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The little plane flies low over the rain forests and mountains. I point out volcanoes to Emma, although I’m guessing. Somewhere among the jagged peaks are volcanoes.
We’re in the last seat or I’d signal the pilot—no stunts. Over the water, he tilts the plane and I start forward but he winks in the mirror. Okay, no loops or barrel rolls. Meanwhile, we’re a few hundred feet above the bright blue waves, the wings angled so that Emma slams up against the van-size window, facing straight down at the beach and bay.
“Berto, don’t scare her.” I wrap an arm around her, pulling her close. “We’re almost there.”
She giggles, her face giddy from an obvious adrenaline rush. I brush her wispy hair back and press my mouth against her ear. And as we land, she closes her eyes, rising in her seat.
Pedro’s parked my truck behind the low fence bordering the airstrip. Afraid she’s tired, I ask, “Do you mind a little shopping, Emma? Ten minutes to stock up on wine and beer.”
Pedro says, “I stocked you up, Scottie. Beer, wine, tequila. Chicken, rice, onions. Lo que quiera. Your palace awaits.”
Less than a block from the airport, the main street turns to dirt. Emma leans back and sighs as we pass into trees, bushes, vines, and enormous orchids. While I maneuver the truck through real rain forest, Emma sticks her head out the window, listening to birds sing and call, and the monkeys rustling and chattering above.
We drop Pedro off at his silver trailer by the beach. His girlfriend Moira appears, wearing a big black bra and Pedro’s hiking shorts, low-slung beneath her sun-burned, pregnant belly. Standing on tiptoe, she kisses my cheek, hello. “Stay and have a drink.”
“Sorry, hon. Just here to say hi to Luisa or Luis in there.” I tap her tummy and introduce her to Emma. “Two minutes,” I point toward Pedro, who’s disappeared inside the trailer. Indoors, we settle up, even as I peer out at the women.
Moira’s asking Emma, “Wanna feel?”
“Whoa!” Emma whoops, really surprised. “Your baby’s whole foot smacked my hand. Strong little one.”
Leaving, I can’t resist tugging Moira’s dark, messy ponytail. “Couple a days and you guys should come for dinner.”
In the truck, I say, “Fifteen more minutes, Emma. My place’s just a mile north, straight up.”
“Moira told me Pedro’s delivering the baby. What if she needs a C-section? Or the baby needs oxygen?”
“There’s a yoga center up the beach. They’ve got a doula there.”
“But no surgeon or respirator. How do they get by?”
“What do they do for money?”
“Ah. Pedro takes care of my land. I pay him a lot, plus he makes a nice profit growing mota among the corn. Moira’s from Vancouver. She met him last year on vacation.”
“Pretty fast then, having a baby. So, what do you do, Scott? For money?”
Sometimes the answer’s well known, if not thoroughly researched, and if the woman’s curious down to the last nickel, a hint might pop up after the third night. Nobody else has ever left the country with me without some background information. But it’s been two weeks and Emma hasn’t even wondered till now. So, the truth: “When it comes to money, Emma, I’m loaded.”
I smile too soon, I guess because I’m embarrassed, which is weird—me feeling embarrassed about money. Staring straight ahead, I shift into fourth gear, waiting for some kind of reaction when Emma finally smiles back. “How loaded, Scott?”
“Stick with me, darling, and you can have anything you want, whenever you want it. That loaded.”
Hauling over the hilltop, I swing the truck around and park between the two coconut trees. Emma wanders into the red and yellow garden of heliconia and bird of paradise flowers, bordered by mango trees.
Before she gets any more involved with the landscape, I take her hand and lead her toward the bungalow. We’re almost close enough so she can see the outer rooms, open to the breeze.
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