Beyond Words

Contributor: John Laneri

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Dominique Episode - 4

Years ago, whenever I traveled to Italy on business, I generally found that coffee bars ranked high on my list of afternoon pleasures. It was an easy way to sit back, relax and watch the locals hurry past.

Thinking back, that's probably why I failed to notice her sitting at another table until the moment our eyes met.

Hers were brown with a hint of gold sparkling in the sunlight. Certain that I'd seen the eyes before, I looked again, my curiosity getting the best of me.

When she noticed me watching, she smiled pleasantly then looked away and reach for her coffee.

Intrigued, I continued to watch her, noting that like many women in Florence, she was dressed to perfection, wearing stylish heels and a fashionable outfit highlighted by a simple gold necklace.

Moments later, I caught her looking my way before quickly glancing to the side just as a hint of red colored her neck.

Certain that she had been watching me, I continued to wait, wondering if I'd get that second look. When she failed to confirm her interest, my thoughts drifted to an earlier relationship with a Parisian named Dominique, a love whose memory had haunted me for years.

When we initially met, our attraction had been immediate and so intense that we soon reached a level of passion that I thought impossible for two people to achieve. Much to my sorrow though, our relationship ended when she abruptly became engaged to another man for reasons I failed to understand.

Returning from my thoughts, I realized that the woman had moved away from her table. Searching around, wondering if I had missed her departure, I felt someone touch my shoulder.

“I hope you were looking for me.”

Turning about, I recognized the eyes, waiting for me to say something.

“I thought you had left,” I replied cautiously.

“May I join you?”

I indicated yes and watched her slide smoothly onto the chair beside me.

“You don't know who I am, do you?” she asked with a pleasant smile.

I had to look closely before suddenly saying, “Dominique!”

“The one and only.”

“You look different. Your hair is longer. Even the color is dark. I can't believe I didn't recognize you.”

“I've always wanted to be an Italian with shoulder length hair,” she said, as her fingers moved to brush the tips.

“I was just thinking of you, and I must say, you're more beautiful than I remembered, but why didn't you say something earlier? I was wondering how to approach you.”

“Do you still approach every woman you see?”

Laughing, I replied, “Actually no, but you did look familiar. I'm bashful when it comes to approaching women.”

“I know you better than that,” she remarked with a sly grin.

Changing the subject, I asked, “Why Italy? I thought you were planning to get married.”

“I did get married to Jacques but only for the sake of the family and at the insistence of my uncle. We lived together for a month before getting an annulment. We were both manipulated into a family business arrangement. It was horrid. Afterward, I moved to Italy, changed my looks and decided to make a new life for myself here in Florence.”

“I take it you succeeded.”

She smiled. “I have new friends, a steady job and a nice apartment.”

“But, you had a great life in Paris. The world was yours to take.”

She studied me for a moment. “You only saw the surface. As far as my uncle was concerned, I was merely a step-child repeatedly forced to do things that I knew were wrong. I should have left sooner.”

“I see that you are still wearing that gold necklace I gave you.”

She touched it, saying, “I'm never without it. I've thought of you so many times over the past five years. But, I was afraid to contact you. I didn't want to be hurt again.”

Later, we spent the evening together at a quiet restaurant where we continued to talk until the place closed.

Afterward, we strolled about the city savoring the flavor of history, but once our attraction began to experience its own reawakening, we retreated to her apartment where our desires ignited more explosively than either of us had remembered. It was as if we had rediscovered happiness and could not get enough to satisfy the joy we shared together.

For the next two weeks, we were seldom apart.

Three months later, after a back and forth romance between Europe and the States, we were married in Sienna where we remained for our honeymoon exploring the countryside and each other. Afterward, we returned to the states to begin a life together.

Now... some forty years later, I find myself on vacation, sitting at that same sidewalk cafe in Florence, recalling those earlier events and again admiring the woman beside me, who incidentally appears to be studying me with those same brown eyes while quietly trying to measure my thoughts.

She asks, “What were you just thinking?”

“I was thinking about how we met.”

“Like what specifically?”

“I was remembering the thrill I experienced when given another chance to reunite with the woman I fell in love with the moment we met.”

“I hope you were not disappointed.”

“By now, you already know the answer to that question.”

For a moment, I see that sparkle of gold reignite and light her features. It's one of the many ways she reminds me that our life together is filled with a sweetness that truly extends beyond words.

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John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several professional journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.
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