Greetings of the season to you! Those of you who haven’t shut down for the holiday season, thank you for coming by. Write…Edit…Publish (WEP) is happening this month when we post our responses to the prompt, Utopian Dreams.
I hope you will enjoy reading my response, a flash fiction set in Venice at the time of Carnevale.
Venice’s Black Cape
‘Francoise, I’m going to Carnevale. Every year I dream of the parties, the dancing, the beauty of Venice, but you refuse to accompany me. This year I’m going. Alone.’
‘Ma chérie? Your home is here in Place Vendome. Is Paris not enough for you?’
‘Paris is a dream which I’ve achieved. Venice is a dream I’ve yet to attain. My Utopia. I’ve read so much about Carnevale. I must see for myself.’
‘Ma chérie, I beg you, stay.’
‘Pouf! I’m going.’
‘But Anouk, I must warn you. I went one time before I met you. The men…’ He took out a handkerchief and rubbed a spot from his Ferragamo loafers.
Anouk refused to let this man in his three-piece charcoal bespoke suit, his crisp white Dior shirt, and his Louis Vuitton tie, prevent her from reaching for her dreams.
Darkness floated over Venice like a black cape, its edges reflecting the glint of the moon. Anouk watched from her hotel balcony as gondolas floated as in a fantasy world, dipping above the water like slick black swans. The gondolier’s serenade drifted across the water, calling her. The vaporetti hummed as they navigated the icy waters of the Grand Canal, disembodied voices of the passengers bouncing atop the waves. The baroque palaces along the canal dazzled, grand residences of past glory, now inhabited by revelers. Anouk shivered. She was part of this night. Her dream was about to unfold.
She dressed in her purple and silver satin gown. The fabric rustled deliciously as she flounced her skirts. Glancing into the Murano glass ornate mirror next to the door, she admired the way her long blonde hair curled past her shoulders, entwined with silver ribbons. Then, the pièce de résistance, the mask, decorated with ermine, gems and feathers to which she added a deep purple floppy hat trimmed in lace. Slipping her feet into black satin slippers, she admired herself in the full-length mirror. Opening her black lacquer fan, she swished it over her face, a face hot with excitement.
She was decadence itself.
Anouk drifted outside into a frosty, starry world. She was ready to lose herself in Carnevale, where the power of the mask lured party goers into lurid rites of celebration. Tonight, no rules applied.
Masked and costumed figures ran through the cobbled streets, tugging her into their band. They hurried alongside the Grand Canal, past candle-lit icing-cake palazzos dusted with snow before stepping over an arched bridge, heading deeper into mysterious caverns and back alleyways of the city.
The happy band entered a baroque apartment, so opulent Anouk gasped. Lifelike black statues stood in homage around the pillars that edged the magnificent vestibule. The cold of the floating city melted away in the heated rooms as she danced with a succession of gloriously-dressed masked men who pressed her close to their bodies and plied her with wine from silver goblets. She was passed from caped stranger to caped stranger with a flourish and a kiss.
Back on the street, she slipped and slithered at the back of the long line, ignoring her damp dress that threatened to trip her up.
The line stopped to watch fireworks exploding above the Grand Canal. With each burst, light traced patterns across the inky sky. Then out of the foggy darkness came a man, a man who clasped her hand and drew it to his chest. While she stood uncertainly, the crowd ran off, leaving her alone with the masked stranger. He began to run, tugging her along in his wake.
Through passages and beneath arches they ran until they came upon a magnificent doorway which appeared burnished in gold. He brushed snow off their cloaks and shoes before he led her up a flight of stairs to a luxurious apartment. He hurried her through a warm sitting room where a log fire blazed. She longed to sit close to the fire and thaw her numb hands and feet. Instead, she was tugged into a huge bedroom dazzled by moonlight, its rich furnishings the colour of the Burgundy she’d been drinking all night.
The stranger unfastened her buttons and her dress rustled to the floor. She would offer herself to the allure of Carnevale and her mysterious seducer. This was her dream. Her fantasy.
They fell naked onto the bed, bodies now warmed, hungry, fired with the lust that decadence brings.
They surrendered themselves to the madness of the night. The mouth that plundered hers, tasted like the wine that had flowed all night, enhanced by sea and smoke.
Then he tensed.
Slipping and sliding on the stairs.
The occasional curse word, ‘Merda. Merda.’
‘My Contessa comes,’ he said. ‘Go. Presto! Presto!’
He gathered her clothes from the carpet, thrust them into her arms and pushed her onto the balcony. Shivering with cold and shock, she huddled, uncertain. The lapping of the water against the pylons were slaps to her freezing face. The fog’s tendrils reached up and whirled around her misery. Fool! Fool! Is this the dream you imagined?
The Contessa’s Borsalino fragrance hung, trapped, in the freezing air. My perfume. Is that why he chose me?
‘Ah, Contessa, come, I’ve been waiting. I’m desolated we lost each other in the frenzy of the chase.’
‘I, too, my count.’ Was this a game they both played on this one night of the year when there were no rules?
Tears running down her frozen cheeks, Anouk struggled down the dark stairs, gripping the ornate balustrade. She hid in the darkest corner of the carpeted foyer and dressed herself with agonising slowness. Her frozen hands fumbled with the intricate clasps and zips. What a joy it’d been to fasten them earlier tonight. Now, her joy had become terror and abandonment.
Wrenching the heavy carved door open, her ruined slippers stepped into the bewildering night.
Stepped into a nightmare.
She was lost in Venice’s black cape.
If you’d like to read more entries for the WEP challenge, click on the names on the list with DL (Direct Link) next to their name on the WEP website.
Thanks for coming by.
Happy New Year!