“Try it on? I’ll be there soon.” I had asked her on the phone before I arrived at the hotel. She met me at the door sheathed in its cloth; the dress—a gift I had sent from London—molded her flesh. She took my breath away. In truth, I would have given my last for her.
I entered the room and her scent—the delicate perfume she favored—missed sorely over a month-long business trip, was a welcome constant that centered me. She poured two glasses from the chilled bottle of Riesling on the side table, handed me one and walked to the window and pulled back the drapes. It was dusk and the city lights were coming on behind her.
I recalled that crystal clear moment in Palma de Mallorca when we met:
Wine had been poured and the glass set on a terrace balustrade overlooking the sea facing westward. As I reached for it, the low angle of the day’s last rays of sun had illumined glass and burgundy creating gradients of the richest ruby light cast on my hand. I withdrew it to watch its shades of backlit alizarin crimson dance and darken within as the sun settled. Then I drank and savored the richness of a fine wine and lingering appreciation for the play of warm colors I’d just viewed. A breeze had picked up but didn’t hide the sound of footsteps on the stone behind me. I turned from my contemplation of the horizon. A Venus rising from the surf came onto the terrace from the last, lower, step. Her gown, the color of phosphorescent sea foam, accented the tawny texture of the tanned skin. A string of jewels, scarlet embers, draped her neck. The center, and largest, stone hung low and smoldered on the arc of her bosom. It rose and fell with each breath.
“I didn’t know anyone was up here.”
Her voice—a contralto—had a low, sad, note that struck me that she had come to the terrace to be alone… but didn’t want to be. I had felt the same way; not knowing why I’d chosen that particular hotel and weekend to go away. To be alone save for thoughts that questioned if life would ever lead me to someone to share it with.
She started to turn from me then paused. Usually a quiet person, I would have let her go without a word. But her gaze at the sun sinking, behind me, into the waters of the Balearic surrounding the islands; at the horizon with its dark band of orange-red melting into night-blue, made me change my mind. I turned back to see what had filled her eyes and caught my first glimpse of the moon’s rise.
“It’s beautiful,” I murmured. Soft music, a song, began to play from the bar a level below the terrace. ‘One Summer Night…’ the voice was crisp, distinct, cleaving the air as it rose to where we stood.
The singer was telling a story. “I love this sound…” I sensed more than heard her move closer. Side by side we watched as the song ended, another began, and the moon rode higher in a darkening sky. Without thinking, I turned to her, “May I have this dance?” and held out my hand. She looked at me, turned her face up to the moon and closed her eyes. For a moment she swayed or perhaps it was a caress of wind rustling the fabric of her dress. Her eyes opened, and I saw the sideways glance at my still outstretched hand. She took it and turned to me as my arms came up to hold her lightly at shoulder and waist. Under the late summer moon, we danced. The first in the beautiful night to come.
Now, seeing her years later in the fading light of another day a thousand miles from that terrace. I thought of how the wine had tasted when I waited for that sundown… and, without knowing it, for her. Her hair had lightened, now with streaks of gray that I found entrancing. The dark tan had long faded which made the scarlet fabric an even richer hue on her alabaster flesh. I watched as she moved in the waning light. She pirouetted, and I felt my heart turn with her. “I love you.”
She came to me, and I tasted her kiss… the first in the beautiful night to come.