Page 14 of An Amazon Affair

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“Did you all go to Ohio U?”

“No, no,” he says. “Marnie and I went to Penn State. Sara and Gerald met at the Culinary Institute in upstate New York.” He tilts his head to the side. “Where did you go to college, Yara?”

“Hofstra,” I tell him. “Also in New York.”

“Sure. I know it.” Quiet descends for a moment before he asks: “Enjoying the dinner?”

I push the food around my mostly-full plate.

For all that the cuisine on this ship was highly recommended, I’m not enjoying it. There is a spaghetti-looking dish made from palm tree shoots seasoned in lime that made me gag. And the fish—which, if I’m not mistaken, was identified as piranha—was deep fried, which isn’t my favorite. I had a few bites of sauteed banana, but otherwise, this food isn’t palatable to me, and I’m not in the mood to be adventurous.

“It’s not really my thing,” I tell him.

“My guess? We were supposed to have catfish and the shipment spoiled. Piranha isn’t a popular fish among visitors, but it’s bountiful here. Give the kitchen another chance tomorrow. I bet it’ll be delicious.”

Though I smile politely, I don’t share his optimism.

“What do you teach?” I ask, changing the subject.

“Latin American studies. History, economics, and political science.”

“Ah. So this trip is a write-off.”

“I bet you were a business major,” he says with a chuckle.

I nod, thinking about my father’s pride when his only child graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in three years instead of four. “I work for my father’s company now.”

“Family business, huh?”

“Yes.” An unexpected lump forms in my throat. “But he—he passed away earlier this year. My father.”

“I’m sorry, Yara,” says Harvey gravely, shaking his head. “Awfully sorry. You’re very young to have lost him already. Our children are quite a bit older than you.”

His sympathy and kindness turn on a spigot inside of me.

“He was Brazilian.” The words tumble out of my mouth. “But he never talked about his childhood or growing up here. It’s almost like his life didn’t begin until he arrived in America and started his company. And now he’s gone...and...”

“And you can’t ask him about it.”

I nod, swallowing to clear my throat. “It hurts.”

“Of course it does.” Harvey taps on the tablecloth, his face thoughtful. “But I bet—if you knew him as well as I suspect you did—you can figure out some of the answers to your questions.”

“How do you mean?”

“You said he grew up here...did you meanherehere? Manaus?”

“More or less. His death certificate said he was born in a little town upriver called Uarini, near Miraflores, which is what he named his company.”

I don’t share that his death certificate contained another riddle: my father’s birth name was listed as Fernão Maranhão, not Fernando Marino, as I knew him for my entire life.

“You don’t mean Miraflores, the lingerie company?”

“You’ve heard of it?”

“Of course! Your father was Fernando Marino?”

I’m stunned to hear my father’s name come out of Harvey’s mouth so easily. My lips part in surprise. “Yes.”

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