In the richly decorated hall of the palace, there was a party atmosphere. Servants walked in an out of the room carrying drinks and eatables on trays. In the corner, a small group of musicians played soft music. A group of boys were gathered around Rosalin as she narrated a poem and as soon as she finished, they clapped aloud in appreciation. Rosalin gave a small bow at their ovation.
One of the elegant men asked her.
‘Senora, where did you learn so beautiful a poetry?’
Rosalin looked at him with a sly smile.
‘Poetry is not something you learn Senor. It comes from the heart.’ She closed her eyes and tilted her head slightly upward. ‘You have to push your mind in the deep well of your feelings to come up with beautiful words. Words that describe your personal world to others.’ She opened her eyes. ’Music is what I learnt from my grandfather who used to play the organ.’ She added.
‘I am impressed Senora.’ The man remarked.
Rosalin turned to look at him
‘You ought to be Senor. You ought to be.’
Another man questioned her.
‘Hey Senora, do we get to hear your music as well?’
‘You seem to be too eager to know me in one day. I hope you are not interested in marrying me. Mind you, you are not my type.’ She quipped, shooing him away with a push of her open palm in the air.
‘Hey how about me? Do I think I am your type?’
Rosalin turned around to look at the man who said it. He was handsome and was kneeling on one knee, with his arms spread out and looking up at her. Rosalin scanned him closely and then lazily walked over to him. She bend over a bit and placing her fingers below his chin, slowly sang in a sexy husky voice.
’Though I strive hard in vain
Drop a thousand tears to ease the pain
I know I can’t find another you
And however hard I try to refrain
Your thoughts still lurk in my mind
Still I feel the pain
Still feel the power of endurance
Still feel great
To know you are the love of my life
To know you are my power, my passion, my aim!’
In the aisle overlooking the hall, Antonio walked over and slowly peered down as he adjusted his medallions. His eyes were riveted on Rosalin below in the hall as she narrated the poetry in a singsong voice that reached his ears clearly. Her voice sounded familiar to him and for a second he closed his eyes to recall where he had heard it. But he couldn’t fathom where.
Down in the hall, Rosalin continued to enjoy the attention from the men around. The other women present in the hall were envious of her. They looked at her with contempt. Rosalin seemed to enjoy the moment. As she finished the poem, she took a soft bow and gently let her fingers trail on the kneeling man’s lips before snubbing him with a gentle push.
‘Ole Ole. That was beautiful.’ The crowd chanted.
‘Obrigado… Obrigado.’ She bowed low around.
Suddenly she saw the men fall into attention as a lone clapping sound filtered across to her ears. She slowly turned around smiling to find Antonio walking towards her, clapping. She looked at him, highly impressed by the power that he generated in the room.
‘I am impressed Senora.’ Antonio said walking up.
‘Obrigado Senor.’ She said handing out her hand to him.
Antonio took her hand and bowing low, gently kissed it, his eyes never leaving her face.
‘You know something Senora, your voice sounds so familiar. I have this feeling I have heard it before.’
With a mischievous glint in her eyes, she let go off her hand and turned her back on him.
‘You must be mistaken Senor.’
Antonio walked behind her and with his face close to her ears whispered. ‘No. I am sure about it. Your voice has been haunting me since the last few days.’
Rosalin turned around and looked at him amusedly. ‘Haunting you? I am terribly sorry if that’s happened, Senor.’
‘Trust me Rapariga, trust me.’ Antonio said with a smile, shaking her head.
‘Senor, I am sure, my voice isn’t that frightening.’ And on second thought, she added, ‘And definitely, I wouldn’t dare do such a thing to such a handsome and… ‘ She eyed his medallions daintily, ‘…decorative man like you.’
Antonio laughed aloud. ’Don’t worry. I am not going to get you punished for this. Shall we dance? He added giving her his hand.
She looked at him and then slowly took his hand with a sly smile. His fingers felt so warm and tender. She couldn’t imagine him fighting a war. They turned around and the crowd part for the two. They walked to the center of the hall. Antonio made a sign at the musicians across the hall. They started to play the music. Antonio slowly led Rosalin across the floor. He circled his right arm around her waist and brought her body close, he took her right hand in his left hand and slowly started moving rhythmically to the beat of the music, their eyes locked with each other.
He is so handsome she thought to herself as she took in his features. The eyes were pale blue and had a sparkle in them. His lips appeared so soft and sensual while his nose was evenly placed. And the thin moustache gave him an air of superiority. His broad shoulders felt so hard as she felt it with the palm of her left hand that held on to it. She felt passion burn inside her. She wanted to see him naked, feel him naked.
‘I never got to know your name Senora. Are you this secretive always?’
‘Pardon me?’ Her thoughts were broken.
‘I said, I never got to know your name Senora. Are you this secretive always?’ He asked her again.
‘Hmmm… No. Only with strangers.’ She replied with a mischievous smile.
‘Well we aren’t strangers anymore Rapariga. This party is in my honor? I am the captain of the Royal Navy of his highness, King Juan II of Portugal assigned to the Indies.’ Antonio said with meek modesty.
‘And I am the Queen of the Indies, your highness.’ She said mockingly with a mischievous smile, her head titled slightly to one side.
Taken back by her words, Antonio took her by the shoulder and pushed her delicately at arms length and stared at her hard.
‘Someone else and I would taught that person a severe lesson but…’
Rosalin just smiled at him with a taunt. ‘But?’
‘You are too arrogant, you know that?’ Antonio answered letting go off her shoulder.
‘Am I arrogant? No, lets make this simple. It’s the way I am.’ She said without batting an eyelid.
Antonio couldn’t help smile at her remark that he thought to be foolish. ‘Hmm I see you are too besotted by your own beauty to think that way. ’
‘No. It’s just that I know the power and the glory attached to this beautiful face.’ On second thought she added with a wicked smile. ’Or else why would the Captain of the Royal Navy behave so humble in front of me.’
Antonio waved out his hand in mock despair. ‘Aha. Humble and me?’
And without another word, he quickly grabbed hold of Rosalin and kissed her hard on the lips. He then pushed her away and looked at her with a smile. She just trained her eyes on him mischievously, daring him to try it again as she slowly slid her tongue over her lips. He raised his palm to touch her face.
She took a step backwards and turning around walked across the hall to the extreme end that led to a lonely part of the balcony which overlooked the beach some seventy feet down. She paused at the balcony, slowly turned around to look at Antonio through corridor. His eyes are still on her, as he stared back through the crowd. She smiled at him seductively.
Antonio shook his head in mock surrender and followed her. The crowd in the room eyed the couple quaintly through the open corridor and then continued with the partying. Rosalin turned around and trained her eyes on the moonlight lit beach far below. There was a slight chill in the air and she wrapped her arms around herself as Antonio neared her.
‘What a beautiful night.’
Antonio stood with his back to the balcony and looked at her. There was a certain kind of glow on her face. He turned to look down at the beach and didn’t find it any attractive. He turned to look back at her to see her still staring down lovingly.
‘You love nature don’t you Senora?’
‘What gave you the idea?’ She asked him softly. She knew she was being sarcastic but he didn’t seem to notice.
‘I have this feeling.’
‘Aha. So you are a good judge of people?’
‘I didn’t say that. I just happen to know a bit about their behavior.’ He said. ‘So you haven’t answered my earlier question.’
‘What question?’ She said turning around to face him, her back to the sea now.
Antonio slowly inched closer to Rosalin, their bodies nearly touching each other. Rosalin shivered a bit as he raised his hand to caress her lips. She closed her eyes as she felt his fingers gently linger on her lips. He was feeling the softness of her lips as he caress it delicately and then move his fingers down her chin, her neck and further.
The voice jolted Antonio out of his senses. He quickly pulled back his hand and turned around to find Viceroy and Fr. Kane standing behind them.
An embarrassed Rosalin gave a quick glance at the Viceroy Fonseca and then at Fr. Kane and with a soft bow, quickly turned around to look down at the sea shimmering in the moonlight. A gentle roar of the waves could be heard faintly.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she eyed Fr. Kane and slowly turned into a full gaze as she stared at him. There was a certain look on his face that kind of mesmerized her. She tried to point out to herself what it was about his face that so enthralled her. Was it that faint lingering smile or what it the kindness that emitted from his eyes or was it the peace and tranquility that generated from his face.
Antonio bowed low at his father. ‘Yes Pai.’
‘Son, I want you to meet Fr. Kane. He’s the new Vicar of the new St. Ignatius’s Church we recently built on the side hide of this region.’
Antonio took Fr. Kane’s hand and bowing low, kissed it gingerly. ‘Honored Fr. Kane.’
‘Me too, Captain Antonio. The people of Goa are happy to have you in their midst.’
Rosalin was enthralled by the warmth of his voice.
‘Padre, the wonderful people of Goa would feel more blessed with your presence.’ Antonio said with simplicity. ‘We didn’t get a chance to meet though I believe you traveled with our fleet.’ He said smiling now.
‘Yes Captain Antonio. Obrigado. You sure are one fine navigator and a born leader.’ There was a hint of appreciation on Fr. Kane’s face.
Antonio smiled at him and then at his father. He then pointed towards Rosalin. ‘Allow me to introduce you to my friend. Pai, this is…’
Antonio suddenly realized that he still didn’t knew her name. He quickly took a step towards Rosalin and in a hushed tone, blurted, ‘Quick, what’s your name Senora?’
‘Shhh. That’s not a nice way to ask a girl her name.’
Viceroy Fonseca and Fr. Kane looked at her skeptically, a smile on their face as they waited patiently. They couldn’t hear what the two were whispering as Antonio and Rosalin talked animatedly.
‘Please stop joking, Senora.’ Antonio pleaded in embarrassment.
Rosalin looked at him slyly. Softly she revealed her name.
Antonio with a sigh of relief turned to face his father again. ’Pai, this is Rosalin… Rosalin, this is Viceroy Fonseca and Fr. Kane, our new Vicar at the St. Ignatius Church.
Rosalin neared them and as she looked directly at Fr. Kane, she distinctly took in his features. She was totally mesmerized by the warmth that flowed through him. She slowly took his hand and falling down low on one knee, kissed the hand delicately in reverence, her eyes glued on his face. ‘ I feel blessed to meet you, Padre.’
She then took a step towards the Viceroy and bowed low.’ Honored to meet you, your highness.’
The Viceroy looked at her hard. ‘Aha. Now I recognize you. You are Pascal Costa’s daughter isn’t it?’
‘Yes your highness.’
‘Where is your Pai? Haven’t seen him for a long time.’
‘Your highness, he is traveling with his merchandise to Bombaim.’ replied Rosalin.
‘Hmmm Bombaim. Good for him.’ The Viceroy took Fr. Kane by his arm. ‘Ok you two enjoy yourself. I need to show Fr. Kane around. Excuse us.’
Fr. Kane looked at them both. ‘Pleasure to meet you two. We meet again in church on Sabbath.’
Antonio and Rosalin replied back in unison ‘Yes Padre.’
Smiling at them, Fr. Kane followed the Viceroy back in the hall to meet another group of people. Rosalin and Antonio watched their retreating back.
‘That man looked so serene.’
‘You mean Fr. Kane?’ Antonio looked at her in surprise.
‘Yes… ’ She said her eyes still on Fr. Kane. Antonio stared at her. She felt his eyes on her and quickly turned around to look at the sea far below.
‘It looks so peaceful down there. I feel like a swim.’
Swim and now? Antonio gave a short chuckle as he eyed her in amazement. ‘You are one strange woman.’
Rosalin looked at him with a teasing seductive smile. ‘Am I?’
A deafening silence followed as they stared at each other. Softly Anthony whispered. ‘You just make me sweat when you look at me like that.’
She kept silent as she kept staring back at him seductively. Antonio looked at her warmly and then across the room at his family and the guests. They all seem preoccupied with the party. He then took her hand and led her towards a side door. They quickly walked through the door.
Rosalin held back briefly to take a look behind at the party scene. She found Fr. Kane staring at her with no expressions whatsoever. Their eyes locked with each other’s. She gave him a quick wink and smiled at him and then quickly turned around and followed Antonio out of the door.
As they disappeared, Marcos, Teresa and Manuel walked down the staircase, in the hall. Teresa was Antonio’s sister, married to Marcos. Manuel was their 12-year old son. As they walked down, they scanned the crowd below. ‘Hmm nice party. Where’s Antonio?’ Teresa exclaimed around looking around and not finding him among the crowd. Marcos and Manuel didn’t bother to answer as they eyed the party with glee. While Marcos eyed the women, Manuel had his eyes on the food table that boasted of various delicacies. He was hungry as his mouth watered at the sight of the lovely food.