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Monday, December 30, 2013

Romantic Musings: The Romantic (pt 6)

Over the years, the memory of Sophia Paula had inspired a myriad of poems. Although he had long been writing poetry before she entered his life, when he left for the military, he had not yet learned how to write without thinking of her.
So much emotion lingered for her like the scent left after an embrace. He had penned dozens of verses, in a tiny note pad, during the brief moments he had to himself: sometimes standing in formation before and after meals, or lying on his bunk at the end of the day's training.
When members of his platoon learned of his skill with a pen, they requested poetry for the loves they had left behind. That was when he knew that he would make a living as a songwriter.
He had established a system of appointments for his clients to describe the women they loved. He listened as they revealed how they met, where they fought, why they mattered, and when they had planned to marry.
Those distant lovers were as precious to them as Sophia Paula was to Hadriel Alighieri. And though he personalized every poem—the hundreds he had written for others and their hopeless love—page after page burned with the affection he felt for Sophia Paula.
In an era when romantic poetry remained reserved for literature courses, hidden within the pages of books that nobody opened, Hadriel Alighieri earned a reputation as the soldier's scribe. He wrote about every imaginable circumstance when it came to matters of the heart. A tempest of metrical composition, and Sophia Paula lingered in the eye of his storm.
To remind her that she had not been forgotten, he had written a letter to her about his experiences, his hopes, and his fears. He made no mention of love, because he reserved that secret for his heart.
Two weeks later, she sent him a photograph that hung in his private locker. His platoon mates did not believe he knew her until they read the personal message that she wrote and signed: For my best friend! She included a separate note that bid him good luck, and a humorous bit of advice: Remember, don't drop the soap!
He wrote her back immediately, but her thoughts never returned. Her memory kept him going. Emotions bled through his pen freely, augmenting his renown as a romantic poet.
He wrote love letters and poems for fellow recruits, and instructed them to re-write them with their own hand, but he imagined that he wrote to Sophia. When the lovers wrote back, it was he who had to reply. And so it was that he engaged in a feverish correspondence with faceless lovers that cherished someone else. Each letter written and received, every poem penned with genuine affection that Hadriel Alighieri believed dripped with the warmth Sophia Paula would have felt upon reading his thoughts had she shared his passion.
The days were long and his nights were longer, but despite the controlled chaos, he could not avoid lyricism, because his thoughts were only of Sophia Paula.
The seasons changed. The trainees had changed with them. Yet, despite the manner in which everything grew colder, at his core Hadriel remained the boy he had always been.
The soldiers rose before the sun. They endured the hour of physical training before breakfast, and watched their days blur by as they prepared for a series of tests to determine that they were fit for graduation, and ready for war.
The surplus of testosterone led to confrontations between the young men who grew impatient about returning home, but cooler minds prevailed, and their focus remained on their goals.
Hadriel hoped to return home like the fabled soldier in uniform. Properly groomed, and worthy of his heart's fancy. Regardless of the thirty pounds of muscle he had gained and a more serious demeanor, there remained evidence in his eyes of his mortal encounter with love.
He suffered through sleepless nights after he kindled the fires of love. His intention was to keep the coals alive until she felt inclined to reciprocate his feelings. He would have pursued her with more fervor had he known the terrain of her emotions, but they didn't know each other well enough to truly venture into love.
His ignorance proved fatal to their future, because a man cannot truly love a woman until he knows her first.
He lost himself in fantasies that never came to pass—his yearnings unfulfilled—but the visions comforted him, because in that way she remained in his life.
Although many sought to sway his heart with flattery and seduction, he declared that he would wait for love. And when others tried to convince him that love was an illusion, he remained steadfast in the idea that love is the only thing worth waiting for an eternity.
At nineteen years of age, undaunted, Hadriel Alighieri loved unconditionally, without reservation and without despair.
When he returned from his military service, Hadriel Alighieri learned that Dr. Fermin Luis Paula had been offered an opportunity to practice medicine in the United States. La Familia Paula emigrated from Mexico to America, and settled in Chicago where Dr. Paula attended Loyola University Medical Center.
They returned to Santa Lucia in December for a series of festivities: beginning on December 12th with el Día de la Virgen de Guadalude, Las Posadas, which ran from the 16th to the 24th—the Biblical New Testament story of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter in Bethlehem, Navidad on December 25th, el Día de los Santos Innocentes, Año Nuevo Vìspera—New Year’s Eve, and concluded on the 6th of January by el Día de los Reyes Magos.
The day that Hadriel Alighieri saw Sophia Paula on the steps of the basilica, he was seated on a bench in the plaza reading a book. He had not known of her arrival in Santa Lucia. He felt his heart break with each beat for inexplicable reasons.
Does she not wish to see me, he wondered. Perhaps there had been no occasion or means to notify him of her arrival. Hadriel Alighieri could not be sure, and he struggled to distract himself from one suspicion or the other.
Her hair had grown long, and straight, and hanged loosely over her shoulders. She wore a long white dress, plain, yet charming in its simplicity. Their eyes met. Sophia Paula did not seem to share the enthusiasm of the festivities, but when she approached, Hadriel Alighieri believed she was happy to see him.
They sat together on the bench in the plaza. She spoke of Chicago, the Windy City, and its myriad of skyscrapers and restaurants and museums. The stark contract between its historic architecture and bustling nightlife amazed her.
“It is a different world from Santa Lucia.” Sophia Paula remarked.
She asked about his time in the army. She inquired about his writing and about his plans, but she didn’t say that she missed him, or that she thought of him, and he didn’t dare ask her why. It wasn’t for lack of affection, for Sophia Paula cared deeply for Hadriel Alighieri. But she was careful not to tip the scale of their friendship, which hung delicately in the balance.
Perhaps the opportunity had been there in their youth, or perhaps that opportunity only lingered in Hadriel Alighieri’s imagination. The truth was that after all the time that had passed; she cared about him too much to deceive him with the false promise of love.
When they parted for the day, after she invited his family to the grand dinner at her home, Hadriel Alighieri had a nagging suspicion that his chance had not been lost. He had heard from the men in his platoon that when women deny a man’s affections, she does so to test his resolve. She waits for him to pursue his passion, and prove his level of desire, for men are notorious with words of devotion, and exiguous with actions of love.
 That night, Hadriel Alighieri decided to recite a poem to Sophia Paula. He was going to reveal to her, once again, the secret in his heart. She would accept or deny. But she would not live her life wondering if he was still in love a year after his initial declaration.
Guests filled the home. Every object of value polished. The walls lined with frescoes and statues. The tables set with the finest linen and silverware and china. La Familia Paula brought with them, from America, the custom of lining the windows with Christmas lights and a large Christmas tree.
After the meal, which consisted of tamales and atole and buñuelos, everyone gathered in the main room for refreshments and galetina de colores. The adults danced to the music and children took their turns swiping at a piñata on the terrace. When the clock neared midnight, neither Sophia Paula nor Hadriel Alighieri realized that the event would change their lives permanently.
With the intention to dazzle her, he knelt before her, and held eleven roses behind his back. She smiled at him, her lovely eyes twinkled like stars that twinkle before dawn, and he recited to her his poem as he handed her the eleven roses one-at-a-time.
"Before I woke up this morning
You were on my mind,
 And after I awakened
You were still the only one I could find
Thinking of the most special way
My heart may someday purpose,
I’m thinking of how to tell you that
This bouquet is not missing a rose."
Sophia’s lovely smile beckoned Hadriel to continue.
"The first rose and the second rose
Are to tell you that I miss you
And I love you,
The third rose and the fourth rose
Reveal how much I want to kiss you
And think of you
The fifth rose and the sixth rose
Of this dedicated bouquet,
 Are for the sweetness of your heart
And the things you've done to make my day
Continuing on the count
With roses seven, eight and nine;
 Can only begin to describe the many ways
I want to share with you my time
Sweet rose number ten
And beautiful rose number eleven,
Are for each of my eyes you have opened
To see that falling in love is heaven
But if finding that final rose
Is what you truly want to do?
It’s not missing from this bouquet
Just look into the mirror
And watch it stare right back at you."
Hadriel stood and motioned for Sophia Paula to turn around. Together they gazed into the mirror.
She looked at their reflection momentarily, seeing them as they looked a billionth of a second ago before her gaze fell to the roses in her arms.
She turned, embraced him, and whispered, "Thank you, Hadriel." She vanished, and he had no idea that would be the last time he held her in his arms.
That night he handed her eleven roses, a letter, and the deepest part of his heart. He had hoped she would cherish the memory all of her life.
La Señora Keila looked at him with deepest sympathy. The crowd stood confounded by Sophia Paula's reaction. Hadriel said goodnight, and a few days later he learned that La Familia Paula left the country.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Romantic Musings: The Romantic (pt 5)

When the letter came, Hadriel Alighieri felt that life, as he knew it, was over. The time for his mandatory military service had come. Though selection was made by a lottery system, fate had determined that Hadriel Alighieri’s time with Sophia Paula would end.
Six years together as the best of friends allowed them to learn as much as there was to discover about two kids who had yet to truly discover themselves, but as the date of his departure for the military approached, Hadriel was moved by the fear of what would be lost, and preemptively reached for her heart.
On her birthday in mid-July, he presented her with a letter, and two poems that confessed his desire to be more than friends. He selfishly ignored that he was leaving in less than sixty-days.
The entire village was abuzz when it was discovered that Hadriel Alighieri had revealed his feelings to Sophia Paula, because it wasn't a secret that could easily be kept. Everyone knew how close they were, and noticed that they had spent a week apart. A peculiarity that raised eyebrows, and inspired inquiries about "what happened?"
Even Padre Carlo Coelho weighed in on the matter when he found Hadriel Alighieri sitting alone on a bench in the plaza. The cleric sat down beside him without saying a word. After a while, Hadriel Alighieri turned to the old man and asked if this is why people pray.
“People pray for many things. God will grant you your request, if you ask Him from the heart.” Padre Carlo Coelho pointed at his chest.
“Matthew seven, seven. Yes, Padre, I’m aware of the verse, but if God holds sway over another’s heart, then is it true love?” Hadriel Alighieri closed his book.
Padre Carlo Coelho pondered the question and scratched his chin. God’s will, he thought. If whom we love is God’s will, then free will is merely an illusion. And if we love whom we choose to love, then how can God punish us?
Padre Carlo Coelho intuitively understood what Hadriel Alighieri endured. For he too had once fallen in love, in his native Brazil, when he was a boy and love was a hopeless passion. He remembered her still, Maria Ruiz-Gonzalez, the angel that paralyzed his heart. Padre Carlo Coelho reflected on the kindness in her hazel eyes, and the comfort he felt in her embrace. He always loved to see her wear her long wavy brown hair twisted in a braid over her shoulder.
Her heart was restless and her laugh contagious, but it was her smile that he remembered most. For when Carlo Coelho emerged from the ashes of the fire on December 15th, 1961, the Gran Circus Norte-Americano’s premier transformed into a tragedy that claimed five hundred lives. Among the dead lied Maria Ruiz-Gonzalez, and the unborn seed in her womb.
Devastated, Carlo Coelho fell into a deep depression, and there was no power on earth to grant him solace. Within a broken heart lie a realm of impenetrable shadows, and the echo of what could have been. A devout Catholic, he turned to God for answers, but He did not answer. Not at first.
Then, one morning, he woke in the street. Carlo Coelho had passed out from the excessive consumption of alcohol, and wandered in the night in search of the shadow of death. Instead, Azrael had come to him in a dream.
“Can I tell you a secret?” Azrael leaned in close.
Carlo Coelho gave the angel of death a guarded look.
“You possess the answers that you seek.” Azrael whispered.
Carlo Coelho inched away. The angel of death nodded at Carlo Coelho’s chest. Carlo felt something press against his ribs. He rummaged through his pockets to see what Azrael referred to. He pulled out a flask, and tangled around the lip was a rosary.
How did this get here, he wondered. For Carlo Coelho had not seen his rosary since his First Communion. “You are the devil!” He looked at Azrael, astonished.
“I am not the devil.” Azrael loomed closer. “He is kinder than I.”
Carlo Coelho woke from his drunken dream. The sun peered over the peak of the Corcovado Mountain. A silhouette loomed at its summit. The statue of Christ the Redeemer with outstretched arms was the sign that led Carlo Coelho to take the Cloth. For he had long ago promised Maria Ruiz-Gonzalez that he would never love another woman, and he intended to keep his promise.
Thirty-three years later, he sat on a bench in the plaza beside Hadriel Alighieri. He knew how the boy felt. He was familiar with the seismic tremor of young love.
At eighteen years of age, Hadriel Alighieri presented young love with the fervor of a man, no longer a boy enthralled by childhood obsessions.
Padre Carlo Coelho was right: puppy love is all bark, no bite, but young love with its refined romanticism gently caresses a heart, so as to not disturb the rhythm of its beat. Learning it, studying it, until the breathing falls in sync and the heart falls in love.
Hadriel’s error was in his haste, or so he thought. He granted Sophia Paula space to reflect on the words he poured onto pages. Lyrical, liquid love as strong as ninety-proof alcohol, and she was left with a hangover that lasted a week. Though the permanent intoxication, he'd learn many years later, never truly dissipated. The words of the letter had long since been whisked away by time, but the poems he kept prisoner in his heart. In a realm that remained interlocked with hers.
When Sophia’s reply arrived in the form of a letter, Hadriel raced home to retrieve it. He entered his home and found La Señora Keila seated beside his mother. She stood and approached. Her eyes shone with the giddiness of a schoolgirl awaiting a letter from her own, first true love.
"She sent for you." La Señora Keila embraced him. "What happened?"
"I was in the plaza." Hadriel Alighieri answered. "Is she here?"
"She went out for a walk, but she left you this." La Señora Keila brandished an envelope with his name written in Sophia Paula’s tight cursive script.
He studied her smile for any indication of the contents of the letter, and asked, "Did she say anything to you?"
"No, mijo. She has kept to herself all week. She didn't come out of her room except to eat, shower, and go to work."
Hadriel’s blank stare fell to the floor, and he wondered how Sophia Paula felt.
"Something you should know Hadriel is that despite how beautiful my daughter is, and despite how much attention she gets from boys, no one has ever approached her in this way.”
La Señora Keila explained that no man had ever taken the time to pen his emotions in a letter; no one had ever given much thought to courting her with romantic poetry inspired by sincere expressions with carefully considered words. She knew that Sophia appreciated Hadriel’s sincerity.
Sophia Paula had never before secluded herself from the world to consider the prospect of love. She had been moved. Regardless of what she wrote to Hadriel Alighieri, he needed to know that if it hadn’t affected her then she wouldn't have responded at all, or she wouldn't have taken so long to formulate her reply. La Señora Keila believed that by making the effort to consider her own words carefully, it revealed more than one letter from her would ever say.
La Señora Keila embraced Hadriel, and he fled to the sanctuary of his room. The note within the envelope had merely been a request for a little more time. Without much appetite and with very little sleep, Hadriel Alighieri clung to hope. A low rapping at the door distracted him from his thoughts. His mother stood beside a servant from the home of the Paula’s with a message that Sophia wished to meet him in the garden.
She sat on a bench beneath a mango tree. Her green eyes were pensive, and glistening in the evening light. Sophia Paula smiled when Hadriel Alighieri approached. She stood to embrace him and invited him to take a seat. It was the same stone bench where they conversed for the first time. In essence, it was the center of their universe. It was where their friendship began.
She asked him about his reasons, and his timing. For it perplexed her that he professed his love on the eve of leaving for the military. He sat with her in silence. His voice escaped him, just as it had when they first met. He tried to say something, but he feared ruining the moment. He feared chasing her away. For he never felt more at ease than when he was in her presence.
La Señora Keila stepped out onto the terrace before he replied. She called out to Sophia Paula, and reminded her that they didn’t have much time. Dazed, Hadriel Alighieri could have sworn he heard La Señora Keila mention packing and the move.
In those few minutes, the sun fell beyond the horizon and destiny and chance were taken with the day. La Señora Keila called out to her again. Sophia Paula stood and waved at her mother before she turned again to Hadriel Alighieri.
“Remember me as I am.” She said to him.
She left him under a tree and under the moon and under the stars. She did not promise to return. She gave him a kiss and a letter. A long letter that was difficult to write. A letter that gave him a glimpse into her heart and revealed her confusion.
He watched her leave with tears in his eyes. He already realized how completely he would cherish the memory of the only woman he would ever truly love. After reading the letter, he folded it the way she folded it, and kept it folded that way until the end of his days.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Romantic Musings: The Romantic (pt 4)

Hadriel Alighieri had thought about Sophia Paula every moment of every day. When he roamed through the halls of his novels and books of myth, he pictured Sophia Paula as the heroine in the stories, and the goddesses of legend. He had secretly decided that one day he would write his own novel, and she would be the leading lady of his love story.
He gathered information about her family. Hadriel Alighieri had quickly learned that Dr. Fermin Luis Paula had once been an understudy of Dr. Juan-Gabriel de la Vega, the town’s previous physician. They worked together in La Ciudad, many years ago. Before Dr. Juan-Gabriel de la Vega journeyed north to Santa Lucia to visit his childhood friend, Padre Carlo Coelho. He remained in Santa Lucia; a small town nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range after Padre Carlo Coelho explained the town’s need for a physician.
In the aftermath of the hurricane however, his body was found floating in the Santa Catarina River. Blue and bloated, it arrived on the banks, his lifeless eyes frozen wide at the unexpected arrival of death. The funeral would have lasted three days had his body not suffered the various stages of decay. After the one day, closed casket funeral, Padre Carlo Coelho had sent word to Dr. Fermin Luis Paula to come immediately.
And he did.
Within a matter of weeks, Dr. Paula arrived with his wife, La Señora Keila Paula and their only daughter, Sophia. Despite the handsome appearance of the doctor, it was evident that Sophia Paula inherited her elegance from her mother. La Señora Keila possessed an ageless beauty. The soul of a goddess lingered behind the brown veil of her almond shaped eyes. She was taller than most of the women in the village. Her smile was elegant and mature with auburn hair that fell in gentle waves just beyond her shoulders.
Swathed in a white alpaca dress, she glided across the cyan colored tile floor when she led Hadriel Alighieri through the long gallery. Sculptures and frescoes lined the walls. Sunlight fell between the pillars and provided adequate lighting.
“Hadriel Alighieri, come in,” Dr. Paula beckoned the boy when they arrived at the door to his office in the rear of the mansion. He sat behind a burgundy oak wood desk. A matching hutch and bookshelves lined the walls behind him, filled with numerous volumes of leather bound books.
Hadriel stepped forward. He observed copies of The Iliad and The Odyssey and The Arabian Knights amid medical encyclopedias. La Señora Keila took her leave, but the scent of lilac lingered.
“Do you always carry books with you?” Dr. Paula motioned for Hadriel to take a seat.
“Yes, doctor.” Hadriel’s stomach twisted in knots. The intensity of Dr. Paula’s green eyes gave Hadriel the impression that he could read his mind and hear the secret in his heart.
“May I?” Dr. Paula held out his hand.
Hadriel Alighieri handed him the brown leather bound book. Dr. Paula turned it over and examined the binding before he glimpsed the title and opened the book.
“The Divine Comedy.” He perused through the pages. With expert hands he explored its texture and condition. “Have you finished reading it?”
“Twice. This is my third read.” Hadriel shifted in his seat.
Dr. Paula nodded, impressed. “Which would you say is your favorite verse?”
“And I was told about this torture, that it was the Hell of carnal sins when reasons give way to desire.” Hadriel Alighieri recited the verse from memory.
“Tell me, young man, do you consider yourself a religious person?”
Hadriel Alighieri was perplexed by the question. He did not see the relevance. He had come for his check up, and with the hope of seeing Sophia Paula. He had not come to discuss theology. Never the less, he answered the question.
“No doctor, I do not.”
“Yet, you attend church every Sunday.”
“I like a good story.” Hadriel shrugged.
Dr. Fermin Luis Paula chuckled and returned the book. When he concluded his examination, Dr. Paula directed Hadriel Alighieri to wait in the garden. He would send for Sophia momentarily. The boy nodded and thanked him.
“Your father mentioned that you play the piano.”
“I know how to play, yes, but the only piano in town is at the church, and I only go there for Sunday mass.” To see Sophia, he thought.
“I have considered buying one for Sophia to learn how to play. Would you be willing to teach her?” Dr. Paula approached. “I will pay you for the lessons.”
“There’s no need for payment, doctor. I will gladly do it for free.” Hadriel Alighieri’s heart filled with hope.
“I know you will, but I will pay you anyway. For in the Good Book it says to pay revenue to whom revenue is owed.”
“Romans thirteen, seven.” Hadriel Alighieri said.
“You are familiar with the Bible.” Dr. Paula noted.
“I am familiar with many works of fiction.”
Though they attended different schools, for she studied at the Academy of Santa Lucia, a private school for daughters of noble families, they spent the afternoons together. Now everything was quite different from how it was the day they first met. Beyond the piano lessons, over the years, they had become inseparable.
They shared a passion for books and art. They loved music and dancing to the point of obsession, and went to fiestas together in the various villages throughout the province. One night in particular, Hadriel Alighieri introduced Sophia Paula to his friend Julia Loren. She attended the same school as he, and until that night, Hadriel Alighieri was oblivious to her secret crush on him.
Julia had agreed to meet at San Pedro Garza Garcia, a neighboring province to the west where La Mafia—a four-time Grammy Award winning band—had appeared to perform. When Julia Loren saw Sophia Paula, her lovely smile vanished. Julia's reddish brown hair fell over her shoulders, and complimented her hazel eyes. Her kindness broke past the toughest barriers of a person, because she genuinely cared about people. Hadriel Alighieri however, hadn't gotten close enough to her to discover how sensitive she truly was.
She had lingered for a while, then Sophia Paula and Hadriel Alighieri decided to formulate a dance routine on the spot, and after ten minutes of crash-course style rehearsal among the crowded partygoers, they took their spontaneous act to the middle of the dance floor. The crowd parted like the Red Sea. Once their set concluded, they fell into each other's arms, and walked to the refreshment bar where they laughed and talked.
"You know that girl likes you, right?" Sophia said mid-laughter.
"Who? What girl?" Hadriel scanned their immediate vicinity.
"Julia!" She answered.
"What? No!" Hadriel waved off her observation.
"I'm serious!" Her emerald eyes held his gaze.
Hadriel simply shook his head, and smiled.
"Aren't you going to ask how I know?"
"What if I don't want to know?"
"But she's really pretty, Hadriel!"
"I never said she wasn't pretty."
"Then—?" Sophia asked. Curiosity swirled in her eyes when she turned her entire body towards him.
"Then, what?" Hadriel asked.
"Then, if you think she's pretty, don't you like her?"
"Of course I like her. She's a nice girl, and a good friend, but liking someone, and being interested are two entirely different things."
"Enlighten me?"
"Well, I can fall into like for a pretty smile, everyone does that; but it takes a whole lot more than that to make me fall in love. Friendship, for instance is rumored to be the foundation for love. As a friendship blossoms, that's how we find love."
"You've got it all figured out, huh?"
"No, not all, but I believe I have a grasp on the fundamentals."
She smiled and shook her head before taking a drink from her bottled water, but not once turning away her gaze. "Want to get out of here?"
"Sure." He shrugged, and they returned to Santa Lucia.
As they had done for the previous five years, they sat in the garden under the moon. They discussed their styles of prose, and artistry, because they both wrote poetry, and shared a propensity for sketching. They talked about their inspiration, their dreams, and how dancing was exercise for the soul.
Over the years, their friends had left for El Norte. The American border merely a few hours away had lured many in search for work. Though their parents had refused to let them attempt the perilous journey, they loved everything about America: the music, the movies, the books and the sports.
They compared their musical libraries, and found their tastes to be identical. Both favored the American R&B group Jodeci over Boyz II Men, despite the more harmonious vocalization style of the group from Philadelphia. Despite their Latin heritage, they contemplated how it was possible that they loved Italian gravy, but hated tomatoes.
They agreed that one-day, they would go Chicago and watch the Chicago Bulls play in the Chicago Stadium. They were avid fans of Michael Jordan, though Sophia Paula preferred to begin watching the games in the fourth quarter, which too often led to a debate about the lack of team loyalty and the meaninglessness of the first three quarters.
Then it happened. They sat together on the love seat in the living room. The Chicago Bulls were in the midst of the first three-peat of championships. La Señora Keila entered the room followed closely by a servant bringing tacos de lengua, and stopped to smile at them adoringly.
“Look at you two,” she clapped her hands together.
Sophia Paula and Hadriel Alighieri exchanged a curious glance.
“The two of you should be a couple. You’re like peas in a pod!” La Señora Keila declared.
Until that moment, Sophia Paula and Hadriel Alighieri hadn’t given the matter much thought. Despite his initial feelings, Hadriel Alighieri had remained silent, for fear of pushing her away. Though she had been the inspiration of his poetry, he never revealed to her, his romantic notions. He relished his time with her, and she enjoyed her time with him. There was no pressure. There was no expectation. There was only the innocence of friendship, and the echo of their laughter.
It was true that neither had mentioned another romantic interest, but they didn’t need one because they had each other. Though they had heard whispers among the boys and girls throughout the village—about interest in them—most had shied away from pursuing Sophia Paula and Hadriel Alighieri, because they thought they were a couple.
There did exist dichotomies between them. He ate slowly and neatly; he folded his napkins and set his utensils and drinks in precise positions around his food. Whereas Sophia Paula left the entire table a mess. She devoured food with a sense of urgency like a military trainee, which he found perplexing for a girl from high society. He preferred to have his room organized as opposed to her propensity for disorganization. Yet, that’s how they functioned, that’s how they found balance. They were Order and Chaos, the Odd Couple without being a couple.
But, in the realm of love, the echo of a broken heart is most thunderous when Order and Chaos collide. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Romantic Musings: The Romantic (pt 3)

Sophia Paula was in the kitchen helping her mother prepare dinner when the guests began to arrive. After mass, Padre Carlo Coelho announced that la familia Paula would host Sunday dinner, and the invitation had been extended to all. For Dr. Fermin Luis Paula, Sophia’s father, felt it would be a good way to become better acquainted with the people of the village.
From the moment she greeted the first guests, it was obvious that Sophia Paula possessed the refined charm of elegance and status. Her voice, soft and articulate; her curtsies, smooth and graceful; she was every bit the part of nobility without the condescending cordiality common among the privileged class.
Swiftly, she had excused herself from the kitchen and stood beside her father. Dr. Fermin Luis Paula towered over most men, with broad shoulders and strong arms. His warm smile accentuated by his bright green eyes that contrasted against his dark skin. Nobles entered, and welcomed the Dominican doctor to Santa Lucia. They were grateful to have a medico again, after the previous physician had met an untimely death when Hurricane Gilbert struck the small city a month before.
The procession of guests continued. Sophia Paula stood in her mother’s stead whilst the lady of the house directed the servants over the final preparations before she joined her husband. As amiable as Padre Carlo Coelho had been at the church that morning, Dr. Fermin Luis Paula welcomed the poor into his home. He shook their hands, learned their names, and thanked them for accepting his invitation.
When Hadriel Alighieri arrived with his parents, he froze in her presence. She raised her eyes to meet his gaze and there it was, the twinkle he often sought in the midnight sky, dancing in those emerald eyes, accentuated by her caramel complexion. Her thick brown hair brushed her shoulders with natural curls unique to her Mulatten descent, but it was her smile that enchanting smile that held him in a trance.
“El gato must have stolen his tongue.” Dr. Fermin Luis Paula joked. Streaks of silver peppered his dark coarse hair.
Hadriel Alighieri's father begged the doctor’s pardon. He explained that Hadriel had always been reclusive and shy among crowds. Sophia Paula watched him as Hadriel Alighieri’s father led him away. Their eyes locked until he stepped beyond her line of sight.
The afternoon sun sauntered across the sky. Hadriel Alighieri wandered through the garden. Alone with his thoughts he reproached himself for his lack of suavity when Sophia Paula introduced herself. The girl with the almond shaped green eyes had hypnotized him.
The adults gathered on the terrace. From the garden, their conversations were imperceptible amid the laughter of children playing, and the music of the mariachis.
He sat alone on a bench when Sophia Paula approached. She sat beside him and handed him a small plate of flan.
“I didn’t know boys liked to read.” Sophia Paula eyed the open book in his lap.
“When you grow up without toys or a television, books or balls are all one has.” Hadriel had found his voice. “I find books to be infinitely more entertaining than kicking around a ball.”
“What book is that?” Sophia scooped flan off the plate.
“The Divine Comedy.” Hadriel closed the book to show her the faded brown leather bound cover with chipped gold lettering.
“Curious.” Sophia Paula ate another spoonful of flan. She stared at the book until Hadriel asked her what she meant.
“I had you pegged as a reader of Jules Verne.” Their eyes met.
“I read him, too.” Hadriel Alighieri smiled.
They conversed for the remainder of the evening. The sun neared the horizon. The sky bruised between wisps of clouds. The doctor watched his wife, ever the gracious host, as she floated among the crowds. He glimpsed his daughter seated beside the silent boy. He could not hear their conversation, but he saw his daughter smile and heard her familiar laugh.
Dr. Fermin Luis Paula knew it was a proverbial moment. Sophia reminded him of her mother just then. The way she laughed when they first fell in love. Though he knew Sophia was too young to feel the raindrops of love, he felt she was old enough to recognize the mist of trust and friendship.
Sophia Paula and Hadriel Alighieri remained on the bench in the garden. An anomalous beginning, something only written by fate. But what Hadriel Alighieri could not see whilst he talked with her about everything under the stars, and she captivated him with those piercing green eyes, was that her humble nature and contagious laugh would lead him beyond the boundaries of affection into a realm he never knew existed.