Bright lights from the villa lie reaching across the hills like tendrils as I approach from below. Voices heard, a rippling of laughter, a swift flash of flesh, my party-ready footsteps on the pavers sound more reminiscent of slippers on grass. A door opens to release the roar of the party, an unquiet guest or, could it be the inhabitant? My sensibility flutters, as I observe that it is she. There on the terrace. Clarissa. In a flowing red dress, she is even more stunning than I remember. And, even better, more unassuming than anyone I have ever known. She, the “she” inside of her, is a phenomenon, magical. If she weren’t so real to me, I would think she had escaped from a different realm. I wave to her, she responds excitedly coming towards me as I walk up the steps armed with an immensely satisfying hug and some wildflowers to give to one of the people I most cherish in all the universe.
“Rino.” She pauses to observe me and what I think is my expression. “How good it is to finally see you.” She brushes my cheek softly with her lips as I touch her full, essential hip with my hand. A modicum of restraint allows me to pull away as I again hear the terrace door burst open to let out the chaos upstairs. I momentarily reflect on this unsuitable commotion among the quiet repose outside as Richard leans over the wall to greet me, only partially concealed by a grey silk shirt unbuttoned down to his navel. “Rino!! What are you waiting for? Come up, come up. Clarissa, get him a drink would ya’? Pronto. Hahaha” His basic, booming voice echoes against the rocky earth in the distance as he rushes back inside to close the door, sealing the silence, leaving us once again to ourselves. There is a silence, but it is not at all uncomfortable. She smiles, and I reflect with my own. We quickly complete the ascent arm-in-arm, with one state of mind, one sense of being. “It was a long time ago.” “Yes, it was.” Some more silence as we stand to face each other on the final terrace.
“I’m different now, in some sense, you know,” she says. “I’m not sure if you will recognize me from the lady that you once knew so well. But I am a better version of myself. Stronger and, more able to take a joke. More at ease with my life, and my decisions. You look beautiful by the way. You simply glow in this lighting, Rino. I’ve missed you.” She hugs me again. This time closer and harder. I almost lose my balance on the vicarious step I am on. “We better head in and face everyone at last. Richard has been looking forward to seeing you again as well. From what I understand, he has some things to tell you. But that’s Richard. It might just be a new cocktail recipe. Or his latest ideas on curing hangovers, which I’m not sure will work. His life is one long, everlasting hangover. Different story entirely though.” She laughs. “Wait.” I stop, still hanging onto the step for dear life. “Before we go in, I want to ask you something.” “OK, no problem. Go ahead,” with a questionable tone to my voice. I quickly remember that whenever we are together she somehow manages to speak much more than me, rendering my usual swift and streaming eloquence mute. I find this strange because she always appeared to me as someone who preferred to be left alone. I am privileged to know that this is far from the truth.
“Rino.” We are in shadow now, so it is hard for me to see her face precisely. She may think I glow, but in the dim shadows of her villa, she exudes a sinuous sort of darkness. A curious sense of unknowingness. I see exactly what she means. She is not the same woman.“I still think of you.” She grabs my hand. “Still so rough. Unlike your insides.” She brings my hand up to kiss it, and says, “You are still a part of me." She places my hand on her heart, pauses, then quickly regains composure. "But, let us proceed, shall we?” I realize that she did not ask me anything, as she proposed. She sprains the door handle, as she reluctantly allows us access to her home. A home that I can see is not and will never be her haven, her nest. Not at all. Not in the least.
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