Paradais by Fernanda Melchor is our Book of the Month for April 2022. Read an extract from the opening of the book here...
It was all fatboy’s fault, that’s what he would tell them. It was all because of Franco Andrade and his obsession with Señora Marián. Polo just did what he was told, followed orders. Fatboy was completely crazy about her, and Polo had seen first-hand how for weeks the kid had talked about nothing but screwing her, making her his, whatever it took; the same shit over and over like a broken record, his eyes vacant and bloodshot from the alcohol and his fingers sticky with cheesy powder, which the fat pig only ever licked clean once he’d scoffed the whole jumbo bag of crisps. I’ll fuck her like this, he’d drawl, having clambered to his feet at the edge of the dock; I’ll fuck her like this and then I’ll flip her on all fours and I’ll bang her like this, and he’d wipe the drool from his mouth with the back of his hand and grin from ear to ear with those toothpaste ad teeth of his, big, white and straight and also clenched in rage as his gelatinous body wobbled in a crude pantomime of coitus and Polo looked away and laughed feebly and made the most of fatboy being distracted to swipe the bottle, light another cigarette and blow the smoke hard up into the air to repel the ferocious mangrove mosquitos. It was all just fatboy’s idea of a joke, just banter, drunk talk, or that’s what Polo had thought in the beginning, during their first benders down by the river, in the shadiest part of the small wooden platform that ran parallel to the water, just beyond the reach of the poolside lights and where the fig tree’s gnarled shadows kept them hidden from the development’s night watchman and residents, most crucially Franco’s grandparents who, according to Franco, would have a stroke if they caught their ‘little boy’ consuming alcoholic drinks and smoking cigarettes and God knows what other crap; and worse still, in the company of a member of ‘the service’ – as that idiot Urquiza called the development’s employees – the gardener, no less; an out and out scandal, an abuse of trust that would cost Polo his job, which didn’t really bother him anyway because he’d gladly never set foot inside that fucking development again; the problem was that sooner or later he’d have to go home to have it out with his mother, and while that was an awful – not to say downright chilling – prospect, Polo still couldn’t help himself. He could never say no to that lard-ass when he waved at him from his window; he didn’t want to put an end to their drinking sessions down on the dock no matter how much that prick did his head in, no matter how sick Polo was of his bullshit and his endless obsession with the neighbour, who fatboy had fallen for that afternoon in late May when the Maroños drove into the Paradais residential development to pick up the keys to their new home, Señora Marián herself at the wheel of their white Grand Cherokee.
Polo remembered that day well: he had chuckled to himself on seeing the husband relegated to the passenger seat when the front window rolled down with a buzz and a waft of icy air hit his sweaty face. The woman raised her sunglasses, which otherwise completely obscured her eyes and reflected Polo’s face back at him, while she explained who they were and what they were doing there, her lips painted a scandalous red and her bare arms covered in silver bangles that tinkled like wind chimes when Polo finally raised the boom barrier and she thanked him with a wave of her hand. A run-of-the-mill doña, pretty standard, he’d never seen the appeal. Identical to all the other women who lived in the development’s white villas with those fake terracotta roofs: never without their sunglasses, always fresh and glowing behind the tinted windows of their giant SUVs, their hair straightened and dyed, their nails impeccably manicured, but nothing out of this world when you got up close; Christ, nothing to lose your shit over like fatboy had. Honestly, she was nothing special. You’d probably recognize her from the photos; the husband was famous, had his own TV show, and the four of them were always in the celebrity rags: the bald short-ass of a husband in a suit and long-sleeved shirt, even in the baking heat; the two prissy kids; and her, stealing the limelight with her red lips and those sparkling eyes that seemed to smile at you in secret, somehow both playful and malevolent, her eyebrows raised in coquettish complicity, taller than her husband in her platform shoes, one hand on her hip, her shoulder-length hair loose and her neck draped in eye-catching necklaces. That was the word for her: more than pretty she was eye-catching, striking, made to be looked at somehow, with her gym-sculpted curves and her legs bare all the way up to her thighs, dressed either in raw silk skirts or pale linen shorts that set off the bronze glow of her permanently tanned skin. A passable piece of ass, let’s say, each to his own; a decent piece of ass who did a reasonable job of disguising her mileage, the wrinkles and stretchmarks from bearing her two boys – the eldest now all grown up – with creams, designer clothes and that perfectly controlled, metronomic sway of hers, whether she was in heels, sandals or barefoot on her lawn, which made half the residents in Paradais turn to watch her as she passed. Which was exactly what she wanted, right?
Paradais by Fernanda Melchor is our Book of the Month for April 2022. Find out more and order your copy here.