Authors: Alli Sinclair
âBut we had so much back then. We could haveâ'
The second Raul's warm fingers met hers all the tension and confusion rose, causing a searing pain to shoot across her temples.
Raul gently stroked her hand with his thumb, his eyes earnest. âI wanted nothing more than for you to be by my side. That time in Julieta's â¦' He sighed. âThat has never left my memory even though it brings nothing but sadness.'
She hesitated before asking, âWhy?'
âBecause you put your family first even though they held you back.'
The truth smarted and she pulled her hand away. âYou were the one who chose to go to Seville.'
âAfter you chose to desert me.' Raul shoved his hands in his trouser pockets. âYou smashed my heart, Katarina.' He stared at her with intensity. âJulieta was right to tell you to leave. She was also right to say that if you couldn't give flamenco your heart you didn't deserve to be in the presence of something so sacred.' Raul paused then added, âAnd you certainly didn't trust enough to tell me you loved flamenco like I did. If I'd known that before Julieta'sâ'
âAlthough you did eventually find your truth. I just wish I was the one who'd helped you.'
âBut you did!'
âHow could I? You did it after I left. Like I said before, eight years is a long time and people change. We should pursue a professional relationship
now, nothing more.'
The softness he'd displayed had all but disappeared and her heart sank as Raul lifted his chin, an official air surfacing. âWe should go. I'll take you to the rehearsal room and you can meet the others.'
Katrina bent over to pick up the bag from the dusty floor, wishing the hot tears would dissolve. Confusion reigned as she tried to figure out how Raul really felt. Was he angry? Annoyed? Sad? Surely asking about her past showed he cared, even a little. Although maybe he asked because he wanted to reassure himself as to why they weren't together. Needing time to think, she quietly followed him through a series of doors and narrow halls, the bright natural light of the theatre foyer eventually replaced by bare light bulbs that flickered in the darkness. Katarina felt like a fool. As she watched his lithe body move in perfect sync, questions flew around her like annoying insects. Could his attitude be like this because he had another lover? A wife? A young family? Katarina gave a sharp shake of the head. Surely Raul would have said something if that was the case. No, there was a lot more to this and somehow she would discover the truth. She needed to if she was to survive working alongside him day and night.
Who was she kidding? Katarina wanted to understand this new Raul because she still loved him. Always had, even if she'd denied it all those years ago. But she wasn't so naÃ¯ve to think that she could change who he was now, if she could just find a way toâ
âWe are here.' Arriving at a large metal door, Raul grabbed the handle and swung it open, his eyes not meeting hers. A room full of dancers and musicians watched Katarina and Raul enter. Heat rushed up her face. There were too many people. For years it had been her, Salvador and HernÃ¡n, so how would she cope with fifteen others?
âKatarina!' Salvador strode over to her side and gave her a strong hug while Raul moved away to chat with two men in a far corner of the room. âI see you have met Raul.'
âDid you know?' she whispered harshly.
âKnow what?' His expression was one of genuine surprise.
âThat Raul â¦' She cocked her head in the direction of her former lover.
Raul?' Salvador wrapped a protective arm around her. Leaning in, he whispered, âI had no idea. Will you be all right?'
âI have to be, don't I? We've already burned our bridges at Bar AlegrÃa.' She balled her fists at her side.
âHe's very good, you know,' Salvador said.
âYes, I know.' Her voice softened as she watched him smiling and joking with others, his demeanour more like the Raul of old.
Federico strode over, wearing the same suit as the other night. âKatarina, I have been thinking. We need a name for you. Something exotic like other great flamenco dancersâyou know,
La NiÃ±a de los Peines
â¦ When you move your arms and hands upwards it always reminds me of a beautiful fire with all the shades of red, orange and yellow. And your flaming red hair â¦ Ah!' He waved his arms in the air, doing a terrible impression of Katarina's signature move. â
The fiery one!'
Katarina raised an eyebrow at Salvador, who said, âI like it. It suits you.'
âI'm not so sure,' she said slowly, not welcoming the idea.
âBut this is the perfect opportunity to move forward with your career and leave the past behind.' Salvador tilted his head to the side.
âI'll think about it,' she said, although it was hard to leave the past behind when he was so near.
âGood. That is all I ask.' Federico clapped his hands. âLet's start with
. Salvador, Raul,
. You are up.'
Katarina widened her eyes at Salvador, who offered a small shrug as Raul picked up his guitar and made his way to the centre of the room. Sidling up to Salvador, she could barely keep annoyance out of her tone as she whispered, âI thought Federico said I could think about the name change.
âYou.' He smiled. âRun with it and see how it feels.'
âHmm â¦' Looking in the direction of Raul, she kept her voice low. âHow are we supposed to perform with him when there's no connection?' She studied Raul checking his guitar, and a shot of annoyance rippled through her. If he'd met with her prior to today then they could have had a proper conversation and said what they needed to instead of leaving things unfinished. Did he get some sick thrill from ambushing her? Drawing herself up to her full height, she addressed Salvador. â
is not the right choice for the first song together.'
âDo not worry. You know the expectations of this
. It will work out.' Salvador grabbed her elbow and steered her towards Raul. Her heart and mind protested but her feet followed without hesitation.
The men nodded at each other and Salvador started first, clapping his
hands in a twelve-count
, emphasising the beats on twelve, three, six, eight, and ten. Raul joined in, his guitar creating a
as Katarina took the floor, commencing the
Ready to begin, she initiated the
and began her footwork. The notes from Raul's guitar danced through the air, circling above and around, threatening to reach out and grab her in a firm hold she might never escape. Although annoyed with Raul, his music drew her in. His playing had matured, but there were also elements that reminded her of years ago, when he'd play with unnerving passion in between bouts of lovemaking.
Losing her footing, she recovered quickly and continued her turns, weaving her hands like flames into the night sky. Despite her emotions objecting, Raul's playing made her dig deeper, spin faster. Her footwork grew more complicated, the sweep of her skirt more dramatic. Katarina's fingers tingled and her heart soared, her love for flamenco increasing with each precious note Raul played. But the indignation, oh the indignation, grew within.
Salvador paused in his singing. Katarina's feet stamped the floor, the continuous beats coming easily. Her dancing built with intensity until she cut it short and caught her breath while Raul played the
. His fingers danced across the strings of the guitar, his body moving in time with the music, his eyes closed, lost in the moment.
Those fingers used to caress me
. She quashed the useless reminiscing and, as Raul changed rhythm, she readied herself to commence the
, her favourite because it reminded her of Julieta. Alternating between hard and soft claps, she worked with Raul as he rapped his guitar then strummed muted strings. While she spun she caught sight of him, a smile of appreciation on his lips. Energised, she let herself get caught up in the moment as Salvador joined in again, his voice filling her heart with joy and spurring her to turn faster, stretch further, until they reached the moment of the
yet again, this one signalling the
. Without a proper stage to exit, Katarina performed a long travelling pattern to the side of the room, completing her performance.
Her entire body zapped with energy and she doubled over, breathing heavily while Salvador and Raul stared at each other, interspersed by glances at Katarina. The room remained silent, no one offering the
applause she'd hoped for. Panic rose and she turned to Salvador, who was now bent over, his head hanging low. Her eyes connected with Raul, his expression solemn. He wasn't the young man with huge dreams any more. Raul JosÃ© Sierra Abano had grown â¦ now almost a stranger but at the same time exuding the familiarity and affection they'd once shared. She'd sensed it in his playing, in his eyes, in the way he'd held his body. Katarina wanted to push him away but his playing had pulled her closer.
She studied the faces of the dancers and musicians and Federico. Silence enveloped the room, punctuated only by a few sniffles from women dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs.
Had she pushed too far? It had been a risk dancing with such verve, but the combination of Salvador's singing and Raul's passionate playing had pushed her over the line of what was acceptable in Franco's world. Panic gripped her stomach muscles. She didn't know these people. Anyone could take offence and report her.
The onlookers spoke to each other in low voices, flicking sideways glances. Goosebumps broke out on her skin and her pulse raced as the aftermath became impossible to bear. Hitching up her skirt, Katarina dashed out the door and slammed it behind her. In the musty hallway, she leant against the wall, taking deep breaths, unable to fathom what had just transpired.
The large door creaked open and Raul stepped into the hallway. Wrapping his fingers around her shaking hands, he said, âYou felt it, too.'
âI â¦ I â¦' How could she express the emotions exploding inside? The magic they'd made in that room scared as much as it elated her.
,' they said in unison, searching each other's eyes.
âI've never experienced it before,' she said, her guard crumbling in his presence.
âI haven't, either. Well, I thought I had, but I was wrong. This feeling â¦ this wonder â¦ you created it.'
âNo, we did. And Salvador.' She craned her neck to see if he'd surfaced but he hadn't.
Raul gently pulled his hand from hers as he broke his gaze and stared down the empty hallway.
Turning to face her, his dark eyes held much sadness. âI want to be with you so much it hurts.'
âThen have me, Raul. The world may have changed but what we had â¦ have â¦ it's stronger. I feel it.' She placed her hand over her heart then over his. Her fingers revelled in feeling the strong, rapid beat beneath. âI know you do, too.'
He hung his head and folded his hands around hers. âYou have no idea how much I've missed you.'
âThen why are you acting so strange?'
âI â¦' Squeezing her fingers, he said, âThere is a lot you don't know. That you don't need to know.'
âI'm a big girl, I can handle it.'
âShh â¦' He shook his head then placed his finger lightly against her lips. âLet's commit this moment to memory. Lord knows there isn't enough good in this world to fondly remember.'
She closed her eyes, her body buzzing with raw energy. Her jagged breathing slowed, and when she opened her eyes, Raul had drawn close to her.
âDo you think they will expect
every time we perform?' he asked, a small smile on his lovely lips.
âI don't know. It surfaces when least expected, but maybe we have found the perfect combination.'
Raul gently pushed a stray strand of hair out of her eye. âI believe we have,
âHow are you feeling, Abuela?' Charlotte spoke into the telephone while she stared at the walls of her hotel room, wishing she was back in Australia and not in Spain trying to complete mission impossible.
âThe food is horrid.' Abuela's voice sounded weaker than the day before. Even after so many years in England and Australia, she hadn't lost her Spanish twang and still rolled her r's.
âI'm sure Steve will smuggle in something good. I'll send Mum a text and get her to cook the veggie soup you like so much. That's got to be better than cold mashed potato, right?' Charlotte tried to keep her tone light and not let on how concerned she was.
âFine,' sighed Abuela. âMy daughter-in-law may not keep a tidy home but at least she's an excellent cook.'
âYou know you love her.' Charlotte smiled, fondly remembering the strange dance between her grandmother and mother. They acted as if they could barely tolerate each other but in moments of crisis, like now, they clung together like twin sisters. Hence, one of the reasons it hadn't been too difficult to convince Charlotte to get on the plane. With her mother Heather looking out for Katarina, Charlotte didn't need to stress. As much as her father loved Abuela, he wasn't anywhere near as reliable as Charlotte's mother, a woman whose nurturing spirit matched Katarina's.
âThey want me to die,' Abuela said, bringing Charlotte back to the conversation.
âWho?' The question didn't surprise her because Abuela had a habit of veering into strange rants lately.
âEveryone. You should see how many bunches of carnations I've received.'