"An agile novel, a ruthless dissection of a fast decaying society.”—José Saramago, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
“A gripping story. The dystopia portrayed is an indictment not solely of an assassin but of Argentina’s class structure and the willful blindness of its petty bourgeoisie.”—The Times Literary Supplement
“A fine morality tale which explores the dark places societies enter when they place material comfort before social justice, and security before morality.”—Publishers Weekly
Ines is convinced that every wife is bound to be betrayed one day, so she is not surprised to find a note in her husband Ernesto’s briefcase with a heart smeared in lipstick crossed by the words “All Yours” and signed, “Your true love.”
She follows him to a park on a rainy winter evening and witnesses a violent quarrel he has with another woman. The woman collapses; Ernesto sinks her body in a nearby lake. When Ernesto becomes a suspect in the case she provides him with an alibi. After all, hatred can bring people together as urgently as love. But Ernesto cannot bring his sexual adventures to an end, so Ines concocts a plan for revenge from which there is no return.
Claudia Piñeiro, formerly a journalist and playwright, is the author of literary crime novels that are all bestsellers in Latin America and have been translated into six languages. All Yours follows on the success of Thursday Night Widows, published in 2010 in the United States.
|Publisher:||Bitter Lemon Press, Ltd|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
She lives in Buenos Aires.
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By Claudia Piñeiro
BITTER LEMON PRESSCopyright © 2012 Claudia Piñeiro
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBy then it was more than a month since Ernesto had last made love to me. Maybe even two months. I don't know. It wasn't as if it mattered all that much. I'm always really tired by the evening. You wouldn't think it, but housework can be exhausting if you're the kind of person who likes to have everything perfect. If it was up to me, I'd be asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow. But a woman knows that if her husband goes such a long time without seeking her out, well, it can mean lots of things. I thought I ought to talk to Ernesto about this, ask him if anything was wrong. And I so nearly did. But then I said to myself, what if asking questions backfires on me, the way it did with Mummy? Because when she thought Daddy seemed a bit strange she went to him one day and said, "Is there a problem, Roberto?" And he said, "Yes, you're the problem! I can't stand you any more!" He left there and then, slamming the door behind him, and we never saw him again. Poor Mummy. Anyway, I had a pretty good idea of what was wrong with Ernesto. He was working like a dog all day, filling every spare minute with courses and workshops – so wasn't it obvious that he'd be exhausted at night? And then I said to myself, "Rather than start asking questions, I'm going to trust the evidence of my own two eyes." And what I saw was that we had a fantastic family, a daughter about to finish secondary school, a house to die for. And that Ernesto loved me – no one could deny that. He never deprived me of anything. So I calmed down and told myself, "The sex will return when the moment's right; I've got so much, there's no point getting obsessed about the one thing that's lacking." Because, after all, we're not living in the Sixties any more, nowadays people know that there are other things that are just as important – or more so – than sex. The family, spirituality, getting on well, harmony. Plenty of couples who behave like sex gods in bed can hardly bear to look at each other the rest of the time. It's true, isn't it? So why go looking for trouble, like my mother did?
But all too soon I found out that Ernesto was cheating on me. I was looking around for a pen one day, and since I couldn't find one, I opened his briefcase and there it was: a love heart, drawn in lipstick, with the words "All Yours" across it, and signed "your true love". Pretty corny stuff, but the truth is that at that moment I felt very hurt. My instinct was to throw it in his face, to say "What is this, you piece of shit?!" Fortunately, I chose instead to count to ten, took a deep breath – and did nothing at all. It was hard keeping up a front over dinner. Lali was in one of those moods when nobody can stand her, apart from Ernesto. It didn't get to me any more; that's just the way our daughter was, and I was used to it. But it bothered Ernesto. He would be trying to have a conversation and she would reply in monosyllables. Given my own recent discovery, I was hardly in the mood for repartee myself. But I was worried that they would notice something. I'm used to covering silences, stepping into the breach when a conversation's floundering. It's a kind of gift I have. To allay their suspicions, I told them I didn't feel well, that I had a headache. I think they believed me. And while Ernesto pursued his monologue with Lali, I began to imagine what I was going to say to him. Because I had already ruled out my first reaction, which would have been to ask "What is this?" I mean, how would he have answered me? A piece of paper with a heart, the words "All Yours", a signature. No, that would have been a stupid question. What mattered was finding out if the note signified something important to him or not. Because the truth is that, however painful it is to admit it, at some time or other, all women are deceived by their husbands. It's like the menopause: it may come sooner or later, but nobody gets away scot-free. Sure enough, there are some who never find out, and they are the lucky ones, because life stays the same for them. While those of us who do find out start asking ourselves who she is, where we went wrong, what we should do, whether or not to be forgiving, how to make him pay for what he's done – and the mental tangle we create becomes so great that, by the time he's left the other woman, it's too late to unpick it. We even run the risk of inventing a much more serious and complicated story than the real one. And I didn't want to make the same mistake that so many other women make. Because there was no way that a woman who draws love hearts with lipstick and signs herself "your true love" could be anyone important in Ernesto's life. I knew Ernesto: he loathed that sort of thing. "He's just getting his rocks off," I thought. Because women these days are shameless. They see a guy and they go after him, pursuing him until he feels like a wimp if he does nothing. "The truth is," I told myself, "why confront Ernesto with some big scenario, when this woman's going to be history in a week anyway?" Right?
All that mattered was to be vigilant, to be sure that the relationship was not developing. So I started going through his pockets, opening his mail, keeping an eye on his diary, listening in on the extension when he was on the telephone. The kinds of things that any woman in my situation would do. As I had imagined, I didn't find anything important. There were one or two more notes, but no cause for alarm. Until I started noticing that Ernesto was coming home later and later, that he was working at the weekends, that he was never around. The only thing he didn't miss were meetings about the school leavers' trip Lali was going on. As for everything else – absent without leave. And then I did begin to worry, because, if it was always the same woman he was seeing, this could get nasty. One day I followed him. It was a Tuesday – I remember the exact day because we had just been at a meeting about the details of Lali's trip. Ernesto was already in a bad mood but that didn't surprise me because this school trip was driving him round the bend. I thought he was over-reacting because everyone knows that those trips are a bit chaotic, but you have to trust in the education you've chosen for your daughter. What else can you do? Ernesto wanted to control everything – it all seemed badly organized to him. As soon as we got home, Lali shut herself in her room; she's always holed up in there. We went to the kitchen to eat something. That was when the telephone rang and Ernesto answered it. It was late, inappropriately late, I'd say, to call a family home. Ernesto became agitated, even more than he had been already, his voice began to rise – and then he went to the study for more privacy. Meanwhile I picked up the kitchen extension in time to hear her say: "If you don't come right now I won't answer for my own actions." And I hung up.
Ernesto came back to the kitchen, putting on a front though his eyes were glistening and his jaw was clenched. "There's been a serious problem at the office," he said. "The system's crashed."
"That's fine, Erni," I said. "Off you go and reboot the system."
I slipped out after him, got into my car and followed his. I'm not a good driver, especially at night, but needs must. I could hardly call a taxi and say "Follow that car!" like on TV. I hadn't the first idea of what I was going to find!
He drove to the Palermo Woods and parked beside the lake. Switching off my lights so that he wouldn't see me, I parked about a hundred yards away, then got out of the car and continued on foot. I hid behind a tree. Immediately she arrived – Truelove – also on foot. It was Alicia, his secretary. I never would have imagined that woman drawing a heart in lipstick and writing "All Yours" to a married man. I mean, I even liked her! She was a lovely girl, simple, with a style very similar to my own. She walked towards him and put her arms around his neck as if to kiss him, but Ernesto pushed her away. He seemed annoyed about something. There was an argument and she cried then tried to embrace him, but he seemed increasingly angry. I began to feel more at ease: this relationship clearly wasn't going anywhere. Ernesto had never ever treated me that way, not in seventeen years of marriage. He made to leave and she tried to hold him back. He shook her off. She clung on to him and he ended up pushing her. Such was his bad luck, though, that her head caught a blow on a tree trunk in the undergrowth and she was knocked out cold. Ernesto went berserk, shaking her, taking her pulse, even trying to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. All in vain – it was a lost cause. I didn't know what to do; I couldn't exactly step out from behind the tree and say "Shall I give you a hand, Ernesto?"
So I went home. It seemed the most sensible thing to do.
Chapter Two"Hello ... Paula?"
"Yes, who's that?"
"Oh, I didn't recognize your voice. I'm still half asleep."
"No, I was, but not now."
"Have you spoken to your dad?"
"No, I don't know if I am going to speak to him. Did you see what a prick he was today?"
"Well, if I'm honest ..."
"Nothing was right for him."
"Is he always like that?"
"No, not always. But this trip's made him really jumpy."
"He's worried, poor thing."
"Yes. If we go by plane, he's worried about the plane; if we go by coach, he's worried about the coach."
"It's not that, babe. Your old man's worried you're going to get laid. Poor guy!"
"It's a joke! But you've got to admit it's quite funny ..."
"It's not funny to me."
"Go on, you may as well laugh. You've spent all day crying."
"I've got my reasons."
"Yes, I know."
"What about talking to your mum?"
"No way. She's irrelevant to me."
"OK, but you've got to speak to someone."
"I thought of calling Iván."
"No, not that again, please. You tried that already and it was a disaster."
"Oh, don't cry ..."
"Right, so don't tell anyone. Leave it until after the trip, OK?"
"It's going to kill my father."
"Well it's better for him to die after the trip."
"Don't, you're making me laugh ..."
"Promise me that you won't call Iván."
"Go on, promise."
Chapter ThreeOn the way home it began to rain. A downpour, in fact. The windscreen wipers went back and forth, but they couldn't shift such a quantity of water. To make matters worse, the left-hand one wasn't working properly. I had to struggle to see anything at all. I cursed the rain – then almost immediately saw an advantage to it (I'm someone who likes seeing the good side of things). If it rained, all trace of the accident would be washed away and that would be a great help to Ernesto. To everyone.
I glanced into the rear-view mirror. The road was empty. I asked myself what Ernesto could be doing. It never even crossed my mind that he might have gone to the police to tell them what had happened. I mean, why wash your dirty linen in public? An accident's an accident. If Ernesto went to the police, they would ask him too many awkward questions. Why had he arranged to meet a girl in the Palermo Woods? Why had they argued? What was the nature of their relationship? Awkward and, at the end of the day, unhelpful. Truelove was dead, after all. There are no guilty parties in an accident, just victims. And in this accident there had been two victims. One of them the dead woman, for whom, at this stage, it was pointless to concern oneself. The other, Ernesto, who now found himself embroiled in a sorry tale. No, he certainly would not have gone to the police. The fact is that the only living witnesses to the events of that night were Ernesto and myself. We both knew that this was an episode in which nobody was to blame for anything. This kind of guilt is fatherless, as my father used to say, it's like a bastard child. And my mother used to counter: "The only bastard round here is you."
What Ernesto and I had to do now was try to put this episode behind us and move on. I was going to say as much to Ernesto, as soon as he told me what had happened. I was all prepared – I had even rehearsed the words. And he must be desperate to tell me everything. I knew him so well! We always told each other everything. We had been together since we were nineteen years old. Well, perhaps not absolutely everything. Some things are too trivial to share, or are better left unsaid, in order to spare the other person's feelings. Because a relationship needs constant attention, otherwise cohabitation would kill you. Anyway, up until then he had never spoken to me about Truelove, understandably, and I'm grateful for that. As I said before, he obviously wanted to spare my feelings. And his silence was also an indication that this affair was nothing important. If it had been, Ernesto would have told me upfront, he would have spelled it out and then he would have left me. Ernesto's not good at hiding things. Neither am I.
I got home, parked the car in the garage and dried it off. It would have been difficult to justify its being wet and I didn't want to have to make something up – some midnight dash to the chemists and so on. It would have been tasteless to invent excuses on such a night. Anyway, I hate making things up. It always shows on my face.
I went upstairs. Lali was asleep. That was a relief: the less she knew about movements in the house that night, the better.
Chapter Four"Hello ..."
"Is Iván there?"
"A friend of his."
"My son's friends have names."
"Laura – or Lali?"
"Iván's here but he can't speak to you now. He's asleep."
"Oh, I see ..."
"Wait – don't hang up! Iván's told me everything. Did you know that?"
"I'm really very sorry for you, for what you're going through."
"I'm a woman and I understand, do you see?"
"And of course it can't be easy."
"But it's as a woman that I'm going to tell you this: stop calling Iván. This problem is yours alone ..."
"And look, as I said to Ivi, I have no doubt that you're a well-intentioned girl and that this has been an accident – do you understand?"
"Because other people might have cause to doubt that."
"But, basically, you're going to have to take responsibility for your mistake."
"Because it was your mistake – we agree on that, don't we?"
"My son didn't know there was any chance of that happening. If you don't tell him, how could he know?"
"It's always up to the woman to say."
"You and I both know that what you did was underhand, don't we?"
"But I ..."
"I don't know what your parents will have to say about this; I don't know them. I don't want to know them either, don't get me wrong. But, as Iván's mother, I'm very clear about what's happened, and I want you to leave my son alone. Do you understand, dear?"
"And if your parents have anything to say about it, they can call me or my husband directly. Because if you, or anyone from your family, persist in bothering my son, I'm going to have to involve the police."
"Are you still there?"
"Yes, but I have to go now."
"It's lucky you rang and we were able to clear the air, isn't it?"
"I have to hang up."
"Look after yourself and don't ring again."
Chapter FiveI went to my room. I was dying to know what Ernesto was doing at that moment. Having dismissed the likelihood of his going to the police, I wondered if perhaps he had decided to drag the body down to the lake. So that he could throw it in. That would complicate the job of anyone charged with investigating the – at this stage – possible disappearance of Truelove. That really was a good idea! If I could, I would have rung Ernesto to suggest it. But of course I couldn't. He had no idea that I was also caught up in this business. It crossed my mind to use the same strategy I employed for birthdays: a kind of induced free association. "Ernesto, last night you were in my dream. I dreamed that you gave me a burgundy-coloured leather jacket like the one they're selling in unit three on the ground floor of Galerías Pacífico. It was a lovely dream, believe me. Size forty-two." Only that in this case, I would have had to ring him and say: "Darling, sorry to bother you but I had a terrible nightmare – I saw you dragging a body into the Palermo lake." Too far-fetched; he would know that I was onto him.
Excerpted from ALL YOURS by Claudia Piñeiro Copyright © 2012 by Claudia Piñeiro . Excerpted by permission of BITTER LEMON PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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