Paul Cezanne, “House of Pere Lacroix” 1873 – Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington
There, in all her glorious dark hair, stood Pila d’Arezzo. August lost his voice. The two men looked at each other, one sick from guilt, the other sick from love.
“Hallo, Jackson.” She waved at the barkeeper. “Can I get a beer?”
Eduardo whispered, “What’s she doing here? I never seen her come in here before!”
“Me neither.” August moved to the other side of the booth for a better look.
Pila looked around the room, caught August’s eye and smiled. His throat went dry, but he managed to smile back at her. She thanked Jackson, picked up her mug and walked toward them. August looked swiftly around the room, noticing the lack of patrons.
“Hallo, Eduardo. What’s your friend’s name?”
Eduardo stuttered, “Hallo, Pila. This is August. August, this is Pila.” He looked at August with wide eyes and a slight shake of his head.
August caught Eduardo’s meaning and put a radiant smile on his face. “Won’t you join us?” He slid closer to the wall and she sat down next to him. He could smell her perfume.
She studied him a moment. “Don’t you walk the path every day?”
August’s eyebrows shot up. “Uh, yes I do. I, uh, like to get my exercise.” She’s noticed me.
She nodded. “Yes, that’s good. Say, have either of you seen anyone messing with my garden?”
“That’s an interesting question, why do you ask?” said August.
“Today someone was digging again. I know you do our gardening, Eduardo, but this was on the north side where you don’t work. Bitzy, mi amor perro, found it and almost fell in! I’d hate to have to put up a fence, but I can’t have my baby getting injured. This was the last straw for my parents and they want to put up the fence. I told them I’d come to the village and see what I could find out.”
August looked pointedly at Eduardo. Eduardo shrugged and said nothing.
She continued. “I don’t know what else to do. We may have to put up the fence, but I’d hate it if you couldn’t walk the path, August.” She looked at him with doe eyes.
Eduardo let out a big sigh. “Oh, okay. It was me. Some guy from the city paid me fifty dollars to get this flower for him.” He held the flower out to Pila. She stared blankly at it.
“Have you been the one cutting our flowers, Eduardo?”
“No, but I know who’s doing it. That guy hired a couple other guys to get this flower before he asked me. They didn’t know what they were doing and kept bringing him the wrong flowers.”
Pila just stared at Eduardo. She didn’t say anything.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am. I can give you the fifty dollars.” He looked sheepish. “Please don’t call the police.” His head hung low.
She looked at August. He shrugged a shoulder.
“Do you think this is done, Eduardo?”
“I don’t know, Ma’am. If the guy doesn’t get the flower, he may come back.”
She didn’t say anything for a moment and then, “I’ll tell you what. If you help me catch him, I won’t tell the police you took it first. Just plant it back where you found it and then call him and tell him you’ve changed your mind, but that if he wants it, he can get it himself. Tell him we will be gone this evening. I’ll call the police and they can wait for him.”
“August, will you walk back with me?” August nodded. They stood up, said goodbye to Eduardo, waved at Jackson and left the bar.
“So…” began Pila. “How do you like the pond?”
August felt his face flush. “It’s lovely. The scenery around it is so pretty this time of year.”
“I’m not usually forward, but do you think you’d like to have a coffee with me some time?”
Butterflies erupted in August’s stomach. “Yes. Yes, I’d like that very much.”