Alchemist Gift continued: “Holy crap, sorry about that!” A surge of adrenaline caused him to flush and his heart pounded. He looked down at Lila’s legs again and then away. ”Whew.”
“Don’t be sorry, you can look all you like.” Lila smiled and opened the window and gave a throaty chuckle. She had her panties on her finger tips and tossed them out the window. “And just like that, woo-woo.” The breeze came through the window and billowed under her dress. “That cold air feels so yummy down there and on my legs too. I’ve got goose bumps, feel.” She took Roland’s hand and slowly guided it up and down her thigh.
Roland swallowed hard. “Lila, you know, I’ve got a girlfriend.” Roland allowed Lila to continue to guide his hand. She brought it closer and closer to her crotch and then suddenly tossed his hand into his lap.
“So what, there’s a boyfriend out there somewhere. This is just between us, you and me, right now.” She pulled her dress down a little and leaned her head on Roland’s shoulder.
Roland found it difficult to resist being swept up in the moment. Not in his wildest dreams could he have come up with a scenario that included explaining himself to his mousey girlfriend in the morning to rescuing this amazingly hot, mysterious woman sitting next to him and having close to half a million dollars’ worth of gold in the back seat of his car all by that same evening.
“Take the Palm Street exit and go right.” Lila snuggled in a little closer and rested her hand on Roland’s inner thigh. He felt the heat from her hand. “Does this make you feel better?” She let her hand linger in his lap and gave his crotch soft little pats.
“Oh yeah, you feel great.” Roland had to catch his breath.
Lila leaned away from Roland and sat in the center of her seat. She folded her hands in her lap and gave the instructions. “We’re going to go about three miles. Right after the grade school you’ll see it on your left. I’ve got my secret little hideaway at Bayside Arms.”
“I actually know where that is. My aunt and uncle used to live there.”
They continued down the brightly lit causeway. The vertical shadows of the street lamps rolled across the windshield. He quickly glanced to his left; the moonlight played on the crest of the breaking waves. Roland knew they were getting close and he slowed down.
“Now take the second driveway.”
Roland started to turn.
“No, take the second driveway; you’re going to park in space 201.”
He corrected and entered the next driveway and easily found the space. Roland parked the car. Lila got out, opened the back door and grabbed the brief case. When Roland came around to her side of the car she handed the briefcase to him to carry.
“So, this is what a half a million dollars feels like.” It wasn’t that heavy.
Lila carried her shoes in one hand and her purse in the other.
“Follow me.” She looked over her shoulder and smiled. Roland smiled back. She swiped her ID card through the reader at the front door. The lock clicked and lights automatically came on. They entered.
The living room was large. The fireplace mantle was decorated with a beautiful cloisonné vase in a glass case flanked by a set of silver Renaissance candle sticks. The lighted painting over the mantle caught Roland’s eye. Lila gently took the brief case from Roland. He barely noticed she had. He was entranced by the antique chairs the bronze castings and the mid-century design furniture. Lila tucked the briefcase away behind the drapery which hid it quite nicely.
“This looks like a Miro.” He studied the signature. “I’ve never seen this one before.” Roland had his hands clasped behind his back and craned his neck to the left and right as he studied it.
“Well, that is a Miro. It belonged to my mom. One of her relatives was in Europe during World War Two and he brought it back with him. Now it belongs to me. Yeah, and the furniture is original too. Louie 14th settee and there’s a couple of side chairs from some Bavarian Duke Gunter, or somebody or other. I like these better.” Lila pointed to an inviting black leather Eames chair and footstool.”
“These things are so cool; I’ve only seen things like these in museums or books.” Roland was wide eyed and impressed.
“Yeah, they’re alright. I see them every day.” Lila picked a remote control off the granite countertop and dimmed the lights. She crossed the room and settled into the corner of a plush leather sofa, put her legs up and stretched out, catlike. She pulled her dress up to mid-thigh and bent her knees, leaving almost enough room for Roland to sit. “Sit with me; I’m still a little scared.” The sexy way she spoke belied what she said.
“I’ll sit with you, but I might be the one who’s scared.” Roland sat and Lila draped her legs over his.
Lila beckoned Roland with her index finger, “kiss me.”
Roland hesitated. He hadn’t kissed anyone but Liz since they both decided to see other people when they first started college together. That experiment lasted for three months and they came back together without another word about it.
Lila let out a little hiss and pulled Roland to her face. They kissed slowly at first then again and again. Lila’s kisses were soft and lingering. She licked her lips and made them wet and silky. They both began to breathe deeper and quicker. She put her hand on the back of his neck. Roland felt the smooth soft flesh of her thigh and drew his hand up the feminine contour of her leg.
Lila put her hand on top of his and held it fast. “What do you think you’re doing? This is my thing.” she whispered a little out of breath.
Roland took his hand away but she put it right back where it was and waited for the delicious touch of his fingertips on the cleft of her naked sex.
When Roland realized there was no undoing what had started he returned Lila’s kisses with more abandon. Roland wanted to be swept far away from the familiar into deep unknown waters.
Lila pushed him off, stood up, took his hand and led him into her bedroom. She stood him in front of the bed and playfully pushed him down and fell on top of him. Clothing was awkwardly stripped off and tossed away. Lila straddled Roland and greedily took him in. He looked up at her strained face, at her gently swinging breasts.
For the third time that day Roland started seeing things. Lila’s face flickered from its fine features framed in ash blond hair to a face belonging to an olive skinned woman with dark curly hair and a small strawberry shaped birthmark on her neck just below her right ear.
Roland closed his eyes. He did not want this to be happening right now. He opened one eye to see if his phantom lady had left; she hadn’t. He closed his eyes twice more and opened them. He was frantic and scared. The third time he closed his eyes and opened them Lila was back. She slowly rocked back and forth and brought them both to a noisy, explosive, simultaneous orgasm. She immediately pulled herself away and fell next to Roland.
Roland took her into an embrace which she cut short. Lila rolled over on her back. When Roland tried to kiss her she pushed him away. He thought she was teasing; he just wanted to hold on to someone substantial, something real.
“Okay, enough of that,” Lila sat up and covered herself with the sheet. “Well, that certainly was nice. But, you know, we’re done.”
Roland laid there reeling from his break with reality and his sexual release. “Is this whole thing some kind of hallucination? What the hell is happening to me?” he silently asked himself.
Lila threw off the sheet and went to her closet. She took out a pale yellow, silk kimono and put it on. She turned the lights on. Roland had to shield his eyes until he could adjust. Lila stood in front of her vanity and looked in the mirror. “Good lord, back to the salon tomorrow.”
She sat and began to brush her hair.
Roland rolled to his side and propped his chin on his hand and talked to Lila’s reflection in the mirror. “So, am I spending the night?”
Lila rolled her eyes not caring if Roland saw her in the mirror. “Didn’t you hear what I just said? No Roland, you’re not spending the night. In fact you’re getting up right now and dressing. Then you’re leaving.” She gave a throaty little laugh. “Woo’ woo, just like that.”
“So, that’s it.” Roland tried to hide his disappointment. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and snagged his underwear with his toe and brought his foot up to his hand. He put on his underwear and blue jeans, then his socks and shoes. He crossed the room and took his shirt that hung on a drawer pull on Lila’s dresser. Roland turned the shirt right side out and put it on.
Lila looked up and addressed Roland’s image in the mirror. “You know, before you start, we really have nothing in common.”
Roland leaned on the footboard with his backsides and crossed his arms. “Even after what happened tonight?”
Lila turned around in her chair and looked Roland in the eyes. “What am I supposed to do? Fall in love? You don’t know me. You don’t want to know me.” Lila lowered her tone and spoke gently. “Tonight was great, let’s leave it like that.”
“You mean you don’t feel anything for me?”
Lila shrugged her shoulders and gave Roland a hapless smile. “No, not really, I won’t forget you.”
Roland spoke with the slightest hint of a whine. “But I want to get to know you.”
“No you don’t. I can tell you this though: I’m a spoiled little rich girl. I get what I want when I want it. Tonight worked out for the both of us; I got away from daddy dearest and we both had some fun. So, why don’t we just leave it that way? Okay?”
“How about your phone number?” ventured Roland.
“You’re kidding, don’t make this hard.” Lila put the brush down and stood facing Roland. “If anything, you’re not someone I really want to know. You’ve got no money, you drive a joke of a car and I’m sure you live in some dumpy little apartment in North Park. And hey, Mr. Commitment, I’m not the one who cheated on my boyfriend, because I don’t have one. You obviously have a girlfriend though.”
“You don’t? But I thought you did.” Roland was flustered and hurt.
“Nope, no boyfriend. Would that make it okay if I did? You just jumped in the sack with whomever. I would have thought more of you if you said “no”. Now, just like that, Go! Woo’ woo.”
“Right back at you.” He didn’t care how lame he sounded.
Roland quietly left the apartment. The electronic lock made a hollow sound as the door shut behind him. Once outside, the cool ocean air brought Roland to the moment. He was angry with that bitch, Lila. And what did Liz expect for pushing him away and questioning their relationship, and he also wanted to know why Brian had to put tables in front of the restaurant just so he could sit at one. He made full circle. “Stupid, stupid, stupid! Jesus Christ, I could be an accomplice to a robbery. What the hell was I thinking? God, I’m such and idiot.” He said out loud.
It began to sprinkle and then rain. Roland got in the car and slammed the door. He knew he could never undo what happened. He would have to keep his secret. He continued to scold and berate himself until the sting of his punishing words and his self-directed insults somehow eased his conscience. As he crossed over the graceful arch of the Coronado Bridge Roland thought about Liz. He had to put what had just happened out of his mind. That is what he’d do, act like it never happened. The solution was so simple. He breathed a sigh of relief. He couldn’t wait to get home a take a shower.
* * * * * * * *
While Doctor Jacopo Gallo did his work pro bono, Bishop DiMars quietly slipped away. He stood under the overhang that was above the barracks door and watched the raindrops run along the edge of the tiles, collect at the lowest corner and drip onto the ground. The rain had eased to a drizzle. DiMars felt terrible. This was supposed to be the day that was to make his name as destroyer of witches and a champion of good, especially in the eyes of the upper echelons of the church. He blamed the rain; he blamed Mezzi and the confounding wood that refused to burn. If the wood would have lit none of these terrible things would have come to pass. He cursed Renaldi for not insisting more to honor Lorenzo Patriarca’s demand to change the day of the burning and lastly he blamed his ambition and his vanity. Under this dark cloud of his own making he headed across the court yard to the rectory. He desired, no, he needed the privacy and refuge of his chamber. Already wet and cold DiMars saw no need to hurry until he saw Renaldi with a few others waiting at the front door. Grateful that he was unobserved, Bishop DiMars quickly changed his route and took the garden path and hurried to the kitchen door instead. He tried the door handle, the door was barred.
His servant girl, Annamarie, by good fortune was in the kitchen sitting on a stool by the fire. Her embroidery hoop was on her lap. She had her thimble but was anxious and sad because she could not find her fine golden needle. She even turned her sewing pouch inside out. Annamarie opened the door when she heard the bishop call her name. The bishop entered. His clothing was soaked and dripping. His hair was plastered over his forehead and his face was wet. The rain collected in little drops just under the tip of his nose and chin.
Annamarie almost did not recognize him; his usual jovial demeanor was dull and dark.
“Sir, do you want hot cider or tea?” she asked with an unsure smile.
Bishop DiMars said nothing. He picked up a dish rag and dried his face and hair. “No, nothing, I mustn’t be disturbed. Let no one in.”
“Yes sir.” Annamarie, not unaccustomed to seeing the bishop so quiet and reflective, bowed and watched him slowly leave the kitchen. She went back to her stool next to the hearth. Before she sat she made one more scan of the floor hoping to find her gold needle.
DiMars mounted the narrow staircase and stood for a moment on the landing in front of the dark heavy door. He put the key in the lock and opened the door onto his dark, dank apartment. He entered and took pains to close the door as quietly as he could, then he locked the door. The bishop went to the small window over his bed and drew the curtain. He did not light any candles; this was his secret twilight world inhabited only by himself and he hoped the Holy Spirit.
DiMars felt dull and detached as he took off his wet clothes and left them in a pile near the door. He was naked and covered in goose flesh. He shivered uncontrollably; his teeth chattered. With some difficulty he knelt before his dressing chest and with shaking hands opened the bottom drawer. Hidden deep under some odd bits of clothing and linens he found and retrieved the black velvet sack. He untied the draw string, took the scourge out and held the leather handle in his hand. Moments earlier as he crossed the church grounds on his way to the rectory he imagined this moment.
“I have failed you dear God” he whispered. His respect for Lorenzo Patriarca turned to resentment because of the sway the man had in Rome. He would be mocked; there might even be an inquisition. Patriarca’s Gina must live, she must become well.
When he finally stood up he felt the flush of anticipation. He drew the thin leather strips that made up the business end of the scourge through the palm of his left hand. He felt the little lead bead sown to the end of each narrow leather strand. One at a time he took a bead between his index finger and his thumb and gentle rolled it in a tiny circle. He went from one bead to the next almost if he was saying the rosary.
The bishop crossed the room and looked at the large gilded crucifix that hung on the wall. It was the last thing he saw before he closed his eyes, made the sign of the cross and knelt down on the cold stone floor. He found it difficult to swallow. His face grew hot and his heart raced. DiMars whispered, “Our father who art in heaven, hollowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” When he spoke the words “thy will be done,” he swung the whip over his shoulder quenching his thirst for atonement. And so he repeated his mantra again and again, each time accentuating the word “will” with each stroke. The first three lashes stung. As he punished his vanities the sting and the sound of the leather cracking against his flesh faded into an ecstasy of release and atonement.
The Alchemist Gift is a book about the lives of people in the Renaissance and the alchemy that brought them together with its repercussions on our modern-day hero, Roland.
I am writing the novel Alchemist Gift online in real time. I will share a few paragraphs of the book with each blog. I am still writing the book. I’d like to know how you like what you are reading. Please use the comments section to share. If you make suggestions in your comments, I may incorporate your ideas into the book. We hope you will enjoy the process as much as I do, follow the saga and share it with your friends and colleagues.
2013 Mark D. Giglio, www.theartofgiglio.com
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