The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho
by Anjanette Delgado
by Anjanette Delgado
"A thrilling, hilarious, and mysterious romp." --Patricia Engel, It's Not Love, It's Just Paris
Two divorces have taught Mariela Estevez that she's better suited to being a mistress than a wife. Whose heart needs all that "forever after" trouble? Still, her affair with her married lover, Hector, has become problematic--especially because he's also a tenant in her apartment building in the heart of Miami's Calle Ocho in Little Havana. But when Hector is found dead just steps from Mariela's back door, on the eve of her fortieth birthday, she's forced to examine her life--and come up with a plan to save it, fast...
Complicating matters, Hector's passing sparks the unexpected return of a gift Mariela rejected years ago and thought she'd never have to face again: clairvoyance. Suddenly, Mariela's visions come swiftly and unbidden, as do revelations about her other tenants. Lost loves, hidden yearnings, old jealousies--all reside on Calle Ocho. Most of all, Mariela's second sight awakens her not just to the truth about Hector's death and the secrets in others' lives--but to the possibilities blooming within her own.
With warmth, wit, and insight, award-winning author Anjanette Delgado explores one woman's flawed but heartfelt attempt to live and love well, transporting readers to the center of contemporary Little Havana and a community of uniquely human, unforgettable characters.
"The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho reminds me of why I started reading in the first place--to be enchanted, to be carried away from my world and dropped into a world more vivid and incandescent. Anjanette Delgado loves her characters, even the miscreants, and makes us love them too."
--John Dufresne, author of No Regrets, Coyote
Excerpt from The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho
No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver. There is none more blind than he who doesn't want to see.
In my life, I've found that this is most true of women married to unfaithful men. As for the mistress in the equation, the truth is that being the other woman is a decision. A conscious one. Don't believe any woman who tells you she didn't know what she was doing when the penis belonging to your husband just happened to land inside her vagina. Walk away if she starts with "I didn't know," "We started out as friends," or "By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late and we were in love." Because this woman isn't stupid, innocent, or deluded. She's lying.
I can assert this with such conviction because I've been both: the blind woman married to a man who likes to spread it around and the other woman with no excuse.
Or at least that's who I was that afternoon, casually checking into the Hotel St. Michel in Coral Gables. Me, walking into the freshly cleaned room with its French hay-yellow walls, blue-and-white chinoiserie-patterned linens, and dark wood furniture. Me lighting tea lights inside the whiskey glasses I'd lugged here in my environmentally conscious, recycled cotton "Feed" tote, before slipping into the sheer, navy blue, boatneck baby-doll I'd picked up at a Ross Dress for Less discount store for a quarter of its Victoria's Secret price. And none other than moi, waiting for my married lover, Hector Ferro, to walk through the door.
Yep. All me.
A new me. An unmarried me. A me without an owner. Where before I'd wasted life hours straightening my long, wavy black hair because "my husband likes it this way," I now sported honey-colored, neck-length curls around my too-pale face and wide-set brown eyes. Where I used to wear A-line skirts to hide my protruding backside, I now sported snug- enough jeans all the time (high-waisted, low-waisted, skinny, or destroyed to a literal inch of their useful lives), like a symbolic uniform, to show I belonged with the strong, the sexy, and the free.
As I walked around the cozy little room making myself at home, early afternoon sun shafts of light seemed to slip in through the shutters, igniting the yellow walls and making it seem as if the whole room were aglow. In that light, it was easy to imagine I was in Paris instead of Miami, to accept the role of mistress, to allow myself its perks. I was glowing too, more so at thirty-nine than I ever had at twenty-nine, and looked as radiant as if I'd just had a facial, thanks to the green vegetable shakes my neighbor Iris swore by and had taught me to make. That, and a recipe for Dr. Etti's fruity rooibos tea drink, had helped me eliminate almost thirty pounds from my five-foot-five-inch frame in mere months. (Place pineapple and apple peels and a handful of goji berries in a pot of hot water. Allow to boil. Add a few tea bags of African red bush, also called rooibos, set aside to cool, and then refrigerate. Drink with a squirt of raw blue agave nectar for a delicious diuretic.)
Of course, there was more to my glow than tea. I was now, for the first time in my life, enjoying being the object of a man's reckless desire and nothing more. I'd played the role of the betrayed wife twice before. Wasn't I entitled to be on the other side of the broken vows for a change?
A single rap on the hotel room door told me he was here, and I rushed to open it, loving that he jumped all these hoops for no other reason than to make love to me, while resting in the complacent knowledge that the unfaithful ways of the man now slowly and knowingly taking me in with his eyes were someone else's problem.
Hector was in his late forties and attractive in a sophisticated, sexy, citizen-of-the-world kind of way: strong jaw, dark blue eyes that crinkled at the slightest smile, ash-brown hair parted on the side like a newscaster's, and the lean, lanky build of those who can eat what they want without putting on weight.
He'd been a college professor in Argentina and still dressed like one: tan slacks, slightly rumpled cotton shirts always open to reveal crisp, white undershirts, and the same careless khaki trench coat that he must have worn around his Buenos Aires campus, because even in Miami, he never took it off, rain or shine. I could imagine him walking to classes, absorbed in his thoughts, never imagining his country's economy would get so bad he'd have to emigrate to the United States with his wife, a nutritionist of some sort, and use what savings he'd protected to buy a small bookstore in Miami's far-from-gentrified Little Havana.
He was one of those men whose thinning hair did nothing to diminish the power of his charm and undeniable masculinity. I could almost see how his unruly brows coupled with the smile I'd come to know so well, always somewhere between properly friendly and slightly mischievous, might have been hard to resist for even the most emotionally stable of his students.
He was smiling that smile now, as his eyes took in my feet and then my hips, lingering for a moment on my breasts. Next: the outlining of my mouth, and finally a full stop right into my eyes, before grinning with feigned modesty, as if the evil of his thoughts were too much even for him.
"Hey," I said.
"Ey," he returned my greeting, forgetting the h, stepping into the room, and kicking the door shut with his foot before wrapping his arms around me and walking forward, all the while holding me tight, so that I was forced to walk backward in a jumbled tango two-step past the suite's little salon and into the bedroom area, where I heard him toss what I knew would be a book onto the bed behind me.
"I brought you somesing," he said into my ear, the thick Argentinean accent that seemed to underline every sound before it came out of his mouth seeming, to me, even more sexy than usual that day.
I scurried away to see what message might be hidden in the book he'd chosen to bring me this time. It was the pocket version of Chiquita, a novel about a real-life Cuban burlesque dancer who drove men crazy in the late 1800s despite being little more than two feet tall. I smiled. Hector had placed a piece of cigarette box foil on page 405, marking the beginning of a paragraph that I proceeded to read out loud while fighting his efforts to liberate my body from the baby-doll.
"A scandal like that was in no one's best interest so, with all the pain of their souls, the lovers had to separate," I read, then closed the book, confused.
"What's wrong, flaca?" he asked, using his favorite endearment for me, which means "slim" and is common in Argentina.
"Trying to tell me something, mister?"
"What? No! Of course not. The marker, eh, how you say? It must've slipped. You can see how sophisticated it is." He smiled, taking off the trench and slipping off his shoes. "Nah, I just love the author. And, you know, he's local, comes into the store a lot, so, if you like it, I can introduce you to him one of these days."
"Why? Were you scared I was telling you somesing?"
"Pu-leeze," I said, pursing my lips to the side like a good Cuban.
"You do look a little scared," he said, coming closer with pretend concern.
"Nope. I don't do scared, and, frankly, my dear, you think too damn much of yourself," I finished, making my voice deep and husky, my best imitation of Rhett Butler.
He gave me the puzzled look he saved for trying to figure out what movie I was quoting or referring to.
"Gone with the Wind? 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn'?" I said.
"Aaaaah, my God, why don't you quote books? Books make good quotes."
"It is a book. A book with over a thousand pages I'll never read when there's a perfectly good movie to tell me the story."
"But if you read the book, you'd know the quote is 'My dear, I don't give a damn.' None of this 'frankly' business. Simple. As it should be. That's why you should quote, and read, books."
"Yes, Professor Ferro," I mocked him, making a mental note to buy the book and read at least the first few chapters, see what I'd been missing.
That was one of the great things about my affair with Hector. Though I never went to college, I wanted to learn and had long before decided to make up for the formal education I'd denied myself by reading everything I could get my hands on. I'd spent countless hours learning all kinds of things: art history, math, philosophy, politics, biology, and enjoying nothing as much as I enjoyed fiction. Literary or trashy, it didn't matter. I craved stories and felt frustrated when my limited education prevented me from fully understanding the old English expressions in a great love story like Wuthering Heights. (I'm sure I'm still missing a lot of it, though I've read it twice.) But now, with Hector, it was like having a private tutor who could unlock any book's secrets. He called it providing context. I called it finally connecting the dots I'd been accumulating for years and loved the thrill of "getting it" when he explained something I'd missed.
"Oooh, forget what I'm saying. A beautiful woman in my hotel room and me a terrrrible, terrrrrible bore," he was saying now. "Why should I tell you what to quote? We're different people with different lives. If you want to watch the movie, you watch the movie, and I'll read the book. Perfect, eh? We'll complement each other."
"Exactly," I said, unsure I liked this interpretation of us.
"Too bad I'll never know what you're quoting," he said, kissing me, his hands searching my willing hips, the keys to my common sense relinquished so many months ago.
"We're not that different," I said, eyes closed, trying to fix what was bothering me. "You're the one who says we have the story chemistry, and—"
"Wait! What is this?" he asked suddenly, focusing the tips of his fingers on a particular spot along my outer thigh.
"This," he said seriously, lowering himself until he was sitting on his haunches, pretending to examine my thigh with his hands, dragging the tip of his index finger softly over my upper leg, as if outlining something.
"This, eh, like a circle, right here."
"Oh. That. It's a birthmark," I said. Then trying to give the smooth, round, cinnamon-colored stain a positive spin, I added, "My mother had it too," as if that settled that and made it a family heirloom.
"A birthmark. Interesting," he said, closing his eyes and kissing the fleshy top part of my leg where he'd been "tracing."
Then, "Hey! Where did it go?"
I shrugged my shoulders innocently, holding my arms straight and close to my body in order to help the baby-doll fall to the floor, then putting my hands on my hips and looking directly into his eyes.
"A vast improvement," he said, eyes slowly traveling up my body, reaching and meeting my gaze.
"I thought I'd show you I have nothing to hide," I said.
"Clever," he responded, imitating my pure business tone. "Maybe now we'll be able to find it."
"Maybe," I said, thinking men can be endearing when they're being ridiculous and preferring this Hector to the one who lived to argue and to lecture, but could never admit to being wrong.
"Unless you're hiding it," he said, kissing a line across my pelvis. "You do understand, I must be thorough in my search?" he continued, effortlessly coming up to my belly button, kissing it, then my right rib cage. Then, "Wait! I think it may have hidden under here," he said, slipping his palm under the slight curving of my breast as if to cup it. "Um-huh. Yes. Right here."
( Continues... )
Excerpted from The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho by Anjanette V. Delgado. Copyright © 2014 Anjanette V. Delgado. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
MEET ANJANETTE DELGADO
"When you're going through hell, keep going." -Winston Churchill
Anjanette Delgado is an award-winning novelist, speaker, and journalist who has written or produced for media outlets such as NBC, CNN, NPR, Univision, HBO and Vogue Magazine’s Latam and Mexico divisions, and for Telemundo, among others. She’s covered presidential coups, elections, the Olympics, both Iraq wars and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Early in her career, she became fascinated with heartbreak, the different ways in which it occurs, and the consequences it brings. Her human-interest television series “Madres en la Lejanía” won an Emmy award for its depiction of Latina mothers working as undocumented nannies in the United States, while living with the consequences of having left their own children behind in search of a better life.
Her original screenplay for HBO, “Good in Bed,” was a thesis on the life moments in which sex, love, identity, self, and society collide.
Her first novel, The Heartbreak Pill (Atria Books, 2008, 2009), about a modern-day Latina enmeshed in a battle between her brain and her heart, won first prize at the Latino International Book Award for Best Romance in English, was a Triple Crown Winner for Best Romance Book in Spanish in 2010, and first prize for Best Romance in Latino Literacy’s “Books into Movies” competition in 2011.
The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho is Anjanette’s latest novel. Set in vibrant Little Havana, it tells the story of Mariela Esteves, a woman whose choice to renounce her true calling results in two failed marriages, a brush with murder, and a lot of heartbreak. It will be released in the Fall of 2014 by Kensington Books Publishing, and in Spanish in the U.S. and Mexico by Penguin Random House. Both novels have also been optioned recently for film and television.
Anjanette has an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University and was admitted as a contributor to the prestigious Bread Loaf Writing Conference in 2013 and in the upcoming 2014 session. She teaches writing at the Miami International Book Fair’s Florida Literacy Arts Center and lives in Miami with her husband Daniel and her mini dachshund Chloe. She is a native of Puerto Rico, has two daughters, and drinks a café con leche made with almond coconut milk every morning at precisely 7:45 a.m. You can learn more or connect with Anja via this site: www.anjanettedelgado.com.
The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho by Anjanette Delgado
General, Women's Fiction
Released on August 26, 2014