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Check-in by Emma Wells




"But I saw him bury you."


***

“Buona sera, Signora,” invites the dulcet tones of the Italian maître d'hôtel. He is here every single evening. He is short yet masterful like a honed falcon overseeing the plains beneath him. The grey-haired, sharply defined head waiter is analogous with a high-flying, all-seeing predator of the skies. Even at a distance, nothing evades his penetrating gaze. His appraisals upon each pristinely pressed, white-clothed dining table – even down to the smallest imperfection such as a twisted fold or buckle in its undulating fabric, attracts his scrutiny. The purity of each tablecloth reminds me of a lost innocence, one now unable to reclaim as mine – I cannot hope for even a semblance of its wholeness, for I am a lone guest upon the shores of Lake Garda: fragmented, an uneven number.


I’m shown to the same table, 126. It overlooks the grandeur and nightly ethereal colours of the dusk-laden sky as the gregarious sun starts to mute upon the lake’s lapis lazuli waters, coursing raspberry tart stabs of colour across the mountainous skyline. My gaze is drawn there, held most evenings, as a magnetic force that I cannot turn my head from. My table is for one, so it fits in snugly where any larger table would be obtuse, backing a family of four whom ignore me. I’m single. Alone. The unloved.


The astute maître d'hôtel takes my order: a glass of house red. It’s become a favourite, habit if you like. Its rounded taste, plump as a prestigious plum, grown to piqued perfection, merges on my tongue as lost kisses. I see in its inky darkness, flickers, and flecks of my life that was. A virginal white wedding dress drowns in its tenacious tannins, submerged by fruity overtones, more adept at social occasions than me. I allow myself to swallow and sink within its darkened pulp, drowning at the base of blood-filled tides above my cowering, downturned head. I caress the ghost of a wedding ring as I sit on craggy rocks at the depths of the lake, profoundly sensing the loss of its white-gold absence, as I turn its imaginary circle around my wanting finger, remembering its weight, filament detailing. I course a finger around its spectral shape, marking its contours, diamond clusters.


“Another?” comes the honey notes of my head waiter, breaking my reveries. Two black bushy eyebrows are raised in mock flirtation, or perhaps an attempt to bring a smile to my unlined face, flat and two-dimensionally shallow. I nod, glaring deeper into the puce pulsating nuances of my glass, seeing chinks of myself hanging upon purple bruises that float as capsized lifeboats in my globular world, containing all of me within its spectral orb.


I refuse the buffet, not even tempted to raise the menu of the night to my dilated eyes, already lost in the swirling ethers of Merlot, clasped within my shivers of hands, wispy grey memories holding tight to the glass of its brittle stem.


Goditi il ​​tuo vino,” soaks into my intranced ear as I lift my eyes momentarily from its gothic rim, minuscule kiss marks of my unloving mouth stain the orbital, peripheral lip of the glass: reminders that I’m real. The wine’s satin sheen lingers as a petrol-filled puddle, catching iridescent nuances of the falling sunlight on its metallic surface, reflecting the shimmering waters of the lake beyond, blearily eyed beyond the reaches of my shakily raised goblet.


I quickly drink my second glass, still searching for his face in the damson swells of my burgundy wine. Flickers of our honeymoon, here in this very hotel, rotate my mind as planetary moons: his warming touch, his soul-bearing gaze, when he believed himself in love; the early sensual touches arousing me to my own self, bearing marks of womanly identity; my transition from a clueless, lovesick child to a wife of monetary means, property, estates, shadowed in England.


I savour the last velveteen caress of the ruby-rich wine, lacing my lips with a lonely tongue, covering my senses with memories of our once-love, allowing them to stain my willing skin as inky tendrils barrelling into water, staining their translucency. I hover over each stroke, holding him momentarily on my ardent lips, cherishing the macabre clutch.


Without looking up at fellow guests, or having the amicable energy to thank my falcon-like waiter, I glide on wine-crushed legs, back to my ghost of a honeymoon suite. Its faded room number be-tells of another life: a forgotten yet tangible, lived existence. I slip through the woody panels, no longer needful of a key card, and fall onto a chimera of a wedding bed, draping my tulle-skirted gown into a downy nest. I close my eyes, huddled within its entombing layers.


Lost to a dreamless sleep, I return to the realms of the tortured souls. The undead. The long-afore dearly departed. The buried.



ABOUT:


Emma is a mother and English teacher. She has poetry published with various literary journals and magazines. She enjoys writing flash fiction and short stories also. Emma won Wingless Dreamer’s Bird Poetry Contest of 2022 and her short story entitled ‘Virginia Creeper’ was selected as a winning title by WriteFluence Singles Contest in 2021. Her first novel is entitled Shelley’s Sisterhood which is due to be published in May 2023.


EDITOR'S SONG PAIRING:


montell fish - hotel - emanuelagolden






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