(A romantic scifi story first published in Ginosko Literary Magazine, Spring 2013)
She was much prettier than he’d imagined. Dusty brown bangs floated around her forehead with long waves splashing against the air around her neck. Her lips were two waves of flesh on the crest of a kiss. Her figure fit everyman’s calendar dream—not overly undersized, not overly muscular or plump or buxom or plank-like. He could have sworn that her eyes glowed blue. She was just right. As he knew she would be.
So much for the warnings about Internet dating. He’d just hit the World Wide Jackpot and he wasn’t about to wonder how he’d become this lucky.
Her name was Persephone. He didn’t find it strange at all. His own name was Mordecai. Mordecai Morris. And he hadn’t spoken to his parents in a long time. He couldn’t remember Persephone mentioning her parents in any of their chats. He wondered if they were scholars or teachers or just well-read average Joes who thought they might wrest a name out of time and bounce it off the walls of the modern world. But he liked it. It suited her. She seemed to know a lot about history and the classics, and had described some of her favorite historical events in minute detail, as if she’d been on a movie set, designing the costumes and directing the course of action, much like a technical consultant drawing from personal memory.
He thought it was pretty damn cool that she looked as good as she did. This was just about the best thing that had ever happened to him, or likely ever would.
“You’re Persephone?” he asked, smiling a little mischievously, knowing the answer.
“I don’t think so,” she said with a devilish smile. “What makes you think so?”
God, she was just like in her chats.
“Oh, the fact you’re wearing a black turtleneck, red tartan skirt, black leggings, and you’re sitting at the table I reserved for us.”
“Nice guessing, Morry.” It was what she called him. He loved it. It sounded even better than it read. “Hope you can read Manchurian,” she said.
“This is a Manchurian restaurant?”
“You made the reservations.”
“Oh, yeah.” He pulled his chin lightly between two fingers. “I guess that would explain the name: The Frozen Horde. I thought it had something to do with iced desserts and lots and lots of blueberries or something.”
“Blueberries!” she squealed and grabbed his hand.
They were sitting in a café outdoors, in what looked to be a medieval French city overlooking a cobblestone street busy with men in tight knickers and long white wigs, and women with gowns flowing into the horizon. He thought he’d seen this place in very old prints and paintings. After a bowl of Bluet en Glace, they were sitting in The Frozen Horde relieved the menu had pictures of the meals.
Strange, though, he wasn’t hungry anymore.
She was drop dead gorgeous with the kind of lips a man could sink a kiss into and smother in lipstick with the tip of her tongue running along the edge of his soul. Big blue eyes peered through chocolate bangs, and her body could have been whittled from a stone of pure desire. She wore a skintight red gown plunging between spectacular mounds of white flesh. His eyes sizzled, his groin smoldered, his brain nearly snapped in half. She knew how to make an impression on a second date. Or was it their third? Who cared? She was drop dead gorgeous and he was the luckiest man on earth.
“Been waiting long?” he asked.
“And who might you be?” she replied.
He loved this game. “I’m the one who made the reservations for the table you’re sitting at.”
“Oh, him … the one who can’t read Manchurian.”
“We weren’t hungry anyway.”
“Speak for yourself,” she said. “Iced blueberries do not a meal make.” Blueberries. Ice. Something rattled at the back of his head, but evaporated into the Lost Regions of his gray matter at the sound of her voice. “So, do you speak Italian?” she asked.
“Everybody speaks Italian,” he said, picking up the menu. “Spaghetti. Lasagna. Linguini …”
She cut him off with the most amazing laugh ever to tickle his eardrums and her voice slid over the table like a spilled bowl of honey stew. “How did you know I love Italian food?”
“Everybody loves Italian food,” he said, and quickly regretted his words. “I mean, not that you have common tastes or anything . . . I mean . . .”
His ears buzzed with joy at the sound of her laugh. “It’s OK. You’re right. Everybody loves Italian, but I especially like it . . . I guess, for its historical content.”
“Historical content?” he asked. “That’s a strange reason to love food, but, if you say so . . .”
She reached across the table and took his hand and they were sitting across the table from Galileo Galilei as he tore off a chunk of Cabot while just around the corner in the kitchen Miro Sorvino sliced a wedge of Brushchetta and Luigi Pirandello twisted his fork into a mound of Spaghetti alla Bologna and Michelangelo Buonarroti gazed up from his wooden table as he chewed a mouthful of Tortellini di zucca and Frank Zamboni brushed ice from his jacket as his mouth watered thinking of Pizzette e Salatin and Federico Fellini scooped a steaming portion of Cannelloni al Ragu . . . and he still wasn’t getting it as he dipped a garlic stick into a pool of spaghetti sauce and wondered about the wooden bowl just as it turned to porcelain and Persephone smiled at him and asked if they should order another bottle of wine.
Another bottle? How many had they had? He tried to focus his thoughts but he was caught in the glow from her eyes and that was all that mattered and he said yes, another bottle of wine. Something red and Italian.
She was amazing. Life danced in her eyes. She was as fresh as the first time he’d met her and fallen in love on the spot, or had he already been in love after their weeks of sending and receiving over the Internet? He didn’t care. She was timeless and he told her so, “You’re timeless.”
She smiled bouquets and heartbreak and took his hand. “Something like that,” she said as they strolled past a heavily armored Samurai warrior outside a Japanese palace stretching into an ancient Far East sunset.
“But why me?” he asked.
“Why not?” she replied.
“There’s nothing special about me,” he said.
“Need there be?” she asked.
“But you’re so … perfect,” he said. “So out of my league. Why me?”
“I have a different perspective.”
He decided to leave it alone as their walk took them along a pedestrian bridge made of a single giant piece of plastic spanning two magnificent skyscrapers surrounded by flying cars and people streaking through the air in jetpacks.
Their walk finished in front of the coffee shop around the corner from where he lived. He asked if she’d like to go in for a coffee. They walked through the door and he noticed immediately that she was much prettier than he’d imagined with her dusty brown bangs floating around her face, her hair splashing against the air around her neck.
He suddenly had a craving for frozen blueberries.
His hand was wrinkled and liver-spotted, his nails cracked and dried. His eyes beamed youthfully, but the pinched gray skin around red-veined whites looked like something from the Bin of Ages. His legs wobbled whether he was standing still or walking. His head shook when he talked as though trying to shake the words out of his mouth.
She sat across from him, young and beautiful as her eyes enveloped him with their blue glow. His voice cracked as he spoke. “We’ve had a wonderful life together.”
She smiled and nodded and said, “Yes, we have.”
“I’ve loved you from the beginning,” he said.
“I know,” she said. “And right to the end.” She took his hand and they were standing in total darkness until, an instant later, the darkness exploded with color and fire rushing light years in every direction, populating the emptiness with stars.
And he was in the Frozen Horde, sitting across from the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He looked at his watch and smiled. He wasn’t surprised. Not a bit. Just happy for the fraction of a second she’d spent with him.
He looked one last time into the blue glow of her eyes and winked happily as he turned to dust.
(Gratuitous image for this posting…I think it’s in line with the theme.)