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She got falsified papers from Victoria and managed to do it secretly. She wasn't Alba, that was done. She knew that, and Francisco was learning. She couldn't be Lidia, either, though. And Eva couldn't be Eva, and Francisco couldn't be Francisco. They were hiding.

Carlos wasn't someone Lidia ever wanted to hide from. She knew she'd spent so much of their time together hiding things from him but this - this was different. She loved him. She loved him more than anyone else. But she couldn't trust him, and lack of trust had always been a dealbreaker for her.

So she found herself on that boat, settling into her small room with Francisco and Eva. She knew it would be easier to have Victoria falsify a marriage certificate for her and Francisco - that was the first thing she offered to Lidia, though she had the decency to have a hint of shame in her voice as she did it. Lidia instead asked for papers showing that she and Francisco were siblings - it eliminated questions about why they were traveling and staying together. She couldn't bring herself to ask for a certificate of widowhood again, though. She clung to the hope that she'd be able to go back one day, and she couldn't shut that door with Carlos. She couldn't let anyone think her daughter's father was dead.

She told Carlos that once they were settled, they'd write to him. And she meant that. She had every intention of keeping him close to Eva and keeping Eva in contact with her father. She'd send photos, she'd send updates about Eva's development, she wasn't going to let him miss any more than he had too. But she was going to have to figure out a way to keep in contact with him that was untraceable. That was going to take a while.

She didn't know how she'd explain her situation, exactly, when she got to America, but she thought she'd figure something out. She always did.

"We should lay low," she told Francisco. "We shouldn't draw attention, we shouldn't get too close to anyone. We don't know who here could recognize us."

"Okay," Francisco said. He nudged her a bit and used her new identity. "Understood, Maria."

Lidia rolled her eyes a bit, but her heart was still pounding. She knew she was doing the right thing, getting Eva away from Carmen. From Carlos. That was the part that made her skin crawl. She knew what it was like to be separated from family, and she wouldn't wish that on anyone, let alone her-.

"Okay, Manuel," she said, pushing that thought aside. "Which bed do you want? I don't care."

"This is fine," Francisco said, nodding toward the bed he had put his suitcase on. "We can put the crib between us, so she can always see one of us."

Lidia nodded at the idea, but still, she felt that tightness in her chest. She knew she was protecting Eva. She knew she was doing the right thing. But she remembered the first days after Eva was born, when she slept with Eva's crib right next to her bed, sometimes with Carlos on her other side and sometimes with him in a chair on the other side of the crib, where he'd sleep with a hand poking into the crib for Eva to cling to so she knew she wasn't alone.

"You can still get off the boat," Lidia said.

"What?"

"You can," Lidia said. "Run, now, and you can go. Victoria can get you back to Spain, or anywhere you want to go. You don't need to come with me just because you remember me."

"I want to come with you-."

"Francisco, what happens when your memories come back? And you remember everything you left behind and you're stuck with me and my daughter in a whole other country?"

"I'll remember why I went with you," Francisco said. "Because I love you. Because you're my family."

Lidia gave him a look. She hadn't asked him, exactly, what he thought about their cover story as siblings. She just did it. Something about that felt familiar to Francisco, at least. And they were family. They trusted each other enough to take this journey into the unknown together.

Lidia couldn't bring herself to make it clear that that's what they were - family. She was always going to love Francisco, and she knew he was always going to love her. He was only ever going to be a dear friend to her, though. Her oldest friend. The person who knew her best. She was never going to be with him again, though. He was a brother to her, that's it. He wasn't Eva's father.

Francisco hadn't outright said that, though. He told Lidia he loved her, that he loved Eva, that they were family. Lidia didn't have the heart to take him with her across the world, and then at the same time ask what he meant.

"Tell me when you start remembering things, okay? I can help you."

"I will."

"For real, Francisco. And if you ever want to go back to Spain or leave at any point-."

"I will, Lidia. I promise."

Lidia nodded, accepting that. She Eva had been sitting on the other bed, playing with some dolls she brought.

"Isabel," she said, picking up her daughter and breaking her own heart. "Ready for a nap, baby?"

She put her down in the crib provided in their small room. She had plenty of money, but she didn't want to be flashy. She didn't know how long it'd take to find somewhere safe where they were going, how long she'd be out of work.

"I read that if you're asleep when the boat starts moving, it's easier to get used to it."

"You've never been on a boat before?"

Lidia shook her head. "Have you?"

"I think so," Fransisco said. Something about the boat was stirring his memory. "Yeah, with...Elisa? I think after we got married."

"You remember that?"

Francisco nodded, looking around the room. It was nothing like the one he and Elisa had been in. But certain things were the same - the shape of the doorway and window, the slight rocking of the room, the way the sea air felt and tasted.

"Yeah, I do."

Lidia nodded. This was good. Exposure could help him remember things. He hadn't seen Elisa before he left, though he had seen Carmen and Carlos and they both had been at his wedding. But this, this wasn't just a visual reminder. It was an experiential one.

And it seemed to be working.

Lidia made a mental note to be careful about taking him to any train stations.

     -LCDC-

Lidia didn't know what to expect from this boat ride. It was nice to spend so much time with Eva. Things had been so hectic, so complicated that it felt like ages she'd spent time with her daughter. She was determined not to let her out of her sight.

She hadn't spent this amount of time with Francisco since that fateful train ride all those years ago. She'd spent plenty of time with him, of course, in the years past, but this was different. Neither of them had someone else to go home to, not a spouse or a partner or a friend in a boarding house. They were together for days. That was enough to test any relationship.

Francisco remembered more. He started remembering a lot about his time with Elisa. He remembered how it ended with her, but he didn't want to talk about it. He remembered how he met her, through Carlos, and Lidia wanted to help him but she didn't want to talk about that.

She did, though. She listened to Francisco, she filled in the blanks where he asked for her to.

Eva did surprisingly well on the boat. She'd never been on a boat, either, but she handled it much better than Lidia did.

Francisco got a little seasick, but he could handle it. He could tell that it was hard on Lidia, though, dealing with being on the boat and answering all his questions and taking care of Eva and accepting the path she put them all on.

     -LCDC-

The last night was really bad. They'd spent days isolated from other passengers, not wanting to risk being recognized and followed by any of Carmen's henchmen. Eva was very quickly getting very tired of being all cooped up. Lidia made sure she left the room some and she saw some other kids her age, but not for very long. The boat made Lidia too sick to be on deck for very long, anyway.

The last night, there was a storm. They were close to New York, there was no point and no hope of diverting the ship anywhere else. They just had to get through it.

It was bad, though. The boat shook worse than before, Eva wouldn't stop crying, Lidia couldn't stop feeling nauseous and getting sick.

There were rumors going around that their arrival in New York would be delayed. Lidia couldn't handle another second on that boat beyond the regularly scheduled time.  She was curled up in her small bed, holding Eva and being grateful that at least the swaying of the boat rocked Eva to sleep.

Francisco sat across from them, watching them. He couldn't sleep. He wanted to keep an eye on them, to make sure they were both alright.

"I didn't know storms could be this bad this close to shore," Lidia said.

Francisco nodded. "Yeah, they can." He had more memories back but he didn't ever remember seeing Lidia sick like this. She was looking at him, but she couldn't really focus.

She was sweating, she'd lost all color in her face. "It's okay. We're almost in New York."

"We're not staying in New York," Lidia said quietly.

"What?"

"I hate boats," she groaned.

"Lidia, you're not thinking straight. Let me take Eva, go to sleep."

Lidia looked at her daughter. "No, she's asleep. She's fine here."

"You're not fine. Alba, come on."

"Don't call me that."

"Lidia, fine. You're not well. Let me take her, and go to sleep."

"No," Lidia muttered. Her eyes were fluttering shut, then open again. The room was swaying, yes, but it also felt like her head was spinning. "No one is taking Eva."

"No one is taking Eva," Francisco agreed. "Let me hold her."

Lidia had never felt so dizzy in her life. She remembered when she fell off that building, when she was pregnant with Eva and she didn't know what was going to happen to her. It was the most terrifying period of time in her life. She told herself then that if she just made it through, if they both made it through, that it would be okay. She'd spent agonizing weeks recovery, scared to accept anything but the most necessary treatment from the unfamiliar doctors because of what Carmen had done.

That fear still lingered. She didn't trust anyone on the boat. She knew she was unwell and weak and she didn't trust herself to leave the room.

"No." She looked up at Francisco and she could've sworn there were two of him. Maybe there were, for all she knew. She'd been sick and basically sequestered for days, she knew she was losing it a little. She let herself cry a bit.

"Lidia," Francisco said, immediately kneeling in front of her bed. He held onto the leg of the bed, since the force of the boat moving was enough to slide him across the floor.
"It's okay. We're almost there."

"I'm sorry, Francisco. For everything."

"It's okay, Lidia-."

"No, it's not. It's my fault you got shot. It's my fault your marriage ended and you lost your job, it's my fault you're here-."

"Lidia, stop-."

"This would all be so much easier," she said quietly, like she was admitting a secret she didn't know she kept. "If you were her father."

"What?"

Lidia looked at him like it just dawned on her what she'd said. She looked shocked by herself. She felt betrayal, like she'd just committed it and been the victim of it.

"I shouldn't have said that."

"I'm not her father, right?"

"No! No, of course not."

"What do you mean 'of course not'? We slept together-."

"You remember that?"

"I'm starting to," Francisco said.

"She's not yours. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything-."

"Then why did you?!" Francisco didn't want to yell at her, but he couldn't control his tone in that moment. He stood up a bit, and Lidia moved back away from him.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm so sorry, I-. I don't know why I said it." She spoke in hushed, hurried tones, not wanting to wake Eva and really wanting this conversation to be over.

"It's true though, eh?" Francisco asked. "It would be easier. You wouldn't have to take her away from me, Lidia. I could protect her. I did protect her!"

"Francisco, don't do this-."

"Do what? Be honest? Carlos-."

"Was your best friend," Lidia said. "He loves you. He paid for the doctor that got you better!"

"Carlos is a good man," Francisco said. "I remember that. But he's not good for you, for your family-."

Lidia slapped him. She didn't think about doing it, she just did it. She hated that part of herself sometimes.

"Francisco, I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," Francisco said. He had been kneeling in front of Lidia but now he sat back on his heels. He knew suddenly this wasn't the first time Lidia slapped him.

"We've done this before, eh?"

Lidia nodded. She felt more tears fall on her cheeks. She blinked a few times so she could see him more clearly and quietly shushed Eva while she nodded, wanting to make sure
she stayed asleep.

"Yeah, we have. I chose Carlos. I've chosen Carlos."

Francisco nodded. "I remember." He laughed. "I wonder if it hurt this much the first time?"

Lidia was nowhere near a laughing mood, but she did laugh a little for his benefit. "I'm sorry, Francisco. I really am. And Carlos is, too. We never wanted to hurt you."

He sighed deeply, running his hands through his hair. Who knew all it took was spending days locked in a room with Lidia to remember everything he'd forgotten. He wasn't sure everything was back, but he was pretty sure enough was. He knew where he stood with her, with Carlos, with Elisa and Carmen. It wasn't all entirely comfortable and easy but it was better than not knowing.

The ship rocked in an especially hard way and knocked Eva's doll from her arms. That was enough to finally wake her up. She cried loudly, reaching for both her mother and the doll.

"It's okay, my love," Lidia said. She went to reach for it, but paused as a wave of sickness overtook her.

It was only a fraction of a second, but Francisco noticed.

"Here," he said, quickly picking up the doll and putting it back in Eva's arms. He wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Here you go, sweetheart."

Lidia gave him a grateful look. "I'm really sorry I hit you."

"I'm sorry I didn't let it go, what you said. I know you're not feeling well."

"I shouldn't have said what I said."

Francisco nodded. He did sort of wish he hadn't heard it. "It's been a really long day."

Lidia nodded. There was more to say but she didn't know what. She didn't know how to say it. Maybe what they needed was time.

"We'll be in New York soon. Get some sleep."

"You too," Lidia said.

Francisco stood, shaking his head. "I'm going to go for a walk."

Lidia wanted to stop him, but didn't. She let him go.

     -LCDC-

They did make it to New York without further incident.

"Maria," Francisco said, following Lidia down the streets of the city while she held both Eva and a hand-drawn map. "There are dozens of boarding houses and hotels, why don't we pick one of those?"

"No," Lidia said. "It has to be this one."

"And why don't we take a cab?"

"This is more discreet," Lidia said. "Come on. We're almost there."

Francisco followed her, smiling a bit. He liked the idea of following this woman through unfamiliar cities. He had his memories of going to Madrid for the first time with her, but they didn't hurt in the same way.

     -LCDC-

All during the walk to the boarding house, Lidia passed public phone booths. It reminded her of her work at the Company. It reminded her of Carlos. She pushed those thoughts aside. She wanted to call him, to let him know they made it safely to the United States. But she didn't want to be found. She figured Carmen knew she was in New York, but she didn't want her to be able to narrow that down any further.

Besides, she didn't intend to stay for very long.

They made it to the boarding house eventually. It was a pretty standard place downtown, not very nice by any means but certainly better than some of the places that she'd read about being in the US. The place was full of immigrants from all over. There were plenty of people who spoke Spanish, who heard Lidia and Francisco speak and were eager to make some kind of connection over their shared language.

Lidia put them off, though. She couldn't trust anyone, even there on the other side of the world.

"So, what now?" Francisco asked over dinner that night. They'd had a full day to settle in, and everyone was feeling a lot better. They were tired from travelling but the sickness was gone, at least.

"I want to get a photograph taken of Eva tomorrow," Lidia said. "To send to Carlos. I want him to know she's okay."

Francisco nodded. He understood why she didn't call.

"Okay," he said. "So.  Where are we going?"

Lidia took a deep breath.  She'd been very careful, she was sure that they weren't followed. Francisco had kept an eye out, too. They were safe there. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you about this, but did you mean it when you said you would go anywhere with me?"

"Yes," Francisco said. Lidia had been scared to ask, especially after the previous night. He seemed sure, though. He was sure.

"We're going to Argentina."

Francisco's eyebrows went up a bit. "Argentina?"

"I have it all planned out, I know exactly how we'll get there-."

"I believe you," Francisco assured her, smiling. He loved seeing Lidia ready to execute one of her master plans. "I believe you. I just...are you sure? We made it all the way here. We can make sure we're safe here, we can make sure Carmen can't find us."

Lidia nodded. She'd given it a lot of thought. She'd been following the news in Argentina and she knew that with the recent coup, things were dangerous. She didn't want to be naive and think that she, some outsider from somewhere else, could handle this situation any better than people who were fleeing.

But there was someone in Argentina she needed to see. Someone who could help her. The only person she trusted to look after her family.

"Our boat leaves tomorrow night."

"Another boat? Lidia..."

"We won't have to hide on this one," Lidia said. "We're not on the register and our room here is reserved for the week. The manager here knows to tell anyone who asks that we're here for the week."

Francisco nodded. Of course she had it all planned out.

"Okay," he said. "Let me know what I can do."

     -LCDC-

"Alright, do you want one of you with the baby?" the photographer asked Lidia the next day. She was standing next to the photographer, waving one of Eva's dolls as instructed so that she looked at the camera.

"No, that's okay," she said, grateful for all the English she taught herself in the year she was home with Eva.  She thought it would end up being useful, she just never thought like this.

"Come on, I'll do it for half price."

Lidia exhaled deeply. She was committed to keeping Eva and Carlos connected. As for herself...she didn't want to be disconnected, exactly. But she knew it was going to be tricky and intense and complicated.

"Sure," she said. "One photo."

The photographer nodded and pointed toward where Eva was sitting.

Lidia held Eva and sat in the chair she was on, holding Eva in her lap. She couldn't help but think of Carlos seeing these photos in a few weeks, what he's going to think. What he's going to do.

Then the bright flash went off and Lidia only saw shapes and spots for a few seconds.

"Okay, you can pick them up in a few days," the photographer said, already preparing his equipment for the next customer.

"Actually, can I give you an address to send them to?"

"My studio's not a post office, lady."

"I'll pay extra," Lidia said, flashing a folded bill. "And if you include this letter, with this stationary."

The photographer looked disgruntled, but Lidia knew his type. She pulled out another bill.

"To Madrid?" the photographer asked. "That'll take a few weeks."

"That's okay," Lidia said. She handed him the bills. "Thank you."

She took Eva's hand and left the photography studio. The contents of the letter played over in her head. She spent nights on the boat agonizing over what to write.


Carlos,

We made it to America. Eva is doing great. She loves you. We talk about you every night. I'm sorry you can't see her but she will always know you, Carlos.

Don't try to send anything to this address. We're not staying in New York. I promise, I will keep sending photos.


I want us to be a family, Carlos. Let me know if anything changes for you. I still want the things I wanted the first night we spent together at your apartment.


Lidia

 

She had written it early in the morning before they went to the photography studio. She wanted to add that she loved him, but she knew she couldn't just say that. Or, at least, she wasn't sure he believed it and she knew she wasn't in a great position to prove it. So, she did what she could.

She slid the letter into the envelope she got from the manager of the boarding house. The letter was addressed to Carlos Cifuentes at the home he used to share with Lidia and Eva. There was no return address but the top left corner was adorned with the stamp of that particular boarding house - a stamp that featured a penguin.

     -LCDC-

The journey to Argentina wasn't nearly as bad. The ship was small but full of people traveling without names and histories, people trying to reunite with family in Argentina in this difficult time. They felt more comfortable to move around on the boat a bit more, to be seen by other passengers. They were sure they weren't followed and frankly, Lidia felt pretty confident that Carmen didn't expect her to go to Argentina. She felt that Eva was the safest from Carmen that she possibly had ever been.

The journey went by fast. Lidia and Francisco were pretty sure of where they stood with each other.

"So, what now?" Francisco asked as they got off the boat.

Lidia smiled a bit. There weren't many people on the docks. It was still early morning.

There was one person, though; someone Lidia would recognize from a mile away.

"You'll see," Lidia said, walking with her hand in Eva's and with Francisco down the dock toward the land. She kept her eyes on the person, making sure they didn't leave or were just a figment of her imagination.

Francisco kept expecting Lidia to say something, but she didn't say anything until they were right in front of this person. He could've sworn he knew her from somewhere, but he wasn't sure where. It was starting to dawn on him as Lidia spoke.

"Francisco," she began, gesturing toward the woman. "This is my sister. Eva."

Chapter Text

"I know this maybe wasn't the wedding you hoped for-."

Carlota cut off her husband with a kiss. She pulled back, smiling wide. "I never hoped for a wedding before I met you. And after that, any wedding with you there was my dream wedding. It was perfect."

Oscar smiled. He felt the same way. They were in bed together, the light from the setting sun streaming in through their curtains. They'd gotten married that morning, a quick ceremony at city hall surrounded by strangers and the hustle and bustle of the city.

None of that mattered, though. They had new fake ID's - they weren't from Victoria, she had enough on her plate getting Eva somewhere safe and arranging everything for her, Lidia, and Francisco. One of her associates got the papers, though, and they were good. Oscar and Carlota - well, Oscar and Victoria were their names now - were safe.

And so Oscar Sanchez and Victoria Gomez were married the second day they were in Paris. Carlota had taken all the money she could with her and she was able to get an apartment quickly - both she and Oscar had acquaintances in Paris and they all knew where the queer communities were. They got a place, a private place, where they could be themselves and be comfortable. Though, to be honest, they didn't need much - they had each other and they had their safety.

They knew it was a risk. It was risky to be wanted in Spain and to be just in the next country, even though they were over a thousand kilometers from Madrid. It was risky to be in a place where they could be recognized, though Oscar had cut his hair and gotten a new wardrobe, and Carlota had dyed her hair. It was a risk for Oscar to keep his name, but there was no way he was ever going to give it up.

They knew the risks, but they were happy. They were safe. They were who they were, finally, they were who they wanted to be. They had all sorts of freedom that they never had in Madrid.

They missed it, sure. They missed the city they both had spent their lives in. They missed their friends, their home, the familiarity of it all.

But there was no going back. And beside that, they didn't want to go back. Their path to Paris hadn't been a particularly straightforward one but it was a complete one.

"I love you, Carlota."

"I love you, too."

They laid there for a while, alternating between celebrating their marriage, waxing poetic about how far they'd come and all the plans they had, and sleeping. They'd been travelling for a while and things had been so chaotic for so long, it was nice to just relax.

Before they knew it, it was morning.

Oscar woke up to an empty bed.

"Carlota?"

"In here!" Carlota yelled from the kitchen. She heard the bed springs shift as Oscar moved out of bed. "Don't get up! I'm coming to you."

"Okay," Oscar laughed. He wouldn't admit it, but he was exhausted. It had only been a few days since he'd been in prison, and even then he was only there for a somewhat short time, but he was so physically tired. He was mentally drained. He was so happy to be where he was, to be free, but he didn't mind staying in bed a bit longer.

So, he sat there, taking in the new surroundings. It still made his head spin a bit, that just days prior, he was in prison pretending to be all sorts of things that he wasn't, and here he was, in Paris with his wife.

With his wife who was bringing him breakfast in bed.

"Really?" he laughed as Carlota put a tray in front of him. "Where did you get all this?"

"I met the neighbors. I told them we just moved in so they gave us some bread and eggs."

"That was nice of them," Oscar said, sitting up more.

"How are you?"

"I'm fine."

Carlota looked at him. She knew how hard prison was, she knew how hard their journey was.

"I'm fine, love," Oscar asserted again.

Carlota frowned. She'd seen a lot of him the night before, including the bruises. Including the way she could see his ribs now, the way she could see the bumps of his spine.

"I'm sorry," she said.

"For what? I can get used to this French bread."

"I'm sorry for everything you did," Carlota said. "For everything that happened."

"Carlota..."

"No," she said. "This is the second time you've gone to prison for me. Let me take care of you."

"You do take care of me," Oscar said. "And I'd do it again."

Carlota believed that - she knew he would. She never, ever wanted to put him that position, though.

"Nothing that happened is your fault, okay?"

"It wasn't yours, either. None of it."

"Well, what kind of husband would I be if I didn't protect my wife?"

Carlota couldn't help but smile a bit. He loved hearing him talk that way, describing them like that.

"I know you can handle yourself, that you don't need my protection," Oscar continued. "And things will be better here."

"They will be," Carlota agreed. She put a hand on his knee. "Actually, I heard about a meeting for the French Union for Women's Suffrage tonight."

Oscar laughed. "How do you know that?"

"The neighbors are really friendly."

Oscar shook his head, still laughing a bit. Of course Carlota already found this organization within 48 hours of being in France.

"Where is it? We should go."

Carlota grinned. "Of course, we'll be careful. I know people might recognize us-."

"But this is important work," Oscar agreed, knowing exactly what she was thinking. "I agree."

Carlota was still smiling. "Remember when you told me about my first suffragist meeting way back in Madrid?" Oscar nodded. "You know that was the day my whole life changed for the better, right?"

"Yeah, mine too."

    -LCDC-

"I think we need to hire someone."

"What?" Marga asked, looking up from one of the large stacks of files on her desk at Pablo. "Why do you say that?"

Pablo stood, so he could see her over the pile of files on his own desk. "Marga, we have so much business we can barely keep up."

"We are keeping up."

"Marga, this is a good thing. The business is successful."

"I know," Marga said. She gave up the file for a moment and really looked at him. She saw the window behind him and saw that it was dark already. She hadn't even noticed.

"You've brought in so many clients, there's no reason to believe that'll slow down."

Marga agreed. They set up shop out of Madrid, both of them very thankful to be out of the city. They were near where she grew up, but not entirely in the countryside.

But they were close to her entire family. Her entire, extended, large family. Much of the business she and Pablo had were her cousins and other relatives, expanding their businesses from small, hardworking family businesses to bigger, booming enterprises.

Not all the clients were her family, though. They hadn't been in business for long but word was spreading about the work they did.

"It's been three months," Pablo said. "We have a successful business here. You know that the next step is hiring so that we can expand even more."

Marga did know that.

She only hesitated for a moment. She loved working with Pablo and she especially loved working like this - just the two of them.

For a second, she thought maybe she was worried about someone else coming between them, that introducing someone - anyone - would upset this delicate, precious routine they'd created.

She put that fear away. She trusted Pablo and more importantly, she trusted herself.

"Yeah," she said. "I'll go down to the newspaper tomorrow and put in an ad."

     -LCDC-

"Victoria!" Carlos slurred, almost falling off his chair at the bar at the White Lady. Victoria had been back from Portugal for a few weeks and, frankly, was grateful she didn't see Carlos on her doorstep the second she arrived back in Madrid.

But for the past two weeks, he'd been in her bar almost every night. He'd hassle her, getting very drunk and yelling at anyone who would listen that she took his family from him.

More than once, she'd had Miguel escort him out of the bar.

"Victoria, you took my daughter!" he yelled, pointing at her and stumbling towards her.

This happened with such frequency that the other patrons barely batted an eye.  Even if they hadn't seen this before, they knew about it - the high society gossip about Carlos Cifuentes being abandoned by his family had trickled down to all facets of Madrid society.  Everyone knew about the man who ran the Telephone Company, whose girlfriend took their daughter and ran away with his best friend and ex-brother-in-law.

"Carlos, have a coffee, on me."

"No!" he yelled, smacking his hand on the bar.

Miguel was bussing a table nearby and looked over at Victoria, who nodded. He went over to Carlos.

"Come on, buddy, let's go home."

"No, Miguel. You know what she did! You know what she did," Carlos slurred, shoving Miguel into a booth.

"Go home, Mr. Cifuentes," Victoria said over her shoulder, heading toward her office without giving him another glance.

She sympathized with him, she did. She knew all about what he'd done, she knew why Lidia did what she did but, still. She knew Lidia did the right thing, but the guy was hurting. She would throw him out of the bar, but she didn't want to make anymore trouble for him.

Then, she heard a glass smash.

Carlos had knocked his glass off the bar. "Victoria!" he yelled, smacking the bar again and stumbling toward her. "You can't kick me out, not again. It's been months since I've seen my daughter. You-you took my daughter!"

Victoria was very suddenly very fed up. She didn't mind him getting drunk and yelling, she'd had that before with all sorts of acquaintances of her girls. She could handle it. What she couldn't stand was damage to her bar.

"Get the hell out of my bar, Carlos."

"Or what?" he slurred, quickly closing the gap between them. He was soon standing right in front of her, towering over her and swaying slightly. He dropped his voice, taunting her. "You'll call the police?"

The White Lady was pretty much a no-police zone, with all the illegal activity that Victoria still conducted. She had plenty of police on her payroll, but having them haul a Cifuentes out of her bar was a lot to ask of them.

Victoria looked him right in the eyes and took his car keys from his pocket. Carlos watched her intently. Then she grabbed him by the jacket and all but dragged him into her office, locking the door behind her.

"Listen, Carlos, the last thing you need is more trouble," she said, dropping him into a seat near her desk. She walked around her desk as she spoke. "Sit down, sober up and calm down."

She looked at him once she was behind her desk and he looked different.

He was sitting up straight and straightening his jacket. He pulled a few bills from his pocket and spoke calmly as he put them on her desk. "Sorry about the glass. That should cover it."

He spoke clearly, he wasn't swaying anymore. He was completely in control of himself.

He wasn't drunk.

He had Victoria fooled.

She didn't let it show.

"You're not drunk."

"No," he said. "I wasn't really drinking.  I needed to talk to you, alone."

"Okay," Victoria said, seeing that he and Lidia maybe had more in common than she first thought. "Here we are."

"I need your help."

"I'm not telling you where they are-."

"I know," Carlos said. "I'm not asking you to. I need something else."

Victoria looked him up and down. For years she thought she'd had him figured out, that she'd seen tons of rich, privileged men like him. She liked him well enough and though she did on occasion find herself surprised by him, she didn't expect whatever this was.

"I'm listening."