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Venice Lost


Robert lolled on the red cushions of a sleek gondola with Rachel snuggling by his side. The boat’s bow rose and fell in the Grand Canal’s rough waters, but even when the gondolier maneuvered into a quiet mooring, the gentle rolling motion continued. Robert took Rachel’s moist hand and stepped ashore, but the sensation of movement didn’t stop. Annoyed, he opened his eyes and found himself lying on his back in a strange room. Rachel’s smiling face was instantly replaced by Lisa’s, who looked down at him while she gently rocked the bed. When he stared into her sun-shining face, last night’s memories sprang from their lair and pummeled him.
     Lisa was wrapped in a blue, cotton robe that made her look even more seductive than she had the night before. Wet hair tumbled over her forehead in disarray. Her smile beamed promises he couldn’t ignore, and he felt his body stirring again. How had he resisted her, he wondered? It was hard blending a fifty-year-old mind with a twenty-something body, and he couldn’t help feeling relief that she was leaving. He doubted he could resist her much longer.
     “It’s early, but I have to catch my train. There is bread and jam in the kitchen, if you want to eat something.” She reached down and touched his unshaven cheek with her hand. “There’s also an old razor on the bathroom sink. You can shave, if you like, before you go.”
     He took her hand and smiled. It was as warm and moist as Rachel’s in his dream. “Thanks, and yes to both offers.” He yearned to hold her, but she turned and left before he had time to do something stupid. After she was gone, he flung himself out of bed, pulled on his pants, and headed down the hall to the bathroom. He hoped there was time to grab a quick shower, as well as to shave.
     By the time Robert joined Lisa at the kitchen table, she had brushed her hair and put on a loose blouse and skirt. She looked as lovely as springtime, but he couldn’t keep his eyes from straying to the food. His appetite had not been this ravenous in years, and he devoured the bread and jam. Lisa watched him and smiled.
     “I am sorry you can’t stay longer,” she offered in an apologetic tone, “but my friends are expecting me. I must come back in a couple weeks, however, to work at a party given by one of the rich families. If you still need help, you can look for me then.”
     “Thanks for the offer,” he managed to say between mouthfuls. “Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to leave this place.”
     Lisa retrieved her purse from the couch. “I have some extra money. I think you might need it, yes? It’s not much, but enough to buy a train ticket.” She offered him a handful of crumpled lira.
     “I can’t take your money,” Robert objected. “You’re much too generous.” Yet, even as he protested, he thought about his watch. Maybe, he wouldn’t have to sell it after all.