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Authors: Alli Sinclair

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BOOK: Under the Spanish Stars
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The door clicked open and she turned to find Salvador stepping into the small room. His broad shoulders took up most of the doorway and his head nearly hit the top of the doorframe. Running his hand through his thick, salt-and-pepper hair, he asked, ‘Ready?'

‘Yes, yes.' Katarina adjusted the seams on her stockings then smoothed down her pale green dress. ‘Another dance, another peso.'

‘Or three.'

‘If we're lucky.'

‘That's my girl.'

Katarina gave a half-smile. She'd met Salvador when training with Julieta and they'd instantly become steadfast friends. When her mentor passed and Katarina had nowhere else to go, having been disowned by her family, Salvador and his wife had taken her in and provided a nurturing environment, encouraging her to find a deeper connection with flamenco
and to fully immerse herself in this world she had grown to love.

She followed him out the door and down the short hallway, halting at the side of the stage. Katarina glanced at the crowd. Before every performance her heart beat rapidly, concerned she'd run into someone from her past. Although she dressed, walked and talked like a
, her fiery red locks made her stand out from the other dancers with dark hair and skin. Being identified by someone from her old life only reminded her of the years she'd spent at frivolous gatherings and partaking in inane chatter while the rest of Spain crumbled around her. With flamenco she had a purpose, there was meaning. She knew worrying about seeing an old acquaintance was ludicrous as she doubted anyone from that circle would frequent an establishment such as this but the fear remained the same. One of these days she'd overcome this anxiety. She had to or else it would make her crazy.

Striding onto the stage, Salvador's confidence attracted attention and the audience let out deafening cheers. If only she possessed the self-assurance of Salvador. Perhaps then she could reach the great heights Julieta had always envisioned for her. When the cancer struck, Julieta's demise had been quick and, once again, Katarina had a date each year to mourn the loss of someone she had cared about deeply.

Hernán rushed past, clutching his guitar, his hair a ruffled mess. He sat on the stool onstage, took a deep breath and gave Salvador a nod. Hernán started with a short melody, the
, the high, rapid notes setting the mood for the piece, while Katarina held her back straight, her head high and breathed deeply, centring herself in readiness.

This was what she lived for.

When the crowd grew quiet, a cloud of electricity wove between the milling bodies as Hernán's fingers danced across the strings. Stepping onto the stage, her heels clicked against the floorboards and every molecule of her being buzzed with excitement. No two performances were ever the same. Marking her steps, Katarina made the call, the
, for Salvador to begin the singing component, his deep, smooth voice filling the room. Feeling the rhythm swelling within, Katarina clapped out the twelve beats of the
soleá por bulerías,
one of her favourite styles of flamenco.

Arching her back, she slowly brought her arms above her head, palms and fingers imitating flames reaching for the sky. Kicking her right leg
high, the long green skirt rose and fell, the hemline grazing the battered floorboards. Salvador's hypnotic voice fuelled her steps, and the moves she'd once struggled with now came with ease. Katarina silently thanked Julieta for being so tough all those years ago. She missed her teacher immensely, but with every dip, every turn, Katarina knew Julieta was there, encouraging her to do better, to stretch further, reach higher, to tap into the passion, to search for the
that still eluded Katarina.

She suspected
hadn't surfaced because she'd had to tone down her dancing in order to remain alive. Since Franco had come into power he'd lorded it over the people, his unwavering belief in Catholicism influencing daily life, regardless of socio-economic status. His dictatorial hands had gripped flamenco, ripped it apart and moulded it into everything it wasn't—women had lost their heroism and men had became more macho. Franco had abused and shoved flamenco onto the world stage and it was now a pathetic, weaker version of itself. Katarina's heart ached every time she had to step back from fully expressing herself in public, but what could she do? If Franco's men—and they were everywhere like rats in a sewer—ever saw a female dance in the traditional flamenco way, she would be arrested. She refused to believe the rumours about dancers being killed as a result of not adhering to Franco's laws but Franco was capable of many things and she didn't want to be the one to prove the rumours true. Katarina had suffered enough over the years and, despite her desire to break free, she had to save herself, and that meant dancing to the official line and conforming to Franco's ridiculous ideals.

One day. One day it will change.

Hernán picked up the pace with his guitar, Katarina's feet hit the ground hard, her hands and feet creating a perfect rhythm. They worked as a team, his masterful skills on the guitar guiding her one way, then another. Grabbing her skirt, she flicked it to the left then the right, taking control of the stage only for it to change once again when Hernán took the challenge and played faster. She danced furiously, the energy bubbling from within, although a tiny niggle of doubt restricted Katarina's movements in a way that no one, not even Salvador or Hernán, could notice … it was the doubt about some of the choices she'd made in the past had been growing at an intense rate over the last year.

Despite her internal hesitation, Katarina's pulse raced, her adrenaline
building. When it was her moment to take control again, she commenced the
and used her body and footwork to create clockwise circles and diagonal patterns, travelling across the stage. Sweat poured off Hernán as he worked the guitar and Salvador's strong and hypnotic tone spurred her on. Making the
, she closed the sequence by signalling her
, her exit, as she slowly made her way across the stage, then threw her arms high, arched her back and held a steady pose. Her body zapped with electricity as she fed off the audience erupting, shouts of
' and
‘¡eso es!
' filling her ears. Katarina relaxed her pose and smiled her thanks, slightly overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, even though she'd witnessed this scene many times over since she'd started dancing in public. Word had got out quickly that her pairing with Salvador and Hernán held a special magic and the crowds grew larger with each performance, sometimes to the point that people spilled out onto the street, jostling to get a glance through large, plate-glass windows.

Katarina, Salvador and Hernán held hands, bowed and exited the stage, the heat from their bodies bouncing against each other as they dashed to the private back room where they could regroup.

‘Yet another marvellous evening.' Salvador pulled out a chair for Katarina, who sat, trying to catch her breath.

‘Yes, great performance again.' Hernán scratched the back of his neck, opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again. ‘I have to be somewhere.'

Hernán disappeared out the door and Katarina said, ‘He's been acting so strange, lately.'

‘You have no idea, do you?' Salvador raised an eyebrow.

‘About what?' Katarina fanned her face with her hands. Beads of sweat lined her cleavage and lower spine and she shifted on her seat, trying to dislodge the uncomfortable pools of moisture. ‘What do you know that I don't?'

‘Have you not noticed how his girlfriend Laura doesn't attend our performances any more?'

‘Yes, I had. Oh no, did they break up?'

Salvador shook his head, a small smile on his lips. ‘The opposite, in fact. He's marrying her this weekend because … well … because they must.'

‘She's pregnant?'

‘Yes, and to make things more difficult, Laura's father has demanded
Hernán work full-time in the family business. No more playing in bars.'

‘But we're a trio!' Katarina's shoulders fell. ‘There has to be a way around it.'

‘The decision has been made for him and he's an honourable man. What do you think Franco's men would do if they found out about an unwed mother? Besides, we can't expect him to do as we wish because it suits us. He's doing the right thing.'

‘I know.' She rubbed the ache in her lower back. ‘How come you knew this and I didn't?'

‘Because I talk to people, Katarina. They open up to me.' He gave a lopsided smile.

‘But I talk with Hernán all the time.'

Sighing, Salvador said, ‘You do but you don't talk in depth. Only discussing the latest step or
is not how you get to know a person.'

‘But I know details about you and Claudia and the baby.'

‘Only because we're like family. You open up so beautifully when you dance, why can't you do the same in real life?'

Katarina sucked in her stomach as if she'd just been punched. She twisted her lips, refusing to answer.

‘Katarina?' Salvador raised his eyebrows in a caring, big brother way. ‘You can talk to me. Why is it so hard?'

‘It … just is, all right?'

‘Is it because you've spent most of your life hiding who you really are?'

She nodded, annoyed but also relieved he'd tapped into her innermost thoughts. At least this way she didn't have to say it out loud.

‘You don't have to hide any more, dear Katarina. You are a free spirit. Embrace it.' Salvador patted her knee. Had it been anyone else she would have thought it a patronising gesture, but she knew Salvador's heart and he did this out of kindness and concern.

‘I know you're right but you're asking the impossible. Anyway, no one is truly free these days.' She didn't need to say any more, because Salvador knew her thoughts about Franco. Salvador was the only person she could ever trust to keep his mouth shut. Picking up a glass and filling it with water, she said, ‘I felt a little off tonight.'

‘I had an inkling that was the case. Is something bothering you?'

‘It's April twenty-six.' Her voice was barely above a whisper.

Salvador's eye widened. ‘I'm so sorry. I forgot.'

‘Don't be. You have enough on your mind.' Preferring to change the topic, she asked, ‘How is Paulito?'

Salvador's grin spread quickly. ‘He is doing wonderfully. It's hard to believe he's already two weeks old and every day I fall a little more in love with my wife and son. How is that possible?'

‘I imagine it's easy to do. I'm so very happy for you all.' She finished her water and before she had a chance to ask for more, Salvador presented the jug and poured in the cool liquid. ‘You're so fortunate to have found your personal
, Salvador.'

‘I don't know if
can be used to describe one's own happiness, but if it can be, then yes, I have found it.'

‘You're a lucky man.'

‘It would be nice if you could find yours.' He ran his fingers through his hair, a habit he'd never broken.

‘It would. But I've yet to find
when I dance so how could I ever find it in love?'

‘Don't you have Julieta in your ear, reminding you the only way to get
is to make a commitment to experience every aspect of life—including love? Even heartache?'

‘I've experienced the heartache of losing my father.' Her lips pursed together, then she added, ‘And of losing the only chance I've had at romantic love.'

‘You told me you had deep affection for him but it wasn't love.'

‘It was love,' her eyes didn't meet his, ‘I just didn't realise it at the time because I didn't know how to let go enough for it to happen. I still find it next to impossible but I'm working on it.'


A knock at the door halted further conversation.

‘Enter!' Salvador boomed, as if he'd been expecting a visitor.

A tall, lean man in an ill-fitting but beautifully-pressed shirt and suit strode in, his presence filling the room. Like Salvador, he had a natural air of confidence.

‘Ah! Federico! So nice to see you!' Salvador slapped his friend on the back. ‘Sit! Sit!'

‘Not before I introduce myself to this beautiful specimen. Señorita Sanchez, it is an honour to meet you.' He held her hand gently and placed
his warm lips on her clammy skin. ‘To watch you dance is to witness a miracle.'

Katarina forced a smile, wondering how a man this smooth could be genuine. ‘Thank you, Señor …?'

‘Señor Basa Trujillo. Please, call me Federico.'

His name sounded familiar but his face wasn't … Oh! Federico Basa Trujillo had managed the most successful
café cantante
in Seville, then he'd gone off the radar a few years ago. Rumours had run rife about whether he'd joined the army, deserted, or fled to greener pastures in the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco, but no one knew for sure. Yet here he was now, waiting for a response from her. ‘You may call me Katarina.'

‘Katarina, I hope you do not mind me getting straight to the point. I am the manager of a new
opera flamenca
and I would like you and Salvador to be the main drawcard. I would also ask Hernán, your guitarist, but I am informed he is leaving to pursue other endeavours. Is this correct?'

‘Yes,' she said, glancing at Salvador who lowered his gaze. She was not happy about this surprise visit at all.

She'd heard about businessmen starting up
opera flamencas
as a way to avoid Franco's hefty taxes by making her beloved flamenco a theatrical event. The large theatres killed the essence of flamenco and the watered-down performances pandered to Franco's ideals.

Katarina said, ‘We have so many of these in Granada already, why would you start a new one?'

BOOK: Under the Spanish Stars
11.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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