For a moment I stood, the alien to these two glittering creatures, feeling partly like an ignorant fool and partly like a hero in a myth who had united an ancient king and queen who were separated by a curse. And it felt wonderful and it felt terrible. I wanted to belong, but knew I didn’t. Still, they thought I did, or so it seemed.
“Come in!” Gabriel returned, a youthful patriarch still amused by my reticence but indicating his patience was finite. He was the young scion of the newly born empire and was not inclined to wait on the comfort of his lessers.
I obeyed. For that was what it was. I was being carried on a tide far greater than myself in that moment. My curiosity, my skills, my ideas, had all brought me inexorably to this point, in a well-appointed, almost opulent penthouse towering over the city, with two fallen angels greedy for each other but tolerant of me. Maybe even a bit grateful to me.
Gabriel ushered us over to the dinner table and motioned for us to sit. The table was arrayed with salads and cold meats, all presented with obviously but discretely expensive silverware and crockery. I wondered what Gabriel did to make a living, and one so fine as this. Perhaps his talent had given him a plush lifestyle, or perhaps he’d inherited it. This part of town was full of young men and women with nothing much to distinguish themselves other than healthy inheritances or trust funds. Which was Gabriel? A self-made young man, or one well born? He looked youthful but I suspected he was actually about my age (which isn’t that old really!) but older than than Natalie. He had an unworried air about him and the sense of ‘to the manor born’ which made me suspect he was the latter of the two.
Gabriel poured champagne into our glasses and raised his for the toast.
“To finally meeting!” he said, smiling at Natalie and then turning to me. “And to our resourceful go-between!”
We clinked glasses and drank. It seemed the distrust I had sensed in my phone call from Gabriel had receded before the force of the success of our venture. He was largesse rather than suspicion. Natalie was shaking a bit, but I didn’t feel this was fear. She was like a little girl at her first real birthday party. She kept looking at Gabriel like he was some sort of special prize, then looking to me and clutching my hand, over and over, as though to ask me to confirm her beliefs. I felt a bit jealous, but I was glad to be included, and I was happy to see her happy.
Bloody altruism and affection. My Achilles heel.
“What do you do for a living Gabriel?” I asked into the self-satisfaction that was forming around me, almost sickeningly so. “What pays for all of this?”
He looked around as though seeing his own apartment for the first time. His eyes settled on paintings that were clearly originals, on elegant vases holding fresh flowers, on the leather lounge and chairs, the glass coffee table, the expensive and minimalist home entertainment system.
“Not much,” he admitted, “I was born into money.”
“I thought so,” I said.
“It’s that obvious then?” he asked, amused.
“Well, to me, yes. I have an eye for these things.”
“You certainly have an eye.” He agreed. We were testing each other, two men in a pissing contest. I wasn’t going to win, but then, I don’t think before I act, as I’ve said before. I wanted to show off for Natalie.
Natalie! I remembered her in that moment. Gabriel and I both looked at her at the exact same moment, but while I was relieved to still be able to see and remember her, that the communion hadn’t broken by engaging directly with Gabriel, he seemed secure and amused.
“I still see you Natalie,” he said, as though he had read my mind at least, and probably hers.
“And I see you,” she replied, “It lasts, in and of itself, after the introductions.”
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved