Saturday, November 14, 2009
It all happens so quickly. You move to beautiful, breathtaking, sunny Sardinia with Kevin, the man you chose to marry twelve years ago - Kevin of Celtic blood and temperament. In Sardinia, you find a quaint house overlooking the coast in an expatriate neighborhood and move into it with Kevin and Alexa, your ten-year-old daughter with a sunshine smile. Life is good, your freelance photography career is going well, and you are happy in every sense of the word.
One day, shortly after you have moved into your new home, they come to tell you, "You must leave this house at once. The landlord has passed away and his heirs are reclaiming their property. Apologies for the inconvenience, naturally."
You think to yourself, Is being kicked out of my home considered a mere inconvenience? And you ask them, "Is there any way this can be avoided?"
They look at you with false pity and say, "Signora, the property must be returned to the heirs for them to do with as they see fit. You have twenty-four hours to collect your belongings. We pray that such time will be sufficient." And they depart, the tails of their expensive attorney blazers flapping in the breeze.
So you start to think, Why is this happening? But before the thought has come full circle in your conscious mind the doorbell rings once more. Now what?
"Hello, I'm Leslie Branch." Her sun-streaked chestnut hair is in a ponytail, and her warm honey eyes, which seem to be smiling at you, are glowing like two tongues of flame. "I'm your neighbor from across the street. I just came to tell you that if you need a place to stay while you find a new home, you're welcome to stay with me."
You thank her profusely, wondering how she ever found out, and you tell her that she's very kind but that there are three of you, and you couldn't possibly impose upon her privacy in such a manner. You are very proper while speaking, and she is watching your face very intently. You become self-conscious, wondering, Did I pluck the hairs above my upper lip or can she see them?
"Oh, don't be silly," she says to you, and you think she's talking about the hairs. But of course, she's talking about the fact that even if there were five, six, even seven of you, there's plenty of room in her house. "And you're welcome to stay for as long as you want. Let me give you a house tour."
So she takes you by your wrist and leads you. Her hand is warm around yours, but it is also strong and callused. And all the time you are thinking, These are not the hands of a woman.
"Please don't mind my hands," she says, and you jump because you assume she is reading your mind. But of course, she is merely apologizing for having grabbed you with such force.
And now you are standing in her entrance, greeted by the pleasant aroma of baking orange scones, preparing to take your first step into what might be home for a while, until you and Kevin and Alexa can find your own place.
"Don't be shy. You can't afford to be if you stay with me," says Leslie, while you reluctantly survey your surroundings, taking in the deep earth tones of the walls and the elaborate but monstrous crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. You also take in the portraits of various stunningly attractive women which adorn the walls, and you ask Leslie, "Who are they?"
And she says, nonchalantly, "Oh, just friends," as she grabs you by your wrist again and leads you upstairs so she can show you to your room. You follow, like a pressured teenager.
Soon, you are standing in the doorway of an enormous room with an antique four-poster mahogany bed, crimson velvet wallpaper, and another sparkling monstrosity hanging from the ceiling. The walls are decorated with gilt-framed ceiling-to-floor mirrors.
Something twists inside you, like a key in a lock.
You start to back out of the room but Leslie is standing directly behind you, her crotch to your ass. You begin to tremble, and she tries to calm you, her breath in your ear, telling you that there is no reason to be afraid, and that inside of every woman this is what she really wants, what she spends a lifetime searching for subconsciously. You find yourself nodding like an imbecile as you are taken by the hand once more. And even though the sun outside glows golden in the clear blue sky and, in the distance, the waters of the Emerald Coast shimmer, in your head, your gut, your heart, the sun sets on Alexa's smile.