Thursday, 16 June 2005
Early the next morning, Gus was wrestling with a necktie when he heard a light tapping on the door of the suite. His frown transformed into a huge smile. Angelique stood there, her thick golden hair ending in loose, bouncing curls, framed in blue, silk scarf, fashionably slim light powder skirt and matching blouse. With her sparkling eyes and a generous mouth given to smiling easily, the sight made Gus’ heart skip just a little.
“Angelique!” The kisses upon the cheeks were sincere, the hug much too brief. But she looked like heaven. It was hard to believe a decade had passed since he last held her, just a few lines etched by grief told of passing years. He didn’t hesitate to tell her again, either, even if his words were a stuttering babble like those of a lovesick kid.
“Augustine, my dear, you look wonderful, too.” Her voice was melodious and soft. She delicately took his tie into her fingers. “But you still can’t do a proper Windsor knot, I see.”
He dropped his hands instead of crushing her close. He just let her work, drinking in her scent made sweeter by a light floral perfume.
Allie entered, coughing politely. “Not interrupting anything, am I?”
“Alix, bonjour! No of course not.” But Angelique shot Gus a quick smile.
“Sis, you should have told me she was coming by. I’m hardly presentable.”
“In that suit? Hardly, indeed,” she said. “I suppose it’s the best you brought?”
“No, but I wanted to dress up just a bit for the first day. Why, what’s wrong with it?” It was a comfortable brown outfit, old perhaps, but he often wore it at the university.
“Nothing – for a barn dance,” Allie said. “You should come shopping with us, Augustine!”
Angelique said, laughing also, but not unkindly.
“Shopping? I thought you had an art show to judge, Allie.”
“We do. But le shopping – first things first.”
“Yes, Gus, time to throw off the sad rags,” Angelique continued, “I just checked the hall. They’re still preparing the gallery. Besides, you see here almost half of the judging staff; I’m taking care of traditional art, Allie modern, you know. They can do nothing without us.”
Gus checked the time. “I’m afraid my topmost priority this morning is the tour of the Cathedral. Would you ladies like to come along? First chance to see the original paving in its restored glory,” he said in his most seductive voice.
This gave his sister pause. “Oh, I forgot.” She bit her lip. “But either of us could give the tour ourselves.” Allie said. “I’ll enjoy it more when it’s less of a mob scene. Drag Skip along, get pictures of the floor, statues, and of course, the painting.”
“We’ll be there in the nave at noon, however,” Angelique said. “I’m going to talk about the Monumentum Mirabilis. You should come.”
“Great, I’ll be there. See you later, Angel.” It sounded more like a plea than a promise. But the ladies were already standing. Angelique gave one cheek a pat and a peck on the other. “Yes,” she said, “so much to catch up on!” Her smile was like the promise of spring after winter. He kissed her hand.
Allie muttered “Go, bro,” with a grin as she passed, grabbing her big bag from the chair. “Oh, don’t forget: you and Skip have to get your costumes for the Banquet by Friday. Unless you trust me with them.” Then they were gone, with the faint scent of flowers lingering like fading remnants of a dream.
Gus stood a moment, and went into the bedroom. Taking a brief look in the mirror, he started to rip off the tie. He paused, prudently removing it with the knot intact.
Gus changed into his traveling shorts, a shirt with a lot of pockets and hiking boots. If not stylish, he at least might as well be comfortable.
His brother wandered into the main room of the suite. Skip stood looking around half-asleep, scratching an unshaven cheek. “Where’s sis?” he mumbled.
“She’s gone shopping. For a new outfit, she said.”
Skip looked as befuddled as rightly he should. Allie rarely indulged in anything as frivolous as shopping; their sister went on supply runs instead. “No, you’re not dreaming. Get dressed. We’ve a busy day ahead of us.”