Forbidden Fruit

Her name is Lenita. A self-assured brunette of about thirty-five, she sells sleeping gowns, pajamas and panties door-to-door at public offices, banks and private offices. She has a solid client base, word-of-mouth advertising and lots of smiles.

The merchandise is of good quality. Lenita accepts postdated checks and always finds whatever size her clients want. She also sells to men, who give their girlfriends or lovers short and sexy sleepwear or see-through panties - all in good taste, as she makes sure to point out.

Lenita didn't use to work until some time ago, but her husband lost his job and he still hasn't found another one. His lack of will to move his butt led Lenita to search for work. She has three children―and the little one is still nursing―but that would be Abilio's problem.

The factory was near their home. She bought the first lot with the little that was left from the compensation money. She went to her neighbor's workplace, at the previous Department of Labor building, and hasn't stopped working since.

Around the twentieth of the month she'd start going from office to office taking orders and collecting checks to cash at the beginning of the following month.

She carried around two large bags and the welts left by their heft. Quite the chore - well, if you're not used to being shaken about in Rio de Janeiro's buses, balancing as you try to hang on on the sharp curves, giving up on your change (there's never any), ignoring stray hands (they never belong to anyone), then there's no point in explaining anything.

Lenita hides payments in her bra, afraid of not having enough to buy beans the following day, she puts up with the waft of rum and grimy clothes in the back-and-forth between Cordovil and Downtown, Downtown and Tijuca, Tijuca and Catete and from there on and on. The smells are nauseating but help her keep hunger at bay and get by only on a sandwich at 6:30 a.m., before leaving home as she swallows up coffee, and 9 p.m., when she finally manages to take a cold shower.

Abilio would prepare the evening's rice and Lenita would fry the egg when she got home. This is the menu for bad days and nobody complains; the family's used to this routine. It already seemed natural for Abilio to take care of the house and the shopping, and for Lenita to earn the daily bread, to leave her shoes in the living room, to turn on her side claiming to be tired when her husband reached for her at night.

Lenita took care of herself, oh, yes. She liked being well-dressed; she didn't want to look shabby in front of her customers. She had thick legs, a curvaceous body―flirting and invitations weren't few but she never accepted any. She'd think of her children, her husband, God's wrath. She'd rather not take any risks.

But she didn't expect to meet Eduardo. Eduardo Cunha, about fifty, with a job at the Department of Treasury. A widower with a married daughter, he had no worries in life.

He bought a babydoll off Lenita and made sure to explain that it was for his daughter, and that's where the flirting began.

He'd dress up a little more when Lenita came by, even wear some perfume. He'd take longer with her than necessary, stretching the conversation till it was time to leave.

Then it was off to a bar and from the bar to a love hotel. Lots of mirrors, little light, lots of sweat. Wine and dinner.

None of it was like her life with Abilio, in Cordovil or on those trips with the bags. But how good it all was! Lenita liked it and it was this very fact that hurt her the most. It hurt her so much that she decided not to do it again.

She made up her mind in the shower, scrubbing the feeling of sin off her body. She wouldn't go back to the Department of Treasury. Too bad about the losses.

She got home later than usual but Abilio said nothing. He also said nothing when she took the initiative in bed.

After her morning coffee, Lenita walked out with her bags and felt that they weighed more than ever.

It even seemed that they contained remorse.

MARILENA MORAES majored in Journalism and has a Law degree. She was a public servant for many years, but always kept literature as an extra activity.

Since 1987, she has been a member of Grupo Estilingues, a club of seven friends who met at a literary workshop in Rio de Janeiro and now get together to write. They have published two anthologies. Fun fact: their books aren't sold, but given away as long as readers pass them on.

Marilena's main professional activities include translation, interpreting and copyediting. Visual arts are one of her hobbies, and she focuses on photography and digital drawing.

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