A Tempest Soul

Chapter One: A Soul of Desire 


"You're really going to wear that?" Lois sounded astonished as she gazed frightfully at the swimming suit Gina held up to herself. 

      "Yes, I'm really going to wear this! It's 1920 Lois. Women don't have to wear ballroom dresses to go swimming." Gina smiled with a little satisfaction after saying this, then rolled the swimming suit up and put it back into her bag. 

      Although the suit would cover most of her body, it was made to fit snug and the legs were cut above the knees, allowing for her calves to show.

      Lois shook her head a bit, indicating she didn't really agree with the young woman. "I know it’s 1920, but I don't think a young lady such as yourself should be showing off so much skin. What would your mother say?" 

      When Lois said this Gina's face immediately grimaced as if in pain. 

      "I don't care what she thinks, or where she is for that matter" the young woman replied quickly with disdain in her voice. 

      She grabbed several plates of food from a window leading to the kitchen area and walked briskly into the large restaurant to waiting customers. Then, carefully, Gina made her way back with a handful of dirty dishes.

      Lois regretted her comment and as the day went by she watched for a chance to make amends with Gina. 

      Finally, before their shift ended Lois found an opportunity to talk with the young waitress. 

      "I'm sorry about earlier Gina. I was told by some of the other girls not to ever mention your mother; it just slipped out… I just can't believe she...well, it just seems hard for me to believe. But, maybe something happened that she couldn't come back." 

      Gina glanced at Lois and then sat down at the table she had been cleaning. She stared at her hands for a few seconds. She examined her fingernails as Lois stood by waiting for a reply. Finally, she spoke in a soft tone. 

      "Lois, I don't want to talk about this after today. I realize you don't understand, so I'll tell you this, one time." The young woman took a deep breath and clasped her hands together in her lap. She stared out at the floor ahead of her as if it helped her recall memories. Then she slowly began again. 

      "My father died when I was very young. I don't think my mother ever really wanted me. If she did at one time, I don't think she did after my father died. My mother and I moved here to Jacksonville four years ago, when I was thirteen. We moved into the same small apartment I live in now. She got me a job here washing dishes. Then after about a month, she disappeared for several weeks. I didn't know what to do. She left me a note telling me to work every day and she would be back." 

      Gina paused a few seconds and wiped her hands on her dress. Lois watched her with sadness. Then she went on. 

      "My mother came back with a man. She asked about my job and how I was doing. Then after a few days, she said, ‘I'll be back later, in a week or so; keep working and pay the rent dear.’ This time, she didn't come back for over a month. After a few days, she left again, and I've not seen her since." 

      Lois now ran the palm of her hand along the side of her face and tried to think of something to say. Gina glanced at her again and Lois decided she needed to say something. 

      "Well, you know sweetie, maybe she feels bad about leaving you and she's afraid to come back. Maybe she would like to come back… but she's afraid you won't forgive her." 

      Gina's mouth twisted a little as she considered this. 

      "She should be afraid. She abandoned me, and I'll never forgive her for that." 

      Lois's eyes squinted slightly in discomfort as the young woman said this. 

      "Gina, I realize I'm probably not the best person to be giving advice, and I don't know why your mother left you the way she did, but I really feel you should forgive her. It's not good to keep something like that inside." 

      Gina continued to stare blankly at the floor. Then she finally replied. 

      "I'll never forgive her. I would never do anything like that. I don't care if I ever see her again. She abandoned me; her thirteen-year-old daughter. She should never come back. I hope she never does." 

      Lois couldn't think of anything else to say. She placed her hand on Gina's shoulder for a second. 

      "I've got to go take care of this table. Thanks for telling me about that. I'm sorry I brought those memories back; I won't mention your mother again." She then went to wait on a customer. 

      When her shift ended, Gina gathered her things together and walked out the door of the kitchen and through the waitress area. 

      "You have fun sweetie, be careful now, you hear." Lois smiled and waved as Gina passed her.

      "Thanks, I'll be careful." She went through the restaurant and out the front door. As she moved towards the bus stop, she checked her bag to make sure she had everything.                                              The busy streets of Jacksonville were noisy, dusty and laden with heavy exhaust fumes. 

      After a lengthy bus ride, Gina stepped off at the beach boardwalk. She made her way to a changing room and anxiously put on her new swimming suit. It was a maroon color and fit her body like a glove. She liked the way the suit looked and thought it was a shame most young women had to wear those big, baggy dresses to swim in. Besides being uncomfortable, they absorbed so much water a woman could drown by simply stepping into the water wearing one. 

      She strolled onto the beach in the new suit that showed much of her legs. Heads turned and one poor guy who watched her too closely as she passed by was knocked over by a large beach ball being thrown to him. This caused Gina to giggle with a bit of delight. If anything, she enjoyed the fuss over her. 

      The shapely young woman found a spot on the beach with an available public umbrella and put down a large towel. She grabbed her book from her bag and took it with her as she sprawled her body across the towel on the warm sand, to get some sun. Not too much, though. She positioned herself so that the umbrella blocked some of the rays from her face and head. 

      1920 had developed into a good year for Gina. She had moved into a waitress position after she turned sixteen and with a year of better pay and tips, the young woman felt more confident and independent than ever. 

      She enjoyed being in active places and had lately become keen on people noticing her and giving her attention. Gina felt pretty and as she developed into a woman she began to have a desire to be artistic. The way to do this however eluded her.

      She knew nothing about acting, but lately that's what preoccupied her thoughts. She also liked the idea of being a dancer or some other type of performer. 

      Perhaps the bathing suit was an attempt to attract some assistance in becoming artistic. Maybe someone would notice that might help her reach her dreams.   

      Gina casually read her book on the warm sand as the sun basked her body. 

      "Hi, doll." 

      A young man suddenly dropped down beside her and smiled in a cavalier way. 

      She glanced over at him as if she cared little. With a quick look, Gina perceived a young and husky young man; not bad looking, though somewhat rough in appearance. 

      After a brief pause, she gave him a little smile and immediately turned away in a manner to express she wasn't very interested. 

      "You sure are a sight. What's your name beautiful?" 

      Gina now looked at the young man suspiciously. 

      "I just want to know your name doll… or I can guess. Let's see, you must be, Venus?" 

      She couldn't help but giggle about this but stared in the opposite direction to camouflage the fact he'd entertained the giggle from her. She tried to turn her attention back to the book.

      "It's not Venus?" The young man persisted. "Then it must be Lilian, as in Lilian Gish maybe?" 

       This became too much for Gina and she turned to face the man. 

      "It's Gina, if you really must know." She then turned back to her book but smiled to herself in satisfaction of handling the situation. 

      "Gina... what a beautiful name, and so fitting for a beauty like you." The young man lay back on the sand, putting his hands behind his head. 

      She loved this type of attention, though she’d also learned to be wary of such flattery. 

       Being a waitress necessitated a quick learning experience for the attractive girl. She had simplified the process in her mind after several close calls. A little clever flirting can reap larger tips from men. Too much flirting seems to give them license to try anything they want. 

      After a year as a waitress, the young woman knew when to smile and when to frown. She knew how to use her eyes and what body movements could get a glance and which ones would get an unwanted slap on her behind. She now slyly glanced at the young man. 

      "Well, you have my name. Would you kindly return the favor?" 

      "Oh sure, sure doll, I mean Gina. My name is Rodney. My friends just call me Rod for short, though." 

      She intentionally waited before replying. When she felt the pause had been long enough to indicate she was only slightly interested in him, she replied. 

      "I’m pleased to meet you Rod." 

      Rod was instantly revived as he sat back up and leaned on his arm.

      "It's a pleasure to meet you, Gina. So, you must be an actress, right? I mean, I'm sure I've seen you in a movie. . .or two." 

       This caused an instant flutter throughout her body, causing her to giggle loud enough she was sure he must have heard. 

      "You better quit that," she said and turning slightly hit his arm. 

      "What do you mean? Are you saying you’re not an actress?" 

      "No... I’m not an actress; you're being...silly." She smiled and felt excited by the flattering words. 

      "Well, then you must be a dancer, right, like a chorus girl, in the stage shows?" 

      This caused another uncontrolled giggle, and now Gina could feel herself blush. 

       Rod knew he'd said just what she wanted to hear and continued to play the charade to perfection. 

      "You better stop," Gina said without much conviction. She now appeared to glow from the attention. 

      Rod paused with a sly smile. He had no doubt she loved the attention and he also knew what she wanted to hear. He lay back on the sand, staring up at the sky. 

       Gina waited for him to continue. Then she turned and glanced at him with an expression of anticipation. When Rod felt he'd kept her on the hook long enough he continued. 

      "Well, if you’re really not an actress or a chorus girl, you should be." 

      Gina now relaxed a little; as if glad he'd saved at least one more compliment. 

      "I would love to be an actress. But I think it may just be a dream." She replied, as she laid back on the sand next to Rod. 

      "I knew it! You see, I knew you had to, at least, be an aspiring actress." He sat back up quickly.

      She rose back up on her elbows. 

      "Aspiring actress? What does that mean?" 

      He leaned over closer to her as he began to explain. 

      "You know an actress in the making. In other words, you're an actress, but you're still in training." 

      Gina became obviously excited as she contemplated this. 

      "Really, you mean I can do that? I can be an actress in training?" 

      "Sure, you can Doll." Rod lay back down on the sand, confident he had her right where he wanted her. 

      Gina stared at him. She wanted to know more about this "aspiring actress" thing but didn't want to appear ignorant. Rod opened his eyes slightly and glanced up at her. 

      "But I should probably leave now. Your Pop is likely around here somewhere and will pound me into the sand when he finds me talking with his little girl." After saying this, Rod sat up a little and looked around apprehensively. 

      "He's not." She quickly replied. 

      "Then where is he?" 

      Gina continued to stare at Rod. Then seeming a little reluctant she finally answered. 

      "If you really must know, my daddy died when I really was a little girl." She then lay back down and turned slightly, as if upset. 

      "Oh, I'm sorry Doll. I didn't mean to bring up anything that would make you sad. I only want to see that smile." 

      She looked back at him with a pouting face but then smiled a little just before turning away from him again. 

      Rod now lay back down for a moment without saying anything. 

      Seeming to think of something he sat up quickly again and said. "Well, your Mama is probably around here somewhere ready to skin me." He then looked around again seeming a little frightened. "I know you’re not old enough to be here by yourself, Doll." 

      Gina sat up quickly after hearing this. Obviously upset, she stared at Rod and replied with frustration in her voice. 

      "I'm twenty-one." 

      "Twenty-one? I don't believe that. More like seventeen, eighteen maybe." 

      Gina's face became a little twisted as if he had indeed come closer to her actual age. Then, seeming to realize she hadn’t convinced him of being twenty-one she stated gruffly. 

      "I'm nineteen, and I am so here by myself. I take care of myself quite well, thank you." 

      Rod chuckled. "Alright, nineteen it is. But your Mama will still kill me when she finds out a twenty-five-year-old man is flirting with her 'nineteen' year old daughter." 

      Gina retorted gruffly. "That's not likely. I've not seen my Mother for four years. And why are you being so nosey anyway?" 

      "Nosey?" He appeared hurt. "I call it interested. Can't a man be interested in a beautiful woman without being called nosey?" He then leaned away from her and drew in the sand with his finger. 

      Gina appeared to calm down. After watching him for a few seconds, she laid back on the sand. Then Rod also lay back down beside her. Neither one spoke for a few minutes. Rod glanced over to see what she was doing. She just lay there staring up at the sky. Then after another moment of silence, Rod spoke.

      "You know Gina, when I look at that beautiful face of yours, I can see your future." 

      She turned her head and stared at him with suspicion again. 

      "You can not. Why would you say such a thing?" 

      "It's an easy thing to do, Doll." He sat back up on one arm and looked her over. "Yes, you are destined to be a great actress." 

      Gina giggled, seeming happy to return to the compliments. 

      "You'll travel to exotic places," he studied her face, as if discerning a map. Gina stared up at him with an excited smile. Then Rod went on, moving his arm out as he spoke. 

      "You'll be on world stages, entertaining officials and dignitaries. Men will fall helplessly in love with you and women will envy you. You'll be in newspapers and photographers will all want to take your picture." 

      Gina now felt as if she were on cloud nine. She smiled and her eyes gleamed. 

      "You really think so?" She asked innocently. 

       Rod smiled slyly. "I know so, Doll. You're going places I can tell." 

      She stared up at the clouds as she lay in the sand, intoxicated by the things he had      said. 

      "I sure hope you're right," she finally said. 

      Rod now lay back down and waited for the right moment. After a brief pause, he reacted as if just thinking of something. 

      "Hey, you know what?" 

      Gina became a bit startled when Rod said this. 

      "What?" she replied as she sat back up quickly. 

      Rod also sat up. 

      "I'm in really good with a man that has connections in the entertainment world." 

      "You are?" she asked with surprise. 

      "Yeah sure, Hal, why didn't I think of this sooner?" 

      "Hal?" Gina still seemed to be having trouble keeping up. 

      "Yeah, Hal, he knows a lot of people in entertainment. He has a big yacht and I'll bet he can get you a job as an actress or a chorus girl maybe." 

      This information appeared to almost overwhelm the young woman. She sat with her mouth slightly open staring at Rod. After a few seconds, he realized she needed a nudge. 

      "Did you hear me, Doll?" 

      "Yeah, I heard you." She replied, still seeming to be in a bit of shock. 

      "Well, anyway he has a yacht and we're all going out on it tomorrow. I can invite you along and you can meet Hal. He'll love you. I'm sure he can find you a job. He's a great guy, you'll love Hal. This is great!" 

      Rod rubbed his hands together almost as if he were making a fire. Gina still appeared to be in disbelief. 

      After briefly watching him rub his hands together she said. "I am not that sort of girl Rod. I don't just go out on yachts, with people I don't know." 

      Rod acted a little hurt again. 

      "What do you take me for, Doll? No… don't answer that. I know what you’re saying. I'm trying to help you and you make me out to be some guy that does, the things you're thinking." He hung his head down but still managed to glance at Gina. 

      "No, I didn't mean you were, bad or anything. I just meant, well, I just met you today." 

      "Yeah, but I feel like I know you, Doll. I knew you was an actress, right?" 

      She liked the sound of being an actress so much, she couldn't bring herself to deny it. 

      "Well, I guess so." 

      "You see there. It's just as if we've known each other much longer." 

      Gina struggled with the logic. She really wanted to go. 

      Rod continued with a renewed energy, now that he had her on the fence. 

      "Besides, there are several other girls going along. You won't be the only girl there. We're just like a big family." 

      Now Gina looked at him with an obvious desire in her eyes. 

      "Really, there are other girls going?" 

      "Sure, Doll you won't be the only girl. Like I said, we’re just like one big happy family." 

      After considering this for a minute, Gina asked with a cautious tone. 

       "So, how long are you talking about, all day long?" 

      "Oh no, at least three days, Hal doesn't take the boat out unless it's for three days at least. It’s a large, engine powered yacht, not a small boat." 

      She thought about this some more. 

      "Well, I've got to work. I can't just take off." 

      "Hmm," Rod’s mouth twisted as he considered this. "Isn't there anyone that could cover for you?" 

      "I guess Lois could," she replied after a few seconds. 

      "Alright then, just ask Lois to cover for you a few days. Besides, Doll after you talk to Hal you may not need that old job anyway." 

      She liked the sound of this as well but still wasn't sure about going on a yacht with strangers. 

      Then again, if this guy had enough money for a yacht, surely, he must be a decent person. She could barely sit still now and went over these things again and again in her mind.   

      After some additional discussion, and with some reservations, Gina finally agreed to go on the yacht and meet Hal. Rod would pick her up the following afternoon. 

      That night she sat alone in her cramped apartment. She heard a baby crying from the apartment beneath her. 

      She sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the floor. The decision of going on the yacht concerned her. She thought about it repeatedly. 

      Then Gina noticed the picture that lay face down on the small table beside her bed. She slowly reached over and picked it up. 

      The old and faded photograph was one of the few things her mother had left her. She studied the faces in the picture as the baby continued to cry. She pulled the picture closer. Her father held her in his arms. She appeared to be two, maybe three years old. Her father smiled and looked happy. 

      Then she moved her eyes to her mother. She didn't smile. She seemed disappointed to be there. As Gina stared at the photo, a tear fell from her eye and splashed onto the glass. 

      Gina quickly wiped the picture off and placed it back on the table face down. She wiped her eyes with the same urgency, as if someone might notice her crying. She then stood up and began gathering some clothes for the trip. 

       The next morning Gina arranged for Lois to cover her a few days at work. She knew Lois wouldn't like her going on a yacht with strangers, so she neglected to tell her the exact reason she needed time off. Instead, she just told her she needed to go meet a man about an acting job. Lois was excited about this and quickly agreed to cover for her. 

      She met Rod at the designated place with her bag in hand. He drove a nice car and she became even more impressed when they arrived at the dock. The yacht was long and luxurious. The wood trim had a deep shine and elaborate ornamentation decorated the exterior as well as interior. 

      Inside a spacious lounge area, two young women sat on a couch talking to each other. 

      "Hello Ladies," Rod said as they approached the women. 

      "Hello Rod," they both replied in unison. 

      "Vivian and Rebecca, this is Gina." 

      Gina said hello and the two women greeted her rather nonchalantly. 

      "Follow me Doll, I'll show you to your room. We'll be shoving off soon, so it'll be tomorrow before I can introduce you to Hal." 

      Rod led her to a small but tidy room. She put a few things in the closet and got comfortable as the large boat moved out to the open ocean. 

      That night Gina slept a little restlessly as she wasn't accustomed to being away from her small apartment. She awoke the next morning to find they were far out to sea. 

      In the lounge area, she found a small group of people consisting of Rod, Vivian, and Rebecca. Next to them sat another well-dressed man that appeared to be in his early forties. As she entered, Rod stood up. 

      "There's the sleeping beauty." 

      Gina smiled. 

      "Good morning," she said with a little wave. 

      "Gina, this is Hal McBride." 

      Rod pointed to the man sitting. Hal had a drink tipped up as Rod said this. He pulled the drink from his mouth and stood up quickly, putting out his hand to her. 

      "I’m pleased to meet you, Gina." He winked at her and said, "You're right Rod, this one is a beauty." 

      Gina blushed as she shook Hal's hand. 

      "Thank you and I'm pleased to meet you too, Mr. McBride." 

      "Please call me Hal; Mr. McBride still sounds to me like my father." 

      "Oh, alright then, Hal it is."  

      "You met Vivian and Rebecca last night." Rod turned to the two young women who both waved a little and then went back to sipping their drinks. Vivian then leaned over and whispered something to Rebecca. 

      "Please sit down, Gina. I'll have Walt bring you breakfast." Hal waved towards someone standing behind Gina where she hadn't noticed him. 

      A man dressed as a waiter or perhaps a butler, came up from behind Gina and asked what she would like for breakfast. She sat down after giving him an order. It all seemed very pleasant to her as she drank some orange juice and gazed around the large room. 

      "Please excuse us, ladies." Rod and Hal stood up in preparation to leave. 

      Rod then turned to Vivian and Rebecca, "You girls behave around our guest, unless you both want to swim back to Florida." He then winked at them. 

      The two young women turned to him and again, almost in unison said, "Yes Sir." 

      Hal and Rod then moved out the door and onto the deck of the boat. 

      Walt brought breakfast and Gina ate it, struggling to watch her manners. She tried to get a good look at Vivian and Rebecca without seeming to stare. They were dressed in the finest fashion. Both were very pretty, and Gina couldn't help but feel a bit out-of-date in her plain clothes. 

      The two girls continued to sip their drinks and talk amongst themselves about people and places Gina had no knowledge of. 

      When she finished her breakfast, she waited for a lull in their conversation. She considered going outside but felt her best bet would be making friends with Vivian and Rebecca. Though still young, she had no misconceptions about the nature of some men. Rod and Hal seemed to be nice guys, but she felt safer around other women right now. 

      "So, how long have you known Rod and Hal?" she asked as soon as there was a pause in their conversation. The two young women gazed over at her as if she were speaking a foreign language. Then after a few seconds, Vivian spoke in a somewhat slow manner. 

      "Gina, it is Gina, right?" 

      She nodded yes. 

      "Gina, I'll give you a bit of advice, Sugar, you know, woman to woman, and all that. Just do as you’re told, and you'll be alright." 

      Gina wasn't sure what she meant. 

      "You mean, acting? Are you both actresses?" 

      The two girls looked at each other and laughed a little, almost under their breath. 

      "You might call it acting," Rebecca said. Then they began to sip their drinks again. 

      "Well, thank you for the advice." Gina said a bit meekly. 

      "You’re welcome, Sugar," Vivian replied now and gave her a strange look. 

      Not wanting to leave, Gina tried to think of something else to talk about. 

      "Is Rod in the entertainment business too?" 

      With this comment, Rebecca almost spewed a mouthful of her drink out. An obvious effort and a hand to her mouth enabled her to restrain herself and eventually swallow her drink. 

      Vivian laughed out loud at the comment, then when she had calmed some she tried to answer Gina. 

      "Oh, I'd say he likes to entertain, Sugar, but Rod and Hal are both Bootleggers, you know Rumrunners. In fact, we're on our way to pick up a load right now." 

      Gina thought about this for a few seconds. 

      "Bootleggers… is that a shoe business?" 

      Now Vivian and Rebecca almost became hysterical with laughter, due to this obvious naivety. Gina felt embarrassed about her lack of knowledge and wasn't at all sure about being on the trip. 

      "Oh, my Sugar, you really are fresh off the farm, aren't you?" Vivian replied as she tried to stop laughing so hard. 

      "You better stop Vivian, or we'll be swimming," Rebecca put a hand on Vivian as if to restrain her. 

      "You're right," she replied and then continued with a stifled laugh. 

      "Well Sugar, let's just say they're in the… 'beverage' business." 

      Gina smiled apprehensively. 

      Meanwhile, on the deck of the yacht, Rod and Hal were having a conversation of their own. 

      "She's a bit young don't you think? I mean she's definitely a sweet little dish, but she can't be more than eighteen or nineteen." Hal spoke with obvious concern. 

      "She's perfect," Rod said with a sly smile. "I don't think she's even eighteen. But her Pop died when she was a little girl and her Mama left her several years ago. She's got no one, and that means no one to look after her. Like I said when you hired me Hal, you’re going to get some benefits. Before long, we'll have a bevy of beauties to go with your yacht." 

      Hal smiled and took a sip of his drink. "I see why you say she's perfect; young, beautiful and all alone. So, when are you going to start breaking this new filly in?" 

      Rod turned and leaned back against the rail beside Hal. He thought about the question for a few seconds. 

      "I think I'll start tomorrow. I believe the farther away from her home we are, the more cooperative she'll be. In the mean time though, remember, you’re in the entertainment business. Or at least, you have connections in the entertainment business." 

      Hal considered this. 

      "Sounds like you have everything under control. I'll just brush up my movie producer look." He ran his hand on the side of his face, as if he was working on it already. 

      In the lounge, Gina had little luck making friends with Vivian and Rebecca. After listening to their chat, a while longer, she tried once more when an opening presented itself. 

      "Rod and Hal seem like nice guys." 

       The two girls turned to Gina with a condescending look. Rebecca sipped her drink and gazed at her from over the rim of her glass. Then she replied. 

      "They’re Rascals, and I mean that in an affectionate way. Rod is very feisty you'll find. And Hal is, well, not as feisty. But that can be a good thing. You know, give a girl a bit of a break." 

      Gina tried to understand what Rebecca meant. Then when the two began talking together about a jazz band that she knew nothing about, she decided to take her chances out on the deck. 

      "Hello, Doll," Rod greeted Gina with a smile. Though she'd become a bit apprehensive by the things Vivian and Rebecca said, the warm greeting was a nice change. 

      "Hi," she replied with a smile. "It's really beautiful out here."

      "Yes, it certainly is," Hal said turning around to face the young woman. "Calm seas and smooth sailing!" 

      She laughed a little, then walked over to the rail and leaned against it peering out to the expansive sea. 

      "I told Gina you could help her out, Hal. She's an aspiring actress." 

      Hal smiled a bit at Rod's remark and then cleared his throat before replying. 

      "An actress you say? Well, that's something. I thought she had the look of an actress or a dancer maybe. Sure, I can help her." 

      Gina thought Hal sounded as if he were fibbing. 

      "The girls say you're in the beverage business, Hal?"         

       The two men glanced at each other, seeming surprised. 

      "Oh, yes well, that is one of my businesses," Hal replied. Then Rod jumped in. 

      "In fact, Hal supplies many entertainment establishments with beverages and such." 

      "Yes, Rod's right, I meet a lot of important people through that process alone," Hal added, seeming eager to clear things up for her. 

      "I see," she said, examining the two as she might a suspicious salesman. She then turned back to the ocean and pulled several dark brown strands of hair from her face. 

      "Well, we can talk about this later. I think we should just enjoy the day right now. Would you like a drink, Gina?" 

      Hal asked, seeming concerned that Gina had become apprehensive. 

      "Do you have a soda?" 

      "Yes, we certainly do," Hal replied. 

      "I'll have Walt bring one out to you, Doll," Rod darted back towards the lounge. 

      "There are lounge chairs aft of the boat," Hal pointed to the back of the boat. "You can get some sun if you like. Just beware though, a pretty thing like you will likely get some attention from the crew. I hope you don't mind a few admirers." 

      Gina shook her head, indicating she didn't mind. "Thanks, Hal." She then moved in the direction he had pointed. As she walked along the rail she tried to reassure herself the two men were nice enough. 

      After examining the lounge chairs, Gina went to her room and put her swimming suit on. She then returned and relaxed with a cold soda.

      As Hal had warned her, several men of the crew were spotted lingering around on the upper deck trying to get a view of the sunbathing beauty below. She didn't mind though and acted as if she wasn't aware of their presence. As the large boat cruised along, the concerns of the morning began to wane. 

      Later, Walt brought lunch out to her and she dozed off not long after eating. 

      Vivian and Rebecca came out while she slept and were also getting some sun when she woke. The suits they wore exposed even more leg than Gina's suit. She wondered if they were simply trying to outdo the guest. 

      Nevertheless, they didn't bother her and with all three laying under the partly cloudy sky there was soon a steady flow of crew members around the upper deck, trying hard to pretend they weren’t watching the three pretty young ladies on the lower deck.   

      Evening came, and the group ate a fantastic dinner. The conversation, for the most part, consisted of Rod and Hal directing topics and the three women commenting from time to time. Gina preferred this however to Vivian and Rebecca's method of discussing things she obviously knew nothing about. By the time she went to bed, Gina had become somewhat relaxed again and considered that she may have simply inflated her concerns. 

      As she lay in her small cabin, she felt maybe Vivian and Rebecca were being mischievous to the newcomer. They must be somewhat bored, she thought. These and other excuses helped explain the earlier meeting. Perhaps they just wanted to stir up trouble for the fun of it. She slowly drifted off to sleep with this thought in mind. 

      The morning brought very little sunshine. The sky presented a gray day and Gina felt a bit disappointed by the lack of sun as she ate her breakfast with the others. Later, on the deck, the wind blew her hair about and she finally pulled it back and tied it to keep from constantly removing it from her face. 

      She then changed into her swimming suit and laid on the lounge chairs, even though the sun constantly struggled to break through the gray clouds. 

      The arrival of crew members along the upper deck signaled once again she must, at least, be a pleasant sight. This increased her confidence and she began to wonder when she could speak seriously with Hal about a job somewhere. 

      She thought of the restaurant where she waited tables. Though her job as a waitress paid for her small room along with a few other necessities, she could care less about ever returning to it. 

      Soon Vivian and Rebecca joined Gina in their swimming suits. With all three girls laying on the deck a constant parade of admirers assembled on the upper deck. 

      Gina sleepily glanced up to where three crew members leaned over the rail, trying to get a better view of the beauties below. This caused her to smile slightly as she closed her eyes and slowly dozed off. 

      When she awoke, the sky had become very dark. The wind blew aggressively, and the boat rocked due to much larger waves. She stood up and stumbled to gain her footing. No admirers were on the upper deck now. She made her way towards the lounge feeling a little startled by the change in weather. 

      Passing under the upper deck, on her way to the lounge door, she spotted several life vests hanging on the wall. They were rather odd-looking devices with two, large round, canvas covered floats on the front and back. She patted one before entering the cabin area as if to reassure herself it was there. Regardless of what the devices looked like, she felt glad they were available. 

      "Hi, Doll," Rod greeted her as she entered the lounge area. The others sat on the couches as if in a recent conversation. The two girls still wore their swimming suits and a phonograph played a current jazz hit. 

      "Hello, everyone, how long did I sleep?" 

      "Well, you slept a couple of hours at least," Hal stated in a rather loud voice. "I thought about waking you, but Rod told me to let you sleep." 

      "Did I?" Rod appeared surprised by this statement. 

      "Of course, you did," Hal then chuckled a little as if he'd wanted Rod to go along with a joke. 

      "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sleep so long," she then pulled the hair tie out. 

      "Nonsense Sugar, you should get all the beauty sleep you want," Vivian spoke sarcastically, causing Rebecca to laugh.   

      The group ate dinner and afterward they all became even louder and more animated as everyone, but Gina drank what appeared to be champagne or maybe wine. 

      Rod filled a glass for Gina and after she took a drink she realized it did indeed have alcohol in it. She didn't want it anymore, but Rod and Hal kept trying to get her to take another drink. She sipped a little and then acted like she was drinking more. They seemed happy about this and she smiled graciously. 

      Meanwhile as the afternoon set in, the boat began to sway more and more. Soon the rain came down. 

      Rod wanted to make a toast about Gina becoming a star of the silver screen and she felt inclined to take another small sip. Then Hal had to toast something as well. Another drink found its way into her stomach. 

       To Gina, the other two girls seemed immune to the effects of the beverage. They drank more and more. They laughed out loud. Vivian then got up on a small table and danced around barefoot. The boat swayed, and she fell on the couch laughing. 

      A long scratching sound came from the phonograph as the needle moved across the record. This caused a continuous clicking and scratching sound as the needle continually played the sounds of the centerpiece on the record. 

      Again, the group laughed at this and it seemed to encourage them to drink more. Rod moved around the room pouring more of the alcoholic beverage. Gina began to feel dizzy. 

      Things began to move faster as her head started to swim. Rod again came around and almost demanded she take another drink. She declined but Hal came over and prodded her to drink. Reluctantly she took another small drink. 

      The rain came down harder and she could see lightening out the windows. The boat rocked more, and she began to feel ill and dizzy both. Getting up carefully, she started to move towards the hall leading to her small room. 

      "Hey, where’re you going, Doll?" Rod appeared strangely evil to Gina as he yelled out to her. With everything spinning around and the odd feeling of the floor moving under her feet, she was in no mood for his flirty antics. She waved him off and continued towards the safety of her room. 

      Rod turned to Hal and smiled slyly. 

      "You’re up Tiger," Hal said and then took another drink. "I think I'll go up top and check our status. It seems this storm is getting worse." 

      Rod grinned and nodded. 

      "You'll know where to find me if you need me," he pointed towards Gina's cabin. "But I'm hoping you won't need me, because I'll be busy." He then half stumbled towards Gina's room as the two girls laughed in drunken delight. 

      Gina made it to her cabin and began to feel very ill now. The room wouldn't stop spinning. She held herself up by holding onto the wall. Then she went to the bed and sat down. 

      Suddenly Rod came in. He had an obvious air of mischief about him. 

      "It's about time for you and me to get better acquainted, Doll." He sounded drunk and looked out of control. 

      Gina suddenly realized she shouldn't have trusted him. He moved closer to her. He stared at her, but not her face. He smiled ominously as he closed in and appeared more like an animal now than a man. 

       Gina felt a shot of panic run through her body. She stood up, but the room was too small for her to get around him. He realized this and smiled even wider, knowing she was trapped. 

      The situation became overwhelming. The fear inside her, as well as the effects of the alcohol and swaying of the boat, caused an immediate reaction. As Rod took hold of her arms, she vomited all over him. 

      He stumbled back as if being hit with a punch. "Ahhhh, eww, you stupid......!" 

      Gina started to apologize out of habit, but realized she wasn't sorry at all. She knew what he'd planned to do to her. Rod opened the door and stumbled out, still cursing her. 

      The boat was swaying almost violently now. She began to cry as the stress of Rod's aggressive attack and being sick began taking a toll. She needed to get out. She wanted to escape the situation and went out the door just as something could be heard falling to the floor. She tried to walk but the movement of the boat caused her to stumble several times. 

      Entering the lounge, she heard the phonograph needle slide slowly back across the record, causing the strange mix of music and scratching sounds. 

      Vivian and Rebecca appeared out of their minds as they laughed and rolled on the couch with the swaying motions. Rebecca held her drink in the air and then Vivian's head and upper body fell onto Rebecca's lap, which caused more laughter. The lights had been dimmed to conserve power and this presented an ominous picture to the young woman. Something else fell from a shelf causing a crash. 

      "Are we going to sink?" Gina shouted, but her words came out weak. The two drunken girls turned to Gina, as if she were the one drunk. 

      Vivian shouted back. "Yes, I think we may be sinking, Sugar." They both laughed hysterically again. 

      Gina wiped her eyes. She began to cry even more as she was having trouble seeing due to the tears, dim lights and effects of the drinks. Knowing nothing about beverages with alcohol in them, she thought the girls were telling the truth, but simply didn't care due to the contents of the bottles. She moved on her hands and knees to the door leading out to the deck. 

      When she opened the door the wind and rain greeted her. As she stood up and made her way to the life vests her heart seemed to fall inside her. She took one of the vests from the wall and pulled it over her head. The swaying of the boat forced her to catch herself from being thrown against the cabin wall. 

      She frantically tied one side of the life vest. Everything became a blur now as a hopeless feeling came over her. Tears mixed with rain, ran down her face. She started to tie the other side of the vest when a violent movement from the boat threw her away from the cabin wall. She fell onto the water drenched deck and slid across it, only stopping when she reached the short wall and rail around the boat. 

      Lying in the rain, she reached over and with much effort tied the other side of the life vest. Fear again took hold of her and she glanced back to the lounge. She tried to spot a crewmember on the upper deck, but the darkness was too thick. 

      She crawled towards the lounge door, but a deck chair slid in front of her almost hitting her. She attempted to move it but didn't have the strength. She stood up and began to climb over the chair. 

       The boat swayed; a wind hit the side of her, forcing her to fall back, she tripped over the railing that caused her to immediately fall overboard into the ocean. She was barely able to close her mouth before taking in the salty seawater. In this instant, Gina felt she would surely die. 

      The life vest pulled her to the top of the water. She struggled to catch her breath as the dim lights of the yacht moved away from her. She yelled out and then screamed in desperation towards the disappearing boat. Slowly the lights faded until there was nothing but darkness and water all around her. 

      Although the life vest kept her head above water, the waves continued to splash her face forcing water into her mouth and nose. She struggled to remain calm, but inside panic and fear tried to break out. Her heart pounded so hard she could hear it and feel it in her head. 

      Then a new fear developed. The fear of what might be in the water around her. She cried hopelessly as the rain on her face merged with tears. 

      Time seemed to stop as the darkness and storm continued without restraint. Completely alone, Gina grasped in vain at the dim lights from the lightning in a desperate hope of spotting anything other than the vast violent ocean. 

      She became angry with herself as she struggled with the violent sea. The young woman fought the storm and herself for becoming careless and allowing a man like Rod to deceive her. Inside Gina, something slowly changed. In anger, she began to isolate the person that believed Rod. She decided at this point, she would rather die as a no-one than that foolish girl. It was no wonder her mother had left her, she thought to herself. Now she became angry with her mother as well as herself. Floating in the immense, enraged waves, all alone, as if a tiny particle of flotsam, she felt worthless and thought it would be best to die anonymously.

      In the eye of the storm and the intense darkness, something unseen had occurred inside her. She sensed it, along with the overwhelming fear, but she ceased to care. Why be concerned about anything when death would take her at any minute? She slowly gave into the violence inside as well as outside of her.

      Eventually, she became exhausted by the conflicts that consumed her and yielded to the death she felt was inevitable. With all fear and strength gone, she faded out of consciousness.


Chapter Two: No Great Loss


Gina slowly opened her eyes to wet sand and the sensation of a hot sun beating down on her back. A sudden involuntary cough brought the taste of saltwater up from her lungs. More coughs and more of the nasty saltwater came out as the waves moved methodically around her feet and legs, keeping her lower body soaked. 

      Sitting up caused her body to object in pain. She felt as if a truck had hit her. She slowly crawled farther up on the beach. 

      Her immediate concern was if she were to pass out again and possibly float back into the water. Once the distance from the waves was enough, Gina laid back down. 

      She may have slept more after this, or maybe she just faded back into a semi-conscious state. After more time had passed she sat up again and looked around. There were no houses or signs of civilization anywhere. 

      The saltwater made her feel sticky, as if she'd not bathed for days. Standing up required much effort as her muscles were sore from struggling with the ocean.  

      Laboring in the sand, she moved inland and away from the beach. Only a vast area of shrubs and small trees presented itself to her. With no house or building in sight she tried to decide which direction to move. 

      Miles off in the distance she could see large hills and even farther away what appeared to be mountains. 

      After some thought, she felt the most logical direction to go would be inland. Due to a night of floating in the sea, she had a strong urge to move away from it. Slowly she walked forward straining to see any sign of a building, or anything to give her hope of being found. 

      The life vest became hot and heavy. She tried to untie it, but her muscles were so sore she resigned to deal with the discomfort of the vest rather than the sharp pains in her arms when trying to remove it. 

      After stumbling in the sand and brush for what felt like hours, Gina spotted something off in the distance. The thing in question moved slowly and in her general direction. She attempted to wave but couldn't move her arms high enough. She then tried to yell but her mouth and throat had become so dry and parched she couldn't utter any sound other than a screeching cough. 

      She moved as quickly as possible to intercept the moving object. As the apparatus came closer she identified it as a small donkey pulling a two wheeled cart. A man sat in the cart and appeared to be paying little attention to his travels. 

      A closer examination revealed that he appeared to be asleep as his head slumped down and bobbed with the movement of the cart. 

      Gina moved to a point where a small road lay, not much wider than a trail. She imagined this to be what the man traveled on and she fell to the sandy ground exhausted; waiting for the cart to arrive. 

      Slowly, the little donkey labored along the dusty road bringing the man and cart to where she sat anxiously awaiting its arrival. 

      When the man came close enough, she stood up and tried to yell but only a hoarse voice came out. 

      "Help! Can you help me please?" 

      The man, who had dozed off, awoke suddenly with the unfamiliar sounds of English. Startled and sitting up quickly he almost fell. He pulled the reins tight to stop. 

      There stood Gina with the odd-looking life vest. She waved her arms at her side and spoke a language that he knew wasn't Spanish. 

      The man she stood in front of was Manuel Flores. He and his wife owned a small store in the sleepy little town of La Gordo Mexico. 

      Owning the store meant he and his wife were among the wealthier of the population in town, but it also meant he must travel to the larger city of Tantico to obtain wares and goods for the store. 

      Mr. Flores had traveled this little road so many times over the years he'd become somewhat complacent. 

      Although there had been cases of robbery on the road, they were rare, and he wasn't really worried since the goods he carried were not actually worth the risk of being shot. 

      He carried a small muzzle-loading pistol with him and though he wasn't even sure if it would still fire, he felt somewhat secure in the knowledge that any bandits desperate enough to rob him would likely not even possess a gun. 

      Manuel quickly searched beside him for his pistol, while keeping his eyes on this apparent threat. With his heart pounding hard in his chest, he found the pistol, raised it up and held it pointed at the strange person. 

      He then exclaimed in a nervous voice, "Who are you? What do you want?!" 

      Now Gina became frightened as Mr. Flores held the pistol pointed at her and spoke a language she wasn't familiar with but knew it not to be English. She held up her arms as high as she could before the pain forced her to stop raising them. 

      "Please, I need help. I fell from a boat out there," she pointed to the direction of the ocean. 

      Mr. Flores was now awake enough to realize this to be a woman and not a bandit. He gazed in the direction she pointed and then back to her. 

      "You came from the sea?" He asked in Spanish. 

      Gina tried again to communicate through her parched mouth and throat. 

      "I fell from a boat. I'm lost. I need help." 

      This time, she spoke slowly and louder to hopefully make Mr. Flores understand her situation. 

      Manuel stepped down from the cart still holding the pistol towards Gina. He scanned the area in search of anyone in the bushes hiding. 

      "I'm sorry, but I must be sure this isn't a trick." 

      She had no idea what he said. 

      "I don't understand you. Where am I?"  

      He, in turn, had no idea what she said as he'd never actually heard any language other than Spanish. 

      "Where are you from?" he asked her as he put the pistol in his worn belt for quick access if needed. 

      "Where is this? Where am I, Germany? Am I in Germany or France?" 

      Mr. Flores shook his head "no" trying to indicate he didn't understand her. 

      "I don't understand," He said. Again, he asked. "Where are you from?" 

      Gina continued. 

      "What language are you speaking? What country is this, Switzerland, Italy?" When she said 'Italy' Manuel recognized the name. 

      "Italia, you are Italiano?" 

      Gina stared at Mr. Flores in shock. She tried to raise her hand up as far as she could in disbelief and placed it on the bottom of the life vest.

      "Italy? I'm in Italy?" 

      "Oh, you are Italiano?" Mr. Flores shook his head up and down as he mistook her response as an indication of her being Italian. 

      Gina, in turn, mistook this response as an affirmation that she had in fact washed up on an Italian beach. 

      "Oh God, I'm in Italy," she said softly to herself. 

      Mr. Flores seemed unsure of what to do now. The young woman appeared quite attractive and dressed in what he thought to be her underwear. Yet he also could see she'd been in the water for some time and he realized she must be hungry and thirsty. He took a hollowed-out gourd that he carried a small supply of water in and gave it to her, so she could drink. 

      Although the water container seemed strange to Gina, she’d become so thirsty she drank the water without caring about the appearance. 

      Then he gave her some of the lunch his wife had prepared for him and she ate the food quickly. She thanked him, and he understood her to be grateful though he didn't understand the words. 

      After some additional thought, he considered that there must have been a shipwreck and surely someone would be searching for this attractive young lady. 

      Being a businessman, he then considered there should be some form of reward. Or at least, if he and his wife cared for her, they could ask for compensation once her family located her. 

      So, with thoughts of a big reward or large compensation, Mr. Flores decided to take Gina to his house. He also realized she wouldn't survive alone on the road. He led her to the back of the cart and she sat down with a renewed feeling she may survive after all. 

      As the little cart bobbled along the road, she wearily laid back. The life vest now worked as a pillow and she soon fell asleep. 

      The trip from Tantico along the sandy coastal road to La Gordo required the best part of a day. Although Mr. Flores had come upon her about halfway back to his home in La Gordo, the remainder of the trip still took several hours. She slept most of the way, being exhausted from her night on the stormy sea. 

      Mr. Flores turned back to check on her occasionally but otherwise kept an eye ahead in case other survivors should materialize. 

      No other survivors would be found though and the travelers slowly made their way into La Gordo that afternoon. 

      Mr. Flores had considered a possible reward for finding Gina. He also thought of payment for taking care of her until her family came. He had even considered what he might do with the large sum of money and how they might spend the reward. 

       However, the thing Manuel Flores neglected to consider was how his wife Duena might react to this situation. This lack of foresight on his part became apparent shortly after he brought Gina into the house via the back door. He thought this would be a good way to keep the neighbors from noticing he had a foreigner in the house. 

      Most people of La Gordo didn't have a back door on their house. None that he could think of had ever seen a foreigner. Should they notice Manuel had one, he knew a commotion would certainly follow as everyone would want to meet the stranger and stare at her for a while. 

      "Who is this?" Duena Flores asked snidely as Manuel walked in with Gina. It was at this point he suddenly realized his woeful neglect to prepare for this instant. 

      "She is, well... She's an Italiano." 

      Duena eyed Gina from top to bottom with suspicion. The bathing suit she wore must have also appeared to Mrs. Flores as underwear. 

      "She's your mistress? I cannot believe you brought your Italiano mistress home and tried to sneak her in here without me knowing about it! Do you think I am stupid Manuel?" 

      Mr. Flores tried to get a word in; "No Duena listen." This only seemed to infuriate his wife more, and now she began to speak very loudly. 

      "You do think I'm a fool, don't you? I'm not stupid, Manuel. You’re the fool for bringing this tart home with you. Why would you do this to me?" 

      She paced back and forth in obvious anger. 

      Manuel tried again to speak. "Duena, please, listen." 

      "No, Manuel. I'll not listen to your excuses anymore. You think you can fool me? Do you think I don't know what kind of a woman this is? I can see how she's dressed; I'm not a fool Manuel!"

      Gina had no idea what Mrs. Flores said and could do very little one way or another. She moved to the corner of the room and stood meekly by the wall, watching the scene in silence. 

      Outside the Flores’s house, which had a small store connected to the front, a crowd began to gather. They'd been attracted by the sounds of Duena loudly denouncing her husband’s apparent infidelity. 

      As Duena continued to rant about Manuel's 'Italiano mistress', more and more people gathered around on the small street outside an open window. And, as the crowd grew larger, the congregation of people in turn, attracted more people. 

      Soon, most of the small town’s population stood, sat and even lay reclining outside the house listening to Duena. This new development in town quickly became more interesting than anything else. 

      Everyone considered this to be public information as Duena had, after all, left the window open. 

      A few enterprising persons even brought fruits and snacks to sell. After a short time, there were almost no people in town that hadn't stopped their activities to find out about Manuel Flores and his fancy "Italiano mistress." 

      In the meantime, Duena never allowed Manuel to get a word in. She concluded rather loudly that perhaps times had become difficult in Tantico for his Italiano mistress and she’d somehow talked Manuel into bringing her to La Gordo. She then moved over to Gina. 

      "You slut, you should be ashamed of yourself!" 

      Gina, not having a clue what Mrs. Flores said, simply replied the best she knew how. 

      "I'm sorry, I don't understand Italian." 

      Mrs. Flores perceived this as something of a bold move on the young woman's part since the only word she understood was "Italian." 

      "Yes, I know, you’re a fancy Italiano whore! I can see your fancy underwear and your, what is this anyway?" 

      Duena now took notice of the life vest Gina wore. She pulled the front of the vest, examining the device. She'd never seen anything like this and instantly thought the strange item to be some form of fashion accessory. 

      "What is this for? Is this to make your breasts appear larger?" 

      When Duena asked this, she made a motion right below her own breasts with both her hands, as if lifting them upwards. Gina, seeing this motion mistook it as Mrs. Flores asking if the device were for floating. 

      "Yes," she replied and made the same motion as Mrs. Flores. "This is a floating device. It helps you float in the water." 

      With this, Duena Flores almost fainted. Somehow, she managed to stay standing and walked briskly over to Manuel. 

      "Duena please," Manuel again tried to speak. 

      "Really, Manuel, you want to kill me? How can you do such a thing as bringing this tainted woman home, with her, breast-lifting device? I think you must be trying to stop my heart." 

      Then she sat down, seeming exhausted from the marathon of excited speech. Now Manuel seeing his chance moved beside her. 

      "Duena, she's not my mistress. I found her on the road from Tantico. I believe she's from a shipwreck. The device she wears must be to help her float in the water." 

      Now Mrs. Flores appeared instantly relieved. And in a much quieter voice, she replied, "Why didn't you say so?" 

      Manuel simply gave her a frustrated expression, as if to bring to his wife's attention her own overreaction. Duena looked over at Gina with a different attitude now. 

      She then turned back to her husband and asked for more details. 

      As the Floreses spoke with each other about the situation, Gina spotted the open window. 

      She had no idea there was a crowd outside. Nor did she know this crowd had been whipped into a frenzy of excitement by Mrs. Flores’s exuberant overreaction to Gina. 

      The mention of some type of "breast lifting device" caused so much excitement for men and women alike that at the very moment she noticed the window, a few were contemplating flinging themselves into the house to see this person and her enhanced breasts. 

      Before this happened though, Gina noticed the open window and thinking she may see something outside that might be helpful to her situation, innocently strolled over to it. 

      At a point of almost uncontrolled excitement for the crowd outside the window, Gina stepped squarely into it. 

      Now the mysterious woman appeared to them, and perfectly framed by the window they could see her upper body, life vest and all. 

      Immediately they shouted with a burst of joy in finally getting to see the Italiano mistress and her fashionable breasts. 

      Gina became shocked and stumbled backward, falling onto the floor. The Flores’ also were shocked by the roar of the crowd outside. 

      Manuel cautiously stood up and moved over to the window. As soon as he arrived at the window a voice cried out. 

      "Manuel, show us the fancy Italiano mistress with the big, you know." The man motioned to his chest as if lifting large breasts. 

      "What are you all doing? Go home. I don't have an Italiano mistress!" 

      Then the same person replied. "Don't try to lie to us Manuel, we just saw her. Come on, we just want to see her again."

      With this, the crowd seemed to make a unanimous sound of agreement to the man's logic. 

      Mr. Flores spent over an hour in an effort of disbursing the crowd. When they finally went away, he and Duena sat down again to discuss the situation. 

      "Why did you bring her home?" 

      Manuel expressed surprise by his wife's question. 

      "You think I should have left her to die?" 

      Duena grimaced as if she'd not considered this. 

      "Surely someone is searching for her," she said, glancing over to Gina; who had by now been able to get the life vest off and sat quietly, appearing lost and dejected. 

      "I think someone must surely be searching for her. However, by the time they found her out there by the sea she would be dead if I had left her. Besides that, if a bandit had found her who knows what would have happened to her by now?" 

      Duena appeared to accept her husband’s reasoning. 

      "You know, I think there may be a reward for persons lost at sea." 

      After hearing this, Mrs. Flores perked up some. 

      "You think so?"  

      "Surely there will be. And if not, then we should get something to pay us back for the care we give her until she's found." 

      This appeared to change the matter for Mrs. Flores who now saw Gina as a possible asset. 

      "I'll help her get cleaned up and I believe I have an old dress I can alter for her. Then I'll prepare a dish of food." 

       She went over to Gina and managed to communicate she wanted to help her. Gina finally relaxed some and after getting cleaned up and eating she slept soundly that night. 

      The next several weeks were unusual for everyone in the tiny Mexican town. Gina had a lot of time to reflect upon her situation and realized she now resided completely in the mercies of her hosts. No one in Florida would look for her. Lois was the only one that might miss her and even she had no idea where Gina had planned to go. 

      Considering what Rod tried to do to her before she fell from the boat, she knew he wouldn't bother to report the incident to the authorities. So, she concluded her only hope lay in these Italians who were now trying to assist her. 

      As the days moved slowly by, she considered her survival as something of a rebirth. Everything from the time she awoke on the beach began to feel as a second life to her. 

      In the meantime, the Flores' store experienced an instant boom in business from the time Gina arrived. Mrs. Flores, being an extraordinary entrepreneur realized an opportunity when she saw one. 

      She placed Gina strategically at an angle behind the counter and in a chair at a small table. The only way the customers could see her clearly would be to stand in front of the counter where payment for purchases was made. If someone stood at the counter to see Gina, Duena Flores would ask. "Are you going to purchase something?" 

      If they were to purchase something, Duena would allow the person to stand and chat with her a while. Often the discussions were about Gina and both would gaze at her while talking. Gina sat silently at the small table as the people came and went. 

      During this time, depression slowly tightened its grip on the young woman, as she would quietly sit while others stared at her and talked about her in a language she didn't understand. 

      After several weeks, things became even more complicated as one night at the Flores’ store a drunken La Gordo man tried to crawl into the window of the tiny storage room Gina slept in. 

      Gina screamed, and Mr. Flores came in to quickly dispatch the man.

      The Flores’s began to consider the long-term situation due to this event. 

      After the initial weeks of booming business, the new had begun to wear off in La Gordo and slowly life was returning to normal.   

      Manuel and Duena began to realize there might not be anyone coming for Gina soon or ever. Since she had apparently originated from an Italian ship, the area to search for her and other passengers must be very large. Though neither one had any idea where Italy was, this seemed the reasonable thing to them. 

      "So, what are we to do with her?" Duena asked Manuel one evening as they ate dinner. 

      "We need help," Manuel said after some thought. Duena considered this for a few moments. 

      "You're suggesting the Federals?" 

      "No, no," Manuel replied quickly. "I don't trust the Federals and besides they would try to get money from us regardless of whether they helped the young woman or not." 

      "Then what are you thinking?"  

      Manuel took a drink from a rough gourd cup and then replied, "I was thinking of your cousin, Olivia." 

      Duena gazed over at Gina who sat at a small table eating in silence. 

      "I've not seen Olivia in years." She then took another bite of food. 

       Neither one said anything for a few moments. Finally, Manuel continued. 

      "I think Olivia may be this girl's only hope for getting home." 

      Manuel now paused and looked at Gina. 

      "She's the only one I know of that may be able to help. I know we can't afford to take care of her much longer." 

      Duena nodded her head indicating she agreed with her husband. 

      He turned back to his plate and ate a few more bites. Then after seeming to give the situation some thought he continued. 

      "I'll take her to Tantico Thursday and speak with Olivia." 

      The following Thursday Manuel and Duena woke Gina up before daybreak. 

      Soon she once again sat in the back of the two-wheeled cart. They traveled back over the same road Manuel had found her on weeks earlier. 

      Gina sat quietly, either dozing or watching the scenery. Manuel checked on her from time to time and on one occasion noticed that with her dark hair she did sort of look like a Mexican girl. 

      Duena had found one of her old dresses and altered it to fit her. The dress seemed to be not much more than a sack with holes for the head and arms, but Gina graciously thanked Duena. Even though she didn't understand the language, she knew well enough that without the dress she could cause a commotion simply by being noticed as a foreigner. 

      Gina had also become keenly aware of the fact that she could disappear at anytime and no one would know. She resolved herself to somehow get back on her feet and be as little trouble as possible for those who were trying to help her. 

      As she rocked about in the little cart she also contemplated the change in her life and wondered if she would ever return to Jacksonville again. Survival must be the first thing. She had no idea where she may be going. She had no idea exactly where she was. All she knew for certain was that she had somehow survived what many have not. Whatever lay ahead, she still had hope, which is more than she had floating alone in the darkness on the open sea. 

      After traveling most of the day and only stopping at strategically located bushes, the two quietly rolled into Tantico. 

      There would be no mistaking this for a sleepy little town like La Gordo. Tantico vibrated with life as they moved farther into the city. 

      She hunkered down and viewed the lively atmosphere from the security of the wooden cart. The sights and smells were new, and she tried to take everything in. 

      Music could be heard as the cart bobbled through the narrow streets. Small boys and girls would run up to Manuel and even Gina to offer small items for sale. She would shake her head no and say nothing. 

      On one occasion a small girl noticed Gina didn't look quite right. She asked Gina something and several times tried to get an answer. Gina just shook her head no. Finally, Manuel said something to the girl to cause her to stop following the cart. 

      Considering her hair color was slightly lighter than those around her, Gina pulled the piece of cloth being used as a scarf tighter over her hair in the hopes she would avoid any further instances. 

      Finally, around dusk, they pulled up to a building and stopped. She looked up at an old and faded sign that read "Cafe Flamenco." 

       A man came out and briefly spoke with Manuel. He then led the little donkey and cart around the back of the Cafe as Manuel ushered Gina into the building. 

      Inside, a wonderful smell greeted them. Once her eyes became accustomed to the dimmer light, she could see the Cafe Flamenco must be an entertainment and dining facility. 

      Along the right side, a long table ran with a kitchen area behind, covered by curtains and racks containing cookery items. Straight back along the wall stood another table that appeared to be more of a bar. Several men stood along this bar with drinks in hand and a man behind the bar was tending their needs. In the middle sat numerous tables and chairs. At a few of these tables, people sat eating and drinking. 

      Right after she had looked around, a guitarist began to play, and her attention turned to the left side of the building. To the far left a stage stood, several feet high from the floor. Gina could see there must be other rooms behind the stage area but could identify nothing more from her current view. 

      Manuel directed her to a table and they both sat down. Then something happened that changed everything for the young woman. It was as if a tiny beam of light found its way through all the darkness and lit upon Gina’s weary heart. 

      A beautiful young woman stepped gracefully onto the stage in a brilliantly colored dress. As the guitarist played, the woman danced about in a way she had never seen. 

      The dancer seemed to float about on the stage, holding the edge of her beautiful dress in her hand. Then, she would pull it up slightly to reveal her feet as she tapped out quick rhythms with the music. 

      Again, she would twirl and move about and tap her feet intermittently with the music. The scene was so unfamiliar and yet beautiful to Gina that she couldn't look away. Everything else disappeared and only this beautiful dance existed. 

      For these few moments, Gina lost track of all her concerns and became so involved in this beautiful display that she forgot about everything else. 

      When the music stopped, and the young woman left the stage, Gina thought of how wonderful it must be to dance so gracefully. Then, her concerns came rushing back, as if an invisible yoke once again pressed down upon her soul. 

      A waitress came to the table and spoke with Manuel, then left. A few moments later a well-dressed woman approached the two of them; she appeared to be in her forties. She sat down at the table and spoke with Manuel. 

       He and the woman then stood up and directed Gina to follow. The three moved past the stage and into a hallway that ran along the area behind the stage. 

      In a room located at the corner of the building sat a woman at a table; she directed Manuel to sit at the table across from her and the first woman pulled a crude chair from along the wall for Gina to sit in. She now sat almost in the middle of the room and felt a bit exposed in the open. 

      The woman Manuel sat at the table with was also well dressed, very pretty, and appeared to be in her mid to late thirties. 

      Manuel and the woman smiled and spoke together for several minutes as if they knew each other. 

      Then the woman looked at Gina and again began talking to Manuel, seeming to be speaking about the young woman in the middle of the dimly lit room. Manuel, in turn, spoke to the woman as Gina sat in silence, not understanding anything the two said, yet aware of the fact they spoke about her. 

      "You found her on the side of the road to La Gordo?" Olivia could barely believe what Manuel told her. 

      "Yes, she said she is Italiano and I think she may have been on a shipwreck. She wore a floating device." 

      "Do you have the device?" 

      "Yes; she gave it to Duena after she gave her that dress." 

      Olivia looked at Gina and appeared thoughtful. Then Manuel continued. 

      "We hoped someone might come looking for her, but after almost three weeks no one has. A drunken man tried to crawl in the window one night. My guess is he just wanted to look at her. Nevertheless, this frightened the poor girl very much. I suspect she is very stressed and scared. Yet she's not complained once. She has remained quiet and calm throughout the time we've kept her. Do you think we should take her to the Federals?" 

      Olivia turned to Manuel quickly. "No, no, you did the right thing to bring her here. I don't trust the police or the Federals. There's no telling what might happen to an attractive young woman in their hands." 

      She turned back to Gina. She seemed to study her for a few moments before continuing. 

      "I don't have the money to send her back to Italy. We can't trust the government officials to get her where she needs to go either." 

      Olivia paused again and then continued with a concerned tone. 

      "I've not heard of any shipwrecks. I wonder if she may have fallen from a ship. This might explain why we've not heard of a shipwreck. Also, if she fell from a ship during a storm then the ship wouldn't know where to search for her and by now must believe she's dead." 

      Manuel appeared impressed. 

      "You know, that makes sense Olivia. And I believe there was a storm the day before I found her. If this is the case then she has likely been given up as lost by now, and no one will come for her." 

      Now Olivia considered the situation with a renewed effort. 

      "I'm afraid there may be little hope for this girl to get home very soon. Until we can find some way to get her home, I'll keep her safe, here with me." 

      Olivia again paused in thought. 

      "She can work around here to earn her way, but that won't be enough to get her home." 

      Manuel now seemed to think of something. 

      "Could you teach her to dance? A good Flamenco dancer might earn enough for a ticket to Italy." 

      She thought about what Manuel suggested and then after slowly standing up walked over to Gina. 

      "I don't know... she's already too old I think. But this would be the only respectable way she could earn enough money for a trip back to where she came from." 

      She walked around Gina, seeming to examine her closely. She then motioned for her to stand up. 

      After Gina stood up Olivia pulled the back of her plain dress together to reveal the shape of Gina's figure. 

      She examined her from top to bottom and front to back. Then she let the dress go and reached down, grabbed the bottom of her dress and lifted it up past Gina's knees to examine her legs. 

      Gina protested a little as she felt like an animal being looked over before purchase. 

      "Relax, I wish to help you," Olivia told her. 

      To Gina however, this sounded as if the woman had scolded her for protesting. 

      Then Olivia gently grasped Gina's mouth and pulled her lips up and down to see her teeth. 

      Now Gina became worried even more. She wanted to run away but knew she had nowhere to run to. 

      "She has the beauty and the figure for the Flamenco. Good teeth also, which won't hurt matters." 

      She motioned for her to sit again and Gina did as Olivia asked. 

      The two walked back to the table and sat down again. 

      Olivia stared at the young woman for a moment as if deciding. Then she pulled a small purse from an unseen pocket in her dress. Opening the purse up Olivia pulled a few silver coins from it. 

      "Here’s what I'll do Manuel," she then handed Mr. Flores the coins. 

      "I can give you this much to help cover what you’ve spent to care for this girl until now. I'll take full responsibility for her. She can earn that much back I'm sure. 

      “I may try to teach her to dance. She may have no talent though, so this may or may not work. I'll have one of the girls help her learn Spanish so that we can communicate.” 

      “If by chance she can learn the Flamenco, she may be able to earn enough for a fare back to her home. Or maybe we can figure out a way to contact her family in Italy and they can come for her. 

      “In the meantime, if I should hear of her family searching for her here in Tantico, I’ll get her to them safely. This is all I know to do." 

      Manuel pocketed the coins Olivia handed him. 

      "That's the best thing that can be done, I'm certain, Olivia. You may wish to keep the fact that she is Italiano a secret though. We had quite a commotion in La Gordo once everyone became aware of it." 

      She smiled and laughed a little as if imagining the situation. Manuel then continued.

      "Thank you so much, Olivia. I'm sure she’ll be safe here and have the best possible chance to get home." 

      He stood up, smiled and after waving bye to Gina, quietly left the room. 

      Gina now felt terrified as Olivia walked over to her. 

      "Did you just buy me?" she asked with a nervous voice. 

      Olivia didn't understand what she said and expressed this with a questioning look. 

      "Do I," Gina put her hand to her chest, "belong to you now?" She then pointed to Olivia. 

      "Si," Olivia said, then nodded, mistaking what Gina had said. 

      "You," Olivia pointed to Gina, "stay with me now," Olivia then pointed to herself. 

      Gina felt her heart fall inside her.

      "I'm a slave," she said in a soft voice to herself. She then remembered the few silver coins Olivia gave to Manuel. "And it seems I'm not worth very much at all." 

      Olivia smiled and nodded again to Gina, not actually understanding any of what she had said. 

      She then took Gina by the arm, helping her to stand up and led her out the door and down the hall behind the stage. 

      Gina felt weak and as if she was outside of herself. She couldn't quite grasp the situation she now found herself in. 

      The first well-dressed lady she'd seen in the cafe came up to them in the hallway. 

      "Elisa, this young lady will be staying with us for a while. Can you take her to the spare room and try to make her comfortable? She doesn't speak Spanish by the way." 

      Elisa gave Olivia an odd look. 

      "What does she speak then?" 

       "Well, she's Italiano. We believe she may have fallen from a ship several weeks ago. Let's not let this get out though. We'll try to keep the lid on it until everyone has become more accustomed to her. According to my cousin's husband, there was quite a commotion in La Gordo after everyone found out she was a foreigner." 

      "Oh my," Elisa replied. "I see your point." 

      Olivia then motioned for Gina to go with Elisa. 

      After a short walk, the two arrived at a small room with a bed and a tiny table in the corner. Gina had seen closets back home larger than this room. She sat down on the bed as Elisa left, closing the door behind her. 

      Alone, she now fell into despair as she considered the recent events and her apparent situation. What would become of her? 

      Then, a terrifying thought came to her. The way the woman examined her figure and made an extra effort to view her legs, would she use her as a prostitute? The more she thought about this terrible possibility the more depressed she became. 

      What could she do? Maybe she could escape. But where would she go? She couldn't speak Italian. She might find a good person to help her. She might also find a bad person like Rod who would do terrible things to her. She seemed to be without options. 

      Gina tried to tell herself that at least she was still alive. This however didn't help as much as it did before. 

      As she sat on the bed in the tiny room, a heavy feeling of darkness lowered onto her; even the fragile hope she had held onto with the Flores’s slipped from her grasp. 

      Elisa walked into the room with a dish of food and a drink. 

      "Here's something to eat. I'll bet you’re starving. Olivia said you came all the way from La Gordo." 

      Gina accepted the food and thanked Elisa and after she left, Gina tried to eat. The food smelled and tasted wonderful. Though she wanted to enjoy the meal she instead ate slowly and methodically. 

      After a while, Elisa came back in and took the dishes. Gina wasn't sure what to do. The noises of the cafe had slowly subsided. Sleep beckoned her, but she felt too depressed and restless. The terrible thoughts of what might lay ahead for her consumed her. She couldn’t release herself from this feeling of anxiety.

      She thought this must be as low as she could ever get and wondered where any hope could come from. At this very instant, Olivia entered the room with a warm smile. Elisa followed behind her. 

      "I hope you enjoyed the food," she said to Gina. "I'm sorry you've been here alone but I am generally busy until the cafe closes." 

       Olivia studied the young woman as she tried to communicate with her. Gina sat quietly and appeared a bit frightened. Olivia continued. 

      "Elisa and her husband are my partners in this cafe. They operate the food and drink side and I manage the entertainment. I teach the Flamenco dance and as part of the tuition payment, the girls must perform here at the cafe." 

      Olivia felt as though she couldn’t communicate with Gina at all. She studied the silent girl sitting in apparent despair on the edge of the tiny bed.

      "What's her name?" Elisa asked. 

      "I don't know. It seems Manuel and Duena made no real effort to communicate with her." 

      Olivia turned to Gina. 

      "What's your name?" 

      To Gina, the two well-dressed and distinguished women were a little intimidating. She understood none of what they said and felt as though they may be discussing their newest acquisition. 

      "My name is Olivia." She pointed to herself. "This is 'Elisa'." She pointed to Elisa. "You are?" She pointed to Gina. 

      Now Gina understood what Olivia had asked her. 

      "Gina," she replied in a soft voice. 

      "Gina." Both women repeated the name with a bit of excitement. 

      "Well, it seems we are making some progress now," Olivia smiled as she said this and looked at Elisa. 

      "We wish to help you Gina. But we're somewhat limited in what we can do. You're fortunate to be in a prosperous area of Mexico. Tantico has a small port and Vista Cruz has a much larger port and is only a half-day away by bus. Money flows much easier around here than in some areas of Mexico.

      "But to purchase fare to Italy is more than most people around here could ever do. You wouldn't be safe with the authorities either. The best we can hope for is that your family somehow gets a message to Tantico or you can help us get a message to your family. In the meantime, you can perhaps learn to dance or work in the restaurant." 

      Olivia turned to Elisa. 

      "I don't think she understands anything I'm saying, do you?" The two women gazed down at Gina as if attempting to read her thoughts. 

      "She seems frightened," Elisa finally stated. 

      "Hmm, yes she does appear to be frightened. Manuel said a man tried to crawl into her window one night. Maybe she just doesn't feel safe anywhere." 

      Again, the two studied her. 

      "I know, bring Hernan in and have him bring his club." 

      Elisa nodded and left the room. Soon she returned with her husband Hernan. Gina realized this was the same man Manuel spoke with in front of the cafe. He was a husky man and carried a large club. 

      Gina's eyes widened when she saw him. She was sure she was about to be beaten. 

      "Gina, this is Elisa's husband, Hernan. He protects this place and is very good at it. You needn't worry about your security." 

      Gina sat silently, watching Hernan. 

      "I think she may understand." Olivia said and continued, “If someone tries to come into the window." Olivia pointed at the small window. "You call out and Hernan will come and knock them out." She glanced back to him. "Show her the club Hernan."  

      Hernan stepped up and beat his hand several times with the large club. 

      At this point, Gina completely broke down. 

      "I won't try to escape." She gazed up at Olivia with tears in her eyes. 

      "Please don't beat me. I'll do what you want. Please don't make me a prostitute. I can wait on tables or wash dishes, whatever you want. I won't try to escape. You don't need to beat me." 

      She expressed great emotion and this to Olivia and Elisa appeared to indicate she had in fact been scared. Now that she saw Hernan with the club she was relaying her fears to the women. 

      Elisa turned to Olivia with a puzzled look. "Is that Italiano?" 

      Olivia also appeared puzzled.” I don't know, I've only met one person that has ever been to Italy, and he only spoke Spanish around me." 

      "It does seem she understands the situation now." Elisa stated.

      "Yes, I think she does." Olivia replied and now continued to try reassuring her. 

      "You'll be fine here, Gina. We'll watch over you and you'll be safe." 

      Olivia then told Hernan he could go. 

      When Hernan left the room, Gina calmed down some. 

      "Well, that must have been it. She's been worried about her safety." 

      Olivia nodded affirmation to Elisa's comment. 

      "I'm afraid you'll need to work while you’re here, Gina. I wish we could simply care for you or supply you with a ticket home to Italy, but we all must struggle every day for food and other necessities." 

      Gina understood none of this but felt she had communicated enough to have the man with the club removed. 

      Now she listened intently to Olivia, to show her she would be good. 

      "I don't know what you’re saying but I'll do as you ask. Please don't make me a prostitute, though. I can do anything else, if you just find anything but that. I'll work hard I promise you." 

      She felt she had only this one chance to persuade Olivia. 

      "What is she saying?" Elisa asked in bewilderment. 

      Olivia studied the young woman again before replying. "I wish I knew." 

      Then, appearing to think of something she said, "I'll be right back." 

      She quickly left the room and after a few minutes returned with a framed photograph. She held the picture up for Gina to see. 

      A much younger Olivia posed in a Flamenco dress, as if dancing. Her youth and beauty displayed a confident woman at the peak of her dancing career. 

      After studying the photograph and then studying Olivia's face to be sure the two women were one and the same, she pointed at the photograph and then pointed to Olivia. 

      "Yes, it's me when I was a little older than you." Olivia turned the photograph around, so she could view it. 

      "I mastered the Flamenco when I still had my youth," she said this in a reminiscent voice. 

      "I now teach the dance and perhaps I could teach you also if you would like to learn." 

      As she said this, Olivia pointed at the photo and then to Gina. 

      When she did this, Gina's heart almost leapt from her chest. She pointed at the photo and then to herself to be sure she understood what Olivia meant. 

      "Yes, yes. Do you wish to dance? I hope you can learn if you want. This may be the only way for you to find your way home." 

      Gina smiled now that she felt sure of what Olivia said. 

      "I would love to dance. If you show me how, I promise you I'll be the best dancer ever." 

      Olivia understood that Gina did want to dance. She smiled. 

      "It seems you've said something she understands," Elisa said as she noticed the immediate change in Gina's demeanor. 

      "Yes, it seems so," Olivia added with a smile. 

      After the two women left, Gina finally laid down. She felt better now that there was a new hope. She thought about being able to dance as opposed to the things she’d worried might happen to her. 

      She decided that night to be a great dancer for Olivia. No matter what else, if she became a great dancer, Olivia would not toss her aside or send her somewhere unsafe. Surely, she would keep Gina safe if she could be a magnificent dancer for her. 

      Then she remembered the young woman dancing after she had entered the Cafe. She tried to imagine herself dancing as the young woman did. With these thoughts in mind, she drifted off to a restful sleep.

      The following day Olivia gave her several dresses that wouldn't have been worth much in Jacksonville, but certainly were a step up from the sack with holes she'd received from Duena. 

      She also brought a young woman that worked as a waitress to meet Gina. 

      "Gina, this is Alicia." Olivia stood beside a pretty young woman about Gina's age. 

      She appeared to be a simple girl and didn't overdress as some of Olivia's students did. She was about the same height as Gina, but her hair was a little darker. 

      From her rather plain dress, Gina could assess this girl must have duties other than dancing. The young woman smiled at her and at that instant Gina felt it was the most beautiful smile she'd ever seen. 

       "Alicia will be working with you. She'll be helping you with everything until you can communicate better." 

      Gina understood little of what Olivia said to her, but Alicia put her hand out to Gina and she shook it.   

      Alicia showed her everything to get her started helping around the cafe. She learned quickly and soon had a daily routine. 

      As the days went by, they became good friends, regardless of Gina not speaking Spanish, and over the next few weeks she became more relaxed in her new environment. 

      While Gina quietly worked throughout the day, dancers would step up on the stage. The guitarist would play a wonderful tune and she couldn't help but marvel at the beautiful dance. 

      The youngest dancer appeared to be about twelve. Later Gina learned that Olivia wouldn’t take a dancer younger than twelve because she felt the Flamenco was something of an adult styled dance. "You must feel the energy of the dance flow through you," she would tell Gina later. 

      Olivia's oldest student looked to be around twenty years old. Some of the dancers were obviously from wealthy families and acted as if Gina were beneath them. This moved Gina even closer to Alicia who was from a family that wasn't poor, but not wealthy either. 

      The best dancers always performed when the cafe had the most business. Less experienced dancers would dance in the mornings and during the times when there were fewer customers. When Gina realized the most popular and experienced dancers always held the prime spots; she set her sights on someday ruling these dancing periods. 

      As she picked up dishes and cleaned tables, she studied the performances with a focused interest. Every day she’d memorize several moves that Olivia would show the students. When the day ended, Gina would practice the moves in her tiny room backstage. 

      Olivia seemed to forget about teaching her to dance as time went by. Gina thought this to be a result of having trouble communicating with her and doubled her efforts to learn Spanish. She refused to let go of the offer Olivia had presented to her that first night. 

      She became very proficient around the cafe and earned her way. Yet this reinforced to the dancers and everyone else that she would only amount to a waitress and dishwasher. 

      However, Gina strengthened her dream every day and focused all her energy on being ready for any opportunity Olivia might give her. 

      One night, about six months after Gina came to the Cafe Flamenco; Olivia had stayed late to work on one of her student’s dresses. As she left her workroom and walked down the hallway that ran behind the stage, she heard something. 

      She walked slowly around the corner towards Gina's tiny room and could see a candlelight burning from behind the slightly open door. She sat her small oil lantern down and moved quietly up to the doorway. 

      Peering into the room through the cracked door, she became amazed as Gina quietly practiced Flamenco moves in the cramped area. 

      Olivia's heart swelled in her chest for the young woman whom she'd almost forgotten about. Yet here she was, alone in a small, candle-lit room, dancing Flamenco moves that she must have viewed the students performing on stage. 

      A tear erupted and slowly slid down Olivia's cheek as she put her hand to her mouth and stifled a heartfelt moan. Without letting Gina know she had seen her, she silently left the cafe. But Olivia vowed to herself that night she would begin teaching Gina to dance. 

      Later, that same week, Olivia instructed several of the younger dancers. The oldest of these was around fifteen and the youngest, twelve. 

      One of the girls that belonged to a wealthy family in the area was obviously more interested in her new dress and talking with her friends, than performing dance moves in the manner Olivia instructed her to do. 

      Olivia then noticed Gina watching the lesson as she cleaned a table. Perhaps in frustration from her student not giving her full effort, Olivia decided to try something. 

      "Clareta, you're not going low enough. I know you can go lower." 

      The teenage girl made a face to her friends but was turned in a way that Olivia didn't see it. 

      "I can't bend back any lower, Teacher," she whined. "I'll fall over if I go farther back." 

      "You won't, if you place your feet and legs in the position I instructed you to." Olivia took a deep breath and continued. "I'll give you one more try to get it right, Clareta. You're testing my patience, because I know you can make the move if you do as I tell you." 

      Clareta expelled a heavy sigh, as if she were tired of trying. Once again, the guitarist played and once again Clareta danced. 

      Then, as she was supposed to bend back further, she rather obviously pretended to fall. 

      Gina shook her head a little as she wiped the table with a rag. She'd made that move just last night in her room. She knew if Clareta placed her feet and legs the way Olivia told her to, she could go back far enough. 

      "Are you alright, Clareta?" Olivia asked with concern, even though she had little doubt the fall had been staged. 

      "I'm alright, Teacher." She whined as she picked herself up. 

       Olivia moved around to the front of the stage and rubbed her hands together slightly, as if in thought. 

      "So, you've been my student for almost two years Clareta. I took you on as a student because your mother asked me so persistently and she also told me you would work hard to learn the dance. Is this not true?" 

      Clareta sat down with her friends. 

      "This is true Teacher but I'm not Nina," she said this referring to Olivia's most prominent dancer. 

      Olivia walked back to the side of the stage, still in thought. 

      "Perhaps I should have Gina come over and show you girls what can be done with a little desire and determination." 

      All the girls laughed snidely at this statement, as if their teacher was joking. 

      "Gina," Olivia called out. 

      Gina stopped her work and looked up, a bit surprised. She quickly folded her rag up and placed it on the table, then walked over to Olivia. 

      With some finger pointing and using words she knew Gina had learned; Olivia made it clear to her that she wanted Gina to try the move. 

      This shocked Gina initially. She immediately felt nervous. The other girls were in fine Flamenco dresses and had their hair made-up. 

      She nervously rubbed her hands on her faded white waitress dress to remove the sweat. 

      She cautiously climbed the steps onto the stage. The students now giggled freely as if they were in for a funny show. 

      Gina knew inside this may be her only chance to show Olivia she could dance. 

      She put everything out of her mind and told herself; "I’m a dancer." 

      Then, she stepped back and let out a deep breath. The guitarist began to play. As if a completely different person had appeared upon the stage, Gina began to move almost effortlessly. 

      Olivia had only asked her to do the one move, but Gina danced all the way to that move. 

      She then made the move and froze in it immediately as the music stopped. 

      Everyone stood or sat in shock. Even Olivia, who had been somewhat aware of Gina's potential stood in awe of what had just happen. The other girls had their mouths open and eyes wide in obvious shock. 

      Olivia quickly regained her composure. 

      "You see where her feet and legs are?" She lifted Gina's faded dress to expose the taught leg muscles holding her in the position. 

      "Alright Gina, very good, you may come down now." 

      Gina stood straight and then slowly stepped down from the stage and returned to her waitress duties. 

      The effect was immediate. Olivia now knew she must begin to train Gina without any further delay. The other students quickly became jealous of Gina; but considering her performance began to work harder to avoid being "shown up" by the waitress. 

      Gina wasn't initially sure how well she did, but after the cafe closed that night Olivia called her over to a table where she and Elisa sat. 

      "I want to begin your dance training right away Gina. Do you understand?" 

      She did understand and replied with a soft-spoken "Si." 

      "I'll be right back," Olivia walked to the back. She soon returned with an old pair of shoes in her hands. 

      "These are a pair of shoes I used when I danced. Please try them on. You'll need dancing shoes if you're to learn the Flamenco." 

      Gina put the old pair of shoes on. 

      "Do they fit?" 

      Gina smiled and replied to Olivia in broken Spanish. "Si, they do." 

      Olivia smiled also and at this time something happened inside her heart. She felt a love for this girl that she didn't feel towards her other students. She loved her students, as any teacher would love their students. But when Gina put the old, worn-out shoes on and then smiled as if Olivia had just given her a very expensive gift, Olivia's heart melted with affection. 

      Olivia fought back a tear as Gina turned the shoes from side to side and then glanced up again with a warm smile. 

      Gina then stood up and lifted her stained waitress dress to move in a dancing motion, while still marveling at the worn dance shoes. 

      Olivia knew at this moment she could never see Gina as just another student. For the first time in her career as a dance teacher, a student had become more important to her than the other students. 

      She put her hand to her mouth as she watched Gina and considered how to handle this new situation. 

      "Sit down for a moment, Gina. I would like to talk with you." 

      She sat down but continued to smile and glance down to the dance shoes. 

      "Your Spanish is getting better. I'm glad we cleared the misunderstanding up of this being Italy. I think we should keep the fact that you're American to ourselves however, it'll save confusion. Also, it may be safer for you. Most Mexicans believe all Americans have money. There are bad Mexicans that wouldn't believe you have no family back in America or money somewhere and may try to kidnap you. The misunderstanding about Italy may be a good thing for you after all." 

      "I think so," Gina said softly, again in broken Spanish. 

      "Gina, I believe you have great potential as a dancer. You'll face much opposition though. You can overcome this if you focus on the dance. Few have mastered the Flamenco as it should be. If you focus on the dance and believe in yourself then I feel you can be one of the few that does. Do you understand?" 

      She nodded again that she did somewhat understand. 

      "Good, you may go to bed now, good night." 

      "Good night," Gina replied and almost floated off to her small room. 

      "There's something different about this girl." Olivia said to Elisa after Gina had gone. 

      "You mean besides the fact she's not a Mexican?" 

      Olivia stared at the stage as if recalling Gina's earlier dance moves. 

      "Yes, that's what I mean. I can't put my finger on it, but this girl is special." 

      Elisa took a drink and sat the glass down. 

      "How do you mean?" 

      Olivia appeared to consider her friend’s question in depth for a few seconds. 

      "I'm not certain what it is exactly, but I know the other girls want to dance the Flamenco; Gina however, seems to 'need' to dance the Flamenco." 

      Both women thought about this for a moment. Then Elisa asked.

      "Did Alicia tell you Gina's father died when she was young, and her mother abandoned her?" 

      "Yes." Olivia replied with a sad tone. 

      "Do you suppose this could be why there's a difference in Gina?" Elisa asked.

      "Possibly, it could be she needs something such as the dance in her life, perhaps to help fill a void. Whatever the case may be, I believe this girl will go far, if we can get her on the right path." 

      Olivia then took another drink and both women sat in the dimly lit Cafe, reflecting on this new development in their lives.