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Authors: Alli Sinclair

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BOOK: Under the Spanish Stars
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No pressure whatsoever. Nope, none at all.

Mateo wandered over to her table and sat down, his guitar case resting against his leg. The dancer stood on the stage, flicking through a stack of papers and casting well-timed glares in Charlotte's direction.

‘She doesn't like me,' Charlotte said, hoping she hadn't inadvertently got caught in some weird relationship between Mateo and the dancer.

‘Who?' Mateo turned around and the woman balled her hands on her hips and stared at him. Charlotte couldn't tell what she was telepathically saying to Mateo, but she figured it wasn't ‘I'm so glad you're talking with that Australian woman.'

‘Cristina? Do not worry about her. She is jealous of all women.'

‘So she's your girlfriend?' What was with this Cristina's weird behaviour?

‘Ha!' He slapped his thigh. ‘We perform together and that is all. She just does not like the women because she cannot trust them.'

‘She doesn't trust her own gender? And not trust them about what?'

‘Let us not talk about her. I want to understand more about why you came to see me.'

Charlotte tried to stifle yet another yawn, but it slipped out unwittingly.

‘Am I boring you?'

‘No! I'm sorry. I'm not used to these late nights.' She checked her watch. ‘Mornings.'

‘Ah, but if you are to remain here you must understand we do not dine until very late and our entertainment finishes very, very late. Or early, depending on the way you look at it, yes?'

‘I guess, but my stay in Granada will be short, I'm afraid. Probably not even long enough for me to get over this jetlag.'

‘You must return to the work? It is an English accent, yes?' Mateo sipped water from a glass.

‘Yes to the first but no to the second.' Just like every other Aussie traveller, Charlotte had to deal with most people outside her home country thinking she was English. She pitied the poor Englishmen who had the thick Aussie accent lumped in with theirs. Charlotte suspected many Spanish speakers suffered the same fate as Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, South Africans and the like because Argentine Spanish was completely different to Colombian, Ecuadorian or Peruvian et al. On top of that were the regional accents throughout Spain with lisps and places like Barcelona sounding like Barthelona …

‘Australian? You English speakers all sound alike.' His wink encouraged her to join in the fun.

‘Yes, just like all Spanish speakers sound the same, eh?'

‘Touché.' He punctuated this with a nod. ‘So what do you do for this work, Señorita Charlotte? Ah … let me guess.' He eyed her over the glass rim. ‘Something arty, no? You have an air about you, like you see great beauty in things.'

How did he …? No, that wasn't her any more. ‘Sorry, but you're way off the mark. My family owns a large insurance brokerage firm and most of my job is assessing risk.'

‘I do not see you as this type of person. Tell me, do you like artists? Painters? Singers? Dancers? Writers? Poets? Musicians?' He smiled at the last question.

‘Are you always this flirty?'

He gave a small shrug and tapped his fingers against an empty glass.

She couldn't help but warm to this charming Spaniard.

‘I like all artists,' she said. ‘In fact, my
was once a professional dancer.' Of course, this statement would lead to a conversation about Abuela's life, or what Charlotte knew of it, but it had to be done to get Mateo on side.

‘Which dance?'

Charlotte stared at the half-full carafe. ‘Flamenco.'

‘Your grandmother danced flamenco? Here? In Spain?'

‘Yes, but that's all I know. She's not one for talking about that part of her life, I'm afraid.'

‘During the era of General Franco, no?'

‘I imagine so.' Why, oh why had Abuela remained so secretive about her
life? Did she feel the family would think less of her, or had something happened that was so bad she needed to wipe it from memory?

‘They were turbulent times for many, including flamenco. What do you know of Franco's rule?'

‘I've read books and watched documentaries but I'm not convinced the history was presented in a totally unbiased manner so I'm interested to hear your take on this, though.'

‘Ah.' He nodded. ‘Well, you may be aware Franco loved the tradition—women and men had certain roles and they were never to change.' He paused and she nodded for him to continue, even though she had heard this before. Hearing a regular, albeit very talented, Spaniard's viewpoint intrigued her. ‘For many women, this was a difficult time. They could not divorce if they were unhappy and they had to stay in the home and raise the family. Everyone had to speak the Castilian.'

‘Catalonian and Galician were banned, right?'

‘Yes, yes. And if one of Franco's men found you speaking anything but the Castilian, you could be put in jail.'

‘I'd heard of that but I still can't comprehend it.'

‘It is the history of my own country and at times I have a hard time understanding also. It was another world back then. The poor women flamenco dancers … they did not have the freedom of expression like today.' He paused for a moment. ‘I am sorry, I am running off at the mouth again.'

‘Actually, this is very interesting and some of it is new to me.'

‘If we are to continue talking we should have more wine.'

Charlotte held up her hand. ‘No more for me, thanks. I've drunk more than my fair share tonight.'

‘If this is your wish.' Mateo poured himself a glass and sipped the dark red liquid. ‘You have heard of Carmen Amaya?'

‘No. Should I?' She felt ridiculous for her lack of flamenco knowledge.

‘Carmen Amaya was before the Franco era and she took flamenco to the world stage in the 1930s. Her family were
and took great pleasure in defying tradition. She did the foot stomping,' Mateo used his heels to tap a rhythm on the floorboards, ‘she wore pants like a man and her footwork was very intricate—nothing like the traditional flamenco where the role of the woman is more as a seductress. Carmen,
of course, rebelled against this.'

‘I like the sound of her already,' said Charlotte, settling into Mateo's company.

‘Tell me, what is the name of your grandmother?'

‘Katarina Sanchez.'

‘Wo-ho-ho!' He slapped the table. ‘
La Flama

‘You know who she is?'

‘But of course! She left the world of flamenco heartbroken when she gave up without warning. Tell me, what happened?' He leant forward with the eagerness of a detective about to solve the mystery of a lifetime.

‘I hate to disappoint, but I don't know. Not even Google knows. And she refuses to talk about it.'

‘Hmm …' He rubbed the stubble on his chin with his thumb and forefinger. ‘Ah!' He held a finger in the air. ‘I wonder if your
wanting you to meet with the Giménez clan has something to do with her giving up flamenco. Charlotte Sanchez—'

‘My surname's Kavanagh.'

‘Charlotte Kavanagh, I must say, this has been the most interesting evening.'



Seventeen-year-old Katarina Sanchez opened the bedroom door, ensuring the lock didn't click and echo in the vast expanse of the family house in Granada. She craned her neck to check no one was in the hallway and, satisfied that everyone was still at school, work or social engagements, she hurried across the dark red carpet, clutching a small bag of bread and fruit. Taking a deep breath and biting her bottom lip, she edged the heavy front door open just enough so her tall, thin frame could slip through without difficulty. Once her low-heeled boots hit the stone steps that led down to the street, she lowered her head to shield her face from passers-by. The midday sun warmed her skin as she willed her feet to walk at a casual pace, even though she wanted to break into a run.

For almost a year, she had regularly crept out of the family home and hadn't yet been caught. That didn't lessen the guilt any. Katarina briefly closed her eyes, giving an involuntary shudder when she thought about how her family would react if they discovered what she'd been up to. There was no point in attempting to explain because they'd never understand. Would never want to. What she did went way beyond anything they could ever fathom or imagine.

Her shoulders slumped.

She'd never fitted in with her family, but genes were genes, even though her red hair, blue eyes and pale skin were in complete contrast to her dark-haired family. Katarina couldn't get over the shame of being born into a privileged life while others starved on the streets and even though she worked hard with the local charities, it was never enough to help her countrymen. It pained her to live a life of luxury while others suffered, but despite her family
not understanding, she loved them dearly and couldn't bear to dishonour the Sanchez name. She'd already given up the man she cared for deeply in order to keep the family peace, so she couldn't bear letting go the only other passion that got her through the long, drawn-out days. And so the never-ending battle raged between her conscience and her heart.

Weaving through the backstreets of Granada, Katarina scooted past the mangy dogs and piles of rubbish, her loose brown skirt and simple white shirt ensuring she blended in with the crowds. She kept her head down, concentrating on the pavement.

Being out on the street exposed her to danger, but she couldn't remain holed up like a finch in a cage. There was only one way for her to fly and it meant enduring the uncertainty that littered Granada's streets. There had been recent rumblings about a possible uprising and this had changed the landscape and personality of her people. Since the monarchy had been overthrown almost five years ago, the faith of her countrymen had declined rapidly and the trust and kindness that had always flowed through her people's hearts had begun to fade. Katarina found it hard to comprehend this dramatic change and she feared it would stay or, much to her dismay, get worse.

If her grandfather and his wealthy colleagues were right, Spain could spiral even further into an abyss of misery. Rumours had been rife about plots to overthrow the government: the army supported the Left, and private militias and unions aided the Right, and with both sides rumoured to be staging coups against a democratic Spain, Katarina had no doubt the end result would be war. But no one wanted to listen to a seventeen-year-old from Granada's upper class. They had no interest in her concerns about General Francisco Franco of the Spanish Republican Armed Forces—a man she suspected was waiting patiently for the opportunity to strike when least expected. And when he did, it would be hard, fast and painfully deep.

Reaching the neighbourhood of Sacromonte, relief instantly flowed through Katarina and her muscles relaxed. Whether it was the rawness of the real people, or the strong musical vein running through it, she found this neighbourhood increasingly difficult to leave. Katarina had no doubt that had she been born into a different family she could have lived a fulfilled life here.

She shook her head, chastising herself.

Who was she fooling? Her life of privilege made it easy to imagine living like the poor because this wasn't her life. If hard times fell and she was forced to live hand to mouth, her romantic notions would rapidly disappear into the ether. But she did love the people in Sacromonte. They were the heart and soul of humanity, which was reflected in their music and dance, not like the pompous rich who invaded her circle. The only person who kept her sane in the world of the elite was her father, the one man who saw through the superficial persons in their lives but had to endure it, just like her.

Ducking down a familiar alley, Katarina hitched up her skirt as she jumped across the puddles dotting the cobblestone streets. As if sensing her arrival, a young child with matted hair and torn clothes dashed around the corner and wrapped his scrawny arms around her hips, his head resting against her belly.

‘Well, hello to you, Pablo.' She smiled at her companion. ‘How are you doing today?'

‘I am good, but Neva is not feeling so well.' His large round eyes fixed on hers. ‘The hunger makes her ill.'

‘Hopefully this will help.' Katarina handed the bag of food to her young friend. ‘I'll see if I can get more of the bread she likes so much. See you in two days?'

Pablo nodded, flashed a large grin and darted around the corner to the hovel that served as his family's home. The leaking roof and crumbling walls didn't protect him or its other occupants, yet it was the only home he'd known.

Katarina arrived in front of the bottle green door of the
café cantante
, one of the few flamenco clubs left in Granada. Since the showy
opera flamenca
had become more popular, the
café cantantes
had started a downward spiral and now only a few remained. The lack of popularity of Julieta's
café cantante
, known as Café Cantaria, meant less chance of Katarina being discovered. Knocking three times, she waited for the door to squeak open and to be met with a pair of dark, glaring eyes.

‘You're late.'

‘Sorry, but Mama left late for luncheon.'

‘It is not important, you are here now. Come.' Julieta opened the door and Katarina stepped across the threshold. Large bags hung under Julieta's
eyes and her skin had become more sallow; the age wrinkles deeper than a few days before. With all the talk of pending war, the change in Julieta's appearance was no surprise.

Katarina made her way to the middle of the room, tilted her head upward, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The spirits of flamenco dancers, singers and guitarists crowded around her, their legacies forever remembered.


This place created the insatiable hunger.

BOOK: Under the Spanish Stars
9.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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