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Gli Smeraldi di Napoli

by A Baptiste 7 months ago in Short Story
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TW: N/A

Gli Smeraldi di Napoli
Photo by Antonio Vitolo on Unsplash

I attended the Oxford Summer Program in 2019 and this was my final for the Fiction Class. This wasn’t the original idea - but it came to me suddenly and I wrote it over like two days using my (haha) very expansive knowledge of Old Hollywood movies.

Oh, he’s so beautiful, they would say.

Why, yes, I would reply, and he sings and he dances too.

How wonderful is that, they would say.

It is, I would reply, and so did I.

And at that the reporters would become very shy, giving me withering glances with a slight mumbling of oh, yes, that is true, and sip their drinks and fade into the background of the golden dinner party.

That pattern had been a self fulfilling prophecy for the last few galas, balls, and dinners I had been forced to attend. Ever since the rumor had been circulated that I may be tapped to be on loan for his respective studio so that we could preform together.

He wanted to expand his repertoire, prove that he was more than just a bimbo, and they needed an experienced actor who couldn’t steal the spotlight – it was a prefect match, really. If I were any younger, I might have made it harder for them to sideline me like this – but I am old, and I am tired, and if this pretty boy wanted his fifteen seconds of fame before they threw him aside, I’d figured I’d just let him have it.

“It’s going to be wonderful, just you wait,” my agent kept telling me over the phone. “Real meaty stuff, y’know, your kind of stuff, dramatic tension and all that jazz,” He always talked more like what someone might imagine an agent would sound like than a real person.

“Yes, I’m sure it will be,” I said, holding the phone in place with my shoulder and painting a stripe of classic pink onto my nail.

“And you’ve got to promise you won’t make any trouble for them, doll,” He would say. “You really wanna get on Preeminent’s good side, y’know, to get those connections,”

“My dear,” I would say slowly, screwing the cap shut and placing it on the rim of the bathtub. “My job isn’t to make connections. My job is to act.”

And then I hung up the phone before he could say anything else.

I hated the poor boy before I even met him, and none of it was his fault. Even when I finally did see him in person for the first time, he didn’t even have time to defend himself – it was his eyes that stuck me first.

Film hadn’t managed to capture the brilliance of his eyes.

They where the piercing green of emeralds.

He was staring off into space, utensils suspended into place as he differed off. In a snap he was back again, cutting the criminally under salted steak and gracefully raising it to his lips. I swallowed, throat suddenly very arid and very thirsty, plucking a flute of Champagne from a passing waiter.

I took a deep breath. It was fine, I reasoned with myself. This boy was was just like everybody else, yes, everybody else, just one more of us miserable souls who was destined to become worm food. There was no need to be a silly schoolgirl about it.

I’d give him him the same mask I gave everybody else, and he, like everybody else, would be just as dazzled. I strode over to him with the half empty glass in hand.

“Hello, little starlet,” I cooed with a smirk.

“Oh,” He blinked, speaking in a polished mid – Atlantic accent and looking up at me through upsettingly long eyelashes. “Hello.”

“How’s the steak?” I asked with a little raise of the eyebrows.

“The – “ He glances down at his plate, the dark juices pooling under the tasteless green beans. “It’s quite good,”

Clearly a lie, I thought, talking a sip from the untouched water glass in front of his placemat to wet my lips before giving him a fox worthy grin. “Are you excited to start filming?”

“Yes,” He tilted his head into an elegant little half nod, giving me a better view of the platinum blond, impeccably formed, waves. “I am. I’ve never been to Italy before.”

“Oh, Italy just wonderful: the culture, the people, every street’s got a little bit of history seeped into it. And don’t get me started on the food: gelato, the pizzas and pastas, and the most wonderful cured meat.”

His eyes were unreadable as the flicked back down to his plate and they stopped at my broach on his path back up to my face. A perfect smile flickered on his lips. “I’m exited to try it.”

And that was that. I slid out of the chair and took two Champagne glasses form a passing tray, and the waiter couldn’t say anything to me.

With a heavy sigh, my co – star dropped himself into the chair with his name on the back in large black, bolded letters. I slid my sunglasses down to look at him, dripping like Nerites. I pressed my lips together and pushed my glasses back up my nose, forcefully returning my eyes to the script.

“Hey!” The director called and we both turned. “You’re both on in ten!”

For a moment all of the chatter became the sound of the sea, the water running to the pale sands before flinching as if realizing how hot it was, quickly retreating back into itself. I could hear him still breathing heavily from that last scene, before it too melded and merged with the other sounds.

After a while he spoke, “Would you be so kind as to indulge me with a trip to the gelato shop near the hotel this afternoon?” He said it so kindly it almost made me wonder if the camera had already started rolling without me noticing.

I pulled down my sunglasses to look right into his terrifyingly dazzling eyes. “Why?”

He quirks one eyebrow, giving me the most mischievous grin I ever did see. I didn’t even know he was capable of smiling like that. I felt as if I’d been let in on the stylish beauty’s secret. “Because we’re in Italy.” He says simply, as if it’s the only possible answer.

I don’t know what possessed me in that moment. Mabye it was the opressive heat, or the sticky humidity, or the salt cracked under our toenails that brought me to have pushed back my sunglasses and leaned back into my chair before saying, “ As long as your buying.”

I saw him bite his lip and lower his head before squinting out to the horizon once more.

The camera zooms in on the back of her head, hair shiny in the natural light before she turns around and brushes it out of her face. She scrunches up her eyes in the scorching Italian sun. The woman touching up his hair and makeup behind his windblown co – star steps back, disappearing.

“Alright, divas,” The director calls. “Three,”

His eyes are on her shoulders.

“Two,”

She inhales, dissolving her identity – sacrificing it to the character. What are her dreams, what does she want?

“One! Action!”

The woman, her heart hasn’t been broken yet.

“You know,” She begins, her voice bleeding with wistful nostalgia. “I use to come here with my husband, back before - oh it feels so long ago. He’d always skip rocks, but they never got very far. It’s kind of poetic in a way, they never got far, but neither did he in the end,” She breathed in deeply, nose burning with the salty brine.

H says nothing. All of the acting is in his eyes. Longing, peril, need.

All of it is in his eyes.

“And I know how you men hate to hear about previous lovers,” She says, gathering the hair out of her eyes. “And I didn’t mean to bore you, but I can’t help but wonder … if you fall in love with me … Will you be like one of those stones? Skipping, skipping, skipping – sunk.”

“Well you won’t have to worry very much bout that, darling,” He gives her a lecherous grin, backlit by the searing, brilliant light of midday. “I don’t plan on falling in love with you.”

It’s a lie. It’s already to late.

She turns her back on him once more, curls dancing in the wind. “Oh, how naïve you are. We never have a say in these things, dear boy,”

“Cut!”

Sometime later, he invited me to go sailing with him. “At dawn,”

“Dawn?” I ask with my nose scrunched up. “Dawn?”

“You’ve already said yes,” He reminds me with that crooked sliver promising mischief.

I drop the script into my lap with a huff. “That was before you mentioned having to dawn.”

“You’ll thank me.” He promises.

But thanks isn’t the first thing on my lips when he knocks on my hotel door in the morning. I follow him half – dreaming to the dock, where he grabs my arms to steady me as I step onto the boat. I am awake when he touches me, retuning to drowsiness almost immediately after he lets me go. I rub my arms. The cold was always the worst thing about early mornings.

I can see his outline by the last beams of moonlight as he uncoils ropes and wraps them back as needed.

“You’ve done this before.” It’s not a question.

Even in the dark I can see that glint in his eyes. He turns back and continues tying and loosening the knots.

We set out slowly onto the water, drifting, invited by the sea with open arms. The sky has faded from inky black to purple, only the hints of stars remaining. He waits until we are what looks like a couple hundred yards from the shore before he stops.

“What are we suppose to do now?”

“We wait.”

First, there was a small twirling, a hazy line of orange on the skyline. The purple is beginning to vanish and bands of light illuminate the horizon. Tufts of cotton float lazily across sky while color by color, brushstroke by brushstroke, an impressionist painting of gold and yellow and peach and pink is brought to life by the angles or Apollo or whoever, it didn’t really didn’t mater to me in that moment because with the soft sounds of the water swishing against the boat and the intense sun winking at us behind the clouds, I was at peace.

“Glorious, isn’t it?” He asked, face cast in gold and soft pink.

I’ve acted in the movies long enough to know what I was supposed to say.

Instead I look back to the biggest, most expressive canvas I’ve ever seen, running over all of the sarcastic comments and witty quips I could think to say to him before begrudgingly deciding to mumble, “I owe you dinner.”

And he tossed his head back and laughed, a full, unadulterated laugh like the chiming of the local clocktower. The breeze ran it’s cool fingers though his honey blonde hair and I felt my heart sinking into the ocean.

The second before our last night in Italy, I finally did get to make good on my promise of dinner.

We where often filming so late into the evening that most of the restaurants had closed. We slipped out of the wrap party and had pasta in a little well – lit place where the waitress thought it was our wedding anniversary and gave us a little Tiramisu on the house.

Our stroll back to the hotel was quiet and comfortable with full bellies and slightly flushed cheeks. He stops for a second to look at a small but beautifully crafted timepiece in a crowded shop window. Gold face, black leather band.

“You like that?” I say carefully, almost regretful to break the warm silence between us.

H simply hums, sliding an arm around my shoulders and turning to guide us down the street. Out of the yellowed light of a cheap apartment overhead, a silky voice croons,

Was it dreams ago my heart felt this glow?

Or only just tonight, dear?

Snaking along the bends of the drying cobblestone streets after us.

When the flickering neon sign of the hotel comes into view, he removes his arm and steps behind me. I look back at him, confused for a moment, before I remember who we are.

“Ah,” I breathe.

He looks down at me with those brilliant eyes thorough those long lashes for a long time before he reaches out and draws me closer. I can feel his chest rising under my cheek. We stand like that for a long time before he, with a pang of remorse I can feel, releases me.

As I walk away, I can hear the narrator’s voice in my head.

And she walks out into the breezy night and doesn’t look back, because she can’t look back, because if she does –

When I get to my room, I pour myself a glass of Bourbon and drink it lukewarm.

I’m too old for this, I think, massaging my temples.

If God hates me nearly as much as the tabloids think He will, and hell is personalized, I am quite confident that my own personal hell would comprised of eternally walking through a busy airport in my Sunday best.

And the reporters with their blown out lightbulbs and worn out notepads don’t make it any better. Just as I was getting used to having my feet on the ground instead of twenty thousand feet in above in a glorified train coach, here they came bounding around the corner with almost astonishing speed.

Darn, I was hoping I’d have more time.

I dig into the pocket of my coat and pressed a small, black box into the back of his arm. He glances back to me, the question forming on his lips before they pounce on him, hungry for a great shot.

In proper Hollywood fashion he lead me through the reporters, parting them like the Red Sea, hand over his eyes and gripping my arm. Out of the terminal, out of the gate, past the baggage claim and out of the airport to the bustling street of sun-bleached yellow taxis and goodbyes and car horns.

He couldn’t say anything to me then, but I knew even if he could have, he wouldn’t have said a word. I like to imagine that he would have given me one of those warm, private curves of the lips where all of his feelings pooled into those beautiful gem stones.

Short Story

About the author

A Baptiste

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