Summer, Part One
A Solstice story
Start at the beginning of the Solstice series
As the new day's light fell softly across the threshold, Jorge Patron rolled open his eyes, letting his head loll back against the pillows. The sweet sound of Beethoven's Sixth crept from the clock radio at his bedside, and a salt-blonde grin spread across his face as he shifted to bring a hand to his wife's face.
"Today," he whispered softly, "I will show him no mercy, Maria mine."
"Mmmf. Mary. Early," she said, turning away. "Sleep."
"Not today," said Jorge, shaking his head. "Sleep is of the night, and this is a dawn to remember!"
"Shhh now. Music off."
He sat upright, still grinning, and muted his clock. It was a beautiful dawn - pale lavender with the first meeting of night and day, a gentle July breeze cooling the room and toying with sheer curtains he had washed the day before.
Naked, he stood and scratched through grey hairs at the slight potbelly wrought of advancing years, letting the breeze wash across his form until Mary opened a single eye. "Shower, robe, or close the curtains."
"Let them look," said Jorge, laughing. "If they're trying to steal a glimpse of my bride, let them feast their eyes on me instead. That'd show them."
"I'm sleeping now."
"I can tell."
"All right, all right." He leaned over her upturned face and smoothed the lines on her brow with a thumb, lifting her sun-worn face closer to his own before kissing her. "Sleep, my beauty."
He took up his robe and moved to the tiny bathroom, whistling aimlessly into the promise of the day.
"Do you need a lunch?" Rosa turned from the kitchen counter, a mayo-coated butter knife in hand above the marble. "Tomatoes are in at the farmer's market, I'm making sandwiches."
"No, no." Mayor Long shook his head as he walked toward his espresso machine. It was old - seeming ancient in the modernized kitchen - but, fond of its steam and song, it remained one of the few items he kept out of sentiment. "I'll stop off at Toad Hall before our appointment and grab one there."
The smile left as her round, youthful face darkened. "You eat there just to bother me."
"No. I eat there because Jay Todd owns the FoodMart and he's one of my bigger contributors."
"Sure, and then he undercuts you at every turn."
"Not every turn, Rosa, just the one."
"The one that mattered. We could have had the entire parcel - all of Byrd's place, all of it!"
"And we got most of it. Todd got the rest."
"FoodMart and dry cleaning. Like we need more of those in Solstice." She raised the knife, gesturing toward the windows. "Like anyone needs more of those."
"I know," he said in a soothing tone, "I know. But first rule of politics, Rosa - sometimes you just have to shrug and shake hands with the competition. Not often, but sometimes." His thin nostrils flared as he came close, blowing steam across the surface of his morning drink. "The tomatoes smell lovely, though. Earthy and prime and perfect. Listen, I'll make it a light lunch, and I'll do summer spaghetti sauce tonight, all right?"
"Isn't tonight your theatre mixer?"
"Spaghetti's easy. I'll have it done before I'm expected and the kids will appreciate it. Thank you very much for the tomatoes, Rosa, I do appreciate it. And for these apples, I'll have one of them on the drive."
She shook her head, turning back to her work. "Well, don't let the Toad choke you first."
"I'll take my chances."
Jorge stood back from the mirror, admiring his reflection. He'd shaved away most of the few days' stubble, leaving a goatee which he believed lent him a rakish look, and a handful of styling gel left his silver hair waving backward from his wide forehead. Tan summerweight pants and a white linen shirt left him looking the scion of Spain, ready to ride forward against some trouble in his provinces.
Laughing, he washed his hands of the gel and turned back from the mirror. "Maria! I'm going to the park today!"
"I know," she called back, "Demetrios' tonight for dinner?"
"Victory dinner, love, a victory dinner!"
"Don't forget to make reservations."
"Yes, yes …"
"It's Saturday, he'll be busy."
"I will make the reservations, love of my life, light of my eyes, but I must get to the park if I'm to beat him."
"All right. Be careful."
"It's not a day to be careful," he said, pulling her in for a kiss.
"Be careful anyway," she said, poking his ribs.
The first sign at the stoplight for Byrd and River roads proudly thanked the community for their support of the Commission for Solstice Open Spaces, which now preserved one hundred and forty-five acres of meadow and woodland forever in Byrd Memorial Park. The sign just to the left of it indicated that Mayor Long was pulling a Lexus into Todd Plaza, holding the law offices of Meredith Siemens, the FoodMart, One World Yoga Studios and Yeung Cleaners. He waved to Mrs. Yeung, ordered a turkey wrap - with bacon, no need for lunch to be overly light - from the surly youth at the FoodMart sandwich counter, and walked across the street to the park.
"You look like a gardener," said Jorge from his seat on a park bench. "How old are those shoes?"
"Younger than you by a city mile, Patron. And how are you?"
"I feel young." The two men smiled at one another before Long held out his hand. Jorge shook it from where he sat, and allowed the Mayor to help him just slightly as he stood. "And I feel lucky."
"Well, that's two of us, then, and she can't smile on both."
Jorge waved a thick finger in the air. "God smiles on me, Mayor, and that's all the luck I need."
"Well then, I'll remember you in my prayers tomorrow at services."
They walked toward a smattering of the park's chess tables, white faux marble tops supported by dark green wrought iron artistically twisted toward the ground. The boards themselves were checkered in the same forest green and faux marble, scratched by the elements and mischief but still perfectly serviceable.
"I still wish we'd been able to build in timers," said Jorge as he sat.
"I'm telling you it would just have wasted the Commission's money." Long ran a slender finger across one of the deeper scratches. "Teenagers are the same wherever you go."
"How's your own?"
"He's still just barely thirteen, thanks. He's not kicking up any trouble yet, and if he knows what's good for him he'll stick to it."
"Politics and parenthood," Jorge shook his head, taking a carefully wrapped parcel of ivory chessmen from his pocket. "A difficult brew, my friend. A dangerous cauldron to stir."
"Are you telling me to watch my step?" The thin lips curled upward. "You, warning me to be careful?"
"There's never a day to be careful," Jorge said. "Never a day of our too-short days. Lay down yon black army, old friend, and prepare yourself for another fall."
Story and image by Ivan Ewert, Copyright 2009