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The Onyx Heart

Design Lover's Guide to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico | Architectural Digest

The darkness was cold and silent. Michael couldn’t see anything past the tip of his nose. He was scared, looking frantically for anything to grasp on inside the void.

“Michael? Is that you?”

A familiar voice echoed through the black infinity, calling up for Michael. He started running desperately towards its direction. He felt his heart was going to burst out of his chest, as he fought his way through the nothingness looking for the source of the voice.

“Michael, help me! I can’t take it! Please…! Make it stop…”, echoed the voice, slowly fading away.

“No! Don’t go! I’m trying, I swear I’m trying…”, said Michael desperately, forcing his weak legs to propel him forward. Suddenly, a sharp pain enveloped his torso. He looked down, only to find heavy black chains digging on his skin, pulling him backwards.

“Please, I need to go forward! I’m almost there…”

He fought with all his might, but the cold metal wouldn’t budge. With one last surge of strength, he threw himself forward, only to be yanked by the heavy chain. He screamed as he was swallowed by the darkness, losing the fading echo that was calling for him.

 

Michael was abruptly woken up by the sudden screeching of the old taxi’s breaks. It was hot, and the young man was sweating through his shirt.

“There you go señor”, said the gruff voice of the taxi driver, his stern face looking back expectantly.

“Oh, yes thank you,'' said Michael absently, grabbing a thousand pesos bill and putting it in the man’s thick hands. “Keep the change, it was a long ride.”

The taxi driver eased his expression a little bit, his thick mustache twitching while he observed the young man opening the trunk to take his baggage out. He rolled down the window and whistled to get his attention.

“Thank you señor. Let me give you some advice. This town is older than our country itself. Treat it with respect. And most important of all, let it treat you with the kindness you need.”

Michael listened to the heavy accented voice, trying to make sense of what the old man was saying. Before he could ask anything, the tires screeched again and he was left standing in the middle of a dust cloud. He covered his face coughing, as he turned around to check out his surroundings. Small Spanish colonial houses decorated each side of the wide street. In the distance, the bell tower of the cathedral stood tall above the rooftops, watching proudly above the entire town. He had heard wonders about Mexican “Pueblos magicos”, but the rumors paled in comparison to the real deal. The entire town seemed to have been taken out of a storybook. He took his luggage and headed back towards the entrance of the hotel. The massive wooden doors were surrounded by two handsome bellboys, who took Michael’s luggage and welcomed him inside. He headed towards the front desk, admiring the iron chandeliers hanging from the tall ceiling and the lavish decoration of the ex-hacienda’s lobby.

“Welcome to San Miguel de Allende, Mr. Andersen. Could I please bother you with your passport and reservation number?”, said the gorgeous receptionist on the other side of the desk. His tight suit fitted the curves of his square chest perfectly, making it hard for Michael to focus on handing out the needed documents for the check-in. Fumbling with his bag, he handed in the papers to the receptionist, who swiftly typed in the needed information. “Your room number is 245. You’re free to explore all of our facilities, including the spa and the fitness center. Your luggage will be waiting for you in your room. If you need anything during your stay, let me know.”, he said flashing a heart melting smile and signaling the buff bellboy to come and pick up the suitcases.

The hotel’s interior was just as gorgeous as the lobby. The ancient colonial building was adorned by all kinds of stone sculptures and old paintings depicting a past era of Mexican history. The hallways leading to the rooms formed a giant square, and in the middle, you could see the tables of the famous hotel’s restaurant surrounding the tall volcanic stone fountain in the center. The golden rays of sunlight made the water look like liquid fire, bubbling out of the sculpture’s intricate design. Michael’s room was on one corner of the uppermost floor. When he opened the big wooden doors, he found himself in the most luxurious room he had ever been in. A small living room with a few couches and an ornamental fireplace led to a big bedroom with a robust king size bed. Four door-sized windows lead to a wide balcony that overlooked the hills that surrounded the small town, along with the famous vineyard that belonged to the hotel. Michael just dropped his handbag and opened one of the doors leading outside. The hot air immediately hit his face, as he walked outside staring into the beautiful scenery. He let the scent of the arid breeze fill his lungs, as he felt he could relax for the first time in months. He begrudgingly let himself be convinced of taking a holiday by his friends back home, but he never expected to feel at such ease in a foreign country. This next week might be just what he needed to let his sorrow go.

Michael was so enthralled by the landscape, that he completely missed the fact that the suite he was in was definitely not the room he booked. This kind of luxury would be definitely out of his budget. Once he truly realized what kind of room he was standing in, he rushed to the small coffee table next to one of the couches, and immediately dialed the number from the front desk.

“Front desk, Hector Ramirez speaking.”, Michael instantly recognized the deep accented voice on the other side of the line. It was that handsome receptionist that checked him in just a few minutes ago.

“Yes, uh…, I’m Michael Andersen from room 245. I just checked in with you a few moments ago.”, said Michael hesitantly. He scorned himself for sounding so nervous, but even through the phone he was still intimidated by the other man’s looks. “I think there might have been a mistake with my booking.”

“Alright Mr. Andersen, let me check your reservation quickly.”

Michael could hear the typing on the other side of the line. Seconds felt like hours, as the poor tourist grew more nervous thinking the mistake was his.

“Everything seems to be alright Mr. Andersen,'' said the receptionist. Michael just stood in place meditating his next few words.

“I’m sorry, but that can’t be. I booked a regular room, not… a suite.”

“Your reservation states that you booked the presidential suite, Mr. Andersen. Let me check with my supervisor to see what can be done. I’ll call you in a moment.”

Michael waited seated on the couch, tapping his feet nervously on the expensive red carpet. There was no way he booked a presidential suite at one of the town’s most expensive hotels. It was a miracle he could afford anything other than a hostel, let alone a five-star resort. Most of his savings had gone to this trip, so he was already feeling dreadful about spending that money. If they charged him for the suite, he would be stuck in Mexico doing work for the hotel to pay off his debt. As his anxiety started to get the best out of him, the ringing of the room’s phone made him jump in his seat. He immediately took the call, hearing that familiar mellifluous voice on the other side of the line.

“Mr. Andersen! It’s Hector Ramirez again. I spoke to my supervisor about your problem, and it seems we’re in a difficult situation. We can’t move you to any other room, because the hotel is fully booked due to the national holidays this weekend. The mistake was probably caused by a change in our system, so the least we can do for you is to charge you the price of a regular single room and offer you the presidential suite for your entire stay.”

Michael couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Not only did he make it to a storybook town, but he was going full luxury on his stay.

“Uhhh…. Thanks. I appreciate that.”, he said shyly to the phone.

“Nothing to thank us for, Mr. Andersen. Our number one priority is to make your stay as comfortable as possible. If you need anything, I’m at your service.”

Michael hung up the phone and for the first time in very long, he felt a genuine smile paint itself on his lips. This trip wasn’t going to be so bad after all. It might just be the remedy he needed. He jumped into the giant bed, letting himself be swallowed by its soft surface. Then, everything went dark.

 

The agonizing screams kept getting closer, as Michael ran through the darkness looking desperately for the source of the sounds. Suddenly, it was cold. Very cold. It reminded Michael of the winters back home, where the sun hid for a couple of months, and a taciturn silence reigned supreme over the city. The happiness that the holidays once brought was long gone, one winter worse than the last one. This winter had been, by far, the worst time in his life. Feeling the cold brush against his skin as he ran through the darkness reminded him of the pain he felt when he was trapped inside his apartment with…

“Michael, please! Hurry!”

His footsteps started to get clumsy, as the ground shattered underneath him, like thin ice, submerging him into a frozen abyss. He felt his consciousness drift away once more, and the voice was suddenly like the beacon in a far-off lighthouse, lost in the winter mist.

 

The sun was starting to set when Michael opened his eyes. The beautiful room was painted golden, giving it an even cozier appearance. He groggily stood up and checked out his phone. Many messages from his friends and family popped up on the screen. With a frustrated groan, he threw the phone on the bed and stretched his limbs. That little nap had been very refreshing, despite the horrible nightmares that still haunted him.

“It must be the bed,'' he said out loud, admiring the mattresses’ soft texture. It was the first time he slept on silk sheets. He definitely understood rich people’s fascination for the expensive material.

He went to the bathroom to wash himself and plan his evening. It was just as beautiful as the rest of the suite, with intricate marble decorations and even a big jacuzzi. The sink was just underneath a wall-sized mirror, where Michael could admire, or dread, his unkempt appearance. He didn’t realize how much he had let himself go these last few months. His dirty blonde hair looked greasy, and was in desperate need of styling. His chin and sideburns were covered by the little scruff he was able to grow, looking more like a rebellious teenager trying to grow his sparse facial hair than the twenty-five-year-old man he actually was. His baby-blue eyes were sunken on their sockets, encased by deep eye bags unable to conceal their tiredness. He was a cute guy, or so he heard. He didn’t really care for his youthful looks or his increasingly thin body. He was too tired to care for his appearance.

After splashing some water on his face and brushing his teeth, he opened the browser on his phone to look for some activities. He found out the best way to explore the town, was actually heading to the center and do some walking himself. He changed his shirt and headed outside. The restaurant was starting to fill in with people. Michael made a mental note to himself to make a dinner reservation there to try out the local cuisine. Hector Ramirez was gone from the front desk, replaced by an equally hot Mexican stud. He took one little tourist leaflet from the information stand, and headed outside through the massive wooden doors.

The streets looked way livelier than before, as people ventured to explore the old town’s streets safe from the scorching hot sun. The town’s central plaza wasn’t far from where he was, so he decided to take a stroll and check out what kind of activities he was willing to try out. By the time he made it in front of Saint Michael’s cathedral, the sun was already setting, and the small streets were absolutely filled with tourists. Mariachi music echoed through the streets, as people gathered inside cantinas and restaurants, getting ready for a night of partying. Michael wasn’t a fan of socializing, so he immediately discarded the party scene from his to-do list. On his way to the plaza, he found a sightseeing bus, some good restaurants and lots of artisanal shops. The cathedral was already closed, so he decided to check out some of those stores around the center before finding somewhere to eat.

All the small shops sold essentially the same things. A lot of artisanal stone cravings, some quartz sculptures, paintings and some variety of clothing. Michael checked out the pieces of art, admiring the Catrinas and pieces of fruit made out of precious minerals. He considered buying some souvenirs for people back home, but decided to wait until the end of his trip so he didn’t have to carry heavy stones while he headed for dinner. Once the stores started closing, he made his way through the streets looking for an empty-looking restaurant to sit in peace and enjoy the Mexican culinary culture. All the places looked extremely full though, which discouraged Michael to try out some of the Restaurants on the main streets. After walking for a while, he found himself on smaller, darker looking alleys. People were still walking around, so he wasn’t nervous. He read online that the town was very safe, despite what the media back home sputtered about the Latin American country.

Once he got tired of looking for a restaurant, he took out his phone to google which good dining places were close to him. A faint voice caught his attention, as he looked up from the screen to find an old looking woman sitting on the curb of the alley. She was wearing an intricate shawl, adorned with colorful details. Her tan face was covered in wrinkles, giving her a wise appearance. On her lap laid a carpet full of artisanal stone carvings, similar to what Michael saw on the different shops across town. But these articles looked more detailed, and complicated. He approached the old woman, who just smiled staring straight into Michael’s blue eyes.

“Ah, joven. What can I help you with?”, she said. Her voice was raspy and dry, and her accent very strong. Still, she spoke in such a way that Michael didn’t have any trouble understanding.

“Your stuff is very beautiful. Do you make these yourself?”

Si, I do. Very, very hard. Hands don’t trabajan like before.”

“Still, I’m very impressed…”, said Michael checking out the wares.

“Tell me, joven. What can I help you with?”

Her tone was eerie, but very calm. Michael looked at her once again, not knowing what he should answer.

“You think I don’t know, joven. But I do. I can see your dolor. Your pain.”

Michael went pale, feeling completely defenseless against the mysterious woman’s gaze. He started to sweat, as he felt the sincerest words he had said in a long time bubble up from his throat.

“I want to be happy again. I want to laugh, and cheer, and love again. I want to feel life is worth living. And most of all, I want to recover the strength I lost.”

He immediately covered his mouth, not believing what he just said. The woman smiled, her dull eyes sparkling for an instant. Without looking, she reached for her pocket, and took out what seemed to be a black rock. When she opened her palm, Michael saw a small but very detailed black heart.

“This is an onyx heart. It helps you to let go of the past. What has happened to you will strengthen your heart. Let this precious stone guide you to your destiny.”

Michael took the stone in his hands. It was cold to the touch, its surface smooth and free of any impurity. Before he could reach for his wallet, the woman stopped him with a sign from his hands.

“No payment. The heart has always been yours. You will pay with your actions, not with your money.”

Michael smiled at the old woman, not fully understanding what she meant. With a cordial “gracias” he got up and headed to the lit street at the end of the alley. The woman smiled, knowing already what the land had planned for that young man’s destiny.

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Pollo con mole, tiradito de atún, escamoles….”

Michael was trying his best to understand the exotic dishes printed on the small restaurant’s menu. According to TripAdvisor, this was one of the best places to be having dinner. It wasn’t very expensive, so he decided to treat himself with a nice meal. Being a victim of Montezuma’s revenge scared him a little, but the sounds coming from his empty stomach indicated a stronger need to stuff himself with anything he could find. When the waiter came with the fruity margarita he ordered, he asked him what his recommendation was.

“You should have the Aguachile, señor. It’s the best one in town!”

“But isn’t it too spicy?”, asked Michael remembering chile means chili. Doing Spanish in high school was starting to pay off.

“Nah, don’t you worry señor. I’ll ask the chef to make it mild just for you.”, said the waiter smiling through his dense mustache.

“Alright, thanks! I’ll have some guacamole as well.”

“Coming right up!”

The waiter rushed back into the kitchen, leaving the student alone to enjoy his margarita. When his lips touched the salt frosted glass, he winced tasting the strong tequila even through the sugary strawberry syrup. The strong agave distillate slid down his throat, burning everything on its path.

“If you make those faces with a margarita, imagine when you move to a real caballito.

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A deep voice caught Michael’s attention, who turned around and was faced by the most handsome man he had ever seen. A short black beard covered his square jaw, sprinkled with some white hairs giving it a regal appearance. Two deep brown eyes hooded by two bushy, but well-groomed eyebrows stared at the young student intensely. His hair was black as well, styled perfectly in a faded quiff. The man looked very muscular, his athletic build encased in a perfectly tailored black shirt. It was open, exposing the hard ridge of his upper chest, and his arms strained against the expensive looking fabric. He was probably in his early- to mid- forties judging by the white strands on his hair. Michael was so impressed by the man’s appearance, he completely missed what he had said.

“Huh? What do you mean?”, was the only thing he could stutter. The man just chuckled, his chest shaking inside the shirt, threatening to rip it apart.

“I mean, when you start drinking tequila how it was meant to be drunk. On a caballito. Like a shot glass.”

The man then stood up, exposing his impressive figure to the speechless student. His legs were proportionally big as well, stretching the tailored pants with each step.

“Mind if I join you?”, he asked. Michael just nodded, trying his hardest not to start drooling in front of such a person. The man sat down next to him, putting his own caballito on the table.

“Where are my manners? My name is Iñigo de la Fuente.”

His voice was soft, but deep and commanding. His gaze stern, but warm and welcoming. There was something about this man Michael couldn’t put his finger on. Even his scent was alluring, exuding an expensive wooden smell product of some cologne on his neck.

“I-I’m Michael Andersen.”, he said shakingly.

“Pleasure to meet you Mr. Andersen. Can I call you Michael?”, he said extending his hand.

“Sure, it’s fine,'' answered the student, taking the man’s hand. His grip was strong, his palm rough and calloused. Despite his impeccable appearance, the man was no stranger to hard labor it seemed.

“You can call me Iñigo too,'' he said, sipping some tequila from his glass. “What brings you to San Miguel de Allende, Michael?”

“My friends recommended the trip for me to relax and get out of the routine. Some…stuff happened back at home, so I needed a break,” said Michael diverting his gaze from the man’s. Iñigo immediately saw the pain that haunted the young student.

“I see. This is a magical place. It changes you in more than one way. I really hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“I hope so too,'' said Michael taking another sip from his margarita. “What about you?”

“What brings me here you mean?”, said Iñigo chuckling. “My family has been living here since colonial times. I was born and raised here.”

“Oh, I see,'' said the student, feeling a bit embarrassed. “So, any recommendations? Anything I can’t miss during my stay here?”

“Well, the town is beautiful. You should definitely get lost on the streets and explore it by yourself. You can visit some local art galleries as well. If you want something more, non-conventional, you should pay a visit to the local vineyards.”

“Yes! I saw many on my way here. I have a view over one from my hotel room as well.”

“In which hotel are you staying?”, asked Iñigo, stroking his beard.

“It’s called Real de Rosales. Not so far from here, I think.”

Iñigo just stayed quiet, his eyes scanning the young man before him.

“Yes, I know where it is,'' he said absently. “You can’t miss the restaurant there too.”

“It looks very good! I definitely wanna try it!”

They talked for a while, discussing Michael’s engineering studies, and some other local subtleties. The waiter came with the food, and both men joined to have dinner. Hours felt like minutes, as both Michael and Iñigo grew more interested in each other. They laughed, ate and drank for a long time. Iñigo even tried to convince Michael to try some pure tequila, but the student refused, not willing to lose his composure in front of that elegant man. Some time past midnight, Iñigo asked for the check and even paid for Michael’s meal.

“This one’s on me. For the good company.”, he said flashing a heart melting smile. Michael felt embarrassed that a stranger was paying for his expenses.

“No! I can’t let you pay for me, he said, reaching for his wallet. Iñigo stopped him, grabbing his arm. Michael could feel the strong grip almost surrounding its entire circumference.

“I insist. In fact, if you do feel bad about it, next one’s on you.”

Michael couldn’t believe his ears. This gorgeous man he just met was asking to meet him again. He enthusiastically nodded, a cheerful smile printing itself on the student’s lips. Iñigo smiled as well, wondering what it was that he found so attractive in this young man.

“Tomorrow, I promise,'' said Michael, extending his hand. Iñigo grabbed it and both men sealed the promise with a handshake. The student ordered a taxi to go back to the hotel. Before closing the door, he yelled to catch Iñigo’s attention, who was heading to his own car.

“Wait! How can I contact you? I don’t have your number or anything.”, he said. Iñigo let out a booming laugh, and approached the open taxi.

“I’ll pick you up at six in your hotel. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

And with that, the taxi door was closed and the infatuated student was on his way back to the hotel. The moment he entered the suite, he threw himself on the bed like a lovestruck teenager. He couldn’t wait to see what that handsome man had planned for both of them. He drifted into sleep, the cold black onyx heart still in his pocket.

 

The screams were getting closer this time. Michael was still fighting his way through the darkness, when suddenly he found a door. A very familiar door, identical to the one back at home in his apartment. He slowly opened it, and found himself standing in the middle of his small living room. The place was messy and dirty, almost like it had been uninhabited for a long time. Spiderwebs hung from the ceiling, and dust gathered on every surface. The screams had stopped. Michael explored his living room, seeing all his consoles and books in their respective places. He took one of the picture frames, and swept the dust off the glass surface. He remembered the picture. A healthier looking Michael was smiling back at him, along with another person. A very familiar person. The next few pictures were taken with the exact same person. All of them depicted fun and happy moments between both the student and the other man. In fact, the living room was filled with different mementos covered in dust and spiderwebs. Valentine’s day balloons, letters, a music box, a stuffed animal and even some empty wine bottles.

A sound coming from the hallway caught Michael’s attention. He headed towards the noise, entering the dark hallway. It was cold again, Michael could see his breath condensing in front of him. He started shaking uncontrollably, his teeth chattering due to the bitter cold. The hallway grew more and more unkempt, the floorboards starting to crack and break under the student’s feet. When he reached the end of the hallway, he found himself in front of his bedroom door. He heard a whisper from the other side. As he approached to listen to what it was saying, the door opened and a chain with a harpoon pierced Michael’s chest, yanking him inside the bedroom. 

 

The student woke up screaming, almost jumping out of bed. He was sweating profusely, the silk sheets sticking to his skin. He was having nightmares again. He rubbed his eyes groggily, and saw some morning sun peeking through the thick curtains. He checked his phone, seeing he had some missed calls from his friends and family. He grunted annoyed, and wrote a few short texts to let everyone know he was fine. When he got out of bed, he felt heavy.

“I shouldn’t have eaten that much so late,'' he said to himself as he headed towards the bathroom to wash himself.

The shower was glorious, being equipped with a hydro massage and a sauna. Michael relished in on the sensations that the water caused on his skin. He couldn’t help but feel something out of place, almost as if the water flowed differently on his skin. After he was done, he approached the mirror to brush his teeth. When he saw his reflection, he felt a bit uneasy. He couldn’t tell why, but his hair looked a shade darker. He brushed it with his fingers, and a few strands came off, sticking to his hand. His face looked different as well, almost as if the lighting in the bathroom was casting a shadow on his jawline. It made it look sharper as well. When he inspected the rest of his body, he saw that his formerly smooth skin was now plagued by small but thick bristles. It was denser on his arms, his chest and his legs. Even his pubic hair looked darker as well. Michael was very confused, but he attributed it to the lack of recovery sleep and the food the day prior. At least Montezuma didn’t show up to mess up his night some more. He got dressed, wearing some shorts and a simple t-shirt. His legs felt a bit snug against the fabric, and so did his arms. He made another mental note to himself to eat less heavy stuff so the bloating would go away. He took the onyx heart with him on his way out, storing it inside his pocket.

He had breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. The buffet was filled with all kinds of tasty dishes and exotic fruits. Michael served himself a lot of eggs, some chilaquiles and fried beans. His appetite wasn’t usually that big early in the morning, but this time he engulfed all in his path. Michael didn’t find it alarming, thinking it would help to carry him through the very active routine he had planned. He left the hotel, greeting Hector on his way out, and headed towards the town’s center. It was a hot day. Michael was already sweating when he stepped out into the scorching sunlight. The street seemed brighter than the day before. Michael didn’t know if it was the magic of the place, or just sleeping in such a luxurious bed that had him in a good mood. He even smiled and greeted a few strangers that walked past him. The slight discomfort of his legs rubbing with each other made him widen his stance, not noticing the change in his stride. By the time he made it to the sightseeing bus stop, his drenched t-shirt was sticking tight against his torso, and he could feel the waistband of his shorts dig into his flesh.

“Weird.”, he mumbled, trying to pull down the hem of his t-shirt down to cover his lower belly. He paid his ticket, and immediately took his seat inside the old bus. The tour was in Spanish, so he hoped to catch a few phrases to at least understand the context of what the tour guide was saying.

San Miguel de Allende fue un poblado pre-hispanico chichimeca…”

Michael was listening to the woman’s explanation about the town’s history, understanding way more than he thought he would. He even knew some facts about Mexican history before the guide would mention them. He never considered himself well educated in foreign matters, but the way the woman was talking about the Mexican War of Independence and the Mexican Revolution seemed familiar. Almost like he had heard the tale somewhere else before. The bus drove through the streets full of tourists, making a few stops on the town’s most important landmarks. Michael was paying attention to the tour, but he couldn’t help but notice some different aspects all over the landscape, like where people gathered the most to buy food, or where the different colonial building façades looked most worn out by the weather. He couldn’t help but think of ways to improve the streets, making them cleaner and more attractive to different kinds of people. His wandering mind was interrupted by the announcement that the tour was over. His daydream made him miss the rest of the explanation. He got out of the bus, leaving the lady a very generous tip for her service.

The next few hours went over fast. He grabbed a cold michelada and sat on a bench right outside Saint Michael’s cathedral, admiring the beauty of the bell tower.

“No wonder this town is so famous. Everything is gorgeous”, he said, feeling completely at ease. Despite sitting directly under the sun, he felt no discomfort. His pale skin was usually very sensitive to light and hot weather, burning even after the smallest exposure. But at that moment, he was enjoying the warmth against his face, fully bathing in the afternoon sunlight. It was a nice contrast to the cold and dark weather back home.

He left back to the hotel two hours before the time he was supposed to meet Iñigo, so he could get ready for the date in peace. Once he was back in his suite, he headed straight for the shower to wash off all the stale sweat from the excursion earlier. He struggled trying to take his t-shirt off, almost like it was a few sizes too small. The button from his shorts practically burst on its own, releasing the tension Michael kept feeling during the day. Looking in the mirror, he definitely looked bigger. His arms seemed stronger, just like his legs. His formerly teen-sized waist had thickened considerably, along with his flat chest. He reached up to grab one of his pecs, and was surprised to feel a very small chunk of hard muscle underneath. It was still imperceptible to the eyes, but it was definitely there. The small bristles had also grown some, covering his limbs with a dark dusting of sparse hair. But instead of feeling alarmed by the second puberty he was going through, Michael felt it was the most normal thing in the world. He didn’t pay any attention to the changes, heading straight into the shower. He had sweat a lot, so he made sure to wash every part of his body thoroughly. The idea of showing up even with the smallest amount of dirt to his date disgusted him. Iñigo was a very elegant man, so the least he could do was to try and get on his level. He chose to wear some dark jeans, along with the only button shirt he had brought to the trip. The fact that it was a size too big was perfect to accommodate his new bulk. Again, he took the small onyx heart before leaving the room.

When he arrived in the lobby, his eyes were immediately attracted by Iñigo’s imposing figure. Like the day before, he was clad in a perfectly tailored black suit that hugged every curve of his body. He was leaning over the front desk, casually chatting with Hector Ramirez, who looked just as gorgeous as every time Michael saw him. The student’s heart sank on his chest, thinking he might have misinterpreted things with the local man. After all, why would such a stud be interested in a weedy foreign man? Self-doubt plagued Michael’s mind, triggering his flight instinct. But before he could sneak out of there unembarrassed, he heard Iñigo’s booming voice resonate on the high ceiling of the hacienda.

“Michael! Over here!”

Michael’s resistance melted the instant he heard that deep accented bass mention his name. He turned around, putting on the best smile his lips could muster.

“Hello Iñigo. You’re a bit early”, he said approaching the handsome man. Iñigo immediately took his hand for a firm handshake. The student’s heart skipped a bit, feeling that strong grasp on his palm again.

“Ah, yes. I was talking a bit with the guys at the front desk. I’m always impressed to see how much Hector has grown.”, he said looking back at the front desk. “The boy was raised on one of my family’s properties. It makes me proud to see he grew up to be such a responsible young man.”

Michael wasn’t surprised to find out that Iñigo was probably an influential figure in this town. His poise, his style and his manners depicted a very cultured and educated person.

“So, are you ready to taste the best tequila you ever had?”, asked Iñigo, inviting Michael to walk next to him.

“Only a little bit. I’m not ready to re-live my university party days.”

“Ah, of course. It’s only going to be a taste. After all, the highlight of this town is the wine. I’ll be your own personal sommelier tonight.”, said Iñigo. Both men then headed outside, where the man’s car was waiting for them.

The place they were visiting was more on the outer part of town. The art gallery used to be an old factory, adapted to showcase the local artists’ works. According to the Mexican, one of the best cantinas was right next to the place. Before heading for dinner, Iñigo invited Michael to take a look through the many exhibitions. Walking around, the student got more and more mesmerized by the handsome man, as he explained all the different art movements embodied in the paintings.

“Many of the upcoming artists here are struggling. This gallery gives them an opportunity to show their talent to the world. Even if their work isn’t immediately bought, the fact that they’re being seen for their artistry is enough for most of them. Creativity flourishes in adversity.”, said Iñigo, admiring the different paintings before them. Michael just listened silently. He could relate more to those artists than the man thought, having gone through plenty of adversity himself. Iñigo noticed the student’s increasingly grim expression, and made a detour to head to the cantina.

Once they were sitting on a table, the waiter brought them a few snacks and two caballitos. Iñigo ordered the best tequila in the house in Spanish. Michael didn’t realize he was starting to understand even the single expressions in the foreign language. The waiter poured both glasses full, and with a small toast both men took a sip of the agave drink.

“So, Michael. These two eyes have seen many people come and go from this town. When I see you, I see you’re in need of a friend. What happened there?”

The student looked down on his glass, not knowing what to answer. Iñigo was still a stranger after all. But there was something inside of him that wanted to vomit his concealed feelings. The emotions were bubbling inside of him, causing his body temperature to rise. He unbuttoned his shirt's uppermost button, feeling the fresh air brush against his hot skin. The handsome man’s allure was too powerful, inspiring trust and confidence in Michael.

“Nothing important,'' he said, taking a sip of tequila. “Art galleries remind me of someone.”

“Someone? As in important someone?”, asked Iñigo. His dark eyes staring deeply into the student’s own.

“Yes. My ex-boyfriend was a very talented artist. He used to love visiting these places, interpreting the paintings and translating the artists’ emotions in such a way that I understood everything.”

Michael’s eyes started to water, but he made an inhuman effort to swallow the tears. Iñigo noticed the student’s distress, and took his hand.

“Whatever happened between you two, it's in the past. You can learn from it, but you can’t live in it. You have to let go.”

“How…?”, asked Michael, his voice breaking. The onyx heart in his pocket started to pulse, its cold surface heating up slowly. “I spent months trying to heal. My entire life crumbled right in front of me. That’s why I’m here. This was my last resort, so I wouldn’t…”.

He couldn’t finish the sentence. Iñigo rubbed his rough fingers on the student’s hand, trying his best to calm him down. The man’s touch was having a positive effect on Michael, a feeling of safety washing all over him. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt so comfortable with someone, despite talking about the one thing he couldn’t talk about to other people.

“Pain is a very strange thing,'' said Iñigo. “You can feel it trying to destroy you. If you let it, it will. But the truth is, that pain teaches you how strong you are.”

“What do you mean?”, asked Michael looking up to meet the man’s gaze.

“I don’t know what you’ve been through, but the fact that you’re sitting here with me is a testament to your fortitude. You survived.”

Michael’s expression eased up, as the man’s words entered his being, and washed all the sorrow away. He could almost feel the black heart syphoning the negativity away.

“Once you let go of the past, you will see your destiny.”

Michael smiled at Iñigo, his own heart warming up. He took the tequila glass up and made another toast.

“For destiny.”

Iñigo raised his glass too, smiling at the student. He could feel a strong attraction for him as well, and he couldn’t tell why. A lifetime in that town had taught him not to question destiny’s intricate design. Letting things flow was the best path of action one could take.

“For destiny.”

Both men kept drinking all night. Michael didn’t notice how much alcohol went into his system. He was a lightweight when it came to alcohol, but for some reason he could keep up with Iñigo all night long. He could feel his torso slowly starting to press against the shirt, the buttons starting to struggle to keep it closed. His movement was being restricted by the fabric, his back forbidding his arms to move forward. The pressure on his jeans was unbearable, so he eventually took off his belt and unbuttoned the pants. By the time the bottle was empty, it was past midnight and both men were slightly drunk.

“So, my friend. I owe you an apology.”, said Iñigo, his voice losing some of its elegance and acquiring a hint of macho that made Michael’s manhood twitch. “I didn’t let you try out the wine I promised.”

“Don’t worry, hombre.”, said Michael, his own voice feeling a bit more raspy than usual. “I’ll still be here a couple of more days.”

“Then let me promise, tomorrow I’ll take you to the vineyard. A private tour. What do you say?”

“Of course, I’d love it. With one condition. You have to wear some sexy outfit para el campo

Iñigo’s laugh almost made the bar’s glasses shake.

“You got it, my friend.”

Iñigo’s driver dropped Michael at his hotel, and drove away into the night. By the time he made it to his room, the drunk student barely managed to take off his shoes and plummet into the bed, straight into Morpheus’ embrace.

 

When Michael opened his eyes, he was standing in an identical copy of his bedroom. His sheets were undone, as usual, and his clothes were laying on their usual spot on the floor. The lights were on, and everything looked normal. Someone was sitting on the bed, facing straight into the dark window on the other side of the room.

“So, you finally made it huh? Took you long enough.”

Michael’s face grew pale, as the person turned around and he knew exactly who he was.

“Will?”

“In the flesh,'' said Will standing up from the bed. “I really thought you weren’t going to make it.”

“When have I not made it?” asked Michael approaching the other man.

“You know when.”

“That’s not fair Will, I gave you everything I had.”

Will’s face grew somber, a sinister shadow spreading on his eyes.

“Not everything. You never gave your all for this relationship. Not even a year and you’re already looking for a replacement.”

“That’s not true! It was a difficult time for both of us. The world was trying its best to kill us. And I stayed. It tore me apart, but I stayed. You were the one that left!”

“You know it wasn’t my fault!”, roared Will, the room shaking uncontrollably. The dark shadow was spreading from Will’s body into the surroundings, making the wooden floor decay and the painting on the walls peel down. “I was sick! What else were you expecting? Can you really blame me for what happened? Let me rephrase that. Do you still blame me for what happened?!”

Before Michael could answer, the decaying floor gave away, and the student fell into the darkness below. On his way down, he heard the dreaded siren of an ambulance, he saw the blue lights of a police car, and felt his own wails of suffering escape his throat once again. The light of the room went up and away like a shooting star.

 

“Room service!”

A knocking on the door pulled Michael out from his sleep. He had no idea how late it was, but judging by the bright light coming in from the window, it must be nearing noon. He felt like he was run over by a bulldozer. Slowly, he dragged his heavy body out of the bed to answer the knocking.

Un Segundo”, he said, his accent in Spanish not as pronounced as it used to be. When he opened the door, he was met by the startled face of a small woman in a maid’s outfit.

“Uhh…, vuelvo después.”, she said and rapidly disappeared with her car in the hallway. Michael just stood there with the door half open, wondering if he said something wrong. The woman looked embarrassed and impressed. He headed to the bathroom for his morning routine, but when he saw himself in the mirror he almost screamed for help, thinking a stranger had gotten inside his suite.

“Damn, is that me?”, he said admiring his different body on the reflective surface.

The shirt had given up during the night, and on the opening Michael could see a lean muscular torso. The small bristles had grown into a full dark carpet that covered his hard chest and descended over the faint ridges of his abdominal muscles into the overly stretched waistband of his jeans. He struggled to take the ruined garment off, to finally free his much thicker arms from their confinement. They were covered by thick body hair as well. He flexed in front of the mirror, a small hill rising from his upper arm. Even his armpit hair was different, the sparse blonde hair replaced by a thick bush. Despite being so hairy, he still looked well groomed. Not a single hair looked unkempt, all his pelt meticulously designed to accentuate the much more athletic body. He forcefully took off his jeans, revealing thick corded muscle underneath. His boxer briefs were now stretched by an actual ass, instead of the flat surface that occupied them before. Even his bigger feet were hairy now, each toe displaying a dusting of its own. He took a closer look at his face. His nose seemed bigger, along with a more pronounced brow and higher cheekbones. He looked rougher, and mature. His blue eyes looked a bit darker, and his hair was browner instead of blonde now, and looked more wavy than straight like it used to be. What really stood out from his new visage was the dark five o’clock shadow covering his square jaw. It was rough as sandpaper, and so thick no naked skin was visible underneath.

Michael was completely speechless, feeling new strength and energy coursing through his whole body. Somehow, it felt right. He wasn’t scared, he was just surprised. The more time he moved his body in front of the mirror, the more normal it seemed. By the time he was able to turn around and get into the shower, the changes settled in his mind, and he fully accepted his new looks like they had always been there. Even the water felt more erogenous, flowing against the thick hair. He looked for something to wear, but the only things that fit him now were a pair of athletic shorts, and an oversized t-shirt he brought in case he decided to work out. His stomach rumbled loudly, so he quickly went out to grab something to eat. On his way to the restaurant, he greeted both hotel staff, and guests cordially, feeling very at ease with the people surrounding him. His shy demeanor was slowly disappearing, letting out a more confident and friendly personality. He ordered a lot of food from the restaurant’s lunch menu, enjoying every bite with a newfound taste. His tolerance to chili had grown as well, his palate discovering new sensations that came together with the wide variety of spices being served in the local cuisine. Michael was about to order a third plate, when he heard a familiar voice yell at him from the distance.

“Miguel! There you are! I was worried you weren’t going to survive the killer hangover,” said Iñigo approaching the table where the student was sitting. He looked different, wearing a skin-tight white shirt, open to expose his herculean chest. His jeans were sticking perfectly to his muscular legs, leaving nothing to Michael’s imagination about what the man was packing between his legs. Something about his greeting seemed strange to him though, but the infatuated student couldn’t point out what.

“Hey Iñigo! What did you just call me?”

“What do you mean? I said Michael, there you are. It seems some of the tequila’s blessings are still in your body!”, he said putting his heavy hand on Michael’s shoulders. “So, are you ready for your surprise today?”

“What surprise? You told me we’re going to the vineyard, right?”

“Ah, yes! I just didn’t tell you what we were going to do there!”, said Iñigo laughing. “But you’ll have to change clothes. That outfit is not suited for a day on the field. The ants will eat you alive.”

“But they’re my only clothes left…”, said the student looking down embarrassed. He was already feeling a bit self-conscious on spending a day on his workout clothes, not to mention the rest of his wardrobe was rendered useless with his increased mass.

“Don’t worry. I’ll tell Hector to bring you some proper clothes to your room. Once you’re done changing, meet me at the entrance to the field at the back of the hotel.”

Iñigo then walked back to the front desk, leaving Michael sitting on the table, wondering how that man could have anything he wanted with the click of his fingers. And true to his word, when he came back to the room, he found a bag of brand-new clothes waiting for him. A white shirt like the one Iñigo was wearing, alone with a pair of jeans, boots and a hat. The clothes looked big at first, but once he put the whole outfit on, he felt surprisingly comfortable. He took the onyx heart once again, putting it in his pocket, and left to meet Iñigo.

The vineyard belonging to the hotel was immense. Row after row of grape vines painted the dry field green, giving it a fertile appearance. A small building on top of the hill overlooked the crops. Michael assumed that must be the winery, where they distilled the fruit to make the drinks. He approached the wooden arch that worked as the entrance, when he heard heavy steps coming his way. Within a cloud of dust, Iñigo appeared sitting on a gigantic black stallion. The animal was beautiful, both powerful and graceful, fitting for the handsome man sitting on top. Next to him was an equally big and gorgeous chocolate colored horse, with an empty saddle on top.

“So, are you ready for our tour?”, said Iñigo.

“Horseback riding? I can’t even drive a bicycle! What makes you think I’ll be able to control…that.”, said the student nodding towards the imposing beast.

“It’s more intuitive than you think. Once you get on, you’ll feel you’ve been doing it your entire life.”

Michael hesitated for an instant, a milliard of possible accidents flashing quickly on his mind. He looked at the horse, and both man and creature made eye contact. Suddenly, the student felt calm and confident, and decided to give it a shot. With a grace he didn’t know he had, he jumped on the horse, taking it by the reigns.

“For someone who has never been on a horse, you sure look like a natural,'' said Iñigo checking the student out. He looked very attractive with his fitted white shirt and cowboy hat. “Follow me!”, he said and signaled his own stallion to gallop into the vineyard. Michael followed suit, using an instinct he didn’t know he had to guide the animal inside.

Both men galloped for some time, enjoying the warm breeze and the bright sunlight. Michael was grabbing the reins with force, using his newfound strength to keep his body in the right positions. The movement of the horse was sending ripples across his body, making his muscles twitch and adapt in response. His forearms flexed and grew, sinewy muscle taking root in the previously slender limbs. He used one free hand to roll up the sleeves, exposing the hairy muscle to the hot exterior. His biceps bulged out too, growing stronger the more the student pulled the reins. His triceps grew as big as the horseshoes the beast had attached to its hooves, hanging down and stretching the sleeves to impossible limits. His shoulders rounded out and grew as big as cannon balls, proportionate to the arms they were now supposed to carry. He was using his legs to stabilize himself, squeezing the animal with strength. The thick fabric of his jeans started to stretch, giving away to the tree trunks that were replacing his legs. He felt more comfortable once his ass ballooned out making a perfect cushion for the hard saddle underneath. Once he caught up with Iñigo, he used all his might to stop the horse, pulling the reins and making it rear. The sudden display of strength made his chest puff out into two massive concrete slabs, bursting out from the upper part of his shirt and forming an almost obscene cleavage. His stomach hardened into a perfectly cut eight-pack, bulging with strength, and his back flared out almost ripping the rest of the shirt to shreds.

“Woah! What a rrrush,” said Michael, rolling his tongue to pronounce the word.

“I told you, you’re a natural,'' said Iñigo, getting off the horse. “Come with me. I want you to take a look at the fruits.”

Both men entered one of the furthest rows of vines. Grapes hung from the plant’s cordons, giving some color to the otherwise green landscape. Iñigo took one fruit and tore it off, handing it to Michael. The student looked perplexed for a bit, worried they might get into trouble for damaging the plants. Iñigo saw Michael’s face, reading through his emotions, and smiled.

“Don’t worry. No one is going to tell us anything.”

“I’m sure a tour around the vineyard doesn’t include stealing some of the fruit.”

“It’s not stealing if you own it,'' said Iñigo laughing. Michael opened both his eyes in surprise, everything about the mysterious Mexican man suddenly making sense.

“Wait, so you own the vineyard? And the hotel?”

“Well, not only me.”, he said, his gaze suddenly getting lost in the distance.

“Who else?”, asked Michael, scratching his hairy pecs with his free hands.

“No, just me. I got confused for a second,” said Iñigo, diverting his attention back to Michael. “Anyways, try it out and tell me your opinion.”

Michael took the grape and put it in his mouth, its rich fruity flavor inundating his mind. He stayed quiet for a moment, his brain interpreting the taste and all the possible combinations with it. Iñigo leaned down playfully, looking for the student’s lost eyes.

“And?”

“Very tasty and rich in flavor. The tannins don’t taste that strong. It’s going to be a good crop. Malbec, right?”

Iñigo smiled, partially surprised the student had such a wide viticulture. Michael smiled back at him, puffing out his chest proudly and standing straighter. He didn’t notice when his body stretched up a few inches.

“Yes, it is. It’s the house’s specialty. We’re known for our wine’s rich and…”

“…and spicy flavor. I know. Very impressive, Iñigo. Well done.”

“If you want to try out some of the already prepared wine, let’s go to the winery. I assumed you would like wine, so I arranged a tasting for us.”

“I love it. Thank you, Iñigo.”, said Michael taking the now shorter man’s hand, squeezing it tenderly.

“Well, follow me then,'' said Iñigo, getting on his stallion and galloping uphill. Michael followed suit, and soon both men were entering the winery.

The rich scent of freshly pressed grapes, wine and wood filled in their nostrils, as they made a small tour looking at the machinery and storage. The distillery was big enough to be the most important in town, with the wine getting exported nationally and internationally. Iñigo explained the process to make wine, and Michael listened carefully. A lot of things made more sense than he thought, almost like he was an expert oenologist himself. When they made it to the end of the tour, a small candle lit table was waiting for them next to the massive storage shelves filled with bottles. They sat on opposing sides, chatting gleefully about new production methods and marketing ideas.

“I had no idea you’d be such a wine enthusiast”, said Iñigo taking a sip off his glass.

“What can I say, wine culture is in my family.”, said Michael, his mind erasing the fact that his parents didn’t even drink. “And you, my friend, have truly made a name for yourself with this winery. Everything is exquisite.”

Michael’s voice started to crack and drop, reaching a gruff bass deeper than Iñigo’s. His neck bulged out, thick cords of muscle climbing up from his traps to his head.

Only the best for you, my friend,'' said Iñigo, filling up the student’s glass. Both men looked up, staring at each other. Michael was finding it harder and harder not to throw himself on the Mexican man, and judging by his face, so was Iñigo.

So, Miguel, how have you liked your trip?”

“Well, I certainly love the town. It’s filled with good people. Not to mention the rich cultural heritage.”

“Tell me, what has been your favorite part?”, Iñigo asked, already knowing the answer.

Neither one of them realized the conversation shifted naturally to Spanish, Michael speaking perfectly in the tonality of the region.

“Well, the food is definitely tastier and richer, the architecture exquisite, a testament to both colonial and Mexican artistry, and the artistic talent lurking around every corner. I couldn’t possibly just choose one.”

He stayed quiet for a moment, admiring Iñigo’s handsome face.

“If I had to choose… I would choose you. You made the whole trip magical. I wish it wouldn’t end.”

“It doesn’t have to,'' said Iñigo, getting closer. “You could stay. I’d like you to stay.”

Michael looked down for a bit, a glimmer of his sorrow still present inside of him.

“I can’t… I need to go back home.”

“Why? You could start fresh here! Live a new life, and leave your past behind.”

Michael’s head was spinning. Part of him was still attached to his pain, almost addicted to it. The pain he used as an excuse not to move forward, to stay tacit and not look for change. Even if that change brought happiness with it. But another part of him was telling him he belonged there. He could make his life, and the life of others, much better if he just let go off the past. The black stone in his pocket was pulsing, balancing the energy inside his body. Soon, the part of him that was frozen in the past started to get smaller, its voice drowning in the shine of the possible future. He was ready to take that leap of faith, and find a new destiny.

Without saying a word, he got up and threw himself at Iñigo, their mouths interlocking in a passionate kiss. With a mighty push of his arm, he wiped the wooden table off the glasses and plates, and both men threw themselves on the sturdy surface, which miraculously stayed in one piece, supporting the weight of both massive bodies. Michael explored every corner of the Mexican man’s mouth, tasting the sweet aftermath of the wine. His jaw cracked and grew like a cinder block, ending with a cleft chin worthy of a superhero. The rough shadow of his beard stayed the same length, but a majestic handlebar of a mustache blossomed on his upper lip. He descended on Iñigo’s neck, biting and licking it, filling his lungs with the man’s strong scent. He could practically taste the wooden smell, along with the intoxicating natural musk product of an afternoon in the hot sunlight. Iñigo grabbed the student’s body with his both hands, feeling the vast expanse of his muscular back underneath his palms. With ease, Michael tore Iñigo’s shirt open, exposing a chiseled torso worthy of a renaissance marble sculpture. The light caramel tone of his skin only accentuated the deep cuts of his muscle. It wasn’t as massive as Michael’s, but much more meticulously sculpted to the point of obsession. He descended further, licking the man’s hard chest and tasting the salty flavor of fresh sweat. Michael’s face changed further, cracking and growing to match his new size. His brow was pronounced over his eyes, and his nose cracked and grew thicker, giving him a much rougher appearance than Iñigo. The hair on his head darkened, finally matching the pelt on his body, and styled itself into an elegant side part.

Iñigo tore the student’s shirt open too, exposing the hairy mountains underneath. Even his back was hairy, sporting its own dark dusting. Michael’s pecs were round and heavy, less defined than Iñigo’s, but much more powerful-looking. He had to tear the sleeves apart, because the gargantuan arms wouldn’t fit through the openings anymore. Once Michael made it to the Mexican’s crotch, he swiftly undid the button and took his pants away, exposing some tight silk briefs with a massive bulge inside. Playfully, he bit the elastic and pulled it down, and Iñigo’s overgrown penis jumped out, almost slapping him on the face. With dexterity, he took the entire member inside his mouth and began massaging it with his tongue. Iñigo’s deep moans resonated through the rows of shelves, as he relished in the feelings that were spreading from his loins. Michael started to taste the flavor of the Mexican’s essence, which triggered another phase in his change. His muscles thickened and grew some more, gaining a layer of healthy fat over them. His stomach bulged out like a tortoise’s shell, worthy of a strongman more than a bodybuilder. His chest got heavier, and his ass bulged out further into a massive boulder. Then, his pale skin started to darken, acquiring the characteristic caramel tone of a Latin man. His features rearranged to cement his new heritage.

After some minutes, he stopped sucking Iñigo’s manhood, and took off his own jeans, exposing his underwear. A small tent could be seen inside, the last remainder of his old body. In an impressive display of strength, he turned Iñigo around, took off his underwear, and started to rub himself against the man’s hard bubble butt. He got on top of him, their faces meeting once again, and tenderly kissed the Mexican’s cheek whilst opening his way inside of Iñigo. The Mexican man grunted; the slight pain being swiftly replaced by pleasure jolts that travelled across his body. Michael started to pump harder, his own deep moans overshadowing the other man’s. The pressure in the student’s own member started to grow, filling it with more blood and filling it beyond its limit. Thrust after thrust the manhood grew, until Michael had a penis comparable to a wine bottle. Iñigo was squirming underneath the much bigger man, his body almost unable to handle so much pleasure. Michael’s balls swelled as well, dropping lower and hitting the Mexican’s hamstrings in a constant rhythm. The overexposure to new hormones changed Michael’s body further. Muscles aged, looking more lived in. His skin roughened up some more, and sprinkles of white extended all over his body hair. His hairline receded, and his mustache acquired a gray hue. Crow’s feet extended from his eyes, giving the man’s new age away. With a powerful thrust, he inundated the Mexican’s gut with his seed, both men screaming in ecstasy. He fell on top of Iñigo, who finished a couple of times on the table. Both men were sweating profusely, the scent of sex almost overtaking the wine’s fruity smell. They cuddled in silence for a bit, enjoying the last orgasmic ripples leaving their bodies.

“So, I hope I could convince you to stay,'' said Iñigo, rubbing his face against the bigger man’s hairy chest.

“How could I leave? This is my home.”, said Michael, the new memories slowly overwriting his old ones.

After getting dressed, both men left towards the hotel. Iñigo entered the room with Michael, and the two of them joined in passionate lovemaking the rest of the night, with the pale moon as their only witness watching peacefully from the big windows.

 

 

When Michael opened his eyes, he was standing on the top of a green hill. The sun was shining, and he could feel the fresh spring breeze on his face. On top of the hill was a tree, and underneath its shadow laid Will, with his arms behind his head and his gaze fixed on the sky, watching the white clouds pass. The student walked towards the tree, and sat in the shade next to him.

“This is it? The end? For your life?”, asked Will without looking at Michael.

“No, Will. This is a new opportunity.”

“Lucky you. You still have an opportunity.”, answered Will sarcastically, looking at Michael’s peaceful face. “So, what’s gonna happen to me?”

Michael took a deep breath, enjoying the almost forgotten peace he so much craved.

“You’re going to live inside of me. All the memories, all the experiences, all the laughs and jokes and surprises will be forever in my heart. But also, the grief, the loss, the impotence. I will never forget what you taught me.”

Will looked at Michael quizzically, a hint of doubt still lurking behind his eyes.

“I need to tell you one last thing. I’m sorry, Will. I’m sorry for not being the strong pillar you needed. I’m sorry for letting my own demons blind me from your pain. And most of all, I’m sorry for not expressing enough how accompanied you were. You were never alone. I need you to understand that. You were loved, and cared for. Despite what you might think, I was always there for you.”, said Michael, a tear slowly sliding down his cheek. “I forgive you. And, please, forgive me. I’m going to start a new life, and I need to let you go.”

Will smiled, his somber demeanor fading away and leaving his usual playful side behind.

“You were always the sentimental one. Fine, you have my blessing.”, he said standing up and heading down the hill. Before fading from view, he looked back at Michael. “You deserve to be happy. Glad you finally understood it.”

And with that, he disappeared into the distance. Michael stood up and stretched. He felt the new weight on his body, and when he looked down he was greeted by his new form. His powerful chest was blocking his view from the lower side of his body, and he could feel his mustache quiver in the wind. He took one last breath, and let himself be swallowed by the sunlight.

 

When he opened his eyes, he was no longer Michael, but Miguel. He looked to his side, to find Iñigo laying next to him, still sleeping. He got up and observed his surroundings. The room looked slightly changed, more lived in. The big closet was filled to the brim with different suits, boots and hats. The bathroom sink was full of lotions, creams and shaving utensils. Staring in the mirror he saw himself for the first time since the change. He looked imposing and regal, like a true gentleman. He stroked his thick mustache, feeling its softness with his fingers. He heard Iñigo groaning, so he headed into the room. Iñigo stared at him with his dark brown eyes, with the same infatuation from the first day they met.

“Buenos días, amor,'' he said, getting up and planting a sweet kiss on the older man’s lips.

Suddenly, Miguel’s mind filled in the holes of his new life. He was Miguel Rosales de la Fuente, owner of the hotel Real de Rosales, along with its vineyard and winery. A true staple in San Miguel de Allende’s society, and Iñigo de la Fuente’s husband. He felt the gold wedding ring on his finger, remembering the day he first saw Iñigo when he arrived in town almost thirty years ago. He was fresh out of university, and Iñigo was barely entering adulthood. He stayed in the de la Fuente’s family hostel, and soon grew fascinated with the town. He put his education to good use, and founded the winery. The hotel came afterwards, and soon the entire town revered him as a mentor. He was responsible for the many restoration processes all over town. He loved it, and did his best in keeping it in shape. Iñigo declared his love with many serenatas, and soon both men were tying the knot in an alternative ceremony. It was decades later when they were finally able to officialize their marriage, and they have been living and travelling the world ever since. Miguel liked to come back to town from time to time, always staying in his hotel.

“Buenos días, cielo,'' said Miguel embracing the shorter man. “What’s your plan for today?”

“I told Hector I would show him his new workout regime. The kid is growing big.”

“I know, I’ve had to buy a couple of new uniforms for him this year alone.”, said Miguel flexing his biceps absentmindedly. “Mind if I join you? I need to let out some steam before the many scheduled reunions today. Gotta meet with the mayor for a new trash recycling plan, and if I don’t lift heavy, I’m going to have a difficult time keeping my temper.”

“Sure! I’m certain Hector will appreciate having you around. Sometimes I feel you’re the one he takes seriously.”

“It's probably because the mass impresses him!”, said Miguel laughing loudly, puffing out his chest. “You’re the expert in training, not me.”

“That much is true. Let’s go then, you don’t wanna be late to your meetings. And we both know how much time you need to actually get ready.”

Iñigo headed into the bathroom to wash himself, and Miguel approached the window, watching the whole vineyard before him. He really made a difference when he decided to stay in San Miguel de Allende. It was truly a magical town. He looked back at the bedside table. The onyx heart was laying there, its smooth surface glistening. Miguel smiled, thanking it quietly. Despite having adopted a new life, a last vestige of the person he used to be remained inside of him, to remind him how precious life was, and how you can always find a new destiny in the most unexpected places.

IMG_2732-2.thumb.jpg.572af8af2c959bfc69c16f8a4f7b27a0.jpg

 

 

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Great story!  Sweet and romantic and the growth was perfectly subtle.

Thank you for the awesome story and honoring your commitment to the Storyversary. 

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