Saturday, December 19, 2009


She sat alone at the wrought iron table, the wind blowing her blond tresses into soft billows around her face. Watching the steam rise from a white ceramic mug, she kept her hands knotted together under the table. Now and then she glanced at the people who passed her by, a woman with a baby budgie, a couple carrying parcels. She waited and waited for the man who had said he would come, but he never came and the steam disappeared and the mug grew cold.
While she waited for him, another man sat in a parked car across the street watching her wait. He knew that Giovanni would not come, knew that the little blonde would sit at the table and wait to no avail. He knew these things because they had been agreed upon.
“She sounded very upset.” Giovanni had said. “She wants to meet me at The Star, you know that place?”
“No, I don’t,” he had said, gripping the receiver as though it would wriggle away.
“It’s a new place in North Beach, I don’t have the address.” Giovanni told him
“It’s okay, I can look it up.” He had answered.
“So now we are even, right?” Giovanni had asked “I am giving you this meeting with the girl and our old grievances will be forgotten?”
“If she’s there, yes.”
“She says she’ll be there. She sounded upset. I made her beg. I told her I couldn’t at first, I admit I was going to let her slip through my fingers and never tell you. But she begged. It sounded like she had been crying. This new man… he probably hurt her. Serves her right. And she comes crawling to me after she had said she wouldn’t see me…” Giovanni’s voice rose wrathfully and he broke off abruptly. After a moment he continued, “She deserves this.”
And after another beat he asked, “ I’ll have no trouble renewing my permits now?”
“If she is there, then you will have no trouble.” He had answered icily, because right then he had been awash with conflicting emotions; the thrill that there was a chance he would see her again, jealousy because she had called Giovanni and not him, rage because it meant that she had never loved him. She had only used him, and with a wretched pang he realized that she must actually care for Giovanni, that he was not one of the men she could use, because like her, he was a rag tag street artist with nothing, but she continued to seek his company.
“She will. I know she will. At three o clock.” Giovanni had said and then he had hung up.
Now with both pain and relish he watched the contortions of her face. Rejection and loneliness swam over her eyes and mouth and made her knot her hands even tighter under the table.
He felt for the pistol in his jacket pocket and thought that maybe this was enough. He looked himself in the eye in the rearview mirror. A man with hard set eyes and a pencil line moustache regarded him immovably. It reminded him of the bills he was still paying so that she could look so lovely sitting there at that table, in the clothing and jewelry he had purchased for her. In fact, he said to himself, she had bled him dry just to make herself more appealing for the next dupe, so she could upgrade and snag someone with even more money than he had. He stepped out of the borrowed car and crossed the street and sat down at her table. He watched the incredible shock spread out over her face. He watched it freeze for a moment like a mask. Then she said,
“Hello. Alice.”
But they both noticed that his voice was not as soft as it used to be, it nearly sounded like the voice of another man, a colder harsher man
She glanced around herself, perhaps to see if her Giovanni was anywhere near, but he was not.
“I,” she said “don’t want to see you anymore. I have to go.” She started to stand, but he drew the pistol out of his pocket and pointed it at her discreetly from across the table.
“Yes.” He said, “You do. But first we’ll go for a drive.”
He stood up and, with the gun still trained on her, he used his free hand to grab her arm and direct her out of the chair. Then he buried the gun’s muzzle in her soft side and with the other arm around her shoulders, he led her across the street and to the parked rental car. For just a moment, he felt his heart stinging again and all he wanted to do was to embrace her and beg her to come back. Then he remembered the windy streets and the weeks of searching and lying awake at night, chest aching. He knew if he gave her a chance she would run away again and this time he might not be able to find her. The little sting was overcome by the numbness and new found hardness within him. He shoved her into the driver’s seat and closed the door before sliding into the back seat behind her.

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