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Title: RESTORING EXPERIENCE
Blurb: It's the summer of 1995 in Mexico, and 22-year-old Alexia is discovering possibility--at a steep price. She's at a crossroads, and she must decide whether the life her world--her family, her friends, her society--wants for her is what she wants for herself. Either way, she faces regret: every untrodden path, even as she takes that first step away from it, is already an embryo of regret.
Sometimes, we're just not ready to learn the lessons life throws our way. And sometimes there are no second chances.
~ ~ ~
I patted my jeans pockets for my cigarettes. What had I done with them?
“Looking for this?”
Michael, holding my pack of Marlboros and a grin that lit up the night.
“You dropped them on the dance floor," he said. "You were amazing out there, Alexia.”
“Sergio, not me.” I pulled out a cigarette, the conflict between my shortness of breath and tobacco flying right over my head. “I’ve never danced with anyone like that.”
Michael sat and lit my cigarette from his cupped hand. "It looked really cool, all those steps," he said.
“From where I was, it was all a blur.”
"You’ll have to teach me someday."
"Michael, I’m really not the right person. Sergio’s girlfriend, probably."
He chuckled. “You look happy.” He brushed a strand of hair back from my face.
“Do I?” My French braid had loosened, and I probably looked demented, not happy. But—so what? “I guess I am.” I laughed, reached back to undo the barrette and shake out my hair to rebraid it. “It felt good, you know? Not just the dancing. I never liked cumbia. It always seemed kind of—" I lowered my voice, "—vulgar.”
I didn’t want to offend anyone here, but beyond that, I was ashamed to admit this now. Telling Michael felt okay, though. Why don’t I feel judged by him?
"It didn’t look vulgar to me," he said, then grinned. "It looked hot."
"What?" He laughed. "It did. Sexy, and—"
"Stop it," I said, trying to untangle my hair with my fingers, not doing a very good job, not caring very much either.
When I began to redo the braid, Michael reached out and stopped me. “Wait.”
Had he seen something—a leaf, maybe—in my hair? But he ran his fingers through it, gingerly at first, letting it spread down my back, then more deliberately, hefting its weight. It felt good.
"Why don’t you leave it loose," he murmured, "like this?”
“Just for a little while?”
Well, why not? I let my head lean the tiniest bit into the movement of his hand. He was doing the sexy humming thing again, and his fingers felt wonderful. My skin tingled.
“I didn’t expect it,” I mumbled.
“To be welcomed like this. Here.”
“Why?” His fingers were burrowing deeper. I should stop him.
Instead I shifted, to let his hand reach the other side of my head. His fingers were pure magic, and found the exact spots that needed rubbing.
“If Sergio—anyone here—came to a party with my friends, they’d be treated like outsiders.”
Michael let out a breath. “The more I hear about your friends the less I want to meet them.”
“They’re nice people. It’s just—they don’t mix.”
“You mean with other classes—a lower class?”
The pressure of his fingers softened, intensified, softened again. My eyes wanted to close.
"They’re just—so afraid, of anything different." I mumbled. Where did that come from?
People still danced, groups of conversation around them. Laughter rang even above the music.
“Many of these people only met tonight," I said. "And everyone’s having a great time together. They’re so—open.”
“You’re like that too, Lex.” Michael moved closer and his breath skimmed the exposed skin between my jaw and my shoulder.
I shivered. "I’m not. I’m scared of strangers."
“I was a stranger."
And you’re terrifying. "That’s different."
"You’re not from here. And just for the record, I am scared of you."
His fingers were doing wonderful things in my hair, and his voice was very close to my ear when he said, "I’m scared of you, too."
~ ~ ~
If you're curious and want to know more about the story, get a little more background, perhaps, you can find a bit here.
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