Her name is Adelaide and as I sit across from her at Romano’s I cannot rend my eyes from her. Raven hair outlines a porcelain face which holds a pair of dark gemstones that shimmer as she stares back. Her body is slim, yet strong, tastefully covered by a dark green dress. Her voice is smooth and edgeless.
“I liked her, she seems fun.” Perfect ivory squares show as she speaks in her soft, eloquent voice.
Laughing, I lean back in my chair. “That’s certainly one word to describe my mother.”
“Can I really not call you Matt?”
I roll my eyes and for a moment regret removing them from my lovely date. “No, you can. Just not around her. She hates it. My father insisted on naming me Mathias and my mother allowed it, as long as no one calls me Matt for short.”
Her eyes appear darker than her hair, yet glow in the ambient light. “Well, I would not call you Matt. Mathias is a far more striking name, and suits you well.” She smiles, and banishes the residual nervousness I carry.
A waiter appears at our side and requests our order. Taking a last glance over the menu I settle on broiled cod. Adelaide looks to me. I nod genuinely. She smiles softly. Straightening up she turns to the waiter and orders the 22oz porterhouse, rare.
Soon after leaving the restaurant it begins to rain. I offer her my jacket. She shrugs.
“There is nothing wrong with a bit of rain. It is cleansing.” Her voice is graceful, an auditory ballet.
Passing a newspaper stand I catch a headline that depicts a recent string of cannibalistic murders in the area. I feel at once a great concern for the beauty at my side. Hairs bristle along the back of my neck despite the cool rain.
“I can’t believe the monsters in our society nowadays. Murderers, rapists, thieves-” I pause, regretting mentioning something so taboo for a third date. “Sorry, that’s not polite conversation.”
Adelaide’s demeanor remains unaltered, stoic as ever. Rain has flattened dark strands to her face, yet she is seemingly unnerved. “I am not concerned, but it is sweet that you care about my welfare in such a way.”
Her slender hand finds mine and my heart skips a beat. The world around us melts away and for once in my life I feel released from any anxiety. People rush past us in the rain and my eyes do not register them. The woman at my side is all I sense now.
The following morning arrives much as any other has, but as I rise in my empty apartment I feel more alone than usual. When I blink Adelaide rushes through my mind and I experience a fleeting moment of peace. I set the tea kettle to boil and go about my morning ritual.
I am sitting at my kitchen table enjoying two slices of toast, one half grapefruit and two fried eggs when the phone rings. It is the landline, which means it is my mother calling. I take a moment to clear my mouth and answer the phone. The voice on the other end offers no identification.
“Mom’s gone.” The female voice is panicked, rushed.
Anxiety claws up my throat and sits menacing below my jaw. I halfheartedly assure my sister that I had visited mother last night and she must have simply gone out.
“Her wheelchair is still here, Mathias.” I can hear her ragged breathing. Caroline and I share a heightened anxiety.
My heart rate has elevated to a dangerous level. I can hear the thump in my ears, my head sandwiched between bass drums. My vision fading, I find my way to a dining chair. It has become impossible to decipher whether my reaction is normal, or simply a product of dueling chemicals within my brain. Strangely, Adelaide is my only antidote.
“Mathias! Are you there? Should I call the cops? What do we do?” Caroline is screaming into the phone now, yet I hear only a faint voice from the other end of a darkened tunnel.
I sit comatose, unable to move. Ringing emanates from my leg, a splash of frigid water. My cellphone is ringing. Without a word I drop the screaming landline and fish the chiming device from my pocket. The voice on the other end is soft, eloquent, calming.
“Mathias, I need to see you. Come to my apartment. I have a gift for you.” Adelaide’s voice, even carried several miles, settles my anxiety. My heart slows, my vision clears. My voice still eludes me, however, and I remain silent.
“We are destined to be more than we are. I knew from the moment we met that you were the one. The one with whom I can share that which I have shared with no other.”
My mouth opens for a moment, but then falls shut. Misfiring, my mind cannot put together a response. Current events have overloaded it, resulting in a freeze.
“Your mother is fine, Mathias. Please come.” The phone beeps, thawing my mind.
Slowly I place the phone back into my pocket. I should be startled by Adelaide’s mysterious words, but I am not. I should be concerned that she mentioned my mother, but I am not. I long to be with her; never have I felt a connection like that from Adelaide. She said we are meant for more, and I believe her. Not wanting to waste another moment alone in my dusty apartment, I slip into sneakers and head for the door. My sister continues to shout from the floor.
Before I can knock on the door marked with a gold 24A it opens. Adelaide’s smile exiles all thoughts previously housed in my conscious mind. I stand dumbfounded in front of her a moment. I have forgotten my mother entirely and do not feel shame for it. An angel with dark eyes stands before me.
“I knew you would come, Mathias.” Her hand finds mine and draws me into her home. The door closes softly behind us.
The studio apartment is sparsely furnished. Drawn blinds and dim lighting cause my eyes to fail for a moment as they adjust. A chair placed in the middle of the space catches my attention. It is a plain wooden chair with a tall back and curving arms. It is, in every way, unremarkable. The occupant is not. Sitting in the chair is my mother, her mouth bound and hands thrashed to the curving arms. She stares back at me, eyes wide with terror.
TO BE CONTINUED