Venice, Italy

l’Heure Bleue…

All was clouded in a musky shade of blue as dusk fell languorously like an aging man slipping into bed. Henry passed a gondola swathed in heavenly hues and, while smiling approvingly at his ripening reflection in the water, he wondered haughtily if he were reflected in it or if the waters were reflected in him. He neared a tiny bridge where a stately woman leaned over the balustrade and permitted gentle tears to fall into the waters beneath her. Her mille-feuille of skirts, in azures of taffeta, billowed in the breeze and in her hand she clutched a single white zinnia. As he drew close, her scent enveloped him- an aroma reminiscent of his grandmother’s pantry filled with open candy jars and almond paste bound in cloths of muslin.
“Why are you crying, Madame?” queried Henry, thinking Venezia was already filled with enough water of her own. “T’is the hour of melancholia, Sir,” she replied, her eyes lifting to meet his, witnessing instantly in them- with a pinch to her heart- the newly awakened emerald sparkles of life and adventure that were recently his gain and so long ago her loss. “My name is Padua,” she continued as if they’d just been introduced, “Once, I was worshiped like this city; bright, alive and courted by a myriad of maidens and merrier men. But time has not been as kind as I would have wished and now, I am but a forgotten town with forsaken streets and have finally fallen from memory to myth. And I am falling still…” and with that she dropped her single stemmed flower into the canal.
Henry bent by the edge of the balustrade, reached into the waters, and retrieved the Zinnia- a floral symbol for absent friends- still intact but now dripping with its own tears. He stood up, turned and presented the flower to nothing but an empty bridge, empty steps, and a balustrade held by nothing but unyielding time. It was only then he noticed the poster, almost as old as the wall on which it was hung, advertising the perfume.
L’Heure Bleue was written in sapphire smoke floating up from an open bottle. “We are nothing more than the memories we make,” said the line, barely legible, at the bottom of the poster, “Remember who you once were in the melancholic magic of l’Heure Bleue.”
And there, in the center of the poster, stood Henry’s mysterious woman who appeared to have vaporized right before him. As the last twinkle of day light caressed the wall, he saw, in the fading portrait, her hand extend to accept a white flower from one of three young men serenading her from their gondola below, while the rest of her body reached towards a mysterious hand that seemed to beckon her into the shadows beyond the bridge…

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