Its early, not yet seven a.m., and once again Im waking up
beside my adoptive sister.
This has got to stop. Shes a married woman.
The air-conditioning is on high, and my head feels like its immersed in freezing water, even though Melissas body is cleaving to mine wherever it can, making me hot and clammy beneath the covers. I sit up, and reach for the remote control that operates the blinds. They track smoothly upwards and the city, bile yellow, pours in from every direction.
Melissas penthouse is at the head of a long avenue that bisects the Garden District straight through to the smogcloaked towers of downtown. From up here you look down on the treetops and the green parakeets that flit between them. At night gridlocked traffic lights up the avenue in glittering ribbons of red and white. During big football matches, when a goal is scored, the fireworks burst silently beneath you.
I stretch and lie back to think of more ways in which I could mark Ernestos territory, to see if hed latch on to the fact that Im sleeping with his wife. Youd think hed have noticed something by now: whenever these stopovers take place I find myself brushing his body hairs from the bed before I get in it, so I must be leaving a few of my own, and I make a habit of draining every half-glass of water he leaves on the bedside table. But he hasnt. So Im taking bigger risks. I sit in his dressing gown reading his diary on the computer when Melissas in the shower, and altering it here and there if I feel Ive been unfairly represented. I drink his wine. I eat his leftovers. I use his toothbrush. Ive even written him messages on the bathroom mirror with my finger in the hope that they might shimmer into view next time he has a shave. But so far, he hasnt a clue. Hes too busy out saving the rest of the world to notice that hes losing his wife.
Im thinking these ignoble thoughts about Ernesto, touching the back of his wifes neck and trying to make her move so her nipple will brush against my chest, when the sound of a helicopter directly overhead deals a defibrillator jolt to my heart.
Melissas father, Zé Fischer Carnicelli, hasnt been down to street level in the city for over fifteen years. He lives in a gated community of 30,000 inhabitants, way out of town, and is flown from there to his downtown office every morning in a helicopter that has the word Predator painted graffiti-style over its nose, along with gnashing teeth and a pair of evil yellow eyes. Hes approaching retirement, but he still keeps regular office hours. A chauffeur drives him between his house and the heliport, then back again in the evening. During the day, he might hop to another high-rise to meet someone for lunch, or to attend an afternoon meeting, but he never touches the pavement. Its not just a question of safety: if he went by car he could get snared in a traffic jam lasting hours. Nobody whos anybody gets driven to work in the city these days.
On his way, hes delighted to pick up Melissa and deposit her at her office. He doesnt see as much of his daughter as hed like now that she is married, and this way he gets to spend the first few minutes of his day with her as they speed over the boiling, stationary traffic. Because Melissas penthouse is directly under the helipad, he doesnt even need to phone ahead: she sees the helicopter coming and hears it rumbling on the roof, which gives her just enough time to take a slurp of coffee, grab her keys, and rush upstairs to kiss her Papai good morning.
Being found in bed with Melissa by her father is a far more terrifying prospect than getting caught by her husband. If Zé walked in now, my life would end its that simple. Relax. Its not him. Melissa stirs, and detaches her lips from the hollow beneath my jaw. Its too early, you know that. She squirms gorgeously on my leg, naked and hot.
Excerpted from Heliopolis by James Scudamore. Copyright © 2010 by James Scudamore. Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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