A/N: Hi! This is my first ever completed fanfic! I'm so happy. Reviews would be great, but just don't hurt me too much, ok? I'm new to this :P The reasoning behind this story was me being unsatified with the ending of the film. So my friend prodded me into writing it. Thanks Lea! Anyways, enjoy :D
How do you recognise love?
How do you know that you've fallen, fallen hard, for just that one special someone?
These questions had haunted Katey Miller for what seemed like a lifetime. But now she was beginning to realise something. The only possible way to know you truly love someone, is to lose them. And against all the odds, all you want to do is get them back. When your heart aches, and your very soul is crying out to be with that person… That's how you know.
With a sigh, Katey closed her book and let her gaze drift to the sky. The day was warm, typical for a Cuban autumn, and the heavens were as blue as they had been all summer back in America. It was a day for dreaming, and for loosing yourself in memories.
She had enrolled at Radcliff three years ago, at the end of the summer, pressurised by her parents to continue the path she'd laid long ago. But she'd found no happiness at college. The ways of the mind no longer interested her. It was as if that fateful summer in Cuba had been a revelation. Although she had maintained her grades, the only thing that ever continued to hold her attention was dancing. And even that left a bittersweet taste in her mouth.
For those three years, he was all she could ever think about. Javier Suarez, the boy that had captured her heart and refused to let it go. She kept dancing, hoping, praying that the magic would return to her, that it wasn't only one Cuban boy who could make her feel that way. Her career as a dancer took off; she became a national champion in what seemed to be less than a heartbeat. But Katey soon came to realise that winning titles and trophies just wasn't enough. She needed to feel again.
And now Katey found herself back where she'd started; in Havana, heartbroken, and once again involved in a dance contest.
'Hey, Katey! Katey?'
She was snapped out of her reverie by the sound of an excited male voice. Squinting against the glaring sun, she watched a figure rush towards her from the sea.
'Katey, come in the water, it's fantastic!'
She wrinkled her nose. 'Don't you think we should be practising?'
She was met by puppy dog eyes from under a floppy brown fringe. 'We're not doing that much dancing, Katey. We're judges, not participants.'
'Yes, but we still have to-'
'Oh, come on!' Her hand was seized and she was dragged right into the sea. Screeching with the indignity of it all, Katey reached out and pushed her kidnapper back so that he fell backwards with a huge splash. As he came up, spluttering and gasping, Katey allowed herself a brief giggle.
'You look hilarious.'
With a smirk, the drenched man reached out, seized her hips, and pulled her back up against him. 'That's why I want to marry you, you know? Just for that laugh.' He encircled her with his arms, resting his chin on her shoulder. Memories assaulted her… Thoughts of her and Javier, just like this, years ago…
'When are you going to say yes, Katey?'
Frozen, she let the past plague her. Before, it had been Javier holding her, showing her how to move with such freedom and ease. His hands on her skin, as she used the ocean as her guide. But now… it was none other than James Phelps with his hands on her. James, her dance partner of two years, her fellow champion, as fate would have it.
He loved her, and Katey knew she should be grateful. What other man would have her, knowing she could never love them back? But James could never make her happy. 'We should be focusing on the competition.'
She watched frustration darken his face as she pulled away. 'This is way more important! Do you understand me? I want you to be my wife!'
With a glare, she turned her back on him. 'James, you know I don't love you. You're my dance partner.'
'But you mean more to me than that!' With a growl, the American grabbed her wrist. 'I love you! I always have! Dancing with you is special. I just wish you'd accept that!'
'I can't, James.' With a sigh Katey began to move away. But his next comment stopped her dead.
'Let him go, Katey. Javier isn't part of your life anymore, and he never will be.' Tears began to well up in her eyes. 'Face facts. He's probably married with ten kids by now.'
All of a sudden she whirled around. Before she could stop herself, she lashed out, slapping James across the face. He blinked at her, shocked, as his own hand crept up to cover the mark. 'Katey, I-'
'Save it.' With no more words, she stormed back up to the hotel, leaving James standing there in the middle of the sea. She rushed into her rooms and threw herself down on her bed. After a pause, she rolled over, pressing her hands into her eyes. As much as she needed them to, the tears just wouldn't come.
Is he right? she thought to herself. Will he be married by now? With children? Part of her couldn't stand the thought. Surely he couldn't just forget about her that easily? Time and time again Katey had asked herself why she'd agreed to come back to Havana. Things were no bed of roses in the country, and it would have been a simple matter to refuse the invitation to judge. The only answer she could ever find was that she wanted, needed to see him again, even if it was just for one brief moment. But if seeing him meant seeing him with another woman… Katey wasn't sure that she could handle it.
But there was another part of her. It was a part that just hoped wherever he was, whoever he was with, that he was happy.
'Oh, Javier,' she whispered, turning to face the window. 'Please…Let me see you, just once.'
'Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Palace's fourth annual dance competition!' A polite round of applause echoed the host's greeting. 'Here to open this event is America's champion dancers, Mr James Phelps and Miss Katey Miller!'
A more enthusiastic applause met their entrance. Obviously, their reputation had stretched even this far. Smiling, beautiful and broad, she allowed James to display her to the crowd before they took their positions. No matter what happened between them, Katey knew she would always be able to dance well with her partner.
As they began to dance, Katey allowed herself to analyse the way they moved. There was nothing deeper than honed skill and elegance when it came to dancing with James. Once again, she became refined, fluidly graceful, but with no hint of the magic she'd shared with Javier. To everyone on the outside, she was the epitome of perfection when it came to her dancing But how could they not see that the flame of passion and joy simply was not there? Even James failed to notice.
James dipped her, and the music came to an end. Thunderous applause followed as they took their seats and prepared for the contest to begin. The host rambled on for a while, and then all the couples took to the floor. There were ten of them, all the women incredibly beautiful and brightly dressed. And all Cuban, Katey thought privately. Her and James had to have a special grant to even be here; why would they allow anyone who wasn't Cuban to participate?
Suddenly, something caught her eye. In the background she heard one of the other judges mutter something about couple number five, but her attention had been grabbed. A voluptuous woman in a deep purple gown had been dipped, then dipped again in quick succession. She was grinning from ear to ear, a full, sultry and seductive grin as she whirled to face her partner. She's dancing just as I was, Katey thought wistfully as she continued to watch. After a short while, a frown began to appear on her face. In fact… That's exactly how I danced. They're doing the same steps as I did with Javier! As they turned, they kissed, and Katey caught a glimpse of them poised together for a single moment before the woman was spun away once more.
But that moment was enough.
She practically felt her face drain of colour. Her mouth trembled open, and she was halfway out of her seat before she felt a hand clamp down on her arm.
'Sit!' James hissed. 'What can you possibly do?'
Mouth still agape, Katey could not tear her eyes away from the couple. Through all the din, she heard herself whisper his name, and, as if he heard her, his eyes suddenly swung up to meet her own.
She saw the shock, the confusion, all mirrors of her own as her heart leapt into her throat. She mouthed his name once, twice, and watched his eyes widen.
'Javier…' she sobbed quietly. And then the unthinkable happened. At the crucial moment, the moment to hold his partner just inches from the floor, he dropped her. There was a loud thud, and a gasp from the audience. A loud, indignant screech from the woman followed, but Javier didn't even notice as he stepped over her, eyes fixed on Katey.
All of a sudden, hurt and doubt began to creep into her mind. He had danced with another woman, their dance, and… he had kissed her! This was Javier, Javier Suarez, the man she had longed to see for over three years. But now her worst fears had come true. He could dance with another and feel that unimaginable connection. With someone else.
He didn't need her the way that she needed him.
Wildly she looked away from him, catching James' eye in the process. James reached up and took her icy cold hand. 'Let's get out of here, okay?'
She nodded, desperate to leave before Javier reached them. She watched James lean over and inform the other judges that she was unwell and would be best to get her home. He stood, draped her shawl over her arms and led her out the hall into the crisp night air.
Whilst they waited for the car, James slipped his arm around her. For some reason, Katey knew he wasn't being perverse.
'It was Javier, wasn't it?' he muttered after a while.
Numbly, she nodded.
'Didn't you want to speak to him?'
'He…He was with someone else.' As if that justifies it, she thought, clenching her jaw to stop the tears. He kissed her…Oh God, he kissed her…
James sighed. 'Look, I know I'm not your favourite person at the moment, but I do guess you're hurting right now. I'm not going to be an insensitive git by saying 'I told you so.'' Katey squeezed her eyes shut. James winced, but tentatively tightened his arm around her. 'I'm making a mess of this, aren't I?' With a sigh, he watched the car trundle up to the bottom of the steps. 'Let's get you home.'
As the car pulled away from the curb, Katey looked once through the window, back up at the Palace. There was no way to be sure, but against the glowing backdrop of the building, a dark silhouette seemed to stand at the top of the steps, tails of a suit flapping in the breeze. Katey blinked in shock as her heart pounded, but when she looked again, the figure was gone.
A hand gently settled its way over hers. It was warm, comforting, and gentle. She looked up at James, who gave her a kind smile, and allowed herself to give in to weakness. Without another word between them, Katey broke down into tears, huge, heart rending sobs that shook her whole body. She let James take her in his arms, cradling her to his chest as she cried out everything that had been building for these past few years.
'Let's go home, huh?' he murmured, stroking her hair. 'We'll get you back to good old America in no time. I'll get us the first flight out of here.'
Katey clung to his shirt and nodded. She'd seen him. Seen him happy. Maybe now she could move on with her own life.
However impossible that may seem…
'Show me your frame…'
The voice echoed in the back of Katey's head as she faced herself in the floor length mirror. As if on command, her arms rose, positioning perfectly, and as solid as a rock.
It's all his fault, Katey thought with a sigh, letting her arms drop. That mysterious dance instructor had told her to open up, to let her partner touch that part of her that should be kept well behind locked doors. She'd done it, and it had been wonderful. But now… all it did was cause her pain.
If I'd never let myself go, I wouldn't be in this mess.
She could dance without emotion; the last two years had proved that. Even without that connection, she could still be a champion. But dancing really was about more than winning trophies. It was about expression. If she couldn't find joy in her dancing, there really was no hope.
She walked over to the wireless and switched it on. There was no use moping around now. Tomorrow, she would be flying back to America. And by God, she would never set foot in Havana again.
As a consistent Latin beat reached her ears and she took up her position once more. It was a simple thing to dance by yourself, and something Katey did frequently. In many ways, it was easier than dancing with a partner. You were in time with yourself, and the music, nothing else.
Katey began to dance, only opening her eyes to check her form once or twice in the mirror. Back in the States, there was a Latin ballroom competition fast approaching. After many months of strictly ballroom, she needed to learn how to move again if she and James had any chance of winning it.
Pace front, pace back, front, back, slide out and turn. Good. She opened her eyes, frowning slightly as she found her finishing position to be slightly lacking. Again. Pace front, pace back, front, back, slide out and-
All of a sudden, her hand and waist were seized. She was spun into a double turn so quickly that she almost lost her balance. Recovering, she scowled up at her captor. Her heart leapt, and her eyes flew wide in shock.
Finally, her jaw dropped as she met a pair of deep brown eyes. Deep brown eyes set in cinnamon skin, sparkling at her from under a foppish fringe.
'You have become an ironing board again, bonita.'
Katey gasped. 'J-Javier?'
'Dance with me.' It was by no means a question, and the opportunity to refuse was never given. Without warning, she was pulled up to his chest and led into a dance.
As she looked up into his face, she felt something stir within her. Their hearts beat together in a frantic rhythm, as if straining to be freed from their chests and join as one. Their eyes locked, and Katey could see the fire smouldering in his gaze, making her loose her breath. They moved together in perfect harmony, their steps guided by some invisible choreography known only to the two of them.
Dancing is about being whoever you want to be in that moment, Javier once said. And it was true. Right now, she didn't care about anything. Didn't care that he'd been with someone else, that she'd run away from him. Right now, she wanted to be in love with him, to be the other half of one soul. She wanted to be his partner.
He flung her out into a turn, once, twice, only to yank her back to him within a heartbeat. Unbidden, her arms wound themselves around him, pressing herself closer moving with ever step that he took.
They had never danced this way before. It had always been a seductive teasing of steps, or a simple flashy bit of fun. This time, there was passion. Real passion. Anger, joy, frustration, love, all mixed into a furious sequence of steps. Every emotion they felt at seeing each other after all this time became glaringly obvious. Each pushing the other away, only to pull them back again as if they couldn't bear to let go. Both so angry at the fact that without the other, they just couldn't feel complete.
This is the magic, Katey thought giddily, feeling the joy rise within her. For the first time in years I feel alive again.
The music suddenly ended on a crescendo, and Javier dipped her. Katey could have sworn she saw stars. As he slowly lifted her, she grasped onto his shoulders to keep her balance. Her legs felt like water, and she shook uncontrollably. Breathing heavily, Javier rested his forehead against hers.
He lifted a trembling hand and stroked the side of her face. 'You will not run from me again, bonita.'He rasped.
Katey's breath came out on a sob. 'Oh, Javier, I shouldn't have… I saw you with someone else, and it was our dance, and-'
'Shhh, Katey, I did it for the money. Only for the money.' He took her head in his hands and made her look at him. 'Tell me you still love me. Please. Tell me what your dance said is true.'
Oh, how she wanted to say it! The words simply wanted to tumble out of her mouth. But… 'Javier, you kissed that other girl…'
He looked away. 'Could you really expect me to sit here and do nothing after you went back to America? I wrote to you many times and received no replies. I thought you'd washed your hands of me…'
'Javier…' Katey covered her mouth with her hands. 'I didn't get any letters. Where did you send them?'
'The address you gave me.'
'I've been at Radcliff. Oh, my mother must have destroyed them! Ever since I got back from Havana she... But I sent you letters, too.'
Javier shook his head. 'For a while, the new government did not allow foreign mail into the country. By the time they did, my family had moved.'
Katey's eyes widened. 'You've moved?'
Javier gave a quirky smile. 'My brother, Carlos, you remember him? He finally did something for his family. He is a General in the army of this country. We have a big house, and everything we need to bring up the little ones.'
A bubble of joy swelled inside Katey. 'I'm so happy for you.'
He sighed, then took her hands in his. 'Katey… you must not be angry at what I need to tell you. Remember, I was sure you wanted nothing more to do with me. I knew I could not keep hoping forever.'
Dread filled her. 'Javier? What is it?'
'Azucena, the girl you saw me dance with last night.' He took a deep breath and met her eyes. 'We are engaged.'
It took a moment for the words to sink into her brain. Once they did, Katey went cold all over. 'E-engaged?' He nodded. Katey slid her hands out of his, slowly turning her back on him. 'For how long?'
'A month. The same time I gave up on waiting for you.'
She squeezed her eyes closed as tears leaked out. 'Oh, God…'
Javier stepped forward at the same time there came a loud knock at the door. Katey swung round as the door opened, and James walked in.
'Katey, the tickets have arrived. We're leaving about four, is that ok with…' He spotted Javier. '…you? Dammit!' His face darkened. 'What the Hell is he doing here?!' James lunged forwards, only to be held back by Katey who screamed at him to stop.
'We were talking, James! Just talking! Javier… Javier came to say goodbye.' That caught his attention. He looked down at her, rage slowly fading from his blue eyes.
Katey nodded. 'He… He'd heard about our engagement and came to wish me good luck.'
'Engagement?' For a moment James looked perplexed. Katey looked up at him, eyes pleading. Suddenly, his eyes lit with realisation. 'Does that mean you're accepting me?'
'I-' She took one last glance at Javier. 'I am.'
James grinned at her, swooped down, and kissed her. Katey's eyes widened at the sudden movement, but she forced herself to close her eyes, rest her hands on his shoulders and not push him away. He didn't repulse her, not by a long shot, but it was just that horrible, horrible feeling of guilt and betrayal lying in the pit of her stomach that made her want to push him back. She had just agreed to marry James Phelps, and was now kissing him, right in front of Javier. Why had she done it?
Because he did exactly the same to you, whispered the nasty voice in the back of her mind.
Eventually, James pulled away. He gave her a beaming grin and pulled her close to him. Katey turned her head to see Javier still standing there. The fury was plain on his face; his scowl was ferocious and his hand were clenched into fists. I don't know why he's so angry, she thought. He's just announced his own engagement, so why shouldn't I?
'I hope,' Javier growled. 'that you are both very happy together.' He gave one last glare at Katey, then spun on his heel and strode out of the room. As she watched him leave, she felt her heart breaking all over again.
In the distance, a door slammed and the room was suddenly eerily quiet. James turned to her, and brushed the hair out of her eyes. 'You can cry now, if you want.'
Katey bit her lip and shook her head. 'No. We're done with each other. I just hate myself for wasting three years of my life.'
James sighed. 'Did you mean it? Do you really want us to get engaged?'
'I think… I think it would be best.' She looked up at him. 'It wont be a perfect marriage, but you'll take care of me, wont you? You've put up with me for this long already.'
He gave her a wide smile, and pulled her into a tight hug. 'Of course I will, Katey, of course I will.'
It was only later that night that Katey realised something dreadful.
She sat, contemplating James' 24crt diamond ring on her finger, watching it catch the starlight. I do love him, she thought. But not as a wife loves a husband. But there are plenty of marriages out there that have nothing to do with love at all. It was only after that thought entered her mind that Javier's face floated in front of her vision. That's when something terrible occurred to her.
If she left Havana like this she would regret it for the rest of her life. She would probably end up bitter, hating Javier with all her being, and in turn, he would end up despising her. But…Even if she couldn't be with him, she didn't want the memories they shared together to be tainted with that kind of hate.
So at dawn the next morning, Katey Miller took to the streets of Havana, desperate to seek out Javier as she had done years before. The first time had been to ask him to dance with her, the second to tell him that yes, she was afraid. After that, she had visited his home to seek refuge from her own family, then finally to tell him goodbye. But this time… Well, she was going to beg him for his forgiveness.
She approached the gates of his old home with a healthy dose of fear. She knew he had moved, but the family there could give her clues as to where they Suarez family had moved to. Still… The place brought back memories that would likely do her good to forget. Javier's little sister at the gate, his mother being so kind to her, Javier's self satisfied smirk when she had admitted her fear…
Shaking herself, Katey strode up to the gate and called out in Spanish. 'Hello? I'm looking for the Suarez family?'
An elderly man popped his head around the door. 'Maria!' he called back inside the house. 'There's a Yankee girl at our gate!'
'Get rid of her then!' came the reply. 'I'm busy.'
The old man approached her. Katey smiled as warmly as she could. 'Hello. I'm Katey Miller, a friend of the Suarez family. I don't suppose you could tell me where they moved to, could you?'
For a moment, the man blinked at her, making her think that he hadn't understood. Maybe my Spanish isn't that good after all. But after a lengthy pause he opened his mouth.
'Suarez? They lived here before. The elder son is a General.'
'Yes, that's them!' Katey grasped the gate in enthusiasm. 'Can you tell me where they live now?'
He shook his head. 'I don't know. But if you ask an army man they are bound to know the whereabouts of one of their Generals.'
'Where can I find any members of the army?'
He gave a coughing laugh. 'On the streets of course!' He leant closer to the gate. 'Things are scarier on the streets now than when Batista was in power.'
Katey's eyes widened. 'Really?'
He nodded. 'Now leave before my wife beats me for talking to you. Be warned your kind isn't welcome here.' He turned abruptly and shuffled back inside the building. Katey stood there for a moment, listening to the sound of the argument going on inside, then abruptly turned and walked off down the street.
Find a soldier. How hard can that be, if what the man said was true? she thought as she emerged out onto the main street. She headed towards the fountain in the distance, and as luck would have it, there were a few men in bottle green uniforms sitting outside a café. Katey approached them with caution.
'Excuse me,' she asked. All six male heads swivelled to face her. She took a step back. 'Pardon me, but could any of you point me in the direction of General Suarez's house? I'm afraid I'm a little lost.'
One of the men stood up. 'Why should we tell you, Yankee? You shouldn't even be in this country.'
'Hold it, Jarevo.' Another man stood, clamping a hand on his fellow's arm. He looked vaguely familiar to Katey. 'This woman is no Yankee. She was once Queen of La Rosa Negra.'
Her eyes flew wide. 'How did you know that?'
The man took her hand, kissed it, and spoke in English 'You don't remember me, but I was the King before you and little Javier stole my crown.' He smiled warmly. 'It is good to see you back in Havana. Maybe now Javier will stop with his moping and dance properly again.'
Pain stabbed her chest. 'I hear he has a new partner.'
'Azucena does not bring out his fire like you once did, Chiquita. Everybody knows it. His own mother knows it. Now, you need to find him, yes?'
Katey nodded, refusing to give herself false hope.
'Okay! With a wide smile, he turned to the others and said something in such fast paced Spanish that she couldn't understand it. They replied in kind; some tones harsh, others laughing. In the end the former King turned back to her. 'I have permission to tell you. It's easy enough to convince my superior.'
Katey smiled. 'That's wonderful.'
'It is…how do you say it? Not a problem. To get to the Suarez home it is easy. Follow this street all the way to the bottom until it goes both left and right. Go to the left, then left again and you will come to the outskirts of Havana. The house itself is white, the only white house on the road. You cannot miss it.'
She took his hand, and prayed she would remember. 'Thank you. You don't know what this means to me.'
'I would take you, but unfortunately, I am now on duty. I wish you good luck, Chiquita.' With a small wave, he put a dark hat on his head and meandered off down the street
Katey took a deep breath and started off down the road.
'Only white house on the street? I'd spot it if it were the tenth white house on the street!' Katey grasped onto the wrought iron gates and stared up in wonder at the house. It was huge, bigger than their summer house back in the states. Made of white marble, with twisting columns at the entrance, it reminded her more of a Greek villa or temple than a house.
'This place is gorgeous,' she muttered, failing to keep her jaw from hitting her chest.
'Excuse me, miss, can I help you?'
Katey jumped and spun to face the source of the voice. There was a greying man in a navy blue uniform peering at her through the gate. His eyes were black and beady, and scarily suspicious.
'Um, yes, sorry. I'm looking for Javier Suarez. Is this where he lives?' Katey replied in garbled Spanish.
'Yes. Are you a friend of the young master's?'
Young master? Since when was Havana so… American? 'Yes, sort of. Is he in, by any chance?'
The porter nodded. 'I'll just inform him you're here.'
'No, wait!' If Javier knew she was here, the likely hood of him letting her in was a slim one. 'I… I haven't seen him in a while. I'd like to surprise him , if you don't mind?'
The porter glared at her, the distrust written all over his face. She tried to look as innocent as possible, praying that this was going to work. The man hummed in discontent, but slowly opened the gate. 'The young master is by the pool, if you'd like to make your way around to the back of the house.'
'Thank you so much. Um…' A thought suddenly occurred to her. 'Is Miss Azucena here?'
'She will not be here until later this evening.'
Katey sighed in relief. 'Thanks again.' Whilst the porter shut the gate, she made it over the grounds as quickly as she could whilst still appearing dignified. She rounded an enormous greenhouse, still staring at the sheer size of the house. Javier has really gone up in life, she thought with a sigh.
An Olympic sized pool suddenly loomed before her, making her stop dead in her tracks. Deck chairs littered the sides, but only one was occupied; Javier, sunglasses on, reading a book and occasionally muttering to himself. Her heart skipped a beat at the sight of his beautifully bronzed skin glistening in the hot Cuban sun, and her stomach contracted as she watched muscles ripple as he shifted. He was so beautiful… Stop it, Katey, you're not here to appreciate the view.
She made her way over as quietly as possible. He must be pretty absorbed in his book to not even see me coming, she thought. With a deep breath, she made herself speak. 'Hello, Javier.'
The book went flying as he jumped up out of the chair. It folded in on itself and there was a giant snap as it broke. Frantically scrabbling to keep his balance, he knocked over a glass of water which smashed everywhere. Katey had to bite her lip to keep herself from laughing as he tried to do three things at once, and miserably failed.
In the end, he recovered himself enough to stand up straight and fold his arms. 'You seem to cause me trouble wherever I am. How did you find me?'
'I asked around for General Suarez and they told me to come here. You must be so proud, Javier.'
'This.' She swept her arm out. 'Beautiful house, elegant lifestyle, a happy family… Isn't it just all you've ever wanted?'
He shrugged. 'It is not everything I've ever wanted. But it comes pretty close. For example,' he removed his sunglasses. 'I wanted an indoor pool as well, but, hey, this one works.'
Katey laughed. It was the first real laugh she had allowed herself in what felt like eternity. 'Javier, I'm so glad you're happy.'
He shook his head. 'I am not happy. My family is happy, but I suppose, in a way, that makes me happy. At least on one level.'
Katey sighed. If he kept talking that way, she would end up in tears. 'Javier, I came to apologise. Yesterday, I-'
'You wear his ring.'
She looked down at the diamonds glittering around her finger. 'I…yes.' Suddenly, the bitterness came back full force. 'Does she wear yours yet?'
Javier shook his head. 'It is not one of our customs.' Suddenly, a smirk spread across his face. 'Do not tell me that you accepted him simply because you are jealous.'
Her mouth dropped open. 'W-what?!'
Javier slowly advanced towards her, that maddening grin still in place. 'You wanted to get back at me, bonita, so you used the first thing at hand.'
'I would never-!' Katey gasped. 'Me and James have been unofficially engaged for over a year now, and I felt it was the time to make it official, considering you had already-'
'Ahh, how your words betray you.'
Katey fumed. 'How can you be so smug about it! This is serious!' she strode towards him. 'I came here to apologise, but if all you're going to do is-'
'So apologise.' Javier linked his hands behind him, waiting, grinning. 'Go on, I'm listening. I know you don't love him. Let's start there.'
Katey made a sound of frustration, just as she reached him. She saw his eyes sparkle with triumph and felt something inside her snap. With a scream she reached out, and with all her might shoved Javier backwards.
Many things happened at once. Javier's laughing face transformed to a wide eyed look of fear. He fell backwards, almost in slow motion, looked behind and saw the pool looming towards him. Without another split second to spare, he reached out, seized Katey by the wrist and pulled, hard. Her own laugh turned into a screech of fear as Javier bundled her up in his arms and they both plunged into the pool.
For a few moments, nothing more than water registered on Katey's consciousness. Then the lack of air infiltrated her brain, and she kicked her way to the surface. Gasping for oxygen, she broke out into the Cuban heat only to be greeted by the loud laugh of Javier Suarez.
'It isn't funny, you jerk!' she screeched. 'These shoes are Prada!'
'Prada? What is Prada? It sounds like an animal to me, not a pair of shoes.' He tread water and eased closer, still chuckling. 'Forget about the shoes. Remember how to have fun, like we did once.'
'Fun is not getting soaking wet with clothes on.'
'Relax. In this weather, your clothes will dry in ten minutes.' All of a sudden, he was right there in front of her, caging her in, backing her up against the side of the pool.
'Javier! What are you doing?'
'What do you think?' he muttered in a low tone.
'Stop smiling like that! Javier! Javier…' Her voice dwindled to nothing as he pressed his forehead to hers. He let out a long sigh, then a small chuckle.
'If my mother saw us now, I would be shot. So why do I do this?' He opened his eyes and just looked at her. 'Tell me why?'
'Javier…' Even though the sun beat mercilessly down on them, Katey shivered. 'You… you're engaged. And so am I.'
'This?' He grabbed her hand, pulling it out of the water. Her ring glittered in the light reflected by the water. She looked up at him in fear. 'This means nothing.' Without warning he fought to get the ring off her finger. Stunned, she could do nothing more than watch him as he pulled the small gold band off, glared at it, then threw it over his shoulder.
'Javier!' she gasped.
'It may be an expensive bauble, but it's worth nothing if you don't love him. Tell me you love him, and I'll go and get it.' She was silent, shocked beyond words. Her silence lit a fire in his eyes and he bent, ever so slightly, and eased his lips over her own. Instantly, her bones and muscles became fluid. Her heart skipped a beat, her head span, and she had to cling on to him just to remain upright. His hand slid all the way up her back, making her shiver, before he suddenly broke away.
'Tell me you love him,' he rasped. 'Tell me!'
'Javier…' she breathed. She lifted a hand to push the hair back from his face and he took it, gentle, and pressed feather light kisses onto it. Katey smiled, laid her hand gently over his heart, leaned in and gave him a gentle kiss back. 'You know I don't.'
His eyes lit once more, and a smile crept onto his face as he covered her hand with his own. But all of a sudden, a Spanish voice floated to them on the breeze.
'Javier! Javier? Where are you? Come inside and get ready. Azucena will be here soon.'
'My mother,' Javier sighed. Katey hit reality with a bump.
'I'd better go.' She made to move away. He grabbed her.
'Wait, what about this? You can't just ignore it!'
'Javier,' she gave a tired sigh, 'you need to realise something. Between us, it can never be about love. I don't love James, but I have to marry him.'
'Why?' Javier threw his hands up to the Heavens. 'Why must you marry a man who only wants you so he can maul you!?'
She silenced him with a look. 'So we can move on, Javier. I can't marry you; you already have a fiancée. You have to stay in Havana for your family, and I have to go back to America because I'm not allowed to stay in Cuba.' She lifted herself up out of the pool and gave him a small smile. 'Remember me, Javier. Never hate me, no matter how much you want to. You… you'll always be close to my heart.' She stood, smiled at him even though she could hear her heart breaking. 'Goodbye, Javier!'
She sprinted off towards the gate. The last thing she heard was Javier shouting her name, calling after her. 'This is not goodbye! I swear it, Katey Miller!'
But she heard no more. She ran through the gates, starling the porter half to death, and made her way beck to the hotel with tears blinding her and streaming down her face.
America was so dull.
Katey stood once again in front of a floor length mirror, surveying herself for one last time. The sheer red gown made her appear slimmer than ever and was very flattering on her pale skin. But all it reminded her of was the colour she wore when she first danced with Javier.
A ball. That was the most original thing her mom could come up with for the engagement party. Country club mothers just loved to show their children and status off at every opportunity. And her own mother was no exception.
Although, Katey thought with a small smile. She handled the curveball pretty well.
On returning to the States, James had finally noticed that she no longer wore his ring. At first he had been devastated, but she managed to explain the whole story without breaking down. What really surprised her was that James had been incredibly understanding, telling her that if he had been Javier, he would have ripped her arm off just to get another man's ring off her finger. He'd told her that his offer of marriage still stood, but for some reason, he no longer thought it would be a good idea.
'I will always love you,' he said. 'But if you don't love me, being married will just cause us both pain and suffering.'
So they were no longer engaged. They had returned to her parents house still close friends.
The curveball came three weeks after staying with her parents. Her little sister, Susie, had come up to her one crisp evening in early November and told her that she liked James. Liked James.
'But he's way too old for you!' Katey had argued. But her sister had vehemently insisted that four years was nothing compared to some people. Two of her friends had recently married men in their late twenties. Gobsmacked, Katey could do no more than watch as a romance blossomed. It seemed that James adored her sister, a match her parents heartily approved of. And no more than four weeks later, James had plucked up the courage to propose.
And of course, Susie had accepted.
So here they all were, on Christmas eve, at a country club ball to celebrate the engagement of Susie Miller and James Phelps.
Katey made her way over to her sister. Seeing her, Susie's eyes lit up and she ran forwards. Katey welcomed her hug and buried her face in her sister's shining curls.
'Suze, you look amazing.'
'Thanks, so do you. Oh, Katey, I can't believe this is all for me.' Her eyes shining with joy and tears, she looked around. 'Did you ever believe I'd be so happy.'
'Yes.' Katey pushed curls away from her sister's face and smiled. 'I always knew you'd have a lifetime of happiness in front of you. I'm just a bit surprised that it's going to be with James.'
'He's your dance partner, Katey,' Susie laughed. 'Surely he can't be that bad?'
'Hmmm,' she chuckled. 'Not my dance partner for very long, the way you're going. Looks like I might have to start scouting for fresh meat.' Someone called Susie's name. Her little sister looked at her pleadingly. 'Go on, I'll be fine. I am an old maid, after all.' Susie pulled a face and hurried off, waving to her friend.
Katey sighed. She really was an old maid. At least by her standards. Most of her college friends had finished their degrees and got themselves husbands almost instantaneously. But oh well, she thought. I won't marry anyone I don't love, and the only one I'll ever love is Javier. I wonder how he is, anyway. Settling into married life, most likely…
Thoughts like that still left a pang in her heart. The only thing that ever consoled her was that he was happy. If he was happy, then some part deep inside of her was contented also.
'Honey? Would you like to dance?'
Katey looked up, and a smile spread across her face as she saw her father standing there. She took his hand. 'It would be my pleasure, daddy.'
As she danced with her father to a pendulum eight beat, they had their first opportunity to talk for what seemed like months.
'You know, honey, your mother is still very sorry for not giving you those letters. She was only acting in your best interests.'
'Oh, daddy,' Katey sighed. After the fight with her mother about them, she no longer felt that giving her the letters could have made any difference. She wasn't bitter; she knew now that her and Javier could never be together. 'It doesn't really matter anymore.'
'Well, we still feel guilty. Because you were at college we never knew how down you'd been about Javier.'
Katey squeezed her eyes shut. 'Daddy, stop. It's all in the past now.'
He held his daughter close. 'James told me everything that happened in Havana. I'm so, so sorry.'
She took a deep breath. 'It's ok, daddy.' She managed a small smile. 'This is supposed to be a happy night. Let's be happy for Susie, ok?'
'Alright.' Her father was silent for a few minutes as they roved around the dance floor in flawless motion. 'But you know, it really doesn't seem fair.'
Katey sighed. 'What doesn't, daddy?'
'That Susie's so happy and you're so sad.' His eyes twikled. 'You know, when you were young, whenever Susie got a present, you would always cry so much that we had to buy you something just to keep you happy?'
'Was I really that much of a brat?'
'Not a brat. You just always used to say that it wasn't fair that Susie got to be happy when you were sad. That's more common sense than being a brat. But whenever Susie was sad, you'd try your dammed hardest to make her happy again, did you know that?'
Katey chuckled. 'I can see myself doing that.'
'So… In a way, it's kind of like both of those things, considering it was all Susie's idea.'
'Daddy?' Katey frowned. 'What do you mean?'
He gave a wide grin. 'Merry Christmas, honey.' And without warning, he span her away from him.
Katey hit a chest with an audible 'oof.' It took a while for her to refocus; her dad's spins were much more powerful than she was used to. It was only when a warm, wonderful voice whispered in her ear that her head snapped up.
She'd span straight into the arms of Javier Suarez.
'Felicis Navidad, mi amor.'
It was all she could do to mouth his name.
Beautiful eyes like pools of chocolate smiled down at her. 'It is me, my angel. I told you that it wasn't goodbye.'
Katey felt her eyes fill up. She reached out, a hand trembling, and pressed it against his face. He sighed, smiled, then took her hand and kissed it tenderly. A wide smile trembled its way across her face before the tears spilled over. He pulled her into his arms as she shook with emotion.
'Don't cry,' he murmured, kissing her head. 'Please, don't cry. I don't want to make you sad.'
Katey looked up, wiping her eyes as she did so. 'It's only you that can make me cry, Javier. What are you doing here?'
'Your Papa sent for me. But I will explain everything. Just please… dance with me?'
Gladly she nodded. The dance floor cleared for them; no doubt her father's doing. Javier pulled her close, and they began to waltz.
Katey was amazed. 'You've taken ballroom lessons!'
He laughed. 'I cannot deny it. I just wanted to be good enough for you.' He gave such a look filled with love, that it was all she could do to keep her feet moving in a rhythm. 'Everything I've done…Everything I will ever do. You must know. It's all for you.'
He grinned. 'I will even dance how you tell me to.'
She raised and eyebrow. 'No more wide steps?'
'That, I cannot promise.'
She allowed herself to rest her had on his shoulder. It was such a joy to be so close to him, dancing with him. Even though it was the simplest dance in the world, just a slow succession of sliding steps, she still felt like singing with happiness, just because Javier was her partner.
Because he was with her.
'I am no longer engaged.'
Katey looked up at him. 'What? Why?'
'I knew you still loved me.' He shrugged. 'That was reason enough. To be truthful I only participated in the dance contest to get to America. I wanted to find you, and the prize money would help me do that.'
'But you were engaged!'
'You never let me finish, that day at your hotel.' He let his hand drift down her back, settling her closer. 'I was engaged to Azucena, but she meant nothing to me. The same way your James meant nothing to you.'
Katey's jaw dropped. 'You mean…So that's why it was all a big joke to you!'
He winked at her. 'But it was also why it hurt me to hear you agree to marry James. I was unsure whether you loved him.'
She shook her head. 'Never. When you took his ring away, you made me realise I could never marry him, or anyone I didn't love.' She curled a hand around the back of his neck, toying with the light strands of hair that lay there.
Javier smiled. 'Then I have two questions. The first is, do you love me?'
Katey buried her face in his neck. 'Of course I do. I love you more than I ever thought possible.'
'Good.' Business like, he nodded. 'Now then my second question is this.' He backed slightly away from her. He reached out, taking her hand and kissing it, before he placed it directly over his heart. 'When you are not with me, I ache here. It is as if my heart is weeping because it cannot be with yours.' He fumbled around in his pocket.
'Katey Miller.' She gasped as Javier bent down onto one knee, and slid a beautiful ruby ring onto her finger. 'Would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?'
Shaking, she managed to drop her hand from her mouth. She looked at him kneeling there on the ground, eyes pleading and full of warmth and love. The lights of the country club caught the ruby on her finger, sparkling with the fire that she felt when she danced with Javier. It was like a dream…
But wonderfully real.
'Yes…' she whispered, watching his smile break out like the sun through clouds. 'Oh, definitely yes!'
And it was only then that she realised that the guests at the country club had been strangely silent for the past five minutes. They erupted in a one man roar of cheering, Susie leading the mob as she bounced up and down squealing. Her mother and father were clapping approvingly, as was James.
It really was like a dream.
Javier jumped up faster than a jack in the box, scooped her up and twirled her around, much like the night where they had become King and Queen of La Rosa Negra. She laughed and squealed, filled with a remarkable joy, but thinking only one thing.
The King and Queen of La Rosa Negra would always change. But this… this was going to last a lifetime.
So Javier stayed in America. He and Katey married the following spring, at the insistence of Katey's mother who absolutely had to have at least three months to prepare. Javier was given his Green Card immediately after marrying, and he was able to live in the States without fear.
Susie was happy with James. And as Katey predicted, he soon became her dance partner. But Javier more than filled his place. Katey didn't win many competitions with Javier as her partner; America wasn't very accepting of Latin Ballroom. But it didn't matter. She didn't enjoy dancing for the competition, just the love, the passion, and the magic.
Carlos took care of Javier's family, like he said he always would. He and his new wife raised all the children in the household, and cared for his mother. Javier and Katey visited often, allowed into the country on the say so of a certain General with elevated status. They spent many months in Cuba, just being free.
So if one night you stumble into a bar in Havana, a bar named after a black rose, don't be too surprised at what you'll see. Sure enough, you may find many Cubans dancing away to a seductive rhythm, which can be shocking enough. But don't count it strange if you spot an odd looking couple, one black haired Cuban and a beautiful snow-skinned blonde, dancing somewhere on the floor.
They're only expressing an eternal love, after all.