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We won’t be going to the Rosaria Islands

By Frédéric VITOUX Sofitel Santa Clara Carthagène

After lunch, after the siesta, while Hélène lingered in their room, making notes of what they had seen and writing her first postcards, Robert went down to the Santa Clara’s swimming pool, where he found the American, alone, lounging on a mattress and talking on his iPhone.
They introduced themselves. The man was a gynecologist who lived in Carmel, California. His wife’s name was Pamela Stuart.

 

“…But you probably recognized her,” he added.
Robert was perplexed.
“Pamela Stuart, the heroine of the series Love from Malibu?” the American said.
Robert apologized. He rarely watched television or American series.
“It was in 1990, I know,” the gynecologist added. “ For Pamela, Love from Malibu was her crowning role.”
“Really? And after?”
The gynecologist hesitated a moment before continuing – he was in fact skeptical about the talent and career of his actress-wife.
“In 2007, her agent asked her to come to Cartagena for the filming of a movie based on a book by some famous guy, Love When Cholera Comes, or something like that. They needed her to urgently replace an ailing actress who was supposed to play a singer, one of the hero’s mistresses. A small role, of course, but…
Then her trip was cancelled at the last minute. The ailing actress was no longer ailing.”
“Too bad!” Robert said, politely.
“In any case, Pamela was bitter about it, so I promised that we would go to Cartagena someday, together. We also wanted to see the Caribbean, and the Rosario Islands, which everybody always talks about and which are supposed to be so romantic, right?”
Before their departure, Hélène and Robert had found pictures on the Internet of the famous islands, which were only about a two-hour boat ride from Cartagena: There was clear turquoise water, endless white sand beaches, coconut trees planted as if by design, bungalows and huts, coral reefs, sharks and dolphins that were more or less tame – it was all postcard-perfect, images that had become commonplace because they were exceptional, the dream of fishermen, scuba divers and swimmers. They had themselves considered visiting the islands, even if they were not fishermen, scuba divers… and certainly not swimmers!
“The day after tomorrow, after we go to the islands,” the American added, “I’ve got a surprise for Pamela: a dinner in the convent’s old chapel, just for the two of us. It’s our 10th wedding anniversary, you see.”
Robert saw. “Congratulations,” he said, with little conviction.
“For the moment, she’s preparing.
He gestured with his iPhone toward the pavilion to the left of the pool, where the hotel’s spa was.
Robert wondered what she could be preparing herself for under the merciful fingers of the masseuses. Getting ready for the trip to the Rosario Islands? Trying to revive the seductive powers of the starlet whose moment of glory had come a quarter of a century ago in a soap opera? Or the sensual opulence of the actress who might have been in the English film based on Gabriel García Márquez’s novel, Love in the Time of Cholera? Behind Robert and the American, orchids were clinging to the trunks of the ebony trees. Maria mulata birds, like slim black magpies, were playing in the little basin, bathing and shaking themselves dry – and there was every indication that they were happy.

 

The next day, a Sunday, Hélène and Robert went to Mass at 11:30 in the San Pedro Claver church, which in their opinion was the city’s most beautiful. When they were abroad, they liked to attend a service and mix with the local population.
In his homily, the young priest passionately evoked the spiritual authority that Jesus held over his disciples. He then invited people to come to the altar and share with the congregation (the church was packed) what he or she believed to be a just conception of authority. A woman walked up the central aisle, turned to the congregation, and then in simple language (Hélène was translating for Robert) said that, in her house, it was her husband, the head of the family, who held the authority and that this was all very well…

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