Robert paused by the Grand Canal and watched as Venice slowly emerged from its sleep. The canal reminded him of a glistening snake winding through a forest of ancient buildings. It was becalmed at this early hour, its still waters mirroring the rows of gondolas resting at their moorings. When Lisa’s vaporetto rumbled beneath the Accademia Bridge, however, it ruffled the water’s surface and scattered the gondolas’ reflections. Fingers of sunlight peeked between the buildings and greeted the Venetians, who now appeared in greater numbers in the surrounding streets. While Robert watched, Venice stretched and roused itself from slumber.
On impulse, he decided to follow the narrow streets beside the Canal instead of heading straight for the Piazza. As badly as he wanted to search for Rachel, he feared the outcome, and he wanted to delay his disappointment a little longer. Soon, he spotted muscled workers at the food market hefting crates of strawberries, beans and ripe tomatoes from barges and handing them to merchants, who stacked the produce in stalls near the water’s edge. While the tourists snuggled in their beds, Venice was preparing to feed itself.
Near the Rialto Bridge, he found the outdoor cafes he’d seen from the motor launch the day before. Dozens of orange and red plastic chairs were tilted against the tables bordering the Canal; droplets of rain water from last night’s shower stood in beaded patterns on the slick table tops. Robert considered walking further, but his burst of energy had waned. He had put off the inevitable long enough. It was time to face his fears.
He crossed the bridge and retraced his route back to the Splendid Hotel. An older gentleman stood in Lisa’s place behind the counter when Robert entered. He asked about Rachel, but the man shook his head no. There was no one registered by the name of Grey, and the room where Robert had last seen his wife was registered to another couple. Nor had the clerk seen anyone fitting Rachel’s description. Robert wanted to plop down in one of the lobby’s chairs and wait for her to reappear, but he knew that idea was hopeless. Rachel was gone, and he was lost in a world he couldn’t begin to comprehend.
He left the hotel and returned to the Piazza. Venice was awake, now, and tourists were already pouring into the square to admire its venerable buildings. He watched a woman open a bag of corn and spread the kernels across the pavement with quick flicks of her wrist. Her pose reminded him of a museum painting depicting a farmer sowing seeds in the ground. Dozens of pigeons instantly swarmed around her in a feeding frenzy of bobbing heads.
Robert drifted past the woman as he mulled over options. There was still a possibility that Rachel was caught in a similar time shift and was searching for him. If so, it made sense to stay near the hotel in case she returned. But for how long? He decided to wait until noon. If he didn’t find her by then, he would return to the train station and use Lisa’s lira to reach the nearest embassy. How the embassy could help, he wasn’t sure, but he hoped they would find a way to return him to the States, where he prayed his life would revert to normal.
Venice Lost - Excerpt
Page 3 of 12