Eric offered to take her around to a few apartment buildings to find a safe and secure place to stay. In the second building, Frances found a one-bedroom with a small kitchen that would suit her well. At her hotel room, she repacked her baggage. Within just the one day, she had found a more permanent spot to call home.
She had time to practice her Spanish as she waited for her work permit, carrying on total Spanish conversations with Eric over morning coffee. During the day, she found some second hand shops. In these she found a bed and a few pieces of furniture for her apartment, but bought a new mattress and springs and some linens to complete her shopping at another store. At a local bank, she opened an account, but put most of her funds into a lock box. The visa and work permit process was completed with the week, and Frances began her new job at the cafe.
“Tell me more about yourself, Eric,” Frances directed in her choppy Spanish, as she watched him paint.
“No hay mucho que contar.” (Not much to tell). I was studying in the States this past semester, and will probably go back in the fall. But being here in Spain, I’m considering taking a semester to study here, or maybe even a year, as it would be foolish for me to leave now. I’ve served my time in the military, and I just want some time to think about where and how to spend my life. What about you?”
Frances smiled at him, then turned away. “It’s a bit complicated, Eric. Let’s just say that I’m recently widowed, and I need some time away from New York to begin a new single life. You’ve been so helpful.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your husband. How did he die?”
“Let’s change the subject, okay? I’m not ready to talk about it.”
“How about dinner with me tonight? I’ll find a place near Retiro Park, and we can have a nice stroll after we eat. Sound like fun?”
Eric arrived at her apartment around six. Together they walked to the restaurant Eric had chosen. He ordered a Ribera del Duero tempranillo to accompany their tapas and a lasagna. After dinner they walked the short distance to the Park and strolled along the wide sidewalks as skate boarders weaved around them. They sat for a short time by the water, enjoying the ducks and geese. Frances was beginning to think all this was a fantasy, and that she would wake up soon.
“I still have so much trouble understanding the conversations, even the little kids who are playing here. I guess that will come in time. I want them to just slow down a little,” Frances laughed at her ignorance of the language.
Eric put his arm around her, pulling her toward him. Then he kissed her on the cheek.
“Paciencia mi dulce,” (Patience, my sweet) he said, smiling. “Let’s get you home to your apartment.”
They walked back to the entrance of the park, not noticing the man sitting with his back to them on a bench nearby.
More to come next Tuesday. What do you think about the man on the park bench? How safe is Frances?
Have a great day!