9780061695551

The Sacred Well: A Novel

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780061695551

  • ISBN10:

    0061695556

  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-01-01
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Summary

From the author of "Pilate's Wife" comes a beautiful story of myth and mysticism that follows the lives of two women--restless wanderers each drawn to Yucatan, Mexico.

Excerpts

The Sacred Well
A Novel

Chapter One

A Storm Warning

Sage

Yucatán, the present day

Mérida is an ancient city, sensual and sophisticated. I loved it on sight and dreamed of getting lost there, a fantasy that haunts me still.

As special guests, our wooden chairs had been placed on a small dais in the center of tiny Parque Santa Lucía. Sitting in the front row, making notes, I watched couples dance on an improvised stage. Dark-suited men darted like moths. Women in white whirled coquettishly, trays of champagne glasses delicately balanced on their heads.

I knew about balancing acts, have gotten good at them. Not now, not tonight, I pleaded to—to whom? Ixchel; this was her territory. I want to have fun tonight, I told the Mayan moon goddess. This is my time.

Leaning back, I fluttered a sandalwood fan against the sultry night, savoring the quaint old park with its graceful archways and lush plantings. The mariachi band sounded great: horns, violins, lots of guitars. When lightning sliced the sky I sat up with a start. A low roar echoed in the distance, barely discernable. Thunder crashed above me now. How quickly the weather changes in Yucatán. The first, fast drops of rain pelted my hair, splashed my face. Companions were already up and running. Behind us was a narrow street, beyond that our hotel. Two group members were halfway there, our leader shepherding the rest across deepening rivulets of rainwater.

I turned back to the stage and saw male dancers scatter in all directions. The women performers, gowns sodden now and clinging, looked uncertainly at one another, hands raised to trays still balanced on their heads. A goblet slid off, shattering on ancient paving stones. Mariachis grabbed their instruments and ran from the bandstand. Thunder crashed again, long and ominous.

Another fiery bolt slashed the horizon. "Sage, are you coming?" someone called to me from across the street. Hesitating, I looked again at the hotel, considered my fellow travelers, and remembered their twice-told tales. So tedious. Lost luggage in Guadalajara, leaky toilets in Taxco. I ran—in the opposite direction. The mariachis were disappearing into a cantina on the far side of the square. El Troubabor. Liking the sound of it, I hurried toward the blinking Christmas tree lights that marked the bar's lofty stone entryway. My high heels slipped on rough stones. An experienced traveler should have known better, but I couldn't resist the slinky shoes waiting so long in my closet.

Pushing open the elaborately carved wooden door, I rushed inside, glad to be out of the rain, a smooth marble floor beneath my feet. Too smooth. I slid, missed a step, and pitched forward into the dark, smoky room. An awful moment, tumbling in slow motion. I fell headlong, or would have, if a stranger's arms hadn't reached out and caught me. For the tiniest moment I relaxed against his shoulder. . . . How good it felt to be held without being needed. How long had it been?

"Are you all right?" the man asked in American English. He looked a little younger than me, early forties, perhaps; tall, rangy, and smiling softly. I'd never seen him before, yet felt in some crazy way that I knew him, might even have been waiting for him.

"I'm fine." I stepped back, wobbly, embarrassed. The room was filled with people, all of them looking at us. "Thank you," I gasped.

"Come, join me." He gestured toward the ornate mahogany bar where his drink waited, something dark and sparkling in a snifter.

Still shaky, I settled onto a bamboo stool, its back thickly padded with embroidered pillows. Mayan designs: Ixchel, my favorite, alongside ferocious snouts and plumed serpents.

My reflection stared back from the cloudy mirror behind the bar. Wide eyes, wary like a startled cat. I took off my scarf, fluffed up the short silver waves its silken whimsy had failed to cover. Good haircuts are hard to come by; I was glad to have one.

"¿Una margarita, señora?" the bartender asked, his ring-heavy hands already busy pouring.

"Sí, por favor."

"You speak Spanish?" the man beside me asked.

"Español por tontos."

"¿Tontos?"

"Dummies—it gets me by."

The mariachis, grouped in a corner, tuned up instruments that seemed none the worse for the shower. Much of the brass was dented, the tuba tarnished, but the brave sound raised my spirits immediately. Tasting the salt from the glass's rim, I looked about the cantina: intimate, heavy with history; faded elegance, but still inviting. This was the colonial part of town, the adobe walls a good five hundred years old. I liked the ancient grillwork at the windows, the bright woven rugs scattered across the tile floor.

Studying the faded photographs on the wall beside me, I saw poignant reminders of Mexico's turbulent past. These were the heroes of the revolution: men in white with broad sombreros, bandoliers bristling with bullets, rifles ready. Young, unformed faces with fierce dark eyes. I picked up a bar napkin, jotted a few hurried notes, and looked up to see my rescuer watching me.

"This is a nice place to remember," he nodded. One eyelid seemed a little heavier than the other, slightly engaging, a wink waiting to happen. "The mariachis end up here nearly every night to play their own favorites. Will you be in town long?"

I shook my head. "No. Here today, Chichen Itza tomorrow, then Cancún; finally, Campeche."

"Oh, you're on a tour."

"Sort of. I'm the person who gets people to want to take tours. Now, is that a good thing?" I swirled the liquid in my glass. "I wonder sometimes."

When he looked puzzled, I explained: "I'm a travel writer. My current magazine assignment is Mexico's romantic destinations." Actually, I thought, he was rather romantic. Dark blue eyes, penetrating; slim hips ready for the ghost of a gun belt.

He nodded at the wall of photographs that I'd been examining. "You consider revolutionaries romantic?"

The Sacred Well
A Novel
. Copyright © by Antoinette May . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from The Sacred Well by Antoinette May
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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