Her apartment was situated on the top floor of a high rise in midtown Atlanta. The moon was hanging softly in the night sky lending its light to the surface of the water in the pool below. The city glowed both above and below the penthouse; little lights blinking on and off - a Morse code of city life signaling both the restlessness and slumber of its inhabitants.
It seemed as if the moon was playing favorites tonight - the way she tenderly wrapped the figure below her was both careful and possessive in its embrace.
The figure swam smoothly from end to end, letting the water slip over her form so fluidly that it seemed as if she were merely a wave lapping the edges of the marble lip of the pool. She finished her laps and pulled herself from the water and onto the grass.
The woman used her hands to whisk the water from her skin and quietly walked to the table where her towel lay. As she smoothed her hair back from her face a chill crept up and created a trail of bumps along her chest and arms. As the occupants of the nearby buildings could tell you, she never swam in a suit. They would also tell you that was the reason most of them stayed late from work and purchased Bausch and Lomb binoculars. For Christian, it was a sense of balance and serenity to feel the water overtake her. It was almost the only thing she ever surrendered to - and it was divine.
She slipped into an oversized white oxford shirt clasping the button between her breasts and allowing the French cuffs to drop down nearly to her fingertips. She took a bottle of merlot and poured herself a glass. She walked to edge of the grass and wrapped both her hands around the goblet and leaned on the railing that separated her from a sixty story freefall. She half smiled, as she always did, at the fortune that had brought her here and surrounded her in its luxury. To a painter this would have been priceless - her frame and face standing on the edge of an urban precipice surrounded by lush gardens and a miniature Spanish style castle standing astutely behind her. To Christian, it was priceless but only because she had paid most dearly for it already only to find that it had led her to this loneliness- on this night- in this big American city.
Christian heard the buzz of the door followed by the low tones of her assistant. Raoul knew not to bother her when she was outside. She had told him long ago that it was her sanctuary from everyone and everything. She was surprised to hear the voices rising - his and someone else's from inside. She half smiled at the misfortune of whoever was trying to get past him. Raoul had been with her for a long time and lasted because of his quick temper and rigidity when it came to the rules that Christian had laid out before him.
"She came looking for ME first! If she can invade MY privacy, I think the gesture should only be returned"
"Miss, I advise you not to go any further or I will have to?"
"Have to what?kill me? Shoot Me? What the hell are you going to do to me?" She walked menacingly toward the foreigner showing no note of fear in her advance. "I told you she wants me - she sent some idiot after me. I just want to make it easier on her."
Christian recognized the voice and her eyebrows rose in acknowledgment. She turned away from the door and took a sip of wine.
"It's okay Raoul. She can come out." Christian said. Her back was still turned. The water from her hair and the night breeze had soaked the white shirt and pressed it hard against her.
"She was trying to?"
"I said it's okay?bring her out"
She heard the steps falling behind her but still could not turn around. She wasn't ready. She didn't know if she could be.
"Raoul, you can leave, thank you."
"So" the woman began "why did you do this?"
Christian pushed a lost strand of gold hair from her face. "I see you have answered my first question" she said
"And what was that?" the woman replied sarcastically.
"I was wondering whether Andrews was a bumbling idiot. I see by your guest appearance tonight that my suspicions were correct. He's a fucking idiot." She smiled at her appraisal of the absent detective and slowly began to turn around.
"Why would you send someone after me? Especially if you don't even like him?" the woman was exasperated and exhausted, she had spent most of the night prying the facts out of her mysterious "shadow" and had then driven an hour to get here.
"Call it therapy I guess. Besides, I didn't say that I didn't like him. I said that I thought he was an idiot. Just a little green, that's all."
Christian slowly turned her nearly nude frame and faced the woman in the corridor for the first time. The water and wind had successfully sculpted a cotton cast around Christian's body and accentuated every memory that the stranger had of her friend. It was a beautiful sight but unwelcome for someone who had driven here tonight to scream and yell at this old, no, EX friend. As for Christian, she was both surprised and pleased to find that she was still conscious after taking in the sight of the beautiful visitor.
"Therapy!" Ten years after I saw you last and you want therapy? You know, I wasn't alone Christian. Have you ever had to explain that an 'old friend' sent a detective to stalk you? That is some damn excuse for what you have done tonight?Jesus Christian"
It was too much to look at the severe blue in those eyes. It was too much to want her anymore. "No, I didn't know that you were not alone. I am sorry for that. However, I do know the feeling and, I admit, it is a bit distressing". Christian thought of the times that she had caught people snooping around her house and hotel rooms. It seemed even those who claimed friendship or loyalty could always be bought. Then she thought about the woman before her. Not alone, she had not been alone. She quickly cast off the unpleasant thought and continued "I would have called but the last time I tried you were less than civil and I thought that it would be unwise to try that again."
Alex began to look even more intense. "Why would I be less than civil to such a dear friend?"
Christian looked into her eyes and stared. It was a loaded question that meant far too much to be screamed about in her sanctuary. "I apologize for the inconvenience that Andrews caused you this evening. It was supposed to be a discreet fact finding operation to discover something about your current life in order to feed my curiosity. I missed you. I suppose I should get used to that. But, I think about you. I wanted to know if you were alright. Maybe it was stupid. I apologize."
"You miss me? That's funny. Really laughable - because I seem to remember that you walked out on our friendship long ago and never turned back. Maybe I would have been able to decipher that emotion from your facial expression; then again, I never could see your face when you walked away. Now here you are - the rock star - in her palatial constellation in the sky. Tell me Christian, did the missing start before you made it or after? Starting to feel lonely, sweetheart?"
"I have missed you-- since I left you on the bridge that day." Christian and Alex winced simultaneously at a memory that had haunted them both for years. After a long pause, she continued. "It seems now all I can do is say that I am sorry Alex. If you need more than that tell me what it is and I will try to accommodate you." Christian was beginning to lose her composure in front of the woman, which made her angrier than all of the unfair accusations. She had wanted this first encounter to be so different. Why was everything such an obstacle with this woman? Why was she having such a hard time explaining herself?
"I guess there is no more to say. You never could accommodate me." Alex turned quickly away and her long dark hair wrapped around her shoulders. It was a trait remembered most fondly by Christian and the memory was not lost on her now.
"Just one question before you leave". Christian stepped forward until she was able to smell the familiar scent of the woman in front of her. She leaned in.
Alex stopped and turned her head to the side. "What is it?"
"If you hate me so much, if you are so sickened by the thought of me?why are you here? I mean Andrews told me enough before he blew his cover - you live almost an hour away. Why waste the time? It's after twelve - surely you could have waited until tomorrow. Obviously, you know where I live. I'm playing at Chastain Friday - you knew I would be in town. What could have gotten you so riled up to come see me in the middle of the night?"
"I couldn't give you the satisfaction of thinking that you had pulled one over on me." She turned all the way to face Christian now. Her lips were still parted to say something else but she looked like she forgot whatever it was. They were apart only by the width of the summer air. And then it came- the moment they had backed away from nearly ten years ago. It was here to haunt them again - to question their bravery - and neither woman could move. A moment passed.
"I should have known how you felt. I should have tried. I should have listened. When I remember it now it seems that everything was so clear. I am sorry. If you think that you were the only one whose heart was broken that day, then you're wrong." She moved her hand to touch the taller woman's face. She traced her fingertips over the warmth of her skin and took in the energy that was lying underneath. Her fingers burned and she momentarily wondered if this was real. It was a memory of a dream that she had allowed herself to have many times when sleep eluded her.
Alex moved into her hand and an undetectable sigh escaped her. Her eyes shuttered closed and she allowed herself to feel the touch. She wanted and hated this woman. She wanted...hated this woman. Alex opened her eyes slowly to gaze into the green before her "No. No, Chris it is not that easy. Damn it! It is not that fucking easy!" She released herself quickly from the spell and slapped the woman tightly on her cheek before she turned and stormed off. Christian felt a sting but it passed. Her cheek bore a small reminder of the assault. The red mark was more tangible than any other memories of the woman. Somewhere, she felt that she deserved it. Somewhere, she welcomed it. Somewhere, she respected Alex even more because of it. Christian walked back and grabbed her glass of wine.
"Ma'am, should I stop her?" Raoul said with more than a hint of excitement.
"No. Let her go". She turned back towards the entrance to her home and sighed. "Good to see you again, Alex"
Christian entered into the library and closed the door behind her. The walls housed thousands of books in their oak shelves. They were mostly leather bound first editions that Christian had received upon her father's death. She loved this room most of all as it reminded her of the smell of her father and their common hobby. At times in her youth, it seemed their love of knowledge and literature was the only thing that tied them together through the rocky years of her adolescence. She approached the phone on her desk and dialed a number from memory.
"Andrews" the voice mumbled into the receiver.
"What in the hell made you decide to tell her without asking me? Do you know who just came barging into my house? One guess, Eddie. I'll give you one damned guess." Christian barked it out more than she intended. It didn't seem to matter now.
"Was it a tall dark psychopathic woman? As for divulging your plan - let me see?was it the black eye or the split lip that made me tell her? Hmmm?I think it was a mixture of both actually." The man on the other end was sitting on his couch with a small glass of bourbon dabbing the edge of a towel to the corner of his mouth.
"She hit you?" Christian's voice took on a noticeably softer tone.
"Maybe I can start singing and you can be the detective now. Besides, I thought you wanted her to come to you." He winced as he put the liquored towel to his mouth again.
"Yeah, but not like that. She was angrier than I've ever seen her. I'm sorry about the black eye and everything, Eddie. She has a bit of temper. I didn't think that she would realize you were tailing her so quickly. If it makes you feel any better - I got a taste of the fury as well." She unconsciously trailed the faded redness with her fingertips.
"Well, that doesn't make me feel better. She seems like a damn crazy woman. What in the hell do you want with her anyway?"
"It doesn't matter now. Did you find out anything else?"
"Well, seems that she just recently divorced a guy named Charlie Winston. I thought the breakup might have been because she was cheating on him with her assistant. But with that right hook maybe she was slapping him around too. He moved out about a year ago. I saw him there yesterday, they seemed pretty chummy. Maybe it was just a light beating every now and then." He rose to get the photographs that he had taken earlier that day. They were the only ones that had survived her assault to his camera. "I have some shots but she destroyed most of them."
"Send them to the house." Christian was so eager to see evidence of the life that her friend had been leading that she nearly forgot she was still on the phone.
"Sorry, just thinking. I'll talk to you later." She moved to put the phone down "Oh - Eddie?"
"I'm sorry for yelling, I just didn't expect to see her so soon."
"I know - its okay. Just be careful of her Chris"
"I don't know how to do that Eddie. I never have. Thanks, sorry about the eye." She put the phone down and steadied herself. She had been visibly shaken by their reunion and was now feeling exhausted. She had just flown in from Sweden the night before and had a press conference in the afternoon and another performance in two days. She knew that there was no sleeping tonight. Christian lay down on the leather sofa and pulled a wool blanket over her still damp body.
As she closed her eyes images of the beautiful woman invaded her mind. Alex had not changed at all, except maybe she had become more stunning. It seemed she had grown into her looks and filled them out with a commanding confidence that seemed to charge the very air around her. It was like standing next to a vortex whose power was overwhelming. Christian barely had the strength to stand when she had taken in the sight of her friend. If it had not been for years of dreaming of that moment, she doubted she would have had the composure. She turned off the light and surrendered herself to the memories and dreams that seized her. All the while, the moon carefully covered the precious woman with her warmth.
As for Alex, she was pissed?and happy? Was she happy? No she was pissed off! Happy to be pissed off thank you very much!
As she exited the elevator, she found that she could not control the fact that she was talking to herself - actually screaming to herself. The few people in the lobby were staring at her and a sleeping photographer awoke from his sidewalk bed as she exited the building. Jake gathered his camera equipment quickly and got to his feet. He was pleased at the look of the woman. She was definitely beautiful and seemed appropriate for the singer living high above. He snapped two good shots of the woman, knowing well that his employer would love the bewildered look on Christian's face when they asked about the mystery lady the following afternoon. Rumors were flying about the sexual preference of one of America's "hottest performers". He would give them fodder for more of those rumors. By the way the woman was acting now, it seemed that whatever story arose, it would be more than newsworthy. It was too bad that Alex never heard him over her tirade. She would have had ample time to bestow the same black and blue gift that she had given Andrews a few hours earlier. She walked off into the night never knowing that she was in the middle of a great storm brewing. Only the glow of the moon was illuminating her path.
Alex sped home as fast as she could. She was still steaming over the audacity of the young woman. Letting that stranger tail her around? Who in the hell did she think she was? Apparently, fame had clearly gone to her head. And that guy?he was an idiot - following her around a town with one stoplight? Who wouldn't notice that? She lived on a damned farm! It was enough that he had tailed her to the store and back - but sitting outside the front gates? When she thought about it the thing that really upset her was that it felt like Christian didn't even know her anymore. Chris had always teased her about being such a private person. She didn't let anybody in?ever. It was a characteristic that had drawn them together quickly. It seemed the girl couldn't get enough of the silent woman that she befriended. She always was finding some way to draw Alex out into the open.
She pulled into the gatehouse and waved while the gatekeeper quickly buzzed her in. He had seen her actions earlier and didn't want anything he did to further agitate the woman. She parked in the back and slammed the door shut immediately evoking a howl from the beagle inside. After she opened the door and greeted Fred with a rub on the belly, she grabbed a beer and sat in front of the television in the kitchen. She kept one hand on the dog's head as she sat at the island on her stool absently listening to the droning of the reporter.
"And an exciting day in Atlanta tomorrow as our own Christian Farrow sits for a press conference regarding her upcoming album 'Fated'. It seems everyone is eagerly anticipating its release. This is the first album that Miss Farrow has released since her Grammy award two years ago. The conference comes one day before she performs to a sold out crowd at Chastain Park - a venue that has also been home to a few other?."
Alex turned off the television and looked into the droopy eyes of her little beagle.
"I told her I wasn't alone Freddie, and I'm not am I?" Alex scratched him behind the ears and stared off into the distance. It was so unfair - all of it. She had thought about Christian for years and slowly mended the damage that was done to her heart. Then this woman decides she wants to know about her and sends her henchmen out into the kingdom. What the hell was that? She "missed her"?too easy. Of course, Alex had followed her career through grocery store trips. Yes, she had bought the "Fifty most Beautiful People" when Christian's face was on it, and the Maxim, and the Vogue, and the Rolling Stone. Okay, so she had obsessed a little bit. It was a luxury that she afforded herself while working on the ranch. It was a way to see her grow up. It was a way to know her still, even though all of the rumors of her various lovers disturbed the hell out of her.
Alex stood from the stool and stretched her long legs out. She was tired, upset, and restless at the same time. The reporter hadn't said anything she didn't already know. She had bought every CD of Christian's since they stopped talking. She knew what some of the songs were about. They were about days that they had spent together in college driving into the country and feeling the air away from the city. They were about some of their friends, and enemies. There were even songs about her. They were broken heart songs. Sometimes when she listened, she felt like Christian might be calling out to her. She used to get the notion in her head that she would just drive out to L.A or New York and find her - screw everything. But then she remembered a day so long ago that it seemed almost as if it didn't happen. It was a separation that cracked her soul in half, and it stopped her from fulfilling those dreams. She entered her bedroom and turned the light off fumbling her way through to the down comforter and a night full of hazy remembrances.
Christian awoke at eight thirty as tired as she had been six hours ago. The couch had provided no comfort, but she never found the energy to move. She rubbed her eyes and pushed the hair from her face to regard the day that was slowly being presented through her windows. It was sunny, and the southern summer heat was already making itself known through the rays that shot at her feet. She exited the library and was met almost immediately by Raoul who was carrying a brown envelope.
"Good morning ma'am." He glanced over her crumpled shirt, frizzy hair, and baggy eyes. "You feeling alright today ma'am. Maybe you didn't sleep too well, huh?" He looked at her with concerned eyes and silently cursed the crazy woman who had disrupted her evening.
"I guess you could say that" she mumbled. "I'm not in the mood to be bothered today Raoul. I'm sorry to be curt, but I really didn't get any sleep."
"I understand ma'am. I will have Stuart bring your breakfast to the bedroom. Dora called to say that she would be here in an hour to brief you for the conference. Oh? and Mr. Andrews dropped something by and I put it in on the bed for you but perhaps you should wait until later to read it? "
Her heart quickened a pace. "No. I'll be fine Raoul." Christian quietly thanked him and followed his lead to the bedroom door.
He turned to her at the end of the hall by the doorway. "Are you sure that you are alright ma'am? You have a big day and I don't want you to be feeling upset over any little thing that?" He stopped as she put out her hand.
"I said that I will be fine, thank you for your concern." She closed the bedroom door and sat down to open the package. She nearly cried at the thought of Dora's appearance in an hour. It seemed too much that she would have to be briefed for this inevitable press conference. She almost forgot to the little brown package in her hands when her breath caught at the feel of the glossy paper beneath.
There were three pictures inside. The first was a photograph of Alex on a huge black horse. She was wearing a cowboy hat and pointing to a herd of cattle in the distance. She was talking to a man on a blonde horse that was looking at the herd as well. The man was very handsome with light brown hair and bright green eyes. Eddie had written "Charlie Winston" at the bottom of the photograph. It was strange to see the man that had been her husband. Christian didn't know how long it had been since the divorce, but from the look of the photograph, it seemed they were close despite their differences.
Charlie was smiling broadly as he stared off and it accentuated his good looks. Christian smiled at the picture. Alex looked so powerful on that horse, with her hair falling around her shoulders. It seemed she was every element of the earth and air. She looked happy and at ease with herself. It made Christian ache to know that she had not been there for the years in between that had created the woman in the photograph.
The second was one of ranch in South Georgia. It was a huge house sitting on top of a hill surrounded by a black wrought iron fence. Christian figured all the land visible in the photograph must have belonged to her as well. There were cattle in the distance spotting the horizon line. It was like something out of a dream. Of all the dreams that Christian had painted for this woman, she never came up with one of such beauty. She lay back onto the bed and rested with the third photograph on her chest.
This one had been taken at night from a distance. It was a picture of Alex sitting at a desk by the bedroom window dressed in a white silk robe. All of a sudden, Christian's heart leapt. She ran from the bedroom and back into her library nearly knocking Stuart and his tray of melon slices over on the way.
"Sorry Stuart, just put the tray inside!" She ran to the desk and grabbed the magnifying glass. As she looked at the photo, she smiled broadly. It was a copy of 'Fifty Most Beautiful People' with Christian on the cover. It was propped up against her other photographs on the desk in her bedroom. The 'Vogue' cover was barely visible behind it, but Christian recognized the red dress she had worn for the shoot in the sliver of the magazine that was showing. "Looks like you've got quite a collection there, honey."
An hour later, Chris was sitting in a monstrous marble bathtub with her eyes closed. Dora, Christian's agent, was due in a short while. The little woman found herself needing some time to gather her thoughts before the pressure of the impending days overcame her. Her body lay limp in the water, one would almost have thought she was sleeping, but her head was swimming with thoughts of her dark haired friend. She realized that her flawless plan had been completely idiotic. Having Eddie follow Alex was exactly the wrong thing to do. Maybe she had lost touch with reality. How could she have done something that stupid? Now Eddie was hurt, Alex was pissed off, and she was still alone.
Christian had thought about this woman every day since they last saw each other. She had written songs about Alex that she ached to sing - if only because she wasn't there when her eyes opened at the end. She had hoped to see the blueness of those eyes staring back at her just once from the crowd so that she could sing them to her face-so that she could explain. She had even shown her bodyguards a photograph of Alex and sent them looking for her at some of her early concerts. Nothing ever surfaced.
A few months ago, she made one last effort. She sat down and wrote Alex twelve songs. They were pleas for love and forgiveness. They were written alone, in a farmhouse she owned, unknowingly close to Alex's ranch. Christian had written and recorded them in three days. She sent the album to press and called it 'Fated'. She wanted Andrews to find out where she was, and then she would arrange some sort of meeting so she could give it to Alex and tell her how she felt. She needed this woman in her life at any cost. The price that Christian had paid in her absence was already unbearable. But those magazine covers, that was something. If she didn't care at all, why would she keep them around - displayed on her desk for crying out loud? It was a sign, and the little woman in the bathtub wasn't giving up just yet.
Christian closed her eyes again and waited for Dora. She fell into a dreamy sleep filled with the same hazy remembrances as her dark haired friend an hour away.
Harold's career was not on an upswing. He was a gritty reporter who enjoyed the pace of the newsroom and his beat. It had been a while since Harold had a good chunk of nasty gossip, and that was what sold.
The photographs had arrived on Harold's desk at 7:30 a.m. At first he was too bleary eyed to understand the shots. He had sent Jake to take photos of the singer at any cost, not expecting anything. She was infamous in the industry for being well behaved. This woman was hot, that was obvious, but what in the hell did she have to do with Christian Farrow? He looked to the notes at the bottom that had been made by the photographer. It was obvious she was pissed. Her brows were furrowed and hung menacingly over a pair of blue eyes. She was in the middle of throwing her arms around while her mouth was parted in what, no doubt, was a fury of profanity. Jake noted that she had left at 12:30am. He flipped the photograph over: 'A lover's quarrel? Call me. Jake.' It could be something. More importantly, it could be made into something. Harold's face brightened when he thought of the press conference at 4pm. He had only a short time to create a windstorm, but with a little luck it would be enough.
"Chris, for god sakes it could be fun! What are you gonna do? Move up here with that psycho girlfriend of yours? I mean, you don't want that. You don't even love her!" Christian's brother was pacing in his apartment smoking an endless cigarette while screaming into the phone.
"Are you smoking Carl? I thought you said you quit!" She was pacing in her bedroom trying to avoid the conversation.
"I am not a quitter. Anyway, are you? Are you going to move up to New York and live with her?"
"She has a name Carl! And I don't know - I mean I told Katie I would move when I graduated. She's got two more years of law school. What am I going to do? Live in mom's house for the rest of my life?" She shuddered at the thought of staring at the pink walls when she was thirty, forty, and fifty. "Okay, I definitely won't do that! But still?I only graduated two months ago."
"I know, but think about it. Venice, Italy! These guys are serious Chris. They are going to give you a job. They are going to find a place for you to live. I mean what in the hell could go wrong? Just get your ass over there and try it out! If nothing else, at least you tried, right? Don't you want to do something different with your life? How are you going to be a writer if you've never experienced anything?"
That was it. Whenever Christian thought about the conversation in retrospect, it was that sentence that she knew had been the one thing that she couldn't bear for her brother to say. "I hear you Carl. Give me some time to sort it out okay?" She sat down on a chair in her little pink bedroom and ran her fingers through her hair.
"I'm not trying to push you, but I want you to do this. I think you would love it."
There was a long pause. "What's the weather like over there anyway?" She closed her eyes and smiled in spite of her defeat.
"It's temperate?all year long!" He laughed and hung up the phone.
Chris drove down to meet some friends at Ed's Bar. She was wired from the conversation with her brother. There was no way she couldn't accept his challenge. He was the only one that could goad her into a crazy ass thing like moving to Italy. She parked her car and beeped the alarm. Whatever happened, she knew that she would have to go now.
Christian turned and saw Laura and Alex. They were sitting under a huge maple tree on the patio. Laura was a cute blonde sorority girl that Christian had known for a little over a year. When she turned to cast a glance at Alex, she got the same shiver that she always did when she saw the dark haired woman.
"How long have you been down here?" She glanced at the glasses in the middle of the table.
"'Bout an hour." Alex said
"Sorry, I got into a long conversation with my brother." The waitress brought Chris her usual beer and Christian thanked her
"What were you guys talking about?" Laura leaned back in the wrought iron patio chair and let the night breeze wrap around her buzz.
"Italy. Carl wants me to move to Venice, Italy. It sounds crazy but I think I'm going to go." Christian took a long sip from the bottle, anticipating the wrath.
"Italy! What the hell? I thought you were going up to New York with Kate." Laura moved her legs off of the arm of her chair and leaned in.
"Yeah, well?Carl brought up a couple of interesting points and maybe I?"
"Maybe... he said that she was psycho?" Alex had been staring at the label that she was peeling off of her beer until now. She fixed Christian with a cool stare and a smile that was barely visible in the moonlight.
"No! He just made a few valid points that started me thinking." Christian moved uneasily in her seat. It always seemed as if this woman called her on every half-thought out-thought that she had. ? "Besides, I have wanted to do something big since I graduated." She finished with a semi-smirk at Alex.
"I was just saying that it seems like an awfully big move for you. The other day you were telling us that you and Kate were getting along so well and you thought that this move would really 'cement' your commitment" Alex glanced away upon finishing her sentence and gestured for a round of purple hooters. It was a shot they always did together and now seemed like no time to buck a tradition.
"That's right! We were at work. Alex and I were behind the bar. I remember that! Are you guys breaking up?" She looked with hope filled eyes at Christian.
"Probably, after she hears this I don't think there will be anything to 'cement'. I think we I have always known that maybe moving up to the city with her was my way to get out of..."
"?THE LITTLE PINK ROOM!" They all said it in unison and laughed hysterically at the revelation. The waitress brought their shots.
"To hell with the little pink room, baby" Alex said as she raised her glass to toast the possibility of a new adventure. The other women followed suit.
"?So what now?" Laura asked, after they slammed the little rocks glasses down.
"Well, I have to save money. I don't know how long I can go for, probably about three months' tops. I figure I could write over there. Maybe clear my head a little about everything. I've got to figure out a way to make money with this writing thing. Maybe I could come up with some good stuff. I don't know."
After a few more beers and a lot of excited planning, Laura excused herself to the ladies room leaving Alex and Christian alone. There was silence for a little while. Then Alex spoke up.
"So, why did you get mad when I asked if Carl challenged you into accepting?" Alex was back to the label on the bottle, having left the others naked.
"You didn't ask me. You told me. I wasn't mad either. It's just a sensitive subject. I'm making a pretty big decision. I don't want you guys to assume that I'm not thinking it through."
"I don't think that. But Italy is a long way from New York and you seemed to be set on going there."
"And I still might?hell, I don't know. I always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling, you know that. I figure that I could find some time to think about things. Ever since my dad died, everything has been about the family, making the right choices and helping out through this?sadness? and everything. I just want a chance to see something for myself. I want to be in love with something again? You know? I want to be moved by something. I haven't felt moved by anything in such a long time."
"I understand that." Alex cast her eyes at a girl laughing loudly a couple of tables away and then looked quickly back at Christian. "I understand that. Do you think you can do it alone?" Alex stopped, realizing that her words might be misconstrued. She knew that Christian could do anything that she set her mind to. But for some reason, watching this girl get onto a plane and leaving them, this place, these nights, this summer - it was too much to bear. New York was New York. They never knew when that would happen, but this - it was real, and Alex knew the difference. She grabbed Christian's hand across the table. "Do you want to do it alone?"
"Why are you asking me this?" Christian looked into her eyes and for a moment, she wondered if there was something alive and palpable between them like she had always allowed herself to wish.
Alex smiled again, but this time, Christian could see the whites of her teeth and a sparkle growing in her friends' eyes. "Well, I've never seen Michelangelo's work first hand. I think it could be interesting, as long as you don't talk through the whole thing." Alex was trying her best to be smug - but really, she had no idea what in the hell she was saying. She had to finish school! She had to graduate and start work on the ranch with her dad. He was going to kill her! But?she looked at Christian and forgot about her worrying. What if she said no? She looked weird. Why was she inviting herself on a trip with this woman who was taking time to 'find herself'? Why did she care? Oh?my?GOD?"
"You would go with me?" Christian said it quietly. It was a thought that she said aloud and in disbelief.
Alex sipped her beer and shook her head. "I think you should know that I hate to fly."
"The plane WILL NOT GO DOWN" Alex was chanting this phrase in her head while pacing in front of the gate in Dulles International airport. 'Not gonna go down, not gonna go down'. She walked to the windows that overlooked the runway to examine the vessel that would take her overseas. 'How in the hell do they stay in the friggin' air?'
Her thoughts trailed back to the last conversation with her father. She rolled her foot across the airport carpet and settled down on the floor underneath the window. There was a strange breeze from the air conditioning that hit her right on the back of her neck. It made her tense up in the chill. She knew that he would never understand her need for this trip.
"You are screwing up your chances at the dean's list!" His eyes scattered about the room looking for a place to settle his anger. He met her with an intense gaze. That infamous vein was popping out of his forehead.
"But what will I have to show for it dad?" She crossed the room to sit next to him at the dining room table. "When Christian brought up the idea of this trip I didn't think twice about it. We've spent our lives at this ranch. They have been good lives and I have loved this and always will love it. But?this is something that I have to do. Trust me, I would never risk losing my place here after I graduate -but I have to go. I can't explain why. Just try to support me. You don't have to understand, just trust this decision and know that I have thought this through completely." She reached across the table for his hand but he drew back.
"Alexandra, I do not support or understand this. We have worked our asses off just to get here. Three thousand acres of land that our grandfathers once worked on are now ours. Do you understand that? You are the first to even go to college. We are the AMERICAN DREAM! If you go, I can't say that your place will be here when you return." He stood up and walked through the dining room to the foyer and out of sight.
Alex shook her head to free herself from the image of him walking away. She stared through the dark at the bits of dust that had been stirred up in the fury and were caught in the ray of light from the fixture above. She was beginning to see double from the tears.
Alex's mom walked in and laid her hand on her daughter's shoulder.
"Honey, don't cry. This land was here before we ever worked it. It will be here long after we leave it. You'll have your place here and I will see to that. I worked my ass off too you know. We worked for you?for you to be able to do something like this."
"Do what?" She said in a hoarse voice.
"To have the chance to see the things you'll see. Your father just forgets sometimes because he's angry."
"But why? Because I want to step off the ranch? I want to see something! I want to be a part of something bigger than this, not forever, just for now."
"Oh, he's angry that he'll be missing you. He's angry that he won't be sharing what you'll see. He loves you so much. To him, it hurts because he knows you have to go. Trust me, I'll work on him."
Alex thanked her mother and they talked for a while before she went to bed.
For the next few months, Alex and her father hardly spoke. Her dad had built a wall and was unforgiving to trespassers. When it came time to go, he hardly said goodbye. She grabbed him for a hug and he barely responded. Alex grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him so that they were forehead to forehead.
"I love you dad. I am getting on a plane in a little while and God only knows how much I hate that. Can you try to resolve this long enough to see me off?" She closed her eyes and felt the sweat from his brow on her face.
"Love you too." He grumbled it from the pit of his belly and smiled a half smile.
"Thanks dad." She turned before he could see her emotion. She didn't want him to see her cry.
They fussed for a while over the intricacies of her trip, insisting that she take a first class seat when they realized she was traveling coach. Alex said she wouldn't do it without Christian. Alex's mother upgraded the two of them without a second thought.
She saw them off and found herself wondering where Christian was. It had been very hard to disobey her father. She needed her accomplice.
This was a different goodbye.
In all the while that Christian had been with Kate, she had known that their love was small and necessary for her growth. She knew that was a crappy reason to stay, but it was a young reason and she was young.
Kate was a beautiful sloe-eyed girl who had driven through the night in the middle of the school week to say goodbye to her. They would have never made it. If Chris had moved to New York, or if she hadn't, they would have never made it.
Christian was in the parking lot saying goodbye to Katie. She had been locked in the car with that girl promising her it would not be the last time they saw each other, but fate quietly told her differently. As much as Carl had convinced her that she needed this journey, she still was afraid.
"I love you Chris, I know you want this trip, but I don't really understand why. They have great art exhibits in the city. We could go to those." She sensed Christian tensing up "Okay, okay?I know we've been through this. I'll see you soon. Three months isn't that long?and we have the rest of our lives after that? right"
Christian looked at her face and said the only thing that she could. "Right."
"Whatever you do, don't say goodbye?just say 'see you later', okay?"
"Okay". Christian began to open the door but was held back by a surprisingly strong arm.
"Why do I feel like I will never see you again?"
"I will see you honey. Remember, I told you when we first met that I would have to do this. I need to go. Whatever happens was meant to happen." Chris looked her in the eyes and started for the door.
"See you later baby." Katie kissed her soundly on the mouth and Christian gave in to the kiss.
"See you later." Christian got out of the car and closed the door.
"Goodbye." She thought and walked slowly into the airport.
Little pink sneakers invaded Alex's inspection of the airport carpet. She glanced up to see that they were attached to a small girl no more than five years old.
"Whaddyr'e doin'" she said as she stared with luminous blue eyes at the lady sitting on the floor.
"How I hate to fly."
"Why do ya hate to fly?"
"Can't see how that plane stays in the air." She rose to look out the window and started inspecting the plane again.
"It has wings" the little girl said.
"Yeah - wings that weigh like three million tons."
"Like a bird"
"Like a bird with lead wings and five hundred people inside of it."
"Birds can carry lots of stuff, they carry eggs."
"No they don't"
"Yes they do."
"No, they lay the eggs - they don't carry them. And even if they did - the weight of those tiny eggs pre-lay would never match the ratio of hundreds of people in the big steel plane outside. That's like five hundred people with the average weight of one fifty and then the fuel and the baggage and?"
"I got a new colorin' book." She pulled the glossy cover from behind her back. "You can color with me if ya wanna."
Christian was walking slowly to the departure gate. She felt the weight of their goodbye heavily upon her. The air seemed to close around her, like there was no free space to think or breathe. Katie was gone from her life and no matter what words she had said to soothe either one of them; they both knew it was the end. The end of love, no matter what kind, is always sad.
She pushed through the people in the newspaper stands and stand-up coffee shops as if they were reeds in a marsh. She paid no attention to the grunts of those she moved through.
When she finally made it to the gate she was momentarily worried by the absence of her friend, until she looked down.
Alex and a little girl in pink shoes were lying on the ground on their stomachs in front of a huge picture window. They both were giggling and coloring with crayons strewn about the floor.
The sadness lifted.
Christian walked over to the two of them and crouched down, unnoticed, by the lanky dark haired woman.
Alex looked up and smiled crookedly. It was adorable. "Uh, yeah?we were just messing around."
The little girl looked at Alex. "Is she the one that was with the crazy lady outside?"
Christian furrowed her brow "Crazy huh?"
"Yeah. Alex says that you were outside with a crazy lady sayin' goodbye?we started to color 'cause she hates to fly but I told her we?"
Alex gently put her hand over the little girl's mouth and started to get up. "You know we were just talking, I was teasing?I?"
"Yeah?I'm sure." She grinned at Alex.
Alex squatted down and said goodbye to her little friend then she rose, facing Christian. "Are you alright? I know that was hard. If you want to talk about it?"
"No, I'm okay." Chris looked around trying to avoid the conversation when she noticed the two shiny tickets jutting out of Alex's bag on the floor.
"What are those?" She took the tickets and held them up in front of her.
"Oh Yeah, my parents bumped us up to first class. They saw how nervous I was and knew it would be more comfortable?I hope you don't mind."
"Are you crazy? Of course I don't mind! We are going in style baby!" She grabbed Alex and hugged her tightly.
They easily found their seats at the front of the plane and Alex ordered her first drink. She was a wreck. Her normally serene face was crumpled with lines of stress and concern. She was delving into the airplane safety manuals. It was a little freakish. Alex said she wanted to be prepared for the worst. She noted that Newfoundland would be their last chance at a landing before the 'icy cold waters of the Atlantic'. Christian listened halfway - whatever she needed to gain some control over her fear was okay, she thought.
Christian was seated next to the window so that Alex "could not see them physically leaving the earth", as she put it. She was writing in her journal and dreaming of their upcoming arrival in Venice. She was gathering the information that she had about their contacts. They were supposed to go directly to Diece Save which was a bar next to the Rialto Bridge. Paolo owned the place. He was an Italian-American that had moved back from New York to reclaim his heritage. Carl met him through mutual friends and they immediately hit it off.
Carl said that he was a great guy. He was a "typical Italian" with women but also was very kind and big hearted. He was opening a restaurant with another man named Michele and they were looking for staff members. Paolo was excited to have two American girls coming in because they wanted an "American Bistro in the heart of Venice" or at least that was what they told Carl.
Paolo and Michele were going to arrange their papers for work abroad and the apartment where they would live in while there. Carl said that they had friends that would take them in for a minimal amount.
The only thing that Christian worried about was their packs. They had stored everything into two huge backpacks that each weighed 100 pounds. They were enormous and difficult to navigate, especially through the alleyways that she had heard about in the city. But there were boat taxis that they could get, it was possible, a pain in the ass?but possible.
It was getting weird. Alex was now on her third drink and they hadn't even left the terminal. The stewardess was just getting around, checking everyone's seatbelts.
She got up for the ladies room but the one in first class was occupied. She walked behind the partition and into the bathroom. As she was opening the tiny door, Alex heard one of the stewardess' speaking to a passenger.
"Sir, your seat is located next to an emergency exit. In the event of an emergency landing, you will be responsible for opening this door. If you should feel uncomfortable with that responsibility, we can arrange to have you moved elsewhere. Will that be alright?" She tilted her head waiting for his response.
Alex was horrified.
"Yeah whatever" he said as he shifted his weight in the seat. He was obviously getting ready to take nap.
"Thank you for your cooperation." She moved through the rest of the aisle checking the other passengers.
Alex stood, glued to the door handle. He wasn't even reading the emergency landing manual! How was he even going to know how to open the door? She was sickened by his irreverence for airplane security. She rushed back to Christian.
"Christian!" She yelled getting the attention of the other passengers.
"What? Are you okay?"
"Yes?I'm fine, but I think that the folks in the back might be in trouble."
"Why, what happened?" The tone of Alex's voice was worrying her.
"The guy in the back can't open the door."
"What door sweetie?" She put her hand on Alex's and furrowed her brows. She hadn't known Alex for that long - but she was learning a lot today. Normally, this woman was composed and cool to the point of being aloof.
"The emergency door!" She couldn't believe that Chris had no idea of 'the door'- it was just the only way out for God's sake!
"I'm sure that the directions are on the door. It'll be fine Alex." She began to pull her into the seat. "Calm down sweetie, we're gonna be fine. Passengers are there for the preliminary opening of the door. If they can't handle it, someone will be there to help.
"What if they are too busy with the other doors?" She began sinking into her seat, nearly calmed by the voice of her friend.
"That's what you're here for. You read the manual right?" She began to buckle Alex's seatbelt without notice.
"Yeah?I mean yes I am here and I'll help them!" She looked straight on, thinking about the plummeting plane and her heroic, effortless opening of said door.
"I know you will, so calm down okay? She patted the belt and took Alex's hand again. "You know, I started flying when I was young. My parents took me on trips to New York all of the time. I would sit on my mom's lap and she would tell me that we were flying through heaven. She said that all of the dogs and the people that we had known that died were here jumping through the big pink clouds in our wake. I remember that she would say she saw my great grandfather and I would jump up from her lap and strain to look out (which is when she would announce that he had just dodged behind the plane). We used to have a German Shepard named Hans that weighed 125 pounds. I imagined him romping around the sky following the smoke from the engine of our plane. I imagined that he knew we were inside and searched for us through the airplane windows. I have never been afraid to fly because of that." She looked out of the window with green eyes at half mast.
Years later, after much scrutiny, under smooth blankets at night and the cool fall air, Alex would realize that this was the moment that she had begun to love her.
Christian spent much of the next seven hours next to a very tense, but controlled, woman. Eventually, she found herself getting sleepy. She succumbed to her need, dreaming of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and finding her father in the clouds that Michelangelo had painted.
Alex was watching the weather channel via satellite. It seemed that the February Carl had told them about - which was supposedly temperate all year long - was off by about fifty degrees Fahrenheit. She thought about the fact that neither of them had packed more than a fleece for the cold air. As she was thinking about this, a little blonde head flopped into her lap, asleep. She smiled.
This woman had gotten her to fly across the world in one moment. She was scared of how close she felt to her. She thought about her last boyfriend that was supposedly the love of her life. Even he didn't have access to her like Christian did. This was a friendship that would last through the ages. She imagined them having their first child on the same day?birthday parties, Halloween?she was the first girl that Christian had ever been that close to. Most of her friends were guys. Guys were easier. Christian was probably so easy to get along with because, in most ways, she was a guy. No pretense, no cattiness.
Alex sat awhile thinking about them and then surprisingly, found that she was exhausted. She tilted her seat back and fell asleep to the green glow of the map on the screen in front of her seat.
Tiny white dots showed their progression across the ocean. As they slumbered, the busy plane pushed its way through the clouds. Only the glow of the moon illuminated its path.
Christian woke slowly as she heard the landing gear descending form the plane. She was in complete pain, but that was not what she first noticed. There was a woman under her. A pair of long legs that she knew belonged to Alex was stretched out beneath her head. She quickly rose from her position much to the chagrin of her back, which screamed in defiance.
"Sorry I must have dozed off for a minute there." She brushed the blonde curls from her face while trying to hide her embarrassment.
"Try four hours - its okay though, kind of soothed me a little."
Alex graced Christian with another beautiful smile. She seemed strangely at ease. "I have some bad news though. It seems that the temperate climate was grossly underestimated. It's about 20 degrees outside."
"Oh. Well, it's probably just a cold snap - happens all the time in the south." She was starting to gather her things as the captain announced that the plane would be on the ground in five minutes or so.
"Yeah, I kind of thought the same thing but I started talking to the guy across from us and he says that it is actually quite cold here in the winter." She tightened her seatbelt and tried not to think of them crashing to the ground in four minutes and thirty-nine seconds.
"Well, I guess we'll have to buy coats then." She smiled at Alex and grabbed her hand, sensing her fear.
"Guess so." Alex closed her eyes for the next few minutes and tried to remember from the Italian phrase book how to say 'broken arm' and 'internal bleeding'. Soon enough they were on the ground. She dug the cross out from under her sweater and kissed it firmly. 'Thank you!'
Alex popped up and grabbed their carry on baggage. Christian was close behind picking up some papers that had fallen off her lap when she fell asleep.
They slowly filed out of the plane. Alex was trotting more than walking. When they broke free from the mechanical arm that connected to the airport, she sighed in relief. The air smelled good. Years of youth spent on a ranch had made her sensitive to cramped stale smelling spaces.
Marco Polo airport was a strange scene. Christian had been abroad many times before with her family so she was prepared to feel the initial culture shock. There were guards everywhere with green uniforms and Dobermans smelling luggage under fluorescent lighting. Everyone was talking in a fevered pitch, as Italians are wont to do. There was a lot of gesticulating and yelling. Alex smiled at Christian and said "Ciao Bella".
They followed the arrows to the passport checkpoint. They waited together in line and showed their papers to the clerk who glanced over the two women. He didn't bother to stamp their documents. This upset Chris a little; she liked seeing all of the different colored stamps on every page.
They followed the snaking line to the baggage claim. Soon enough two huge backpacks made their way out on the belt. Alex stepped forward and grabbed them both while Christian watched their stuff. Alex fumbled around for a minute with her hand in her bag until she felt what she was looking for.
She pulled out a straw cowboy hat and smoothed the crinkled brim before putting it on her head. She turned to Christian and smiled "I don't ever leave home without this."
Christian smiled back at her thinking that she was standing with one of the sexiest women she had ever met. There was a careful confidence that she exuded. Even after the episode in the plane, she seemed nonplussed. Then she stopped her thoughts and reminded herself of their differences. It wasn't difficult; she had done that from the moment they had met.
They both took a deep breath and pulled the packs onto their backs. Alex rose and turned to help Christian from the ground. The walked out of the doors and into the chilled Italian air. They were fresh and new, even with the hours of travel apparent on their clothing. Those that looked on were reminded of times when they had made similar adventures, or wished that they had.
"IT IS SO COLD!" Christian said hotly. It wasn't the temperature, alone which was actually fifteen degrees; it was the wind from the lagoon before them. They were prepared to wait for the next boat shuttle, but decided against it when the wind began slinking into their sweaters and through their jeans.
"Screw it, let's get a taxi. I can't handle this." Christian looked up at Alex and saw herself in the mirrored shades she was wearing.
"Agreed, this sucks." Alex walked over to a man in a beautiful wooden boat docked by the sidewalk. He was beautiful, in fact, all of the guys lined up along the walkway were.
"Pardon me, how much to the Rialto?" She smiled coyly hoping for a good fare.
"Rialto Bridge is one hundred fifty lira." He started at her legs and let his eyes move unabashed up the smooth lines of her jeans to her face. "But for you I make a special price - one hundred lira."
"Hang on." She ran back to Christian. "Fifty bucks. I say we take it."
"Yep, fifty sounds good." They gathered their things and handed them to the man in the boat.
"This is the first time you will see Venezia?" He said as he scooted their bags into the back.
"Yes sir." Christian said.
"Not Sir, I am Rafaele. He looked Christian over the same way. "I take you the nice way to the bridge. At the end of our journey you will say 'Rafaele does it the best'."
Christian turned to Alex and rolled her eyes. "Does what the best?" Alex said and stretched her arms out wide to lean back on the bow.
Rafaele started the engine and began pulling slowly out of the slip and into the murky green lagoon. He revved the engine and blasted off through the taxi station.
Rafaele kept a steady pace allowing them to take in the sight of their new city. It came upon them as if it were a mirage. There were tiny islands everywhere and he did his part to explain it all. On the left they were passing by San Michele Island which was the cemetery. There were high walls that surrounded it and a tiny white cupola where the taxi boats arrived. On the right side was Fondamenta Nuove which was the main departure point for all boats going to islands like Murano, Burano, and the Lido. It was lined with cafés and tiny convenience stores. People were milling about everywhere. From the taxi, they could see some getting on shuttles with groceries; little children going home from school. It was amazing; they acted as if the commute from ancient island to island actually worked.
There were smaller islands around the lagoon too. Some had one or two palazzos and small gardens. It was so unreal that they both were unable to filter anything that they were seeing.
Rafael skirted the island a bit more and then turned right into what looked like a small opening. Christian closed her eyes tightly waiting for the force of their imminent crash. When she opened them a moment later, they were inside the city. Rafaele slowed down considerably and turned to see two ruddy faces lit up with smiles of wonder.
"How you like my city?" He said.
"It's?" Christian tried to find some description.
"Amazing." Alex said. Rafaele turned back around to navigate through the canal.
She turned to look at Christian feeling utter excitement and awe. It was then she realized that the flight had been worth it. She had not made a mistake. She took off her sunglasses and looked at Christian in the eyes. "I don't know what we're in for here. If this is going to be hard or not - I don't know. But before anything else happens, I want to say thank you."
"For what?" Christian stared back with furrowed brows.
"For letting me come with you. For making me want to see more of the world. I have never felt this sure, this happy?about anything." She squeezed Christians shoulder tightly and then stared off into the city.
They continued on through the canal listening intently to their guide. When he turned on to Canal Grande, he laughed at their reaction to the pulsing Venetian life around them.
"Rafaele, do you know where Diece Save is?" Christian leaned forward with her little pink map.
"Yes, we are going to there now." He pointed ahead.
They turned a corner and on the horizon they could see a huge white bridge looming before them.
"That is the Rialto. It was the first bridge built in Venezia. Many times it is built until it stands now just like that for two hundred years."
Alex and Christian looked at each other and smiled. As they drew closer, they could see the shops lining the sides of the bridge. People were funneling through and they saw the gondolas taking cold lovers wrapped in blankets underneath.
"They say if you kiss the one that you love under the bridge, you will love each other until you die." He turned and looked at the two of them and wagged his eyebrows.
"I'm gonna have to check on that one." Christian said sarcastically.
Rafaele took them under the bridge and they both looked up to see the white marble and green moss lining the belly.
He stopped the taxi by a tiny walkway just past the Rialto.
"Okay ladies?here we are." He guided them to the step and helped them across. Alex leaned forward and took their packs. Then she handed him the money plus a little for the tour.
"Can you show us where Diece Save is?" Christian said.
"This is it." He smiled and stretched out his arms signaling to the area around them.
"What is it?" Christian said with some annoyance.
"This - it is, how do you say, area or zone?."
"What do you mean an area?" Christian started to get a nervous tingle in her stomach.
"It is not a place."
"But we are meeting someone there?in a bar." Alex piped in.
"There are no bars here."
"Yes, I see that but that is where we were told to go. We need to meet Paolo."
"There are many Paolos here. I do not know which one you need to meet." He started to get flustered. He was missing other fares.
Alex put her hand on Christian's shoulder and stepped in front. She put on a sexy smile and crouched down on her knees. "Listen Rafaele, if you help us find our Paolo, I'll give you another fifty lira."
Christian started to protest but Alex quickly turned around and said "Can you speak Italian?" Christian shook her head and stepped back.
"Okay? seventy five lira." He started to pull out the ropes to tie his boat.
"I said fifty." Rafael started to put the ropes away again. "Seventy five lira?fine." Alex turned around to face Chris. "Listen, we are both tired. If he doesn't help us, it could take forever."
"I know. You're right." She felt the jet lag creeping up on her and she knew she didn't have it in her to search for the hours it would probably take.
Alex and Chris heaved their packs on and followed Rafaele into a shadowed alley.
"This Paolo he owns a bar?"
"Yeah?He's an American" Alex said. Rafaele turned to face them and stopped.
"An American! This will not be so hard." He strutted through the small alley with the two girls behind. They walked out onto a broader area with a huge market lining one side and boutiques on the other. The steps that led up to the Rialto were about a hundred feet straight in front them. Rafaele stopped and started talking to an older man who was selling oranges. He nodded his head and pointed forward.
"Gianni says this bar is there." He led them under an alcove that became another alleyway. They walked for about a block when he stopped and put out his hand for the cash.
"This is it?" Christian said.
"Yes this is your Paolo."
"That wasn't hard at all." Alex said.
"He's an American." With that, Rafaele took the cash and started back for his boat.
"Thanks!" Christian yelled
"Prego signora - welcome to Venezia!" They watched him walk until he disappeared into the crowd.
Alex and Christian peered into the tiny café. They spotted a tall guy behind the bar laughing with another man who was drinking a tiny glass of wine.
"Well, I guess that's Paolo. Shall we?" Christian motioned to the door.
They entered the small space and were immediately inundated by sounds of laughter and the smell of bread toasting in the corner. There were lottery machines on the wall to the left and a big glass buffet of tiny sandwiches on the right. In between was a red marble bar that ran the length of the room. There were tiny tables and stools in the middle of the room and the walls were covered with pennants from American baseball teams and license plates from all over the states. They both let their eyes roam the small café before settling on the man behind the bar.
"Hello ladies, can I get you something to drink?" He flipped a bar towel over his left shoulder and leaned in resting his hands on the bar.
"Are you Paolo?from New York?" Christian said as she began taking her pack off.
"Yeah, who wants to know?" He looked at them suspiciously.
"GOD am I glad we found you. Diece Save! Hah - we though it was the name of your bar! But no worries our boat driver, sailor guide, taxi man?whatever helped us find you." She turned and started helping Alex take her pack off.
He looked at them with bewilderment. "And you are?"
"I'm Christian Farrow. Carl's little sister. This is my friend Alex Moran" Chris stuck out her hand to greet him.
"And?" he said as he took her hand.
Alex's stomach tightened. 'Here it comes' she thought.
"Carl Farrow, my brother?he met you in New York? Said that you wanted to hire us to work in your new restaurant." She said slowly.
"Lady I got no friggin' idea who you are."
Continued in Part 2