In spite of the fact that I was in the middle of a situation I knew nothing about – save for 1) understanding it had everything to do with me 2) my lover had lured me overseas with an item of clothing in the home of the lover who introduced us and intended to pass me off shortly to an intermittent lover who possibly held answers I wanted but did not need and 3) I was starting to suspect the Entitled Alley Cat was somehow involved in all of this – I slept quite well that night. I guess when you spend a century not really sure how you have remained in existence, matters tend to weigh less on your mind.
When I woke, my quixotic Romeo was already awake and reading some loose-leaf papers. Seeing me stir, he laid them aside and transformed from his serious expression into the affable smile I had come to expect. I wanted to know everything about his connection to this whole mess but part of me wanted to believe Romeo was simply who I thought he was; who I had come to rely on for the purity of romance. As many times as I wanted to clock him with those oversized, dusty tomes of poetry he liked to read aloud, he had always been untainted in my mind; the guileless romantic that only wanted to exist in a world where one duels for love and honor. I knew that Romeo was gone, but I don’t know how long the lease was on his memory.
We eventually headed out to a sumptuous breakfast followed by a nice stroll down a quiet road to a waiting car. The drive was uneventful except for the realization that I had not studied Liège enough to note our route. Since my innocent Romeo was clearly not so innocent, I decided it would behoove me to pay closer attention. The view out the car window proved pastoral but unhelpful with only fields and the occasional farm dotting the landscape; all I knew is that we were outside the city’s span and that at some point I had stopped holding Romeo’s hand.
The driver, to whom I had not been introduced, brought the car to a stop in front of a nondescript house with bindweed creeping up the facade. Behind the house lay a verdant sea of grass, rolling up to an outlying fortress. Even from my distant vantage point, I could tell the estate was prodigious. I was enchanted.
Romeo knocked his soft knock on the dwelling’s weathered door and cupped a nearby bloom, as if we hadn’t a care in the world. An older lady with a heavily lined face opened the door, smiling courteously and bowing slightly to us – the whole scene beginning to resemble something out of the 1700s. Once inside, we were led through a series of small halls that led to small rooms, ending at a common room in the back of the house. Beulah (as I had named our guide) had, as yet, not spoken a word but brought us tea and pastries. As I took in my surroundings, I heard distinct footsteps heading in our direction. A gruff but familiar voice said, “You’re late.”
“Sorry, it turned out to be a late night.” Romeo answered smugly.
Adonis extended his hand to me, I offered him withering stare in return. Without so much as a by or leave, he reached down, grabbed my wrist and proceeded to take my pulse; lowering my hand back to my lap after a minute with no indication if it had met with his satisfaction.
“What did you tell her?” Adonis asked Romeo tensely.
“I told her no more than we agreed upon.” Romeo replied, relaxed.
“Good. There’s been a new wrinkle. When is your flight?”
“Oh, did I not tell you? I’m not leaving. I thought Naomi and I might take in Place de Marché tomorrow.”
Adonis turned back abruptly. Romeo winked, “I will be out of your hair shortly.”
Romeo stood to leave, lifting me to my feet as well. He kissed me tenderly, disregarding Adonis’ presence; not I – I was more than happy to give Adonis a show to make him blush. Among the clichéd comments Romeo offered, he added that no amount of time with me would ever suffice; that last bit was a nice touch, I felt – the liar. He shook hands with a troubled Adonis who walked him to the room’s door.
“I’ll be in contact.” Adonis told him.
Romeo nodded, “Do you need me to get ahold of New York?” his tone no longer jovial.
“Not yet. I’ll let you know.”
“Alright.” Romeo said. He cast one more glance at me and smiled, which I answered with a small wave lying back on the settee. Addressing Adonis in a lowered voice, Romeo said, “You gave me your assurance. Nothing.”
Adonis looked up, “I’ll get a handle on it. “
“Give me the benefit of the doubt, I promise.” Adonis had come dangerously close to pleading on that.
With that Romeo left. I wanted to miss him but it suddenly seemed inappropriate.
Adonis faced me, “Why do you never do what you are told?”
“Lovely darling, thank you for asking. I went for a walk along the river, visited the Palace of the Prince-Bishop – you know I love the site of a good scandal – and then made my way to the Ansembourg Museum so I could feel at home.”
Adonis stared in his way that leaves you unsure whether he is going to ravage you or thump you.
Since I had just about enough of this nonsense, I decided to poke the bear, “I had a delightful lunch at Café Tongeren yesterday.”
“Have you had their merveilleux?”
“They are absolutely divine. You really must try one. Should I send Beulah out to fetch us some?”
“What, Adonis?!” I yelled back.
“I would have had time for pleasantries had you arrived when I asked you too.”
“When you told me too – I don’t come when called, darling.”
“Dammit, Naomi, this isn’t a game.”
“Of course it is: you pop in and out of my world when you see fit, send me little trinkets,” I said producing the brooch, “to keep my interest piqued yet never stick around long enough to make any of it matter.”
“Have you ever once considered there might be danger at hand?”
“I have few concerns, Adonis, or has that been lost on you along the way?”
Adonis kept his teeth bared but firmly clenched, “You can’t always be in charge. This isn’t your world.”
“Of course this is my world,” I gestured wide with my arms, “this is all my world. If it falls down on the bizarre side, you can pretty much bank on it being my world.”
“No, not this. Quit being so blasé; acting like you have the upper hand here – you don’t.”
“I beg to differ, darling – which one of us is 143 years old? I imagine that gives me a bit of a leg up, wouldn’t you say?”
At long last, my beautiful Adonis softened by giving a small laugh. He walked over and embraced me, pulling back to gaze into my eyes. He finally flashed that knee-melting smile of his and leaned down to kiss me. I replied by pulling back and walloping him with all I had; my handprint clearly visible on his chiseled cheek.
It was a pity, really; Adonis is a great kisser.
“Have you found her?” I asked when I was comfortably seated once more.
“No. But I think we found who has her.” Adonis answered rubbing his jaw.
“So we can get her?”
“We need to stay near her, but we can’t take her yet.”
“But we will get her, yes?” I asked, tiring a bit of Captain Terse.
“Yes. At some point.”
“Why the delay?”
“Because I need to know who took her.” Adonis said running his hands through his hair.
“You just said you knew that.”
“No, I know who has her. Who took her is what we need to figure out.”
“Who is this “we” to whom you keep referring?”
“I am getting tired of that as an answer.” I said folding my arms.
Adonis shrugged a mock apology: the stupid brute.
The next morning I awoke alone in bed (yes I finally accepted Adonis’ apology for being so enigmatic. Trust me darlings, he apologized repeatedly… and profusely.) Stumbling into a series of the smallest rooms I’d ever been in, I finally found Adonis in something that resembled an office.
“Listen darling, the next time I decide to join you here, can we stay in the palatial manor behind us? It’s a little bit more my size.” I demurred.
“She’s gone.” He said curtly.
I stood still, crushed, my body unwilling to move, “What do we do now?” I asked, a slight waver in my voice giving my emotions away.
“You need to go home.” Adonis said, dismayed. I chose to believe it was because I was leaving.
“Which home, Adonis? My home is with the Sophie.”
Adonis looked at me earnestly. “We’ll get her back to you, Naomi. Trust me.” He placed his hands on my shoulders, “I have ever reason to believe the Sophie is in close proximity to the Chateau.”
At that point, we both knew my options were limited.
Turning to leave, I looked back and asked incredulously, “Opie?”
Adonis looked back at a letter he was holding. He appeared unsure, a look I have seldom seen on him.
One more bit, darlings, and my lengthy explanation will be at its end.