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DALL·E 2023-12-17 20.00.45 - young woman on vacation sipping a gigantic margarita in small restaurant in cozumel.png

A free margarita

The snow kept falling. Margaret’s face was red from the biting cold. The lenses on her glasses had fogged up and she could feel the frames numbing the upper edges of her cheeks. Her hands were like short, stubby icicles. Even her legs were cold, despite the leggings she wore underneath her dress pants. She was overdue for a well-deserved vacation.

She didn’t know where she was going, only that she had to find somewhere warm and sunny.


            Someone had once told her that had the best hotel prices. When she searched, she was asked a bundle of questions that she couldn’t answer. Did she want a flight and a car? Would she prefer an all-inclusive or a hotel? The possibilities overwhelmed her.


An ad for Expedia popped up, showing a tanned, smiling woman emerging from turquoise waters. It made Margaret want to stroll along a sandy beach, dip her toes into the warm Caribbean, even lounge in a pool with a swim-up bar and order a mojito.


            Within five minutes, she’d booked a return flight to Cozumel. Within thirty minutes, she’d packed her knapsack with two swimsuits, shorts, a few T-shirts, sunscreen, and her mask, snorkel and goggles. She could purchase any forgotten items after she landed. On the way to the airport, she texted her supervisor to let her know she’d be back to work in two weeks.


            Margaret  awoke as the plane was descending into Cancun.


            She took a minivan to the ferry and sat on the upper deck, occasionally seeing a pelican plunge to catch a fish. The hotel was a few minutes’ walk from the ferry. She greeted the receptionist, a teenage boy who smiled and handed her two keys. She followed his gestures, walking up a staircase to the second floor. Her room was small but clean. It contained a large bed, dresser, and attached bathroom. An armoire contained a locked safe and a few hangers.


            A big sign in Spanish and English cautioned her not to drink the tap water. She shrugged. No problemo. She’d buy bottles of water from the local tienda.


            After changing into the one dress she’d brought with her, Margaret ventured outdoors. Her room, like the others, opened on to a large, shared balcony that wrapped around the building. From her vantage point, she could see dancers in a circle on the street below. An accordionist accompanied them. Pedestrians swayed to the music and waved large poles festooned with colorful flags.


            She skipped down the steps. For a few moments, she joined the pedestrians watching the parade before she ventured down a side street. A handwritten white sign with a black arrow pointed to the top of a staircase. She could smell the sizzle of fresh shrimp.


            After climbing about fifteen steps, she stopped in front of a restaurant with double-swinging doors reminiscent of a saloon in a western movie. The room had twelve tables. Only two were occupied.  The waiter greeted Margaret, escorting her to a table two spots from a man on his own and across from a couple.


            Margaret couldn’t restrain herself. Before the waiter could offer a menu, she asked for a pina colada. The drink came in a twenty-four ounce glass. The rim was lined with sugar and dipped in rum. A triangle of pineapple was wedged in-between two rounds of coconut. Margaret eagerly sipped the cold drink, trying not to moan as she felt the beginning of an ice-cream headache. She pressed her fingers between her eyebrows to relieve the headache. Then she carefully paced her sips so that the headache wouldn’t return.


            Her straw made a slurping sound when she reached the bottom of the glass. Since she still had a couple of grilled shrimp on her plate and because she had the whole day in front of her, Margaret ordered a second pina colada.


            The waiter smiled and nodded. He walked into the kitchen. He emerged seconds later and stopped at the table where the lone man sat. Much to Margaret’s consternation, he plucked the margarita from the table and gave it to Margaret. He walked away before she could say anything. She opened her eyes wide and stared at his retreating back. She felt the couple look at her. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled quizzically. They returned her shrug.


            Margaret didn’t know what to do. The waiter had made a mistake in bringing the drink to her, but he’d retreated into the kitchen. While she waited for him to return, she eyed the creation. Tequila wasn’t her favorite, but she was in Mexico on vacation and the beverage looked very inviting. She sniffed it, taking in the scent of limes and Cointreau. The waiter still hadn’t appeared. Her finger caressed the edge of the glass.


            She looked up to see him return. He placed a twizzle stick pierced with a round melon ball and slice of orange into the margarita.


            She looked wistfully at the drink. “I didn’t order this, although it does look inviting.”


            The waiter smiled at her. “He won’t notice.” Before she could say anything, he’d walked away.

            She shrugged and laughed. Margaret could barely contain a giggle as she sipped the margarita.

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