Five minutes to midnight. Soon the church bells would ring out across Soho to herald the arrival of Christmas Day, but for now the heart of the city lay silent. Everyone else was long gone, which was exactly the way Faith wanted it. The door was locked and the phone disconnected. This was a private celebration.
She’d set the table for one. Silver cutlery gleamed on freshly laundered damask. Caviar glistened in its crystal bowl and angels on horseback sat perfectly aligned on a porcelain plate under a shining silver dome. On the carved sideboard a two-tiered antique china cake stand held bite-sized slivers of New York cheesecake and miniature caramel-glazed eclairs.
Three minutes. Faith lifted the bottle of Dom Perignon out of the silver ice bucket and poured. Took her glass, hit ‘play’ on the remote, and walked slowly to the elaborate ormolu mirror that was her sole inheritance from her Venetian grandmother.
The opening notes of Offenbach’s beautiful barcarolle, Belle Nuit, O Nuit d’Amour, filled the tiny apartment. Aural poetry, created to echo a gondolier’s fluid, rhythmic stroke. This is for you, Nonna.
The wine was rich and dry on her tongue. Harry said champagne was a waste of money. It was overpriced, over-rated, all about the branding. In this, as in so many things, he was wrong.
He was wrong about her, too. The image that stared back at her was voluptuous, glorious even. She had curves, and the flame-colored silk dress hugged every one of them. They weren’t something to be ashamed of, dieted and exercised into submission. She had long legs, too; black silk stockings and five-inch heels made her look like a goddess, not a giraffe.
“Harry’s not a villain,” she said to her reflection, “But he’s not a hero, either. Well, not my hero, anyway.” Even if it never materialized, the possibility of love was better than the certainty of luxurious heartbreak.
As the music swelled and the bells began to peal, the first firecracker lit up the midnight sky. Faith reached behind the mirror and slid out the note she’d found hidden there. Addressed to her, reproduced in her grandmother’s copper-plate hand, was a quote from Giacomo Casanova, spy, libertine, and legendary Venetian:
Enjoy the present, bid defiance to the future, laugh at all those reasonable beings who exercise their reason to avoid the misfortunes which they fear, destroying at the same time the pleasure that they might enjoy.
She read it out loud, and it had the solemnity of a vow.
Then she returned the note to its hiding place; drew the flawless five-carat diamond off her finger, pressed it snugly into its bed of blue velvet, closed the lid of the box, threw back her head and laughed.
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I hope you enjoyed Faith’s story. It took a contortion or two, but I managed to shoe-horn in all the words from Elizabeth’s Christmas week short story challenge: New York, Casanova, Giraffe, Heartbreak, Horseback, Love, Poetry, Celebration, Faith, Velvet, Firecracker and Villain 🙂 .