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CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.
She was sure she had never seen a face more beautiful on a man.
Eyelashes, long and feathered, awning the clearest green eyes and anchored by a perfect, straight nose just like her brother’s. Moist, satin skin. Silkened hair that hovered between honey and chestnut, wavy or curled, it didn’t matter. Pink lips, ready to deliver.
He’d entered the family restaurant with his taller, lankier cohort, the two of them fresh from a night shift at the paper mill, right around 4:30 am when the world was empty. Only the Skunk Lady remained, on her lone, dimly lit trek down the middle of the main commercial street, pushing her grocery cart filled with dirty laundry. On that morning, even the town’s first homeless woman would not contaminate the radiance of his beauty by any need to wash her undies in the restroom sink.
She’d leaned against the table edge, looking down toward his face as he gazed upward directly into hers. He bore the bold fearlessness of overwhelming physical perfection, and no matter at all that he knew it.
The first date was set for the other side of town, closer to the neighborhood of her birth. They would pick up a pizza, ride it back to her apartment on the lower east side in his matte black Monte, play a little backgammon, have a little taste, and part their ways.
They’d have sat, waiting for the pizza, while he told her he’d been engaged to be married but, lately, on hiatus. He’d have said that his fiancee didn’t want to see other people, but he’d made it clear that he did. He’d looked fondly at her face, mentioning how cute he found her two tiny moles on each cheek. His fiancee had one right in the middle of her nose, he’d said, as he placed the point of his finger there. A rare beauty, unaware of his own fascination with flaw.
Their second date was scheduled for his apartment, someplace on Blackberry or one of the other west side streets named for indigenous trees. She would not yet be familiar with these, still living on hers among those named for American Generals on the lower east side. She would remember a homogeneous row of red brick flats, his indistinguishable among the rest.
They’d sat on the sofa, first, just to have a foreplay of conversation. He would be a beauty, after all, not one to mar a scenario with brute hustle. Did she want something to drink, tea perhaps? She’d declined; it was early morning, the end of their shift, and later she would want to sleep easily.
Perhaps a bit of guilt, perhaps grace, probably love, he again spoke of his fiancee. They’d best be discreet; there’d been hurt.
Beauty, enhanced by gentle compassion. Given to talk, he would elucidate. The story flexed; his fiancee’s full name emerged.
At the sound of it, she turned, repeating the last name aloud. That name was newly familiar to her. It was shared by yet another fiancee: her brother’s, a woman with a young daughter. Could the two be related?? Feeling her heart start, she besought him.
His chest sank. He looked at her, then stared, straight ahead. A small, ironic smile tested his face, and he shook his head slowly. He asked her how well she knew this woman with the same name.
She told him. He stood up. Walking toward the kitchen to refresh his tea, he began the story of a lifetime.
They were, indeed, related – by marriage. His fiancee had been the wife to the woman’s husband’s brother, a union which came to an abrupt end when, arriving home from work, she’d discovered the husband in bed with another. The woman in the bed was the woman of whom she herself spoke – her own brother’s betrothed.
She could not recount how many minutes passed, thereafter. Perhaps a fleeting recollection of her mother’s favorite soap opera. She could not say how long she lay, in his room, staring over his left shoulder at the framed photograph on the bureau, the nose mole faintly visible from across the room. Perhaps two minutes, maybe less. She did, however, clearly retain the memory, for a time worthy of eternity, of a physical encounter mutually aborted.
They’d stood, huddled in the morning chill on the interior stairwell alongside the flat. He’d suggested that they tell no one; she’d agreed. They’d be buddies, forever, he’d said. They’d made the pact, right there and then.
She was never sure she ever saw him again. But, she kept her part of the pact. For fifteen years, she held the heaviest family secret ever in the world, deep in the recesses of her soiled subconscious.
Her brother married the woman with the same name. They had children of their own. A few years later the woman’s first child, a budding beauty in her own right, endured a crisis and was hospitalized.
Though the family was living in the area at the time, the news reached her through a friend. Contacting the child’s parents, she was told to stay away – that the crisis, brought on by the child, herself, was a cry for attention which should be duly ignored. But, feeling emotionally overwrought, and taking on their inferred blame, she went to the hospital anyway.
There was only one other visitor, that day. In a moment of silent understanding and acceptance, they embraced.
This time, the mole on her nose was only inches away.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 12/2/16 All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Absolutely no scraping, onion skinning, lifting, copying, pasting, reprinting, or reblogging permitted. Thank you for protecting this piece, and all other pieces at this blog.