Passegiatta Pt. 08byAdrian Leverkuhn©
©2008 by ©Adrian Leverkuhn
Margherita drifted in milky ways, her still loins afire, her solitary mind reeling free of merest earth, soaring in canyons of white cloud as cool air ran through her hair like a million naked fingers. She felt him still buried deep inside her, deep inside the womb of this night, as she swayed in cool currents of what had been a cradling sea. Her hand was resting on a dolphin's back, her mind in flight, now faraway. She began to feel the passage of time as something distinct yet unreal; it was as if she was drifting through time and space with this creature as her guide, or was he her guardian? Everything was clear to her one moment, the next she felt the anomie of cloudscapes vast and willowy with ambiguous purpose. Purpose and knowledge were unknowns in this landscape, she had was only the gray flesh of instinct by her side now, and nowhere was everywhere all around her.
Flat, bare trees rose from the withered backs of scorched plains far below as she sailed between white clouds in cobalt skies; a red church formed in the air beside her, deep red blood ran down baked stone steps, fell into parched soil miles below. Beings unknowable swam through the air, looking at her, looking at the fire in her womb. She became self conscious and humble, then proud and defiant. She yearned for independence and knowledge, longed to be as the clouds overhead, yet she understood her purpose as the keeper of this fire.
She was holder of the future.
She felt hands on her shoulder, fingers drifting through her hair, chills running down her spine like drops of cold rain. Words, his words, looking for her, searching the clouds, calling her name, coming for her on emerald wings.
She did not want to leave the clouds. There was so much she didn't understand. For one so willing there was so much more to explore.
She heard him calling her name again, or was it the wind?
Who? Who am I? Why am I here now?
Who was this man from that other world. This man who commanded nothing but her heart.
Tendrils of distant cloud held her fast to the dream.
"No . . . not yet . . ."
"Margherita? Come back to me?"
Still she resisted . . . "so much here to see . . . to understand . . ."
"Please . . . come . . ."
She felt cool hands on shimmering, water-kissed skin, warm words bathing her soul, caressing wounds she had long thought healed.
She opened her eyes.
He was there.
"Where are you?" Tom Goodwin asked. His eyes were kissed by fire, his soul buffeted by raging gales of doubt . . . and she saw clouds in his eyes . . . as if . . .
She could only shake her head, tears unbidden welled and dropped like soft rain on his chest, and she squeezed tightly with her arms and legs, held her loins on his need as if all life depended on this union. Could he understand? Could mere words reveal what she had seen, what she had felt? If words did not yet exist to reveal this landscape, how could even she understand what was to come?
"I'm alright," she heard herself say. "I was sleeping, dreaming . . ."
"So is our friend here."
She looked at the dolphin lying next to them. Its warm skin radiated unknown joy, its eyes were demurely fixed on both of them. The dolphin opened her mouth and water filled the pink-gray space, she closed her mouth and water spilled between her teeth back into the sea.
"What does that mean?" Margherita asked the dolphin. "Tell me."
The dolphin rolled her body around them and seemed to sing for a moment, then drifted through rocky pools back to the open sea.
"I do not understand," Margherita said softly. "I cannot see. Only shadow . . . "
"I can. You're cold and going into hypothermic shock. We've got to get moving."
"No. Stay . . . must go back . . . "
Goodwin slipped out of her, pulled her back to the shore, lifted her gently up onto cold rocks. Her body was glowing in soft blue-white hues under the fading moonlight; Goodwin could see the first amber streams of sunlight coming far off across the bay, and he gathered their clothes and helped her into them. He stood against the darkness, helped her stand and held her to his warmth, rubbed his warm body against hers, felt her flaccid muscles wilting in the cold beyondness . . .
"Come on, let's walk," he said as he led her through the rocks toward the gravel road.
Elsie was sitting up there on a wide flat rock by the side of the road; apparently she had been waiting for them. She came up to Goodwin and licked salt from his ankle, then fell in beside him as they all walked back to the village. The little springer stayed very close to Goodwin, almost protectively so.
They came to the quay, to Diogenes. Malcolm was sitting in the amber fingers of the sunrise, waiting, in the cockpit. He helped Goodwin and Margherita aboard, called down to Mary Ann. Tea and fresh-baked bread appeared, and Goodwin marveled at the prescience of true friends. The bread warmed Margherita, the tea restored the color to her face.
"I am so sleepy," she said.
"No doubt," Malcolm Doncaster said. "It's after six in the morning."
"You can sleep here," Mary Ann said, and Elsie growled.
"Let's get her over to Springer," Malcolm said, and Elsie jumped across to Goodwin's boat, circling anxiously and barking while she waited for them.
"Well, she seems to think that's a fine idea!" Mary Ann grumbled, now clearly a bit miffed.
"She's been sticking right to me ever since we got out of the water," Tom said.
Goodwin pushed the hatch back and helped Margherita down the steps, then into the shower. He went to the electric panel and flipped switches; back in the head he turned on the water and let it warm, then helped her out of her clothes.
"Oh God, that feels so good."
She held on to a grab rail and he rubbed her body with soap, massaged her back and neck, then her breasts and legs. Her head bowed as if in prayer, the hot water ran through her hair, down the cleft of her back; Goodwin continued to rinse her body until the water cooled, then he turned it off and began toweling her supple nakedness. She bent like a sapling in the breeze to his touch, her just warm skin now pliant and yielding; as clouds receded from mind she grew aroused and viciously hungry for other fires.
They backed out of the head and ducked into the aft cabin; Elsie looked at them expectantly then moved off to sit by the chart table.
Margherita pushed Goodwin down onto the berth and knelt between his leg, he began to speak and she silenced him once again while she wrestled with his shorts. She didn't pause, she simply took him in her mouth, and she tasted the remnants of their earlier joining through salt-washed skin, she swirled her tongue across the head and was satisfied when she felt him jump. She had never felt like this before, the intensity of her curiosity, the loss of whatever reserves she felt around this man -- all was collision and sundered in this rare air. All came to her as a flower opening to the sun, the thorns of passing roses tearing into her, willing her deeper and deeper into this new need.
She felt the man grow hard under her tongue. She felt need meeting need against the roof of her mouth, everything physical now as images of black trees and scudding clouds and wild magic tore through her. Moving ever faster as music ran through her hair like rain, as light danced through her soul like the coming of Spring, she opened her mouth to him and the river ran down her and through her, filling her with understanding and desire to know more and more. She crawled up his body and opened her mouth to his, let his seed mingle between tongues as she drifted up through sun drenched clouds again, then she closed her eyes and was glad to let sleep take her.
They surfaced for lunch, Elsie by Goodwin's side, and walked the few steps to the piazza and sat under the November sun on the terrace outside Vico's place. They ordered Campari and cheese from a young waiter, what fruit there was to be had, and some crusty bread. They ate silently, Vico came by once and went as quietly, respecting their need of this time to come to whatever understanding there was to be had from this union. He seemed concerned, almost fatherly to them both, as if he alone knew what had been commanded of them, and the sacrifices that had yet to be asked.
Elsie lay across Goodwin's feet - as if by the force of her will alone she was now holding him to the earth. She reminded him more and more of Sara, and he missed the old girl; Elsie looked up at him with those same liquid-brown eyes, and he knew she held his heart - beyond all human understanding - in her gaze.
As they ate Goodwin saw an artist nearby on the piazza sitting at her easel, and even from their table he could see Springer and Diogenes on the canvas. When they left their table he walked down to the water's edge and looked at the composition: under autumn skies the two boats lay to their moorings by the quay, clear skies and crisp winds rippled the water. Just aft of Springer seven dolphins formed a circle in the water.
He looked at the artist, an older woman -- perhaps in her seventies -- sitting on a wooden stool laying paint out on an ancient mixing board.
"Did you see dolphins in the harbor this morning?" he asked her after the shock faded.
"Oh yes," the woman said through a thick Scandinavian accent. "They were behind the boats for maybe ten minutes this morning. Very unusual, don't you think?"
"I'd like to buy this painting when you finish," Goodwin said. Elsie was at the easel looking up at the canvas, silently looking at the shifting colors in the sunlight.
"Ah. Well, you see, I do not paint to sell. This is just for my pleasure."
"You're very good if I may say so, but you see, that is my boat, and I, uh, have seen those dolphins before. I would very much like to have a painting to remember this by."
The woman turned to look at Goodwin, her silver eyes were most shockingly clear but could not hide the simple honesty of her face. She looked at Goodwin for a long while; it felt to him as if she was taking stock of him, seeing if was worthy of her experience.
Finally she bowed her head slightly. "Very well. Come back in an hour or so. If you like what you see, perhaps we can come to terms."
Goodwin smiled at the woman. "Alright, an hour then." He turned to walk away and Margherita and Elsie fell in beside him. They walked away from the boats, along the opposite side of the harbor, until they came to a jewelers. Goodwin walked to the window, saw a white gold necklace with a dolphin pendant attached; he went inside and asked to see it. Elsie came right in with them.
"Do you like it?" he asked Margherita.
She held the necklace to her chest and looked at her reflection in a mirror the proprietress held up to her. "It's lovely," Margherita said. "Truly very lovely."
Goodwin fished some euros from his pocket and gave them to the woman, then helped Margherita fasten the chain behind her neck. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. Margherita blushed, for obviously in such a small town she was no stranger to the woman. They walked back out into the fading sun; Goodwin could see the woman still painting by the water at the head of the harbor.
"I need a hat!" he said out of the blue. Elsie looked up at him with puzzled eyes.
"Yes, a hat! My head is going to get cold. Winter's just around the corner, and I don't have a hat!"
"Come," Margherita said, and she led him across the piazza, then up a small lane. She stopped at a window display overflowing with hats of every description. "Presto! Avanti!"
They went into the little shop; an ancient man came out from behind an emerald curtain, saw Margherita and smiled. Goodwin could not keep up with the staccato bursts of Italian that filled the close shop, but more than once he thought the old man looked like the Wizard of Oz. Margherita turned once to Goodwin and he could just make out a word or two about winter and a few disparaging words about men growing bald from her. The old man laughed, took Goodwin by the arm and led him to a shelf full woolen berets.
"These not so undistinguished for you?" the man asked. "Try the camel color."
Goodwin did, and they all laughed. Margherita covered her eyes.
"What about those," he asked, pointing to some broad rimmed berets on an upper shelf.
"Those common in Catalan. Mountains around Barcelona. Religious men. Not so much here, but very practical."
"How 'bout a black one?"
The man got a step-ladder and climbed up and handed one down to Goodwin. It fit perfectly, and felt wonderful.
"This'll be the one!" he said. Elsie looked at Goodwin and barked.
Margherita fired off another burst and the two laughed together for a log while. Goodwin paid and thanked the man; they walked back toward the piazza, the sun was now well down and casting long shadows on the water. They walked out onto the piazza and saw the woman was gone.
Goodwin frowned. Elsie barked, they turned to see her pointing at a café.
"There she is," Margherita said, "getting coffee in the bakery."
They walked to the café and into the warmth and took a seat next to the painter, and again Elsie planted herself across Goodwin's feet.
"I'm sorry I could not wait, but my hands..." she held out her fingers -- they were white now, her hands apparently numb from the chilling air.
Goodwin took her hand in his and looked at it closely. He pressed his thumb against one of her fingernails, watched it color; then did it again while he looked at his wristwatch. He looked at her blue-tinged lips, then into her eyes.
"Yes, I know," the woman said. "There is nothing to be done, or so they say. I am an old woman, they say, and this is my life." She looked wistfully at Goodwin. "So, you are a physician?"
"Well, here is your painting. What do you think?"
Goodwin was astonished. It was a Monet in texture and color, very much an impressionist's work, and revealed a great talent. He looked at the woman and was surprised to see her crying.
"What . . ."
"Oh, Doctor, it was just the expression on your face. No artist could wish for more."
"I really must pay you something for it. It wouldn't be right . . ."
She looked at him for a moment longer, as if making up her mind.
"Alright," she finally said. "This is my price, and it is non-negotiable. I want you to take me sailing on your boat."
Goodwin smiled. "That would be my honor."
"You see, I have not been sailing since I was a little girl, with my father, near Orust. I would love to feel the sun on my face, the wind in my hair . . ."
"You have only to name the day, and we're yours."
"I am staying at the inn across the way," she said, pointing. "I will be here until Spring, so any day the sea looks promising, let me know. Room forty three." The woman's face sparkled now, her eyes animated by the simple joy of a faraway summer's day plain to see, as if joy itself had once been etched within her very soul.
"Will do. By the way, my name is Tom Goodwin, and the boat is named Springer."
"I see. Perhaps for your friend here?" She leaned over and rubbed Elsie's head. "Call me Trudi," she said as she held out her small hand. "And if I may, I need to put a few finishing touches on this, and some varnish. A few days at most."
"Well, I can't thank you enough, Ma'am . . ."
"Trudi now, please, Tom."
He smiled. "Yes. Just so. Thank you, Trudi. I'll treasure this forever, I promise."
"Forever is a long time you know, for such a promise, Tom Goodwin," she said. Her silver eyes seemed alive with sudden purpose. "Or perhaps not."
Goodwin looked at her again. The old man . . . a wizard? This woman alluding to . . . what? "Yes, perhaps it is as you say. Let me say then that your work has touched me. Will that suffice?"
"Oh yes, Tom Goodwin. You will make an old woman's heart sing once again!" Her radiant eyes seemed to grow more alive with each passing moment. Margherita took Goodwin's hand.
"Well . . ." he began.
"Yes, you must go now. The night awaits." Her smile lingered as they turned to leave.
They walked out of the bakery into deepest evening, Goodwin's floppy beret making a huge hit with people just out now for Passeggiata. Only Elsie seemed to have reservations about the hat; she looked at him now with the hat on and turned away, then sneezed twice.
"Tom, I must go to my apartment tonight. I have to work tomorrow."
"I know." He looked away. "Well, you could stay with me? We could go and get some of your things?"
"Tom, this is a small village, and I would try to do nothing to shame my family. . ."
"I know . . . uh, understand."
"No, Tom, please do not feel sad about this. This is not America."
"Right. How about dinner later? At Vico's?"
"I'll see you there at eight, alright?" She squeezed his hand.
"Yes." He felt the skin of her skin on his soul, wanted to know that touch for all time. He could not bring himself to let go even as he felt her pulling away.
"And bring your girlfriend!" Margherita said, bending down to scratch Elsie's ears. The Springer moaned and rolled her eyes back as she zoned out to the bliss-zone, and they both laughed.
"See you in a little while, Tom. And thank you," she said as she lifted the pendant from her chest. "It means something, yes?"
"Yes. Very much. It means . . ."
"Tom," she said gently. "Not now. We must talk later. We have much to say."
She turned and walked around a corner and was gone.
Elsie looked up at the hat and sneezed - again.
"I know, girl. I know."
He walked back to the boat, his shadow trotting along by his feet.
"Hey, Tom, glad you got back now; there's a big storm brewing, coming across from the east." Malcolm watched as Tom and Elsie came aboard Diogenes. "Harbormaster came by an hour ago and said we'd probably better head over to Rapallo tomorrow morning, before this thing hits."
"When's it due?"
"Late afternoon, earliest."
"It's only a couple of miles over, right?"
"Just a gnat's ass less than three. Right."
"When you gonna head out?"
"I'd say 0800 or thereabouts." Malcolm reached down and scratched Elsie behind the ears. "She been with you all day? Mary Ann was getting a little green about this, you know?"
"Yeah. Been sticking right to me -- all damn day long -- like stink on shit."
"Never mind. Uh, we'll have to move too, right? You can't move until I do, isn't that about the size of it?"
"Right. We could move across together; it's a lovely trip over, you know. Will you have someone with you?"
Goodwin knew Doncaster was thinking about Margherita, but in fact Goodwin was thinking of Trudi. "Not sure. Maybe, but I'll have to check first. Wanna come up to Vico's for dinner?"
"Ah, no. Mary Ann picked up something at the market. She might like to see her dog, though, if you don't mind."
"Hey! I didn't ask her to tag along!" Goodwin thought the comment a little brusque. "Please! Be my guest!"
"Now, now, Tom. Didn't mean anything by . . ." but Goodwin had already scooted across to Springer and was down the hatch before Doncaster could finish his sentence.
Goodwin walked over to the electric panel and shut off the water maker and checked the battery charge from his solar panels, then hopped into the shower and stood under the hot water for a couple of minutes, then washed his hair -- all the time thinking about how good it had felt to hold her hair in his hands, to feel slippery warm soap running through her hair, the water splashing on his skin . . .
He dressed and walked over to the little inn and had the reception buzz Trudi's room; she came down and Goodwin told her about the plan to sail the boats to Rapallo tomorrow morning. "I'm single-handing, so I'd be glad to have the company," he finished saying.