Álvaro and Yolanda walked along the “Explanada de España”; the landmark pathway along Alicante’s marina. It was Saturday and there were a lot of people sitting, having drinks in front of the bars, in the shade of palm trees. It was a nice day, sunny without a cloud in the sky. They sat on a bench facing the sea to rest for a while. It was a very special day. It marks the day of their sixth year in a relationship. Álvaro was from Alicante, like all his family. He was a 32-year-old man, tall, with short brown hair and dark skin. He worked as a civil servant in the Treasury Department for eight years, since he passed the civil service exam very young. Yolanda was from Elda, a city forty kilometres from Alicante, but her family was from Murcia. She was a 30-year-old woman, short, thin with dark skin, with medium length hair. Before, she used to work as an administrator in a footwear export company in Elda. With the economic crisis, she lost her job, like many people. She was unemployed for more than six months, she used that time as an opportunity to do some computer courses and continue to improve her English. It was difficult for her to find a good position, but now she is working in an office in the city centre and she is quite happy.
They had been living together in Alicante for two years. They had bought an apartment in a neighbourhood called San Blas. It was not very big, but it was big enough for the two of them and, in the future, for a child. They already had all their home appliances, but they still had not bought all the furniture, they had only bought it for the living room and the main bedroom. With their extra summer wages, they would buy the rest. For the moment, they could survive with only a little income.
They continued walking until the end of the Explanada. There, they drank a horchata, a fresh cinnamon flavoured drink. Yolanda looked curiously at the building in front of them. She had seen it many times and to her, it seemed like one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
-It’s called Casa Carbonell, and it’s one of the most symbolic buildings here…
-Oh really? And what’s so special? – responds Yolanda with curiosity.
-Well, it’s between the port and the beach, in front of the sea. Many people consider it as the most beautiful in Alicante – Álvaro answered, with pride.
-Well, you never told me … Anyway, here there are many beautiful buildings …
-Yes, but this house has a very special story, did you know that? – responds Álvaro with the intention to provoke an interest in Yolanda.
– And you know it?
-Sure…- he responds with a smile
-Come on, tell me, I’m all ears- she interrupted, wanting to hear it
-Ok, well the story of this house started about a century ago, in the town of Alcoy and with the name, Enrique Carbonell…
Enrique Carbonell was an important textile businessman from Alcoy, an area north of Alicante. He was a 50-year-old man with some grey hair, tall and strong, although a little bit overweight. He always wore his black black-rimmed glasses and very elegant clothes. He enjoyed being in a good economic position. He had several factories which produced all kinds of fabrics outside of Alcoy. He lived with his family in a house in the centre, on San Nicolás Street, next to the Casa del Pavo. Alicia, his wife, was a housewife. She did all the housework and cared for their only daughter, Consuelo. She was a 47-year-old woman, short and thin with dyed blond hair. She was very kind to everyone and her neighbours adored her. Normally she did not work, but she lent a hand to Enrique with the factory’s accounts. Their daughter, Consuela was 10 years old, she was very tall for her age, but she was very thin because of a respiratory illness she had been suffering with for several years. Her health was very delicate, and she often had trouble breathing. Her mother had learned to always watch over the health of her child, although she never lost her smile.
One day Consuelo became very ill and they took her to the clinic of a friend, Dr. Sarriá. She had a fever and had difficulty breathing. Her parents had never seen her like this before. They were very worried about their health. After seeing her, the doctor spoke with them.
-Your daughter’s illness is not serious, but this climate is not good for her. You should live on the coast, where they have milder temperatures and more humidity. In addition, she needs special care that we cannot offer here- said the doctor.
-Do you think we should live in Alicante? Will my daughter’s health improve in the climate of that city? – asked Enrique, a little nervously.
-Don’t worry. Consuelo should continue with the treatment she is already following, but her health will improve over time in Alicante, in which the climate is more suited for her – Sarrià said.
-I hope so, I hope – said Alicia, taking the doctor’s hand.
Without thinking twice, Enrique and his family returned home and began to prepare the trip. They had decided to spend a long time in Alicante. They took the suitcases from the storage room and went upstairs to collect the necessary items: clothes, shoes, toiletries and medicines. Thirty minutes later, they had closed all the windows and gone out into the street. Entering the car, Enrique watched wearily as his wife closed the front door. He remained quiet for a moment. Alicia got in the car and closed the door. He looked back. Consuelo was sitting there, looking serious. Their eyes met, and they both smiled. As Enrique did not say anything, Alicia asked him if he thought they had forgotten something, but he said no. He started the car.
-Enrique, say something, you’re very quiet, – Alicia said to him.
-It’s okay, it’s just that my girl … she and you are the most important…-
-I know, but everything will work out well and when we go home, our daughter will be healthy and happy – Alicia told him, stroking his hand.
They took Calle San Nicolás towards the neighbourhood of Sant a Rosa, where some of their relatives lived. They passed over the Cristina bridge, one of the many bridge sin Alcoy, a city traversed by three rivers. They arrived at Enrique’s brother’s house, where they spoke with relatives who were going to take charge of maintaining the house and taking care of the animals. After saying goodbye, they climbed back into the car. To go in the direction of Alicante, they had to make a detour because many of the streets were blocked off, since the Moors and Christians festivities were being held on these days. Everyone was looking forward to their big holiday and Enrique and his family had participated in it every year. They loved enjoying the parades of the groups of people dressed as Moors and groups dressed as Christians. These groups crossed the entire city. The streets were filled with joy, music and colour, an atmosphere that was felt in every corner of the town. Alcoy, its people and its festival. The Carbonell family set off to the capital with their suitcases full of hope. Suddenly, the sky clouded, and it started raining. They drove along a mountain road in poor conditions and with many twists in the road. The rain continuously got heavier and heavier, and Enrique could hardly see anything. Although he was not going very fast, he lost control of the vehicle and went off the road. They hit a tree, Luckily, everyone was left unharmed. Enrique had his shirt ripped from broken glass and it had caused some blood stains.
Alicia and Consuelo were in perfect condition. Only minor injuries and a few minor cuts, but nothing serious. There was smoke coming out of the engine and one of the wheels was flat. It was still raining when they decided to go to find help. They soon found some houses, one family shut the door on them, but another gave them towels to dry and a coffee with milk to warm up. Consuelo was offered a hot cup of chocolate. While they were talking about the accident, the rain stopped for a moment. They took the opportunity to look at the condition of the car, they fixed the problem with the engine and changed the wheel. Enrique and his family thanked them for all the help they had received, and they said goodbye. There was little distance left to get to the capital, it was very late. It must have been two or three in the morning when they arrived at the Palace Hotel, one of the best in the city. They were going to stay there for a week and they had booked a room for the three of them. They got out of the vehicle and took their luggage. They were wet and exhausted, they were cold and hungry. They just wanted to take a hot shower, change clothes and relax until the next day. They had an appointment with a doctor, a friend of Dr. Sarria. At the door of the hotel a man stopped them before entering the lobby and then went with them to reception. There, he made a call and in a matter of seconds a middle-aged, dark-haired man appeared, with a fake smile. He was probably the director or manager of the hotel. Enrique did not understand any of what was happening. The hotel manager, Señor Gonzalez, in an amiable voice, told him that they did not have rooms available at that time.
He invited them to find other accommodation. At first the Carbonell family tried to explain to him that they had a reservation and that there was an accident. However, the director did not appear to be listening. It was then that they realized what was happening. The elegant gentleman did not want to host them at his hotel. The Carbonell family appeared as lower-class people. The Palace Hotel was a particular place in the city and Señor González could not allow just anyone in his rooms, only the best of the best was allowed. Enrique was as surprised as his wife and his daughter. He did not want to argue with the manager or cause a fuss, so he took his things and left. Alicia took Consuelo by the hand and they followed him. They went down the street and there they found a hostel to spend the night. Once they settled down, Consuelo got into bed and fell asleep right away. Alicia prepared a bath and tried to talk to Enrique. She knew he couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened at the hotel.
-Maybe the hotel manager confused us with homeless, without money. We were wet, with dirty, torn clothes. Nothing’s wrong, Enrique. Forget it, let’s rest, tomorrow’s another day – Alicia said as she took a bath.
He said nothing, and she stopped insisting. Enrique couldn’t and didn’t want to talk. She left him in the bathroom, put on a nightgown and went to bed. After a while she heard Enrique sit in a chair. He was looking out the window at the little raindrops that were sliding down the glass. Alicia fell asleep. Enrique sighed deeply. The first day in Alicante had been horrible and he thought maybe they had made a mistake.
It was dawn in Alicante and Enrique had already gotten up at almost seven o’clock. It seemed that the day was going to be dry, although it was a bit cold. His wife and daughter were sleeping, so he got dressed silently and left the room. He spent a long time walking along the street, until he found an open place to have a coffee. It was very small and cosy, full of pictures of the city in black and white. There was only one waiter. He ordered a coffee and churros. They were freshly made. He picked up the newspaper and began to read the headlines while the breakfast cooled a little. Nothing really caught his attention. Suddenly he saw news that he liked a lot. His face changed completely. He was surprised, happy, almost enthusiastic. After paying, he went out into the street with a broad smile on his face. The sun had come out. For Enrique, Alicante shone at that moment in a special way. When he arrived at the hostel, Alicia was helping Consuelo get dressed. They had an appointment at eleven o’clock with a doctor, Dr. Peñalver, who was going to treat Consuelo during her stay in Alicante. He knew the diagnosis of the girl well and the treatment she was following with his colleague, Dr. Sarrià. It was an important day because they were going to talk to a new doctor and start a new treatment. The whole family had high hopes.