Authors: Alli Sinclair
âPlease, you must excuse Katarina, sometimes she lacks social etiquette.' Salvador furrowed his brows at her.
Federico gave a small laugh. âI like direct people. I'd heard you were sharp, Katarina. My goal is to create the most magnificent dance company in all of Spain. This is the chance of a lifetime not only for me, but for an elite collection of dancers, musicians, and singers. Together we will revolutionise
If he wasn't a dance company director he could easily work as a door-to-door salesman. Narrowing her eyes, she asked, âSo why us? We're not popular like Carmen Amaya or Antonio Gades. Why don't you enlist more seasoned performers?'
âBecause they don't have what you and Salvador possess. It's â¦ magic.'
âSome would argue that witnessing you perform is
.' SeÃ±or Basa Trujillo adjusted his tie. âDon't you want to make money? Surely you earn a pittance in a place like this.'
âIt's not about the money. I refuse to dance in front of a bunch of people who don't value the flamenco
loveâstories of love and lossânot those meaningless librettos about powerful people looking down on the lower class.' A subject very close to her heart.
âWhat if I promised you could dance
way? This is what will make my company different. Obviously there are limits, but I've seen your dancing. You get close to that line, but you don't cross it enough to warrant interest from certain factions.' He arched an eyebrow as if to say âlike Franco'. His words came out way too smoothly.
âIt is a kind offer, SeÃ±or Basa Trujillo, but I am afraid I am unable to accept. Salvador, however, may choose to perform with your company, but I cannot.' The last thing she wanted was to split from Salvador, but the trio had already suffered a blow and Salvador hadn't been himself lately. She'd put it down to the new baby, but now that this Basa Trujillo character had appeared, she wondered if Salvador had instigated this meeting because he wanted to move onâwith or without her. It hurt, but she understood. At the moment they were lucky if they earned enough money for a meal a day.
âIs there a way I can change your mind? I have watched many dancers in this town, but none capture the essence of flamenco like you. Please, won't you reconsider?'
She shook her head and sipped water out of the stained glass.
âI will pay handsomely,' Federico said.
âSorry, but my answer remains no.'
âI am afraid your answer disappoints me.' He adjusted the sleeves on his jacket, then handed a business card to Salvador. Federico leant in and whispered to her friend and both men glanced in her direction. Straightening his spine, Federico moved towards the door. âIt was a pleasure meeting you, Katarina. I wish a good evening to you both.'
The door clicked behind him and she placed the glass heavily on the table beside her. âWhat's the big secret?'
âHe doesn't want anyone but you, Katarina. What he's willing to pay us for one night is the equivalent of what we'd earn in a month slogging it out in these bars. I don't know about you, but I, for one, could do with
the money.' He eyed her dance shoes, with tiny holes worn in their soles. âI think you could, too.'
âI could but I do not want to dance in a large theatre with Spain's well-to-do looking at us like we're performing monkeys.'
âWe're performing monkeys in the
and we get peanuts. Why can't we get peanut plantations? Besides, Federico said you could continue dancing your way.' Salvador ran his fingers through his hair, then stopped and scratched his head. âAh â¦ I understand now.'
Katarina stared at her clasped hands, her chest hollow.
âDear Katarina, the people in those wealthy circles have left the country. Or if they've stayed, they're not paying attention to flamenco dancers who once shared fancy meals with them. Don't let fears from the past dictate your future.'
âIt's just â¦' She paused for a moment and let logic take over. Staring at the holes in her soles, she admitted, âThe money would be nice.'
âIt would indeed,' he said.
âYou wouldn't have to scrimp and could support your family.'
âThat I could.' Salvador did a terrible job of hiding his smile.
âAnd you took me in when no one else would.'
âThat I did.'
âI owe you a lot.' She placed her hand in his. âYou saved me.'
âIt was the best thing I ever did. Well, apart from marrying my wife and becoming a father.'
Katarina puffed out her cheeks. âI won't compromise who I am.'
âYou won't. I won't.' His eyes widened. âIs that a yes?'
âI'll think about it.'
âSo that's yes.'
Laughing, Katarina said, âIt's yes, but just make sure I don't regret it.'
Katarina tucked the large bag under her arm as she pulled open the heavy wooden door of Teatro del Arte. She hovered in the foyer, uncertainty washing over her about this latest decision. Salvador had done such a brilliant job of convincing her that this was the right move, she temporarily forgot the self-doubt about her decision-making abilities that had plagued her these last few months. The most sensible thing to do was grab this opportunity with both hands and hang on for dear life. Katarina prayed that clutching the offer didn't mean she'd lose balance and fall face first.
Standing in the middle of the expanse, she took a moment to familiarise herself with her new theatrical home. Faded red carpet with rips and gaping holes clung sadly to the sweeping staircase, while the balustrade gave the impression someone had used it as target practice. A musty odour mixed with wax itched her nose and she rubbed it with the back of her hand. Layers of dust covered the floor and she used the toe of her shoe to scrape away the muck to reveal a large design of pockmarked marble parquetry. Although the war had officially ended in 1939 when Franco came to power, the destruction and destitution of the Spanish people remained apparent. Many landmarks were destroyed or were in disrepair. She hadn't expected this theatre to be immaculate; then again, she hadn't envisioned it being so â¦ rundown.
She recognised his velvety voice as it echoed in the vast foyer. The bag she'd tucked under her arm slipped to the floor with a thud, small clouds of dust swirling around her feet.
It couldn't be â¦
Scared she could be wrong, but at the same time fearful she was right, Katarina slowly turned. Her eyes took in his tall frame, now broader; his jaw now squarer, his dark eyes still as captivating as they were eight years ago although they held something more â¦ maturity? Experience?
Barely able to breathe, she managed only one word: âRaul.'
They both stepped forward then hesitated. What do you do when someone your heart hasn't forgotten comes back into your life?
âDid you know I would be here?' she asked, her mouth dry.
âI would be lying if I said no.' A faint red crept across his face.
âHow did you â¦ but â¦ Federico â¦' Why couldn't her mind stop spinning enough for her mouth to connect?
Raul gave an understanding smile and saved her the embarrassment of sounding like a fool. âFederico managed a
I worked in when I first went to Seville. We became good friends, but after a few years we parted ways to pursue other endeavours. We ran into each other a couple of months ago in Seville and he convinced me to join him again.'
âWere you the one behind him trying to recruit me?' she asked, hopeful.
He shook his head and disappointment washed over Katarina. Her gaze fell on his lips. Those same lips she once kissed with intense passion during their clandestine meetings a lifetime ago. Now they remained motionless as an uncomfortable silence enveloped them.
âDo you like the theatre?' he finally asked.
Cautiously, she said, âIt needs some work.'
âSpit and polish is all. Once the sleeves are rolled up we will change the fate of this magnificent piece of architecture.' His light tone sounded forced. âOthers wanted to tear it down but Federico saw its beauty and convinced the Lobo Brothers thatâ'
âThe Lobo Brothers?'
âThey own this building. They're bankrolling the company.'
Katarina clenched her fist, annoyed with Federico as the way he'd spoken sounded like the company belonged to him. Had she suspected the Lobo Brothers were involved, she might have thought twice about making the commitment. Being entangled with anything vaguely related to the Lobos made her nervous as they were known Franco sympathisers and had amassed a fortune shrouded in many questions.
Shifting from foot to foot, she stared at the dust rising from the floor.
The Lobos were one challenge, but the biggest one stood right in front of her.
âKatarinaâ' Raul traced his fingers along the marble column.
âYes?' Her pulse raced and she closed her eyes, her fingers itching to reach for him, to gently stroke his face, to experience how much his body had changed. Emotions welled up inside and she desperately tried to keep them contained but it was impossible. And, for the first time in a long while, she set them free. âI tried so hard not to miss you, but I think about you all the time.'
âIt's been eight years, Katarina. We're different people.' A wall shot up around Raul and she instantly regretted expressing her innermost thoughts. What a fool she was.
âPeople's true nature never changes.' Her defensive tone didn't help.
Raul shook his head. âI wish I had your naÃ¯ve viewâ'
âI'm not naÃ¯ve!' She countered her hands on her hips. âYou have no right to make such assumptions.'
âI'm sorry, you're not naÃ¯ve, but from what I understand, you haven't exactly been in the thick of war.'
âAnd you have?' How much did he know about her and why? A large part of Katarina hoped it was because he still cared.
Raul pulled his shoulders back and she sensed a raw nerve may have been hit. âMy past shall remain there.'
She didn't like this distant version of Raul. What had happened to the young man who had captured her heart, who made her question what she wanted from life, who ultimately led Katarina to her true calling?
âWhen did you find out I would be dancing in this company?' she asked.
His shoulders relaxed. âNot so long ago. Federico told me to go and watch a flamenco dancer he'd recruited so I went to the
but never expected to see you. I was â¦ surprised. I still am.' When he looked at her this time, his eyes held sincerity. âYou've come a long way. Your dancing is more mature, like there's a depth you never had before. I imagine much of that stems from leaving your family to pursue flamenco.'
Raul suddenly appearing had blindsided her and Katarina doubted she possessed enough emotional energy to deal with all this at once. Katarina concentrated on her scuffed, holey shoes then fixed an unflinching gaze upon him. âHow do you know about that?'
His eyes didn't leave hers. âFederico makes it his business to know who he is employing.'
Given the fragile state of her country, it wasn't uncommon for an employer to dig into one's past. She prayed his prying didn't go so far as to political leanings, although she'd always managed to keep that to herself and Salvador. âBut why do
know my history?'
âBecause I asked.'
Maybe he really did care, although if that were true, why didn't he act like it?
âYet I know nothing about you.'
âI'm still playing guitar.'
âYou know that's not what I meant.' Had time lied to her? Her memories of Raul were of a gentler, more caring soul. âWhy are you being so evasive?'
âI'm sorry, I don't mean to be.' He said nothing more and that only cemented that Raul JosÃ© Sierra Abano had a past he wished to remain hidden. It might be for the moment, but if she had her way, it wouldn't be for long.
Quietly, she said, âI tried to find you in Seville.'
âNot long after I started dancing full-time.'
âYou mustn't have looked hard enough.' Something flashed in his eyes. What was it? Fear? Regret? Sadness?
âEveryone I met said you'd disappeared without a trace.'
âYou must have asked the wrong people.'
His strange behaviour made her wary. Of course war changed everyone but this felt â¦ different â¦ personal.
Tilting her head to the side, she said, âOh, people knew you, they just didn't know where you'd gone.'
His gaze rested on a nearby doorway. âOccasionally I played as a guest in other cities.'
Katarina sensed pushing harder for answers wouldn't get her anywhere so she changed tack. âRaul, please. Can we just â¦'
She threw her arms wide. âI don't know! Can we just stop being so civil and talk? As in
Raul ran a hand behind his neck. He remained quiet for some time
before letting out a long breath. âWe could have been something, you know.'
His last statement catapulted her to more romantic times, when Raul didn't conceal anything, but she had spent too much energy hiding her love life and flamenco from her family. If only she'd had the courage back then to stand up for what she believed in. She hung her head. âThings could have been so different.'
âAlthough there is no point revisiting what could have been.' He sounded as sad as she felt.
âThere's always the future.' Hopeful, Katarina looked up then wished she hadn't. A heavy frown clouded his handsome face.
âA future of flamenco, nothing more.'