Lest We Forget—Elaine Bonow
Bret sat silhouetted against the slate grey sky that filled the window that soared over the city skyline. Sitting on the table was a highball glass of Grey Goose, with a double helix lemon twist. The uneven chunks of ice were hand cut using a deftly handled knife. He preferred the ice and vodka to mingle until tainted with the bitter rind of the Brazilian lemon before he took a sip.
Just as he put the glass to his lips there was a rustle of a scent as she broke thru the plane of restaurant’s wide door. She rushed happily towards him. “Oh Bret, it’s so good to see you. Come here and give me some sugar.” Observing these two you would be assured of their mutual love. He wrapped his arms tightly around her holding her close and kissed her gently on each proffered cheek.
Getting herself situated took considerable effort, as she liked to present herself rather than just being there. She arranged her skirts under the table exposing her brand new black Italian Oxfords. She swirled her silken scarves with silver laden fingers until they stylishly framed her lightly made up face without obscuring her pearl drop earrings. As they settled at the comfortable table a waiter appeared. She ordered a bottle of Perrier. Merry Alice hadn’t had an alcoholic drink in at least twenty years.
Bret waited patiently taking a few sips from the perfectly blended cocktail because he knew her habits intimately and not only recognized them but encouraged all of her eccentricities. The waiter placed the bottle of Perrier on one coaster and a cut crystal glassful of fancy ice on another. “Oh Bret, it is so good to see you. You don’t know how much I have missed you and especially how much I needed you on this last trip to Rome. You remember the last time we were in Rome it was so magical. Rome was nothing like what it was when we were there together back in the day.”
“Well, I remember our time there very well, but what could have been so different about the city and all its treasures. My beautiful Venus in the Capitoline is still there I hope?”
“Of course she is there. I did check on her at your request darling. She is in her pale niche, modest and serene.”
“By the way, you look marvelous yourself. The trip must have done you some good, no?”
“To tell you the truth, I do feel better even though it was a jet setter type of trip; three days max.”
“What? I thought he was to be the love of your life, that he loved you since the first time he saw your picture on Facebook.”
“All I can say is stupid, stupid me.”
“And you do realize most people don’t even hook up from Facebook, it’s not like OK Cupid or Christian Mingle. Com.” Bret took a hearty sip of his drink and motioned the waiter over to order some snacks. “This calls for some food for thought, my girl. I’m not going to say I told you so because first of all you didn’t ask and second of all, he actually sounded like a good guy. He seemed quite exciting by posts you showed me, a fancy art dealer in Rome traveling the globe.”
“And he did send me some very nice gifts, not expensive but thoughtful and real. He sure seemed like a great guy.”
The waiter brought a basket of fresh warm bread and a board of exotic cheeses. Merry Alice asked for some more ice. As she waited for Bret to return from the men’s room the sky darkened. She could hear the rain pelting the sky-high windows. The big room, warm and full of light made all of her troubles seem brighter. She smiled broadly when Bret returned.
“Ok now, tell me what happened. Start at the top. Did he meet you at the airport with candy and flowers?”
“Damn. No, not at all and that airport is massive. Remember when we were there the airport seemed so provincial, straight out of La Dolce Vida. He sent me a text telling me to take a local train into Trastevere not Termini.”
“Wow! Where is that exactly? When we went we just went to Rome, remember. We got there so early that morning and I was so exhausted; well, maybe just a little hung over. Those were some good times we had in our mad cap youth.”
She leaned across the table to stroke his hand catching his grayish green eyes, holding on to them as if she could see into his memories.
“Ah yes,” he sighed. “We knew how to have fun, you and me.”
“It is a good thing I only had a small bag. The train was packed and the Italians, remember, they are an impatient lot. No polite queue, everyone pushing and shoving into the best seats. A nice old man helped me even though I had to stand all the way.”
“You poor thing. I don’t remember that at all. It was so long ago.”
“Finally we arrived at this old school train station. A man with a sign “MISS WILSONNE” was waiting for me. But get this, he didn’t take me to Rico’s apartment, he took me to a hotel and gave me this note. “Darling,” it read. “Something has come up. I have to go to Firenze for the evening. I’ll text you. I’ll be so glad to see you.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad, staying at a hotel instead of a strangers apartment. I hope it was a nice place.” The waiter brought Bret another drink and he took the opportunity to order omelets for the two of them and the restaurant’s signature dish and a favorite of theirs a large stack of beautifully prepared French fries.
“Thanks, that sounds so good. I am starving. You always know exactly what I crave don’t you?”
He patted her on the cheek. “On with the story girl.”
“The room was good indeed and I was tired after my twelve hour trek. I went to sleep right away and slept through till early morning. I checked my phone but no text and no calls and no emails, no nothing.”
It was still early. He must have been really busy and that’s understandable.”
“I thought of that too. And since it was so early I decided I would go out and see what Rome had to offer in the early hours and I was not disappointed. That part of Rome, Trastevere, is positively medieval with twisty-turny streets jam-packed with parked cars, narrow sidewalks and blocks of apartments atop stores and restaurants of all sorts. The only buildings with any room around them were the churches. I was lucky to be staying by the enormous Sunday market that opened at 6:30, so I went.”
“Ooh, I want to go there. I wish I had gone with you as your bodyguard. I would have been a fine companion. I wouldn’t have let you down.” He scooted his chair next to hers and gave her a hug. “But more I want to hear more.”
“ I was having so much fun looking at miles of stuff that I almost forgot about him and then another text.”
“Sorry Merry Alice. Business has driven me all the way to Milano. Be patient I promise I’ll see you as soon as humanly possible. Ciao, Rico.”
“I didn’t know what to reply. I booked this trip on short notice and was only staying for three days and three days goes by really fast.”
“This is not sounding too good so far except for the part about being in Rome. We went to all the major spots didn’t we, the Coliseum, the Forum and remember at the Vatican we had to buy you a scarf to cover your bare arms, you heathen.” They reminisced while digging into the lovely omelets and fries sitting close together while the sky closed and it was dark outside and there was no rain to be heard.
“I just texted him that I was fine and the hotel was comfortable. I didn’t want to call him because he said it was business and I really didn’t know him that well. In fact I was the one who invited myself so…anyway. I had an early dinner at the hotel and turned in. The next morning determined to see a little of Rome on my own, I booked a private tour of all the lovely living relics that Rome has to offer.”
“Oh yes, I remember the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps the Piazza Navona, the Borghese Gardens and the Piazza di Popolo. I’ve never forgotten our trip and I thought I’d surprise you with those old snaps of our time there. I actually have them right here. Look there you are.”
They had a delicious time looking over the old photos of glorious days of their youth. “You my dear Merry look even better to me now. You have such a wonderful presence and such inner joy.”
“Bret, thank you. I needed to hear that after this adventure. The second day was lovely but I was all-alone, still no word at all from Rico. I felt so abandoned and foolish at my age traipsing off to some imagined romance.”
“I guess it wasn’t like that movie where the divorcee discovers Tuscany and falls in love. More like an episode of Rhoda.” They cracked up at this. He signaled the waiter again this time for dessert. “I know. You need something sweet. How about a nice bowl of vanilla ice cream and some espresso?”
“I know I was foolish but let me tell you the good part.”
Bret leaned his face close to hers. “But Merry, afterwards I have something important to say, OK?”
“I hope you’re not going to chastise me.”
“Oh nothing like that, go on with your story.” He tenderly kissed her on her forehead.
“Tuesday, I decided that I ‘d had enough. My flight home was scheduled to leave early the next morning. I thought I’d use my skills to track that man down. I was getting more and more suspicious and curious. I got on the Internet and found his business and business address. I went to his Facebook page and scrolled all of his friends until I found his married sister. I guess I thought the Internet over here would be different but it was easy I tell you.”
“You didn’t do anything foolish did you?”
“No, but after looking at her page and consulting Mr. Google, I found his home phone number. I dialed it and a woman answered the phone.”
“What? What? Really?”
“ I asked to speak to Monsieur Frattino.”
“In English? You didn’t?”
“ Oh yes I did. A proper British accent said I was Sotheby’s auction house and I must speak to her husband right away.”
“She said, “Hold on I’ll go and get him right away he’s just in his office.”
“Oh Merry Alice Wilson, how did you know? You are so brave. I think I love you more than ever. What a bastard.”
Merry Alice and Bret went back to Rome the next year to celebrate their new/old relationship. Bret got to personally visit his old flame The Capitoline Venus. Merry only thought about Mr. Frattino briefly and then forgot about him forever.