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A marriage that had everything to work out, this is that of Dalia Penedo who did everything to win the heart of Carlos Salazar and have his "Happily Ever". But as time goes on, things change... and so do feelings. Although Dahlia loves her husband, her curiosity makes her embark on the dangerous virtual world, where she meets Mr.X, a man who will snatch the young woman’s heart. Dahlia is now divided: She loves her husband, but is madly in love with X. This is a real story , where the choices she makes, can change her future for the better... or for the worse.
Barcelona, December 31, 2005.
Of all the beginnings I imagined, this is my favorite: my first New Year's Eve in Barcelona after two years in England. Two years of cold people, cold weather, and a lot of studying. Until I convinced my parents that Barcelona was where I should finish high school, in my home. So that New Year's Eve was the embodiment of my happiness. The only thing missing was Edward, my English fling.
To all those who haven't had the opportunity to spend New Year's Eve in Barcelona, take some time and come, you don't know what you're missing. The streets are all decorated, and there's a warmth of human connection that I haven't found anywhere else. But going back to that wonderful night...
I remember being in my room, engrossed in a game, not even noticing when my younger sister, Valeria, entered the room. I get startled when she touches my arm, trying to get my attention. She says something, but I have my headphones on and don't understand what she's saying, so I take them off and look at her angrily. I bet she wanted to use the computer to play as well.
"Are you going, right?" Valeria asks, her almond-shaped eyes wider than usual. "They said I can only go if you come with me. I've been waiting for this party for months, and everyone will be there."
"What party? What are you talking about?" I ask, not understanding what she's referring to.
"Júlio's party!" Valeria says, snapping her fingers in my face. She kneels down, as dramatic as ever, and pleads, "Please, come with me! It'll be so much fun!"
"I don't know..." I respond honestly. Júlio's parties are the type that you only come home from when the sun is already up.
"Please, please, please!!" my sister begs, almost kneeling at my feet. "I'll even lend you my white sequin dress..."
"You love that dress," I say, staring into my sister's pleading eyes. For Valeria to offer her dress as a bargaining chip, means she really wants me to go. I take a deep breath and answer, "Okay, I'll go with you. But we'll leave when I say so, alright?"
"Of course!" Valeria responds, hugging me. She rushes to our closet, grabs her white dress, and puts it on my bed. She takes another red dress and goes to the bathroom, skipping happily to change.
It seems like a trivial decision, whether to go to a party or not. But today I see that that decision set off everything that will happen from now on. One thing I'm sure of: if I could go back in time, I would make the same choice.
After a few minutes, we're ready to go to Júlio's party. My parents are also dressed up; they'll spend New Year's at a friend's house and will be on standby when I call them. We get into the car, and I sit by the window. I love observing Barcelona's nights. It doesn't take long for my father to park in front of the Castillos' huge house, Júlio's home.
"Happy New Year!" my father says, kissing my sister and then me.
"See you next year," my mother jokes, giving me a kiss on the cheek.
"Bye, Dad. Bye, Mom," I bid farewell, stepping out of the car.
As soon as we got out of the car, my sister grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the party. The excitement on her face seemed suspicious, but it was justified when we entered the house. It was as if all the most attractive young people in town had decided to attend that party. We smiled at each other and walked towards the party host, Julio Castillos, the heir of the Castillos hotel chain. He was also one of my best friends.
"Dalia Penedo," Julio said, stepping away from his group of friends and approaching us. He hugged me affectionately and then turned to my sister, Valeria, curious. "And who is this beauty?"
"My sister, Valeria," I introduced my sister, who couldn't hide her interest in Julio.
"Ah, yes, Valeria," Julio said, showing a slight lack of interest upon recognizing my sister. He smiled at me and continued, "I'm glad you're back in our mortal sights, my dear. Come meet my new friends."
"Without a doubt, I need to update my contacts," I said, smiling at him.
I looked at my sister, whose eyes were wide, focused on the group of guys that Julio was heading towards. Then my heart raced... Among them, a guy with the most beautiful smile I had ever seen caught my attention. His brown eyes briefly met mine, invading my mind as if we were destined to be together. I walked towards him, enchanted by his face, which may have seemed ordinary to others, but to me, it was everything I had ever dreamed of. He was my soulmate.
"I'm going to marry him," I said, smiling at my sister, who stared at me, confused.
"Who?" my sister asked, looking at the group.
"That one," I discreetly pointed at him.
"Alright, then I'll marry the one next to him," my sister said playfully. She held onto my arm and pulled me. "Let's go meet our future husbands."
As we approached the group, all the guys looked at us, including him, who stared back attentively, giving me goosebumps. "Guys, these are the Penedo sisters: Dalia," Julio introduced, pointing at me, and then at my sister. "And Valeria Penedo."
"Hello," my sister greeted kissing me with the biggest smile.
"These are Eduardo," Julio pointed to a blond guy, "Pierre," he referred to my sister's potential suitor, "Elson," he introduced another guy, "and Carlos," he pointed lastly at my suitor.
Carlos, that's his name. The conversation started within the group, but I didn't participate. I preferred to gaze at my suitor, who gazed back at me. His eyes were more expressive than any words I could say. My face felt hot, so I smiled and looked away, but it didn't take long for me to find myself looking at him again. I could live just to look at him. Suddenly, shouts filled the air, and time had passed so quickly that people were already counting down to the New Year.
"Happy New Year!!!" everyone shouted. My sister hugged me and then went around hugging everyone else.
Julio gives me a light kiss on the cheek, just like most of the attendees. But I stay in place, just like Carlos, who slowly approaches. He wraps his arms around my waist, his touch gives me butterflies. I feel the warmth of his hands on my back. His face gets closer to mine, our cheeks pressing against each other. I feel every part of his body pressed against mine. His lips almost touch my ear, and his breath signals that his words are about to come:
"Happy New Year," Carlos whispers. He holds me tightly, very slowly. My body fits perfectly into his.
Then my future husband steps back with his beautiful smile and walks towards the other people at the party. I still hug a few more people, trying to keep an eye on Carlos. I notice he's talking excitedly to someone on his phone.
"Dalia, why are you still standing here?" Julio asks, unaware of my situation. "Are you okay?"
"I'm great. And I'll be fabulous if you tell me more about Carlos," I reply promptly.
"Which Carlos?" Julio asks, staring at me as if he doesn't know Carlos.
"The guy who introduced me," I recall, taking a sip of champagne that was served to me.
"Ah... He's Elson's friend," Julio says, following my gaze that is still on Carlos, who is smiling about something a guy is telling him. "But don't get your hopes up, Dalia."
"Why?" I ask, startled, staring at my friend.
"First, he's a poor guy. He just started working at a local fishing company... a proletariat. Not to mention, that heart already has an owner. He's engaged."
"I don't care about his social class, and... engaged doesn't mean married," I reply promptly.
"And what about your English beau?" Julio asks, reminding me of Edward, as if that would change anything. "The handsome, rich, and powerful Englishman."
"You know... more of the same," I reply enigmatically.
"You're not going to give up on him, are you?" Julio asks, referring to Carlos.
"You know me so well, Julio," I reply, kissing my friend's cheek. Then I whisper in his ear, "I need his phone number before I leave; I want it in my hands. He will be mine."
"Are you talking about the phone or its owner?" Julio asks in the same tone of voice.
"Both," I reply, moving away from Julio. I approach my sister, never taking my eyes off Carlos, who is now on the other side of the room, carefree.
"Don't tell me you already want to leave..." my sister complains.
"No... I'm just checking on things," I explain, smiling.
"That smile of yours doesn't fool me. What are you up to?" my sister asks, staring at me.
"Nothing... yet," I reply, smiling at my sister.
"The dinner is served," Julio announces loudly to all his guests.
As I sit at the table, I realize that my friend is already making his moves. Carlos sits next to me on my right but avoids any contact with me. We spend the entire dinner exchanging fleeting glances. Timid glances from him and intense ones from me. The dinner is quite cheerful when he stands up and says, "Thank you all, but I have to go; I have another commitment."
He smiles in my direction, then at the guests, and leaves the table. My whole body trembles to the point where I get up and follow him. I can't control my steps, just as I can't control my hand that grabs Carlos' shoulder, causing him to turn around, surprised. I smile at him awkwardly, not having the slightest idea what to say.
"Sorry... but don't you think it's a bit too early to leave?" I ask. Damn, what kind of question is that? "I mean... I think you should stay a little longer..."
"I appreciate your concern for my absence, but I need to meet my fiancée," Carlos replies. "And I'm already running late."
"That's okay," I say, slightly disappointed.
"Happy New Year..." he says as he puts on his coat, trying to remember my name.
"Dalia," I reply promptly. I lean towards his face and kiss him on the cheek, saying, "Happy New Year, Carlos."
"See you around," Carlos says awkwardly, opening the door.
"No doubt," I reply with my best smile.
I grab my phone and call my parents to pick me up; I no longer want to stay at the party where Carlos won't be. I need to go home and think about how to win him over. I return to the table and inform my sister and everyone else that we're also leaving. Valeria doesn't care much because the party had been a disappointment for her, as she was looking for a great New Year's love. We're already at the door with Julio when my friend hugs me and then holds my hand, giving it a light kiss. I feel that he put something in my hand, but he prevents me from opening it.
"New Year's gift. Only open it when you get home," Julio orders, enigmatic.
I smile and get into the car with my sister. I desire to open my hand right there, but I have no idea what it could be, and when it comes to Julio Castillos, anything is possible. As soon as I enter the house, I rush to my room and throw myself onto my bed. I decide to open my hand when my sister enters the room like a tornado and lies down beside me, curious.
"What did he give you?" Valeria asks.
"I'm about to find out," I say, raising my hand. Slowly, a white piece of paper with a phone number emerges. But what makes me happy is the name that comes right below it: Carlos Salazar.
"Whose number is this?" my sister asks, wide-eyed.
"My future husband's," I reply with a mischievous smile on my lips.
One thing I'm certain of : The hunt begins now.
Having Carlos' number is both a bonus and a burden. What excuse could I use to talk to him? No doubt Carlos would ask how I got his number... After many days of thinking, the only plan that seemed feasible could only happen after school resumes. So I spent another fifteen days with the phone in my hands while I solidified the idea. Carlos seems like the kind of man who helps damsels in distress, and that's what I'll be to win him over, even though I don't like being a helpless damsel.
So on a beautiful hot afternoon, I sit with my phone in hand: it's time to put my plan into action. I dial Carlos' number, and with each ring, my heart races. A thousand things go through my mind, from hearing his voice to the possibility of the call being forwarded to voicemail. Then the rings stop, and that moment between the end of the ring and the anticipation of hearing his voice makes me nervous. I take a deep breath with my eyes closed...
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