Domingo leaned against his cart and waited to see if the news show would expand on the drug war story. He was fond of yellow journalism. He also liked stories and comic books about vampires; they seemed exotic. There were no vampires in Mexico City: their kind had been a no-no for the past thirty years, ever since the old Federal District became a city-state, walling itself from the rest of the country. He still didn’t understand what a city-state was exactly, but it sounded important and the vampires stayed out.
The next story was of a pop star, the singing sensation of the month, and then there was another ad, this one for a shoulder-bag computer. Domingo sulked and changed the tune on his music player. He looked at another screen with pictures of blue butterflies fluttering around. Domingo took a chocolate from his pocket and tore the wrapper.
He wondered if he shouldn’t head to Quinto’s party. Quinto lived nearby, and though his home was a small apartment, they were throwing an all-night party on the roof, where there was plenty of space. But Quinto was friends with the Jackal, and Domingo didn’t want to see that guy. Besides, he’d probably have to contribute to the beer budget. It was the end of the month. Domingo was short on cash.
A young woman wearing a black vinyl jacket walked by him. She was holding a leash with a genetically modified Doberman. It had to be genetically modified because it was too damn large to be a regular dog. The animal looked mean and had a green bioluminescent tattoo running down the left side of its head, the kind of decoration that was all the rage among the hip and young urbanites. Or so the screens in the subway concourse had informed Domingo, fashion shows and news reels always eager to reveal what was hot and what was not. That she’d tattooed her dog struck him as cute, although perhaps it was expected: if you had a genetically modified dog you wanted people to notice it.
Domingo recognized her. He’d seen her twice before, walking around the concourse late at night, both times with her dog. The way she moved, heavy boots upon the white tiles, bob-cut black hair, with a regal stance, it made him think of water. Like she was gliding on water.
She turned her head a small fraction, glancing at him. It was only a glance, but the way she did it made Domingo feel like he’d been doused with a bucket of ice. Domingo stuffed the remaining chocolate back in his pocket, took off his headphones, and pushed his cart, boarding her subway car.
He sat across from the girl and was able to get a better look at her. She was about his age, with dark eyes and a full, stern mouth. She possessed high cheekbones and sharp features. Overall, her face was imposing and aquiline. There was a striking quality about her, but her beauty was rather cutting compared to the faces of the models he’d viewed in the ads. And she was a beauty, with that black hair and the dark eyes and the way she stood, so damn graceful.
He noticed her gloves. Black vinyl that matched the jacket. She wasn’t wearing a fancy outfit, but it fit her well; the clothes were of good quality, he could tell as much. The subway car stopped and Domingo fidgeted, wondering where she was headed, trying to build an imaginary biography for her and failing, distracted by her nearness.
The young woman patted the dog’s head.
He was looking at her discreetly, and he knew how to do discreet, so he was a bit surprised when she turned and stared right back at him.
Domingo froze and then swallowed. He found his tongue with some effort.
“Hey,” he said, smiling. “How are you doing tonight?”
She did not smile back. Her lips were pressed together in a precise, unyielding line. He hoped she wasn’t thinking of letting the dog loose on him for staring at her.
The subway car was almost deserted, and when she spoke her voice seemed to echo around them even though she spoke very softly.
“Should you be out by yourself at this time of the night?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“How old are you?”
“Seventeen,” he replied. “It’s early. It’s just before midnight.”
“No,” he scoffed. “I live on my own.”
“Ah, a man about town.”
There was laughter in her voice even though she didn’t laugh. It made Domingo feel stupid. He stood up, ready to push his shopping cart to the other side of the subway car, to leave her alone. This had been a terrible idea, what was he thinking talking to her.
Her gaze drifted, skipped him, and he assumed this was goodbye. Goodnight. Go to hell. Which was the only reasonable response from such a girl.
“I’m looking for a friend,” she said unexpectedly.
Domingo blinked. He agreed, uncertain.
“Would you like to be my friend? I can pay you.”