That came through loud and clear. I hadn't hit my head. But it felt like it as I stared at Abuelita who was tugging at my arm with one hand, pushing Carlito toward the cabin door with the other. "¡Ahora!"
"But Abuelita—where?" Carlito was already on his feet, one hand blindly reaching out to help me up as he stared through the door at the lights.
"Tírate—into the water!" she ordered, pushing past us and onto the deck, unfolding the hinged wooden ladder bolted to the back of the boat. No. Just ... no. That ladder—the center of each step worn several shades lighter—it was meant for sunny days and jumping into clear turquoise waters. Not desperate, nighttime tumbles into an inky, terrifying mystery.
"Your father hit something. He doesn't know what. It was too dark."
"Where is Papi—Mami? Why can't we use the life raft?" I tried to charge past my grandmother, trying to get to the cockpit, but she grabbed my shoulders, shaking me.
"¡Bastante! We can't fit everything we need into the life raft if we are all in there. Do not worry, they are coming and we are getting everything important, but you must go over the side and get to shore. Now."
"Wait! I need to get—"
She held my arm in a death grip. "You can't."
"No!" I wrenched away from her, lurching back toward the cabin and finding myself unceremoniously yanked back, the seams of my dress digging painfully into the soft flesh beneath my arms as my grandmother's hold on the back of my dress tightened.
"Natalia, we do not have time." Spinning me around, she grasped my shoulders, her features softening for an instant. "He will get your things. Te lo juro, I'll make sure he gets everything."
"M'ijita, when have I ever let you down?
It was futile. If she had to push me over the side herself she would. Resigned, I nodded, my hand going to the front of my dress, feeling for my gold chain, tracing the outline of the small cross I'd worn since my Confirmation and the other, weightier pendant that had only recently joined it. I headed for the opening where Carlito waited, pale, yet clear-eyed and practically quivering with a palpable anticipation. A flash of irritation shot through me. The little idiot was actually excited about this turn of events.
But before I could take more than a step or two, my grandmother captured my arm once again. "Natalia, your shoes—dejalos."
"What?" I glanced down, almost shocked to find them still on my feet. And all of a sudden, it seemed vital—the most important thing—to win one battle. Keep just one thing. "No—they're from Paris." Papi had bought them for me on our last trip—when we visited the Sorbonne and he'd told me I could go and I entertained visions of myself as Audrey Hepburn or Leslie Caron. Cavorting along the wide avenues and rues in my soft, black flats and capris and the slightly scratchy wool beret I'd bought from a street vendor on my final afternoon.
I'd had such dreams.
"No importan. Who cares where they came from? Leave them." I could feel the fast, heavy throb of my pulse, right in the crook of my elbow, just below where her fingers curled, tight and cold. "We need to move quickly. Your father's not certain what damage the boat may have sustained. Deja los jodido zapatos and vete. ¡Inmediatamente!"
My mouth opened on a wordless scream at my grandmother's harsh shove, the rage that drove the urge to fight breaking free of the iron shackles with which I'd restrained it. My fists clenched-
YOU ARE READING
Between Here & GoneGeneral Fiction
Chosen as one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2016 ** In 1959 Cuba, Natalia San Martín was nothing short of a princess: sheltered, pampered, and courted by her very own prince, a childhood friend turned lifelong love. All that changed on the fa...