The Sad Cafe VII

Don’t go, I plead wordlessly. But I can taste the good-bye on his lips

Marie Lu, Prodigy
Image Source: Pinterest

The Sad Café VII

A love story by Holly Hunter and Hyperion Sturm
Common Ground
By Holly Hunter
 
The heart can fall like a suicide
spiral down like the shade of
midnight deserts
  cold as petals on an icy lake
a flowing grave of dreams
an echo chamber of pain
Let my tongue flirt like
a butterfly among
wildflowers
rather than polish my scars
debride my wounds.

❂❂❂

From my window, a sliver of the moon casts a haze over the water. I can hear the rush of soft waves. Those creatures beneath the depths, do they sleep, dream? If parted, do they grieve?  

Down the street, I can see the lights from an all-night store. A man waits behind the counter. Cautiously he slips his hand under his jacket and takes a long swig from a bottle. A group of young thugs gathers outside the storefront. I imagine them harming the storekeeper.  

Distracted by the young whore taking shelter in a doorway, they laugh and whisper. Oblivious to her vulnerability, she sleeps as though she has never heard of birds of prey that swoop down with jagged talons, hungry for butchery. I watch intently in case I need to call out a warning but losing interest; they disappear into the dark.

Maybe nothing is real. Perhaps everything I see and hear is an illusion. I lose focus on the outside world, and the burn of you stings relentlessly just below the surface. I want to sleep forever, not give a damn about you.

❂❂❂

The busy calendar of appointments and meetings no longer held David’s interest. He shut the book and rang up the executive secretary and told her to take all of his calls. He hadn’t been able to shake the unease he felt after his last few visits with Renate. She seemed to be drifting away from him, not accepting any of his ideas to keep them together. The last time he took her to the airport, she seemed a thousand miles away. How long had it been, four months?

Four Months Earlier

David stared out over the steering wheel through the dew-covered windshield down the narrow street. The old sandstone buildings on both sides rose straight up like the high walls of some labyrinth, swallowing his thoughts and forcing the ache in his chest to hang closer to his heart. The door opened, and Renate slid in and lightly perched in the seat next to David.

She sat silently in the car, hands folded in her lap and head down as if in prayer. David looked over as visions of their time together twisted through his mind. Now, all he saw was Renate looking down at the floor.

A tear fell from her long lashes and skipped down the front of her dress, disappearing in a small ring in her dress’s soft pastels. She forced a smile and whispered, “Let’s go.”

They wound their way down the cobblestones to the main avenue, mutual thoughts resounding in their minds like drops of water in a well. The silence between David and Renate was a chasm with no bridge across. Their reflective mood shattered as the car accelerated through traffic.

“Hey, babe. I was just thinking; I’m coming up on ten years with my Department of State job. I can retire early, draw a small pension, and be with you in London if you take the trauma center job.”

“Please don’t do that, David,” Renate said

“Why not? We can finally be together full time.” David replied.

“Then I have to look at you every day, thinking you gave up your career for me, and I’ll have so little downtime to spend with you until I get a more senior position. Renate’s tone was agitated, on the verge of anger. What fun will I be then? You’ll hate me for doing that to you.”

Anger, frustration, fear, another heartbreak; it all came pouring out finally. David knew not to push the point. He would never ask Renate to give up her chances at a career for the same reasons. Perhaps she was right. 

“I’m sorry. Forgive me. I love you, and I can’t think straight. It’s these goodbyes. I always fear it’s the last one.” David said, his voice tinged with surrender.

Renate reached across the seat and held his hand to reassure him. “I love you more, she teased, hoping to lighten their mood. She didn’t want to spoil their last minutes together. David, we just need the time to get our lives established, and then we can decide what is best for both of us. Besides, I much prefer you spoiling me to becoming a wife with poopy kids, a dog, and a closet full of mom jeans.”

Realization spread across David’s face as the vision of their last goodbye faded, and his office came back into stark focus. So, that was it. His desire for her, his push for them to marry seemed like the typical man seeking a family Renate wasn’t ready to accept. The exhale of air from David’s lungs was the exhaust of all his misguided dreams turning to hot ash.

We promised to meet again on our anniversary at the Café. I’ll back away until then and give her time to decide what she wants to do, and then, if she still wants me, we’ll work it out together.

I need to get some air. David walked past the secretary and told her he would be out for the rest of the day. She raised her eyebrows and gave David a sideways glance. Her knowing look stopped David for a moment. “Come with me, Gabrielle. I know a nice Café where we can discuss the affairs of the State.”

“You mean affairs of the heart, don’t you? One moment, I’ll get my things,” she said. 

The End.

Dedication

This story is dedicated to The House of Heart and Holly Rene Hunter without whom this story would not be possible. The Sad Café is captured in several blog posts and poems by Holly and I was captivated from the beginning until finally Holly and I struck up a conversation and the idea to collaborate on an expanded version was born. To remain true to House of Heart, Holly graciously allowed me free reign to use her poetry and short stories as a basis for the seven short chapters. I sewed together snippets from other stories of mine as well, finding the common theme between these diverse writings that span several years. A poignant romance lasting ten years, A Sad Café, captures well how the tempest of love is the teaching of pain where in we find the true value of love that lasts through all the seasons of our lives. To love fully with an open heart accepting all the risks and weathering those risks is the agony of ecstasy.

The Sad Cafe VI

Dreams are beaches where the yet-to-be, the once-were, the will-never-be may walk awhile with the still are.

David Mitchell, Number 9 Dream
Image Source: Vladimir Volegov

The Sad Cafe VI

A Love Story by Holly Hunter and Hyperion Sturm
Negril
By Holly Hunter

In the hushed silence between waves
sighs fill the night as stars come alive
and the breeze is a soft poem.
Nude in the moonlight but for drifting
shadows the swirl in your glass keeps
perfect time with far off thunder.
I need to look away from your gun powder eyes
that lethal shot
before the fluttering of a thousand butterflies
betray me.
I breathe in the circlets of your cigarette and
the honey-sweet scent of willing hostages.
As fragile as fireflies we escape to the madness of
our minds where all we have to do is live.

❂❂❂

London and St. Thomas Hospital was a blur. Renate rested on a secluded beach north of Saint-Tropez, away from tourists and local hawkers’ and their busy hustle. David had followed through on his promise to find her though she had never left him any direct address. His determination wilted her defenses as he always did. Now, she was nestled in the warm sand among the rocks and dunes as the salty air wafted on an offshore breeze across her exposed skin.

In a haze of contentment, Renate turns away from the ghostly faces of patients at the hospital, staring at her with needy fear. Gone were the empty whispers of would-be lovers seeking to replace her dreams with their own. It was not their love she wanted.  She glanced at David several times. Not wanting him to see her admire him, she would snap her head back if he turned. It was a game Renate played with desirous instinct. 

Shadows painted most of his body. The sun’s last glow cast him in bronze, and the play of shadows and warm light deepened the darkness around his eyes and cheeks, giving him the emotionless focus of a mighty predator. She knew he would prey on her soon. Renate hoped that all he took from her gave him the strength to come back for more. It was only after he left her that regret stripped her to bare bones, and heartache became the only feeling she could recall.

That evening, back at their hotel, Renate waited for David to collect his things while she looked out at sea. It had changed from a shimmering translucent azure to black ink. The lights from a thousand homes and streetlights lit up the beach, and the luminescent seafoam riding the crest of waves flashed like small comets dipping down to the sea. The deep hum of water lapping at the shore quieted her thoughts.

David had changed from a silly boy with lion eyes to a man of confidence. His demeanor with others was aristocratic, even charming, with impeccable manners. She felt like his faux Baroness, a kitchen girl swooped up in a nobleman’s life. Part of her wanted black leather, a fast car, and men when she wasn’t busy with more important things. She wanted her own life.

“Ready darling,” David asked as he wrapped his arms around Renate. She responded by lifting her chin and offering her cheek to his lips. Mmmmm, he smelled good.

“Where are you taking me tonight?” She asked. The hikes in the mountains to the icefields and waterfalls, jet skiing in a gently rolling sea, picnics at every beautiful vantage point in this players paradise had her heart enthralled. More than once, she stripped David of his public decorum and made love to him like a feral succubus, punishing him for all his pleasures and thoughtfulness.

“There is a restaurant up the coast a few kilometers. It’s the only building in sight. The mountains run right up to the back of it, and from the terrace, you can see the lights and sometimes the outlines of all the ocean-going ships. It’s quite magical once the moon comes up.” David explained.

“Do they have fresh seafood, I’m starving for a taste of the sea?” Renate’s voice lifted with the thought of another delicious meal. She loved the touch of savory sauce with fresh vegetables just right for a lady with her appetite fueled by adventure in the city, up in the highlands, and rocky shores.

“They have a nouvelle cuisine presentation of lobster and soup. I think you’ll like it.” David said.

The couple wound their way up the twisting coast road to the restaurant nestled in a carved out plateau among the ginger and ruby-colored rocks. The deep-throated rumble of the coupe David rented echoed off walls and rocks in every twist and turn. It felt like roaring among the lions as they eyed her on her strolls along the pubs at night. She luxuriated in that warmth rising in the pit of her stomach. They would not attack as long as her arm was linked with David’s. The girls, painted to perfection and dressed in their man killer dresses, compared themselves and withdrew into self hate. Her chin up, she claimed her man against all others.

Inside they sat next to a large panel window overlooking the ocean below. The night sky took on a deep azure glow with stars shining like bits of broken glass.

When the waiter came, David took care of the order while Renate was lost in her thoughts, gazing out over the ocean. She felt she was adrift in boundless darkness with no up or down or sides. The stars in their infinite patterns of brightness, brought a tear to her eye. Their vacation was drawing to a close, and what then? She couldn’t bring herself to guess.

“Darling,” David whispered to bring Renate back into the moment with him. He saw her quickly wipe her eyes and turn to him. Her best effort to appear happy and content failed to convince David. He felt her melancholy as his own. They both hated the impending goodbye.

“Let’s spend our last day at the beach, David began. We can pack a small lunch. A good swim will help us sleep well before we head back.”

“I don’t want to sleep, love. I want to be awake for every minute of our time together.” Renate placed her delicate fingers over David’s hand. She wanted him to feel in her touch what she felt. She knew he was mad about her. His eyes, words, and everything he did tell her it was right; he was genuine. He loved her. Renate’s only romance would depart again with promises for the next time. 

She felt comfortable that he would be in Paris for a few more years and her internship was up after the winter session. Life seemed to be everything she could hope for. Everything was perfect except a burning desire to answer to herself and pursue a career of her choosing in a location of her choosing. How could David understand that one thing that never left her even as her heart cracked like pottery overfired in the kiln from her obsession with all David brought to her life?

I can’t live with myself, and I can’t live without him.

The clink of plates and the swish of starched cotton awakened Renate. The food smelled delicious. The wine had a nose like subtle dried fruits, aromatic wood resins, and a little spice dust.

“Do you like it?” David Asked.

“I love all of it, and so much more,” Renate replied, catching the glint of gunpowder eyes and lips upturned into a promise of sleepless nights and twisted sheets, her bareness covered in sweet promises.

The Sad Cafe V

There is nothing in the back of this cafe. It sits right on the margin between the edge of the world and infinite possibilities.

Gloria Naylor, Bailey’s Café
Image Source: Pinterest

The Sad Cafe V

A Love Story by Holly Hunter and Hyperion Sturm
Incantations
By Holly Hunter

When all that I want is so far away
and all that is left is solitude,
I chant your name through warm
currents of breath or sharp ice
shadows of entities.
I’ve etched my likeness into the stars
a dreamer in fields of flowers
a bouquet of affection fragile jonquils
pressed against a heart.
Tethered to cloud banks of silvery sleep
we meet in fantasies and the
sweetness of a lover’s suffering
❂❂❂

The Sad Cafe seemed to show its age. The awning was dulled by the accumulation of time and the brass handle no longer glittered in the light cast by the streetlamps. Inside, the crowd was different; even the patrons’ clothes were more casual than before. David could see his reserved place in the corner where he and Renate had sat that first night at the Sad Cafe and many more nights after. 

Like his faded memories, the table was empty, hidden in the shadows to shield lovers and loneliness from the pain of discovery. David liked that he could be alone to think about what comes next. 

The Head Waiter recognized him and ushered him to his seat. David sat on the booth seat, back to the wall. Renate could show her back to the crowd, and he would see every tiny nuance of movement and catalog the people that came in and left, keeping Renate safe from any rudeness that might accompany a guest with too much alcohol and an ill temper. Ah, this is Paris. I forget where I am sometimes.

“Have you seen Mademoiselle Renate,” David asked.

Ever discrete and careful not to show his understanding of the disappointment he must deliver, The waiter said, “I will check if she left a message.” He knew the message already given to him three days ago by phone. Renate had come months earlier and left a package to deliver if David showed up. Mademoiselle need not have paid him the 100 Euros to ensure David got the box, the message, or his dedication. She was a beautiful woman with such a poignant grace. Her face and the elegant way mademoiselle stood before him was betrayed by a pain reflected in her eyes he could only guess about. Yes, he would do what she asked.

The waiter returned as the jazz singer tuned up her vocal cords to the worn piano. Her lyrical message told the story of when love comes to town, and how her heart swoons to the swirling currents of desire.

“Sir, I’m sorry. Mademoiselle cannot be here tonight. She sends her regrets and asks that you enjoy the evening so you can tell her about it when you meet again.”

The crush of disappointment gripped David as he nodded, unable to speak. The staff swooped in and set his pre-ordered meal minus the portion reserved for mademoiselle. A delightful young lady stepped up next to David and brushed his shoulder with a supple hip as she bent over the table to light the candle. She turned and smiled, her glance an open door. David caught his voice and turned back to the waiter and listened as the waiter wished his patron a good appetite, and could he be of any further service.

“Yes, did mademoiselle say where she was?”

There was a pause as if a secret password were uttered that triggered a programmed response.

“London,” was all he told David as he handed him a handwritten note. He looked down and studied it. There was an address to a hotel in London. Below, he read, Come to me if you can. It was signed in Renate’s decorative signature.

As he looked down to put the note in his pocket, he noticed a flask on the seat. It had slid down to the back of the cushion. He picks it up. Where had he seen this kind of flask before? Was it the girl who lit the candle? That was why she nudged me. She placed it here for me to find. David slipped it into his suit coat pocket. He’d look at it later. Such passing of information was not uncommon in his line of work. Nothing happened by accident, and contacts were always strangers to each other. David maintained a spider web of secrecy, the talisman of hidden intent, protected from nefarious governments and dark industry’s ongoing probes.

The meal was exquisite, as usual. Age and experience had perfected the chef’s craft. David paid and left a tip that would ensure further loyalty. As he listened to his steps echo off the walls of silent shops and the upstairs apartments, mixed with the far off susurrations of traffic and nightlife, David worked the plan to go to London in his head. Yes, the sooner, the better. He would call and leave a message at the front desk of the hotel. “Be there, soonest, David.

The Sad Cafe IV

The very essence of romance is uncertainty.

Oscar Wilde
Image by Michael & Inessa Garmash

The sad cafe iv

A Love Story by Holly Hunter and Hyperion Sturm
She Doesn’t Speak French
By Holly Hunter

On sleepless nights
I stroll the left bank in black sequined heels
My eyelids are heavy with smoky glitter.
Among the art I find you
your essence pierces my veins
settles in the pool of my heart
soft lights flicker their last warning in the sad cafe where
like willows, we sway to long-forgotten love songs
then you are gone, a Modigliani reclining, never hearing
Je t’aime, the only French I know.
Five Years Earlier

Autumn leaves have begun to fall. Late October, London is ablaze in hues of orange and purple. On my bench, by the river, I daydream that I am an adolescent reptile escaped from Kafka’s Die Verwanlung, laid back basking in the sun.

The air is layered in heavy cologne, but men do not interest me now.  I am content to casually observe. To my advantage, I know all about them while they know so little about me.

Thinking of you against my wishes, dying a little, dead all the sweet hope of dreams never realized,  I imagine my earthly body padded, sat beside yours on a grassy knoll breathing in the scent of lilac and the mossy green River Delta.

In the dark, I am nude but for a shadow across my torso.

You are so near, and to distract me from this burning desire, I let my thoughts linger among Roethke’s “In A Dark Time.”

Years pass, and by chance, we meet at the sad cafe. I sway in your arms like a fragile birch in an autumn tempest. The halo of my eyes glistened, recalling how we gave away what we never really had. We hold each other, knowing that love has died, and we with it.

Renate’s life rotated in the dark of city life as she did her post-graduate work at the St. Thomas Hospital on the Thames River situated across from the Parliament Building. London was her escape from the memories of Paris. Here it was a different life with less mystery and a chance to work with only her thoughts to distract her.

❂❂❂

“Welcome aboard, David. I see in your personnel file, you served the Embassy here in Paris before as an assistant to a previous Military Attache.

“I was young and inexperienced then, Sir,” David replied.

“I also see where you departed with high regard from the Ambassador. I find that interesting that you made such an impression.” The current Attache, Colonel Picardin, remarked as he continued to walk briskly from the receptionist station into the secured keep of the U. S. Embassy in Paris.

Doors designed to withstand bomb blasts clanked shut, ensuring David would be a captive audience for as long as the Colonel desired. Thankfully, senior military officers that spied for a living were spare of words.

When their tour of the facility and introductions to his team of embassy support staff was complete, David excused himself from the group confessing he had a date with a cafe near the Seine River. People rarely asked the Deputy Attache questions as it was his mission to go places and meet people of all walks of life, some much more dangerous than others.

“David, one second. I’ll walk you out. Col Picardin lost his amiable countenance and now addressed David with a stern demeanor like a face dancer. This assignment is no stranger to you. It will be hard for you to acclimate to Paris’ slow battle rhythm compared to your work in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Don’t let your guard down. Bad things happen here of a far more insidious nature. Loss of life is seldom, it’s the discount price that is rarely offered in our line of work.”

“Thank you, Sir. I’ll keep my head on a swivel.”

“One last thing, the Officer uttered as he approached the blast door. The women here are the best at getting what they want. Trust no one.”

The words bit into David’s flesh like the talons of an angry raptor. The curse of secrecy meant his honesty could only go so far. This need to only address people without commitment had wounded the only true love he had ever known. He looked down at the pavers and shook the memories from his vision; duty feeds the ego and stabs the heart, he whispered to ghosts. Tonight he would go to the Sad Cafe and wait for Renate. It was their anniversary, so to speak. Today was the day they confirmed their love for each other five years ago. They had missed several, but this time he hoped she would be there and let him explain; no, beg her to come back to him.

He would be here for at least five more years, plenty of time for them to work on restarting their relationship. David knew he would tell her what he does for a living and why he was gone so often without explanation. He let loneliness, fear, and finally, jealousy and suspicion take her mind and crush her heart. How could he let an oath to silence destroy the one person he held most dear?

Sad Cafe III

When I lifted my eyes to you, suddenly your heart showed me my way

Paul Neruda
Image Source: Victor Bauer

The Sad Cafe III

A love story by Holly Hunter and Hyperion Sturm

The Letter
By Holly Hunter

I left a message for you in a book.
It is like me to mark provocative phrases,
to shake them out in ponderous verses.
Do not read too much in the fallout,
the notes in the border are for nostalgia’s sake.
I dreamt of you again last night,
my adversary,
whose aura I barely recall.
My suffering is not in knowing what was real
but what was not.
❂❂❂
Ten Years Earlier

The Library at the University of Paris, the Sorbonne, amplifies loneliness in ancient manuscripts along high walls. It’s islands of tables, worn sofa’s, and plush chairs remind Renate of her isolation in a place brimming with students. Her studies in Health Science away from her beloved beaches left an ache that felt like hunger, an emptiness David once filled.

She could see herself once again walking along the Rue de Seine to the Pont des Arts Bridge, called lover’s lock by those who pledged their love and sealed it with a clasp attached to the railing; just like she and David had done. 

Basking in the warm sun, Renate waited for David. She would hear his silly teal Vespa clatter across the cobblestones and pretend not to see him. Renate preferred her red Ducati Pangale and black leathers she left at home in the States. She saw herself leaning over the railing gazing into the green water at her reflection.

As stealthy as a horse on gravel, David’s face appeared in the reflection. Piercing feral eyes, a mirage in the rippled surface, devoured her and sent a warm tide across her skin. The memory replayed her plan to test his heart. She turned to him, showing no surprise, and lifted her face in a subtle recognition. He kissed her deeply like he thought he could conjure up her soul from her heart’s depth.

Only a moment of his passion was allowed to whet his appetite, and she would give him a gentle push to force him away. Renate smiled to herself. She loved that boyish look of confusion on his face. “I’m not that kind of girl; you know that,” she would say. And then, before he could think his way out of his reckless move, “Come on, let’s go for a ride and see if we can find a place to watch the sunset from the shadows.”

David reached into his coat pocket and presented Renate with a gold-colored lock and two silver bracelets, each with half a heart attached. “Will you help me secure this to the rail?” He asked, apprehension easing into the edge of his confident tone.

“Where is the key?” Renate asked, feeling herself fall into a dream, the opium den of lovers struck down by a misty fog of emotion inhaled too long and too often.

“In my shirt pocket,” came a reply; soft, deep, and far away.

Renate’s slender fingers with nails manicured to give her delicate hands a raptor-like precision, descended into the pocket well and froze on the key in that millisecond where the dream warms to a glow with the rising fire of desire.

His hands slid over her shoulders and down to clasp the small of her back. Renate felt his body through her clothes as he hugged her to him. The Dream became a distant call of wild thoughts. It was subtle and she understood the message his hands intended. The sub rosa of love is a secret code that requires few words, exact words. There can be no misunderstanding or turning back.

“I love you, Renate. I want you to be my girl.”

“You are such a silly boy. You know you have to kiss me again and mean it this time before you ask such things of me.” Renate breathed the words with the last syllable muffled between their lips.

❂❂❂

Never let a man get too comfortable with his expectations, or he’ll leave you as fast as he found you. 

Tears fell onto the pages of her open book. Fresh ink gave witness to heartache in a smear of liquid words as the thought trailed away, leaving Renate to sort through the emotional wreckage left behind.