Writings by Dale C. Clarke

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Three Roses

How it Started

 

I met her when a girl friend brought her over to my 16th floor apartment overlooking DC.  She was standing there with her coat still on, waiting for her friend to finish trying to cajole me into having a party here.  She had short brown hair cut in a DA like girls wore in the 60’s. Though her figure was masked by the London fog her long neck promised to lead to good things…

I told Trish, the one begging for a party room, to call a couple of our mutual friends on my phone and see if they could host for her. My phone, because I wanted to really meet her friend.  I stood silently behind her at the floor length window until she sensed me..

“Great view isn’t it?”

“Umhmh.” Kind of a throaty voice, like she had a cold.  She didn’t turn but kept staring at the Monument in the distance, 10 miles away.

“It looks like a shining sword at night.”

“I bet!” This was going nowhere.

“What was your name again?” I remembered it was Sherry but I couldn’t conjure anything better – plus I wanted to sound indifference.

“Its Cheri, with a C and I, C H E R I,” she said turning to face me. She looked up at me, with her head tilted down and from under blonde brows. No makeup for her – just like she came out of the wash… She finished her evaluation too quickly and turned back to the view.

“Aren’t you scared by the height standing close to these windows?” she asked.

“Nope.  Got Cherokee blood.” I lied. “”I stood here the night Arlene blew through. Put a crack all the way to the foundation but didn’t break the windows.”

“I guess if you can get you mind to not panic long enough to think about the fact that it is safe.” She looked down and shied back from  glass bumping against my chest.

“Sorry. I was ok until I looked down at the cars.”

She smelled nice. The warm fragrance of her under the coat too warm for inside was familiar.

“Emeraude!”

“What?”

“You’re wearing Emeraude… and it suits you. The scent, is recognizable, but not overpowering. Coty made it sexy, seductive – the smell of an oriental myth.  I’ve heard it doesn’t attract bugs either.”

She laughed. “So have I seduced you then?”

“Hey. I’m not easy, but I can be had.”

“If I want you you mean?”

“Yeah…. I guess that’s the hard part. Getting you to want to seduce me.”

“That is? or That would be? That is means its where you’re trying to go where would be leaves it uncertain. You mean – That would be the hard part, right?” She had a coy grin on her face and her cheeks colored a bit.

“Which do you want it to be?”

“Don’t leave it up to me.  If you do I’ll leave with Trish. I admit I’m intrigued by a guy who knows fragrance, who makes it and can describe one so uniquely.  Not the bug part!”

“That is.”

“That is what?”

“Whatever sends Trish home alone.” I grinned and all the tension went out of me.

She turned back to the window and said, “Hold me.” I did.  That’s how it started.

 

The reunion

 

            This section of the tale needs some setup… Cheri had become a fixture in my penthouse. On workdays she used her apartment near her work as a base, sometimes leaving my place after a casual evening of wine and TV to sleep and do her morning ablutions 5 minutes from work.  I think she had had a few stutter-steps in her love life and was cautious.  After a few months her caution proved fortuitous. She had reached the “I should be the only focus of your attention.” Stage  Hence, when after doing the deed several times, I got out of “our” bed in “our” penthouse leaving her to sleep and went off to a Civil War reenactment – well, that was too much.  I came back to an apartment sanitized of Cheri schtuff.  She had even cleaned the apartment, presumably to remind me of some of her added value.

 

That weekend I dragged on my sweats and went down to the volley ball courts.  Shock of shocks, there was Cheri.  Looking good at my sports ground. After the apartment it seemed obvious she wanted a clean break but it soon became clear she had other designs.

 

I beckoned to her since she was sitting with some of the resident “brown bodies” most normal folks shun as gigolos.

 

            “What are you doing here?”

            “Hey I have every right to be here.  You brought me down here and introduced me to these folks.  They want me to play with them…”

            “Yeah.  I bet they do!’ I muttered, not meaning what she meant.  I glanced at the crowd she had left, now straining to hear our conversation.

            “What?”

            “Don’t talk so loud.”

            “Why not? I have nothing to hide.”

            “Come on Cheri.  This is my world and you are – well were my girl.  It’s embarrassing for you not to be here with me.  Its an ego thing.”

            She crossed he arms in front of her, taking that defensive stance of hers. “Macho Clarke! You don’t want me alone, don’t want to get serious, don’t want a relationship, and you can leave me after sex to go off for the weekend with a bunch of Historical Hystericals.  I wake up and find you gone – the last straw.”

            “Come on. You moved out so why hang around.”

            “Not for you. You don’t want what I have to offer. Bill over there”, pointing with a head tilt, “ appreciated me though.”

            “He’s one of the brown bodies you were so critical of last time we were out here. He’s a male whore, girl.” My voice was involuntarily turning to a hissed whisper.

            “Well you don’t want me.”

            “I never said that. I just said I didn’t want a serious relationship.”

            Turning she said, “Well you don’t have one!”. 

She walked away in that impish provocative way she did when she felt she had won a point. I wanted to shout “You dumb bitch, you’re demeaning yourself to strike at me” but I just glared. She went over and sat on his lap and took a drink from his glass of wine.  I was about to leave when the two of them started packing up.  They left. arm-in-arm toward Bill’s building. I felt sick.  She was drinking, and a little kissy-face, a touch or two and she would be an uncontrollable sex machine. He would have what I cared for and then he’d dump her.  At least I limited myself to one girl at a time.  How was I to save her from herself?  I proceeded to get plowed on Annie Green springs Mountain Pink.

 

The Solution

 

My Mensa matter fully engaged, I prepared my plan.  Once I have ascertained a girl is one of my chosen few, I give her a ring.  It has a spell placed on it at my command.  My maid in Panama had an Obeah princess from the Island of Barbados. She taught me well, and without detailing how, I will say that I can create an aegis talisman to ward, shield, and link the owner to me forever. Any precious metal item can be used. It doesn’t require belief on the part of the linked, just onetime free will acceptance of the gift. It is white magic…

 

Soon after we met, I had told Cheri a contrived tale of a ceremony using roses, a bell, a book, and a candle. I included that I had received a small pinky ring with a ghost-like image staining the silver for my warding. The next day I waited and met her as she left work.

She walked out, head down, grubbing in her purse for her keys. She looked up and saw me. “What do you want?”

“To talk.”

“So talk.”

“Not here. Not now. I want to have a goodbye dinner with you.”

“I’m not going back to your place.  I know I can’t say no to you.  You’ll make me melt and…I’ll belong to you again.”

“I meant in public. A place you’ll really like.  And you do belong to me – and you always will.”

She played with her keys for a moment, just a moment. “Ok but no sex.”

“That’s your call.  You know I never do anything I’m told not to.” I grinned.

“When do you want to go.”

“Tomorrow night is Friday. How about then? I’ll pick you up at your place – You’re not at Bill’s are you?”

“Not ‘til Saturday.” She looked down at the keys and he cheeks colored. “That was rotten. I’m sorry I…”

“You won’t ever do it again, trust me.” She looked in my eyes trying to gage my meaning. Satisfied she asked, “What time?”

“Seven.  We’re going to DC.  Wear your white dress.”

“’K. Seven.” She touched my arm softly and left.

 

The next day was busy.  I took off work. First I went to the silver smith who made my ghost ring and bought another very similar silver ring in Cheri’s size.  Then I tripped to the florists to get 3 tall crystal vases with 1 long stem scarlet red rose in each.  Next stop was an Indian brass shop for a one-finger brass candle lamp and a tuned brass bell. I bought a gold covered candle and leather covered journal. Last was a West Indian shop for herbs, grasses, and fixings. I went home and did some Obeah magics.

 

A trip to the Palm restaurant on 20th and M streets in DC was next. As an analyst for Booz Allen Hamilton I had dropped thousands in the Palm for sales lunches and dinners.  I called in a favor from Charles, the Maitre ‘D.  I gave him one rose, the ring, and instructions for when we arrived – and a good chunk of change.

 

All was in readiness.  At seven I showed up at her place. She looked great.  When we got in my Vette I handed her the first crystal vase from under the back deck.  Did she remember the tale? Was she too drunk that night?

“It’s beautiful.  But what am I going to do with it?”

“Bring it with you. It suits you. We can put it on the table at the restaurant.”

The ride to DC was quiet.  She sat like a little girl going to church, the vase held in both hands in her lap. When we got to the Palm. Charles met us at the door.  The Palm is informal, sectioned off in booths, and has caricatures of famous people painted all over the walls.  There are three premium seatings on a raised platform in the back of the main room reserved for “specials”. Standing at the door Charles snapped his fingers and two waiters appeared with a lace linen table cloth, real silverware in a presentation walnut box, fine china, and crystal settings.  Charles escorted us to the platform so we could enjoy the preparations.  When the setting was completed Charles turned to Cheri.

“May I?”, he asked indicating the rose Cheri now clutched like a shield. The deference a place the Palm was showing shocked her.

“Sure.” She handed him the vase and he placed it carefully on the table.

The two waiters held our chairs and seated us. Charles disappeared and when we were seated he returned with the sommelier toting Champagne.  He had the second vase and rose which he presented to Cheri with a deep bow and flourish. He was earning his tip. He placed it next to its twin on the table making a production out of balancing the scene.

Smiling happily and a bit embarrassed Cheri laughed. “For me?” She cast a knowing glance at me. “You did this you dog” it said.  Did she remember yet, I wondered.

The sommelier popped the Taittinger 1954 and served two glasses as if to royalty. He mentioned that it was a 1954 vintage; a fine year for Chardonnay grapes on the hillsides of Champagne. I noted it was Cheri’s birth year and that 1954 must be great for everything provoking agreement as he closed.

“A toast.” I raised my glass.

“To what? What’s all this about?”

“A toast to you in thanks for being mine?”

“Being…? I thought you didn’t want to get serious.”

“I don’t.  Being mine isn’t being serious. It doesn’t imply a physical relationship. It is simply a fact.  Some girls – you are one of a select few – are mine. So I toast to thank you.”

“I guess in a way I will never, I mean never forget being yours even if it may end.” She still held the glass.

I shrugged. “The toast?” I raised the glass.

“To being yours, I guess.”, she answered and drank.

“We still have champagne in the glass. You give a toast.”

“To you and your caring. And to the two beautiful roses.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

She drank tipping the glass hi.  “Hey!”, she said looking in the glass. She pinched the small silver ring out of the dampness at the bottom of the glass.

“Put it on.”

“Is it yours?”

“No.  It’s yours. Put it on your left ring finger.”  She did. “Never be without it, never take it off unless you have to, and never tell anyone what it means.”

“What? What does it mean?”

“What did you toast when it first appeared?”

She twisted it on her finger looking at the ghost face stain.

“This is yours.”

I held up my hand showing mine. She took my hand inspecting it closely.

“They’re the same.”, she said.

“They are the same and serve the same purpose.”

“What’s that?”

We were interrupted by the arrival of the Steak La Palm, Lobster La Palm, Fries La Palm, and Asparagus LA Palm. An excellent Pinot Noir complemented the well appointed meal.  Finished I had the valet bring the Vette.

“Where are we going now?”, she asked.

“Where do you want to go?”

“Where is the other rose?”

“With the bell, book, and candle.”

“I know I shouldn’t – and you knew I would. Didn’t you?”

I smiled. We went to the penthouse. We lit the candle. We rang the bell. We wrote in the book. She will always wear the ring on the ”widowed” finger and when asked about it, she will only smile.

 


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