Gianluigi arms embraced the window sill. His head bent looking down at the empty street.
The quietness didn’t alarm him. The two street lamps that shone in darkness comforted. The shadowed forms that mirrored them reminded him of the difference between life and death, between high and low, between deep and trivial. Soon he and his three team members would venture out into the vast unknown, not knowing the end until it was over.
The street lamps flickered. The shadows too. Life is like a flickering lamp. Its depth unexplored until you face the ultimate sacrifice. Emotions too deep rose within him. Her fragrance, like a wisp, slivered up his nose causing his mind to wander away from its Moorish thoughts. As if he were looking through a slide projector, pictures of her flashed before his eyes, bringing back the pleasant memories of their last night together. His Gretta, the woman who stirred up his desire to return or her melancholy of loss if he didn’t.
A breeze from an open door entered the room. Not moving, Gianluigi didn’t look to see who had opened it. He knew who it was and waited for the question that was always asked. It had become their good luck charm. Just knowing that he had done it, had somehow become a placebo for his team and gave them the assurance to walk out into the deep, darkness where they played for the highest of stakes, their lives.
“Have you called Gretta?” Gabino asked, making himself known.
“Are you going to call her?”
Gianluigi turned and moved away from the window. He regarded his dear friend and partner.
“I don’t know yet,” he answered. “I know she’s not asleep. She never sleeps when I’m away on duty. She catnaps,” and he grunted before he continued, “It’s her way of battling the fear of losing me.”
“What are our chances, GL? Gabino asked, calling him by his pet name.
A sliver of laughter escaped Gianluigi’s mouth before he said, “As always poor to middle. The big guns will lift us out, dead or alive, if we get hit.”
“Like last time,” Gabino said. “It took them forever to get in. Another quarter of an hour and we would have been gone.”
“I know,” said Gianluigi. “I wasn’t ready to depart.”
“Are you ever ready, GL?” Gabino asked as he looked at Gianluigi. Gabino took his special handkerchief out of his pocket and blotted his forehead as he waited for Gianluigi to answer.
Gianluigi gazed at the sweat drops threatening to run down Gabino’s forehead. The more he wiped, the faster they appeared.
“No, never ready but assured that I’m doing the right thing. Living my life to protect others.” He walked to his bed and pulled out the case that held his rifle from under the bed. “Where are Paolo and Carlos?”
“They’re coming,” Gabino said. “They’ve just finished talking to their wives.”
“Good. Have you talked to Tessa?”
“I did that before I came to you,” Gabino said, laughing.
“Alright. Give me five minutes, and we meet at the door, suited up to take our hostage.”
“So, you’re going to call her.”
“Yes. She’s a part of me, and I want her to know that.”
When Gianluigi took out his mobile, Gabino left his room.
Gretta sat in his chair. Twice, she had closed her eyes to catnap. Both times, she had failed. Her sleep, elusive, was neither here nor there since her marriage to the thirty-nine-year-old agent, Gianluigi Battisto, whom she had promised to love till death parts them. Since she had given that promise, she seldom slept when he was away.
Her mobile rang once. “When do you leave out?” she asked anxious to hear his voice. His call meant that they were mentally connected to each other. For her, that was a good omen, and sitting in his chair, she lifted her face upward and said a silent prayer. Her life had changed. The introspective and reserved man who had very little to say had demanded her heart, and she had given it to him.
“As soon as I hang up. I take it you’re in my office,” he said, not really asking. She seldom varied her routine when he wasn’t around. She spent the majority of her time in his office. She ate and slept there instead of around the large oval table in the dining room of their seven-room condo.
“As always,” Gretta said, feistily. He laughed, and she relished the sound of his laughter. It was alive. He was alive. For now. She suppressed the desire to scream, don’t leave me alone, and she closed her eyelids to stop the impending tears. Silence hovered between them.
“Where do you want to celebrate your birthday, my sweet invincible Gretta?“
“I’ll wait until you get back and then we’ll talk about it. After all, who celebrates birthdays when they’ll be fifty-five?” And she choked the sob that tried to escape her throat. “You’re the one that’s invincible, my sweet.”
“I love you, Gretta,” he said. “It’s time to go,” and he hung up.
She held the mobile in her hand. He hadn’t given her time to say, I love you too. The tears that she’d held back fell, and she laid her head against his comfy chair and cried herself into a crazy nap where bullets whiz by her head and men screamed while women cried.
Her mobile rang. She thought it was in her dream until she felt the vibration in her hand. The face of her mobile said, Gianluigi Battisto.
“Gianluigi?” she whispered, stunned.
She heard the laughter in his voice. “Who else would be calling you at the break of day?”
“I’m hungry,” he said. “What time is breakfast?”
“Is everyone well?” she asked, holding her breath as she waited for his answer.
“We’re bruised and tired, but we’re all well.”
“Thank God,” she murmured. “Come home, I’m waiting.”