Placa De Braus Monumental
Joyce (J.D.) Daniels

Courage is grace under pressure…Ernest Hemingway 

Gretchen, Hilda and Gil sat in the third row.  Gretchen had not wanted to come to the bullfight.  She’d been adamant.  Hilda was neutral.  Gil said if they didn’t come with him, he would leave them at the border of Spain and go his way.  

“Ohmigod, I can’t look!” Gretchen said.  

“How could any man carrying a cape lined in pink be so cruel?” Hilda said.  

Gretchen spread her fingers.  Five young men half-circled the sword-wielding matador.  One was the male version of Jamie.  Damn.  She pressed her fingers together and counted to ten.  

The crowd roared their praise.  

Gretchen opened her finger lock again.  The bull was down on one knee.  Two swords protruded from his massive head.  She was a vegetarian, for Christ’s sakes.  She should never have come.  

The man with the way-too-familiar looks swished his cape and took three swift steps backward.  

She’d had enough.  She stood.  

“Hey, where’re you going?” Gil asked, catching by the sleeve of her sweater.  

She pulled away.  “I’m out of here.”  

“Hey, move along,” a man behind them said.  

Gretchen gave him a glare then inched sideways.  “I’ll be near the arch we entered.”  

As she hurried through the almost empty corridor, two dark-haired men walked by speaking Catalan.  She leaned against the stone wall and waited.  They stood nearby, chatting in an animated fashion.  Not understanding them made her feel isolated, unwanted.  How dumb of her.  Why hadn’t she bothered to learn the language?  She’d always prided herself on how well she was prepared for a trip.  She grimaced and turned her back.  

Moments later, a horde of people streamed out of the arena.  Gretchen heard Gil and Hilda before she saw them. “Hey.  Over here!”  

They waved.   

Gretchen glanced toward the men who had made her feel so inadequate.  One caught her gaze.  She lowered her head.  He strutted their way.  “Come on, let’s get out of here,” she said, begging Hilda with her eyes to follow.  

“What’s the hurry?  Let’s wait til the crowd thins out,” Gil said.  

Hilda looked toward Gil.  

Gretchen smelled hot breath on her neck.  She turned and ran.  Tears streamed down her cheeks.  She knew why she’d left New England.  She knew.  Hilda knew.  That bastard Jamie knew.  Oh, how she knew.  

She was a coward.  A fool.  A person who couldn’t face confrontation.     

The toe of Gretchen’s shoe caught on a brick.  She hesitated.  Oh, how she missed her.  She could be on a plane in the morning.  On Sunday Jamie always stayed in bed reading the paper.   

First published: November, 2009
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