Felicitations 19

the preface to this chapter posted yesterday, or you can just click here ~n~

They sat, holding hands, not moving for what felt like an eternity. So many thoughts were whirling in her mind, confusion and…guilt. Shock. She had left him, by defying His orders and going into town, where she had contracted influenza, which had taken her life. She had no memory of that,  just of him.

How was it even possible that he was here? She shifted her feet, the organza of the dress she wore sighing as she moved.

“How is it that you knew me, here? How is it that YOU are a ghost and not me? I …” she broke off, biting her lip to hold back the tears.

“I’ve been watching for you through the years. Following your energy, holding onto the love that keeps us together.”

“But when I take off the dress, you disappear!” She was crying now. “I didn’t even know you were the missing thing in my life, and now I can only see you, touch you, when I wear this stupid thing.” She slapped her leg.

“Your tears, mon cheri, wound me. Remember as I remember. Smile for me, cheri. I remember touching your glorious body…I remember holding you, kissing you!”  His hand cupped her cheek, glided over her hair, traced the edge of her decolletage above the lace at her breast.

His finger lifted her chin, smiling at her blush. His lips glided across her face, tasting her tears. And then he was gone.

She sat back, looking around frantically.

“Gabriel! Gabriel!” She shouted, “Oh, please don’t play with me this way.” She paused, but the only sound was the ticking of the clock from the other room. In moments, Anthony was back.

“What happened, sweet love?” He looked concerned.

“He…he is …gone…” her voice caught on a hiccup, as tears began to flow again. “Just like that, he was here, and then poof, he was gone. I…I can’t feel him, Anthony.”

He gathered her close and let her sob until she slept.

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Another day, another sunrise. The alarm blared, and she grudgingly threw off the covers. She glanced at the dress hanging on her closet door, but it remained motionless, as it had every day for the last 7 weeks. The pain in her heart had ebbed a bit, but she thought it was a terrible ending. For a while she had thought she would die, again, from her broken heart. She kept the dress here, hoping. With a sudden flare of anger, she grabbed the dress and stalked into the guest room, stuffing it into the closet, shutting the door on it.

She wept as she showered and began getting ready for work.

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The week dragged by. Things had gotten busy at work, with the opening of several new stores around the country, everyone had to step up their game in Corporate, and take on additional tasks. She found her hours steadily creeping upwards. She was so tired at night she had no time to think, or feel. The dress had remained in the guest room closet, and she had accepted that Gabriel was gone.

There was a knock on her door as she organized the files she needed for tomorrow.

“Hey girl, we’re going out to Mickey’s for some drinks, and try to shake off Hell Week, and my job was to get you to come along. Maybe we’ll meet some cute guys and get laid. I really need to get laid.”

Tammy was her vivacious work partner. Tall, ebony-skinned, and funny as all hell, perhaps an evening spent with the girls would be just what she needed to kick off the dust from her personal life. Such as it was.

“‘k, let me just…”

“NO. Put down the files…and we’ll all get out of here safely.” She pointed her finger at Cara, who gave a wide-eyed stare at that firm digit, and slowly placed the files on her desk. Then laughed.

“Okay, you, put away your weapon and I’ll come with you peacefully…”

Grabbing her purse and jacket, the two headed out of Cara’s office, gathering their “posse” as they moved through the office and outside. Mickey’s was a two-block walk from Downy, Finney & Carruthers, the parent company of an upscale department store. Located in a reclaimed neighborhood, there was a garden atrium, circled by the bar, two restaurants, and oddly, a shoe store. Or perhaps not so oddly, as a drunk woman maybe lost her inhibitions about shoe shopping? Shaking her head, Cara and her friends made their way into the dark moodily lit bar.

Two hours, three dancing partners, and a few rum & Cokes later, she decided to go home. No one was making her feel happy; in truth, she felt almost sadder. Rather than go home to her empty, sad house, she  thought she might go visit Anthony and Francois. She hadn’t been back to see them since the night of the Event, and she was feeling bad about that. They’d been good friends to her throughout that entire ordeal, and she went and ditched them like yesterday’s bathwater, for gosh sakes.

A bit tipsy, she held onto a tree in the courtyard. OH. The shoe store. The allure of the shoe was much harder to overcome after a few drinks, and she understood their savvy marketing strategy after all. It wouldn’t hurt to look.

He watched her cross the courtyard. He’d seen her, surrounded by her girlfriends a few hours ago, but she was the only one he had been drawn to. Mesmerizing. An old-fashioned word, but apropos. He was surprised when she alone emerged from Mickey’s. And watched her, a bit concerned, as she wobbled over to a tree and held on for dear life. He thought about going to her, but thought she might not appreciate being accosted by a strange guy, who might take advantage of her drunken state. But then again, it was a question of safety, right? A guy didn’t let a vision like that, one who was obviously impaired, get behind the wheel. Why, it was a matter of public safety.

Yet, rather than veer towards the road, she came across, towards him. As the bell over his door rang, he stepped away from the window display he’d been ostensibly arranging, smoothing his face into a welcoming smile, and hoping the counter hid the tent forming in his chino’s.

“May I help you?”

She looked up, surprised to see a man behind the counter. And froze.

“Gabriel?” She felt dizzy. She took an unsteady step, and fainted.

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“There you go, miss, take it easy now.” With a gentle touch, he rubbed the back of her neck. She was sitting on a padded bench, her head between her knees, supported by the comforting warmth of a man beside her. She remembered. Remembered.

“Gabriel?” Her head rose, and she made eye contact with the bluest eyes she had seen since the fateful day that she’d lost the man she’d been tied to for generations.

“How do you know my name?” he asked her, perplexed. He was sure they had never met.

“You don’t know me?” Shock, followed by anger. “How can you not know me, you bastard?” She shook her fist at the sky, all the buzz from the alcohol blown away by the fire of her fury. “Damn you! Damn you to hell!”

He hadn’t see too many furious women in his life, but there was something almost familiar in her rage. She stared up at him, her eyes almost exuding flames. She grabbed his cheeks in her hands, pulling him towards her.

“It’s ME!” She growled. “Look at ME. CARA. C-A-R-A…” She pelted him with her words, small licks of anger spat from her perfect mouth, hitting him. He shook his head. He didn’t….

Her mouth latched onto his, kissing him roughly. The tent in his pants hardened again, throbbing with an insistent need that was hard to be denied.  Again there was that flash of something. A beach. Water, the soft moans of gulls. The sun against his arse as he lay atop a soft, welcoming body. For a moment he was two people…disoriented, he pulled away from her ravaging mouth.

“Yes! I see it. I see you. Now, see ME!” 

Her voice rang in his ears as his world shifted. He felt for a moment as if the earth tipped. There was a snap, a sudden feeling of falling, that slick, sick fear boiling up his gut, and then as suddenly as it began, it was done.

“I …. remember. You. A beach. We were…”

“Yes, we were.” And she laughed.

“You own this place?” she asked waving her hand in the air.

“I do.” He continued to look at her, seeing her in her short modern skirt, and her in a heavily embroidered black dress.

“Take tonight off. I have a story to tell you, and there are some people you need to meet. Oh, Gabriel. I’m so glad I found you, again.” With a twirl of pure joy, she flung herself on him, hugging him hard. He rested his head on her soft hair, remembering the scent of roses on the night breeze, and the soft silk of her body. In moments, she’d taken him by the hand, and tugged him to the door. The adventure, it seemed, was begun.

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The End…but as you know, an ending is but a new beginning….