She wore black workout gear – a vest that had a plunging neckline with form-fitting tights that stopped at her knees, and black sneakers. Her earphones hung around her neck and her hands were on her wide hips which seemed to make her small waist seem even smaller. Her hair was knotted at the back of her head and not a single strand was out of place.
My breath hung in my chest.
“You’re Dilia, right?”
I stared at her. How did she know that?
“Why are you here?”
“What?” I squeaked, finally finding what remained of my voice.
“He’s in Greece, isn’t he?”
“What?” I repeated.
“I thought you’d be with him.”
“What’s it to you?” I asked her, my voice stronger.
She looked at me with a frown, folding her arms over her chest, pretty much accentuating her cleavage. “He usually takes them on one of his trips at least once. I mean – it’s been long enough. Unless…”
I stared at her, feeling myself starting to go cold.
“You guys haven’t…” she stopped, her eyes going wide. “You’re not one of them?”
“One of who? What are you talking about… Hilda?” I asked, my voice faltering on her name.
She didn’t seem to have heard me as she looked me over. “I thought he was lying to spare my feelings. He really hasn’t taken you, has he?”
I didn’t care much for what she knew, I was more shaken by the fact that she knew it at all.
“So that vow thing is real?”
He was still talking to her – and they were talking about me.
“Is that why you’re out here? Trying to settle yourself?”
“I’ve been on this track since I started WITS,” she said. “I wasn’t a runner before, but after I met Dom – damn, I needed it.”
“What do you mean?”
“He has – stamina,” she said. “I don’t get it. They say that guys can’t hold it as long as girls can, but he just… He’s a god…”
I swallowed hard, feeling the tears burn the backs of my eyes, my lip starting to tremble.
She looked so completely out of this moment that I was almost sure that she had forgotten that I was even there.
“I don’t need to know this…” I said feebly.
“But he said that nobody could touch me but him, not even me,” she said. “So I started running this track and it helped, a lot.”
I bit my lip, forcing myself not to cry.
Her eyes darkened as they found mine again.
“I know you think it feels empowering and makes you seem sexier, keeping him guessing like this,” she said, the humour lost completely to something darker. “But you’re deluding yourself –”
“It’s nobody’s business what goes on between me and Dom.”
“He seems to think differently –”
“Is that why you came here?” I snapped. “To tell me all this? To snoop? It’s over between you two, just move on!”
“I actually came here to run,” she said, shaking her head at me, widening her eyes, feigning innocence. “This is the biggest track of all the campuses…”
She looked around her briefly.
“I mean – I didn’t know this until after he suggested I run here.”
My heart was going to stop.
It was going to rip open and stop!
Was this where he came when he ran? Did he run with her all those times?
I was going to be sick.
“At first I thought he picked up his girls that way – gym and track,” she said, “But we’re all different…”
She looked me over. “Clearly…” she said, a sting in her voice.
I couldn’t move.
I just stared at her, my eyes beginning to water.
“I also made him wait. I was determined to show him that I was different,” she said. Her eyes dimmed further still and the light seemed to fall completely from them.
“But… He looked for it outside of us.”
I gasped, feeling my heart skip.
“But Dominick is powerful,” she said, shaking her head slowly, her eyes holding a certain twinkle about them. “He has this way of keeping you drawn in. I didn’t care that he was getting his pleasures elsewhere, he was mine, you know what I mean?”
I stared at her, quiet, shocked.
“I didn’t know everything about him, but I wanted to stay to find out,” she said, gazing off into her mind. “I knew these girls and they knew me but we never actually spoke about him – or at least, they didn’t speak to me about him.”
I remembered that girl at the bus stop.
Was this it? Was she one of them? Was Hilda even telling the truth?
She closed her eyes for a moment, pain flashing across her face. She looked at me again, her gaze direct.
“When we finally made love, it was like everything inside me was set free,” she said. “And it wasn’t just the sex – I understood that night that it wasn’t the sex, it was something else.”
She sighed heavily.
The memory of her time with him was there on her face and it disgusted me – hurt me – that she could still feel the pleasure of his presence so acutely, even when he wasn’t around. I knew that feeling.
“It was intense and passionate and dark – I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she said, something like frustration in her voice. “I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think – I just wanted him all the fucking time –”
“Stop…” I breathed. “I don’t need to know this –”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t! None of this… It has nothing to do with me!” I said, ready to run.
“He won’t wait forever, Dilia,” she said, grabbing my hand to stay me.
“I don’t expect him to!”
“So you’re willing to go back on that vow?”
“Yes,” Hilda said. “I know about your vow – that you’ll wait until you’re married.”
She shook her head and my heart ripped inside me.
“You know what they call him? His card?”
I blinked at her, the tears falling cold down my cheeks.
“The King. His card is a black diamond, of kings,” she said. “There’s a partner card, of queens, but he’s never used it on any of us.”
I tried to take my hand back but she held on, firm and tight.
“He’s not that man, Dilia,” she said.
I looked at her, unable to stop the flood from coming now.
“He won’t ask you to marry him and if he does, he won’t stay committed to you.”
I swallowed hard, fearful and defiant. “Just because he did that with you, doesn’t mean he’ll do that to me!”
“Oh, he will,” said Hilda.
“He promised me… He said –”
“Just when you think you know him, remember that’s when you don’t know him at all.”
My heart was breaking in my chest –
“And you better learn to stop doing that!”
She tugged violently on my chin and my lip came free of my teeth and I feared I’d drawn my own blood.
She shook her head.
“The more you tease him, the more he wants you,” said Hilda, the bitterness in her voice so searing, I felt it like a slap in my face. “And the longer you hold out on him, the faster you lose him.”
“Stop…” I begged.
“If you want to keep him, let him have you,” said Hilda. “But if you don’t love him, let him go.”
I snatched my hand back and she finally let me go.
And I ran.