FLAMENCO FOR BEGINNERS 
by Anita Haas 

Peggy splashed water on her face and left the ladies’ room. The dry heat of late June in Madrid had made her feel faint. Wooden floors groaned under her step, and late afternoon light filtered through the windows. From one of them she saw a group of girls rehearsing in the patio andaluz, the dance academy’s thematically decorated courtyard. Posters adorned the walls. Conchi, the school’s director, featured in some of them with famous flamenco stars Peggy recognized from television.“Conchi Palacios con Antonio Gades,” “… con Antonio el Bailarín” “ … con Cristina Hoyos”.

As she moved away from the window and the timid stamping of the young students, a distant rhythmic tapping beckoned to her. This beat was strong, even and confident. As she moved toward the sound, it increased in speed, tiktiktak. She slunk around the corner and located the source, now a rapid, tik tik, tak, tik tik tak. At the end of the passage, an open door framed the silhouette of a man, pounding out the beat with his feet. Straight, shoulders back, head up, hips aligned, his upper body remained static, while his feet pummeled faster and faster into the thoroughly scuffed floor.

Hardly aware of her movements, Peggy was drawn toward the hypnotic image. Then, the dancer flung out his arms, tossed his head, beads of sweat glistening as they flew, let out a cry of “Ya!” and, with a thundering crescendo, came to a dramatic halt.

“¿Qué te parece?” But he was alone. Whose opinion could he be seeking? Then Peggy realized she had advanced all the way to the door and was clinging to its frame. He was smiling at her bewilderment reflected in the mirror, his damp bangs plastered to his forehead. She recognized him from some of the posters.

Peggy backed away, “Oh, sorry! Perdon! Lo siento!”, then turned and fled, nearly colliding into Bethany, Lali and Conchi.

“We thought you were lost!” Bethany scolded. The two friends, curious about flamenco, had come with Lali, Bethany’s future mother-in-law, to visit her cousin’s school. Peggy’s husband, César, and Bethany’s boyfriend, Lucas, had laughed at them, “Flamenco is for old people and tourists!”

Conchi winked at Peggy. “I see you have met Rafael Santos. He has duende, real flamenco magic. We have the honor of having him teach an intensive beginner class this summer. We need just two more students to open it. Classes start on Monday.”

——–

“Let’s see those skirts … and those shoes. They have to be good quality or you will ruin your feet. And the metal on the heels and toes is important or you won’t be heard.”

Conchi was accompanying Peggy and Bethany from reception to their classroom, pushing past strumming guitarists,wailing cantaores and clapping palmeros.

“What are those?” Peggy asked, pointing at the rectangular boxes several men were seated on and beating, “A flamenco drum?” She imagined their rhythms echoing through the old gypsy caves she had heard about.
“Sort of. It is called a cajón. It is relatively new to flamenco. Paco de Lucía introduced it to Spain from Peru around 1980.” Dressed in smart linen trousers, colourful blouse and chic high-heeled sandals, Conchi looked the antithesis of her flamenco persona. “And you need to put your hair up or you will die from the heat.”
“No air conditioning!” Bethany hissed in Peggy’s ear. They passed several rooms, windows and doors letting through the scant early evening breeze, small buzzing table fans scattered here and there. The din was unbelievable, variations of stamping zapateados escaping from each room, the teachers hollering “Y!”, “Olé!”, and “Más fuerte!” to keep time, encourage and correct.
            “What if I make an ass of myself?” Peggy mumbled, as they clacked and swished along behind Conchi. What if she was the worst dancer in the class and Rafa told Conchi, and she reported this Lali, who would then confide it to her son Lucas, Peggy’s husband’s best friend, and they would all have a good laugh at her expense?
            “Well, we’ve already paid, and bought our gear. Not cheap, I might add. Can’t back out now.”
“We are especially busy in summer.” Conchi shouted as they reached their classroom, the one, Peggy realized with a twinge, where she had spied on Rafael rehearsing. “See? Students from around the world spend their holidays taking intensive courses.”

            Their group of eight nervously smiling women did indeed look international.

Rafael Santos arrived and consulted briefly with Conchi before sending her off with a hug and the typical two kisses. He crossed the room, stepping backwards towards the mirrored wall as he surveyed the tense faces with a soft smile.

Hala!” he rubbed his hands together, “Buenas tardes, amigas!”
Bethany leaned over to Peggy. “Whew! He’s cute! And that sexy andaluz accent!” Peggy frowned at her.
             “Buenas tardes.” They tittered, except for one large woman who bellowed “Buena tarde!”
He grinned in her direction, voice cracking “¿Andndaluza también?”
Digo. De Cádiz.”
“From Cádiz? Me too!”

The woman smiled, and everyone took note. She already had something in common with Rafael Santos.

“I will speak Spanish slowly but if any of you don’t understand, tell me and I can speak in English. My English is so-so. And Japanese,” he smiled at the Japanese woman “Ni idea!” They all laughed, some of the first-class tension dissipating.
“You are not from here, are you?” he stepped up to Bethany. Her white-blonde hair always caught Spaniards’ attention. Once she had even considered dying it.

“No, I’m from Texas, but I live here.” She answered in Spanish, smiling coquettishly. “I’m Bethany, Be-tha-ni,” she repeated from force of habit.

Peggy had seen Bethany smile that way before, and always when she failed to mention Lucas. She reasoned it had something to do with the fact she had been married three times and wasn’t even forty yet.

“Be-tha-ny. I danced in Dallas a few years ago. Lovely!”
He turned to Peggy, “And your friend?”

Peggy’s stomach tightened as Rafa turned his gaze on her, “I’m, I’m Peggy. From Toronto. I live here too. Bethany and I work together.” She felt a pang of guilt for not mentioning her own husband.
“Peggy. Toronto is beautiful. I taught a master class once at the University there.”

Then there was a twenty-year-old from New Zealand who insisted on speaking in her terribly broken Spanish. Rafa smiled at her effort.

“!Nueva Zelanda! !Que lejos! ¿Y cómo te llamas?”
“Laura.” she peeped, shrinking back, seeming both dazzled and intimidated by his intensity.
“Laura. Como Laura del SolGran bailaora.”
“Laura del Sol from Carlos Saura’s films Carmen and El Amor Brujo.” said a tall blonde woman with a marked German accent.
Muy bien!” Rafa looked at her, impressed. “And what is your name?”
“Ursula, from Austria.”
“And a fan of Carlos Saura films.”
Ursula blushed.
“¿Y tu?” his eyes sought out those of the middle-aged woman behind her.
“A … Agnes.” The woman’s hands fluttered from her face to her arms, and back again.
“Agnes. ¿Inglesa?”
“Yes!”
“I was in Londres last week. Dancing in Sadler’s Wells.”

Eiko, a thirty-something doctor, but who looked seventeen, came from a Japanese town where Rafa had performed.

 And Marta was a forty-year-old Spanish literature professor from Chile.

One by one he looked into their eyes, ignited their smiles, and accepted the offering of their names, which he caressed with a deep baritone and sparked with a crackling falsetto laugh before returning them, changed, to their owners, each one delighting in its new ring.

One by one he bewitched them all.

            “Okay hermosas, the warmup, calentar. Very important at the beginning of class … tacones!”.
            “Vale, bombón!” answered Rosa, the andaluza “Te escushamo, maestro!”
Vengaguapasgolpe, tacón, tacón!” he stamped with them. “Slam the right foot down. Knees bent or you will damage them. Then, keeping the ball and toes of your left foot down, lift up the heel as high as you can, and then slam it down. Do the same with your right and then repeat with your left. Stampheelheel, tik, tak, tak. Stronger! Más fuerteMás!”

The rhythm impressed Peggy as they inched toward the mirrors.

 “Now, back!” he called, “This time doubles.” And he demonstrated stomp-stamp, heel, heel, stomp-stamp, heel, heel.
Soaked with sweat, they retreated amid Rafa’s shouts of encouragement. Peggy felt both drained and exhilarated.
“Ouch!” Agnes rubbed her lower thighs.
“Good. That’s exactly where it should hurt.”



“Who knows what a palo is?” Rafa asked them after Tuesday’s warmup.
Both Rosa and Ursula answered at once, then stopped and looked at each other apologetically. Ursula spoke. “A style of flamenco.”
“Very good, Ursula. A style. And who can give me an example of a palo?
Laura raised her hand slightly. “Soleá?”
Muy bien, Laura. Soleá. Any more?”
Ursula started, “Buleríafandango. And the haunting martinete the gypsy blacksmiths used to sing to the beat of their hammers …”
Rosa cut her off, “Tientosrondeñaseguiriyafarruca.”
Peggy and Bethany exchanged glances. Were they in the wrong level? These women knew so much already!
“Peggy?” Rafa stepped up to her, “Do you know one?”
Peggy froze. Staring back into those eyes, she felt her own pupils dilate, preparing to swallow up this image forever.
Tangos.” she croaked, remembering how that palo shared its name with the Argentinian dance.
Muy bien, Peggy!” He whirled around, “Does anyone know how many there are?”
“Hundreds!” Rosa roared.
“Hundreds no, but nearly a hundred for sure. There are a lot of branches, then every region has their own particular flavour…”
Ursula interrupted, “Like the soleares de Cádiz, and the soleares de Córdoba.”
Muy bien, Ursula! You have studied a lot.”
Ursula grinned.
“But we must not forget the lyrics!” added Marta in perfect English, “All those poems by Federico García Lorca, Antonio Machado and Miguel Hernández. So poignant!”
Por supuesto, Marta. Wonderful lyrics.”
Marta smiled and glanced at the others.
They watched clips of soleás and tientos. “How do these make you feel? Eiko?”
“Sad. Solemn.”
Then he played some alegrías and bulerías. “And these? Marta?”
 “Happy. Festive.”
Bien. Now, guapas, we are going to listen to the special rhythm found in several palos. It has twelve beats.” He proceeded to clap “Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez, once, doceClap with me. This is called palmas.”
Alegrías, which literally means happiness, is what you are going to perform in the show at the end of the course.”
The women gasped. “Show? Oh no!”
“Oh, yes! Now, lindas, let me show you the redoble step.”



            “I have a hard time remembering what comes after the paseo. Those turns.”
            “That was hard for me too, Eiko, but I think I’ve got it. Let me show you.” Ursula and Eiko pushed their chairs back and, stepping behind them, began practicing.
            “Oh, those.” Bethany joined in. “I need some help with them too.”
            It was Thursday evening, the end of the first week of classes. The women had been going out for tapas every evening. Rosa had even succeeded in convincing Rafa and Jachi, the guitarist, to join them, but they left after only one drink.
            “Rafa has to get up really early.” she explained to the others after he left. “He dances in an important company and they practice for six hours every morning.” She nodded as the other women sucked in their breaths.

            She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “He’s a bit depressed now. He was supposed to go on tour with a famous cantaor but it fell through. That’s why he is here teaching us beginners.”

            Rosa dropped bits of information about Rafa all week.

“You know those bracelets he wears?”
They nodded. They had all noticed and they had all wondered. The wristbands were present in all his photos in the academy, the small black beads glinting back at them.
“They were a gift from that other teacher, Pepa, years ago. If you notice, she wears the same ones.”
Peggy felt that familiar ache of nostalgia for someone else’s past, and a needling envy for the deep friendship she imagined Pepa shared with Rafa.
“Yo … yo querer conocer, no … saber…” Laura began. Bethany rolled her eyes at Peggy.
“Just say it in English!” Marta commanded.
“¿Que significar guapa?
Guapa?” bellowed Rosa, puffing on her ducados, the strong black tobacco cigarettes which had likely been the cause of making her voice so gruff and her skin so leathery. “Pues, the same as bonitahermosa. They mean pretty, good-looking.”
Laura’s jaw dropped, “What? He calls us good-looking!” Peggy and Bethany smiled at the girl breaking her own language rule.
“I mean …. Quiero decir, el nos dice … That’s … es machismo!”
“No, Laura. It’s very andaluz to call people those things. It’s … how do you call it? … an endearment. I call him guapo too.”
            “Among other things!” Ursula smirked at the others.

—-

            “Now let’s review the first part of the dance we learned last week.” Rafa began the following Monday.
            “I get so muddled.” moaned Agnes. Marta and Rosa joined in her laments.
            “Shall we help them, queridas?” Rafa asked Laura and Eiko, failing to notice Laura wince at the endearment. “Vamos!” and the three of them began.

            Why had Rafa chosen them? Peggy wondered. She and Bethany had been practicing all weekend! Shame flooded her. Despite her jealousy, she had to admit that Laura and Eiko had a lithe, youthful grace. It reminded her of kindergarten when she yearned for the approval of her teacher, Miss Tyson. How she had envied Tommy’s red curls because Miss Tyson loved to tousle them, and longed for dimples like Tina’s because the teacher admired them.

She vowed to work harder. Wouldn’t it be glorious if Rafa singled her out next time and smiled at her the way he had at them?

Venga guapas, uno, dos, tres, y …!”

Rafa clapped the beat, tik tik tak tik tik tak, while his students circled the room in three beat twirls for two measures.

“Remember, twist your wrist! Bailaoras can create lovely effects that way. Now la llamada, the signal to the cantaorGolpepicotacón!”, and the women, facing each other in the circle, began their zapateado, a combination of stomp, toe and heel.
“Ahora para el otro lado!” and they circled back in the opposite direction.
“Oh no!” Agnes crashed into Eiko coming up behind her. “I’m so sorry, I turned the wrong way.”
“No pasa nada,” Rafa reassured her, “Repetimos!”

————
   
“Te voy a comer la cara!” Peggy and Bethany heard Rosa call to Rafa as they left the dance studio the following day.

Bethany, suppressing giggles, nudged Peggy. “Did she just say what I think she said? Not that I wouldn’t like to eat his face myself but I wouldn’t announce it in class!” she winked at Peggy’s horrified expression.

“Coming for cañitas?” called Rosa, accompanied by Laura, Eiko and Marta.

Bethany pulled Peggy away. “Hoy no. Maridos, you know.  They claim they never see us anymore!” Then she whispered to Peggy, “I don’t think I can handle Rosa today. And the others are getting on my nerves too. Look, there’s Agnes and Ursula. Looks like they are trying to escape too. Hey guys!”
They went to a terraza on calle Argumosa, a popular street near the school lined with tapas bars. César and Lucas called it la calle cutreguay(Seedy-cool Street). Lavapies had recently been named the coolest neighborhood in the world by Time Out Magazine for its international population and hippy-hipster culture.

They landed the last table, right next to a flower-painted caravan which sheltered them and cut off their view from the other sidewalk.

After ordering, Bethany sighed, “Isn’t it nice not to have ducado smoke in your face?”
“Oh God, did you hear what she said to Rafa today?” Ursula added.
“She always calls him guapetón and bombón.” Peggy couldn’t help but add. “And if she knows so much, why isn’t she in a higher level?”
“I don’t know how much she knows about flamenco, but she sure seems to know a lot about Rafa!” Agnes said, revealing a less diplomatic side of herself.
Ursula was getting warmed up, “Yes, and I don’t think Rafa appreciates that too much,” her voice turned dreamy now, “but he’s too sweet to complain.”
The others cooed agreement as their thoughts settled on the dancer.
 “And that Laura … why doesn’t she speak to you three in English? It would be the normal thing to do. Even Rafa tries English sometimes.”
More dreamy cooing sounds.
Peggy thought they were going too far. “Well, she is here to learn Spanish. She just wants to make the most of her time.”

Ursula and Bethany frowned at her.

“But … I know what you mean.” she took another sip of wine for assistance. “And she learns so fast! She is so much younger than us.”
“Not so much younger!” Bethany looked disappointed as she reached for her glass and found it empty.

Ursula waved to the waitress. They got more critical as the empty glasses increased; how badly coordinated Marta was, and what a snob; how cutesy and demure Eiko was. Bethany imitated her dewy eyes when she looked at Rafa.

Ursula stood up to parody in her idea of a Cádiz accent “Rafa, te voy a comer la cara!”

Just then Peggy, Bethany and Agnes heard a gruff voice from the terraza across the street call out in an exaggerated German accent “Laura del Sol, de las peliculas de Carlos Saura!”

They had not noticed the hippy caravan drive away.
Both satirists unwittingly waited for reactions while their respective audiences, trying to hush them, looked sheepishly at their plates.

———————

            “Let’s start the second part of the dance, vale?” Rafa announced the next day.
            “Here, you will form two groups. Rosa, Eiko, Laura and Marta, to my left. Ursula, Peggy, Bethany and Agnes to my right.”
            His back to them, Rafa turned to his left, facing one group of four, and stamped out a short zapateado.
            “Now you repeat. It is a dialogue. I challenge you and you answer.”
The women followed suit, each group avoiding eye contact with the other.
            “Good. Now, I spin around to the left, and you copy. Muy bien! Again! Taktaktaktak, spin to your left. Other group, tak, tak, tak, tak, spin to your right. Repeat for four measures. Today we will practice the footwork and tomorrow the braceo, the arms.”    
     


 “Come on, chicas!” Ursula turned to Peggy and Bethany, “Let’s go to my place. We can watch flamenco videos and quiz each other on the different palos!
“Sorry, we can’t.” Bethany spoke for both of them, “Our hombres are waiting for us.” She murmured to Peggy, “I can’t handle Ursula’s ‘classes’ right now.”
“Oh, okay. Look, there’s Agnes. We can go to Argumosa with her.”
“Agnes? Don’t you think she´s a bit boring?”

Half an hour later Peggy and Bethany were practicing their steps while the men were preparing paella. Lucas’s cell phone rang.
Simamá! It’s their third week. They talk about redoblesescobillas, braceopaseos and yo que . They always go for tapas with their classmates. Strangely, tonight they are with us. Wait, Bethany wants to say hi.”
“So, why didn’t you bring your classmates along?” César asked Peggy.
“Why?” Bethany winked at Lucas as she switched off the phone. “You really liked Eiko, didn’t you?”
“What? Accusing us when all you two can talk about is Rafa this and Rafa that!”
“It’s true, you know.” César looked at Peggy, “I know Rafa is a great guy, and dancer and teacher, and guapo, but … estoy hasta los cojones!”
Peggy felt terrible. Had they really been raving so much?
Lucas snorted, “Y un hombre depilado, ¡vamos! An andaluz with no body hair!”
“Well,” Bethany reached into Lucas’s open shirt, and twisted some shockingly long chest hairs around her fingers, “You could do with a little depilanding yourself, cariño.”



“This next part of the dance will be in pairs.” Rafa explained the next evening, after the warmup and revision.

Over the next few days, they learned and repeated new steps, some zapateado, a lot of braceo, turning, arching, and complicated cross-overs. Peggy and Bethany, along with the others, practiced long after the end of class, each pair achieving a unique, insular communication.

The dance flowed through them, tugging and twisting, yearning and yielding, gathering and scattering, from trickle to torment. And it was lovely.

————

By the fourth and last week the students were no longer socializing after class. Laura went off with friends her own age from Spanish class, Eiko had met a man, Marta made excuses about her husband, and Rosa told them her aging mother was ill.

Mira bonita,” Rafa said softly to Peggy, correcting her braceo. “Like this.” Peggy felt a tremor run through her. He had never called any of them bonita. She tried to copy him. “No, no. Así.” He clutched her wrist and turned it, letting go immediately, but a delicious tingle lingered on. She felt the heat radiate from his body. He smelled of soap.

“Rafa!” Bethany whined, “Is my braceo okay?”
Voy!” Rafa leapt away, leaving Peggy cold and furious.
At the end of class Bethany ran after her. “Hey, wait! Beer?”
“Not today.”

___

The next day they learned the last sequences. “In this part, Tita, our cantaora, sings, so no loud footwork. I would like you to show your individuality, your creative selves. You have two measures to do whatever you like, and then you all form a line for the final escobilla.

They dedicated the next twenty minutes to all the possible ways each one could express herself through movement. Laura and Rosa took large strides to the tempo, swooshing dramatically around the room, the younger girl creating lovely swirls with her arms. Ursula, the technical one, made carefully counted turns. Eiko chose tiny, delicate steps, her head snapping left and right like a mechanical doll. Marta swished her skirt to and fro. Agnes swayed and clapped. Bethany tried a sensual marquaje, with undulating hips and shoulders. Peggy attempted a technique Rafa had shown them, moving her arms inward and down, retreating, beckoning. They all appreciated this alone time.
Peggy saw Rafa watching from the corner of the room. What did he think of them? A bunch of silly women wasting his time when he should be doing something important like dancing and choreographing with and for professionals? Whatever he thought, his face did not betray it. “Muy bien!” he called, and offered suggestions and tweaks to help make each performance unique.

“Okay, lindas. This is the last part. Watch carefully. We only have a short time to review it, but the actual steps are repeats of what you did earlier. Remember the zapateado you danced, facing each other in pairs? We repeat that here at the end in the escobilla. Very strong and energetic to make a dramatic finish. We have to leave them impressed!”

Rafa lined them up in a row, “Vamos Jachi, la escobilla final, uno, do, tre, y!”

All eight of them followed his lead, tik, tik, tak, tik, tik, tak, until the last deafening stamp resounded and they stood erect, right arms curved above their heads.

—-

The last Thursday of July was the date of the anticipated and dreaded final show. The academy buzzed with nervous energy. Mothers and teachers fussed with young dancers’ ruffles, and older students put the last touches on their make-up.

The ladies greeted each other with quick nods.

La Tita, Jachi and Conchi were seated on chairs against the wall. Conchi stood up.

“Excited ladies? Nervous? You will do really well. Rafa has told me what great students you are. Now, first the younger groups will perform. In the meantime, you can rehearse. Well, it’s the last day before holidays! Any plans?”

For most of them, it was back to work in their own countries. This had been their holidays. 

“Well, we will be very busy here in the school.” Conchi chuckled, then turned to Rafa, “Have you told them your big news?”
“No, Conchi. Por favor. Not now.” Rafa, not in his usual tracksuit, looked stunning in dark trousers, suit jacket, shirt and polka-dotted scarf.
“Big news? ¡Venga Rafa! ¡Dinos!” Rosa coaxed.
“Yes, yes. Tell us!” Ursula joined in.

Peggy was frantic. Maybe he had won a prize. He was so modest he would never boast about such a thing. Maybe he had joined a famous dance company, with Sara Baras or Joaquín Cortés. Or maybe he was going to dance in a movie!

“Our Rafa is getting married!” Conchi announced.

All the women gasped. None of them said anything, but Conchi continued, “And you all know the person he is marrying!” she winked at him.

This time no one gasped, no one breathed, and it took a few seconds for even Rosa to react, “Anda, Rafa. A married man. !Enhorabuena!

Peggy was frozen. She had known nothing of his personal life other than the bits of information Rosa had gleaned from him and Conchi and proudly presented to her classmates. As far as Peggy knew he could have been married all along and been the father of seven children!

“Congratulations.” Several of the others murmured.
Today they were grateful for Rosa’s audacity, “Okay, Rafa. Tell us who it is.”

Rafa, usually so easy-going, frowned at the laughing, teasing Conchi, set his jaw and rolled up his jacket sleeves, “After rehearsal. We have work to do. There are only a few minutes left. Venga, everyone in your places. Jachi, vamosal toque. Tita, ready?”

Jachi started with the falsetta, and the dancers raised their right arms and twisted their wrists. Peggy’s eyes leapt to the poster of Rafa with Pepa. They were looking passionately at each other and sporting their matching bracelets. Whenever they were together, they laughed and joked. It was obviously her.

There was a swish as the ladies turned to the left in time with the guitar and Tita’s palmas, sweeping their feet along in an arc along the floor, and Peggy found herself facing the photo with Rafa and La Glori. Or her? Of course. They had danced in the same company, Rosa had told them, and gone on tours together.

“Tiri traum traum traum …” Tita’s voice announced the opening of the alegria. Or her? There was such a connection between them whenever she wailed her sorrowful soleás.

The ladies arched around and Peggy saw Conchi whispering to the secretary, Loli, who had just walked in. Ah, yes! The secretary! So pretty, kind and efficient. Or Conchi herself? Was that why she winked at him so much?

Rafa clapped loudly as Conchi left the room, “Vamo! Uno, do, tre.” and they all leapt into position for the llamada.

Stamp, two, three, stamp, two, three, sweep! And Peggy arched to the right to see the tense look on Ursula’s face. Could it be her?

Cuatro, cinco !golpe!, and she turned left to see Laura’s stricken look. Could it be her?

Redobleredobleredoble, step forward, one two three, arms up, turn, and Peggy came face to face with Rosa, suspicion furling her brow. Could it be her? She always knew so much about him. Maybe now she was just playing a game.

Olé las guapas!” Rafa called.

Then, swing around and up she came against Marta, a far-off, defeated look clouding her features. Or her?

Twirl left, toward Agnes, fine tears glistening on her cheek. Or her?

Step forward, one, two, three and … there was Eiko, forlorn surprise making her eyes wider and dewier than ever. Or her?

Swirl the skirt, step right, swirl the skirt, step left, then look up and she came face to face with Bethany’s cold expression. Could it be her, and she had kept it a secret all along? Of course! Marriage was just a hobby for her!

Más alegre, chicas! This is a happy dance. Alegría not agonía!” Rafa clapped, “Eiko, vamo, Rosa, guapaTodas … La escobillaRedoble, golpe tacón … Uno, do, tre y … Jachi acabamo!

At the last stamp of their feet all eight women looked up in perfect formation.

Peggy could tell Rafa was pleased but tense.

Marta broke the screeching silence, “Venga Rafita, tell us, who is it?”

Rafa looked uncomfortable. Peggy felt for him. Goading people into surrendering personal information was very un-Spanish. He looked directly at her as if he could read her thoughts. She wanted to run to him, protect him.

Jachi cleared his throat, pushed his chair back, stood up, and leaned his guitar against the wall, then strode slowly to the front of the room beside Rafa.

Rosa squealed, “!Lo sabía!”

Peggy’s eyes widened. She knew? What did she know?

Rosa ran up and hugged the two men. The women’s faces betrayed first confusion, then disbelief, dismay and finally relief. Then they all broke out laughing, and began hugging both the men and each other.

“Let’s all celebrate together after!” Ursula shouted.

Si!” they all chanted, their earlier camaraderie returning. Even Rafa was alegre now as the women regaled him with the embraces they had been saving all month.

Then it was their turn to dance. This time with alegría in their alegría.

About the Author:

Anita Haas: I am a differently-abled Canadian writer and teacher based in Madrid, Spain. I have published books on film, two novelettes, a short story anthology, and articles, poems and fiction in both English and Spanish. I spend my free time enjoying tapas and flamenco with my writer husband and two cats.

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