A month later, perhaps two…
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Slums littered this city, but most of Argentina’s wealthy lived like kings. The hacienda sprawled along a cliff-side beach complete with a Venetian glass mosaic pool, a hedge maze, statue-lined fountains and other such sybaritic landscaping. The dwelling itself wasn’t terrible. One floor with varying steps, it had the awareness of Frank Lloyd Wright with the simplicity of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
But it was sterile.
Aside from the large leather sofa and a chair or two that hinted frequent use, the place felt too clean, made-for-display, not unlike certain museums.
The large-format painting she had come to see was much more impressive now than when it was framed by a tablet under restaurant lighting in Malta. Opposite of it was Amedeo Modigliani’s Tête de Femme, one of a few sculptures in the artist’s short career. He died at only thirty-five.
A considerably moving theme revealed itself as she surveyed his collection. Malcolm Avalon lived alone, surrounded by products of artistic minds taken too soon.
Returning her attention to the painting, Carmen stood squarely before it and compared the woman’s likeness to a portrait miniature inside a golden locket. The resemblance was clear, but now what?
Nearly as soon as she asked herself that question, a decision was made for her. The observer felt that she was being watched, and she may have been so for some time.
“Estoy aquí por poco tiempo, Sr Avalon,” her Spanish was Castilian, slightly Americanized.
“I haven’t called the police,” but even if he did, she knew she had plenty of time. The man seemed benevolent, but continued in a more demanding tone, “Who are you and what are you doing in my home?”
He spoke American English, and while that fact shouldn’t surprise her, it did. Hearing his words, her heart raced, triggered by a natural fight or flight. But as she took a long breath and pondered through reasons, she found her response along the ridges of the hacienda’s mountain view.
“When I was younger, I saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time and believed nothing could be grander,” she started, lifting the locket in her hand so he could see it as well. The gold gleamed bright, reflecting light from outside.
“Then I ventured across the Alps, and that redefined ‘grandeur’,” she offered him the jewelry, “Sometime later, I braved the Sahara with meager supplies and a camel named Sobek. Under the stars, I began to see that perhaps ‘grandeur’ was nothing,” as she said that, he opened his palm to accept, “if not the right moment in time.”
She placed the locket in his hand, soft shadows accentuated the cross and its intricate lines.
“This was with me through all that,” she still clasped the chain, “but then I learned the portrait within is your wife, and the fact changes perception.”
He was studying her, a scrutiny that wasn’t entirely discomforting, but she had never been under such a spotlight.
“Who I am is unimportant, but I’m here,” she glanced to the object connecting them together, “because I see myself holding onto something that means more to someone else,” definitively, she released the necklace.
As she let it go, the gift made no sound, and neither did the man that held it.
“I don’t know this woman,” she confessed, “Not even her name. Anything that I’ve invented of her is now offset by whom she may have been, and that information rests with you.”
Taking a step back, she tilted her head slightly, “Honestly, I don’t know if I’m ready to turn imagination into knowledge.”
She gave the air a moment to settle before turning to leave.
That was hardly the conversation she planned to have when a more childish version of herself envisioned the discovery of familial ties. It also did not play out the way she hoped after that fateful revelation in Malta. She wanted to leave the locket here without explanation and be instantaneously free from consequential repercussions, or worse; heartache. But while the situation organically unwound, she doubtlessly preferred this tête-à-tête over the alternative.
[Continued on March 1]
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