Danger In Havana – Episode 23

BRYONY and Mark took a right turn out of Carlos’s house and wandered down the road. Trinidad was both a sleepy place and a lively one. People sat on steps taking in the night air as the sky darkened and the stars appeared.

Caribbean spices and woodsmoke drifted on the breeze as people cooked their supper. Cobbled streets with gaily coloured yellow and turquoise houses led to the main square ringing with the bells of taxi bikes.

From a bar near the square, salsa music rang out.

“Fancy a drink?” Mark asked.

“I’m not sure I should have another one,” Bryony confessed. “I feel a little woozy.”

“You are still on holiday, you know, and it’ll help to calm you. I’m not saying you should forget about Anna but you can’t think of her every single moment, or it’ll drive you mad. Remember, I promised you, we will find her.”

With this reassurance ringing in her ears, Bryony sat at one of the chairs near the open square. She sat and watched the Trinidad nightlife.

It was a marvellous mêlée of old and young, all enjoying and celebrating the joys of a beautiful night and the uplifting beat of the music.

Mark came back with two creamy pina coladas with their cooling crushed ice and foamy tops.

“You look lovely this evening,” he said. The compliment surprised her. She’d worn nothing special, just a white dress with lace at the neck and hem, her hair scraped back, no make-up, her limbs tanned.

“I think all you’re seeing is healthiness.” She blushed. “It must be all the fresh fruit and sunshine.”

As they talked, the musicians inside the bar came out on to the pavement, carrying their instruments and playing a slow salsa number.

A mixed group of people spontaneously got up to dance. A lady in her eighties had been gently taken by the hand by an elderly man in a wheat-coloured linen suit, with a fedora at a jaunty angle.

The two of them entwined, half holding each other up, but moving together in perfect time, like reeds blowing in the breeze.

A girl and boy of around ten took each other’s hands apparently without thinking

Mark held out his hand.

“Do you dance?” he asked.

“Oh, hardly at all.”

“I’m sure you could manage this one. Come on, it’s not a fast one, it’ll be easy.”

Mark got up and suddenly, almost as if she had been given a magic charm, her feet were bewitched into following his.

His hands entwined around hers, leading her expertly in front of him and behind him, into a slow twirl, out of a gentle hold.

She felt the hem of her skirts brush her knees, and the tip of her nose brushed by her own ponytail as he turned her round and round, in and out of the intricate designs their bodies were making.

The town square of Trinidad, the stars above, the street below her feet, all swam before her as her body moved of its own accord, as if Mark was twirling her on a string.

In no time at all it was as if she was in a dream, as if time was standing still, as if she had floated up in a gentle maelstrom and was whirling and turning, her feet not even connected to the ground.

She would have been happy to dance like that for ever, feeling the musical notes, and the warmth of Mark’s hands brushing hers, and the sensation of the strong muscles in his back as she held him and he held her.

Sadly, very sadly, the music came to an end.

Bryony was in such a daze, she was grateful to Mark for leading her smoothly back to her seat and easing her into her place at the table. She was experiencing the same light-as-air feeling as after a massage at the beauty parlour.

It was such a release, such a joy, and as Mark sat down and smiled at her, something occurred to her. This was the first time she had felt relaxed and totally comfortable with another man since she had lost Warren.

Why, she wondered, had Warren stopped finding the time to come dancing with her? She knew work seemed to take up all his time, but she’d never asked him to work that hard. She had never been one of those wives who pushed their husbands to make more and more money, either. In fact, she had asked him on a number of occasions to slow down.

What’s more, he had found time to go out with his mates.

It was an uncomfortable feeling that ripped through her mind, almost like being disloyal to him. That was a terrible thing to do when someone had died.

Yet she had been loyal to him when he was alive in so many, many ways.

It would have been so nice if they could have shared together once more the sort of experience she had just shared with Mark. Had she ever really known her husband, she wondered.

How well could you really know anyone, even the man you were married to?

“Maybe we should go back now. We’ve got a busy day ahead, and I don’t want to tire you out,” Mark said.

“Yes, thank you for that, I needed it. You lead well.”

“You follow well. After all, it takes two.”

That was true, Bryony thought, it takes two.

They walked past the multi-coloured houses, their turquoises and sunshine yellows, their oranges and berry pinks lit up by bulbs strung along them like fairy lights.

She was suddenly acutely aware of Mark walking beside her, of the warmth of his body next to her, of the tiny touch of the blond hairs on his arm tickling her bare skin.

And for the first time ever, she admitted that perhaps hers and Warren’s marriage wasn’t as totally and utterly in tune as she’d always liked to think.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!