That Song in Patagonia, страница 1
That Song in Patagonia
When Adrienne discovers her husband, Seb, has been unfaithful, the illusion of her perfect life is indelibly shattered and she flees.
Nick, a shop owner who suddenly finds himself the center of media attention, follows.
They both escape to Latin America for different reasons. Adrienne is tired turning a blind eye to her husband’s affairs. Nick trails after her, not only because he’s become an overnight YouTube sensation and he doesn’t know how to handle it, but also because he’s secretly been in love with Adrienne, his cousin’s wife, for years.
Two people with hurting hearts and unrealized dreams explore the streets of Buenos Aires and the South American countryside, and it changes them both forever. And what they find in each other is something that might just heal them both.
In a hazy room filled with flashing lights, throbbing music, and hundreds of beautiful people, Adrienne felt like a mallard surrounded by swans. And she longed for a peaceful bit of swamp. A woman in a silvery dress resembling plastic wrap pushed past her, leaving behind a stench of perfume. Adrienne sought out a corner where she’d be less likely to be touched or bumped into, but the best refuge she could find was a bar stool. She hiked herself onto it and checked her watch. Was it too early to go home? Meanwhile, a man wearing a floral shirt brushed up against Adrienne and sloshed his drink on her.
“Oh, clumsy me,” he said. “So sorry!” After setting his drink on a nearby table and grabbing a handful of napkins, he patted her down.
Adrienne shied away from the man with his lingering fingers and overpowering cologne. Silently she cursed Sebastian because somehow this was all his fault—even though he wasn’t there. She didn’t know where he was. And she didn’t know why she’d ever agreed to attend this awful party. She slid off the bar stool and, weaving through the laughing and smiling guests, she made her way to the restroom.
In the hall, Steph snagged her wrist. “You’re not escaping.”
“This was a bad idea.” Adrienne pulled her wet blouse away from her skin and the warm scent of wine wafted over her.
“And you think moping at home is a better one?”
Adrienne’s phone buzzed. She scrambled to open her sequined clutch bag.
“Huh-uh.” Steph snatched the purse. “No! He doesn’t get to talk to you.”
“How do you know it’s him?”
“I don’t. But if it is, he’s the last person you should be talking to.” Steph turned her voice into a purr. “Come on, sweetie, have some fun. You don’t need him.”
Adrienne blinked back tears. “He’s my husband.”
“But he hasn’t acted like it in months…maybe even years.” Steph opened the purse and sighed when she checked the phone.
“It was him, wasn’t it?”
Steph handed the purse back to Adrienne. She slipped her arm around Adrienne’s waist and tried to urge her back into the thick of the crowd. “Let me introduce you to my friend Geoff. He’s an artist, too.”
“No, video games.”
Images of violent computer graphics flashed in Adrienne’s mind. A creature carrying an automatic weapon crashed into the room and began firing. Blood spurted. People screamed. Adrienne shook the visual from her mind. “I have to go,” she said. “I really need to talk to Sebastian.”
After thanking the hostess and following her directions to the bedroom where the coats had been gathered, Adrienne stepped into the room, closed the door, leaned against it, and battled tears. She took a deep breath and a glance at the coats and jackets heaped on the bed. Ninety percent of them were black—like hers. But wait, why was there a shoe amid the jackets? Two shoes. No, four shoes.
Oh dear, what was that couple doing on the bed, buried beneath the coats? And how would Adrienne ever extract hers without interrupting? She quickly left, sans coat.
Outside, away from the party’s noise and crush of people, Adrienne breathed a little easier. The misty air blurred the headlights of the cars splashing down the shiny black roads. Reflections of the store’s neon advertisements glistened on the slick sidewalk. The cold damp penetrated Adrienne’s blouse and the mean breeze twirled around her legs. Why had she let Steph talk her into going to a party full of strangers? Because it was better than spending another evening alone.
On the drive home, Adrienne tried to rehearse all the things she needed to say to Sebastian, but instead, she choked on all her tears.
Nick stared in horror at the computer screen. “How did this happen?” His voice, usually so deep and melodic, came out in a croaky whisper.
“Come on,” Steph elbowed him, “you have to admit this is amazing for business!”
Nick pulled his gaze away from YouTube to give her what he hoped was a terrifying glare. She was like a sister to him. He had backed her when her parents had thrown a fit about her purple hair and multiple piercings. He had chased off her loser boyfriend. He loved her and thought the feeling mutual, but all those warm fuzzy feelings were evaporating as he watched himself singing on the internet and realized she was the one to blame.
Steph grinned back at him, wiped her hands on her apron, and pointed her chin at the line snaking around the counter of Bar de Música. “They don’t just come here for cocoa, you know.” She patted his shoulder and practically skipped out of the office.
He watched her join Jon behind the counter and say something to the guy next in line, who threw back his head and laughed.
Nick told himself they weren’t laughing at him. Were they? He glanced at the computer. According to the views counts, so far about a thousand people had watched the video of him singing at his cousin Pedro’s wedding. There had to be millions of amateur videos of people singing at weddings—why would a thousand people choose to watch him? Of course, it didn’t help that his cousin’s bulldog, Lester, dressed in a tux, gave Nick his rapt attention, his big head swinging in time with the music. How had Nick not noticed this at the time? He replayed the video, curious about what else he’d missed.
Jon strode into the office. “Are you still obsessing over that?”
Nick shook his head, closed the laptop with a sharp click, and pushed away from the desk. “Nah.”
“I don’t know why you want to hide your talent beneath a bushel.” Jon was studying to become a youth pastor and liked to spout Biblical phrases. “You have a gift. You have to let it shine.”
Nick interrupted before Jon could start singing, “This Little Light of Mine.” “No, I don’t. What I have to do is keep this shop afloat.” Nick thought about going out and wiping down tables—his standard go-to when his accounts were all caught up—but the fear that some of the guests had seen the video froze him. He paced across the room.
Concern flashed in Jon’s eyes. “We’re doing fine, right?”
“Well, yeah.” Nick stopped and clapped a hand on Jon’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. We’re doing great.” In fact, they were doing much better than he’d projected when he’d opened the café. He’d patterned the shop after his uncle’s in Uruguay. Like any standard coffee shop, they served hot beverages and a smattering of baked goods, but what set them apart from a Starbucks was their open microphone for musicians, poets, and comedians. They also sold vinyl records and vintage sound systems.
Nick’s thoughts drifted to Jose and he fought a wave of homesickness. But moments later, the sound of his own voice jolted him back to the here and now. He glanced at the closed laptop before bolting out of the office.
He halted behind the counter and stared at the TV screen in the corner of the room. All the patrons in the
Five thousand views.
How is this happening? His head spun. There weren’t even five thousand people in Jose’s entire village. He let this process before he climbed to his feet. So, five thousand views. Everyone was watching Lester. Not him. And as Steph had said, this would be good for the shop. Publicity was publicity.
He checked his reflection in the mirror and smoothed his thick dark hair, before squaring his shoulders and heading back into the fray. The number of patrons had at least doubled. The shop had an occupancy capacity of three hundred, and while they were nowhere near that number, they still had twice as many guests as was typical for a Thursday afternoon.
He glanced outside at the weak January sun attempting to singe the edges of gray clouds. The rain was good for business. But so, apparently, were musical dog videos.
A blinding light flashed, making Nick blink. Had someone just taken his picture?
Adrienne gripped the steering wheel as she pulled up at a light and stared at the building in front of her. She had driven to 44 East Elm on auto-pilot. There stood the offices of Cavallero Land Development. Her eyes traveled to the top floor. Sebastian ’s office. She imagined him sitting at his big desk. She could go in and talk to him. Confide her worries. Reveal her insecurities about how they rarely talked. How seldom they touched. When had he stopped calling in the middle of the day? When had her company become an obligation to fulfill?
The driver of a Volkswagen behind her bleeped its horn. The light had turned green. When? How long had she been parked there—not really coming or going, stuck in neutral?
The Volkswagen horn bleeped louder and longer. After raising her hand in apology, Adrienne turned onto High Street, away from Seb. Irrationally upset, angry with herself for being overly emotional, she pointed the car toward her own office. But then she saw him.
Her husband had his arm flung around the shoulders of a tall, dark-haired beauty wearing a cobalt blue coat and a pair of red stiletto heels. Who dressed like that to the office? The woman turned and answered Adrienne’s question. Therese Acosta dressed like that. And Therese Acosta kissed Seb on a Seattle corner.
A Honda in front of Adrienne stopped suddenly, forcing her to slam on her brakes. The hood of her BMW came dangerously close to the Honda. A large, furry dog in the back seat of the other car stared at her. Adrienne’s heart hammered at her near miss. Had Seb seen the almost-accident? Was Therese laughing at Adrienne’s clumsy driving? Adrienne tightened her grip on the steering wheel and sped away to anywhere else.
Adrienne woke in the middle of the night to find Sebastian asleep beside her. Sitting up, she stared at his inert form and for the first time considered a life without him. He slept with his back to her, his dark head just poking out of the blankets. Gray light filtered in through the slats of the window blinds and cut stripes across the rumpled bedclothes.
Picturing the bed empty was easy enough. Lately, Sebastian had been gone more than he’d been home. Traveling. Business. Even on weekends. How could she have been so stupid?
She glanced at the clock. 3:00 a.m. Lying back against her pillows, she stared at the ceiling and, like a chess master, she began to plan out her next move.
“What are you doing?” Sebastian mumbled.
“Leaving you.” Adrienne rolled from the bed and padded across the room in the dark.
“You can’t.” Sebastian pulled the quilt over his shoulder. He didn’t even seem surprised by her pronouncement.
“Watch me.” She threw the words over her shoulder.
“It will kill Abuelo,” Sebastian said.
Adrienne had thought of this, and while she loved the old man, she’d long grown tired of Sebastian’s family’s hierarchy and manipulating ways. Inside her closet, she flipped on the light, pulled down her suitcase, and began to fill it. She glanced at her sweaters and jeans—Seattle winter wear—and instead chose shorts, T-shirts, and sundresses. She was going to find summer.
Three Weeks Later
“What would you like for dinner?” Aubrey asked.
Adrienne shrugged her response without looking up from her Argentina Now! magazine. There was an article on Iguazu Falls, and Adrienne promised herself she would go. Soon. Although, she’d been in Argentina for one week already and had only left her sister’s apartment once.
Aubrey blew out a sigh. “Will you stop already?”
“What?” Adrienne stared at her sister. Despite their ten-year age difference, they were similar in appearance—tall, blond, willowy. Neither wore much make-up. The major difference was that Aubrey was usually spattered in mud.
“You’re an attorney, for pity’s sake. Arguing is what you do!”
Adrienne turned her attention back to the magazine and tried to ignore Aubrey. “You want me to argue about what we have for dinner?” she said after a beat of silence. When Aubrey didn’t answer right away, she looked up.
Aubrey, who stood in the kitchen surrounded by terra-cotta pots filled with rosemary, basil, dill, oregano, and lavender, shook her trowel at Adrienne. “I want you to do something!”
Adrienne looked back at her magazine and flipped through it until she found pictures of the most luxurious bookstore she’d ever seen. “I’m going to go to El Ateneo Grand Splendid.”
Aubrey looked at her through slit lids. “When?”
Adrienne swung her feet off the sofa and planted them on the wooden floor. “Now?”
Aubrey fixed her fists on her hips. “And what about dinner?”
“I said I didn’t care.”
“No, what you said was—” Aubrey mimicked her exaggerated shrug.
“Do you want me to go?” Adrienne asked.
“To the bookstore, yes,” Aubrey said, her voice softening. “Back to Sebastian, no.”
“Thanks for letting me stay here.” Adrienne went to find her shoes.
“Of course,” Aubrey said, sounding contrite.
Adrienne shared the guest bedroom with a shelf holding dozens of glass jars full of herbs and spices and pots filled with various trees. A warm light shone on a tray of seedlings in the corner. These plants were the love and passion of her sister’s life and Adrienne knew she was lucky that Aubrey would carve a space out for her, but still, she secretly wished for a room less junglesque. Adrienne found her shoes wedged between a potted grapefruit tree and a watering can. She slipped them on before padding back into the living room.
Aubrey stood in the entry with her coat on. She’d removed her dirty apron, but a smudge of dirt remained on her forehead.
“Are you coming with me?” Adrienne asked.
This time it was Aubrey that answered with a shrug.
“Well, then you might want to wash your face,” Adrienne said with a smile.
“Have you heard from him?” Aubrey asked once they got outside.
“No.” Adrienne turned her face to the sun. Although Buenos Aires was a much larger city than Seattle, they both sat on the water and shared similar climates. But they were polar opposites. When Seattle was gray with winter, Buenos Aires enjoyed the summer sun and vice versa.
“I don’t think she was the only one,” Adrienne said in a small voice.
“What makes you so sure?”
Adrienne’s thoughts skittered over the years and lingered on all the prolonged business trips that had filled her seven-year marriage. “Did you know some say that the seven-year itch is a real thing?”
Aubrey nodded. “Divorce rates show that on average couples tend to divorce around seven years. Statistics say there is a low risk of separation during the first months of marriage. After the ‘honeymoon’ mon
“So says the woman who never married.”
“And never will,” Aubrey said. “Did you know that human cells are replaced every seven years? So, it’s like you’re a brand-new person every seven years. Although the linings of your stomach and intestines are renewed much faster.”
Adrienne kicked a pebble down the sidewalk, thinking of how much her sister sounded like their father. “Have you talked to Dad recently?”
“No. Have you?” Aubrey skated her a glance. “I assume you told Mom.”
“Hmm,” Adrienne muttered.
“Let me guess what she said: I told you so?”
Adrienne elbowed her. “You’re so smart.” She paused on the corner of Avenida Indepencia and stared at the University of Argentina. “Which building is the science building?”
“My lab is on the other side of campus. You should visit.”
“I think I will.” It felt good to change the subject. She asked about Aubrey’s work, her colleagues, and her sabbatical from the University of Washington as they walked down the street until they reached Avenida Sant Fe. Once they passed through the doors of El Ateneo, Adrienne murmured, “I may never leave.” And she didn’t know if she was talking about the bookstore or Argentina.
Sebastian pushed through the doors of Bar de Música. If the crowds in the shop surprised him, he didn’t show it. Nick took a deep breath and braced his shoulders for the encounter with his cousin and best friend.
Seb waved to Nick. Like all the Cavallero men, he was tall, broad, and handsome. And impatient.
Nick motioned for Seb to join him in the back office.
Seb nodded before attempting to weave through the patrons without spilling anyone’s coffee. “This place is a zoo,” Seb said. “Are you going to expand?”