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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

CDMX - 6. CDMX • VI

“Please, call me CJ.” His response was not uncommon, but being addressed as Signor Abelló was.

“Then you must call me Luca! After all, we’ll be working closely on this project.” If his name left any doubt Luca Biaggi was Italian, his accent was sufficient proof.

The man Jeff Bezos’ assistant had identified as the primary contact at Amazon Mexico had replied to CJ’s email, included a phone number, and asked for a call. CJ had done so after lunch.

“I was surprised Signor Bezos himself sent me a message endorsing your project. He must think highly of you.”

“I think he still wants me to go work for him.” CJ chuckled. “Jeff was disappointed when I turned him down and decided to join the State Department.”

“You turned down a job offer from the big guy himself?” Luca sounded shocked.

Even though the man could not see him, CJ shrugged. “It was tough, but I had to. I’d wanted to be part of the diplomatic corps for some time.”

“Maybe you’ll change your mind once we work together. When you experience firsthand how our logistics and resources can help us achieve whatever we want. Anywhere in the world.”

CJ thought that sounded promising for their current project and terrifying in a global sense. More power to Amazon if they could help bring to life the idea of a few technology centers easily. However, as with many multinationals, the fact they could use their resources and influence to move mountains was sobering. World domination through commerce. He kept his thoughts to himself.

“I’ll be honest, CJ. Your proposal’s important to me. If we can accomplish your goal quickly and efficiently, maybe Mr. Bezos himself will take notice. It might help my career even if he’s no longer actively involved in running Amazon.” His tone was intense but the ending chuckles sounded relaxed. “I’d like to meet in person as soon as possible. Maybe get together for a drink after work? My schedule this week’s a little overwhelming. Are you free tomorrow night?”

“Unfortunately, my husband has something going on Thursdays. I have to be home to take care of our daughter.”

“How about lunch on Friday then? I have something penciled in, but it can be postponed.”

CJ noticed there was no reaction to him being married to a man and them having a daughter. He assumed Luca had either been provided with biographical data or had googled CJ Abelló. Or maybe it was simply the more relaxed European attitude towards same-sex couples. “That would work. Where would you like to meet and what time?”

“Have you been to Milano’s? It’s on Paseo de la Reforma a few blocks away from the U.S. Embassy.”

“Not yet. I’ve walked by it a couple of times midday, but it’s always been closed.” CJ usually went to eat between noon and 12:30 p.m.

“They open at one. Let’s meet there. They have great food.”

“Sounds good, Luca. Friday, one p.m., at Milano’s. I’ll be there.”

“I look forward to meeting you in person. Ciao, CJ.”

 

Weather wise, September was supposedly the best month in Mexico City. Or so CJ and Owen had been told countless times. It was the rainy season’s tail end, daytime temperatures hovered in the mid-seventies, and overnight lows were on average twenty degrees cooler. The sun setting past seven o’clock allowed outdoor activities after work, and Bosque de Chapultepec came alive in the late afternoon with children and adults engaged in a variety of activities.

The deluge on Thursday began before sunrise and pestered the city’s denizens until late afternoon. By the time CJ left the embassy, he had no use for the trench coat and umbrella required in the morning. The rain had stopped and cloud-filtered sunbeams struck wet roads and sidewalks.

Since Infanta had been unable to walk to the park with Liebe, as she normally did twice daily, CJ decided to take his daughter to watch her other father’s rugby practice.

Because her dinner would be later than usual, CJ mixed a batch of papaya-based protein shakes. He stuck the container and her sippy cup in the diaper bag; it would tide her over if she got hungry. Anything left over he was certain Owen would guzzle.

Ceej, quiero caminar.” Liebe wriggled in her father’s arms, emphasizing her desire to be put down, so she could walk on her own.

“Okay, but you have to hold on to me until we get to the pitch.” He lowered the girl to the ground, adjusted the backpack’s straps, and reached for her hand. “And try not to get your sneakers too dirty.” He realized the chances of those white canvas shoes being the same color when they returned home were slim.

No sooner had he uttered the warning, a grinning Liebe jumped into a puddle with both feet. Mud covered her lower legs and filthy water doused CJ’s jeans. He sighed in resignation. Assuming Owen would be even dirtier once practice was done, he foresaw the three of them huddling under the warm shower spray before dinner.

He was right about Owen.

There were a couple of teams practicing on adjacent fields, and every rugger was splattered with mud. CJ and Liebe stood on the sidelines and a moment after their arrival watched Owen, involved in a scrum at the moment, land face first on the soggy ground. He eventually returned to his feet, grinning like a fool, wiping grass and mud off his face. He waved at them.

“Get away from us! You’re filthy!” CJ leaned backward when Owen tried to kiss him after leaving the field.

“Come on, babe. Just a little kiss.” The evil look on Owen’s face should have been a warning.

He tried to move away, but Owen was not having it. By the time CJ decided to make a run for it, it was too late. Owen tackled him.

Both tumbled to the ground and were immediately jumped on by Liebe. Apparently, she found it amusing her fathers were rolling around on the muddy field. “I’d kill you right now if it wasn’t for Liebe enjoying herself so much.”

Owen grabbed their daughter by the waist, stood, and tossed her in the air. “What you laughing at, Munchkin? You like to play in the dirt with us?”

Mas alto! Mas alto!” Instead of answering the question, she asked to be tossed higher in the air.

“We’ll make a rugger out of her.” Calum had joined them and used a finger to poke Liebe. “You remember me?”

“Calum!”

“Since she knows who you are, you get to hold her.” Owen handed the girl to his compatriot and held a hand out to help CJ up.

“Mate, that was a blast. Reminded me of my brother and me playing in the vineyards after a storm. Mum would go crazy when we walked in the house, and you could see our muddy footprints on the floor.”

“Not happening tonight, Oz. We’re stripping outside the apartment’s door and running to the bathroom. Hey, Calum.”

“What’s up, CJ? Where are your two mates? I was hoping they’d come out with you when Owen said you planned to stop by.”

“You mean Lincoln and Austin?” CJ wiggled his eyebrows, eliciting chuckles from both Australians. “I saw Austin on Tuesday. He mentioned wanting to show up on Sunday and hopefully hitting the same pub afterward.”

“That’s brilliant, mate! I enjoyed spending time with them.”

“You just want to get naked with those two.”

“Unless I can follow you home and watch the strip show outside your place.”

“Pig!” CJ thumbed at the adjacent field. “Those aren’t the people you played last Sunday, are they?”'

“Nope.” Owen stripped off his shirt and used the slightly cleaner inside to wipe his face. “The guys filled me in before. Teams are mostly organized along geographic areas. Ours’ the Oceania contingent, the team we played last Sunday was from southern Africa. Those guys are Commonwealth nations. The Brits head up their team."

“Is that who you play this week?”

“We play the Meds on Sunday.” Calum returned Liebe to Owen and tried to shake off some of the dirt covering him. “Mostly Italians and Spaniards.”

“We’ll see ya then, Calum. I think it’s time for Ozzie, Liebe, and I to get home and clean ourselves.”

 

Milano’s was not a large restaurant. Two medium-sized tables occupied the center of the room, while a handful of smaller ones for two or four diners lined the periphery of the space. Through the dining room’s opening, CJ noticed a tiny bar to the right of the entryway. The postage stamp entry held a podium with a man in a black suit smiling at him.

“Hi, CJ Abelló. I’m supposed to meet Luca Biaggi?”

“Ah, yes. Signor Biaggi’s waiting for you. Please follow me.” The man guided CJ towards a table tucked into a corner on the opposite side of the bar.

“CJ?” The man who stood and extended a hand was shorter, older, and softer. A couple of inches below CJ’s six feet, probably mid-thirties, and although not fat, he had the epitome of a dad bod. A few months in the gym would make the stylish suit he wore fit better.

“Hello, Luca. A pleasure to meet you.” While glancing around the restaurant, CJ took the seat opposite the Italian when motioned to do so. “Nice little place.”

“If you like Italian food, you’ll love theirs. Most authentic dishes you’ll find in Mexico City.”

Right before leaving the embassy, CJ had sent a message to his supervisor, copying the head of Public Affairs and the ambassador, informing them he was meeting an executive from Amazon Mexico for lunch. He stressed they had a lot to discuss, and he might be late returning. Engaging cover-your-ass mode was becoming second nature around Stephen Northman.

“Seems like a good spot for date night. My husband loves Italian food.”

“How long have you been married, CJ? You’re awfully young.”

“I was twenty when we married, but we’d been together for a few years by then. Owen’s six years older than I am.”

“Wow! He’s a lawyer, right?”

“Yep. What about you, Luca. You married?”

“I am. And I have two small children. How old is your daughter?”

CJ was not surprised Luca knew about Owen’s profession but wondered about him asking about Liebe’s age. He was surprised that information had not been included in whatever report the man had been forwarded from the United States. “She’s about eighteen months old. What about yours?”

“Two boys, three and five.” The lull in conversation allowed CJ the opportunity to glance at the menu, and Luca did the same. “Their gnocchi’s outstanding if you’re interested.”

“I need to get back to the office and work this afternoon. Gnocchi’s too heavy and I’d want a nap. I think I’ll try the grilled snapper and Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.” CJ preferred the simplicity of olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to heavier tomato-based or cheese-centric sauces.

Once they had placed their order, the conversation veered towards the proposed technology centers. “I had a short chat with a couple of our people. We think the best way to approach this is to build the initial one, funded by your family, at the school your friend’s daughter attends.”

“I’m not too concerned about the order they get built, Luca. This isn’t a competition.”

“No. But the idea’s yours, and you should be the first ones recognized. Plus, it’ll be an opportunity to tinker with whatever design my people come up with. Unless you know exactly what you want to be done?”

“Oh, hell, no. I wouldn’t know where to start.” CJ sipped from his soda water. He had considered ordering a glass of wine like Luca had but decided he wanted a clear head when he returned to work. And the last thing he needed was for Northman to smell alcohol on him.

“We can do it all. I guess the next step’s getting approval from the school?”

“Yeah…” CJ’s mind was awhirl with ideas on how to proceed. “Before I approach the school, I think I’d like to contact someone else first. We’ll need somebody to select the other eleven locations.” One would be funded by Jeff Bezos personally and the additional ten by Amazon Mexico.

“How long do you think that will take?”

“Hopefully, a few days only. I’ll make a call this afternoon when I return to the office.”

Back at the embassy, Northman gave him a perfunctory nod when CJ walked by his office. The man did not look happy, but CJ did not care. He had the ambassador’s permission to do as he saw fit. Once at his desk, he called Gloria Lujambo, Mexico’s Education Secretary.

 

In 1992 the World Health Organization branded Mexico City as the most polluted metropolis in the world. In nearly thirty years since, air quality had markedly improved but remained problematic. Thursday’s deluge had precipitated much of the smog particles, and Friday turned out to be a beautiful day, with blue skies and comfortable temperature.

“What else do you want to taste, Munchkin?” CJ shifted the girl to his left hip and placed the tasting spoon close to her mouth.

Liebe stuck her tongue out and tentatively licked. She immediately smiled and smacked her lips. “This one more.”

“You say more of this one, kiddo.” CJ was satisfied she acknowledged his correction by nodding.

“She’s such a bottomless pit.” Owen pointed at the container behind the glass partition and nodded at the server. Infanta had made carnitas before leaving for the weekend, Liebe had eaten enough for someone twice her size, and quickly agreed to go out for ice cream. “I’m surprised she likes the mango-ginger combination. Kinda sharp taste for someone her age.”

“Don’t complain, Oz. I think it’s great she likes to experiment. Not sure how we’d deal with an overly picky kid.”

They sat on a bench outside the shop and allowed Liebe to eat on her own. She ended up wearing most of the sorbet, but she was happy by the time they returned home.

 

“She out already? CJ was surprised Owen had returned from telling Liebe a story so quickly.

“Yeah. She wanted to hear the one about the dolphins again. I didn’t even get halfway through and her eyes were closed.”

“She seemed happy Trixie’s babysitting again tomorrow night.”

After lunch, CJ had decided to call Gloria Lujambo instead of emailing her. The education secretary had taken his call, listened while he summarized his proposal, and invited him and Owen to dinner with her husband the following night. CJ had accepted subject to Owen’s agreement. A couple of text messages resolved the issue. He had also had the presence of mind to speak with Simmone Newman and arrange to have her daughter take care of Liebe on Saturday night.

“Speaking of tomorrow night, what are we wearing? Suits?”

“Oh, hell, no. You rarely have to, but I have to put one on five days a week. Slacks, open neck shirt, and a blazer’s as far as I’ll dress up.”

“Sounds good.” Owen stripped off his shorts and crawled in bed next to CJ. “I’m surprised they picked The Palm.”

The American steakhouse, its first location having opened in the 1920s in New York City, had expanded beyond Manhattan’s borders over the years. CJ liked the place and was happy to discover one of the satellite locations was found at the InterContinental Presidente. The hotel was a ten-minute walk away from their apartment.

“She might have thought we had weak stomachs for local food. You know how us gringos complain about Mexican water and food giving them diarrhea.”

“Montezuma’s revenge’s just bloody bullshit. But I’m not gonna complain. We’ve had great meals at their New York, Washington, and Miami restaurants.”

“I’m looking forward to it. She was all enthusiastic about our proposal.”

“Good. Now, turn on your side and shut the light. I wanna molest you in darkness, so I can fantasize you’re one of those hot ruggers in the scrum.”

“Asshole!” CJ did as instructed.

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

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I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
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