Below is a scene from my new novel – “The Story She had to Tell”. The scene takes place in the spring of 1952 in Havana, Cuba. Madeleine and her college friend Georgiana are about to walk into the infamous Tropicana Nightclub. It is their first night in Havana. Madeleine is a young woman in her early twenties and although intelligent, is naive and unworldly. She doesn’t realize it but her life is about to change dramatically.
“Our cab dropped us off by the front door. The door opened, and I could hear music coming from inside. The song was unfamiliar to me, but I loved the beat. ‘Can you hear that?’ I asked my friend.
“‘Oh, yes, isn’t this going to be a fabulous night?’
“‘I certainly hope so,’ I said under my breath.
“We walked into the building and were shown the way to the club. In addition to the club was a gambling room filled with smoke and people winning and losing lots of money. I was not interested at all in the gambling room. Take me to the dancing! And so we walked past the gambling and followed our ears to the nightclub. There was a stage on the other side. Directly beneath the stage was a fifteen-piece orchestra. On the stage was a singer with a microphone, singing something in Spanish. She was strikingly beautiful. She had dark skin and dark eyes with wavy black hair that was pinned back from her face. She wore bright-red lipstick that took your eyes directly to her mouth. Her dress was multicolored, which complemented both her figure and her hair. I wondered if she was famous, but I had never seen her before.
“We were escorted to a table in the middle of the room but close enough to the dance floor so that getting there—after we were asked to dance, of course—would not be too much of a problem. It was a small round table with a lamp on it, which gave off a warm, subtle light. The waitress came over to take our drink orders before I had even decided what I was going to have.
“‘I’ll have a martini,’ Georgiana told her.
“The waitress then looked at me in anticipation. ‘I’ll have a manhattan,’ I said quickly, feeling like I was being timed. Then I checked with her to make sure she knew what that was. She did.
“‘I’ll be right back with your drinks, ladies,’ she said cheerfully as she walked briskly away from our table. She had to have been around my age but looked much younger. I wondered if they had hired teenagers to serve cocktails. Georgiana thought it was possible but wasn’t sure.
“Soon the music stopped, and the singer announced that they were going to take a twenty-minute break. ‘Well, what do you think?’ Georgiana turned to me and asked.
“‘It’s spectacular! Beautiful! It feels like I’m dreaming!’ Georgiana laughed. It made her happy to be able to show me this. She knew it would be an experience very far from bland, and she was right.
“We chatted until the band returned to play another set. The same singer got on the stage, but this time, a handsome Cuban gentleman joined her. They sang a duet. ‘That man is very good-looking!’ I remarked.
“‘Yes, he certainly is. He must be a regular here. I remember him from five years ago. He’s even better looking now, if that’s possible.’
“I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He had a beautiful voice and a look about him that made my toes curl. No one had ever had that effect on me before. Get a hold of yourself, Mina. Let’s not get carried away here. Completely ignoring my inner voice, I stared at him until the song was finished and he left the stage. ‘I think our eyes met, once,’ I said to Georgiana.
“She smiled and said, ‘I’m sure he meets lots of eyes looking his way when he’s up on stage.’
“‘I suppose you’re right,’ I replied as my mouth turned downward. But there was a part of me that was certain that he held my eyes for longer than necessary to be just glancing about the room. I didn’t share this thought, however, but rather kept it to myself.
“‘I have to go to the ladies’ room,’ Georgiana said, interrupting my reverie.
“‘Okay, sure. I’ll be here when you get back.’ I forced a smile. She’s not going to ruin this fantasy of mine, I thought. I know when a man is staring at me, and he was staring at me! I’m sure of it!
“I started looking around the room to pass the time while she was gone. I looked over to the bar and there he was. The male singer was getting a drink, and then he turned and looked around the room as well. Lightning must have struck the building because I saw it as he glanced my way. This time, when he caught my eyes, he smiled at me! I was stunned, frozen to my seat. You stupid idiot, I thought, smile back! It took me a while to remember how to smile, but I finally did. As we were smiling at each other across the room and I was back in my fantasy, Georgiana returned from the ladies’ room and I was forced to look at her. Damn!
“‘What are you smiling about—or should I say smiling at?’ She followed my line of sight until she saw him, the beautiful man at the bar. Now he was talking to someone and no longer looking in my direction.
“‘Did he see you smiling at him?’ she asked.
“‘Of course! He started it. I was looking around the room to kill time until you got back to the table. I looked over at the bar and saw him getting a drink. And then he looked straight at me and smiled! And he kept smiling at me, and so I smiled at him and then you came back!’
“‘I’m so sorry. Should I leave so that you can continue your whatever it is?’
“‘Of course not. I just want you to know that he started it!’ At this point, Georgiana began to laugh, a little bit at me, but mostly with me.
“‘Of course he was smiling at you. Look at you, you’re a beautiful woman! He’s a red-blooded young male. It only makes sense!’ I wasn’t sure how to take her comments, so I just looked at her. I wondered to myself if anything more was going to happen that night that would include that gorgeous Cuban.
“I didn’t need to wait long to know the answer to that question. As soon as the band started up, I saw him walking toward our table. My heart stopped, and so did my breathing. He walked over to us and looked directly into my eyes. ‘Hello, ladies. My name is Carlos Sardina. It would be my greatest privilege to dance with you this evening.’ He was looking straight at me, and I could feel the warmth from his eyes spread from my neck to the top of my head.
The book will soon be available on Amazon.com. :))