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Verona sat unflustered on an old subway bench as if waiting for the last night train. The time was 1:02. The station was dead, and eerily silent. She could almost hear the soft patter of rain. Above her head a light fixture swung in gentle circular motions and flickered.
“Miss”, a raspy voice frightening her. An old man in a navy-blue button down suit appeared at her side.
“G-good Evening, sir”, she stuttered.
“I’m afraid the last train has already left, is there anything I can do for you? Call for a night taxi?... Why, aren’t you but a girl. Say, what are you doing out here this time of the night?” The man replied. It was late into the night, and the last thing he wished to be doing at this hour was maintenance. Alas, the night shift was not for everyone, but since it kept his silver crowned queen fed he would do if for an eternity if required.
“No, thank you, and why, aren’t you a snoopy man. I’m no child, I have business to attend to.” She could feel the heat rising in her face. Had she had her mother’s silver mirror she’d have seen it for herself. She wiped her cheek with a gloved hand, immediately remembering that she’d brushed on some powder hours earlier. The “work” she would soon do was what she classified as her esoteric pride. If anyone knew what she was, or did for that matter, she would never again know the blithe of her secret life. For her peoples disapproved of her dreams. Her family was well respected in their small community, and boy could people talk.
The old man sighed, licked his lips, and tipped his hat to her. “I’m sorry miss. I better be on my way then. Folks around here ain’t too sane this time of night. You just be safe then,” he turned on his heels and clicked away down the platform, and rounded a corner, praying in his heart that time would pass fast enough. It had been years since he’d had the opportunity to watch his dear wife sleep. When he left for work she’d only been preparing for bedtime, and when he returned, she would be waiting for him at the kitchen table with a plate of breakfast. He could already see the layout. On an old faded, hand-stitched tablecloth, the Sunday paper would be unfolded and open to the “World Events” section, and the others in the sequential order of his favorite categories. A plate of sunny-side-up eggs, and freshly sliced, sun-ripened fruit, grown in their own garden, would be arranged on heirloom china. A rocks glass would be filled to its chipped brim with the virgin nectar of strawberries, and guava and a splash of imported coconut milk. His vision was so vivid, he could practically taste the dawn sun that would cast an orange haze over the kitchenette. But for now, that was all it was, a mere sun-drenched vision.
She picked up her leather drawstring bucket bag and stood up, as if waiting for someone, but nonetheless someone that would never come. A gentle draft of cold earthy air filled the station. Verona looked down at her watch chain, the time reading 3: 02. How queer, she thought. She tapped on the glass of the watch with the tips of her cherry nails, but the hands were static.
A spate of apprehensive emotions spat upon her weary heart in dreary heat. For Verona was working on a deadline and time was running out – fast.
Gingerly, she took a long look around, and walked up to the platform. Carefully, she sat and slid down onto the rails, the only sound being the sustained click of her shiny onyx “Mary Janes” advancing down the dim tunnel with an eccentric echo. Being the prepared girl that she was, she dug around into her purse until her hands found the familiar curve of her trusty aluminum flashlight, the handle a cylinder welded onto a wide cone. She gave the barrel three swift strikes and precisely turned the small dial to her preferred degree.
If someone – anyone – had seen her from an opposing direction they would have marveled at her enigmatic elegance. Her aura was an effervescent maelstrom of rich celestial hues, and an ally of deep red, the color of fresh blood as it cascades through a novel of ether, eluding the clouds before smiting the earth with its iron kiss and revamping into an emblem to last the years to come. It had a strong shimmery overtone of gold that gleamed under ultraviolet rays of summer sun, and a complementary sliver of silver.
Now, the yellow of her soul was like none other, it was sub Rosa, tucked away in shambolic pleats to be someday unfolded by the genuine transpiration of love. It was the citric tint of Canadian bergamot with all its fragrance.
If one happened to look close enough into the gyre of washes, the lucidity of light corals would hold them captive, and demand a ransom of the exchange of scrutiny.
Soon she could hear the faint cry of wailing saxophones, and melting minty hearts. The smoky scent of perfumed cigarettes, and Cuban cigars danced in a leaden manner across the wide subterranean tunnels. Drifting, drifting, through the stale air like the last ivory leaf that leaves its mother vine before the early white-washing storms of winter’s wispy cloud crystals.
She took a few more steps before appearing in front of a metal door. She gave the door a few hostile shoves before it finally led out into a pitch-dark staircase. She shined her flashlight directly up the stairs until a familiar entrance was in view. She stepped through the door, and directly onto a metal grate. Murky water rushed through the storm drain below. Bunches of dead leaves, and street litter rode the tiny waves like apples bobbing in a barrel. She quickly took to the stairs. Climbing them two at time. When she reached the top, her destination, she had entered of lively milieu of loud lamenting jazz and blues, trays, dishes, and platters of steaming soul fool traveled on cocoa and creme hands and heads. People of polar skin tones swung and swayed to the rhythm of the blues rolling off the fingers and tongues of the men and women exerting their God-given gifts onto the sundry souls with open hearts. The endemic of the Harlem Renaissance drove her secretly sappy psyche in copious, ecstatic routes.
She removed her wide brimmed satin and laced trimmed hat, and her brown genuine leather trench coat to reveal a short, yet fitting, loosley long-sleeved, evergreen crushed velvet dress. It was the color of the fragrant balsams that grew atop the rolling hills and mountains she had knew as a child. She pulled her accenting periwinkle pashmina up tighter around her arms as a large fan blew in circles around the room. Paper streamers, and light string tied to the fan cover fluttered, and flapped in artificial breeze.
“You’re late,” a familiar voice coaxed. “I do suppose you understand how I run things here. You don’t show up on time, you don’t perform. Come back tomorrow, if you could even make it then. Don’t Sunday School girls “rest” on the “Sabbath” or what not? Tell me dear, would Mother Mary be proud to see you in that dress?” Saxton Elwood was the owner of the Eclectic. A secret, well-kept, jazz club and bar hidden in an old underground warehouse. There were many different entrances and exits surrounding the perimeter. How Verona had come upon the place was a story, within a story, within a story, for a completely different time.
Verona sighed. She loved the ritualistic banter they would always ease into anytime they crossed paths, as if they were old friends, turned mutual enemies. With Saxton Elwood, there were just some battles you could win, and some that weren’t even worth the effort. “Don’t men with wives go home, that is if they have one. Remind me again of her name, Deloris, Mae, Thelma, oh wait, none of those people exist in your life now don’t they. I wonder why…hmmm…so how are you really?”
Saxton met Verona’s challenging stare with a look of disapproval. He bit the inside of his cheek as she dragged on, and on about his inexistent private affairs.
Verona couldn’t help but notice the smolder he had unknowingly been giving her. Under the dim light fixtures and hundreds of candles, he looked … beautiful. Verona flicked her thoughts away and they sprinkled out of her head and tumbled through her hair like powdered sugar. One day soon she would accidentally scratch them right back in.
“Just go sit down,” he had merely ordered. Happy to oblige, Verona smirked and found an empty seat at the bar.
A barista with loud hazelnut curls, and eyes the color of a flourishing patch of clover, speckled with gold morning dew, sat a small shot glass before Verona, and walked away. She picked up the cocktail, and swirled it around. The thin brown liquid reminded her of a Malta, and a hot spring's day as a young child. When the temperatures were just right, she remembered, she would sneak out into the hills beyond the orchards, beyond the streams, beyond her family's large plot of land, and roll around in the thick tufts of lemon grass and wildflower assortments with a sweating glass bottle of Malta by her side. The breeze would be dry, and offer only the faintest scents of salt water, and new blossoms. It was locations like these that she'd decided who she was, and wanted to be from such a young, tender age.
Verona took a chary look around before bringing the cold glass to her mouth. A single drop of hard liquor hit her tongue before she felt someone gently prying the drink from her hands.
"Excuse me, yea, we don’t serve minors around here. You know because it's against the law," Saxton sardonically disclosed. He sat the glass down on the crystal bar, and it slid across the counter lazily and came to a halt before it had the opportunity to and fly off the edge of the counter.
Saxton stared at her silently, a fair, query, stare.
Like the rain that falls on asphalt, then evaporates under the domination of the sun, so was the blues that had humidified the room only minutes before.
Verona hopped down from the makeshift wooden stool, and pushed it under the bar.
"Where you going," he called out to her, questioning her judgment, but Verona was a wise girl.
But she ignored him, and his pestering drone, and she kept her head forward, and she kept walking.
Her heels clacked against the concrete floors, and were a beacon to eyes as the room hushed.
A spotlight found its way to her, finding it's center, and followed her slim, little body up onto the stage.
There was a brief moment of uncertainty, and dainty whispers, but Verona was no unfamiliar face.
She took in a deep breath, and filled her soul with dreams, and created a reminiscent perfume of the mind to last ages, and stories to fill the generations to come of her innocent fertility.
A nurturing hand woven of the finest charmeuse silks seemed reach out into the audience and articulately touch the heart of every last woman and man in the audience.
And that hand, a saxophone, older than Verona her youthful self, continued its smooth and rhythmic trill, and Verona opened her mouth to sing, but instead unknowingly opened the bridge between reality, and the spiritual realm that was not of this world, but undoubtedly known of in this world.
Verona was an eternal flame, an incandescent eddy of bright sweltering blues, her body was a temple, and her voice a lighthouse halfway to the shores of a Golden City.
There she was, up on a wooden platform stage, altruistically wrapped up in her beauty, and virtue, yet willingly sharing her celestial gifts with the auditors around her.
Never had they known a voice of such milk and honey, a voice of liquid Californium.
And when she had elicited the last note of her melody, not a single heart was hardened.
The End or TBC?