Note: This is a sequel to my story "El Paso." Please read that story first! It is the back-story that provides the setting for what takes place in this story.
"From thirty thousand feet above the desert floor I see it there below.
A city with a legend, the West Texas city of El Paso.
Where long ago I heard a song about a Texas cowboy and a girl.
And a little place called Rosa's where he used to go and watch this beauty whirl."
El Paso City, Marty Robbins
EL PASO AT TWENTY THOUSAND FEET—JACK
"It looks kind of dry, doesn't it? I had no idea El Paso was so big."
"Well, don't forget that all of what you see south of the river is Ciudad Juárez. And, yeah, it's very dry."
We were completing our fourth—or was it the fifth?—circuit in the holding pattern above El Paso. There was a problem on the ground and we were getting bored making the long loops above the airport. I looked over at the girl sitting to my right. I had noticed her when she boarded and took the aisle seat next to me in first class. We had a somewhat desultory conversation when she sat down and shared a chuckle when we both agreed we were in first class only because of frequent flyer miles.
She quickly went to sleep on the flight from Las Vegas. She was flying from San Francisco and I'd been in Las Vegas for a conference on Western History. I was a professor in the new Doctoral Program in Borderlands History at UTEP.
As I had given her my answer about the size of the city below, politely turning to look at her, I looked deep into the eyes of this girl sitting next to me. I'd noticed the reddish blond hair earlier but somehow had missed the sparkling emerald green eyes beneath the full, natural brows. As I caught the straight-on impact of her eyes, I felt something lurch in my stomach—thinking at first it was the plane. I hadn't had much time for girls working on my own doctorate at Yale and then settling down in El Paso helping to start the new doctoral program at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Her quick grin clued me in that I was staring and quickly turned and looked back out the window as a the flush ran up from my neck to my cheeks. The pilot came on the speaker to let us know that the problem on the ground was taken care of. We found out later that a plane had some hydraulic problems and they wanted to keep the runways clear until it safely landed.
The 737 banked abruptly as it started the descent into the landing approach. I had been browsing through my dad's book on Dallas Stoudenmire and was thinking of what he had said in the book about how Felina had changed her name to Faleena. I'd noticed in my studies that this was actually a fairly common practice in the West at that time: changing names either purposefully or accidentally.
I had a habit of doodling when I was thinking and was writing on my notepad the different spellings of Felina I'd run across: Felina, Faleena, Falena, Feleena and Falina.
A pointing finger snaked down to my pad to the first name. I felt a firm pressure on my arm and looked over to see her breast pressed against it. When she saw where I was looking, it was her turn for her face to change to a bright red hue. She moved back a bit ... not that I was complaining. It had felt quite pleasant.
I noticed a ring on her finger—it had a row of small rubies across the setting above and below a row of diamonds. There were five diamonds, a larger one—maybe a half carat—with a smaller one on each side and smaller ones yet on the outside. It looked kind of old fashioned and expensive—though I'm certainly not an expert. It was the kind of ring that could have been just a piece of jewelry or possibly an engagement ring.
Her finger on the first name in the list, she blurted, "That's my name!
Confused, I looked down at my notepad where she was pointing. "Felina? That's really your name?"
"Yes, that's why I'm here. I, uh, I have some time on my hands and I wanted to try to find out if the story of Felina was true. My dad told me this story over and over when I was a girl: about a beautiful Spanish girl and a wild young cowboy she fell in love with. Why are you writing Felina with all of those spellings?"
I showed her dad's book, and told her, "The story is all in this book my father wrote, with my mom's help. The story is about a young woman named Felina. Her name had changed to Faleena when she moved from Santa Fe to El Paso. There she met and fell in love with a cowboy named Texas Red. They both died in a shootout in an alley in El Paso."
Looking a bit nervous, she asked, hesitantly, "What was the name of this cowboy?"
"Well, they called him Texas Red but his name was Matt Donahue. Why do you ask? Have you read this book?"
"No, no I haven't. I didn't even know it existed. My name is ... well, it was ... Felina Donahue.
I stared at her as the plane made a heavy landing, bounced once, and started slowing as the reverse thrusters kicked in. What she said ... it couldn't be. Texas Red and Felina had died in the dusty alley in El Paso. Or had they?
DINNER ... AND A KISS—JACK
I was close to being stunned as we gathered our bags and made our way off the plane ahead of the crowd in the main cabin. As we walked towards the baggage claim area all I could think about was the sheer impossibility of what she had implied. Both Texas Red and Faleena had died behind Rosa's Cantina. The deadly guns of Dallas Stoudenmire killed the cowboy and the lovely Faleena took her own life using her lover's gun.
I shook my head and looked over at the girl from the plane ... Felina Donahue, that name ... it couldn't be possible. We hadn't said anything to one another since her startling revelation, and now I saw her staring at me, a question in her eyes.
"You looked shocked when I told you my name! And why were you writing down those different spellings of Felina?"
"Look, it's complicated," I said, "Do you have a hotel?"
"Yes, of course. I'm staying at the Camino Real downtown. I have a reservation for a week."
I handed her the copy of my dad's book. "Look, if I'm too forward, let me know. Why don't you read this first—it should answer a lot of your questions ... and maybe raise some new ones. I have a couple of meetings I can't change in the morning but maybe we can get together for dinner. You don't really know me so how about I meet you at the Mexican Restaurant there at the hotel. It's called Azulejos and the guy that manages it is the uncle of a student in one of the classes I teach at the university here."
Remembering the ring, and what she had said about her name used to be Donahue, I wasn't too sure whether the invitation for dinner was appropriate.
"By the way, my name is Jack Sessions." It was really Juan Pablo Sessions but most people had called me Jack since I started school. My grandparents on my mom's side called me Juanito, my dad's mom called me John, and my parents called me Juan. It did get confusing at times living in a multicultural family.
She looked at me for a moment, pensive, and replied, "Okay, that should work out. What time shall we meet? Oh, what's the best way to get to the hotel?"
"I'll call and make a reservation for seven," I said with a question in my voice. She nodded as I raised my eyebrows. "I can give you a ride to the hotel. I need to go by my office at the University and the hotel is right on my way."
"That sounds good. By the way, my friends call me Lina."
We took the shuttle and I threw the bags in the back of my truck and opened the door for her. It was a high step up and as I handed her in I was treated to a view of an expansive stretch of lovely thigh as she raised her leg getting in. She paused so I looked up at her. I thought she would be embarrassed but she just made a small smirk that turned into a Mona Lisa smile as she pulled her leg into the cab and pulled her skirt down to her knees. Hell, it was my turn to blush again.
I let her off at the hotel entrance, letting the bellhop get the flash of thigh as he opened the door for her.
"I'll see you for dinner tomorrow night, then."
I went on to my office at the university and made some notes on the conference while it was still fresh in my mind. Later, when I got home, I called my mom and dad at their ranch in the Tierra Amarilla Valley. I told them what the girl had to say and they were as mystified as I was.
My mom said, "Why don't you invite her to come up for the weekend. I'd love to hear her story and we can go over what we know."
I opened a longneck and went out to watch the sun set on the warm summer evening. On hot evenings like this I would sometimes leave the sliding door open about a foot and put my chair in front ... making it quite pleasant. I felt somewhat guilty about using the air conditioner that way because utilities were included in my lease package—but not too guilty.
As the sun sank from view the sky turned a lovely burnt orange hue with the higher clouds more of a rosy pink. The kaleidoscope of the sky became a canvas as the images of that bloody day flashed before my eyes.
The wild Texas Red came recklessly riding his horse into town as the town marshal, Dallas Stoudenmire, and his men waited calmly. They knew that the love struck cowboy would return to his love, the young girl Faleena.
.... There is more of this story ...