"Oh, he's very popular Ed. The sportos,
the motor-heads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids,
dweebs, dickheads - they all adore him.
They think he's a righteous dude."
-Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Maeve rose from her chair at the family table as quietly as the dawn. In the window behind you could almost see the tops of the cottonwoods lining the river, but beyond them were the scattered cypresses and small olive orchards at the base of the mountain. She wore a long red dress with matching long gloves. Her right hand hung limply at her side, the left arm crooked and her open gloved hand held chest high. She was younger then of course; her black hair shorter and curler, her lips as ever red, her complexion ever as ghostly pale. Several men rose also in anticipation. They assumed that contrary to tradition Maeve would lead the crowd onto the dance floor rather than the elderly Harmonia, Contessa Piccolomini. Several teenage girls shook one another in excitement. She leaned slightly to the left and head tilted as though listening so something exciting whispered by her guardian angel. But a closer examination saw Roxanne’s reassuring hand and the far away look in Maeve’s eyes. She gazed at the doorway across the crowded room with bated breathe. As did Roxanne and her husband Stan, once the redhead nudged him. Stan’s green eyes placidly review that corner of the dining room bemused that it somehow comforted the love of his life. Eventually, even the wandering eyes of Maeve’s husband Orion were on the doorway.
“John!” Orion exclaimed.
After a momentary pause of contemplation Orion jumped to his feet with a clap of his hands. As Orion marched towards his business partner the crowd scattered like the drought killed leaves before the thrice prayed for summer monsoons. He wore a crisp shimmering white vest and slacks overtopped by a charcoal gray jacket. There was nothing formidable about Orion’s plush lips, rounded chin, sharp nose and short black curly hair. But there it was in his face unapproachable naked power.
The man he’d named “John” had returned his greeting with a smile and an imaginary high-five. But now he was unabashedly flirting with Harmonia. He whispered briefly in her ear and she nodded vigorously then handed off her serene great-granddaughter to someone else. He departed in her good graces by a peck on the back of her gloved hand. Others called to him and those that didn’t he reached out to as he worked his way towards his seat at Maeve’s table. Still fighting forest fires in the summer, not fully integrated into the family business, he kept his auburn hair short. To everyone’s delight he wore a three piece suit cut just like Orion’s, also in charcoal gray. His tie was red. Orion’s matched his jacket. He also wore “cowboy boots” which were unusual foot wear for men in Italy back then. What made everyone chuckle was they knew within a very short John would lose the boots, tie and jacket. Silence spread amongst the family members as the two tall men approached. Orion stood smiling with his hand outstretched. John grabbed it while greeting a friend over his shoulder. When their hands clasped, John used the grip to pull Orion into a bear hug.
Maeve like everyone else, gasped. But, unlike everyone else she was unafraid of laughing.
“I love that guy.” she whispered to Roxanne, now standing beside her.
Roxanne wasn’t watching Orion’s discomfort nor his amusing effort to be good natured about the scene. No, Roxanne kept a knowing eye on her good friend Maeve. Maeve stood when her best man entered the room. Maeve’s dark eyes watched every glib step of John’s procession across the dining room to their table. Roxanne glanced at the unseeing Maeve with confusion and delight. She shook her coppery locks and whispered “Tut, tut.” to herself. It had been three years since Maeve and Orion’s marriage of convenience. She’d produced the heir to their combined fortunes. Roxanne was on her fifth husband, she recognized …
“Time to dance everyone!” John exulted as he approached. His up-turned palms flapped as a signal to rise.
Stan, party to the Harmonia’s secret, had already offered his one true love the crook of a rather muscular arm and was leading her away. The two men nodded over the words, “Harmonia, Orion, Rubens and us.” Then, without actually moving himself John encouraged his friends at the adjoining table to join in.
Over John’s shoulder Maeve could see Harmonia headed to the dance floor. She could see her husband commanding the crowd to rise after Harmonia suggested it. She heard world like equippiers, and exclamations about a new dance called a “quintrille”. To Maeve’s disappointment she saw another woman on her husband’s arm as he herded forth his host. Squinting in confusion rather than consternation, she almost sat. But, in the process her dark eyes fell upon John’s smiling face. There was something in his blue eyes, Maeve had never seen before. His hairy right hand struck out to her like lightning. And when his tan fingers slipped into her red-gloved hand it was like electricity running trough her trembling body.
“Oh no. You’re going with us.”