Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Author:Chanel Cleeton
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Published: 2018-02-06T05:00:00+00:00

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It takes a little over three hours to get from Havana to the beach in Varadero. Luis stops a few times so I can take pictures of the scenery, as I bask in this side of Cuban life. The space between Havana and Varadero feels off the beaten path, giving me a glimpse of the country that isn’t reserved for tourists. It will be different when we arrive at our destination, of course. Varadero is one of the country’s most famous seaside resort cities. Of all the places I’ve wanted to visit in Cuba, this is another that’s special to me—a place that meant something to my grandmother.

The water, Marisol. The most beautiful water you’ve ever seen. The color of that necklace I bought you. You know the one?

Luis’s arm drapes around the back of my seat, his other hand tapping the steering wheel, keeping time with the beat of the music on the car’s radio. The sun shines down on us, the breeze from the convertible’s open top alleviating the heat a bit, but my thighs still stick to the white leather upholstery.

When we finally arrive at the beach, I’m hardly disappointed. Varadero is everything my grandmother said it would be; white sand is cut in fine granules, towering palms loom overhead, the most beautiful clear water my eyes have ever seen lies before me.

It’s relatively quiet in this section of beach, and we find a spot off to the side under a palm tree. The nearest sunbather is hundreds of yards away, providing the illusion that we’ve found our own corner of the world.

Luis sets up a blanket for us in the sand, taking out the hamper he brought from home.

He pulls out tamales and empanadas wrapped in paper and bottled sodas, handing the food to me. I polish off a tamale and an empanada, washing them down with the familiar taste of Materva.

“Do you want to go swimming?” Luis asks once we’ve finished eating.

The water’s impossible to resist.

“Of course.”

I pull the dress over my head, wearing the bikini I changed into earlier during one of our stops along the journey, and turn my back to Luis as I stare at the waves lapping at the shore. A fishing boat hovers in the distance, bobbing up and down in the water. Far to the right of me, tiny straw umbrellas pepper the landscape.

This truly is paradise.

I imagine scattering my grandmother’s ashes here, making her final resting place in the sand and the sea. And yet—

I’m not ready to part with her; there’s an unfamiliar distance between us, the secret of her mysterious romance lingering between us.

You think you know someone, imagine you know them better than anyone, and then little by little, the fabric of their life unravels before your eyes and you realize how little you knew. She was always the constant in my life, and now—

It feels a bit like I’ve lost her all over again.

I walk toward the water, not waiting for Luis, taking a moment to get my bearings, to calm the racing beat of my heart, to clear my head.


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