Read an Excerpt
Child of a Storm-Caught in a Rip-Hurricane Secret
Child of a Storm
The jagged scar on Pablo’s belly wriggled like a snake that protruded above his waistband as he darted out of the yard to join his friends playing on the sidewalk. The scar extended from above his belly button to near his pubic bone. In the tropical heat, sweat made it glisten, but the scar never bothered him. Everyone seemed more conscious of it than he was. Yet, the erratic scar told of a surgeon who had been careless or, perhaps, in a great hurry to enter that child’s abdomen. Back in Colorado, where Ciara Malloy was from, a disfigurement like that would be cause for a thorough malpractice investigation.
San Juan’s August humidity hung so heavy in the air you could almost swim through it. Still, it was better to be out on the patio than to swelter indoors in front of a window air conditioner. Jalousies cranked tightly closed were neither capable of holding out the humidity nor containing the cooled air.
The limp breeze picked up, wafting spicy aromas of neighborhood cooking. With the current of air came the smell of fresh moisture. Moments later, the rain came. Big wet drops splattered over everything, crackling when they fell into the barbecue.
Ciara ducked under the raised floral umbrella over the patio table. Rico dragged the hot barbecue across the concrete patio closer to the main house and under shelter of the eaves in order to finish cooking the game hens. His muscles flexed as he labored. His torso already glowed from standing too near the barbecue and from closeness of the late afternoon heat. Just like when she had seen him at a construction site. He always removed his shirt while working and his bronzed muscular physique glistened in the bright Caribbean sunlight.
The first time she saw him at work, he wore only shorts and construction boots. With tousled wavy black hair, he looked like a golden god in a hardhat, tight roping a two-story block wall as he supervised the construction crew.
Frequently in the Caribbean, rain showers passed over but ceased within minutes. Now the rain continued. Maybe they would have to eat dinner indoors after all. The atmosphere had been muggy and the breeze on the patio so tempting. They both loved being outdoors. Their eyes met.
“It’ll pass,” he said, smiling in a way that said he would allow nothing to spoil this day. Being bilingual, his English retained a heavy Cuban Spanish accent. “Better today than tomorrow.”
Rain hitting the large flat leaves of the nearby avocado tree played a constant rhythm in the background. Drops hitting the tin roof next door added accompaniment.
“Nothing bad will happen today,” Ciara said.
“You aren’t going to leave me, are you?” he asked. But his smile was facetious.
Leave him? She loved him with all her heart. She loved Pablo, his little boy, as her own. She could not understand why she and Rico had not set a wedding date. After a freak storm last year that blew down her shack on the edge of the beach, she had moved into the cottage behind his house on Calle Delbrey. Not being married, they lived separately for Pablo’s sake. That was the way Rico wanted things. Too, they needed to maintain a level of dignity.
Dictates of the Puerto Rican culture forced them to live in separate homes until they were married. But to hear him occasionally allude to her leaving, if that’s what he feared the most why, then, did he hesitate about finally tying the knot?
“Was this the kind of weather you had when your wife left?” Ciara asked. They had always talked openly about the past. Wounds healed more quickly when feelings were aired. Or was it because when she and Rico met the bonding energy between them had wiped out the pain of old hurts?
“About the same,” he said. “Strange how bad things in my life happen on rainy days.” He smiled and shook his head. “Like the day your shack went down.”
“Sure, but we met the sunny day after,” she said. She remembered the day she was picking through the rubble of the shack and looked up to find this gorgeous Latino watching her with a most tender expression. How the sparks shot between them that day. “Still, the weather is only coincidental to events occurring, don’t you think?” she asked.
“Wasn’t raining when Pablo was born,” he said. “But it stormed when his mother ran—”
Pablo came running around the side of the house. Rico quickly looked down and tended the barbecue.
“Is dinner ready, Mama?” Pablo asked, his hazel eyes large and round from the exertion of play. Then he saw his father at the barbecue near the back wall of the house. “Hola, Papi,” he said. “When do we eat?”
“About ten minutes,” his father said.
“I’m going back to the street then,” Pablo said, starting to run away. “I’m winning all the races.”
“Hey-hey,” Rico said. “Be on time for dinner.”
Too tall and mentally advanced for just under eight years old, Pablo never let a little rain slow him down. He and some neighborhood children ran races up and down the block in front of the house. Long-legged Pablo usually won.
“You were saying?” Ciara asked.
“You know the details,” he said. “Pablo was born on a bright sunny day in a hot spell. The day construction stopped early because of torrential rain was the day I found my wife’s goodbye note.”
Rico told her everything when he first disclosed he had a son. While still living in Cuba, having to shut down the construction site due to a storm, he came home from work early and found his wife’s hurriedly scribbled note saying that she had run off with their neighbor who had been, unbeknownst to Rico, her long-time lover. She told no one else and had left the baby alone in his crib for Rico to find. Pablo was only two months old then.
Rico’s wife had only stayed in the marriage for the duration of the pregnancy. Once the child was born and her body healed, she called it quits. Rico had evidently been too slow at making the decision to leave Cuba in the wake of the upheavals and change of government introduced by Fidel Castro. His wife chose to leave with the man who would take her to safety and a better life in America.
“Nothing’s going to spoil our sail tomorrow,” Ciara said. “The weather will clear.”
“Besides, Pablo’s looking forward to this vacation before school begins again.”
“I hope you don’t let the weather dictate—”
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “But it rained a lot last year, too, when your shack on the beach went down.” Then he added, “But it hasn’t rained that much this year.”
“Freak storms happen anytime,” she said. “You really don’t believe rain is some sort of omen, do you?”
“No...,” he said.
But that’s all he said. As usual when conversation became too focused, he seemed distressed. Several times recently he had made an attempt at explanatory conversation. But something always got in the way. Some problem was eating at him and he needed to get it off his chest, but did not seem to know how to begin. The longer he waited, the more desperation he seemed to harbor. Surely that had been the reason he decided they take a week off, sail the ketch all the way to the Virgin Islands if time allowed. Get away from distraction.