Danger In Havana – Episode 35

BRYONY had her own demons to deal with. She felt wrung out and exhausted, mentally and physically.

As they were taken back to the hotel in the police car, they all sat in silence. When they got out, there was an awkward pause as they stood on the pavement waiting to go in. Bryony couldn’t hold back any longer, as another awful truth had dawned on her.

“You knew, didn’t you, Mark?” she demanded. “You knew Warren had somehow been mixed up in this and you didn’t tell me. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“There were good reasons.”

“There can never be good reasons for keeping silent about something like that.

Warren’s dead, for goodness sake.”

The word fell hard on the sultry Havana air. There, she’d said it. She’d named it for what it was.

“To find out, when I was coming to terms with Warren’s death, that he lied to me, that he was living a double life and . . .” Bryony gulped “. . . and that you, who I trusted, lied to me is the worst thing of all. Especially when I was just beginning to trust a man again.”

Perhaps it was something about Cuba and its tropical down-to-earth attitude, where life was lived out on the streets. So what if she said what she thought out loud? So what if she was shouting, gesticulating, if her hair was wild and her fists clenched?

“You treated me like a child, Mark. Did you think I couldn’t take it? Believe me, I’ve taken a lot over the last few years, and I’ve survived and I will continue to survive – despite people lying to me!”

“Mum.” Anna put out a hand to console her.

“No, don’t try to calm me down!” Bryony snapped, waving her away. “I’ve never been so angry and I need to get this out.”

With that, Bryony turned on her heel, sped into the hotel, rushed up to her room and hurled herself on the bed.

She didn’t care that she’d made a scene.

She didn’t care that she’d been selfish and loud and unreasonable. Just for once she would darn well let it all out. Say what she thought, stand up for herself; be her own person rather than Anna’s mother or Warren’s wife or Mark’s . . .

Mark’s what?

She sat up. What was Mark to her? Or rather, what had he been? For she was sure he would never want to see her again. He’d never want to talk to her even or help her after the way she’d exploded like that.

Mark had opened a chink in her armour. Made her think that perhaps she might feel again, that she might even love again. What had she lost by baring her soul, by being unguarded and saying exactly what came into her head?

Bryony went into the bathroom and deluged her face with cold water. Then she rested her hands on the basin and stared at herself in the mirror. Her world was imploding. She didn’t know who or what to believe any more.

There was a knock on the door. Bryony’s heart leaped. Had Mark forgiven her for her outburst? Could he be coming up to make sure she was all right, to protect and heal her, to say she’d got it all wrong somehow?

Instead, it was Anna. She had two large cocktails, one in each hand. One in layers of red, yellow and orange, the other in layers of green, blue and turquoise. Both had jaunty umbrellas propped in them and slices of pineapple. Happy, jolly, holiday drinks. Seeing them, and her daughter, just made Bryony want to cry again.

“Come on, Mum, get one of these down you and I guarantee the world won’t seem like such a difficult place.”

All the times Bryony had urged her daughter not to drown her sorrows in alcohol! But for once, Bryony did just that. She grabbed them both and took a long swig, first from the one that looked like a sunset, and then another huge swig from the one which looked like the Caribbean sea.

“Steady, Mum!” Anna managed a laugh. “Leave some for me. You are in a bad way, aren’t you? Mum, please don’t be sad, and don’t be too hard on Mark. We both sort of lied to you, I guess.”

Mother and daughter sat on the bed together. In the early evening light, a salsa bar on the roof of the hotel opposite had started to drum out its intoxicating rhythms.

“Why did you lie, Anna? Why couldn’t you have told me about Dad and what he was up to?”

“How could I? He was in trouble, and he swore me not to tell. Said it would all be all right. Just that he’d got this bit of a habit with the gambling and it had got out of hand but he could handle it, he had a plan, he could sort it but only if I helped.

“It was all legitimate, he said. Those paintings he reckoned had been promised to Otto Weber by his uncle, they’d been written up in a will. It was just that Otto Weber’s aunt didn’t like him and had destroyed her husband’s will. He said we weren’t going to hurt anyone or anything and that just one of the paintings would be enough to solve Otto’s and Dad’s problems. If I told you, you would be devastated and it would cause ructions.” Tears filled her eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Mum, I didn’t know which way to turn, what with that and my exams and everything. That’s one of the reasons I just found I couldn’t eat any more. I felt sick half the time just thinking about it. I’m so sorry I worried you.”

Bryony pulled her close to, and kissed the top of her head, sniffing in the wonderful, familiar scent of her own child.

“It wasn’t your fault, lovey, none of it was down to you. You were just being a dutiful daughter.”

Anna nodded.

“After he died,” she said, “it would have seemed cruel to tell you the truth, Mum. What would have been the point? And I never thought for one moment that we would run into Otto Weber in Cuba, but then I didn’t realise that the centre of Havana’s such a small space. It’s not like London, is it?”

“No, darling, not at all.”

The evening sky turned from azure to navy blue, then became sprinkled with stars and Anna dozed off.

Bryony’s head was thumping, her skull felt tight after so many tears. She needed some fresh air.

She wrote a brief note to Anna.

Gone for a little walk down the Malecón to clear my head. I’ve got my mobile. Be back soon.

She slipped it under Anna’s hand and quietly let herself out of the room.

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!