Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: TOURIST ATTRACTION(S) (natural or man-made) (08/06/15)
TITLE: The Venetian Flame
By Zacharia Fox
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In this drama we call marriage, we’re masters at playing our parts, I the husband and she the wife. We cherish these roles as an actor cherishes his prized performance. But a good actor, is still only an actor. I study her, remembering once this was more than a play.
We sit on the balcony of a familiar trattoria overlooking a sapphire river, sprinkled with gondolas. She taps her finger on the table between us, in sync with the Venetian troubadour’s mandolin. I remember the first time we were here.
I was a graduate student studying abroad, and she a second year art major here in Venice. When she spilled her breve on my suit and tie, I could’ve killed her. When she followed that act by laughing at me till she snorted, I fell in love. That was twenty-five years ago.
I watch her expression change several times as she reads some romance novel, and I wonder how we’ve become so mechanical. Somehow, after two careers, three kids and two-and-a-half decades, we’ve stopped learning one another.
When had our marriage been reduced to a mutual routine? When had I lost my sense of wonder over the little things? The way she bites her lip when she focuses on something, how she snorts when something is really funny, or how her nose scrunches when she’s irritated.
The sunset dances off the Grand Canal, highlighting the red tones in her hair, as she sips her coffee. When she turns the page, her cobalt eyes widen and her cheeks bunch in a smile. I grin as she starts twirling her hair with her finger, and for a moment I see that college student I fell for.
We’ve come to Venice on our anniversary to celebrate where it all started. I feel something here, now, similar to how I felt in the beginning; like a fire is catching.
An Italian man catches my eye as he stands. He totters around his table and offers his rumpled hand to a gray haired woman. She takes his hand with a soft smile, and he pulls her close. The two dance to the mandolin’s melody, chattering in Italian in between laughs.
I reach over the table and lower my wife’s book till I find her baby-blues studying me with a twinkle of curiosity.
I round the table and hold out my hand. Her lips thin in a smile. I’m not much of a dancer, so my two-step doesn’t quite match the troubadour’s cadence.
“You know if you wanted the ice broken, I could’ve just spilled coffee on you, for old times’ sake.” Katie giggles until she snorts.
“Is that still funny to you?” I chuckle and pull her close so our noses kiss. Her lips graze mine and I feel the warmth of her breath, before she lays her head on my shoulder.
We dance as the sun dips behind the dome of the Santa Maria della Salute, and the twilight paints the scene sherbet hues of pink and orange. When I place my hand on her beating heart, she kisses my neck.
Her hair wears the almost-pleasant scent of hair spray as my fingers trace the subtle curve of her cheek. My heart beats in tandem with the mandolin’s song as I marvel at the nuances that make Katie, Katie. The faint creases in her face testify to our years together, and yet her beauty is undaunted by the accusations of time and trend.
Chance doesn’t fuel a fire. Someone must decide to feed it in order for a flame to live on. I’ve decided our flame will live on. A moment captured, a fire fed, a romance rekindled.
Our fingers interlace, and when the song ends my heart is a Venetian flame.
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