Crossing Boundaries

A Pink Dormouse Production


Part II

Another town arrived at; another motel checked into; another night's sleep followed by another day of calling at used car lots. The mariachi had lost track of how many stops they had made or how many times they had changed vehicles. It was a steady drain on his funds; that much he did know, since they lost money on every deal. They were still headed north - most of the time - although Sands would insist on frequent detours to places where he knew someone, or had had a good time once, or had never been before. At least he had found some level of inner peace since re-entering his home country. And without Sands' contacts they would not have papers, which probably would have meant continuing to hitch, in spite of the weather being less predictable as they headed towards Canada.

Sands had disappeared early in the day, as he had on most of those not spent travelling. He was very talented at finding people to help him, usually one of the maids from their motel. Which meant the mariachi had little idea where it was Sands went to, although he suspected that bars were involved at least some of the time. Actually asking where he went had been met by a 'you know what, El, how about you don't ask and I don't tell?' and it had seemed wiser not to push the matter.

Sands, the mariachi suspected, was still very much on the defensive over what had happened on the train. Again, it was a matter Sands refused to be questioned on; and he had said nothing on the subject since that day. They slept in separate beds, but when they were driving Sands constantly had his hand on the mariachi's leg. Or Sands would bring the mariachi's hand to rest on Sands' leg. And Sands invented other rituals involving touch. Nothing inappropriate, merely excuses for them to be closer than would have been allowable, if it were not for Sands' blindness.

The mariachi paid for the car in cash as always. No one ever asked how he came to be carrying so many high-denomination bills. And those they saw were still, even after all this travelling, nothing to those he had hidden elsewhere. He made a few other purchases and found himself a place to eat. Then he drove back to the motel.

Sands was waiting for him, leaning against the door to their room, cigarette in mouth.

"Hey, El." There seemed to be a slight catch in his voice.

"You're back early."

"What can I say? This town is less exciting than some I could mention." He stepped away from the door. "Going to let me in?"

It was logical for the mariachi to hold onto the key, wherever they stayed. Normally Sands could be gone for anything from several hours to the entire night. He unlocked the door and opened it.

"After you."

Sands dropped the cigarette and ground it out under his boot-heel. Then he adjusted the strap of his shoulder bag and sauntered into the room. An attentive observer would see that he was counting strides, and might even spot his hand flick forward to touch the bed, before he laid his bag down next to it, and sat down on it. He removed his boots and coat, then stretched his legs out along the bed. The mariachi could have sworn that Sands had been carrying a cane when he had wandered away earlier, but there was no sign of it now.

"What have you got planned for tonight?"

"I thought we would just stay in." He was not going to mention it yet, but he got the impression that all was not right with Sands. He sat down on the same bed. "Want to know what movies are showing?" Another constant in this mixed-up life of theirs - if Sands was around they put a movie on the motel TV and sat together, so the mariachi could provide a commentary for Sands, sometimes sketching out the scenes on Sands' leg or palm for emphasis.

"You choose." Sands rested his head on the mariachi's shoulder. Yes, something was definitely not right for Sands to give up his right of choice so easily.

"Have you eaten?"

Sands shook his head.

"Not hungry." Sands had been eating well enough in recent weeks to regain a little weight. Asking him directly what the problem was would antagonise him. But showing no interest could antagonise him more.

The mariachi reached behind Sands to lift the TV Guide from the nightstand between the two beds. Sands put his hand out to steady himself as the bed moved and winced.

"Let me see." The mariachi set the magazine back down and started to take hold of Sands' wrist.

"It's nothing." Sands snapped, and pulled his hand away.

"So show me," the mariachi said calmly. "If there's nothing wrong, then you've nothing to hide."

Sands cradled his hand for a moment, then held it out, palm upwards. The mariachi felt along the wrist - sore, judging by Sands' reaction, but not swollen - then gently turned it over to reveal a set of bruises forming across Sands' knuckles.

"Who did you hit?"

"Fucker wanted to see what was behind my sunglasses." Sands said, with an air of dangerous calm. He pulled his hand away again. "So I broke his jaw for him."

"Is that all he tried to do?" He knew that Sands carried as much cash as the mariachi did, although where it came from was somewhat more of a mystery.

"That's all. If he'd tried anything else there'd be a bullet in his brain, and you'd be disposing of the body for me." Sands leaned his head on the mariachi's shoulder again. "No one gets to touch me unless I let them. And I changed my mind about letting him the moment he went for the glasses."

The mariachi tensed. He was angry that anyone should want to harm Sands, angry at Sands for putting himself into a situation where he could be harmed, and more than a little disturbed that Sands would freely admit to picking up strangers in bars. At least that was what he thought he had just heard.

"Is that what you do? While I'm out taking care of business, you go searching for people to have sex with?" 

"Jealous?" Sands moved across to the other bed, leaning back against the headboard and pulling his knees up to his chest. "Because you know, I'm still yours whenever you decide you want me."

"I don't want you like that." His life was complicated enough, without adding any more problems into the mix.

"Prove it." Sands ducked his head so his hair fell forwards over his sunglasses, and gave a very good impression of staring straight at the mariachi, challenging him for a reply.

"How do I prove a negative?" How could he be Parent, Brother and Lover to one person?

"You've got me there." Sands smirked. "Hell, most people think I'm your bitch anyway. Why not prove them right?"

"I thought you preferred proving people wrong." The mariachi was in no mood for a fight with Sands right now, and if he stayed, that was what would happen. He stood up. "I'm going out for some air. I'll be back later."

The mariachi had no real idea of where he should go, other than away from Sands. He had been given a lot of money to keep Sands safe, and he was sure that his paymasters would reclaim it with interest - in a not-at-all-friendly manner - should they hear Sands had got himself into trouble, while the mariachi had supposedly been taking care of him.

Not that there would be a next time, the mariachi told himself. He would not allow it. He would find a way of keeping Sands from wandering off again, even if that meant he was going to have the fight he had just avoided tomorrow instead. Or perhaps things would look better tomorrow. Sands had seemed shaken by the incident too, so maybe he would settle down a little.

The mariachi left the motel's parking area on foot and turned towards the centre of town. He stopped off at the first bar he passed that looked remotely welcoming, and settled down in a dark corner to drink, and smoke, until he was completely calm.

It was fully dark when he got back to the motel room. He unlocked the door cautiously, unsure what mood Sands would be in - if indeed he was still there - then turned the light on.

"It's only me."

"I know." At first glance Sands appeared not to have moved from where the mariachi had left him. "I'd recognise those chains, and that cologne anywhere."

"So if someone wanted to fool you, it would not be too difficult?" The mariachi studied Sands a little more closely. He had changed his clothes and, although he was sitting in much the same position, he now had a bottle of bourbon dangling from his left hand. "Drinking alone?"

"That's what you've been doing, isn't it?" Sands gave a hollow laugh. "We make a fine pair don't we? I'm bored of being on the road. What say we make for the Canadian border tomorrow, and don't stop until we hit a city on the other side?"

"Any city in particular?"

"I hear Montreal's good this time of year." Sands gestured with the bottle. "Sit down and have a drink with me."


Part I   Part III

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