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Lea and Margo sat poolside at a small table topped with an aquatic themed mosaic. Margo, a fiery redhead with a personality to match, scoped out several muscular guys splashing in the large saltwater pool. She shook her head at Lea, a fair-skinned brunette with a quiet reserve, who traced the outline of a porpoise in the tabletop while staring at her now bare ring finger.
“Come on, chica – we took this trip to get away from all that drama back home, not bring it with us.” Margo clinked her drink glass against Lea’s. “Here’s to leaving the past behind. You know he’s no good for you – all swagger, no substance.”
“Not to mention the hitting. I definitely can do without that.” Lea sighed. “I know you’re right. Still, some part of me cares about him even after all the pain he inflicted.”
“Your order, señoras.” The server from the nearby concession stand set down a margherita pizza, gooey with mozzarella and redolent with fresh oregano.
“Gracias, Carlos.” Margo smiled as she tipped him ten thousand bolivares, the local currency.
He flashed her a flirtatious grin. “De nada, Señora Margo.” He tucked the tip into the waistband of his swim trunks and strutted away.
As she watched him walk back to the stand, she said to Lea, “Isn’t he just delicious? That tan and those gorgeous brown eyes…”
“I don’t know if he is, but this pizza sure is delicious. Perfect balance of flavors.” Lea took another bite and grinned at Margo, although her eyes were troubled. “And weren’t you just saying something about swagger and substance?”
“Sometimes the swagger is worth it.” Margo stretched and looked around the pool again, barely aware of the whispers building around them. “All this man candy, and all you can see is the cheese?”
Screams erupted from the nearby beach, and a gaggle of overweight men in Speedos and women overflowing their barely-there bikinis stampeded toward the pool. Margo heard several cries invoking Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mother as panicked Latinos fled past their table.
She saw Lea look in the direction of the exodus and blanch. Horror filled Lea’s eyes and her jaw dropped.
Margo turned to see what had frightened her friend. Lea had survived a rough childhood and an abusive relationship with that rotten jerk ex-husband. Not much scared her, so…
“Whoa!” She jumped up from her chair, knocking it over. A house-sized tarantula, like something out of a 1950s B movie, rapidly strode toward the pool. Its enormous mandibles clicked with menace, and its huge hairy legs covered the distance with frightening speed.
When they arrived at the Venezuelan beach club two days earlier, they had heard the legend of El Diablo, the giant spider that lived in the caves adjacent to the shore and caused the disappearance of many hapless tourists. They had dismissed the story as a tall tale meant to terrify gullible gringos, but now…
Margo snatched up the pizza and broke into a run, Lea right behind her with their beach bags. Margo looked back at her friend who, inexplicably, was laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Margo asked.
Lea grinned. “You gotta admit, Margo – THAT is swagger.”