My written plea for safe passage en route to Therese, I knew the only thing to be done was wait patiently. She is a powerful woman who has connections in both worlds, the one above ground, and the darker place that exists just beneath. If anyone could facilitate my disappearance from this time and place, it would be her.
The sturm and drang from the square below had begun to subside, as compliance was appreciated, but mandatory. Finally, a calm feeling came over my bones. It had been quite some time since I had made a concerted effort to sleep. My molecules were beginning to feel too loosely bonded. The fading was coming, so I shed my silken robe and climbed into the bed fit for a Spanish princess to regather my atoms.
I awoke two hours later to the sound of my cell phone alarm, The Clash singing “Spanish Bombs.” How wickedly appropriate. I smile into my pillow. It had been a blessedly dreamless sleep. All moments of slumber lack dreams here.
One of the benefits of my situation, I’ve come to think. That’s one of the more profound changes one must endure in this place, the cessation of moving mind murals as we regenerate. I no longer posses a deeper consciousness to hold the paint brush. Never the less, I feel more intact, refreshed, and prepared for the events of the coming days.
The claw-footed tub in the bathroom was beckoning me, reminding me our time together would soon be coming to a close. I happily obliged the invitation. Upon emerging from soak, I called for breakfast, explaining to the concierge that coffee had become requisite, and that bacon, fruit, and pastry in any form would be greatly appreciated. Within a few minutes, the cart bearing my wishes was delivered.
I was delighted with the silver platters containing kiwi, mango, and a perfect sfogliatelle. It had been my favorite pastry since I had been introduced to them by an Italian lover ages ago. A pyramid of delicate layers, encasing an almond orange cream ricotta, I found it a playground for my deprived senses. It tasted sweet and pristine, just the way I had loved him. I devoured it as if he would appear upon my completion. I found myself longing for the old life.
For years after the night everything changed, I had been asking after him. He would come up at dinner parties. Someone would say they heard this or that, but it all boiled down to ghostly conjecture. This world being so expansive and ever evolving, it makes it difficult to keep track of all your old souls. From time to time I would hear his music playing in the strangest places. Perhaps a ferryboat in Croatia, a rathskeller in Germany, or an elevator in Jersey City would be blaring one of his songs. It doesn’t seem to matter where I go, he has found a way to haunt me from a lifetime away.
The silver platters held nothing but memories of the food they once contained. I ate every last bite, knowing that may be my last meal for some time. The cup of coffee contained cream, but no sugar. It was mercifully thick. I walked to the small table that contained my flask of bourbon and proceeded to set myself up for the day. Despite the restful nap, my nerves were still on edge. My fate was still very much in question.
Movement through the country was sketchy at best. I knew that even if my kissing courier Paolo was able to travel by train to reach Therese in Pamplona, it would be several hours before he returned. He would be subject to searches and blockades, regardless of manner of travel. There was also the possibility I would never hear from him again. I looked at the brass clock on the writing desk. The decision was made that if I head not received word within the next eight hours, I would strike out on my own, without help or direction.
The hotel room was perfectly arranged for pacing. It seemed more like a vast, luxurious tomb the longer I occupied it. I dressed to venture out into the daylight of Madrid. A simple pink blouse, brown pencil lined skirt, and beige heels, finished off with blood agate pendant hung from a delicate silver chain. My overcoat cinched at the waist, I felt complete. I tucked the credentials into my clutch that I would need to navigate the city.
I was struck at the relative calm of the Palacio Real and the Plaza Oriente. People were seated about at cafe tables, reading, enjoying their poisons. An elderly man was tossing bits of bread to the pigeons on the ground below his perch, seated at the edge of a fountain. A shepherd was struggling to keep no less than twenty heads of sheep moving in the same direction as he headed through the square.
My instincts were to keep my head down and my eyes open. This trip into the street was to assess the mood of the city and the perils I may face fleeing the country. No one seemed to give me a second look, except the for being a pretty young woman, as I traversed the streets. The balconies were filled with the faces of the uncertain. I stepped into a boutique with a window display of lovely scarves. The clerk seemed nervous, but grateful to be alive and peddling baubles. I purchased a beige wrap, in case it became necessary to quickly conceal my identity.
As I walked passed a group of armed, laughing soldiers, I felt the pull of the threads. I secured my new scarf as I headed back toward the hotel, knowing a shift was eminent. It is in times of great turmoil the threads take over. With the passing of years and practice, you learn to navigate them for a more favorable outcome, but I was too close to the World coming to war in the clutches of the mad German to remain here any longer.
I had hoped to make it to Portugal on this trip, but that was obviously not to be. I’ll be damned if I’m going to depart the Iberian Peninsula without having a glass of port. The bar in the hotel would have to do. I stopped at the desk to ask if I had any messages, then proceeded into the bar. The man tending the place looked remarkably like Bela Lugosi. For all I know, it was Bela Lugosi, stuck forever in Limbo thinking he was perpetually in the midst of filming Plan 9 From Outerspace.
“Porto, por favor.” I was alone at the bar with the exception of a dapper looking man hiding under a hat two seats to my left. The bartender returned with a bottle and two glasses.
“Compliments of the gentleman, madame.”
I looked to my left while removing the scarf. He had removed his hat and turned toward me. He began pouring for us.
“What, my darling, no warm hello?” as he placed the ruby red port glass before my folded hands.
A delicious smile crept across my sparkling lips. My cheeks glowed the color of the agate pendant hanging about my feminine neck. I turned on the barstool toward him, taking care to cross my legs too slowly. I placed my hand upon my knees and raised my thigh ever so slightly, as I settled back like Cleopatra upon my throne.
For a moment, I threw my head back and just drank in the sight of him, sure the port would not been as decadent as my long ago dalliance with this immortal creature.
“I had begun to think that you were merely a delicious dream, a figment of a dying imagination.” I picked up my glass with pearl painted fingertips, positioning it just before my lips, but not yet sipping.
“Ha! Most would contend I am the stuff of nightmares, but I prefer your take. Then again, my dear, I always knew you were different. As soon as I gazed at you that night, I could see the armageddon in your eyes.” He grinned wickedly at me, remembering the way I looked when last he’d seen me. How lovely I was draped in anything red. He adjusted his monogrammed cuff links, then raised the port glass.
“Salud, angel kitten, to you…to every delicious piece of you.”
My glass still orbiting my lips, I playfully raised my right brow.
“Salud, beloved beast, thank you for bringing me into this new world.”
We drank in the thickness of our glasses, simultaneously returning them to the polished wood of the bar. Our eyes were riveted upon each other, we both moaned in the luxury of the velvety liquid spreading across palates.
The bartender was polishing glasses, pretending not to listen to us, as he stole glimpses of our shared auras in the mirror behind the back of the bar. Through the bottles of cognac and gin, he watched as our particles swirled together in the shadowy candlelight. We seemed to emit a light not possible within the darkness of the hotel bar. Mine was a silvery light, which seemed to radiate from within. My companion’s was distinctly darker, yet no less metallic, but instead of pushing outward, his glow seemed to be drawing in the space around it. The well dressed gentleman with the black and silver hair, posessed an aura that stole the color from things.
Our conversation sounded more like a movement of an opera than a serendipitous chat between guests at a hotel bar. It is clear my accent is that of an American. The sound of the man’s commanding voice, while somehow angelic, holds within it the tang of the streets of Rome.
“Shall we pretend you’re here vacationing for the sake of levity? We both know there’s no more to be done to me…” I winked at him, then took the initiative to pour us both the next glass.
“Oh, my darling, you were my last vacation. Enjoying you was the first thing I had done not under the direction of the management in quite some time. I live this job, as you well know.”
We both laughed hysterically and downed the dark liquid. The bartender began to ask if we needed anything, but the ethereal man was able to repel him with a single glance, as if he would kill the barkeep for even considering the interruption. A troubled look settled upon my face.
“I know why you’re here. Such business you’ll be doing here these next few years. You are the very reason I am leaving this place, my dear. Death is coming.”
He stood up, looking straight ahead, shaking his head in acquiescence. I floated to the floor from my pedestal, warm from the wine. He helped me with my coat, then I gathered my clutch and scarf.
I turned to him as he placed my face in his calloused hands. We knew it could be centuries before we encountered each other again.
“Would you do me a kindness before I leave?” I asked in a playful pout.
“Anything for my own personal Mona Lisa.”
“Put your fedora back on and kiss me…”
The man hiding his black wings gratefully complied.