Read Time: 5 mins | Historical Fiction | Romance | Drama | Part 3
“Sister Laura?” It was Vasco. Barefooted, grimy, and still full of energy even at this late hour.
“Did I not tell you to go on straight home?” I began to reprimand him but found myself tugging playfully at his earlobe. His smile was so disarming.
“I am home.” He shrugged with a confused look on his face. “Senor Carlos offers me a bed, and a place to stay.”
His honesty tugged at my heart.
“Where are your parents and family?”
His eyes drifted off. “I have not heard or seen them since I was a child.”
“But you are still a child, Vasco.”
“No child has lived as much as I have, Sister Laura. I will be twelve years old in two weeks, and I already pay a small rent, and have a job. Tell me which child you know lives like this?”
Vasco was wise beyond his years. He did not understand self-pity, nor did I suppose he would have expected any. Vasco had an honesty that resonated with me.
“I must admit that you might just be correct. But you still should not be on the streets at this late hour.”
He gestured me toward a narrow alley, and reluctantly I followed him.
“This is when I make the most money, Sister Laura.” He shimmied his way past several crates and stood aside so that I may walk past him.
“Where are you taking me?” My curiosity finally got the better of me.
“This entrance is for the special guests of Senor Carlos. You are special, no?”
He proceeded to tap on the door and a small latch opened. Eyes behind the door darted quickly in each direction but never directly at us, then the door opened.
In all my years visiting my uncle, I had never once entered his home this way before. The hall was quite narrow, wide enough for only one person to walk through. A small candle sat against a wall at the end of the corridor, and Vasco carefully lit another and offered it to me.
“Go up the stairs and take the second door on the left. If you take the door on the right, you will be doing penance for a long time at the monastery.” He giggled for the first time since I had met him, and it was the giggle of a naughty, playful, inviting boy.
“Thank you kindly, Vasco.” I offered him a small reward which he refused.
“This is my job. I have already been paid well by Senor Carlos. He frowns if I take anything else from his patrons.”
“Then it shall be our secret.” I insisted and pressed the peso into his tiny grubby hands, making a mental note to get him a pair of shoes. The monastery always got donations from its overly wealthy parishioners, and no one would miss a pair of used shoes. I could hear conversations happening behind the door to the right, male voices in soft tones. They grew silent as I walked past, as though someone was being too cautious. The door to the left was opened by a slim woman of exquisite beauty. She had a complexion which mirrored that of the sugaring concoction used by the beauticians in the parlors of the more refined side of Cadiz, like the color of powdered cinnamon. Her eyes were a deep hazel, and her skin was immaculate. Her hair cascaded down to one side of her face in glorious curls that nestled just beneath her shoulders.
“Welcome to Corral de la Hernando. My name is Tahiris.” She flashed a smile of perfectly formed teeth, hidden behind thin lips and almost imperceptible dimples. Her voice had this husky, deep tone to it that forced one to listen quite intently.
“Good evening. I am here to see my uncle Carlos.” I was awestruck by her beauty.
“You are his blood. There is no hiding this.” She ran both her hands along the contours of my face, as a blind person would, and smiled.
Taking my arm by the elbow, she gently nudged me through the crowd. She playfully spanked away several hands that reached out toward us, much to the delight of the patrons. Tahiris, such a unique name, had an aura about her. I was distracted by the dancers on the small stage. A couple dancing, only accompanied by a Gypsy woman playing a guitar with the most adept skill. She sang along to a well-known folk song as the audience clapped and would join in at key moments. It was both intimate and chaotic at the same time.
I followed Tahiris up a flight of stairs to much more tasteful and calmer surroundings.
“Wait here.” She instructed me. “He is meeting with some particularly important guests. I shall inform him that you are here.”
On the wall, was a painting of my uncle’s Carthusian horse, La Gamba. Why he named the magnificent beast after sea food, was something he swore to me was between him and his horse. He took me riding on several occasions on the beaches at Sanlucar in Jerez. It was quite a remarkable experience, and La Gamba enjoyed every minute of it.
“Come this way.” Tahiris had returned quietly.
She led me into a small side room, where two very distinguished gentlemen sat at a table with my uncle. She waited until I had entered, then left and closed the door behind her.
I felt as though I had intruded upon a very private conversation between two lovers. Although in this case it was four gentlemen, and my uncle. Two of the men I had seen before. Familiar because of their notoriety, and their presence in and around Cadiz. The other two men were obviously far more important and wealthier.
“Gentlemen, may I present to you, my niece. The lovely Vanesa Laura.”
The more elderly of the two men, struggled to stand up. He leaned heavily against his cane, and after much effort, bowed slightly, while removing his rather wide brimmed hat. He wore a heavy black patterned doublet, black stockings that were tucked into tall leather boots, and over his shoulders were draped a patterned hip length cape that was pinned with a fabulous gold brooch.
“The pleasure is mine Senora Laura.” I extended my gloved hand, and he barely held it. Perhaps the stains on my glove disgusted him. I noticed that the gold ring on his middle finger held an official seal.
My uncle introduced the elderly man. “Laura my dear, this is Fernando Giron, the Marquis of Sofraga.”
To be continued tomorrow…
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