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[for my novel-in-progress, sketch of the protagonist’s love interest]

He had never had such a hard time getting and keeping a woman’s attention before, and it frustrated him. He almost asked Jordan what he should do, but knew he wouldn’t hear the end of it for weeks and they weren’t finished with the dredging project yet, so there would be no way to avoid him.

What the fuck do I do? He thought as he lay in his bed after a rainy night. The thatch roof had held up, but it had been cold, and he spent half the night wishing that Tess had been in the bed with him, if only to warm him. But there was no way, she would have spat in his face or worse, and it wouldn’t be long before the whole village knew of her rejection of him and that just couldn’t happen. Pablo could not imagine anything worse. No, he had to be discreet about his efforts to draw Tess’ eye. That would be the hardest part of all.

He had tried all the things that he thought she would appreciate: being nice to her kids, bringing her little gifts (though no flowers yet, that would be too obvious, and he had only done that once or twice for women at Delta Marsh, in the early days before he knew any better, about both flowers and village chisme), paying her compliments (but then again, he realized, he paid compliments to most of the women in the village at one point or another, and perhaps Tess thought his complements to her were just part of his habit?).

After musing and wondering and muttering to himself for at least a half-hour, he decided on a plan, and the wet weather would provide the perfect excuse. He would wait until it was raining again (for he could smell and hear the stormclouds gathering overhead without even needing to look outside his shack) and then he would take off for the Wongs’. He would get soaked through, but he didn’t care, he was tough and he wouldn’t get sick just from a little rain. By the time he go too the Wongs’, though, he would need a change of clothes and a little something warm in his belly to make it the rest of the way to the plaza. It would be even better, he realized, sitting up in his bed with sudden excitement, if he didn’t stop at the Wongs’ deliberately at all, but just walked slowly on the road near their house, for surely someone would see him and invite him in, there was no way anyone in the village, let alone the kind, hospitable-to-a-fault Wongs would let him keep on in the rain like that without taking care of him. He would have to come inside, he would have to change his clothes, or at least his shirt, he would need to sit and talk to her. He would make a point of taking his shirt off in front of Tess. She would see his naked torso, muscled from all the hours of labor he put in at the fields, fixing the water system, hauling things in and out of Big Blue. There was no way she could resist him then.

Was there? The doubt pestered him like a mosquito buzzing in his ear, but he decided to brush it away and carry out his plan anyway.


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