In the interest of full disclosure: I know there are not a lot of pictures in my read-alongs. It is always said that if you have pictures in your blog posts, more people will like to read them, but I find it time consuming enough to write the read-along blog posts, let alone spend hours scouring the internet for suitable pictures to insert in the posts. So every now and then I will find an easy picture and insert them, other than that you will have to make do with just text.
On with the read-along.
Martín continues to obsess about Cristina and stalk her at Sempere. So much so that she is forced to send Vidal’s servants to pick up the books rather than go herself. After having just noticed in the previous chapter that Martín always introduces Cristina by telling us she is the chauffeur’s daughter, this is completely abandoned in this chapter and she is now plain Cristina.
Martín’s headaches and dizzy spells are getting worse, but he resists going to the doctor’s for reasons he is not sharing with the readers. The rate at which he needs to crank out the City of the Damned books leaves him with no time to write anything else, but the publishers keep promising him a sabbatical soon so he can write his masterpiece and publish it under his own name.
Vidal keeps visiting Martín, but as he doesn’t like the house, they always go for a stroll. On one of these strolls, Vidal tells Martín what Cristina thinks of him.
‘She didn’t say it in so many words, but she seemed to imply that she couldn’t understand how you could prostitute yourself by writing second-rate serials for that pair of thieves; that you were throwing away your talent and you youth.’
Of course this greatly upsets Martín, but I happen to agree with Cristina: Martín doesn’t seem to derive any pleasure from writing those serials and it is seemingly making him quite ill.
Martín has taken up the habit of going out on Sundays when he goes to the places of lesser repute and find some consolation in the arms of different women.
One afternoon I was sitting in the Café de la Ópera with a music teacher called Alicia, helping her get over – or so I imagined – someone who was hard to forget. I was about to kiss her when I saw Cristina’s face on the other side of the glass pane.
When he meets Cristina again at the opera with Vidal, she is very cold and stand-offish with him, which I don’t quite understand. She barely knows him, she stopped going to Sempere so she wouldn’t run into him again, so what does she care what he does in his free time with other women?
He then runs into her again shortly after and she is all smiles and apologies, which again feels strange, but I’ll go with the flow. Martín doesn’t seem to give her behaviour any thought either, he has something else on his mind.
I smiled and nodded. The only things I felt at that moment was the need to kiss her. Cristina held my gaze defiantly. She didn’t turn her face when I stretched out my hand and touched her kips, sliding my finger down her chin and neck.
‘Not like this,’ she said at last.
Am I alone in finding Martín a little bit creepy?
Some months later Vidal takes Martín out for a ride. They go to Vidal’s house and a large group of people is waiting for them there. The usual characters we have already met, and
some of the authors who, like me, published their work with Barrido & Escobillas, and with whom I had established a friendship;
When did Martín have time to establish friendships? He sleeps all day, writes all night and has sex with prostitutes on his only day off. Never before this chapter have we seen him cultivate friendships with any other author – all authors always seem to be too bitter towards him because of his success.
The people are all gathered together to celebrate Martín’s twenty-eigth birthday, so I guess seven years have passed since he first started writing City of the Damned.
Cristina is also at the party (why?) and she pulls him aside to tell him that she needs to see him.
‘Could it be at your house? I don’t want anyone to see us and I don’t want Pedro to know I’ve spoken with you.’
Martín notices that she doesn’t call Vidal Don Pedro anymore, but just Pedro, but he is too happy that she wants to come visit to really dwell on it. It is an indication that something is going on between those two, which is further confirmed by Vidal’s reaction to seeing Cristina and Martín together.
Vidal glanced at me coldly from one end of the room and only smiled when he realised that I was watching him.
At the end of the party, Manuel drives Martín home. He is silent and looks fragile and when Martín asks if everything is all right, he says he is just worried about some health problems. He then asks Martín to look after Cristina if anything happens to him. Or rather,
‘If anything happens to me,’ he said then, ‘you would help her, wouldn’t you, Señor Martín? You would do that for me?’
It seems very odd to me that he would ask Martín, a fairly unstable, sickly person with no real money of his own, to help – not look after, but help – his daughter. Help her how? What does she need help with? Doesn’t Vidal look after her properly? Or is it Vidal she needs saving from?