Storms raged within Zelda. Even though seven years had passed, her dichotomous relationship with Beno still reverberated in her gut. In contrast to what she had once thought, the young man that had overwhelmed her with his confessions of love was still an active part of her life, knitted like yarn into her heart. The intensity of their love grew stronger with each passing year.
True, she’d always been a joyful, adventurous person and a hopeless optimist that loved unconditionally, but when she’d turn fifty-five, she’d tried to keep these characteristics hidden. Such traits didn’t become a woman of her age; her friends told her. Meeting Beno changed that. He unlocked the door to those traits and threw away the key. Now, they bubbled over everywhere.
Zelda contemplated as she sat at the table in the back corner facing the street. That’s what lovers do at Café Terrace, Beno had once told her. They order coffee, or a latte, sweet, with a shot of whiskey, or a Cognac and wait on their love ones.
Zelda sipped her coffee and closed her eyes. “Delicious,” she murmured and opened her eyes to look at the crowd and see if she could pick Beno out. She would know him anywhere.
Above her head, the clouds had darkened. A storm was gathering, and she hoped he would arrive soon. She wanted to enjoy what little time they had.
No call, no email, just a one-line text with five words: Meet me at half-past four, had thrown her into a tempest to get things done so she wouldn’t be late.
Zelda leaned against the back of her chair at the Café Terrace. Her watch said half-past four. She frowned.
Beno, where are you?
Hanging her head low, memories of the times they had sat in the same spot warmed her heart. She was grateful for those afternoons. Beno would whisper sweet nothings to her as she drank her cappuccino, and he, his café with whiskey. They never paid attention to the passers-by. Time didn’t permit them to dream about what others were thinking or doing.
The secrecy that required Beno to duck into a crime-infested underworld to ensure justice shaped their relationship, making them mindful of each other, caring beyond the petty, meaningless cliché of a simple I love you.
Was that what Van Gogh needed too, Zelda thought. Someone to care for him as she and Beno cared for each other.
She lowered her head and wiped away unexpected tears. She wanted Beno to remember her laughter, not her tears. She represented his safe haven.
Beno moved swiftly toward his destination, thinking, first, a long French kiss and then a café with a triple shot of whiskey, and afterward, the hotel nearby. He picked up his pace. They didn’t have time to return to their home. As he neared the café, his expectancy rose.
A twelve-month drop behind an iron wall of silence meant sporadic or no news from the woman he loved. Unlike any other, Zelda had proven to him that some things were worth looking forward to. He always departed with the desire to return, to be near her. Her chubby hips and the way she rested her hands on them when angry, her dark chocolate skin that reminded him of his favorite chocolate mousse, her coarse nappy Afro that gave her the regal look of a queen drew him into a world different than what he worked in and made him forget the ugliness he encountered.
His hand went to the breast pocket of his jacket. His fingers rubbed the tiny pouch which held a small trinket for his Zelda. Something he hoped would take away the sting of his having to go away so soon. He usually had more time with her, but the recent deaths in another team had caused alarm, and his team had been chosen on short notice to slip into a world that so many ordinary citizens knew nothing about to find out what went wrong. Before he left, though, he needed to see her sweet round face with her hazelnut eyes sparkling with laughter. It would help him maintain his mental stability while away.
Would she dye her hair again? He asked himself. He liked her grey strands. They displayed her wisdom and made her look like a queen––his queen. Would she lose weight? He hoped not. The last time he disappeared for nine months, he’d come back to find her fifteen pounds lighter. Not good. He fattened her up at once.
Beno stopped in the middle of the crowd, scoping out the Café Terrace, barely taking notice of the people who walked past him. There she was, hardly noticeable but exactly where they always sat. He crossed over. As he approached the table, Zelda was the only person who registered in his awareness. Twelve-month and three days would be an awfully long time to be separated from the love of his life. She sat there, oblivious to his presence. Her head hung down, her medium-sized Afro standing tall, twinkling at him.
“Are you sitting alone, Madame?”
Zelda lifted her head and jumped up. The chair fell backward, and Beno took her in his arms, captured her mouth, and took his French kiss.
Thank you for reading and all the best.