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Authors: Alli Sinclair

Under the Spanish Stars (31 page)

BOOK: Under the Spanish Stars
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‘I …' What was the point in lying? Abuela would extract the truth anyway. ‘I may have fallen just a little bit.'

‘I venture to say you have tumbled from a great height. Look at you, all happy and floaty. It is good to see this trip to Spain has done you wonders.'

‘But I went for you, Abuela.' Charlotte fiddled with the hem of her T-shirt.

‘Yes, you did, but it appears we have both benefited.' She patted her granddaughter's hand. ‘I need you to return.'

‘What? I just got off the plane! It takes almost
two days
, Abuela.
Two days
of travelling to get from here to there!'

‘But if you get on a plane now and arrive in Spain quick-smart you'll reverse your jetlag.' She cocked an eyebrow.

‘It doesn't work that way, Abuela.' Charlotte flopped back in the chair. ‘What about work? Dad will be on my back if I don't go into the office. There's only so long he can deal with me missing—'

‘Have you told him you are home?'

‘No.'

‘Then turn around and get on the next plane back to Granada. You're young and healthy, your body can deal with it. Flight hostesses—'

‘Flight attendants.'

‘Fine … flight attendants do it all the time. I'll deal with Ian when he gets back from his trip. He won't argue with me, I'm his mother.' She proceeded to have a fake coughing fit. ‘I'm ill, remember? And Steve and Heather will keep their traps shut.'

‘You and Mum seem to be awfully chummy.'

‘Illness makes people reassess their relationships. It puts a different spin on the world.'

This, no doubt, was the closest to a compliment her mother would ever receive from Abuela.

Her grandmother coughed again, although this time it seemed real. ‘Stop living your life for others and go out there and find your own.'

‘I did!' She crossed her arms and frowned. Abuela always had the knack of bringing out the six-year-old in Charlotte.

‘Then keep doing it.'

‘But you're ill, Abuela. I should be here helping you get better.'

‘I have too many people fussing over me already. Knowing you are in Granada doing things I can't makes me feel a whole lot better and gives me a reason not to give up. Do not argue with me.' Her tone sounded light but held an undercurrent of seriousness that convinced Charlotte she would only lose this argument. Finding a smile, Abuela said, ‘Be a dear, and pass me my handbag.'

Charlotte did as requested and waited for her grandmother to find whatever she was looking for. Eventually she pulled out a ziplock bag that contained a tattered envelope. She indicated for Charlotte to hold out her hand then placed the plastic bag on her palm.

‘I have carried this with me for decades. It's a letter I once wrote for someone I cared for deeply and I guess I never parted with it because it reminded me of my youth. At the time I wrote this I was too afraid to give it to him and I hesitated for so long that in the end I missed my chance. Since then I have tried to find the courage to deliver this, but going back to Spain fills me with dread. Plus my body is too old and withered to make that kind of trip. But you, my beautiful girl, can go back and put this on his grave. I am afraid I don't know where he is buried so you will
need to ask your Mateo to help you find it.'

‘I'm so sorry you lost someone you cared for.' Lowering her voice, she asked, ‘Do you mind telling me what happened?' Maybe now that her grandmother had opened up about her family in Spain she might share other details of her life back there. Although the raised eyebrow Charlotte received told her she was off the mark.

Abuela reached for the notepad beside her bed, scrawled some words and folded it in half. ‘Do not look at the name or details until you are in Granada, as it will not do you any good until you are there. Please deliver this as asked and perhaps by the time you return I will be ready to share the story. It was a complicated situation and, in my eyes, still is. Just know this letter is long overdue. Now you have three reasons to return.'

‘Two—deliver the letter and find out more about Syeria, right?'

‘You forgot number three—Mateo.'

‘Oh, no. It's impossible. We—'

‘Do not throw the chance of love away. It is precious and should be respected,' said Abuela.

‘Why didn't you ask me to deliver this the first time I went to Spain? It certainly would have been more practical.'

‘Since you went I have revisited many memories, both good and bad, and it is time I dealt with them. Darling girl, I realise I'm asking a lot for you to go back so soon and I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important. You know I deeply appreciate everything you do for me. By the way, I'm not asking you to return to Spain for purely selfish reasons—you need to go back so you don't miss out on being with someone who makes you happy.'

‘But Mateo and I have different lives. We live on opposite sides of the world—'

‘Nonsense. Do not live in a future of what-ifs, Charlotte. Live in the moment and things will work out the way they should.' Abuela gripped Charlotte's hand so hard she felt like her knuckles had been crushed. ‘There are many reasons why I don't talk about my flamenco days but I will say one thing and I want you to remember it.'

‘Okay,' said Charlotte, surprised and ecstatic to hear more about Abuela's life.

‘When you open up to flamenco you open up to love.'

‘You sound like Mateo.'

‘I like this young man already.'

‘Huh.' Charlotte smiled. ‘He said something similar about you.'

‘Perhaps we are kindred spirits who are both looking out for you.' Abuela patted Charlotte's arm. ‘You work too hard. Take life too seriously. It is time for you to lighten up and have some fun. Go and do as I ask but also allow yourself to be in the company of a man who makes you feel good. I do not want you to get to my age, full of regret about what could have been had you made different decisions.'

CHAPTER
22

Charlotte wiped sweat from her brow as she powered across the cobblestoned street towards Bar Alegría. Although it was the middle of the night in Australia but early evening in Granada, Charlotte's body had adjusted surprisingly well for someone who had recently spent a crazy amount of time in airports and planes. She wasn't willing to give credence, though, to Abuela's ridiculous theory about reversing jetlag.

When she'd first arrived in Granada, Charlotte had spent a few minutes madly pressing the ringer to Mateo's apartment and calling his mobile phone, without success. She now strode through the door of the bar and squeezed her way through the throng of sweaty bodies, and her ears were assailed by Spanish pop music blasting through tinny speakers.

‘Charlotte! It is nice to see you!' Pedro smiled as he poured beers from the tap and lined them up for a tall man with beefy arms and a perfectly manicured goatee.

She'd barely had time for a dodgy airport coffee before taking the next flight back to Granada. ‘I'm looking for Mateo.'

‘He is not here.' Pedro ignored the other patrons and poured a glass of water and handed it to Charlotte, raising an eyebrow at her sweaty, dishevelled state.

‘
Gracias
.' She took a gulp then asked, ‘Do you know where he could be?'

‘No, but she might.' Pedro cocked his head to the left and Charlotte turned to find Cristina forcing her way through the crowd. A well-aimed elbow whacked Charlotte in the ribcage.

‘Ow!'

‘
¿Cual es tu problema?
' Cristina's dark hair flew across her face and she pushed back her locks with force. Her eyes narrowed when she realised
who she'd just assaulted then she stuck her nose in the air and turned to Pedro, a flurry of Spanish falling from her pouty red lips. Mateo's name was shouted a few times and Pedro managed to get in the odd word, but the crowd around them soon grew agitated with this woman demanding attention from the only person serving drinks. A guy Charlotte had seen propping up the bar on previous visits turned and gave Cristina what for which led to a furious battle of wills. When it looked like it would get physical, a couple of the musicians from the stage jumped off and grabbed Cristina and the guy with the loud mouth, and shoved them through the crowd and out onto the street. A cheer deafened Charlotte as she hurried outside to check on the woman whose temper was worse than a bull.

The doors to the bar slammed shut while Cristina yelled at the crowd gathered on the other side of the bar window. She let fly with some choice expletives and an impressive array of rude gestures while the guy who had picked a fight with her retreated down the cobblestoned road and around the corner.

‘Cristina!' Charlotte yelled, but was ignored as the beautiful woman in the red dress carried on like she'd grown up on the docks. ‘Cristina! Stop! You're making it worse!'

Cristina continued mouthing off so Charlotte grabbed Cristina's arm and tried to haul her away, but the tiny woman dug her stilettos into the cobblestones and continued her tirade towards the people in the bar. Digging her fingers into Cristina's bony arms, Charlotte pulled with all her might. ‘Get. Your. Arse. Out. Of. Here. You. Idiot!'

Cristina whipped her arm out of Charlotte's vicelike grip and stared at her with wide eyes. ‘
¿Idiota? ¿Yo soy una idiota?
'

‘The one word you understand in English is idiot?' A small smile crept across Charlotte's lips. In mangled Spanish, she tried to say, ‘I didn't really mean you're an idiot. I just meant it might be a good idea to get out of here.' Charlotte didn't wait for a reply and grabbed Cristina again, catching her unawares. She dragged the squawking woman down the hill, across the bridge, and into a small side street. Pulling out the mobile phone again, she dialled Mateo. ‘Come on! Come on!'

‘
¿Hola?
'

‘Mateo! Hi, it's—'

‘Charlotte! I have been thinking about you all of today. How is your
abuela
? How is Melbourne?'

‘I'm not—'

Cristina ripped the phone out of Charlotte's hand and started yelling into it. She waved her spare hand around, her long fingernails almost taking out Charlotte's eye. After a few moments she disconnected the call and handed the phone back to Charlotte.

‘Hey, I was—'

‘
Espera
.' She held up her hand and arched her perfectly shaped eyebrows.

‘Listen, I don't care who you are, you can't—'

‘Shh.'

Charlotte gave up trying to voice her opinion. She didn't quite have the language skills to get her point across, plus Cristina didn't appear to be in a mood to listen anyway.

A few minutes later the yellow car sped around the corner and pulled up in a cloud of exhaust fumes. Mateo jumped out then rested his arm on the top of the open door.

‘I do not believe these eyes of mine.' His lopsided smile made her stomach flip.

‘Well, your eyes are not lying.'

‘I like that they tell the truth.'

The car stood between her and Mateo, neither of them making a move to hug, whether it was from surprise at her quick return or shyness. Cristina started yelling at Mateo to get in the car and drive and Mateo shook his head, as if waking from a stupor.

‘I need to help Cristina but I will return later. Are you at the same hotel?'

‘I am, but maybe I can help you.'

‘No, it is …' He frowned, as if debating with himself. ‘Okay, but you must stay in the car when we get to the community.'

‘Okay.'

Cristina climbed into the front seat and Charlotte slid into the back, feeling bad about pushing her nose into something that didn't concern her.

‘Or, maybe I should meet you later?' Charlotte moved to open the back door.

‘We have no time to waste.' Mateo started the car, revved the engine
and took off down the hill, the small car bumping across the cobblestones and, once they'd exited the city, they bumped in and out of the potholes strewn along the back roads.

Cristina's ranting had slowed to a grumble, as the car sped along the familiar roads that led out to the Giménez community. After a while, Mateo nervously drummed his fingers on the steering wheel then looked at Charlotte via the reflection of the rear-vision mirror.

‘I find it interesting that you and Cristina are in the company of each other.'

‘She bumped into me. Literally.' Her ribcage still smarted, but she resisted rubbing it. ‘She got thrown out of the bar.'

Mateo laughed. ‘It is not the first time and it will not be the last.'

‘What was she carrying on about? Any idea?'

Mateo pinched his lips. ‘She was just looking for me.'

‘Does she always pick fights when she can't find the person she's looking for?'

‘No, no, it is an emergency.'

‘Why didn't she use the phone like a sane person?' Charlotte hoped her assumption that Cristina knew little English wasn't wrong.

‘She tried but I did not hear my phone. I like to play the music loud in my car.'

‘But you heard me ring.' They swung around the corner and Charlotte gripped the edge of the seat.

‘It must have been the sixth sense, no? I feel the urge to look down and I see your number.' He grinned then turned his attention back to driving as he turned the car off the main road and they travelled along the dirt track, arriving at the edge of the woods. They parked near a red, shiny BMW. A short distance away a tall, lean man with rolled-up sleeves held the stance of someone ready to lay a hefty punch. Mateo jumped out of the car, quickly followed by Cristina, who hitched up her dress as she ran across the uneven terrain in her stilettos. Charlotte opened the car door and stood beside the vehicle.

‘Jax!' Mateo shouted and the guy turned around, his eyes full of fury. A second later the yelling started and they jabbed the air accusingly with their index fingers. Words like ‘liar', ‘cheat', ‘no respect' and ‘no heart' flew around and Charlotte glanced up at the sky, checking to see if the full moon was responsible for the insane behaviour she'd witnessed this
evening. A half-crescent shone between banks of snowy clouds.

BOOK: Under the Spanish Stars
6.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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