Dogs. Everywhere. Filthy, mangy, skinny mongrels. They pant in the scarce shade. They scratch at fleas in the pitted, dirt road. The taxi driver almost hits a few roaming mutts as they amble out of the way in the dusty heat. Used to operating on life's margins, like the villagers themselves, the dogs know exactly how slowly they can meander yet still avoid impact with hurtling bumpers. Lacking street smarts, several three-legged dogs miscalculated. Evolution would eliminate the faulty canine gene pools. But what, Emma wonders, did Darwin have against her and Devon's lineage? Will their marriage, a family tree with shallow roots, topple in the drought of childlessness?
The taxi driver speeds north from the Puerta Vallarta airport to the bayside hamlet of Sayulita. He passes on blind curves along the narrow jungle road. His bumper tosses a pedestrian's skirt. Emma sits mute in the back seat, hair flying like Medusa's snakes from the wind that whips through the open windows. She can't buckle the broken seatbelt. Devon haggled this deal of a ride instead of paying full fare for an air-conditioned four-door. She wishes he'd splurged for her sake, but understands his frugality. They can ill-afford this unplanned vacation, more a convalescence than a holiday. Though Amanda had lent them her vacation home in a town they couldn't locate on the tourist map, the last-minute airfare had been astronomical, and they had wiped out their savings on the unsuccessful in-vitro treatments. They could hardly afford dinner at the local Taco Bell, much less a trip to Mexico.
The taxi driver almost clips a petrol tanker. Emma envisions, almost desires, a spectacular Hollywood movie blast. She wouldn't mind meeting her end in dramatic flame. At least it would be something. She's as numb as her anesthetized womb when the doctor inserted the fertilized eggs -- all claustrophobic guppies who high-tailed it downriver rather than bask on her welcoming shore.
Devon sits in the passenger seat babbling in bad Spanish with the driver, dredging up words from freshman year. Devon contemplates adventure, not mortality, a trait that both attracts and annoys Emma. She had worried about how he would adapt to fatherhood. He gesticulates wildly, as if he can grab forgotten words out of the air. He calls the small town they travel to "Salsalito," no doubt confirming the ignorance of all gringos in the driver's mind. But the driver encourages Devon's attempt to converse in the native language. Emma wishes her husband would shut up and let the man concentrate on the winding road rather than puzzling over Devon's garbled queries. Thrilled, Devon translates the driver's assertion that wild tigers haunt the jungle. Emma suspects he means housecats.
A stoplight provides momentary relief from the rush towards mangled death. A horde of dirty children swarms the car, begging. One kid is missing an arm. The driver barks something in rushed syllables that pile swiftly one of top of the other, and peels out.
They approach a military checkpoint, where guards with sweaty hands clutch Bazookas. Belts of ammunition cross-hatch their stiff bodies. Emma tries to look nonchalant, with her best nothing in the trunk, sir, expression, then wonders if overtly acting not guilty causes suspicion. The driver mutters, but they cruise through without being stopped.
They drive up and down the cratered streets of Sayulita searching for Amanda's house. "Now, it's not a luxury resort or anything," Amanda had warned. They hadn't believed her. They'd seen what kind of wine she stocked at her lakefront home. She wasn't the type for rustic vacation shacks. But they bounce and jolt through the rundown town, chased by clouds of dust. Rather than snap at the taxi driver to take her back to the airport, Emma focuses on the dogs of Sayulita. They look content despite a miserable existence. They doze in lazy harmony, too hot and hungry to worry about defending meager territories. Odd Chihuahua mixes curl up beside strange Great Dane-like creatures. No breed segregation here. Rampant fornication had produced abundant, bizarre results. Emma pictures a miniature mutt perching his spindly hind legs on a splintered packing crate to reach his towering mate. Or, the other way around, how would a Lab penis fit in a poodle puss? Wouldn't it get stuck? How could they find the energy to screw in this heat, anyway?
What strikes Emma, though, is not so much the canine quantity and variety, but the balls. Countless swollen nuts sway between bony legs. Starving pooches haul ripe appendages, like stoic tramps dragging their bulging rucksacks. Emma is surrounded by an army of unsnipped doggie testicles. The obscene display of unchecked gonads transfixes her.
Only stray children outnumber the dogs. They wander the street or huddle under makeshift awnings, without adult supervision. Two boys in a crispy, brown field practice with lassos. The older child snares his patient dog, which doesn't budge as the rope tightens around its drooping neck. A naked baby crawls through the dirt. Emma the Mama Bandita could snatch the infant, una desperada propelled by an estrogen rush. But she doesn't have the will to open the car door, much less make a run for the border. She doesn't know what she wants anymore.
Amanda's house is, of course, lovely, once they find it, an oasis of luxury in the third-world town. A pure water dispenser protects them from bacterial harm. The three-room casa is a perfect setup for the perfect family vacationing in the tropics, with a king-sized bed for the doting parents, a double bed for the sullen teenager, and twin beds for the two youngest. Emma shuts the doors on the two smaller rooms.
Ceiling fans beat a lazy tempo throughout the house. Two walls of the main living sala consist entirely of accordion doors that fold back like a giant fan, opening the house to the breeze. Emma tugs, but the salty heat has swollen the dark wood. Devon wrestles them open, and they step to the outside palapa. A thatched roof shades the patio. A bumblebee on steroids, ignorant of its carefree pollinating, flits from pink to red bougainvillea flowers that drape the walls. Heavy fruit loads the coconut trees lining the walkway. The warm waters of the Pacific Ocean slap at the beach, mere steps away. With the doors open, their living room is practically an extension of the beach.
Later, dozing on the couch, Emma opens her eyes and sees a spout of mist in the distance. A second, smaller puff mimics the first. A mama whale, traveling back north with her newborn calf. Emma sits up. "Damn it, I need a drink. I don't care what kind of contaminated water's in the ice." Emma hasn't had a glass of wine in months, booze eliminated from her diet as one more possible conception-inhibitor. "I sterilize my laboratory with alcohol. It kills everything," the lab technician who mated Devon's sperm with Emma's eggs in a petri dish advised at their consultation. "You do the math."
Emma pads around the casa nearly tripping over a stray mongrel that lies curled beside Emma's couch. The female dog blinks her weary eyes. Emma lets her return to her siesta instead of shooing her outside. Poor thing needs sanctuary from all those loaded pizzles.
She finds Devon napping naked on the side patio in the dappled shade, soaking up heat like one of the geckos chirping from the walls. He wore no underwear or socks when they met years ago, but these days he even suffers a necktie. A sun bunny misplaced in the Pacific Northwest, he rarely has the opportunity to indulge in carefree nudity.
Emma's forgotten how hirsute he is, with fine, black hair sprinkled across his back, chest, arms, and even his bum. When they first met, still teenagers, his long hair billowed about his head like a nuclear mushroom cloud. Now he cuts it short, controlling its electric mass. She had hoped a baby girl would inherit Devon's wild curls, and swift metabolism -- not her muddy hair and heart rate.
Devon's face sprouts a shadow seconds after he shaves, a Brillo pad that chafes Emma's face when they kiss. In college, he shaved designs into the thick beard on his cheeks. Now he wears a close-cropped beard. As he sprawls in the sun, she sees that he'd let his pubic hair grow. Normally he kept the wild bush trimmed so that wiry hairs didn't poke up Emma's nose when she nuzzled his package. Guess he figured there was no point, lately, and let it go au naturale.
Emma hadn't been attracted to hairy men, although she'd liked the bohemian look of Devon's out-of-control locks. But his scent had lured her, its potent properties surely linked to his body hair. He wasn't stereotypically good-looking, not overly-attentive, not stylish. He wasn't tall or muscle-bound, more a monkey than an ape. He wore flip flops in winter rain, burped in the elevator, wore out-of-date spectacles that shrouded his eyes. Between the glasses and beard, one could make out little of his face under the black mane. He was odd and oblivious, not at all a coveted Aryan pre-med type, but he left jungle markings in the female dormitories of the tame and moldy northwest.
Emma was no pheromone slouch, herself. The entire girl's wing followed her menstrual cycle; they all ovulated at the same time. Boys prowled the hall and were eagerly admitted, but choosing the wrong time of the month got them scratched. Devon suffered Emma's claws more than once before she granted him her estrus cave. She guessed, and feared, that once coupled together, theirs would forever be a shared territory. Once inside, Devon imprinted himself on her sheets, an odor not unlike cooking smells that lingered, not always pleasant, but provoking hunger after satiation. After he left for early morning classes, Emma would cuddle into his pillow, intoxicated by his powerful musk. She couldn't get enough of him.
They couldn't have guessed that with their combined hormonal sparks, like match tips waiting for friction, they would not be able to conceive a child. It would be years before they made the sad discovery, when they finally decided that the time was right and stopped battling with birth control. And nothing happened.
Her periods continued, as regular as the moon. Then came the basal body temperature monitoring, the carefully orchestrated sex, the abstaining until ovulation to give him a higher sperm count, the chronic missionary position, hiking her butt up onto a pillow to aid the heroic journey of his sperm. Soon sex wasn't about the two of them. Always, the phantom of the third, the wanted child, hovered in the room, dictating when they mated. Then the doctors took over, until, finally, conception took place while Emma and Devon were in separate rooms under fluorescent lights. Emma, her thighs and ass bruised from the daily hormone shots, lay spread-eagled for the doctor to retrieve her eggs while Devon hunched over a plastic cup with his dick in his fist. (Devonshire cream, he called it in a bad British accent when their lovemaking was still lighthearted). At home, Devon moved to the couch. She was too sore and irritable to miss his smell on the sheets. Lying still on her back and getting up only when her bladder was about to burst, she struggled not to rock the boat as the fertilized eggs inserted into her womb decided whether to evacuate or cling to the life raft of her uterus. To help her pass the time during her required bed rest, Devon made up stories that wouldn't make her laugh. He concocted weird milkshakes and held the glass while she drank through a straw. But he couldn't disguise his doubt, and she can't forgive him his lack of faith -- perhaps his misgivings had jinxed them from the start.
Emma stares down at her husband. He looks better at 35 than 20. He'd kept a trim figure, adopted contact lenses, tamed his mane. He was not so much quirky anymore, with that defiant desire of youth to be outrageously unique, as he was simply comfortable with himself. Devon never worried about other people's opinions. Even now, a maid or yardman could round the corner and catch his nude snooze. Devon could care less. When was the last time she'd seen him naked? When was the last time sex between them had been about lust? About love and union? Like the Seattle stars that lay so often shrouded behind clouds, she'd lost sight of the fierce attraction that had been the sparkling fabric of their marriage. Their passion burned out in the black hole of sterility.
Devon stirs under her gaze. As always, his cock wakes up first, stretching and seeming to yawn in the sun. Devon rubs his eyes, fists screwed-up like a waking child, and looks up at her. His eyes are green in bright sunlight, with flecks of yellow. In the gray Seattle sky, they're dark and murky, inscrutable. He wiggles his fingers at her to join him on the lounge chair.
"Let's go get smashed." Emma turns back inside.
Devon pads behind her. He sweeps a sombrero off the shelf, places it on his head, clicks his heels together and snaps his fingers. "Ole! Let's go!"
Emma points to his crotch. "Better cover that, instead."
"But, chica, the hat no ees beeg enough," he whines in a nasal accent.
Emma changes into a wrinkled sundress she hasn't worn in years.
"Ay, caramba! Muy bonita senorita!" Devon rubs her arms, looking over her shoulder at her in the mirror. "I forgot you had skin under all those sweaters." He kisses her bare shoulder.
She dreads the lovemaking that Devon no doubt expects. Their vacations had always been about sex -- odd, since they had no children to escape from. But she craves sun and solace, not passion. She wants a good book and a gentle breeze, not a lover's hot embrace. She feels dry and brittle, like a mummy that disintegrates when exposed to air. Devon would find nothing moist and welcoming about her barren body, her inner planes as uninviting as the vast desert across which the airplane had chased its shadow on the flight south. She would crumble into a pile of ash if Devon attempted to arouse her.
Emma turns in his arms and pecks him on the lips. "Let's get a margarita first." She steps away and into her sandals. "We'll make damn sure the hangover's worse than the food poisoning."
With no itinerary or map, they set off down the beach. Emma normally over-prepares, but this last-minute trip left no time for studying travel guides or foreign language dictionaries. At Amanda's offer of her casa, they had booked the ticket, thrown their clothes into a suitcase, and made haste to the airport. Here, Emma could recover from the final in-vitro round in warm and fragrant peace. No one could recover anything in the gray and soggy Seattle February they'd left behind, most certainly not sanity. Stepping out into the cold drizzle one recent night and tipping her head back to feel the rain on her face, Emma wanted to drown on the spot like a stupid turkey staring into the watery sky.
The blazing sand burns their tender feet, and they cool them frequently in the surf as they mosey towards town. Emma fills her pockets with beach glass and shells. Two yellow pups argue over a coconut in the surf. A girl changes her bikini top behind a blanket held up by a proprietary-looking boyfriend. A few tourists, obvious by their generous bodies and red skin, mingle with the local families. A motorboat full of passengers without life vests cuts through a pack of body surfers. A fisherman dumps his fresh catch onto the sand. Emma looks away when he unsheathes his knife. Gulls swarm for the castoff parts.
They choose an outdoor table at the first restaurant they come to. Under the shade of a Corona umbrella, the waves inch toward their toes. The barefoot waiter looks too young to be out of school, much less earning a living by funneling cerveza down thirsty throats. He speaks no English -- as they discover most of the locals don't -- and they struggle to place their order. Margaritas and nachos, he understands. Emma can't figure out how to request a double, and the boy brings her two drinks. Vendors sell junk hanging from poles across their shoulders, and Emma and Devon repeat, "No, gracias," a dozen times before the food arrives. Emma hands a 20-peso note -- a mere two dollars -- to a crone who sells nothing but pity for her poverty.
The server stops frequently in his rounds to observe a surfing competition. One broad-shouldered surfer rides a handstand on his board all the way in to shore. The gentle wave carries him toward the beach as if it is God's palm delivering him to earth. The surfer flips sideways when he reaches shallow water, now standing on his feet with the board on his head. Water streams from his black hair down his face, down bunched shoulder muscles, down his brown belly and yellow swim trunks, down to where his ankles disappear in the white froth of surf and sand. He stands regally. The scattered beach crowd applauds.
"What are the old gods down here? Incan? Mayan?" Emma slings back her drink and crunches ice. "How American that I don't know."
"They worship Lord Quiksilver," Devon says, reading the logo on the surfer's shorts as the man jogs by, heavy board tucked under his arm as though he carries a toothpick. Emma had struggled through the soft sand as though she fought her way up a down escalator, but his bouncing sprint resembles a stone skimming across the water. Sand sprays from his heels like Mercury's wings. The surfer meets Emma's eyes, and he half bows towards her.
Emma licks salt from the rim of her glass. She makes short order of her margarita, glad she doesn't have to wait for a refill. Devon pushes up her skirt under the table and rests his hand on her knee. Emma tenses.
"Emma?" Devon squeezes.
She refuses to meet his eyes, turning away to watch the water-logged shorts cup the surfer's gluts, hard and round as two bowling balls.
"Emma, what's next?"
"Los toros esta noche," the server says, setting down their bill (which would barely cover a bag of Doritos back home). He makes a riding motion with his hands and pantomimes horns.
"A rodeo's next," Emma says, something else to keep them out of the bedroom.
"That's not --"
"Tonight. With bulls."
Devon's hand retreats as he pays the server. Emma smoothes her skirt.
Emma and Devon catch a ride to the rodeo with the three-generational tourist family vacationing next door. "We don't know how long we'll stay," the matriarch warns. "Carlie -- my daughter-in-law -- she's pregnant. It depends on the bathrooms. You know how it is."
Locals pack the raised bleachers overlooking the rodeo ring. Climbing up the rickety steps, Emma regrets her sundress. Careful of Medusa's bush, boys, she telegraphs to the men below. She kills millions of sperm at a glance. The crowd is an undulating sea of bright white, straw cowboy hats. Extended families blend into each other. The senoras wear frilly blouses with their pants. Toddlers wander where they please. Jack-in-the-box hands pop out from the dense mash of humanity to prevent unsteady tykes from toppling down the steps. Emma understands that the children in the street earlier weren't untended at all, but were looked after by the entire town. Even without coordinated Baby Gap outfits and personal DVD players in the back of an airbag-equipped SUV, the kids are adored.
Energetic mariachi music fills vast stretches of time between each cowboy's brief attempt to remain seated on bulls angered with painfully cinched balls. Man and beast battle in an arena stripped of safety. No ambulances, no clowns exist to save these crazy dudes if they fall. The bulls' horns are wrapped to prevent a goring, but if any hooves meet skulls tonight, it's a dark, bumpy ride to the Puerta Vallarta hospital in the backseat of someone's jalopy.
One tired old bull can't be bothered to protest the indignity of trussed-up testicles. He sinks to his front knees in the dirt and refuses to be provoked by the furious, flailing cowboy. Emma hopes the weary beast gets to retire to a field, nuzzling noses with a dried up dairy cow, but suspects he'll end up on the wrong side of a McDonald's counter.
Devon winces. "Talk about callused cojones."
Couples dance on the edge of the bleachers, heedless of no railing and a 20-foot drop into the corral. Locked together, their legs press tight into the crotches of their partner as they bounce and sway. While inept handlers prepare the next beast, a white horse dances in the bullring. His rider, a portly man in a sombrero, clutches a Sol beer in one hand and the reins in the other, pulling the horse's chin tight to its chest. Its hooves tap out a fast rhythm as if it dances on hot coals. The rider sits still on its back, not spilling a drop of beer. A girl in tight pants climbs down into the ring. She straddles the horse, her back pressed tight to the rider's chest, her butt wedged into his crotch. The horse beats a swift rhythm with their bobbing bodies. Music pulses. Soon another tight-pressed couple bounces on a buckskin horse dancing nearby. The horses tap out a Morse code of desire that transmits up through an orgy of vibrating couples.
Devon flags the potato chip vendor. The cellophane bag crackles as the vendor slits it open with his knife. He sprinkles salt into the bag, squirts in red sauce, presses half a lime over it, and shakes. Emma doubts that's a food-handler's license crinkling in his shirt pocket. She crams thick and crunchy potato slices into her mouth.
Testosterone wafts through the stands like the fetid smell of the jungle surrounding them. Emma imagines wildcat eyes staring down at them through the surrounding growth. She turns to see Devon's eyes glowing at her in the dark. He licks her sticky fingers.
A black rain cloud threatens overhead. A few sprinkles drop, and the fair weather crowd streams toward the exit, their hats like whitewater flowing downriver. Carlie needs to pee, and it's time to leave.
Emma stands at the edge of the dark water that she hears more than sees. The beach is pitch black and deserted. The ocean announces its advance toward shore with crashing thunder, something ominous in its constant battering of the earth. The sky echoes its boom. Cold raindrops plink on Emma's sun-hot skin. She looks up at the star-dense sky. With little electric city light to steal its shine, the sparkling and vast cosmos spreads out above her. An amber god surfs down the Milky Way - -Lord, it's Devon streaking down the beach, his white ass luminous in the starlight.
"Somebody'll see you," she hisses.
He moves close in front of her. He's shorter than she is on the downslope of the beach. His crotch presses against her. The waves tickle his ankles.
"From what I've heard, you don't want to be thrown naked into a Mexican prison."
"Come on, Emma. Let loose. Nobody's around. Besides, I can hardly see you, even this close. We could tell them our clothes got ripped off when we struggled out of the undertow."
"Right, try saying that in Spanish." She backs up to higher, drier ground.
"Guess I'm not like that guy today. That surfer. Mr. Mexican Adonis." Devon steps back, his feet sinking into the softer sand and swirling water. "I saw the way you looked at him. Been a long time since you looked at me like that."
She looks down at him. "I'd understand if you found someone else. Someone younger, who could --"
"Are you out of your mind? You think I'd leave you for some other rabbit? Jesus, do you want me to?"
"Whatever's wrong is with me. We both know that."
"We don't know jack. All those goddamn tests, all that money, and still no clue."
"We've been over all this."
"But you haven't you been listening. I'd be happy with a goldfish tank."
"But I wouldn't!"
"You used to be. I don't even know who you are, anymore." He turns around and wades in up to knees.
She starts to turn away, back to the house, but a strangled yelp pulls her back. A rogue wave smacks Devon, knocks him down, grabs him in fists of current, and drags him back to sea.
Just as quickly, before Emma can yell or splash in after him, the ocean spits him back up, patooey. Spluttering, he crawls out of the surf. Emma grabs his arm and helps him up to dry ground. He plops his bare fanny on the sand, arms wrapped around his knees, face covered. Emma circles him like a frantic chicken. Without looking, he reaches out and grabs her hand, pulling her down beside him.
"You still blame me."
"I'm sorry. I don't know who I am, either."
She's a baby-crazed monster who can't purchase her own tampons, because the cruel supermarket gods stock feminine hygiene products in the diaper aisle, an emotional landmine Emma avoids. She'd like to go rabid amidst the diapers, shredding Baby Huggies with her teeth and howling to the cruel fluorescent skies. Maybe then she could get the rage out of her system and reconcile herself to the injustice that millions of women had so easily what she couldn't have. Maybe then she could go on with her life. But she stuffs the grief down, showing up on time for work and smiling whenever someone asks her, "Why don't you just adopt?" instead of smashing their teeth in. She despises herself for such pathetic weakness, a twenty-first century woman defining herself by her womb's failure. But she could not be rational about her all-consuming desire to be a mother. She couldn't fight with reason the hormonal hard-wiring of biology's millennia of procreation programming.
"You're my wife. My lover. That's who. That's the most important thing. That you're here on the beach with me, to give me a reason not to drown. That we're not alone. It's about what we have, not what we don't have."
"I know all that up here," she touches her forehead, then her belly, "but not down here."
"How about down here?" He sits beside her and reaches under her skirt. "It's where we started. Can't we start there again?"
She could call him a typical male, call him insensitive, get up and leave. But she understands that sex and communion are two different things and yet the same. She lifts her dress over her head and tosses it aside. She presses herself against his wet skin. She smells him, that intoxicating ripeness of his body mixed with the ocean's salt and seaweed. "This place gets your blood pumping, doesn't it?"
As if she's taken a dunk in cold water, she feels revived by Sayulita's acceptance of reality and its inherent dangers. No complicated legal system casts a tangled web of safety nets. No lifeguards, no life jackets, no rodeo medics, no seatbelts, no minimum age limit, no ambulance chasers because there's probably nobody worth suing. Dogs wander freely without leash laws or neuter clinics, and kids wander without hysterical newscasters warning of escaped pedophiles. It's not a perfect world, she can see that. Her understanding is dim after less than a day here, but there doesn't seem to be a false illusion that life is safe or predictable. In the States, the people operate under the illusion that accidents and illnesses can be prevented, and what's broken can be fixed with persistence and a charge card. When Emma could not get pregnant, it never occurred to her to accept her childlessness or to pray. She had gone to the doctor with the expectation that everything would be put right soon enough. The right medication, the right exercise, the right timing. She had lost any perspective as to when to stop. Always, the solution seemed right around the corner. She had been poked and prodded until she felt like a skewed Picasso canvas. Treatment had altered her beyond recognition. Now what? A future as a dried-up hag with a pet poodle? Surely not, because she's got what no other woman has, and that's Devon. She's not alone, not barren, but a warm, welcoming ocean where he can relax his restless spirit.
Devon had said no, enough. Went down on his knees and gave up, and she'd continued to flail away at him to get up and try again. She'd hated him for his stubborn refusal. How could he know the next treatment wouldn't work? Now she grasps the truth. All along, he'd accepted her as an off-kilter work of beauty, priceless art being damaged beyond repair in attempts to fix it.
Neptune might dislike Devon's flavor, but she suddenly craves him. She wants to pop him into her mouth like sushi, that sea-flavored saltiness lingering on her tongue.
He kisses her. His beard stubble chafes her face. "Sorry. I'll shave."
"I've missed it." She nuzzles her cheek against his.
And then they join like the dogs of Sayulita, knees and palms in the still warm sand, the cool waves of the incoming tide lapping at their heels, the breeze on her breasts and raindrops on his back. Unlike the odd mongrel combinations populating the streets, they are perfectly matched, two puzzle pieces snugging together in a confusing world where very little fits together so perfectly. Her rump is still bruised from the last round of hormone shots, but she welcomes the soreness of Devon pressing into her. The pain brings her alive. She's glad he can't see the bluish skin, or he'd be solicitous and careful. She wants it like this, just two animals without past or future, a necessary and urgent coupling. Raw and simple, the two naïve youngsters they used to be going on instinct and trust. Devon's hand covers hers, and their wedding rings clink.
Later, Devon steps over the dog to turn off the bedroom light. They lie in the moonlight that claws its way through the clouds and spills in through the hacienda windows. Emma sees that Devon has three scrapes across his cheek from his ocean tumble. She also sees that he's shaved a heart in the newly-trimmed pubic hair on his low belly.
"Is that for me?"
"It's been yours all along."
A thought flits through her brain like a butterfly. If ever they were to conceive, it would be in a magical place like this, with steaming fecundity permeating the air. Surely Sayulita would provide the miracle that science could not. Maybe, just like that, her period won't come in two weeks. But she chases the wish away, snapping at its wings. For now it's just the two of them, Emma and Devon, and that's enough. The phantom baby takes heel, and the only third party in the room is the panting dog, curled around her own tail.