Aedan stood in near silence at the door, only the distant rumbling of waves breaking on the shore and squeals of gulls broke the silence yet didn’t break the calm. He knocked at the door again but with a bit more effort this time.
“Ya voy, ya voy!” came a feminine voice from behind the door even as the door cracked open to the extent that the attached chain would permit it. Brown eyes at chest height to him peered out the door at Aedan.
“Yo soy Aedan Charron” he almost got out before the door closed again. There was the fiddling of metal on metal then the door opened wide.
“Of course you are!” The woman, Aedan guessed to be in her mid 50s blurted out as she stepped out the door, looked both ways up and down the street then ushered Aedan in. She reattached the lock after he and his suitcase were inside.
“We didn’t think you were ever going to make it.” she went on in perfect english with only a subtle Spanish accent. “You must be beat. Would you like some coffee? I just put the warter on the stove.”
“No…no thank you. I’d really like to get unpacked and cleaned up first.”
Aedan hadn’t known what to expect from his sponsors. The entire arrangement was made through the travel agency. That her english was so good was a plus. Aedan hadn’t practiced Spanish since high school though he tried to refresh a bit when it became clear that he would spend is vacation in Cuba.
“Of course.” She said “Take your time, I’ll make more if you wish, later. Your room is at the top of the stairs“ She looked back over her shoulder and called “Juan! Ven aca!”
“This is my son, he will take your bag for you.” A boy of about twelve years of age came from the other room and she went on in rapid Spanish that Aedan wasn’t able to keep up with but as the boy reached for his bag.
“That’s ok, I can take my own bag.” He smiled at the boy with his most sincere “gracias” but didn’t let go of the handle.
Juan looked at his mom for guidance which she gave. He ran off, seemingly pleased that he wasn’t needed.
“Aqui, this way, then.” She started up the stairs giving Aedan no choice but to follow.
The staircase was narrow and winding. On more than one occasion, Aedan struggled to turn the corner without his suitcase hitting the wall. On the third floor, the woman opened the lone door at the top of the stairs, entered the room and after a quick glance around invited Aedan in.
“I hope you find everything to your liking. After you get settled in, come on down for some delicious Cuban coffee and tell me about your plans. There is a lot to see here and I can help you find it all.”
Aedan set the suitcase down in the first empty corner he saw in the small room then thanked and assured her he would be down after bit. When she left the room and closed the door behind her, Aedan breathed a sigh of relief, truly alone for the first time in over 24 hours.
The room wasn’t large but it was comfortable. The bathroom reminded him of the classic cars on the street. A little worn but well tended to and clean. The main room was simple but clean with a double bed, night stands on either side, a small table and chair in the corner with two more chairs and table on the opposite side. Through french doors at the far end, Aedan could see the balcony outside.
Pulling the french doors wide open was like removing the entire wall from the room and outside that wall was a perfect view of the beach across the street. He was happy to see a chair and table set out here as he expected to find himself there many times.
Closing the french doors behind him, Aedan put his suitcase on the bed, opened it and began unpacking. He found a small closet adjacent to the bathroom and hung the few things he brought needing to be hung – including the jacket he was still wearing. He finished unpacking then stripped down to nothing as he opened the water valve to take a shower.
The hot water wasn’t. It was a bit above room temperature but not much. This made for a shorter shower than Aedan was used to but it still felt good. Once he stepped out and began to dry off, the feeling of relaxation really moved in. The thoughts of laying on the bed if only for an hour were tempting. It had been a tumultuous day with little sleep and now he was well into the next. Maybe he would but first, he had to try to call Cathy again.
As assured by the travel agent, when Aedan looked at his phone, he did have a signal sufficient to make his phone call. It would be a roaming charge but that was better than nothing at all. Hoping to increase the signal a bit, he moved onto the balcony. Cathy picked up on the third ring. She was barely up at 6:15 on a Saturday morning but she had been anticipating his call since she had missed attempt to call her.
“Aedan, he is very nervous and wouldn’t tell me where you should meet him.” She described the conversation with his contact in Havana.
“Well, I’m here now. He knows where I am staying, right?”
“No, he didn’t want to know. He insisted that I didn’t tell him anything. He has a plan, though.”
Aedan nodded to himself “of course he does…and what is his plan?”
“There is a store in Havana. In the window is a hat that he wants you to buy and wear. He said he’ll find you.”
Aedan didn’t like the idea “A hat? Like a flag for all to see?”
“Yes..but he insisted it must be that hat and nothing else from the store.” She responded then gave him the address.
They talked for a few more moments but Aedan was wary of saying much more in case anyone else was listening. When the conversation was done, he moved back inside and stretched out on the bed. It was comfortable. Most anything would have felt comfortable right then. He closed his eyes and thought to himself that a quick nap was in order.