Past is Present

From the Story Arc: Sketches of Spain

Previous Story in the Arc: Mosca and Gato discuss office rumors by Mosca (Thursday, August 05, 2004)

Next Story in the Arc: Girls Night at The Fellini by Gato Rojo (Wednesday, September 15, 2004)

(posted Wednesday, September 01, 2004)

Starlight filters through the window. She broke the clock as soon as she got off the phone with her brother – its hands stand still at 3:30. The light bulb was next. Its no problem when you’re used to using mind tricks to manipulate other people. Light bulbs and clocks are nothing compared to the inner workings of the human brain and the human brain isn’t that impressive when most people’s thought patterns are concentrated due south.

Pressed into the corner with her back against the wall she cradles the phone in her lap which should be impossible considering its normally affix to the kitchen counter by a short leash. She clutches a half empty grappa bottle in her other hand.

“So he thinks he’s in love does he?” She uses the grappa bottle to gesture at its cousins lined up like soldiers in front of her waiting their turn to fire.

“With the Commissar! Of all peoples he picks Commissar!”

She’s obviously been sitting here for some time.

“For a week he does not call me. I worry; I think he is dead. Does he care?”

The grappa bottles offer no reply even when she threatens to let their cousin destroy them all with one drunken exaggerated Spanish gesture.

“No! He does not care. His sister Gezana is sitting in ditch for all he know!”

The half empty bottle thuds against her chest, “I cannot be telling you apart. If I am going to talk to you like comrades you must have names, si? This one is almost dead so I will not bother to naming you. There is no point in naming the dead. But you, “ she points to the first bottle on the left, “are Marco, and you are Stephan, and you ah it does not matter, you will all be dead soon anyway.”

“I sit and worry about him – I even go and visit hospital nurse to ask if she is seeing him. You think that is happy fun time Marco? No! She will not let me leave for half hour insisting I must tell HER where HE is! Meanwhile he is busy taking new hoochie to Spa and fancy dinners!”

“It was supposed to me him and me.” Another thud. There’ll be a bruise between those lovely breasts in the morning.

“Him and me. Santiago and Gezana. We were always to have each other. There was never anyone else. No one else to trust like you could trust in brother and sister. How could Santiago have anyone else! A week he takes to tell me he is not dead – I hear him shacking up from other comrades first! They know before me!”

She begins to crawl towards her bed, grappa bottles following obediently. A few jump up on her nightstand, the rest wait for her hand to find them sitting patiently on the floor.

“Love! There is no such thing as love! There is only using and being used – you remember that Stephan.” She turns her head towards the nightstand and squints again  - Stephan wobbles as if nodding that yes, yes he will remember.

“Who am I old with if not my brother? There was only us Mosca, there was only ever us.”

Gezana who is Gato Rojo, stepsister to Santiago who is Mosca closes her eyes, hand sliding beneath the pillow in an age-old gesture of childhood. Inches away from her fingers lies a hairpin that a dealer of antiques would drool foolishly over, never knowing the danger it possesses. They would see only diamonds and gold and never wonder about the exceptionally sharp tines with tips discolored by more than just the passage of years.  Softly, oh so gently, she mutters, “Rust and magic and death. I am turning to ashes… nothing but ashes,” before giving in to sleep.

The flame haired beauty moved quietly through the halls. He was here, that short armed bastard of a glorified solider. Her target. She had spent years getting to this point. It was a life of a spy, the life she knew she’d lead as soon as they pulled her from that prison cell and away from her people.

She had the sight and even though they called her gypsy trash they wanted her for that as well as her beauty. Come they said, do as we ask and all your suffering will be over. Over?!?!? It is just beginning. They had cleaned her up and, “married” her off to a Spanish noble in charge of turning her into a lady capable of infiltrating Napoleon’s inner circle as he saw fit. Sometimes he saw fit with his fists, but this did not stop him from getting her with child. It is necessary for the ruse, he’d say, as he clamped down on her arms, his foul smelling breath filling her hair.

Though she promised herself she wouldn’t, she ended up loving her daughter. But she was gone now; left with that man they called her husband. He would probably use her little girl like he used her, she thought with bitterness. When at the last minute she tried to refuse her mission and escape with her daughter he had caught them – dangling little Adora over the lip of the well. Adora had laughed, thinking it a game and not a threat.

So, when they judged her ready they sent her to France armed with a dozen women’s tricks of seduction and the voice of a songbird. Their mystics, the ones who had recognized her talent and threatened her with cooperation or the stake, gave her a poisoned hairpin to use as soon as she was close enough to her target. They said it had the power to control his mind, blend it to mush in second! As if the syphilis wasn’t doing that already! The thought that she was just another whore to them, only with a faster means of death, allowed her the bravery for one small rebellion. She had left the hairpin in her trunk back, “home.” She did not need it – she would succeed on her own or not at all.

A few introductions here, a few there, the right beds made unmade and Napoleon requested she sing at one of his dinners. She had spent the last few months earning his trust and learning to hate the French as she had never hated those accursed Spaniards who sent her to save their country from invasion. She knew they did not expect her to return alive. Tonight was the night that she would find out if they were right.

Silently she crept past the guards. Those she could not get around indirectly didn’t even bother to question her – the singer going to Napoleon’s private apartment? His tastes were well known. She began to be more bold in her movements – one hand pressed tightly to her side – a very ladylike stance when not concealing the thin blade she planned to use in place of the hairpin. When she reached the door to his apartment she merely had to smile to the guard and wink, one finger to his lips, the other leaving her side long enough to finger her strand of pearl, to make her intentions clear. “I am a surprise, si?” her smile said. “We play games now, Napoleon and I.”

The guard merely winked in return – his smile slightly broader than it should have been, and opened the door.

“Good evening Gezana.”

Gezana rolls over in her sleep, one flailing arm hits the nightstand to send grappa bottles spinning across the floor.

Gezana stops in the doorway, then proceeds across the room shutting the door behind her. This was not in the plan. What is her, “husband” doing here? What wrongness does he bring with him now? The sight had failed her when she needed it most.

“What are you doing here?”

“Why, stopping your act of treason my dear. I can’t have you assassinate my countryman, now can I?”

“Your countryman! You wanted him dead as much of the rest of those Spanish bastards who sent me here!”

“Ah, there is your mistake. I am only half Spanish, and the French blood in me is worth much more than that… worth a duchy in fact, just for stopping you.”

Gezana hears the door open behind her and feels the presence of Napoleon’s guard. They are as unmistakable as the smell of garlic and spoiled milk that seems to follow them everywhere. 

Slowing she walks towards the man.

“Ferdinand, where is my child.”

“I pushed that brat off on some farm worker as soon as your carriage was out of sight witch. Perhaps you haven’t heard, I have a son now, a true heir, with my true wife – not some gypsy cast off like you. I only gave them a pittance to take her – she’s probably dead by now, as you will be soon.”

With a snarl, Gezana throws herself across the room.

The grappa bottles begin to rattle on the floor – suddenly they all fly into the air and smash themselves against the wall. Strong wine runs down the curtains – in starlight it looks like blood.

The soldiers have her before she can reach his chair. She knows the knife in her hand will be used on her instead, and not as quickly as the death she would have granted him. They drag her from the room and she can hear him laughing… “ Do whatever you want with her, then kill her – but mind the claws.”

She doesn’t know where they are taking her. She fights uselessly – for every ounce of skin beneath her fingernails they will take a pound of flesh. Suddenly she is thrown on the ground but there is no time to recover before they have her pinned. She knows what’s coming even before the only guard not holding her down puts his face close to hers, “nous jouons les jeux maintenant, vous et moi”

Gezana explodes out of bed screaming in a mixture of French and Spanish, a virgin violated a hundred times over. If the sounds of breaking glass brought the other tenants pounding on her door, the pure sound of her fury sends them away again. The screaming gives way to muttering as she falls to the floor and crawls back to the corner, hands and knees shredded by broken glass.

“There is no such thing as love Santiago. There is no such thing.”