She fled to the sea for three days in February, desperate to escape the pale city, the stale job, an unwanted suitor and her own tired flesh.
On the flight down, changing from the rumpled black business suit to crisp white jeans and scarcely breathing as she struggled with her zipper in the ashcansized bathroom of the L1011, she comtemplated a festival of self-indulgence: toenails painted fire-engine red, no newspapers or televisions, intellect liberally laced with rum and steel drum music.
She imagined everything except Delgado and the flowers.
Of course she noticed him that first day as she searched for a solitary patch of sand. He was lean, golden, nearly naked. He was also nuisance personified -- a taller and better-looking version of the very thing she was trying to get away from. And so, with stomach held in and eyes straight ahead, she walked past the almost perfect smile and the eyes as green as the sun-flecked waters, working her way down to a sunny but gravel-laden corner of beach.
The first flowers arrived about 30 minutes later.
Three perfect hibiscus blossoms resting in a coconut shell like rubies crowning a sand castle, delivered by a giggling hotel busboy. Their unmistakable aroma, that heady mixture of honey and sand, sex and sea, floated on every wisp of the early morning breeze.
The gift and the giver beckoned seductively. But hers was a heart hardened by the snows of the city. She turned her back to the man's hopeful gaze and picked up a copy of Foreign Affairs.
That night, with the wilting flowers tucked behind a sunburned ear, she tried to dilute her curiousity with drink.
There were 10 of them the next morning, impertinently dotting her doorstep. He was nowwhere in sight.
She knew she would think of nothing else until she saw him again, but resolved not to give him the satisfaction of conducting a search. Instead, she would go to the other side of the beach and read "The Women's Room" -- thus assuring a foul mood for the rest of the day.
But the book was unbearable, the liquor too plentiful and the sun quite hot.
She fell asleep.
It was late afternoon when the sting of deep-fried flesh jarred her back to consciousness.
From the corner of a half-closed and very myopic brown eye, she saw the familiar pink blossoms. They were everywhere, perhaps 50 in number, all over the stack of terrible books, tossed atop the pink beach towel, burying the bathing suit top she had injudiciously removed. The note was simple: "I leave tomorrow. I must know your name -- please talk to me."
He was stretched out on a beach chair about 200 yards away, boldly writing a letter on paper strangely similar to the stationery she had brought from home.
"Thief," she said, dropping a well-placed flower into his lap.
"Ah, beauty. At last."
His eyes were greener than she had remembered and spoke a language all their own.
Twelve perfect hours later, aboard a plane she had not wanted to catch, they continued to whisper at 30,000 feet while the scent of hibiscus blossoms seemed to linger in the air.