(Happy) Dance by the Light of the (Tropical) Moon
By Hiker Chick
"Oooo-hoooo!" Shelley spun across the stone terrace. "A cottage in Cancun for a whole month!" she twirled off the stones and onto the sand, falling, laughing, kicking bare feet in the air.
Miriam followed her friend at a more discrete pace, padding across the terrace in sandaled feet. She stood at the edge of the paving and looked out to sea. A warm tropical breeze blew salt air into her face while blue waves frothed and tumbled to shore only a few hundred yards away. Rich ivory sand, clean and inviting, rose up from the water and stretched into the small grove of palm trees that lay between the cottage and the surf. The palms and lush foliage screened everything but the beach from view. Their cottage, part of a four-star hotel but physically separated from it, provided seclusion while retaining all the four-star services that would make their vacation a dream trip…and then some. The package deal included a fully-stocked pantry, three meals delivered right to their door, and an unlimited bar. "Paradise," Miriam agreed, knotting the coordinating sarong more tightly around the waist of her tasteful maillot.
"I've got the margaritas!" The tinkling of ice against glass preceded Heather onto the terrace. Miriam and a sandy Shelley followed her to the wrought iron table standing beneath the palms. A large tray held the pitcher of margaritas, three salt-rimmed glasses, and a plate of strange-looking turnovers. Heather dispensed the first round of drinks, then offered the plate to Miriam.
"What are they?"
"I have no idea, but they look good."
Miriam turned one over, weighing it carefully with her eyes. "It's probably very fattening."
"Miriam Sadosky, you will NOT...I repeat, NOT...count a single calorie on this vacation. It's vacation. We're going to eat what we want...
"...drink what we want..." Heather chimed in, topping Miriam's glass with more icy margarita.
"...and do whatever we want for four wonderful weeks," Shelley finished, shaking her finger for good measure. "So what if you gain weight. This is vacation. I'm sure you'll find a way to torture the pounds away once you get back to Cleveland."
Miriam laughed at her friend's pained expression. She was an expert fat torturer. She had 10 years' experience, ever since her 14th birthday when she stepped on the scales and saw 2-0-0 staring back at her like Satan himself. In fact, Miriam specialized in the 20 pounds between 180 and 200. She tortured them regularly...and they always returned for more abuse. She sighed and took a bite. Delicious. The buttery crust and rich meat filling slipped down her throat like a blessing.
Three turnovers, two margaritas, and an indeterminate number of tortilla chips later, Miriam wobbled on the edge of sleep. Jet lag, the food, and the alcohol combined in her veins to make a potent sleeping potion. Yawning, Miriam pulled a chaise into the sun and applied a generous layer of sunscreen to her too-white skin. She loosened the sarong, exposing the thighs she'd always hated - so what if they were too fat, who could see them here? - and lay back against the cushions.
Miriam bolted awake. Long shadows painted the terrace and the waves beyond her feet boiled beneath a purpling sky. Evening.
"I'm sorry to frighten you."
She looked around for the voice. A distinguished-looking older man, well-dressed in a tropical weight jacket, stood discretely behind her chaise.
A disarming smile spread across his tanned face. "I'm from the restaurante," he gestured at the covered trays on the table. "Would you like your evening meal on the patio?"
Miriam sat up, scraping the chaise for the loose ends of her sarong while she scraped her fuzzy brain for the correct words. "Yes."
Heather and Shelley stirred on their lounges, coming back to life. Miriam turned politely to the waiter. "Thank you..."
"Rico," he supplied his name. "It is my pleasure. Enjoy." With a brilliant smile, he backed away, slipping into the shadow-filled path that led back to the hotel.
"Who. Was. That." Heather's sleepy voice dripped with interest.
"Uh...Rico. From the restaurant," Miriam scrubbed her eyes with both fists and peeked beneath the covers on each tray. Rich, spicy scents rolled into her face and her stomach rumbled in response.
"Ummm...tasty," Shelley yawned and stretched.
"It smells delicious..." Miriam agreed, laying plates around the table.
"Not the food, silly. The waiter."
"A girl can dream, can't she? A tropical paradise. A hot Latin lover."
"I stand by my fantasy," Shelley sniffed, then filled her fork and sampled the mole. "Ummm...tasty," she repeated for the second time that night.
Heather agreed. "Food can be better than sex," she observed, eyes closed, chewing.
"I don't know about that," Shelley giggled, looking in the direction of the hotel restaurant.
"You little hussy!"
"Oh, come on, Miri. A holiday fling is almost required these days. Put another notch on your bikini strap to giggle about with your girlfriends afterward, and..." Shelley punctuated her thought with the fork "...if you put food like this together with sex, you've got the recipe for ab-so-lute nirvana."
"I don't wear a bikini," Miriam remarked sensibly. She helped herself to the steaming mole, the moist rice, the grilled vegetables. Stars prickled in the sky by the time her plate sat empty and she picked at the flan with her friends, waging a friendly war of forks as they vied for the last piece.
Heather triumphed then jumped to her feet, looking seaward. "Let's go for a swim."
"I'm right behind you," Shelley agreed, grabbing her towel from the chair. "You coming, Miriam?"
"Are you sure it's safe at night?"
"Of course it's safe. We'll only go in the shallow part. The hotel's only just up the beach. What could happen?"
We could get a cramp and drown. We could get pulled under by a sea monster. A bandit could burst out of the trees and spirit us away. We could be abducted by aliens. Miriam ran through the possibilities as she reluctantly followed her friends to the water's edge.
The sea foamed and shimmered green with phosphorescence. The quarter moon hung low in the sky, rising. The night air, still warm, flowed slowly back and forth in a small breeze. Miriam arranged her towel neatly on the sand, watching Heather and Shelley frolic in the shallow froth that ran up the sand. It seemed safe enough. She removed her shoes and placed them neatly beside the towel. She folded her sarong and placed it securely beneath the shoes. At the water's edge, she tested the temperature with one toe. Surprisingly warm. She waded in. Refreshing. "Ack!" a shower of spray caught her full in the back. She turned to see Heather grinning in the thin moonlight. "You..." Miri chased after Heather, already in full retreat. She pushed her into deeper water, where Heather fell with a splat and a full-throated peal of laughter.
The evening swim quickly became habit. Each night that first week the friends would linger on the patio, cleaning their plates, drinking coffee, nibbling at dessert, laughing at nonsense. Then, after an hour or so, they'd wander across the sand to the sea, slip into the warm water, and paddle through the surf that glowed in the moonlight. After Heather and Shelley returned to their cottage, Miri would linger on the sand, watching the surf, thinking.
She had grown bored with wondering what her scale, Satan, would say when she got back home. Carpe diem, Miri decided, and anything else tasty that wasn't nailed down. Liberated, she lay back on her towel, watching the dense mat of stars twinkle across the tropical sky. The surf grumbled softly in the darkness. Distant notes and a salsa beat drifted over the sand from the hotel.
"Hola." A voice, overhead.
Miri scrambled to her feet, wiping sandy palms against the back of her suit. The dark form seemed familiar somehow.
"Rico Meléndes, from the restaurante," the form reintroduced himself. "I'm sorry. I make a habit of frightening you."
Miriam gathered her wits for the second time in his presence. "No. Really. I was miles away."
"I apologize. Please," he gestured at the outline of her towel in the sand. "Are you enjoying your stay here in Cancun?"
Miri sat down again, arranging her legs neatly to one side. "Yes, I am."
Rico the Waiter sat next to her and propped his wrists across his knees. Tonight, he wore a dress shirt, open at the neck, hem pulled loose from his slacks, and sleeves rolled up both muscular forearms. "And the food?"
"Delicious," her mouth watered a bit at the thought. "Too delicious," she thought of the extra inches already padding her hips and her thighs.
"Bueno. I am happy to hear that."
"So's Satan," she muttered to herself, remembering the scale for a moment.
Oops. Too loud. Laughing, she described her nemesis to Rico the Waiter.
He shook his head. "I don't understand you American girls. You starve all the womanly flesh off your bodies...for what?"
"Si. Loco American men." He watched her thoughtfully for a moment, then extended his hand with a grin. "My name is Rico. You haven't told me your name."
Miri laughed and slipped her hand into his much larger one. "Miriam. Miri"
"Miri," he rolled the R around his tongue, shaking her hand gently. "A beautiful name, Miri." His thumb briefly caressed the back of her hand before releasing it to her.
Miri shivered despite the warm tropical air, knitting her hands safely together where Rico couldn't see her fingers tremble. They sat quietly, both watching the waves shimmer with phosphorescence in the night.
"Would you like some dessert?" he suggested after a few sets had tumbled onto the sand.
Rico inclined his head toward the hotel. "The restaurante. There's always odds and ends left in the kitchen. They'll go to waste if we don't eat them tonight."
"I'll need to change."
"No you don't. The restaurante is closed. No one will see."
"Still, let me get my skirt," she thought of her sarong for the first time in days.
"If you insist."
"I insist," Miri suddenly felt shy about her fleshy thighs that had grown noticeably after the indulgences of the past week. She gathered her towel, jogging through the sand to return a few minutes later, the sarong carefully knotted around her hips. Rico stood in the same place, waiting, watching the sea.
"I'm ready," she announced to his back, breathlessly.
With a flash of white teeth in the darkness, Rico smiled his agreement and led her across the sand to the hotel. Around back, Rico selected a key from his chain and unlocked the kitchen door.
"Are you sure this is OK?"
"Of course I'm sure," he pushed the door open and held it for her, toggling a light switch with his free hand. "Go in."
Neon tubes flickered to life, lighting a long tiled kitchen filled with stainless steel equipment, numerous bowls and pans hanging from the ceiling. Miri ran one hand along a pristine counter, finding no grease or food residue. Good, since her food came from this place. She turned to see Rico's back; he stood head and shoulders inside a large refrigerator.
"¿Quién está ahí?" Someone called through an inside doorway.
"Soy yo, Rico," Rico placed two pies on the counter and turned toward the new voice.
A white-shirted man crossed the kitchen from the far side. "Ay, Señor Meléndes, lo siento. No quise molestarle."
"No hay problema, Ruben. Puede irse para su casa ahora."
"Gracias, Sr. Meléndes. Buenas Noches."
"Buenas Noches, Ruben," Rico watched the other man leave through the outside door.
Miri studied Rico for the first time. Dark eyes bright with a spark of intelligence, strong jaw, dark wavy hair with some gray streaks through it , Rico stood a few inches taller than she with broad shoulders, muscular chest and arms. All in all, an attractive man in his mid-thirties. More than the instant Latin lover that Shelley imagined that first night at dinner.
Miri found a stool and sat on in while Rico continued to rummage through the refrigerator. "You're not just a waiter here, are you?"
"No. Did you think I was?" He found pies, cheesecakes, half-filled pudding bowls, pastries piled on paper doilies and pushed them across the tile counter.
"Well...yes. The way you brought the food that first night..."
"Sometimes we are short-handed. I fill in where I am needed," Rico laughed. "Here, try this," he offered a large spoon filled with pudding to her.
The pudding slid down Miri's throat like rich silk. When he offered her another spoonful and then another, she took them eagerly from his spoon. "So you own this place?" she licked her lips, wondering why it didn't seem strange to be fed by this man.
"I have the franchise to operate it, yes. And four others in hotels down the beach," he named two divisions of an international hotel chain as he offered Miri a thick slice of cheesecake dripping with mocha crème.
"Heavenly," she said through the last mouthful of creamy topping.
"It is," Rico agreed, licking his fingers, "and I also manage three cantinas for mi padre, who started the restaurante business in our family. Here, you must try this," Rico offered a thick Napoleon for her consideration, "these are delicious."
As she bit into it, creamy filling leaked from between each layer, oozing onto her lips and chin. "Oooph," she struggled to find the errant bits with her tongue.
"Ah," Rico nibbled the stray cream from her chin, his hot breath tickling her cheeks and sending a jolt straight to the core of her being.
Oh my. Ohmyohmyohmy. She struggled to regain control of her thoughts, which had rapidly degenerated to her and Rico, naked together, whipped cream on the side. "Aren't you going to eat more than the food off my face?"
"Watching you eat is reward enough, quierda," he stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers. "You must try Magdalena's cherry flan. Rich like you would not believe."
"Oh, I'm afraid not. I'm really too full," Miri shifted on the stool, stretching her midriff to ease the pressure building there.
He offered her the flan on a large fork, a red cherry balanced on top. "It will go to waste. Think of the starving children in Appalachia."
When Miri smiled at his version of every mother's threat, he brushed the custard against her lips, smearing them liberally with the sticky topping. She had no choice but to lick them clean. Over and over again.
Rico slipped the empty plate into a sudsy basin and turned back to the smorgasbord of treats lined up on the counter. "What would you like to try next?"
"Ohhhh," Miri rubbed her stomach with the heel of one hand. It was swollen, rock-hard. "I'm in pain." She was.
Rico moved behind her stool. "Lay back against me."
"I won't hurt you. Come on," he urged her shoulders against his chest. Slowly, she relaxed into him and let her head roll loose against his shoulder. "That's right," he purred in her ear, reaching around her waist from both sides.
Miri tensed again when she felt his palms through the taut lycra of her suit.
"Relax. That's right. Now let me rub the pain away." He moved his palms in a rhythmic circular motion, spreading the pressure, pressing deeper, moving outward. Miri sighed and closed her eyes, floating in pleasure-pain that quickly faded to pure pleasure. The heat of his capable hands relaxed her cramped stomach, releasing the pressure, relaxing her muscles. "Better?"
"Yes!" Surprisingly. She rubbed her belly with one hand, sliding over the substantial swelling that hadn't been there before. What on earth did he do? Her eyes trailed over a coconut cream pie she hadn't tried yet.
Rico followed her glance. "You must try the pie, then. It's delicious."
"Is coconut cream pie a traditional Mexican dessert?"
"Of course not, but I run an international establishment that caters to all tastes," he transferred a thick slab to a delicate china plate. He severed the end with a fork and offered it to her.
"Your English is perfect. Where did you learn it?" she asked between the second and third bites.
"Penn State University, School of Hotel and Restaurant Management."
"Oh." Another stereotype bit the dust as the last bite of pie slipped oh-so-easily down her throat.
The china plate joined the others in the dishwater. "Now let's see . . .”
"Now I really can't," she leaned against the counter, stretching her belly, making room.
"Oh yes. You can. This is your vacation. Do you want Satan to have that power over you?" he baited her with the name of her scale.
Bulls-eye, Miri thought. Right on the hot button. She watched him slice a chunk of fruity torte and offer it on the fork. Nutty. Fruity. Good. She chewed and swallowed. Another chunk followed.
"More," he urged. "You will offend me if you do not eat this torte. It is our specialty," the glimmer in his eye told her he wouldn't be offended at all. Just disappointed.
She didn't disappoint him, finding somewhere in her overstuffed belly for the delicious torte. Then Miri slipped from the stool, stretching to the ceiling, looking for relief from the hot, tight knot that filled her middle and pressed down, spreading to her core, arousing her despite the pain.
Rico took her hand from the air, spinning her gently. "Dance with me. Can you hear the music?"
Thin strains of a waltz drifted through the open window, slow and seductive. Miri melted into Rico's waiting arms, fitting her swollen belly against his flat one, weaving her legs with his as they moved around the room. She couldn't decide whether it was the strong heat of Rico's belly against her tight one, or the delicious caress of his muscular leg between hers, but somehow her hands crept beneath the loose tail of his shirt, sliding across the hot skin of his back, fingertips slipping along the waistband of his slacks.
Rico shifted, now dancing behind Miri, his pelvis molded to her backside, his large hands rubbing her stuffed belly slowly, in sync with the music. The band changed from one waltz to another and they danced on, Rico's cheek pressed against Miri's as she swayed against him. The fullness, the pressure eased as Rico's hands worked their magic on it; by the end of the music she could breathe freely again.
Rico spun her in a circle to face him again. "There. Just a little bit round, the way a woman's tummy should be."
"A little bit!" Miri traced the bulge of her bathing suit with one palm. She could barely see her toes over the mound.
"Si. A little bit."
"And what's a lot?"
"Out to here!" Rico threw his hips forward and held one hand a great distance from his body.
Miri giggled despite herself. "You're out of your mind, Rico."
"I am not. I just know what I like, and it's a round woman." "Come on, let's have one more little treat and then call it a night."
"Rico. . .” She'd just found relief and he wanted to stuff her again.
"Come on," he rooted around in the refrigerator. "I'll have some, too. . .ahah! Here it is." He turned with a gooey chocolate pastry in his hand.
"Oh Rico," Miri felt her belly grow larger before she'd taken a bite.
"Ummm," Rico mimed his appreciation as he chewed a large mouthful. "Come on, now it's your turn."
Miri obediently took a bite. Umm. It was good. She licked his strong fingers, cleaning each one with her tongue, losing herself in the heat of Rico's eyes. "More," she murmured against his sticky flesh, taking a finger into her mouth and pulling gently along its length. Rico's indrawn breath sent goosebumps crawling down her arms. "More, Rico," she begged, not knowing whether it was the chocolate or Rico himself that she needed more at that moment. The seductive power of food and Rico's magnetism tangled together in her brain, one twisted inside the other, until she needed both desperately.
"Ah . . . you take my breath away," he whispered, biting the pastry, then offering the rest to Miri's eager lips. "You are a goddess," his breath tickled her lips as he shared the second piece all the way to her mouth, then worked his chocolaty lips against hers, deepening the kiss until Miri thought she'd lose consciousness and pass into heaven. When he broke the kiss and moved away, she heard a whimper leave her own throat and follow him to the towel rack.
Rico wiped a smudge on her chin then his hands on the same cloth. "There. You see? Magdalena will be very pleased. You appreciate her cooking."
"...and your salesmanship," Miri murmured, still trying to gather her wits from the jumbled erotic sensations that tumbled through her. "Oh dear." Stiff from the hips up, Miri was a swollen mass from her pelvis to her breasts. "Oh my."
"What?" Rico, came to her side, touched her cheek and then her arm.
Miri tried a few experimental steps, adjusting her hips, pitching her heavy belly forward while she leaned back. "I'm going to have to waddle back to the cottage."
"That's fine. We have all night," Rico trailed his fingers across her tense middle, tickling little circles there. "We will walk slowly."
They did. They strolled in silence through palms that whispered above their heads when the breeze stirred the fronds. They strolled through puddles of moonlight that pooled here and there on the path, just enough for them to see their way. Paradise. Nirvana.
"Goodnight Rico," Miri whispered, poised at the edge of her terrace. Except for the weak light that glowed in her room, the cottage lay in silent darkness. "Thank you for the . . . dessert."
"My pleasure," Rico kissed her cheek and let her go. "Goodnight, quierda."
Miri crossed the terrace without looking back, finding the key on the ledge outside her door, just where she'd left it earlier that night. She turned the key between her fingers and looked up at the moon still riding high in the night sky. She turned her face into it, imagined that it spilled over her head and flowed like cool honey across her shoulders. So cool. So good. She twirled cautiously, palms outstretched to its radiance, eyes closed, humming lightly. Once, twice, three turns in lazy loops across the terrace. The morning breeze tickled her face, flushed from so much food...and happiness.
"Beautiful. You are truly beautiful."
"Rico! I thought you'd left!" Miri stumbled to an awkward halt.
Rico stepped from the shadows and joined her on the terrace. "I waited for you to go safely inside...and you have not gone inside yet."
"Walk me to the door?"
"Si," Rico looped one arm around her waist, "if you promise to have dessert with me tomorrow night."
Miri looked to the east, where darkness had already thinned to deep purple. She shivered at the thought of his dark eyes, his strong fingers, urging indulgence beyond even her wild dreams. "Tonight."
"Tonight," Rico agreed, guiding her gently to the glass door of her room.
Miri nodded sleepily, working the lock, sliding the well-oiled door back in its slot. She yawned into her free hand, fighting the need to sleep. "Tonight."
Rico kissed her lightly on one cheek while he caressed the hard swell of her belly. "And we'll do something about putting some meat on those bones."
Miri laughed out loud. It wasn't meat that covered her bones, but the way Rico described it, more “meat” sounded wonderful. "Good morning, Rico. See you tonight."
"Yes," his fingers lingered a moment longer on the curve of her hip, then slipped away.
For a moment, Satan's red eyes flashed through her consciousness. "Get thee behind me," she whispered to the image as Rico disappeared into the morning gloom. The first thing tomorrow, she would buy herself a bigger bathing suit...a much bigger one. And, the first thing home, she'd perform an exorcism over the trash can, flinging Satan out of her life for good.