Lovers - a fiction short story
Havana, Cuba 1963
She danced the samba, the rumba and the salsa on the dark, rundown, Havana nightclub stage. He waited tables and served the drinks and food.
Over the heads of the patrons their eyes had locked one evening during her performance and from that night on they had become lovers.
Their hot, tempestuous love-making would stretch on for hours and then exhausted they would fall asleep wrapped in each other's arms on the small bed. He lived in a tiny, cramped apartment above the nightclub.
By early morning, just as the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon, she would quietly and mysteriously slip out while he slept.
Or so she thought. He feigned sleep on those early mornings, and out of one eye, watched her quickly dress. First, the slip that would gently fall down and caress her body. Then her dress tight across her hips and breasts. She would hunt for her shoes, discarded carelessly in the heat of love, and when found she would slip on the stiletto heels and silently walk on her toes across the room to the door and pass her graceful, thin body noiselessly through the door and be gone. Silence.
This morning was different. As she reached for her dress, he slipped his strong, muscular arm around her waist and gently pulled her back on the warm bed and toward him. He wanted to cleave to her.
She tried to pull away, but he held her tight.
"No, Antonio, I must go," she whispered gently into his ear.
"No, Marta, stay," he implored.
"I can't, Antonio, I must go," she repeated.
"Go, where, Marta? Where do you go when you leave me each morning? I never see you again until your performance each evening at the club. I want to spend the daylight hours with you," he said as he gently kissed her soft, silky neck.
"Antonio, please, we said no questions. Now let me go," Marta firmly said.
"But, Marta, I love you," said Antonio. "I only want to share my time with you and no one else," he said.
Marta gently broke from his grasp. She took her long, dark luxurious hair and twisted it around and pinned it up on her head, several curly strands softly brushing her bare shoulders.
"Please, Antonio, no questions. I must go. I will see you tonight at the club." She had finished dressing and without a look back at Antonio she slipped out the door.
Antonio, exasperated and frustrated, punched the pillow -- in Marta, he had found the love of his life, but her mysterious disappearance during the day puzzled him. What could he do? He had followed her one day through the busy streets of Havana, nearly losing sight of her at the street market because of the crowd, but had finally caught up with her only to see her enter a taxi and drive off.
He found that strange. How could she afford a taxi that only foreigners could afford and use? The typical Cuban had no money for taxis. He had shoved his hands in his pockets and walked slowly back to his apartment lost in his thoughts and his love for Marta.
In the evening as he reported for work, he noticed a frenzy of activity as waiters and busboys were moving tables and chairs together for a large party. The white linen table cloths and napkins came out - rarely used at all here. Apparently, there were special guests coming.
"Hey," said Antonio as he raised his head in a nod to the bartender. "What is going on?"
The bartender shrugged with a questioning look on his face, "Ask the boss," he replied. Antonio looked around for Pedro, the boss. He finally found him in the kitchen talking excitedly and giving instructions to the cook.
"Antonio, I'm glad you're here," he said intensely. "You will wait on their table tonight," he said excitedly.
"Wait on whom?" asked Antonio.
"El Comandante!," exclaimed Pedro.
"El Comandante, who?" asked Antonio a little annoyed by this guessing game.
Pedro stopped in his tracks and just stared at Antonio. "El Comandante - Che Guevara - who else is El Comandante de Cuba?" he asked incredulously.
Antonio just stared back at Pedro -- "Che Guevara here? -- tonight? Why would he come to this old run down nightclub tonight?" asked Antonio.
"I don't know why," said Pedro, "but when a phone call says he's coming, I don't ask questions, I just prepare for him," said Pedro as he rushed out of the kitchen.
Antonio stunned also left the kitchen and went back to find Marta in her dressing room. He knocked on the door and entered, "Hey, where's Marta?" he asked one of the other dancers.
"Not here yet," she said.
"Well, let me know when she arrives," said Antonio.
"Yea, sure," said the dancer as he left and shut the door.
He went back to the bar to get his apron and heard Pedro giving instructions to the bartender who listened nonchalantly. He heard the musicians setting up on the small stage and testing their instruments.
"Do you believe this?" asked Antonio to the bartender.
"Who knows?" the bartender answered as he shrugged. "Anyone could have made that phone call," he said.
"Pedro seems to believe it," said Antonio. "Hey, let me know when you see Marta come in," said Antonio. "I'll be in the kitchen getting the dishes and silverware ready."
"Yea, sure," said the bartender shrugging again.
A bit later, Antonio set the table on the pure, white linen tablecloth. He straightened the dishes, glasses and silverware so they were perfectly positioned on the table. Just as he finished five soldiers with machine guns walked in the nightclub and began checking around. Antonio watched silently. He heard one of the soldiers talking to Pedro and Pedro was assuring him no other customers would be in the nightclub that evening.
Then, he introduced the soldier to Antonio and explained Antonio would be the waiter that evening. The soldier patted Antonio down to check for weapons. The soldiers turned out to be Guevara's bodyguards and positioned themselves around the nightclub. Well, well, Antonio thought, Pedro was right after all.
Then, magnificently and boldly, the front door to the nightclub flew open and in strode Che Guevara with Marta on his arm and accompanied by his entourage.
Antonio was stunned. He stood stiffly straight and his eyes never moved from Marta. He followed her as Guevara and his entourage filled all the tables in the small nightclub with Guevara and Marta taking the large table front and center with some of Guevara's friends.
Antonio gulped his gasp silently when he saw Marta sit down next and closely to Guevara at the table as he chomped on his cigar. They leaned their heads together smiling, gazing at one another and speaking quietly one to one as lovers who know each other intimately do.
Marta whispered again in Guevara's ear and he nodded to her and she got up to walk back to her dressing room, avoiding Antonio's stare and never making eye contact with him. Guevara looked approvingly at Marta as she walked away from the table and into the back of the nightclub.
Antonio was stunned. Marta knew El Comandante? And intimately? Was this why she was so mysterious? Had she been toying with him, Antonio, all these months? Antonio stepped up to Guevara's table to take the drink order. He glared into Guevara's eyes, but Guevara gave his order as he talked with another, barely looking at Antonio or noticing his presence.
After delivering the drinks, Antonio went directly back to Marta's dressing room. He knocked and entered -- one of the other dancer's met him at the door.
"Marta's dressing -- she can't see anyone right now," said the dancer.
Antonio crudely shoved her aside and strode into the room. Marta was behind the screen getting into her dance costume. Antonio grabbed her and spun her around. She continued dressing, not once looking at Antonio.
Antonio grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her -- "Look at me, Marta!" he said quietly but roughly and shook her again. Marta looked at Antonio with tears in her eyes.
"I had no idea he'd ever come here," she said choking. "This run down hole and dive."
"How do you know him? How long have you known him?" Antonio demanded. Marta picked up her purse and pulled out a photograph and showed it to Antonio.
Antonio blanched -- it was a photo of Guevara, Marta and a small baby all smiling for the picture. "Yes," whispered Marta, "the child is ours -- Che is her father."
Antonio slapped her hard across the face. "Hey," said one of the other dancers running up.
"Get lost," said Antonio roughly. Marta nodded to the dancer and she retreated.
"Her name is Anna Maria and she's three years old now," said Marta quietly. "The child and I live outside of town in a small clapboard house provided for us by Che," she explained.
"Guevara's married with five kids," said Antonio incredulously.
"I know," she said barely above a whisper. "He saw me dancing in a nightclub here in Havana before I worked here," she said. "He became obsessed with me -- he had to have me," she said in a strained voice. "What could I do? A poor dancer who needed to bring in money for my family. I couldn't say no - he would have killed me. So I became his mistress. He eventually tired of me," she said quietly and resigned. "He's been out of the country and just returned and he wanted to see Anna Maria," she said.
Antonio, by this time, was filled with rage. "I will kill him," he sputtered.
"Antonio, NO!!!" said Marta firmly. "To attempt that is suicide -- he will have you killed and probably tortured before doing that. Don't be ridiculous! He is always surrounded by body guards, and he's Anna Maria's father. Please don't get involved -- he'll take Anna Maria away from me," said Marta quietly.
"Are you leaving with him tonight, after the show?" demanded Antonio.
"Antonio, please, no questions," said Marta flatly.
Antonio gave her a hard, stone cold stare and then abruptly turned and left the dressing room.
Another Cuban story
Antonio walked directly behind the bar and said to the bartender, "Give me the gun, hurry." Antonio knew Pedro kept a gun behind the bar.
"Antonio, are you nuts?" asked the bartender. "There are soldiers all around us."
"Just give it to me," demanded Antonio. The bartender looking nervously around took the gun from beneath the bar and slipped it sideways to Antonio. Antonio put it inside the front waistband of his trousers hidden behind the apron. The body guards had not noticed a thing. Then Antonio served El Comandante and his table their food.
Marta danced magnificently that night for her performance and she and Guevara danced several numbers together. Antonio was seething. Guevara would not make eye contact with Antonio anytime he waited on the table. The entourage at the table kept drinking all night, laughing, smoking cigars, laughing some more with Guevara and Marta who was gently sitting on his lap at the table. Guevara lightly kissed Marta several times, Marta laughing and joking with him.
It was all so surreal to Antonio. The dim lights, the smoke, the clinking glasses, the music, the laughter, Marta sitting on his lap, Guevara's hands all over her -- it all was a dizzy kaleidoscope whirling around Antonio. His anger and rage mounted up in his heart and then in his throat. He felt he would be strangled by all the anger and rage he felt inside of him.
Guevara stood up, nodded to his entourage and the whole table prepared to leave. Guevara took Marta's arm as he smiled warmly at her and handed her a single red rose. She took the rose in her hand and she smiled back at him and they turned to head to the door to exit.
Antonio his rage exploding stepped forward, pulled out the gun and aimed right for Guevara's heart. What happened next seemed to happen in slow motion. He dimly heard Marta scream, "NO!!!" he pulled the trigger several times just as Marta jumped in front of Guevara.
As Antonio's eyes began to come into focus, he saw it was not Guevara who had fallen to the floor, but Marta, her blood spilling out into dark pools on the floor. Her unblinking eyes were fixed in one final stare at Antonio
The last thing Antonio remembered hearing was the rat-a-tat-tat of the machine guns as his bullet riddled body fell on top of Marta.
The rose also lay on the floor, the petals soaked in the dark pools of Marta's and Antonio's blood.
Copyright (c) 2013 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved