Even the creeping sun that had found its way across the floor, up the side of the bed and slowly to Aedan’s closed eyes struggled to get him to move this morning. If there was to be a match of wills and patience though, Aedan would surely lose. He rolled over to get out of the glaring beam but the damage was done and he had no intention of wasting the day away…though at the moment it was quite tempting. He was out much later than he had intended the previous night.
Before he finished his second and intended to be last drink the previous night, the waitress set another before him. He began to protest but she only smiled and pointed to an older couple sitting at a table overlooking the deck. Aedan turned to thank them and tried to determine if he knew them or if they had ever met. He didn’t recognize them. The man appeared to be in his 60s, bald, tall and lanky with a mess of a beard that was mostly white. The woman, with strawberry blonde hair pulled into a ponytail flashed him a cheerful smile. Aedan guessed she was more than ten years younger than the man. Both were dressed casually in shorts and t-shirts. Both were quite tanned. Both sported sunglasses pushed back on their heads.
Aedan thanked them for the drink and they immediately invited him to come sit with him. With two drinks already behind him, he accepted the invitation. It would be nice to have an extended conversation where he wasn’t feeling guilt for not knowing more Spanish and to take his mind off of other things he couldn’t do anything about right then.
The couple had sailed their boat to Havana from St. Petersburg in Florida. Several years prior, Aedan had missed his chance at such an opportunity but hadn’t given up entirely. Once they learned that he too was a sailor, the conversation and rum continued for two hours and ended with an invitation to go out with them later during the week. Of course he couldn’t refuse the invitation.
This morning, Aedan was remembering why he hadn’t had rum for a long time – well not since his first night in Havana. He was scolding himself for his indulgence when his phone began ringing. He reached for the phone with his eyes still closed. Finding the phone in the charging cradle, he opened his eyes and saw the number. He didn’t recognize the number but the area code he did from his time at UC Davis School of Law in California. Nobody had called him from Sacramento for a very long time.
Still half asleep, Aedan debated about answering for two rings before giving in. The quiet was so nice.
“Hello?” There was certainly a question mark to his greeting.
“Aedan? It’s Noel.”
The fly on the wall smirked at how quickly he sat up and opened his eyes.
“Noel! I’m glad you called. How are things?”
“Oh, everything is fine. I’ll tell you later if you like. I’m back in Havana and was wondering if you’d like to meet me for lunch.”
Aedan was on his feet and wiping the sleep from his eyes, for the first time noticing how high the sun was.
“Sure. Do you have a place in mind?”
“Actually, I noticed a place around the corner from my hotel that had veg options on the menu. We could try that if it’s not too far for you”.
They talked for another ten minutes and agreed to meet in a little over two hours. The restaurant was across the way from Morro Castle which was on Aedan’s list of things to see. It was a date and Aedan had an hour to pull himself together.
Ten minutes ahead of time, Aedan hopped out of a taxi at the place that Noel had told him about. He was able to get there with only the name of the street and restaurant since Noel hadn’t noticed the address. She was already there and sitting at a table outside. They had agreed to dress casually for walking and exploring but as he looked at her from the distance, he wondered if it were possible for her to dress casually. As he got closer he assured himself that she would look great in whatever she wore.
They shared a pleasant lunch and filled in a lot of blanks that were left from their first meeting. She had divorced a few years earlier and now enjoying her life doing as she pleased after a long, tumultuous relationship. There was much they had in common. No, she wasn’t vegan as Aedan had hoped but receptive to the idea which was enough to keep his interest.
“So, what do you think about the place you saw yesterday?” Aedan was truly interested in learning what her plans were.
“Oh, it was nice but..” she paused “It’s really tough finding a place here with all the restrictions. I’d be relying on the owner and that is concerning me. I need more time. Otherwise it would be perfect. I love the simplicity of things here.”
“Yeah, the people are friendly. “ Aedan replied without acknowledging his secondary purpose there – to gather evidence of a crime. “But I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your needs. The first challenge is knowing what you want and you seem to have that in the box. There’s nothing wrong with perseverance.”
“Speaking of that.” Aedan nodded toward Morro Castle across the way but perfectly visible to them, “Are you ready for a walk?”
It was a good walk to Morro Castle but today was also a bit cooler than the day before and without realizing it, he had acclimated to the Havana climate. It was also a slow, relaxing walk with Noel. Aedan was feeling a good connection with Noel and thought for certain that she was also. Words flowed like wine.
Morro Castle has a long history. Actually, several structures share the name “Morro Castle” with refers to the rocky point that it is built on. The true name is Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro which refers to the three Magi of the bible. It was first built in 1598 but has seen many changes and hostility since then. It once imprisoned the Cuban poet, Reinaldo Arenas. Today it primarily a historical structure and tourist attraction though the Harbor Master keeps a presence there. The lighthouse was added in 1846.
Noel appeared to enjoy the tour self-guided tour and exhibitions as much as Aedan did. He gathered that it wasn’t the history that interested her but the art on display and watching her painstakingly noting every detail made him look a second time to see what he had missed. It was one of the guides mentioning that the gates would close in fifteen minutes reminded them they would have to leave soon.
Aedan and Noel made their way back around the bay to where they met. Like a child, Noel was on and off of the stone wall along the walkway until they reached point across from the restaurant where they met. Her playfulness made him smile. That is where they sat and talked for another hour as the sun fell from the sky.
In that hour they shared more deep thoughts…more small talk. The similarities were many and for the most part, the differences were minor or things Aedan just hadn’t given much thought to. He has always seen the world from the big picture and was quite set on his ideology. Some things he felt were unimportant and yet when she talked about them he could see their value because he could see how she lit up.
As the sun set over the ocean Aedan remembered his invitation to go sailing the next day and told Noel of his chance encounter.
“I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I brought you with me.
There was no hesitation.
“Of course I’d like to go. My uncle had a sailboat and I used to love going out with him…and best of all, I have no plans for tomorrow.”
She went on to tell how her uncle later went on to be a Zen Monk and how she enjoyed spending time with him. This peaked Aedan’s interest but it was beginning to get dark now and he wasn’t pushing his luck. He stood and offered his hand to her though she had been jumping on and off the wall with little though. She smiled and took his hand.
“Yes, I nearly forgot that I need to call my sister. She’s not doing well.” as she stepped down from the wall. “What time tomorrow and oh! Where is the boat?” Noel asked.
“We’re heading out around eleven and should be back in time to watch the sun set again. He said the Marina is right here in Old Havana. Now that I have your number, I’ll give you a call as soon as I know for certain.”
The walk back across the street to Noel’s hotel went faster than Aedan had expected. Had they not agreed to meet the next day it would have been more difficult to say goodnight but they had and so they did.