The Cambry and the Lamborghini
A Broken Mirror Challenge Story
The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own.
The face was better looking, thinner, less bald, less grey. Not a younger me, but a different me, a better me.
“Are you that handsome, Robert?” asked Juan, my boss.
I hadn’t heard him enter.
“Hardly,” I said. “I thought I cut myself shaving this morning. I guess it was just a nick.” Lame, I thought. “See ya later.” I left the men’s room.
That morning was weird.
The power steering went out on my old Toyota as I pulled into our building’s parking garage. I lost control and nearly hit a woman. I looked around, making sure no one else was in danger, manhandled the steering wheel and aimed at an open spot, cautiously easing the car into next to a Lamborghini.
A ’97 Camry next to last year’s Lamborghini Veneno.
I got out, hoping to find the woman so I could apologize.
“You need to be more careful,” she said, sharply. The woman looked like the Italian models you see in Lamborghini ads—long, sleek dark hair, perfect makeup on a lovely face, tasteful, elegant clothes. Her bag looked expensive
“My steering….” I began.
“Robert?” she interrupted, anger turning to delight. “Robert Miller? I’ve been wanting to come see you!”
“Esperanza? Is that you?”
She laughed, stepped back, and twirled. “Yes. I look different, don’t I?”
“You look…you look great!” She did. I hadn’t seen her since she’d suddenly quit her receptionist job in my office.
She smiled–it was dazzling. “Ever since I came back, I wanted to thank you. You were always so kind. I know I wasn’t the best employee.”
“You’re being too hard on yourself.” Embarrassed, I didn’t know what to say. Esperanza was constantly late and missed work, usually because of an unreliable boyfriend who’d taken her car. She’d actually been a good worker, when she came.
“Thanks,” she said. “I just moved back. Things are going a lot better.”
I glanced at my watch. I was nearly late, but I was genuinely glad to hear she’d turned things around. “That’s great,” I said, catching a whiff of her perfume. She smelled wonderful, like some exotic flower. Weird. I don’t usually notice things like that. “Uh, are things…better?” I didn’t want to bring up the deadbeat boyfriend.
“Kiki is history,” she said. “That’s actually why I left. I was embarrassed to tell people. No, he’s gone. I got things together, enrolled in coding school, and now I’m a programmer. Things are going well.”
“That’s good news.” I said.
We both stood there, awkwardly.
“I’ve got a meeting with a client,” she said. “But it was great to see you.” She put her hand over mine, squeezing gently. I tried very hard not to notice how great her touch felt. She left without looking back.
I found myself staring after Esperanza Garcia, glad things turned around for her, uncomfortable at noticing how attractive she was. I’m happily married with three sons. I don’t lust after young women. I pride myself on being the kind of person that all my coworkers, particularly women, can feel safe around.
“She’s a looker, isn’t she?” a voice said.
I turned and saw a tall man, about sixty, with a distinguished head of thick grey hair and a neatly trimmed moustache. He dressed the way many Texas businessman do—pressed jeans, cowboy boots, red dress shirt with bolo tie, and a blazer.
Esperanza came in about five past noon.
“Knock, knock,” she said.
“Just a sec,” I said. “Let me finish this….” I slapped the last sentence on an email to a client, then stood. Yes, I’m old fashioned and stand when a woman enters.
She looked surprised, then smiled that smile again. “I’m taking you to lunch!”
“I, uh…” I had several things to do, and, although Leticia, my wife, isn’t the jealous type, I wasn’t entirely comfortable having a solo lunch with an attractive young woman, even if it was business. This wasn’t.
“I insist,” she said. “I want to do something nice for you.”
“Okay,” I said, grabbing my jacket. “Can we be back by 1:30?”
“No problem. I have a fast car!” she chuckled. “If I remember right, you like Italian. I know a place nearby you’ll love.”
We took the elevator down to the garage. She led me straight over to the Lamborghini, pulled a key fob from her designer purse, and pushed a button. The scissor doors swung up. I got in, awkwardly,
As she drove the few short blocks to the restaurant, I marveled at the car. I’d never been in a Lamborghini. The seats were low but sinfully comfortable. The dashboard had so many dials it looked like the cockpit of a jet fighter. The engine purred like a contented panther.
“Amazing car,” I said.
“Thanks. It’s my toy.”
“Being a computer programmer must pay well,” I said.
“Not that well,” she said, pulling into the restaurant parking lot. “This was a gift from my husband. He gets me lots of nice things.”
Climbing out of the low-slung super car was awkward. “Well, it seems like he takes good care of you. I’m glad.”
She looked at me oddly, and said, “Well, I did marry the devil so I could have nice things. It’s been worth it.”
I was puzzled. “Excuse me?”
She chuckled and made a brushing-it-away gesture with her hands. “Just kidding,” she said. We went inside.
I’d like to tell you that lunch was business, was just catching up with a co-worker, a pleasant surprise on an average day. I’d be lying.
It was thrilling. The food was amazing–way more than I could afford, but she insisted on paying. She also insisted we have wine with lunch. I don’t drink during the day, but she talked me into it. She leaned in close, kept covering my hand with hers, and we chatted about everything and nothing. She looked directly at me the whole time, making eye contact, like everything I said was fascinating
When she’d worked in my office, I’d noticed in a clinical way that she was pretty. I don’t have a wandering eye, and, like I said before, I’m happily married. When she’d met Esperanza at an office Christmas party, Letty, my wife, had said our receptionist was “cute, in a girl-next-door kind of way.”
Esperanza was now beautiful–thick, glossy raven hair, even features, large, dark brown eyes, long eyelashes, a large bosom I tried very hard not to look at as she leaned in when I talked, slim waist flaring out to curvy hips. It was both thrilling and exhausting to have a woman that beautiful focusing her full attention on me.
I don’t remember what we talked about, except that she said her client meeting had gone well, and that she would be doing a lot of work in my building so she’d have plenty of chances to see me. I think I gave her the rundown on my boys–all three grown and gone, I told her about the vacation Letty and I were planning.
When she dropped me off in front of my building and drove off, I stared after her car for a long time, the scent of her perfume fresh in my memory.
As I entered the building, the tall man I’d seen in the parking garage earlier walked by. He had a smirk on his face.
Lunch with Esperanza was what I’d been thinking about when Juan caught me staring in the mirror. After I’d left the bathroom, I went back to my office, trying to work, trying not to think about Esperanza, reminding myself that I had been married for thirty years and that I prided myself on being a good husband and father. I’d always been faithful.
I kept remembering her perfume.
Finally giving up, I went into Juan’s office. He looked up.
“Mind if I cut out a bit early? I had a car trouble driving in. I want to get it looked at.”
“Okay,” he said, shrugging. He was already back to work before I could thank him.
I bumped into the tall, cowboy-looking businessman in the elevator. He nodded.
“I saw you drive up and get dropped off by a woman in a fancy sports car.”
The elevator door opened on the garage level and he left before I could say anything.
I got in my Camry, started it, and sat, giving myself a moment.
I looked in the rearview. That looked like me–balding, grey, a bit pudgy, nearing sixty. I look like a Santa Claus who’s spend way too much time in the sun.
Oh, crap, I thought, the power steering. I steeled myself, preparing to muscle the steering wheel so I could back out without causing a fender bender or hitting an attractive woman.
The wheel turned easily, like the power steering fixed itself.
“That’s crazy,” I said aloud. “But I’m not complaining.” I moved the steering wheel back and forth. It turned easily, like it had when the car was new.
I thought about going back to work because the car was OK, but decided not to. Maybe I’ll go home a bit early and surprise Letty. The dash clock read 4:10. Maybe I can take her to dinner at a place that doesn’t have a drive in window.
Letty was furious when I got home. “I told you to check your pockets before you put your clothes in the washer. You’re so.... so..... lazy.”
Uh-oh. “Did it ruin any clothes?” I asked.
“No, because I found it first. But I keep telling you...”
“I'm sorry, I...”
“I don’t want you to be sorry. I want you to do better.”
Normally, I’d tell myself that she’d had a rough day, that a lot of things led up to her being this angry. On bad days, she blows up, but she’ll calm down quickly, and she apologizes to me, and things are fine.
Not that day. What she said hit me wrong. I’d come home early to take her out to a nice dinner. But she blew up at me AND blamed me for a little mistake. Letty’s not the neatest–I noticed lunch dishes on the coffee table and two pair of her shoes on the floor. I almost mentioned it, but I stopped myself.
“That’s not fair,” I snapped. “You can’t….”
“I’m venting,” she said. “Let me get it out of my system.”
I stalked to the bedroom, saying nothing. I’m not usually quick to anger, but I’d gone from good mood to white-hot-fury in the blink of an eye. Rather than fight, I walked away.
“Why are you home early? You always call and ask if you should pick up anything. Why didn’t you call?” She followed me.
I turned to her. “Bad day. I need a few minutes.”
She looked at me, irritation turning to worry. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“Just give me a few minutes.”
“Okay, grouchy,” she said.
I looked in the bathroom mirror, expecting to see my tired face. But the handsome, better-looking version of me stared back. He shrugged and pointed toward where Letty had left, rolling his eyes.
Which was strange, because I hadn’t done that. But then, he acted like my reflection, mirroring every move I made.
Weird. I splashed water in my face. When I reached for a hand towel and was drying off, I felt a soft hand on my shoulder. I thought it was Letty, coming to apologize.
I took a deep breath, looking up.
In the mirror, Esperanza stood behind me, caressing me. I turned around and no one was there, but I still felt her touch. When I faced the mirror, she was there. She rested her head on my shoulder, then left.
Jasmine. Her perfume smelled like jasmine.
I lay down, planning to rest a few minutes. I fell into a deep sleep.
Esperanza came to me. She appeared in my arms, kissing me tenderly. I knew I was married and she was married and that we shouldn’t be smooching, but in dream logic it was somehow OK. I tried to speak, and I may have said, “But Letty.”
Esperanza whispered, “She’s not here. I am.” She kissed me again.
Then, we were laying in each other’s arms, naked, like we’d just made love and were cuddling. She nuzzled my chest. I ran my fingers through her long, raven hair.
“This is perfect,” said Dream Esperanza.
Besotted, I said, “It is.”
“I always wanted someone like you.”
Then, we were zipping along the waterfront, Lamborghini top down. I was driving. Her long hair flowed in the wind. She smiled her billion watt smile. Between the power of the car underneath me and the beauty of the woman next to me, I decided I couldn’t ask for anything more.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart.” A gentle hand caressed my shoulder. I started awake, half expecting to see Esperanza, but it was Letty, looking sad. “I shouldn’t have gotten so angry.”
My own anger melted, and I sat up. “It’s okay. Sounds like you had a rough day.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Come help me cook. I’ll tell you all about it,” she said.
I followed her into the kitchen. She’d argued with her sister about her mother’s doctor. Our bank didn’t credit a payment she’d posted. Her doctor fussed at her about her weight and said she wasn't managing her diabetes properly. She really did have a bad day.
Dinner was nice–Letty is Latina but makes a great Irish stew. She told a story about a misadventure with the neighbor’s Dachshund. I said I’d bumped into an old co-worker who’d struggled but was doing better. We watched a sitcom we both like and laughed a lot. Later, we played Scrabble.
Esperanza came to me in my dreams.
I’d been sound asleep when I heard “I want you,” and feminine arms wrapped around me. I felt a hot, penetrating kiss. Soon, we were making love–not the tender cuddling of the afternoon, but a fiery passion that drove us to explore every part each other’s bodies.
It was the kind of sex I haven’t been able to have in years. It wasn’t the thrill of a younger woman. Letty’s quite attractive. I was different; as I’ve aged, the passion in my mind hasn’t dimmed, but the fire in my body has, the flame having dwindled so much I wonder if the pilot light is on.
That night, I was confident, aroused, passion-filled, completely in the moment, burning with desire. She smelled like jasmine; her soft gasps of pleasure fueled my desire further.
I woke in Letty’s arms. We were both naked and she was moaning, “Baby, I’ve missed this so much.”
“You feel so good,” I muttered, and continued what I’d been doing, the line between dream and reality blurred, but I was in the arms of a woman, and we were making love.
Then my body stopped cooperating. We were fully in the moment, kissing and moving our bodies together, and the heat started to flow out of my body. The curse of the middle-aged man, the villain called “erectile disfunction,” had struck again. I kept kissing Letty, trying to hold onto the moment, then stopped.
“I’m sorry,” I said, embarrassed.
“It’s OK,” she said, her voice kind. “It was nice, anyway.”
I rolled over and tried to spoon. It’s not rational, but feel ashamed when ED strikes. Then I remembered sex had started with me dreaming about Esperanza and somehow that had transferred to Letty, and I felt worse. I hadn’t cheated, exactly, but what I’d done wasn’t right, either.
Anger and shame kept me awake. I slipped out of bed, listening to Letty’s quiet, regular breathing. I went into the bathroom, flipped the lights on, and stared at myself in the mirror.
Handsome, improved me stared back, with bed head. This time, he mirrored my movements.
“You’re a jerk,” I muttered.
Esperanza appeared in the mirror, naked. She looked angrily at me–not at the me in the mirror, but at me, making eye contact. She pointed to the bedroom where Letty was sleeping. She threw up her hands in the universal ‘What the hell?’ gesture.
“Are you mad?” I asked quietly.
Mirror Esperanza glared, then nodded vehemently.
She slapped her palm to her forehead, telling me I was stupid, and pointed toward the bedroom again.
“You’re jealous? Of Letty?”
Mirror Esperanza rolled her eyes, nodded, and then walked out of the mirror frame. I couldn’t tell where she’d gone.
I spent the rest of the night worrying if I’d been unfaithful to my wife, and wondering if I was in trouble with Esperanza. I didn’t sleep well.
Juan rode with me in the elevator the next morning. “You look tired.”
“Didn’t sleep much.”
“Trouble at home?”
“Not really,” I said. “Just couldn’t sleep.”
We’d reached our floor by then. Juan headed to his office. I went to mine.
Gladys, our receptionist, stopped me. “You’ve started dying your hair.”
“No, I haven’t.” Men who dye their hair look silly.
“Suuuuuuure.” She didn’t believe me. “All that grey went away on its own.”
I went to my office and checked my calendar. A new client named Mr. Adramelech at 10:30. I thought about what Gladys said. I almost went to the men’s room but remembered the bathroom mirror changed my appearance.
I grabbed a client’s file and reviewed her financial plan.
The phone rang. I picked up.
“It’s me,” said Letty.
“Hi,” I said. “What’s up?”
“Nothing,” she said softly. “This is silly. I was thinking about you. Last night was….nice. We should do more of that.”
“It was nice,” I said, ashamed because I’d been dreaming about another. “I’d like to do more of that with you.” That part was true.
“I know you’re busy,” she said. “I have to go see Mom. But I was thinking of you.”
“I’m glad you called.” We hung up.
What’s wrong with me? I have a wonderful wife. She’s not the hottie she was in her 20s, but neither am I. Letty is what I want. Why had meeting into a woman I hadn’t known long or known well thrown me for such a loop?
Esperanza poked her head in. “Knock, knock.”
“Hi!” I said, standing up again. My heart sped up when she entered–at the same time, I wanted her to leave and never return.
“I’m stalking you,” she said, teasing. “Actually, I have another meeting upstairs and thought I’d see if you wanted to grab lunch again.”
“Uh….” I wanted to. But I’d just been talking to Letty, who’d told me, she wanted to do “more of that.” Regretfully, I said, “I’m sorry, but I really can’t today.”
“Okay,” she said, matter of fact. “But I’ll be in and out of the building a lot. See you next time I’m here, OK?”
“That’ll be nice,” I said. I should have said, ‘No, and please don’t ever come back.’ But I didn’t really think this Esperanza was the same as Dream Esperanza, there was no point in being rude.
The cowboy-looking business guy from the day before walked in, looking over his shoulder at the retreating figure of Esperanza.
“How can I help you, Mr.…?” I asked
“Adramelech. Milcom Adramelech. I‘m your 10:30.” He held out his hand. We shook.
“Pleased to meet you. Would you like to sit?”
He settled into a comfortable client chair across from my desk, refusing offers of coffee or any other refreshment. Once the preliminaries were over, I started the client intake process.
“So, Mr. Adramelech. What are your financial goals? What brings you to us today?”
“You do,” he said.
“I’m not very interesting,” I said. “I’m just your run of the mill financial adviser.”
“Look” he said. “I’m going to make a substantial investment. I want you to help manage my money.” He pulled out a cashier’s check made out for $50,000, but the “Pay to” line was blank, which was odd.
“Uh, that’s quite a sum, but….”
“But if you’re going to handle my money–and there’s more where that came from if you do a good job–I want to know who you are. If I can trust you.”
“Okay,” I said. “What do you want to know?”
“Do you ever feel life has passed you by?”
“Sir, with all due respect, I don’t see what this has to do with financial planning.”
“It’s my money. Indulge me. Answer the question.”
I shifted in my chair, uncomfortable. He hadn’t moved since he’d sat, except to talk. I don’t even thing he’d blinked.
“No,” I said, “I don’t think life has passed me by. I’ve worked for the same company for than 20 years. I’ve given people good financial advice. Letty and I have been married for nearly 30 years, and we’ve made a good life together. We have three boys, and they’re all good people. I’m happy with that.”
He stared, unblinking, like he was expecting me to say more. When I didn’t he said, “You’ve talked about other people. What about you? What do you want?”
I shifted again, more uncomfortable.
“I guess I want to keep on giving good financial advice. I want to be a grandfather. Maybe, someday, take Letty to Machu Pichu.”
“You’d better go soon,” he said, with a bit of a chortle. “Man your age might not make it to the top.” Then, his face grew serious. “You’re still talking about others. What do you want?”
“I don’t know…”
“That Toyota you drive is 25 years old. You spent every penny you’ve got getting three kids through college and now you’re broke. You take your lunch to work. You eat ham and cheese sandwiches and Jell-O and little bags of chips like you’re still in grade school. Your house is run down. Your suit is fifteen years old and your shoes are scuffed. You go home to the same woman every night, and I’ll bet she blames you when she’s had a bad day. And…”
“Wait a minute! How do you know those things?” I was getting creeped out.
“You know what you didn’t say?”
“What?” I said, heat in my voice.
“That what I said wasn’t true.”
I stopped. “So, what’s your point?”
“Maybe you should start thinking of you. Why can’t you have a nice car? Why can’t you go out to lunch? Why can’t you buy yourself a nice suit, instead of every penny going to support someone else?”
“You’re not bad looking. A bit worn, but nothing a makeover and a new wardrobe wouldn’t cure. That babe in the Lamborghini likes you.”
“But Letty….” I said.
“Look,” he said, “I’m not telling you to do anything. I’m just asking questions. But take this,” he said, holding the cashier’s check out, “and open an account. Put the money where you want. I’ll trust you.”
I took the check, “Okay, I…”
He handed me a card. “And take this. Give me a call sometime. I’ll show you how to live a little.”
He shook my hand and left. His card was black, embossed with gold. All it said was “Milcom Adramelech” and a local phone number.
When Esperanza “happened” to pop in the next day and asked me to lunch, I said “yes.”
She let me drive the Lamborghini.
I threw myself into my relationship with Letty, bringing her flowers, being extra attentive, making meals she liked, taking her for walks…being as dutiful and attentive and loving as I could.
Dream Esperanza kept coming to me at night, and we’d make passionate love. Sometimes, I would wake up and would find myself making love to my wife. My ED went away, so I would finish with Letty what I started with Dream Esperanza. I guilty, but Letty seemed happier than she’d been in a while.
Dream Esperanza still gave me dirty looks in the bathroom mirror when I made love to Letty.
I deposited Adramelech’s money in a money market account, which started earning at a ridiculous rate. He sent emails saying he was pleased with my progress. They always closed with “Have you started thinking about yourself yet?”
Real Esperanza stopped by my office every week or so. She never acted like Dream Esperanza–she was always gorgeously put together and very chic, but after our first lunch, she was friendly but didn’t flirt.
I didn’t tell Letty about our lunches.
One day, Esperanza and I got into the elevator and Juan called, “Hold a sec,” and I propped the elevator open with my hand, allowing him to slip in.
He nodded to me. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” I realized I should introduce him. “Juan, this is…”
“He can’t see me,” said Esperanza.
“What?” Juan looked at me, waiting for me to continue. I had waved a hand toward her, but he looked over, not seeing anyone. She was there, though, looking as always like an Italian runway model, the smell of her, of jasmine, strong in the closed space.
“Do you smell anything?” I asked.
He sniffed. “Not really. Maybe a little bit of cleaner.”
“Never mind,” I said. He left. Esperanza stepped out of the elevator, and I followed her, confused.
“I don’t understand,” I told her. “He can’t see you? Are you here? Am I going crazy?”
She stepped close, and cupped my face in her hand, giving a gentle caress, which I was sure I felt.
“I am here. For you. With you.”
“Are you real?”
“I’m real to you,” her smile was gentle, inviting.
“I don’t understand.”
“Robert, you can have anything you want. A fancy car,” she said, pointing at the Lamborghini in a parking stall. “Nice clothes,” she said, gesturing down at her elegant outfit. “Money. Comfort.” She stepped closer, pushing against me in a way that made my heart race. “You can have me, if you want.”
I’m such a dork that, when a beautiful woman pressed against me, I panicked and stepped back. Maybe I’m not a dork.
“You sound like my client, that Adramelech guy.”
She smiled ironically. “He’s my husband.”
I stepped back, farther. “Your husband? And you’re saying I, uh, can have you?”
She laughed, a musical tone. “Milcom’s not jealous. I told you, he takes care of me. He gives me whatever I want. If I want you” she said, “It’s not a problem. He likes you. Says it’s time for you to think of yourself.”
She closed the distance between us. “I know you think about me…about us…while you’re in bed. Even if you cheat on me with her.”
“Wait? I’m cheating on you with my wife?”
She raised her eyebrows provocatively. “Yes. If I get your engine running, why should she get to ….”
Realization dawned. “You’re not real. You’re just….I’ve been unhappy…you’re a …what? Fantasy. A temptation?”
She shrugged. “Just because Juan can’t see me doesn’t mean I’m not real. I was sincere when I told you how much your kindness meant to me. When Milcom asked me if I knew anyone who never thinks of himself, you were the first person I thought of.”
My legs were starting to hurt from standing in the concrete parking garage. Another joy of being middle aged. Oddly, no cars had driven by. Not even Juan’s.
“What would a man like Milcom Adramelech want with me?”
“Google the name.” She spelled it for me.
“Oh, hell,” I said, reading what came up on my phone’s screen.
“I told you I married the devil.”
“Did you have to make a...a bad deal?”
She shook her head, looking tired, less elegant. “I already had a bad deal. He takes care of me. I don't worry about food, or clothes, or whether I’m going to lose my home anymore.” She glared at me, suddenly defiant. “Don’t judge me for any deal I made. You don’t know what I’ve been through.”
“Esperanza,” I said, softly. “I don’t judge you. I’m sorry you had things so hard.”
“We really can be together,” she said. “We can be us. I know you’ve had it hard, too. Milcom will give me whatever I ask for. I can take care of both of us.”
I almost considered it for a microsecond, her intoxicating beauty, the fancy car, the excitement all running through my mind. But I knew I was going to say “no” before I spoke. “But I’d have to give up too much to get it.”
She closed her eyes and kept them that way for a few seconds. “I told him that’s what you’d say,” she whispered. “Letty’s a lucky woman.”
“Not if she ever finds out about my dreams.”
“Go home and dream about her.”
She turned to walk toward the Lamborghini. Adramelech got out of the car, spoke to her quietly, then looked at me, shaking his head. The car started, and they drove off.
I decided to treat myself to lunch.
When I started the Camry, the power steering had gone out again. I looked in the mirror, and I was back to my old, grey, balding, unimproved self.
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