Always On Sunday ... Romance in Belgium
He had always been gentle. His fingers, like an artist’s soft brush, painting a blush upon her face. It was not what she expected. He had only kissed her and held her close.
He laid beside her for less than an hour with the smell of lemon-scented cologne upon his skin and with each tender kiss he had left a trace of mint-like flavor on her lips. Then, with their agreement never fulfilled, a rustling of blankets and sheets. An empty spot by her side.
The young man stood by her bed within the silence. Waiting. Giving her a chance to collect her thoughts?
She extended a trembling arm to the lamp and turned on the light. The handsome Belgian, a wave of blonde hair on his brow, pulled a brown wallet from the back pocket of his jeans, while drawing her heart to him with his smile.
He placed his finger upon his lips … a gesture he used when he first came in. Briggitte gripped her robe, closing it tighter around her, and with her free hand she raked her fingers through her coal-black hair. She followed every movement of his virile figure while he folded and placed money on the nightstand. Who was this man, with the desire to be intimate and yet holding back. And with the wish of them not to speak? The man who had contracted with her for weeks to come, always on Sunday.
He moved to her bedroom door but stopped at the dresser beside it. He approached an opened yellow umbrella on top of the ornate piece of furniture. Four small butterflies made of
delicate lace perched pinned to the cloth of the umbrella, each side by side. Three white, one black. His fingers traced each one. He turned toward her.
“My family. I’m the black one,” Briggitte gasped. “You said in your e-mail no names, no talking. Part of the agreement?” She slumped against the back of her old mahogany bed. “You can take the money back.”
His finger found the black butterfly again. It softly lingered over the lace. A warmth swept over her face. She remembered his touch.
The young Belgian sought her countenance. But his azure eyes, though looking at her, seemed
trapped in a faraway place. And in a sleepwalking mode, the one she thought would be first to know her in a biblical way, stepped out of her room and closed the door behind him. Briggitte’s body shook. Her heart beat furiously. “Oh, please come back next Sunday.” She bit her lip and held back tears. “I so need the money.”
Briggitte skipped over puddles, her heels clicking on cobblestones, her hand tight around the handle of her mother’s yellow umbrella. She rushed to cross The Grand Place, Brussels’ long city square, surrounded by the tall Gothic structures. That day she didn’t stop and gaze up at the high spire of the Hotel de Ville where the figure of Saint Michael, the patron saint of Brussels, labored to slay the dragon. How she wished she could still pray for help as her parents had taught her. But no, she wouldn’t pray. What good now, would her prayers be?
At The Grand Place she had spotted him selling what seemed to be fancy chocolates but she managed to get away without being seen. The plaza swarmed with people. She sighed. The sight of him cut as a razor to her heart.
No, she didn’t think he had seen her. But what if he had? How could he have such a hold on her?
Dodging tourists Briggitte sped on toward the shop before it closed, determined to replace what had been taken from her room and what they kept running out of at the store.
Briggitte brushed back ebony tresses and loosened her red woolen scarf. She passed street cafes with their outside tables drenched by the deluge. From the buildings’ opened doors wafted the scents of beer, wrestling to dominate over the aroma of tempting mussels. Again a sharp pain within. Her family had eaten together at those same places. She wished her parents had listened to her and canceled the mission trip. They would still be alive. Briggitte clenched her hand into a fist. So many prayers her parents had said, including her mother’s litanies for a good man to love Briggitte with a forever kind of love. That one would not be answered now. Her funds so low. Soon there would have to be another patron. One who would follow through with … what good man would want her then?
Briggitte wiped a tear away. Nineteen years old that very day, and there would be no celebration like her parents had always given her. What’s to celebrate? That her inheritance from them was gone, so two months before, for the sake of her sister, she decided to become a call girl? What else would help to pay for Luna’s live-in school for the deaf? Briggitte would not lose the eight-year-old to strangers, in government care. Anything to keep Luna happy, learning and safe.
The sweet lyrics of La Vie En Rose diminished in sound behind Briggitte. She walked away from the restaurants and turned into the narrow street toward Antoinette’s Lace Shop. She took in a long, slow breath. Her thoughts drifted to the young man behind the booth at the square. The fellow with sweet kisses and gentle touches whom she so longed to see every weekend. The mysterious patron who paid her richly for what she thought were services not rendered. Was that why he had ceased to come for the last two weeks? Had he found her repugnant with her timid ways?
“Fait attention où tu marches!” The tourist she bumped near the fence around the Manneken Pis clamped his hand on her arm. “Fait attention!”
Briggitte pulled away from his grip. She turned her umbrella to one side and encountered stormy eyes. Icy rain slapped at her face. “Excusez-moi.” She quickly took shelter under her parasol and turned down a street, leaving behind a throng of visitors encircling the statue of the little boy urinating into Brussel’s famous fountain. Mannequen Pis. What was new? Life also kept doing it to her. Briggitte’s heart sank. She marched on, her black boots splashing into puddles.
The sign said open. She climbed up steps. Bells on the door chimed to announce her presence, and a silver-haired bun on a diminutive head, surfaced from behind a glass counter. The store walls sparkled with ivory lace tablecloths and doilies exhibited inside glass cases.
“Bonjour ,Mademoiselle Briggittte.”
“Bonjour. Just in time? Looking for the same. A black butterfly.” Briggitte drew close to the glass. Searching the tray with the small lacy butterflies she loved.
“O no, Mademoiselle. Sept … eh, seven bought today. All gone.” The soft-spoken French lady leaned forward with elbows on the counter. “Oui, noirepappillon, black? Oui at next week come. Other thing?”
Briggitte groaned under her breath. Her spirits dropping fast into dark clouds.
“Merci bien, Madame Antoinette, next week.”
She stood frozen outside Madame Antoinette’s store. The rain had ceased but thunder pounded within her chest. The young Belgian waited at the bottom of the steps. More handsome than ever. Briggitte grasped the handle of her umbrella and leaned against it. With legs weakened, she ambled down.
He rushed to meet her and stretched out his arms.
“No.” She stepped back, remembering the many Sundays waiting for him when she had not eaten or slept.
“I’m going to talk. Enough secrecy. I waited and waited.” She took in a gulp of air. “Is it over? Did I imagine…?” She noticed the absence of his smile and the unusual lines of sadness in his face.
The young man’s hands moved in a familiar way. He signed a message. “I’m deaf.”
An arrow piercing her.
He shook his head. He signed faster. His hands racing, transmitting a language Briggitte knew well.
“Forgive me. My name is Lars. Lars the coward. I deceived you. I never should have …. I wanted to help. I’ve known about you for a long time. Luna’s aid, Chloé, told me about your family. I didn’t want you to do that kind of work.” Lars looked down and shook his head again.
“Deaf?” Briggitte drew closer to Lars and with her hand lifted his face so he could read her lips. “Chloé? Who put us together. Helped with the arrangement?”
Lars signs quickly answered. “I’m a volunteer when they need me at your sister’s school. I was there those Sundays that I missed being with you. I know little Luna. She told me how good you are to her. At first I just wanted to help. I knew what you were planning.” With the palm of his hand Lars touched her face. He smiled and with one finger caressed her cheek. Then with slow movements he signed. Accentuating each word.
“I love you.”
Briggitte pressed her lips together and then opened her mouth and let out a joyful cry. He pulled her to himself and held her tight. He kissed the top of her head. She waited, nestled in his arms for a moment, and then softly pushed herself away to find that smile she loved from the very first day. “Did you steal my butterflies?”
Lars searched his pocket. He drew out a plastic bag filled with black lacy butterflies, held them up, and then tucked them away. He signed, “You were never a black butterfly but a wounded white one.” He smiled then signed, “I’ve been buying the black ones. Seven today.”
He brought another object out of his pocket. A lacy white butterfly attached with a pink ribbon to a diamond ring. Briggitte dropped her umbrella and started to cry. She wrapped her fingers around the ring and watched as he continued to sign.
“I want you for always. Forever and ever. More than always on Sunday.”
Amarilys Gacio Rassler writes fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose. Freedom, family, romantic love, the spirit realm, faith and culture are topics she loves to write about. She is the award-winning author of the books, Cuban-American, Dancing On The Hyphen and The Chairs.