One late evening, she was heading home thinking about her day and being grateful she was living in a peaceful part of the world, able to smile to the rising sun, dream on the beach while looking at the sun going down in the hushhhhh of the waves going in and out rhythmically.
On her way back she met three smartly dressed ladies looking a bit of another time. Their look transported her for a moment in the times of Charleston and she remembered herself in the powder pink straight dress made of pearls which were dancing around her body in the rhythm of wild jazz. The long raw of pearls around her neck shaking as if it were ready to break free and spread all over the dancing floor of the luxurious restaurant her friends took her for a birthday surprise.
She stopped dreaming about those wonderful days she missed so much when the three ladies said to her with melodious voices “Hello!” She answered them in a joyous tone and they all started talking while walking along as if they were all old acquaintances. There was something special about the three ladies: they were perfectly sober but an unusual lightness in the way they moved and talked and gestured, an uncommon joy of living she hasn’t noticed to everyday people.
At a moment, they stopped by an astonishingly beautiful bourgeoise mansion and invited her for a cup of tea. In spite of the late time at night, she accepted happily, with no hesitation, surprised by her own reaction – she did not use to accept invitations from foreign people she had just met, so quickly and taking into account the time at night.
The door opened by itself and they all entered the hall: large, elegant, exquisitely decorated, surrounded by giant mirrors facing each other fixed on reddish marble high walls, a sumptuous marble flight of stairs with fine crafted handrails. A dim light was coming and enveloped them from a nine-branched candelabrum which seemed to have been borrowed from the old theatre: shining hundreds of crystals singing delicately like drops of rain as if the least movement woke them up. The air itself breathed differently, she felt she had been accepted in a secret place, she was awarded an exceptional favour. She realized their paces did not make a noise on the marble floor despite the high heels they were wearing. Strange… she said to herself. The time seemed to stop and when she looked at the three ladies, she saw them waiting for her patiently, without a word, with profound looks of extreme kindness. She smiled a bit awkwardly, sensing they were kind of reading her thoughts and she followed them toward the spacious lift.
An elegantly dressed man sprang up from the red velvet chair next the lift door and bowed to them while opening the door. A discreetly lit, jazzy music coming from nowhere made her compare the generous space to a chocolate box turned into a sumptuous cabin able to transport them not to a superior floor but to golden times: gold and red, with comfortable Chesterfield-like velvet red benches facing each other. She realized the lift was the size of her flat entrance, able to host comfortably a dozen of people. The four of them sat down on the inviting benches and only the small ring announcing their arrival made her figure out they were already on the ninth floor. It took only a second to get there. She smiled at a quick thought: cloud nine. One of the ladies, the one with a delicate china face, with almond green eyes, winked at her and slowly moved her lips “cloud nine for you, my dear lady”. She smiled back, her head full of questions she didn’t dare formulate. How did the lady read her thought and why she answered it? Also, she realized the mansion could not have 9 floors, she would have noticed it..
In front of a very large door with Celtic carvings and an Irish golden door-knock, the three ladies pronounced some unintelligible words and the door opened silently. The place strangely looked exactly like the place she described in her project, the place she was working hard to open for her bookshop. It had nothing to do with the Charlestonian elegance of the rest of the building. It was a modern industrial design, with wheeled shelves bearing wooden boxes covered in paintwork which looked worn in purpose to give them a vintage touche. She got closer to the shelves and her eyed widened: an impressive collection of thriller, fantasy, and detective stories, just like her description. A couple of Chesterfield sofas and half a dozen of armchairs surrounded two coffee tables. The floor was in rough wood. Everything matched perfectly the detailed description of her project. The lamps on the shelves were also lit up. She turned her head to the right hand side of the space and saw the bar counter: again, no difference with the one she projected to get. No sound, only a familiar slow engine-like muffled sound. She looked down, where the source of the sound was coming and saw a couple of pearl grey wonderful cats purring at her. They were the perfect copy of her own cats… she looked up at the ladies who were smiling at her, obviously satisfied by the look on her face. She bowed without a word and followed them in the next room as they started to walk through a double opened door behind the bar.
The new room was matching perfectly the rest of the building: marble, crystal, velvet, gold. The double door closed behind them with a little muffled noise. Four cups of tea and silver tea spoons were waiting for them on the table with marvelous malachite top. Sumptuous violet and golden armchairs matched the table. Their paces made no sound and she noticed it again: herringbone parquet flooring with a rosette inlaid in its very centre. How exquisite! This word applied to every single detail of this unbelievably fine dwelling.
They sat down around the table and had tea. She tried to bring up the topic of her recurrent lives, but curiously, the three ladies changed the topic as if they hadn’t heard she started talking. She was a bit hurt but not surprised, she didn’t know why. After a while she promised them to come and visit them soon and left as if in a dream.
Back in her flat she realized she had forgot her porte-cigarette.
The next morning she walked back to the beautiful mansion. The door did not open by itself like the previous night. She rang the bell and the door keeper opened. He handed her a letter. She thanked and got out in a hurry, impatient to open it.
On a very fine sheet of paper, an elegant hand writing read “enjoy life, the space you saw first is yours now. The key will arrive by mail. Your life changes now, exactly as you wished it to. We wish you the best of the best of luck. With lots of love, Nanica”. She felt her heart was ready to burst into pieces: the endless kindness in the eyes of the lady who seemed to know everything about her… she knew her so well and she missed her so much: her grandma as she never knew her: much younger. Tears started to flow along her cheeks and she did not even try to stop them. She missed so hard her precious granny.
Then she thought of the younger lady: golden locks, beautiful green eyes with brown little spots, a lovely smile which uncovered the left angle of an incisive slightly broken. She didn’t say much, she just held her tight for a moment before she left them and she had a soothing déjà-vu feeling and the sensation of loss she couldn’t explain that precise moment. Now she knew who she was: her most loved aunty she so affectionately called Urse.
But who was the third lady? She tried to remember a thing about her: the voice, the smile… nothing could give her the least hint about her identity.
All of a sudden she realized there had been only women, no man. And she realized there was a man she would have loved so much to meet again: her grandpa. Maybe a future encounter, she hoped…