro glared but didn't speak for a long while. The silence stretched, growing more and more uncomfortable. Miguel began shifting from foot to foot, wondering if the man was going to accuse him of corrupting his daughter or something, but Pedro only stood there and continued saying nothing.

When Miguel could stand the silence no longer, he opened his mouth to repeat his question, but Pedro cut him off with a sharp gesture. "Is this some sort of joke?" He asked, his tone leaving little doubt: He was angry, alright. Approaching pissed, from the sound of it.

"Uh, no sir?" Miguel stammered. What the hell had he said? He didn't want Luna to be upset with him for getting on her father's bad side. "I just wanted to speak with her, nothing more. I'm not trying to take her anywhere."

"I'd say not. She's never going anywhere ever again. What the hell are you trying to pull here? It isn't funny, if that's what you think."

Miguel's eyes widened and he took a faltering step back from Pedro's rage. Never again? What the hell had happened between last night and now? Had he kept her out past curfew? Surely not, she was the same age as him!

"Um, no sir, I'm not telling a joke. If she made you worry last night, I apologize, it's my fault. Can I please speak with her? I just need to have a few words with her and then I'll leave."

Pedro glared at Miguel through squinted eyes, as though trying to decide whether to believe him. Finally, he said, "I don't know if you're being an asshole, or just plain crazy, but Luna has been dead for almost twenty years now."

Miguel's mouth dropped open, and he faltered back another step. "What? No, that's not possible, I was with her last night! I dropped her off here not seven hours ago!"

But Pedro was shaking his head. "You're mistaken, young man. Luna is dead. You must have been drunk or something and dropped someone else off somewhere else."

Had he dropped her off somewhere else? He'd only seen the house once and in the dark. He knew he hadn't been drunk, but tired? Sure. He looked around, then spotted the mailbox. The one painted with flowers and little palm trees. He narrowed his eyes and pointed to it.

"No, she told me she painted that mailbox herself back when she was twelve."

Now it was Pedro's turn to fall back, confusion written plain on his face. Turning to his wife, he spoke quietly in her ear, and she ran off into the house. Then he turned back to Miguel.

"What did she look like, this Luna of yours?"

Miguel didn't have to think about it, her image had been burned into his mind forever. "She's a little shorter than me. Long black hair, brown eyes. Face slightly heart shaped, twin dimples when she smiles, a small mole next to her left eyebrow."

Pedro said nothing, only continued to stare at Miguel with crossed arms until his wife came back out of the house. She carried a large eight by ten picture frame and handed it to her husband, who in turn approached the glass door and showed him the photo inside.

There was no doubt. "That's her!" Miguel exclaimed. "I'd recognize her anywhere!"

Pedro's lips pressed into a thin line, but he no longer looked angry. "Young man, what you say simply cannot be. Our Luna is dead and gone. She was stung by jellyfish nineteen years ago and drowned on Las Olas beach. We buried her at St. Joseph's not two miles from here."

Miguel shook his head, "I . . . I can't, I don't, believe you. It's impossible! If she is buried, will you take me to her grave? I have to see for myself."

Pedro handed the frame to his wife and nodded. "Give me a minute to put on my shoes, and I will take you there."

#

Miguel followed behind Pedro's Buick in a half-daze, his mind filled with questions. None of this was real. It couldn't be. He was simply having a really vivid dream. If only he could believe it, but no, there were too many details for him to be dreaming.

According to Pedro, Miguel had been speaking to a ghost. Had danced with a ghost, walked along the beach with a ghost. He'd comforted her tears and kissed her, spent hours laying with her. How could she be a ghost? It was unreal.

And yet, Mia didn't remember seeing her. Coincidence? She'd thought he was joking when he'd said he was going for a walk with the woman he'd met at the bar. John had been angry with him, as if he thought Miguel was lying.

He remembered the way other people seemed to move away from her, even those who weren't looking in her direction as she passed by. He'd contributed that to her presence, but perhaps the truth went much deeper. And what about those people who had watched them dance? Did they see only him? Is that why some of them had looked at him so strangely?

Is that why she'd wished she could see him again?

The Buick slowed at a sign that read, 'St. Joseph's Cemetery', and turned onto a path leading to black metal gates.

The cemetery was beautiful and well-tended, a place certain to cater to upper middle-class families. Green grass and trimmed hedges lined the paved road winding through the place. Miguel saw more than a few rose bushes and flower beds as Pedro led him further inside, until he stopped in front of a small mausoleum.

Pedro got out of his car and waited as Miguel did the same, not speaking until Miguel was close enough to touch. "We come here every year, on Luna's birthday. She was born in August, a beautiful summer baby if there ever was one. After her passing, my wife and I would come here every week to lay new flowers, but after a while I couldn't do it anymore. The pain was too much for me."

He looked as though he wished to say more but shook his head and simply motioned Miguel to follow. "This way," he said, voice hushed and tinged with emotion.

They passed the mausoleum and walked up a short hill. The wind blew and a chill washed over Miguel. He rubbed at the gooseflesh on his arms, looking around the grounds with wide eyes. He still held on to hope, still believed that this was some mistake or an elaborate ruse but couldn't help feeling a little creeped out.

Miguel half expected Luna to pop out from behind a headstone and scare the shit out of him. He'd laugh and everything would be fine. He held on to that thought with all his mental concentration, and very nearly made himself believe it, too, until he heard Pedro gasp. He followed the older man's gaze and stopped dead, unable to come to terms with that he saw.

A beautiful white headstone marked a grave about twenty feet away. It looked to have been carved by hand, its once defined edges smoothed by the passage of time. The people who tended this place must have cleaned it recently, because it stood untouched by dirt or vegetation. It looked like many others in the cemetery, but he didn't have to walk any further to know the headstone belonged to Luna.

The stone peaked at a small arc at its center. Across the top of that arc, as though someone had forgotten it there, lay a black leather jacket.

His leather jacket.

**Thank you for taking the time to read my story! If you liked it, please consider subscribing and checking out my other works.

Short StoryYoung AdultLove
9

About the Creator

Kenny Penn

Thanks for reading! I enjoy writing in various genres, my favorites being horror/thriller and dark/epic fantasies. I'll also occasionally drop a poem or two.

For a list of all my work, and to connect with me, go to www.kennypenn.com

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (5)

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  • River Joy2 months ago

    This really sucked me in. Your characters were well fleshed out the set up and twist was excellent. It was really well written. I enjoyed this a lot.

  • Celia in Underland2 months ago

    This was gripping Kenny! Brilliantly constructed. You craft dialogue so well, Brilliant and loved the twist at the end, did not see that coming!

  • Stephanie Hoogstad2 months ago

    Fantastic story. It reminds me of the legend of driving Mary home, where a man swore that he had danced with this young woman all night but then when he took her home, he went up to the house and her elderly mother said that she had been dead for twenty years (that’s just a very shortened version of one version of the story). This seems like a more interesting Floridian and Latinx version of that. Very well done.

  • Amelia Moore8 months ago

    this was awesome! loved the ending.

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