2. Nayara de la Vega
After the initial surprise, the two girls stared at each other, unable to articulate a word for several seconds at least, until Lightning chose to hawk at them to bring them back to Earth.
“Hello? Can someone explain to me what’s going on here?”
Sally was the first to react.
“Sorry, honey. This is–Nayara de la Vega. My best friend ever” ―and before Lightning could do anything but pop the hood in a perfect amazed ‘O’, Sally turned to the other young car. “I can’t believe it–How long has it been?” she whispered. “Five years?”
When asked, the ‘Naya’, or Nayara, an elegant silver Audi A6 with brown eyes shook her nose, as if she had just descended from the world of dreams, before showing half a scathing face.
“Five years and three months, to be exact,” she replied with some derision. “But don’t worry, I took all your clients, so I suppose it was a good thing you left without even saying goodbye–”
Sally smiled, excited, knowing that this was just one of the thousand jokes they had exchanged forever. And when Nayara waved back, she muttered:
“Naya, I–I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have left like that, without telling you.”
The young Audi shook a wheel to play it down.
“I won’t deny that it hurt at first, but–I always knew that when you did something, it was because you had a reason. And that–” ―She gave Lightning a glance, which didn’t go unnoticed by this one, and then seemed to ask Sally’s permission in silence. She just pressed her lips together and opened her windshield almost to the fullest. So Naya, understanding her language, changed the subject quickly, turning to the red car ―. So–the rumors were true.
Sally breathed a sigh of relief, and not just because she felt again that her private life had stopped being so for a couple of years.
“Naya, this is Lightning–My partner.”
“Lightning McQueen,” whistled Naya in admiration as the two politely crashed into the front wheel. “I must admit, I’m quite a fan―and congratulations.”
The racer, who had just recovered from the surprise of that strange situation, responded with a modest nod.
“Thank you, Naya. It’s a pleasure to meet someone from Sally’s past, finally.”
She made a gesture that looked like a forced smile, which made Lightning be even more on guard.
“Well, I’m certainly one of the best options,” Naya pretended to be proud to get out of the way as she noticed Sally looking sideways at her to check her reactions.
“I don’t doubt it,” said Lightning, smiling at his girlfriend, who returned it to him, restrained by her nerves.
Since Naya had appeared, a dark feeling had settled in her soul. Something she feared would come true at any moment. However, she chose to focus her attention on the conversation between Lightning and her best friend.
“And how did you meet, if I may ask?”
After crossing a new complicit gaze with her friend, Sally tried to relax while responding with sincerity.
“Naya and I grew up together in Los Angeles, and we’ve been together all our lives.”
“Yep, even at Harvard college,” Naya proudly said, pretending not to notice the wheelspin that Sally gave her, embarrassed, as she checked Lignthing’s windshield arching in her direction.
A gesture that was meant to say: ‘Harvard, huh?’
“Mind you, I admit you got the best grade of the class”, added Naya.
Lightning laughed tenderly.
“Yeah, I’d say that too.”
And at the dumb question reflected on Naya’s eyes, Sally was quick to clarify:
“At Radiator Springs, I’m the town’s attorney”
The other young woman grimaced her lips, showing some understanding, not without curiosity. But at that moment she was the one questioned.
“And what does it mean that you ‘took all my clients’?” Sally joked, “Where are you now?”
“Well–After you left, I switched to Wheeler&Co, and they recently wanted to give me the whole of the D.C. department–But I had to quit because of another case.”
Sally squinted. That response had been too evasive to take lightly, and more so with knowing each other.
Or was it–?
She shook the thought unwillingly. Perhaps, in those non-contact years, Naya had rebuilt her life without her, and Sally could understand. She had wanted to leave everything behind without thinking, but maybe, just maybe–
“By the Car Almighty, what case would be so important as to give up such a promotion?”
She was scandalized, sincere. To which, Naya, in response, smiled fondly.
“You’ll never change, huh?”
But when she saw that Sally was stuck on her guns and not going to play another game, she sighed and said.
“As I know you know, my father has always been Dinoco’s lawyer,” Lightning, who was listening to the conversation, was speechless, but Sally seemed to take it for granted. Few people didn’t know about the reputation of the four generations of the ‘De La Vega family’ in the world of ‘law’. You could almost say that the word ‘justice’ was engraved on their family crest.
“But Mr. Tex’s case just came to him as he was about to retire and, well–” Naya added, “let’s just say they thought of me to handle it.”
Sally, for a second, didn’t know what to say to that. If she added that piece to the puzzle, she wasn’t sure where it would lead. Naya had always opted for the fiscal career, while Sally was more inclined to call it the criminal one. But she still didn’t understand why someone like Tex had to face a trial of the first kind―of course, the reputation of big business always ended up involving money matters―but–Dinoco?
“What happened to Tex?” asked Lightning, as worried as she was. “What are they accusing him of?”
But before Naya could respond, another voice they knew well did it for her:
“Those htB vultures, who want to accuse me of embezzlement. Can you believe that?” Tex appeared behind them, startling them slightly, but the three of them relaxed as soon as they saw that his expression was friendly. “Howdy, kid. What a season.”
“Thank you, Tex.”
“You know I’d sign up for your team,” Naya joked, with a certain twinkle in her eye that Lightning knew well. “But, you know, ‘girls don’t break the pavement’. Am I right, Sal?”
She winked at her childhood friend, and this one rolled her eyes without wanting to look at her boyfriend, who seemed to find that well of secrets that Naya was, of the most interesting.
“Yes, I know, Naya,” Tex played along with the lawyer girl. “But, first, let’s see if that Mustang punk will stop sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong–Damn snotty attorney–”
For Sally, that mention was like an electric shock going through her entire body, from the wheels to the nose plate.
She gasped―it wasn’t possible. But almost before Lightning could get close, concerned to see her so suddenly upset, a voice froze her circuits behind her. One she knew, unfortunately, better than she would have liked.
“Those are tough words, Mr. Tex. Especially in front of such distinguished ladies.”
Alex Mustang appeared accompanied by a Porsche Panamera, with shiny black bodywork and lips outlined in gold. He immediately went to Lightning, ignoring the looks of displeasure that Tex and Naya gave him or a petrified Sally.
“Lightning McQueen, the hero of the night. Congratulations on your victory. Or for your ‘victories’ ” he laughed with obvious falsehood. “As you wish.”
“Thank you, Mr–”
“Mustang,” the other one introduced himself, bowing his scarlet and silver nose. “Alex Mustang.”
“I know your reputation, Mr. Mustang,” added Lightning. “It’s a pleasure.”
To his surprise, Alex giggled and raised his nose immediately.
“Yeah, well; it’s too bad my fee is so high, isn’t it? It would have been an honor to represent you.”
Lightning was speechless and didn’t know what that boast was about; moreover, directed like an arrow towards his ego. But before he could say anything, a scene came before his eyes that he could hardly forget for a long time. As if in slow motion, Alex turned to Sally, as if he had just realized she was there–and his face changed to one of absolute bewilderment. Sally, for her part, forced herself to hold his gaze coldly when he babbled:
To which she replied in a monochord tone:
“Hi, Alex. It’s been a long time.”