A soft knock at the door quelled any sentimental feelings that welled up from reading Bastien’s letters. I carefully tucked them back into the crawlspace and get up to go answer the door. On the way out of my room, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and stop. I walked backward and stared at my reflection. I looked insane, but there wasn’t much I could do about that. I undid my ponytail and let my dark waves fall freely. At least now I looked like a beautiful psycho.
The massive door swung open to reveal an attractive young man in a white button-down and slacks. Merde. I thought to myself and wished I’d put more time into my appearance.
“Hello.” His voice was deep and soft. He had hair the color of dark honey, and his eyes were grey like a summer storm.
His eyes lingered on mine for a second too long before he cleared his throat and continued, “I’m here to speak with General Riviera, on behalf of General Carillo.”
“May I ask what this is about?”
“Camila?” My mother called from the top of the steps, “Who’s at the door?”
I looked to him for an answer, and he says, “Dominic Alegria. I’m here on behalf of General Carillo.”
“My husband’s not here,” my mother said while coming down the steps. “But you can stay for dinner if you’d like.”
“Thank you. I haven’t had a homecooked meal in months,” he smiled and stepped in. His lopsided smile and deep dimple made me giddy.
“Camila, show him to the dining room. Dinner is almost ready.” My mother said as if it were the most natural thing in the world to have dinner with strangers.
We walked to the dining room, arm in arm, as I suppressed the butterflies’ awakening in my stomach.
Food covered the majority of the table, and the smell of it alone made me want to stay at home forever.
“So,” I ventured a conversation with the handsome stranger across from me, “what were you going to discuss with my father?”
“Military strategy and recruitment plans,” he shrugged and scooped food onto his plate.
His light accent wasn’t from here, so I asked him about it.
“I was born here, but I grew up in Italy with my mother. Just a few months ago I moved here for work,” he explained as he poured himself some water. “I haven’t seen you around before.”
“I’ve been living in Paris for the year.”
“Because she hates her Mamá,” my mother joked as she walked in. Behind her, Priscila followed with a tray of more food.
“I do not hate you, Mamá.”
“So, Dominic,” my mother started as she tossed the salad, “you said you were here on behalf of General Carillo?”
“Yes ma’am. I’m a commandant in his legion.”
“A commandant,” my mother repeated, no doubt already planning our wedding. She continues interrogating him, “Where are you from?”
“Here,” he added, “but I was raised in Tuscany.”
“And what do your parents do?” My mother further questioned him as if it was normal to ask your guests every detail about their lives.
“My father served in the navy, and my mother is a nurse,” he replied.
“I think you can stop with the interrogation now, Mamá,” I said as I stirred my soup.
I am not interrogating him, Camila,” she argued, “I’m simply trying to learn more about him.”
I rolled my eyes as she continued to question him.
Eventually, she found out everything she needed to know and left us alone to talk.
“What’s your favorite thing about Italy?”
“Everything.” His eyes lit up when he talked about home. “There’s no place like it. You should go sometime, or maybe,” he mused, “I could take you.”
The next morning, I sat under the trees in our backyard writing.
A September Concerto
I penned the title and waited for ideas to flow.
The tall grass swayed to the melody of the warm September breeze, and we laid there, a private audience to an autumn symphony.
The lines stared back at me as if they were waiting for more.
“The ground under us was dry, and it held the memories of many Septembers before it.”
I whirled around to see Dominic hovering beside me.
“How long were you there?”
“Long enough,” he sat down. “I like what you’re writing.”
I smiled down at my journal and let my hair fall in my face. He reached his arm around me and picked up my journal.
“Who’s this man you keep writing about?” He said as he continued to leaf through my journal. “Is it me?”
“We just met last night, how could all of my journal be about you?”
“Maybe you were thinking about me.”
“Why would I be thinking about you?”
“Because,” he smiled bashfully at the ground, “I was thinking about you.”
The next time I saw Dominic was New Year’s Eve. My mother was hosting a party to ring in the new decade. 1950 was just a few hours away and the excitement in the air was contagious.
I flitted from person to person, making my rounds as a proper hostess should. The wine-red dress I was wearing swirled around me and I greeted our guests, and my dark hair fell in dark waves over my shoulders.
A pair of arms slipped around my wait right as I just welcomed in my cousins.
“Dominic!” I spun in his arms so I could face him.
He was much taller now than when I last saw him, and his honey-brown hair was slicked back.
“Happy Birthday!” I smiled at him.
“Oh, but I did. Follow me.” I lead him away from the party and to my room where I hid his present.
“Most people would just say happy birthday.” He quipped.
“Since when am I most people?” I said to him from over my shoulder. I pulled out his gift. “Close your eyes,” I commanded.
“Close them!” I shouted. “Oh, and put your hands out.”
Reluctantly, he closed his eyes and opened his palms.
“I know you don’t want anything, and you’re going to say this is too much, but it’s your 21st so I had to do something,” I said while placing the box in his hands. Stepping back, I said, “Open your eyes.”
He eyed the box in his hands suspiciously and winced when he opened it.
“It’s not going to hurt you,” I laughed.
He pulled out a black camera and looked up at me. “You didn’t.”
“You said last time you were here that you wanted a camera, so I bought you a camera,” I shrugged.
“You’re amazing,” he chuckled and put the camera down, and stepped towards me. We were inches apart, so I could see the freckles that peppered his face.
“We should probably get back to the party...” I gestured towards the door and put some distance between us.
He watched me closely, then reluctantly agreed. “But first, I want to test this thing out.”
Stepping out into the hall, he grabbed the nearest person and shoved the camera into their hands. “Can you take our picture?”
A woman wearing a dress the color of champagne agreed, and Dominic dragged me into the frame. He wrapped his arms around me and smiled.
The flash went off in a blinding white light, but Dominic didn’t let me go just yet. The woman holding his camera handed it back and complimented, “You two make a beautiful couple.”
Dominic beamed at her compliment and winked at me. We walked into the party and were greeted with men and women dressed in every color under the sun, drinking champagne as if it were water.
We danced for the entire night, and once the countdown began, Dominic turned towards me.
“Five!” Everyone around us yelled. Dominic put his arms around my waist.
“Four!” He pulled me closer.
“Three,” I whispered and put my arms around his neck.
“Two.” He leaned in.
“One!” Dominic’s lips met mine as cheers erupted from everyone around us. Time stopped and it was just the two of us. His hands tightened around my waist and I tangled my fingers in his hair.
“Happy New Year!” Everyone whooped and hollered as I pulled away from him and pressed my forehead to his.
“Happy new year,” he panted.
“Happy new year, indeed,” I whispered.