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by Jennah Sharpe
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Brynn Parker was warned to stay away from the gypsies from her first summer in Spain. Ever since then, her curiosity has piqued her interest in a certain young Gitano. As she grows into a woman, her illicit involvement with Marco Kaldera becomes more intimate until she must return to her home country. Years later, through a mutual friend, a funeral and Marco's fame, Brynn works to earn his forgiveness and convince him to love her once again. But--he belongs with the gypsies. Can the sacrifices they must endure to be together bond them forever?
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: March 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [220 KB]
Reading time: 135-190 min.
When I was fourteen and Mama said to me, stay away from the gypsies, she meant it. Her long finger pointing at my chest and the lack of humor on her face told me she'd better not catch me anywhere near their camp on the outskirts of Ponserra. Inevitably, because I was full of intense curiosity as well as boredom, I would sit on my abuela's decrepit porch at the back of the house, my book of Emily Dickinson poetry open on my lap, and watch the Gitanos go about their business. From the top of the hill, there was a spectacular view of the village right down to the coast.
I was too far away to see anyone clearly but their blurs of bright clothing. Boisterous laughter always drew my attention to their camp in the east where the smoke from their fires curled into the perfectly blue sky like fingers searching for freedom. They seemed to me to have such a fun life, such a carefree existence, although I now know that was the romanticized view of a naïve girl.
It wasn't that my mother was racist, although I suppose to an outsider she would be considered such. Understand that she grew up in northern Spain, the child of parents who, themselves, had been told to stay away from the Gitano people. It was that all encompassing fear of the unknown that bound her to her side of the Amarillo River.
I, on the other hand, did not grow up in Spain and had no such reservations. Sitting on my grandmother's back step, I could hear the quick, staccato sounds of the flamenco music they played for passers-by. I didn't then and still don't know how to dance like that, but at the time, knowing I was alone, my toes flew in an unorganized pattern on the dried grass.
The day I crossed the river will forever be with me, partly because I've chosen to embroider it on my heart, and partly because it was a day that opened my eyes to a different culture, to a certain mystical, handsome boy who grew to be a powerfully sensual man. If a gypsy oracle had told me back then how things would turn out, well ... no. I'd do it all over again in an instant. It made me who I am today.
"Brynn, go down to the market, please," Mother called from inside the house. "Your grandmother needs fresh tomatoes for dinner. You like tomatoes on your chicken, don't you?" I nodded. Mama tucked five pesetas in the palm of my waiting hand. "Hurry back now. She wants them steamed and skinned before we eat." As I headed for the open door, she called, "Don't forget to bring back the change."
Each summer, we spent one month with my grandmother in Spain. It was a long flight from my hometown of Ottawa and always succeeded in messing up my circadian rhythms, but I loved the quiet, sedate way of life in Ponserra even as a girl. A quaint fishing village you might call it, but it was also a study in human nature. The characters in that town made you feel at home, no matter your background ... unless you were gypsy born. That I learned at a young age. I remember pointing at an old woman with a head of thick grey hair, beady pinpoint eyes, who wrapped her body in voluminous yellow fabrics. She stood on the harbor docks, castanets fixed to her fingers and youth in her step. A small coffee tin for the collection of tips lay at her feet. My grandmother tugged my hand in the opposite direction and roughly slapped my pointed finger to my side. Still, I kept my eye on her. The old woman danced all morning as my grandmother and I strolled through the market, before picking up her little tin full of change and heading back to the encampment. After her dance, she walked in a sort of tired slow motion across the bridge.
The walk to the market in Ponserra was downhill. Abuela's whitewashed house was situated on top of a rocky cliff looking out over the flat, dark sea. I followed the path through the gardens of sea lavender and daisies, through the iron gate and down the same path her goats followed to the river. There I had the choice of continuing on through the narrow streets of the village to the market near the harbor, or crossing the small river that flowed to the east of the village. That path would also take me to the market, but first I would pass quite close to the gypsy camp. Precisely what my mother told me not to do. If I hadn't gone that day, I would have gone another. The phrase Thou dost protest too much, comes to mind when I think of Mama and Grandmother back then. I knew the gypsies couldn't possibly be as bad as they made them out to be. Or were they? I needed to know what all the tension was about.
The cool ocean breeze brought with it a saline freshness and the high call of seabirds as they followed the trawlers back from the morning's haul. I wasn't artistic but looking down on the village, I always thought someone should paint it. Perhaps someone did, but I've yet to see the outcome. My mother was the painter, however, she preferred portraits. Paintings of family members and friends I'd never met lined the staircases in her home. She thought landscapes were too easy to paint. It's really too bad. I'd love a painting from the view at Abuela's house.
"Helena," my grandmother used to say to her. "Find something to do that won't get you all splattered. That stuff doesn't come off." When Mama got married and had me, the painting suffered to the point where I don't think my father ever saw one of her works. When I was born, she took it up again but my father disappeared shortly after.
I took pictures with my mother's bulky Polaroid camera but the flat prints never were able to capture the depth of the hills, it's three dimensional beauty lost in translation. Nor did they capture the movement of the Portuguese oaks and pine, the sweet mixture of Basque and Spanish voices, or the succulent scent of olives and breads dipped in wine at the market. Going back to Ponserra each summer felt like going home.
I liked Ottawa, loved it in fact. It's still the perfect mix of business and artistry. Where even those who live there are essentially transient, the students and those who work for a while before moving on. It's also on water, something I've never been able to live far from. I get dried out, in a sense. The Rideau Canal is gorgeous and fluid in all seasons as it empties into the Ottawa River, flanked by cliffs and rolling parks.
But Marco lived in Spain ... and so I eagerly returned each summer. * * * *
I was barefoot the entire summer I was fourteen. I considered it sacrilege to wear socks between June and September. Socks were too reminiscent of school. I occasionally wore sandals, but the path to the market was so well worn there was nothing to threaten the soles of my feet. The wind twirled the hem of my white sundress around my calves as I skipped down the path. Decorated in pink rosettes and tight smocking around my non-existent breasts, it was my favorite. When I reached the bridge, I stopped and looked back. My grandmother and mother were both inside, the windows faceless. It was the perfect opportunity.
The bridge arched up and over the river like a neglected rainbow. The boards were smooth and my feet liked the warm feel of them. Without a railing, I felt more exposed to the rushing water than I would have liked, so I jogged across. Once on the other side, within sight of the worn canvas tents and old rusty caravans of the gypsies, my heart began to thump in my chest.
I almost crossed back over the river but a sound stopped me. I scanned the camp as I walked along the path, searching for the source of the tender music. I was doing precisely what my mother told me not to and it gave me both a thrill and a pang of guilt. The adrenalin rush and the lure of the music won out.
Just where the path left the camp and meandered further down to the gate by the first market stalls, a boy watched me from where he sat under a large beech tree. He was seated on the ground, leaning against the trunk of the tree with one leg outstretched, barefoot like me. He wore dark trousers and a black shirt, open at the neck. A single gold earring flashed in the sunlight and a thin chain hung around his neck, its charm, if there was one, hidden in his shirt. Strands of his black hair fell from its ponytail across his face as he strummed an intriguing rhythm on an old six-string guitar. It wasn't any music I recognized, but the staccato notes reminded me of the woman at the docks and her castanets, so I stopped. He smiled at me and continued playing, this time a softer, slower song.
I stood transfixed for a time, almost as if his dark eyes held me in place. He knew how to keep an audience. Older than I was, the boy was tall and lanky, his fingers quick and agile. I was in awe of his ability.
When he ended the song, I clapped my hands and he smiled as he bowed his head. I looked down at the money in my hand. Knowing I would very likely be caught but suddenly not minding, I picked out the coins from my hand that I thought would have equaled a dollar and tossed them to him. He caught them in his cupped palms.
"What's your name?" he asked in English as he tucked the coins into the pocket of his pants.
"How did you know I speak English?" He'd startled me by speaking.
"I speak Romani, Basque and English. I know you come from Canada and stay with your grandmother, Rosa Hernandez."
"Do you know her?" I was thoroughly amazed he knew my grandmother's name. She wasn't supposed to have had anything to do with these people, although now, speaking with a gypsy boy who spoke English with only a slight accent, I couldn't imagine why.
"I know of her," he answered. "What is your name?" he asked again.
"Brynn. Brynn Parker."
"Helena's daughter?" I nodded in response. He continued to speak, his palm stroking the wood of his guitar. "Thank you, Brynn. I'm Marco Kaldera. I hope to play for you again."
He knew how to flatter me and I blushed. At fourteen, I'm not sure I could have defined sexy, but I knew he was nice to look at, and although I'd yet to kiss a boy, I knew I wanted to kiss him. I, too, hoped he would play for me again and said so.
Hurriedly, I continued down the path, hoping my grandmother hadn't glanced out her window while I was standing there, but too afraid to look up at the house to check.
I couldn't speak Basque very well so I said nothing while I picked out the tomatoes from the rotund, balding vender, paid for them and returned up the proper path to the little house on the cliff.
When I handed my mother the change, she knit her eyebrows together and counted it twice, blocking my way to the small room where I slept by simply moving her body in front of me while she examined her palm. My room was where I kept my books and writing papers, where I spent the majority of my time that summer when I wasn't outside. Not wanting her to count the change in front of me, I stared at the cool linoleum floor.
"Brynn, you're missing a dollar. What happened to it? If you wanted to buy sweets you should have asked. I might have said yes, but now you've disobeyed me. You owe Abuela a dollar."
"Yes, Mama," I responded, not knowing what she wanted to hear.
"Where did you spend the dollar?" Her tone was clipped. She tucked the money into the pocket of her apron and folded her arms across her chest.
"There was a gypsy boy--" I began to answer, shifting my weight.
"A Gitano? Where did you see a Gitano?" Mama interrupted.
I could have told her I saw one in the market, but I didn't like to lie to Mama. It was always my downfall. "Across the river. He was playing the guitar so nicely. Such a pretty sound."
She didn't say anything else for a moment, only looked at me with an expression I couldn't figure out. She turned aside, taking the bag of tomatoes from my hand.
"Don't tell your grandmother," she said quietly.
I shook my head obligingly and ran to my room. The warning was firm and I didn't forget it. I wanted to ask Mama about the boy, why no one wanted me near the gypsies and why grandmother only whispered about them when a boy actually knew her by name.
My mother could never understand my wanderlust or where it came from. I can't say I know where it comes from either. Perhaps from my father who is wandering now, somewhere. Last I heard he was in Atlantic City. He sent me a postcard for my eighteenth birthday, the first I'd received in five years. I didn't mind. My mother more than made up for his absence by hovering like a hummingbird over her young. I didn't particularly want another parent.
As it turned out, eighteen was a good year. It was the year I fell in love, well, as much as you can believe an eighteen-year-old could fall in love. Neither my mother nor my abuela believed me and by not doing so, my heart was torn into tiny bits of confetti scattered on the ocean wind.
That year, I puttered about the market, looking through the myriad trinkets, exotic foods and tourist items such as postcards of Barcelona and Madrid, many hundreds of miles away. Why no one ever bothered to capture the shine of Ponserra troubled me and I took my camera everywhere, hoping to get a few good shots that could be turned into postcards. It perpetually hung around my neck, this time, my own little digital Nikon.
For the past few summers and much to my dismay, the gypsies of Ponserra had been absent. Nomadic by nature, they'd most likely found a new source of income and were working to make all they could there before returning to their site by the Amarillo River. Each June when Mama and I arrived, I'd scan the lower bluffs only to be disappointed. They were part of the mystery of Ponserra and it wasn't the same without them there. Not to mention, I was a teenaged girl and wanted to see Marco again. Over the years, he'd become a bit of an icon to me. I wanted to see if he stood up to my fantastical images of him. That year, I was older than he would have been when I first saw him playing his guitar.
Having been stationary on the plane all night and throughout the jostling bus ride to Ponserra, I was filled with energy. Abuela made us a lunch of pasta and stuffed baked tomatoes. In fact, come to think of it, almost every meal grandmother made incorporated tomatoes.
After eating and washing it down with a cup of white wine, I left Mama and her mother to do their catching up over the laundry line. As I headed out the door, Grandmother called to me to pick up fish for dinner. I told her I would and headed down the path, my bare feet familiar with every jutting rock, root and twist.
At the bridge I stopped and although I couldn't bring myself to cross it this time, I listened. The caravans were there, their people busily cooking over the fires or hanging out laundry just as my grandmother was doing. My hopes soared. I wanted to know if Marco was among them, but I was afraid to find out he wasn't. Trying to delay any possible disappointment, I continued on into the village.
I headed straight for the harbor because I'd missed the sea. As soon as we disembarked at the airport, I could smell the salt. Every time I inhaled, I felt as if my bones were being cleaned out. I forgot all about not wanting to visit Spain. * * * *