Danger In Havana – Episode 07


THE following day, the weather had turned. In the morning it had lured them out with clear promising brightness but by lunchtime the sun had been forced away by broody grey clouds.

Bryony and Anna still sat outside at a nearby restaurant to enjoy the light and the heat, and chose a table under an awning, in case rain arrived.

They wanted to listen to the groups of musicians who everywhere plied their trade on the streets. “Guantanamera” was the tune they all knew and played at the drop of a hat.

A white dog came to shelter under their table as, sure enough, the rain arrived in single fat raindrops that had started to splat on the pavement.

“Look, Mum, isn’t he lovely? So fluffy. Wait, he’s got a card around his neck.”

Anna leaned down and examined it, while she secretly slipped him a morsel of food.

“It says he’s a street dog but he’s looked after by some animal sanctuary. He’s gorgeous, I wish we could take him back home with us.”

They debated what to do that afternoon and decided as the weather was inclement, they would pass the time in their room reading.

“I could do with a rest from all the sightseeing anyway,” Anna said, “and I’m getting into my book. It’s a murder story and I’m sure I know who did it but it’s getting to the interesting bit.”

As lunch was being cleared away, Bryony stood up.

“I’ll just nip inside to the loo before we go.”

She left Anna feeding the grateful dog surreptitiously under the table, enjoying his company.

On her way back Bryony walked across the inside dining-room which was a plant-filled atrium. She marvelled how, in this modern city, they actually kept their own chickens for eggs and these were left to wander. The birds pecked around for crumbs under the table.

She had read that Cuba still found it difficult to get supplies of everyday goods, even common foodstuffs that we took for granted, so people kept chickens and grew their own vegetables, even on the balconies of high rise flats.

Emerging outside, Bryony scanned the tables looking for Anna’s blonde hair amongst the Cubans’ darker heads. She suddenly felt disorientated. They had been among a whole row of restaurants and all the tables looked the same.

People had finished their meals and gone, others had arrived for drinks. The landscape had changed. But look as she might, Bryony could not spot her daughter.

Anywhere.

You will not panic, she told herself, her subconscious lecturing her even as she felt her blood pressure start to rise.

Bryony hated the way that, since Warren had died, she was so acutely aware of the difference to one’s life that a single minute could make. It was as though she was always ready for tragedy to strike. She knew that wasn’t rational, but when you had been told your husband had suddenly gone for ever, it was difficult not to live life on a knife edge, to a certain extent.

Her inner voice kicked in. She’d had to do a lot of self-counselling since she’d lost Warren. Anna had probably just popped to the loo herself, or got talking with someone, she tried to convince herself.

Bryony made her way between the tables, trying to remember exactly where they had been sitting. Then, she saw the white dog underneath the table – their table. And on the table was a napkin with writing on.

A flood of relief rushed through her veins. Anna had left her a message. Of course, that was it. She’d popped off to browse the books, or view the paintings and she’d left a message to say she’d be back.

Bryony was pressing her hand to her chest, feeling as though her heart was going to jump out with all the anxiety.

There, on the stark white napkin in Anna’s childish script with its loops and curls were words.

Mum, I’m just going . . .

The message ended mid-sentence.

Where?

To do what?

With whom?

Bryony’s palms began to sweat. She walked out into the street, trying to remain calm. Her feet suddenly felt like lead as she paced up and down, searching the alleyways.

It was no good, she was running around like a crazy woman, alone in her distress.

Unaccountably, Anna had disappeared.

Anxiety, which had been Bryony’s constant companion since Warren had died and which she’d pushed away through sheer strength of will, forced itself back to sit firmly by her side.

The anxiety felt so close it could have had its hands wrapped tightly round her throat, its mouth breathing on her cheek, making her shiver.

She ran back into the restaurant and grabbed the waitress by the arm.

“Did you see my daughter? She was sitting right here? Where did she go?”

The girl’s English was almost non-existent. She shrugged her shoulders and turned her back, having no idea what this strange foreigner was going on about.

A huge wave of panic welled up from

Bryony’s stomach making her feel physically sick. It was as though she had fallen down a black hole. Where was the one person who was the dearest thing on earth to her?

All her worries about losing money and cameras and passports were nothing to this. Anna was what mattered, the only thing that mattered. Bryony knew how frail mere flesh and blood was.

She looked around for a policeman. There wasn’t one. She started walking, then running, back to the hotel. She knew how people could be here one minute, gone the next. She couldn’t lose another.

Please God, she prayed, don’t let me lose another.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!