Heart of the Sunrise Ch. 04byAdrian Leverkuhn©
(Note: The first part of the Sonata appeared under the title "Woman in Chains"; the second part as "The Stones of Years".)
Naples and the Molo Beverello fell astern; the white cliffs of Capri lay ahead across a smooth, blue sea. The hydrofoil cut through the easy chop like a knife, men and women sleek and tan stood on the aft deck leaning back on teak rails, sunning themselves, lost in the idle concerns of the sun-borne. Deck-hands coiled lines while waitresses from the bar fanned out offering Campari and Pellegrinos. Two wispy plumes drifted from Vesuvius across an otherwise perfectly clear sky.
Ina Balinski sat in the boat's austere passenger cabin beside Tracy Tomlinson and her sister Becky; the motion inside wasn't exactly uncomfortable but any waterborne conveyance made Balinski green, and the foil's peculiar motion was no exception. She looked at the twins and noted that both still seemed to inhabit some other dimension; they both – to her – appeared transiently psychotic... like schizophrenics fighting too much Thorazine. She could only shake her head at the chain of events that had led her to this sun-drenched sea.
The whole affair, from Tomlinson's queer awakening to Misha Podgolskiv's equally perturbing revelation about the 'woman in chains' had been profoundly unsettling to Balinski. That she had been Leonard Berensen's confidante and off-and-on lover for twenty years had only served to confuse her more.
Who was this woman? What did she want?
More importantly, just what the hell was she? What had happened to her?
Nothing made sense, least of all Leonard's role in all this.
She looked at Misha doing his best to play the role of the sleek European industrialist and stifled another laugh; he succeeded at little more than looking a minor pretender –which, she had garnered from long experience, was in word and deed all he had ever been, and perhaps would ever be.
But Ina Balinski had never known the true depth of Misha's betrayal, and perhaps never would. Had she understood the full nature of the peculiar history gathering around them all as the shuttle sped toward Capri it was unlikely she would have facilitated this reunion. She had worked long and hard to protect Leonard's anonymity, and to isolate him from his brother's corrosive smallness.
As things stood now her role in this little drama might have been complete if not for her overwhelming love for Berensen, her desire to be with him always. That he seemed oblivious to her need only heightened her desire. Her limited understanding of the man had helped construct a Promethean edifice out of the man, and she had shared that towering image of the man with the world; Berensen's reputation rested on his music, to be sure, but reputations are all too often manufactured and embellished to suit commercial needs, and his reputation had been in her capable hands ever since his surprise emergence from the Soviet Union thirty years ago. She had shaped and molded his public persona as surely as any sculptor could have; for Ina Balinski the dividing line between truth and edifice had long been too blurred.
She felt eyes boring into her, actually felt her flesh burning under the flashing intensity of Tracy Tomlinson's stare, and she turned to look at the young woman again.
The blank stare was gone now, the woman's ghostly pallor had given way to verdant, almost virulent femininity, and the power now manifest in the woman's eyes was frankly breathtaking – and sobering.
"What are you?" Ina Balinski said, though she was unaware she had spoken aloud.
"I am times."
Tomlinson's face remained fixed on hers for a moment longer, then the flat mien returned – and all was as before.
"Times?" Balinski said aloud. "Times?"
All she heard was the roar of engines and air rushing by, the present rushing past on its way to memory.
She closed her eyes and gasped as a huge star formed in the blackness. Winged fingers of fire seemed to reach out for her, and she was aware of wanting to run.
She felt the fingers reach into the very core of her being, and instinctively she knew her life was at an end.
"Why? Why now?" she heard a voice saying, and she was faintly surprised to realize it was her voice drifting in time.
She watched as worlds of blue water and white clouds receded and gave way to blackness once again, and she smiled as her eyes filled with the light of ten billion suns.
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