The Part About the Scratch [excerpt] – Fawzy Zablah
July 9, 2019
Even though Javi said he didn’t want to have sex in that house, he knew it would happen. And despite everything they had already done, it still didn’t feel right. But since Sofia’s husband Ari kept video calling her from Europe, she had to be home or close to home just in case. Originally, their plan was to spend at least three nights together at Javi’s apartment but that all went out the window. In order to save what was left of the time they still had together before the husband came back from his business trip to Prague, she asked Javi to just come over to her house instead. He could park his car in the garage and no one would be the wiser.
The husband was to return on a Wednesday night. So they decided to just spend all weekend together starting Saturday night after the Women’s Empowerment event Sofia had to attend during the day. Since his apartment was on the way to her house from the event, she would come over and they would pick up Chinese takeout and wine and drive together to her house in Boca Raton.
Javi was really looking forward to it all week and even though her husband had not been around, she had been really busy with work. He never pressured her and he could have demanded that she stay at his place, but he knew that their affair was sometimes reckless and he never wanted to give her unnecessary drama. That was always his goal. It came natural to him because he was in love with her. But it was a dumb love that he wasn’t even sure she could reciprocate. If she did leave her husband, how would a normal relationship with Sofia be? Would she get sick of him? Would they get sick of each other? Was it just the excitement that she craved? He feared that he was just a convenient affair for her; they worked together and he had a nice apartment five minutes from work—it was perfect. He didn’t want to think about it anymore, so he put those thoughts in the back of his mind.
That Saturday while she headed out to the media event, Javi decided to clean his house just in case she decided to stay over. He really didn’t want to go over to their house. What if he had hidden cameras installed? Her husband Ari was so jealous of her that he surprised her unannounced during a brunch date with Carla, their friend and co-worker. Sofia’s cell phone battery had died, but she had sent a text to Ari prior to that with her brunch plans. Apparently, he wanted her to pick up some food to go after she was done with brunch but she never responded to his text, or call. So he decided to just show up at the brunch. Sofia was in shock, and so was Carla. He sat down at their table and with a crooked smile, grabbed food from her plate.
“Babe, what are you doing here?”
“You didn’t return my texts. Your phone is off. I wanted to ask you to bring me some food. Since I didn’t hear back and I was hungry, I figured I’d come to you. I’ve never eaten at this place, so I thought I’d check it out.”
Carla was so embarrassed for her that she made a face that was a bit ambiguous, but it was still a face that said, “WTF.” Later, when Carla recounted the story to Javi, she said it reminded her of when she was in junior high and her best friend’s father showed up unannounced at the school dance; her friend almost died of embarrassment. Carla emphasized to Javi that this was similar but far creepier.
Carla could tell that Sofia wasn’t happy because her face was completely red. But still, being the good sport that she was, she tried to play it off, but this was clearly a sign of a more serious problem in their relationship. Carla subscribed to The Institute of Psychoanalysis on YouTube and had watched every video. She recognized the behavior; the jealousy and narcissism. There was a clear lack of trust from her husband Ari and Carla wondered why.
Javi’s feeling when he heard the story from Carla was of gratitude to the universe. This was before any ‘funny business’ had started between him and Sofia. He wanted to understand why a girl like Sofia would be with a guy like Ari. Their first impression of him was that he was a jerk, and he continued to fit that mold. This during a brief period when Javi felt sorry for himself and wanted to be proven correct about women preferring jerks. But he and Carla knew that none of that mattered, because they didn’t know all the facts, they only knew what they saw from the outside of the relationship. To completely capture the fully-realized Sofia seemed at the very moment they were discussing this, a monumental expedition into the many secrets of a woman’s heart. He knew he could lose his mind just thinking about it. Javi as a kid in Junior High had been obsessed with Blues music from the Mississippi Delta and Chicago, and had learned from an early age that despite the risk of losing your life from having an affair with a married woman, a good blues man would take care not to lose his mind. But that’s another story for another time.
By 5 o’clock that Saturday, Sofia called Javi to get ready, that she was on her way.
“I will order the food then,” he said.
“What about if you cook something instead? I love your cooking honey.”
“Okay, but aren’t we going to your place?”
“Yes, well we have to talk about that, but please feed me. I have a really good bottle of wine with me.”
“I can cook something fast. Maybe lamb chops in that cherry sauce?”
“Yay, I love your lamb chops. Besitos, see you soon!”
Lamb chops were one of the easiest and most impressive meals you could cook a woman. It was as simple as pork chops, but fancy. Javi was almost done by the time Sofia got to his place.
At the door he helped her with her bags as they kissed. She immediately took off her shoes and got comfortable.
“How did it go?”
“Great, everything was great. There’s video up on YouTube. I met this lady with a marketing agency; she’s looking to recruit young professional women like me for a Latina Women’s foundation in Miami. Bilingual women and such that are making an impact, you know, like me.”
“So she wants young, professional, hot Latinas, huh?”
“Yes, very hot Latina women like me,” she said while winking at him.
He placed her bags on the side, and sat next to her on the sofa as she put up her legs on his knees. Javi started rubbing her feet. Javi could say with complete honesty that he loved every inch of her. Her rose colored skin seemed to glow whenever she walked into a room. She literally lit up any room she walked into.
“Aww babe, you’re so considerate,” she said kissing him.
“The food is ready,” he said.
Sofia loved the smell of his apartment when he cooked lamb chops. They sat down to eat and drank almost half the wine bottle. When they finished the cheese cake he had bought at the grocery down the street, he decided to ask her what the specific plans for the night were. Where they staying at his place or heading to Boca?
She took the very last sip of the wine and looked at him.
“Please don’t hate me, but Ari’s brother and his wife are on the way to the Keys. They’re driving and wanted to stop for the night at the house to rest.”
“Yes, they’re coming tonight around midnight probably. They’re in a mini-van with the five kids. They just need a place to crash before they continue down to Marathon.”
“Oh great, there go our plans.”
“They’re going to leave early. They’ll be gone by 10 am I’m sure. After they leave, I’ll text you and you can start heading over and we’ll spend the whole day together and we can leave for work together Monday morning.”
She tried to give him a comical, innocent angel smile. He was still serious.
“I’m sorry. They just called out of the blue. Ari told them from Europe they could stay at our house.”
“Give me a break. This is ridiculous. You’re by yourself. You’ve been working all week and even Saturday, and he offers the house so you can do more work, cleaning up after those kids.”
“That’s how he is.”
“I have really no idea how you ended up with that guy,” Javi said and then finishing his glass of wine, he immediately regretted saying it.
“I ask myself that question, but please don’t be a jerk. I was as frustrated as you were when I found out. But tell me Javi, why are we going to let it ruin everything? They’re going to leave in the morning, let’s just make the best of it.”
Javi could get away with being a little jerky every now and then because he was what the typical woman would describe as the nice guy. But he knew this wasn’t a good look. She gave him little jerk passes all the time. Her husband on the other hand, was definitely a jerk, and Javi did try to like him once but he just gave up.
“It’s okay. There’s nothing we can do. We’ll make the most of it. It is what it is. It’s fine.”
She sprung from her chair and flung to him with her lips somehow cleverly avoiding the almost empty wine bottle to kiss him again and again before he could say anything else.
Sofia left and Javi cleaned up the mess in the kitchen. He went to bed right after the SNL monologue and tried not to think about anything. He did dream about a lion being hunted by a man with an elephant gun. The man tried to shoot the lion but he kept missing and then Javi woke up around 4 am and went back to sleep.
In the morning he waited with anxiety. He really wanted to spend the day with her. But he knew that her brother in law could easily say that they decided to stay another day and there goes our Sunday.
“What am I doing?” Javi thought. “How did I get here?”
By 11:45 a.m. he had almost lost hope when she texted him: “You can head over now, they just left! Thank God!”
Javi smiled, grabbed his things and started the drive to Boca. The plan was to cook again. She really loved his cooking. He would make a beef soup on the crock pot and flat bread pizza on the oven.
When Javi got there they kissed as he tried to put all his things down in the kitchen. She asked him to walk the dog (an extremely friendly cockapoo they had actually both found at a shelter on one of their “dates” while the hubby was busy with his MBA) and after doing that, he started prepping for the cooking. They kissed while he cooked. They kissed while she set the table. They kissed while watching TV. They held each other and kissed as they waited for the soup. They fed each other and kissed. They drank from each other’s wine glasses. They danced and kissed and held each other and ate and opened another bottle.
Sitting next to her in their sofa, watching their television, drunken Javi was happy except for the elephant in the room. Then the moment came when the kisses and touching and hand holding led to undressing. There was no resistance from Javi and even though he had thought about it for a minute, it all went out the window. He tried not to think about possible GoPro cameras hidden all over the house. Would a Mississippi Delta Bluesman worry? Nah, I think not. He wouldn’t worry until he was dying from poisoning, clutching his stomach and coughing up blood with the final thoughts….”Was it worth it?”
Her blouse came off and then her bra, and finally her jeans. Javi desperately kissed her and trying to catch up, rushing to take off his shirt and his pants and his socks until they were both nude on the couch. He didn’t want to go into the bedroom. The bedroom with the door open was inviting him to move over but Javi just kept going. Couch sex is not that bad. They did have a very comfortable couch. It was blue and big and it had lots of pillows.
She stopped and got up from the couch, grabbing his hand.
Javi looked up at her and her lithe, slender body. Her cherry white ghost skin was incredible. He followed her into the cave that was the bedroom. She stopped in front of the bed, turned with Javi’s hand on her chest and laid back. Javi immediately got on top of her.
“Please close the door so the dog and cat don’t stare at us.”
“Yes,” he said, getting up and closing the door.
He went back to the bed and got on top of her. Javi enjoyed the foreplay; he got off on it, so the sex lasted about forty-five minutes before the intercourse even started. He came inside her like the fucking idiot moron that he was. He was still not sure what that was all about.
“Did you cum,” she said.
They washed up and watched a little more TV and when the late hour came, they headed back to the cave with the bed. She instructed him on which side was her side of the bed.
“Yep, this is a good side.”
Once in bed and with the lights out, they cuddled and then they each took their own side of the bed like if they had been married for many years and were not actually having an affair.
Javi’s biggest worry now was his snoring. He hoped and prayed in the stillness of the Boca Raton night that he wouldn’t snore tonight. Sometimes he would snore a lot, and other times it was an adorable light snore as described by his ex-girlfriend Michelle.
When he got drowsy, he fell asleep still worried about snoring. He was in the middle of the dream about the lion and the hunter and the elephant gun when he woke up unexpectedly to Sofia shaking him.
“Someone is banging on the door.”
“What time is it?”
The banging got louder. This is it, Javi thought. The production team for the day time television show Cheaters is outside the door or it could be Ari and his orthodox brother with the five kids. The Great Javi is about to come true. Who was he kidding; Sofia would never go to his funeral. She was just like that bitch Daisy.
Sofia took control like if she had experience. She got up off the bed.
“I’m going to go see who it is. Hang back in the hallway. There’s a bat in the closet, please grab it.”
Javi put on his jeans immediately and did as he was instructed. It was a wooden bat. Sofia put on a robe and they both almost tiptoed to the door. The dog was barking and the cat was hiding. Javi’s heart was beating faster than the time he got jumped in Amsterdam with his best friend by some African PCP dealers. It was a long story.
The knock was louder as she got closer. Javi stayed back with the bat behind him. Sofia told him to stay out of sight. She looked in the peephole; it was her neighbor Mr. Gildstern.
She opened the door with the chain lock while at the same time motioning to Javi to stand back even more. Javi was ready either to hide or to pounce.
“Mr. Gildstern, is everything okay?”
“Sofia I’m sorry to bother you at this time; I wanted to warn you that I just encountered a cat burglar and got into a bit of a scuffle. He got away,” he said.
He had a bruise on his forehead and a bloody scar by his right eyebrow.
“Oh my God,” she said. “Can you give me a minute? Are you okay? Have you called the police?”
Sofia pretended to be getting ready to open the door but she closed it on his face quickly and locked the bottom. She grabbed Javi by the hand and shoved him into the bedroom.
“It’s my neighbor. He just surprised a burglar. He looks beat up. Go into the closet and stay there, and don’t come out unless I tell you. I’m gonna get rid of him. Please stay put.”
“Okay, but anything weird happens, just yell out and I’ll come.”
She kissed Javi while pushing him into the closet.
“I’ll be back,” she said. “I will leave the door open just a little bit in case the dog starts acting weird.”
She rewrapped her robe tighter and opened the door to her neighbor. He was a tall, bald Jew in his mid 60s.
“I am so sorry Sofia,” he said. “I just knew that you were by yourself and Ari asked me to keep an eye on you just in case.”
“No, please come in. What happened? I have a first-aid kit in the kitchen.”
“I’ll be okay; the police are on their way. I just wanted to check on you. The guy got away and I just wanted to give you a heads up. Your alarm is on?”
“Yes, everything is on. And I have Seymour here. But please tell me what happened.”
The dog sat next to the tall neighbor in the kitchen; it growled abruptly.
Sofia ordered him to sit. “Seymour sit!”
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“It’s okay. I came back around midnight from dinner and a movie with a lady friend of mine and I was getting ready for bed. I took a shower and I was just putting some things in order for tomorrow you know. All of a sudden as I’m all tucked in bed naked, I hear a strange crackling noise in the living room.”
Sofia got stuck at the words, “tucked in bed naked.” The second thing she noticed was the smell of alcohol coming from his breath. The third thing was the scratches on his left cheek. After noticing those three things, an alarm went off in her mind and her heart started beating against her chest like when she first heard him knock on his door.
She didn’t listen to the rest of the story, and everything from that point on was just watching his lips move.
Seymour started barking. Her neighbor placed his hand on her hand. The dog barked again and that’s when he dragged the white pooch by the neck, lifting him and threw him into a kitchen pantry while closing the door, immediately turning around to face Sofia.
Sofia knew what was coming.
“Don’t you ever touch my dog! You need to leave my house right now. I’m calling the police.”
When she held up her cell phone that was in one of the pockets of her robe, he lunged at her clumsily, grabbing the phone and throwing it out of the kitchen.
“Don’t be like this Sofia. I’ve seen the way you look at me. And you know how I feel about you. We need to stop playing games. Let’s not do this to each other okay.”
Sofia screamed Javi’s name as loud as she could right before her tall neighbor covered her mouth, pushing her towards the kitchen counter next to the microwave.
Javi heard his name and barefoot with bat in hand ran towards the kitchen to witness the neighbor with undone zipper trying to forcefully rub against Sofia. Javi remembered the days when he played baseball with his friend in the old neighborhood in Miami where he grew up. He was the worst, but once in a while he could really knock the ball over the fence. He thought about it for a split second, he couldn’t hesitate even if he wanted to for the tall neighbor had a large melon of a head that he really couldn’t miss. All Javi heard when he took a swing was Seymour’s loud barking coming from the pantry but once the wooden bat connected, blood sprinkled on the cabinets and the kitchen floor and the body fell like a palm tree during a hurricane.
Sofia and Javi stared at the body which was face up. He didn’t move and he didn’t seem to be breathing.
“He can’t be dead,” Javi said, leaning in.
Sofia was crying.
“This is what I get for being a bad wife. I’m definitely going to Jewish hell.”
Javi reached out to her, moving her behind him as he looked down at the body.
“Nobody is going to Jewish hell. He was trying to rape you. Are you okay?”
“I think I’m okay,” she said, squeezing his hand back. “You saved my life.”
She held Javi from behind.
“What are we going to do? How am I going to explain this to Ari? What about the police?”
“I don’t know. Let’s just say, I was hanging in the neighborhood and my car broke down and you let me crash here.”
“Ari is going to want to know why I didn’t call to tell him. He’s going to know about us. He will tell his family. Everyone is going to know.”
“Let’s just say that I was partying at a club in Boca, and we met up for a little bit. Then I stayed with my friends and you went home and then you heard a weird noise and got scared. So you remembered I was close by and called me and then the neighbor came and you let him in. You had left the door open for me and I walk in to your neighbor attacking you and I grabbed the bat and that’s it.”
“But what about the cops? He said he called the cops.”
“Who said that?”
“Him,” Sofia said, pointing at the body.
“Why did he call the cops? That was just a lie to come into the house.”
“What if he’s not dead? What if he knows about me and you and that’s why he came over?”
“I don’t know. Why would he know?”
“He smelled like alcohol and he’s kind of been stalking me for a little bit. Ari has been worried about it.”
“What do you mean stalking?”
“He likes to stare at me sometimes. I didn’t think anything of it until Ari noticed and he got really mad.”
“All we need to do is get the story straight,” Javi said, and then the neighbor grabbed his wrist.
Sofia jumped back and Javi, holding the bat tightly with both hands, finished what he started. There was blood all over the kitchen now. The dog continued to bark in the pantry. Javi’s focus on the head paid off, for he stopped moving completely.
When he finished, he looked at Sofia. “Did you say that he lives by himself?”
“Yes,” she said, weeping again.
“We have to call the cops now.”
“What are we going to say?”
“I told you. He was trying to rape you. I was around and you called me.”
“Ari will know,” she said.
“Ari will not know anything.”
“His family will ask questions.”
“Well, what else can we do? There is nothing left but to call the cops. I’ll leave then and you tell them that you were defending yourself with the bat and that’s it.”
“The police are not stupid Javi. Detectives will figure it out. This is not just my life; this is our life, our future. If we’re going to be together in the future it has to appear normal, not like we’ve been messing around for ages and I finally decided to leave my husband.”
“What do you care about what people think?”
“Please,” she said, grabbing his hand. “I love you.”
“I love you too, but we have to call the cops.”
“Why? He has no family. He lives on his own. He’s just a creepy man. Nobody will miss him. Why should we risk ruining our lives?”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Can’t we just get rid of the body?”
“What, are you crazy?”
She looked at him. He looked at her.
“Do you love me?”
Fucking idiot moron acquiesced.
Javi pondered on his stupidity many times throughout their affair. And now, sitting in a Lexus that wasn’t his with a dead body in the trunk, he really tried to define what it was all about again. Is this really love, he thought? No, it couldn’t be. He was just an idiot; a fucking idiot moron. Who was he kidding? He was so in love it wasn’t even funny.
Javi parked the car facing a canal. The engine was on. He cleaned the steering wheel with Clorox wipes and after placing the car on drive, he put huge construction bricks on the gas pedal and let the car drive itself slowly into the deep canal. Florida was the #1 state for insurance scams. All the canals had submerged cars in them. The canal was on the way to the neighborhood so police could definitely deduct that it could have just been an accident. But by the time they find the car, the alligators would be done with the body.
After watching the car completely submerge into the canal, Javi walked for twenty minutes and at the exact moment they had discussed, Sofia drove alongside him and he got into her car. The drive back to her house was mostly quiet. Seymour was in the back breathing loud with his tongue hanging out. The one thing that Javi remembers most about the drive was that they held hands the entire way.
When they got back, he helped her finish clean up what was left of the blood. He also cleaned the bat in the bath and they disinfected the entire house. Javi still remembers how beautiful Sofia looked scrubbing up the blood from the kitchen floor. It was an obscene, but angelic image that he would remember until the end of his life.
At around 5am, they went to bed again and Javi was no longer worried about his snoring. He felt that he had earned the right to snore as much as he wanted to. He slept softly and around 6am he woke up suddenly again and noticed her side of the bed was empty. He got up and saw her laying on the couch in the living room.
“What’s wrong,” he said. “Was I snoring?”
“No,” she said, crying.
She sat up and he sat next to her. He rubbed her hands and her shoulders. She balanced her head along with his like a couple getting ready to view their first baby. She looked at him.
“It’s gonna be okay,” he said.
“It’s not that Javi. I just don’t think I can be with two people at the same time right now.”
“What do you mean?”
She wiped his eyes.
“I think I need a break,” she said.
Javi’s first thought was anger. I just fucking got rid of a body for you. Are you kidding me? Is this for real? He visualized standing up and yelling at her, “Look at all the shit I do for you? I could go to prison for a long time! Is this not love? I fucking love you! How can you do this? What are you talking about? Look at me; I just had to wash off a lot of fucking blood. You are such a bitch. I hate you…and blah, blah, blah.”
But he stopped visualizing his outburst and watched her cry and he said, “Okay, let’s just be friends.”
“Please don’t hate me. I love you, but I just can’t right now.”
“It’s fine. Let’s just take some time and think about things. A break would be good.”
“I think I’m going to head home,” he said.
“Thank you for understanding.”
He packed his things and kissed her on the forehead before he got into his car. She looked lovely in her nightgown as she pressed the button to open the garage door. It opened slowly and he took his time turning on the car. Once the garage door was fully up, he turned on the car and started backing up while at the same time watching her wave goodbye. Javi felt good about everything he had done. He had shown her that he was a super cool motherfucker under pressure. He was the opposite of that jerk of a husband. That little twerp wouldn’t have been able to protect her.
As he thought these thoughts while backing out of the garage into the driveway where Sofia’s car was parked while still watching her, he slowly sideswiped her passenger door leaving a noticeable scratch.
“Oh my God,” she said, putting her hands to her mouth.
“Oh fuck,” Javi said.
“What are you doing? Stop the car! You just hit my car! How am I going to explain this to Ari?”
Javi stopped the car, pulled up and tried to straighten it. He immediately got out of the car to inspect the damage. The sun was coming up slowly, but it was still dark.
He knelt alongside her door.
“You ruined my car!”
“I’m so sorry; I didn’t think I was that close to it. It’s really dark. I thought I had plenty of room.”
Sofia was mad.
“I can’t believe you did this. Look at that scratch!”
She put her hand on her face upon realizing she was getting really loud: “Okay, okay, I’m sorry to yell, it was an accident. But what am I going to tell Ari? He’s going to kill me.”
“I know a guy. He fixes dents and scratches. I can take it tomorrow. I’ll call in sick and pick up the car and get it fixed. It should be ready by Wednesday night before Javi’s flight arrives from Europe.”
She looked at him like if he was a dog that just defecated on an expensive oriental carpet.
“Okay, fine,” she said. “Call me when you pick up the car and I’ll come outside to give you the keys. I need to go to bed. This is too much.”
She kissed him on the cheek and pushed the button for the garage door. She didn’t even wait for it to close; she was already inside the house.
Javi felt like an even bigger fucking idiot moron than a guy who just got rid of a body. He turned on his small compact car, repeating the same words out loud: “dumbass,” “idiot,” “pendejo,” “moron” the entire drive back to his apartment.
Once back at his own place, he knew that it was definitely over now. If the murder didn’t do it, this definitely will. And if by some miracle they somehow got back “together” after all this then it’s meant to be.
“It’s over, you fucking idiot moron,” he said, climbing into bed, “You’re such a moron. Moron. Moron. Moron.”
He repeated it over and over again until he fell asleep and could snore as loud as he wanted. Moron. Moron. Moron. Moron…FUCKING IDIOT MORON…Moron..Moron.