Chapter 2 : Gabe
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It had been weeks since he’d done any painting. Running a successful art gallery/pub took up more time than he cared to think about even though it was a dream come true. His gallery was doing so well that he had to get more paintings ready. He was only missing inspiration. Among other things, he couldn’t stop thinking about a woman with long black curls and full red lips. He hadn’t been able to get close enough to her to introduce himself. When he saw her in the crowd, it seemed she’d disappear before he could get to her. Every night he hoped she’d return. Maybe he could work her into a painting from memory but the truth was that he really wanted to meet her.
Right now he was frustrated and sweaty. He’d be more productive going back to his shop and taking care of the ever present paperwork that came with owning a business. He could use a drink and the dogs could too. Plus, there was air conditioning. All three approached Angel’s Crossing.
At one of the outside tables, a tiny girl stood near her mother who sipped iced coffee. She stared open-mouthed at the huge, furry beasts and the tall man with long hair. She slowly backed up toward her mother. She couldn’t even see over the huge white dog’s back.
Gabe stooped down so he was eye level with the child. “Don’t be scared. They’re nice doggies. See. Jacob’s fur is soft and cuddly.” He reached out his hand to pet the dog, showing the little girl it was safe.
Her mother smiled at Gabe and motioned toward the Great Pyrenees. “May she pet him?” At Gabe’s “Sure,” the girl put her hand out to cautiously pat Jacob’s thick, white fur.
Jacob turned his huge head and sniffed her fingers, drooling. The little girl giggled nervously and rubbed both hands together. “He gots my hands all wet.”
Her mother reached in her bag and pulled out a camera. “May I take her picture with him? Her Dad’s not going to believe this otherwise. She’s usually afraid of dogs and this one’s so big.”
Gabe smiled “Why not, just as long as you don’t expect him to autograph it, right Jake?”
Smiling for her picture, the little girl stretched her arms around Jake’s neck as far as she could, trying to avoid his slobbery jowls.
Gabe waved to the mother and daughter and went inside the café. He’d have to remember to tell Rain about the little girl trying to hug Jake. She looked so cute standing beside the mountain of a dog. Then he remembered--how could he forget--that he couldn’t ever talk to Rain again.
He went up to the counter and the dogs plopped on the floor near one of the small round tables.
The bartender said “Hi Gabe. Do you and the boys want your usual?”
“Yeah, Gerry, Jacob and Sampson will probably need a couple of refills to cool off. Just don’t let them play in the water. I don’t want someone to slip.” He sighed. “I’m going in the back to get some of my papers to work on. I need to get an order ready.”
Gerry poured a large glass of merlot and filled two of their biggest cappuccino cups with water. He sat the wine on the table and the water on the floor. Both dogs rumbled low in their throats appreciating the cool drinks and causing the small table to vibrate. “Easy boys, Gabe won’t be happy if you knock his wine over and drink it. And we don’t need any intoxicated dogs in here.” In a lower tone, he mumbled to himself, “And we don’t need him looking any crankier than he already does. He’ll scare away the customers.”
Gabe returned to the table with his paperwork and soon became engrossed in figuring out what needed to be ordered for the next delivery.
After that was done, Gabe sat back and watched people for a while. He’d been in London for close to a year. Having established himself as one of the premiere Indian artists in the United States, he decided to take on the European market. The paintings that sold so well were his interpretations of western wildlife. Many Europeans were fascinated with anything Indian and western, and Gabe planned to take full advantage of that fascination.
He also had some things to forget. His mother was quick to voice her opinion that he didn’t need to go so far away, arguing that distance wasn’t going to make the memories any less painful. In her opinion, what he needed was the support of family and his connection to home. He disagreed and set off for London where he found a small café that could double as an art gallery. In a play on his name he called the shop Angel’s Crossing. Some of his patrons had even taken to calling him Archangel. So far business had been good and sometimes he was lucky enough to forget why he was so far from home.
Stretching lazily, Gabe got up and went into the back of the shop. He returned carrying a chessboard and carved wooden chess set inherited from his father. Gabe set up the board and sat back as an invitation to play. Before long, an unsuspecting young man sat down after making sure the dogs wouldn’t snap at him. The game went until Gabe claimed victory. He ordered a round of drinks for his opponent and the five others who were hanging over the board, watching the game. How could anyone feel bad about a loss after free drinks?
Finally it was time to close the shop. He locked the door and walked across the street with the dogs, letting them relieve themselves for the night. After several minutes they walked back and climbed up the stairs to Gabe’s flat.
Once inside, he stripped down to his trousers and tied his hair back with a leather strip. He gave a deep sigh as he looked around the room and back at himself in the mirror. He studied his face, unable to generate a smile. It had almost been a year since Rain and the baby, his baby, had died. It was almost time for The Wiping of the Tears, the ceremony that signaled the end of grief for those who had passed on. He wasn’t sure if he was up for the ceremony.
Gabe’s gaze was drawn to the tobacco ties—small pieces of red, yellow, and black fabric stuffed with tobacco and tied shut—that littered his dresser top. He, his mother, and Rain’s family spent agonizing hours, praying and making the small tokens to the Creator, praying for the baby that had never known life and her mother.
He crossed to the bed and picked up the tiny star blanket his mother made for her granddaughter, and clutched it to his chest. He was so tired and so hurt.
After several minutes, Gabe picked up his sage and smudged. Lighting the sage in a large seashell, he used his eagle feather to wave the smoke over his body, from head to foot, praying for those he’d lost.
Bella observed him for many nights, after she discovered that he was the mysterious Archangel. Gabriel reminded her of a large jungle cat. She thought that if he were an Animagus, he would be a panther. One time, after downing a few glasses of wine, Bella actually fantasized about taming the large cat and riding astride its back, flying over the torrid jungle floor. She licked her lips thinking about that fantasy. Shamefully, Bella was fascinated with this man. She didn’t know why, but he was someone she wanted to know better.
She had never seen him dressed in anything but black leather. His hair was unusually long, dark and straight, framing his brooding face. His left ear was studded with gold rings. He often wore an intense look and Bella could imagine him snarling in displeasure, just like the cat he reminded her of. He had elegant brows over greenish-brown eyes. Sad eyes. She thought he looked either Spanish or French, but then she remembered he was a Yank.
Bella often heard him carrying on conversations with the two dogs that were his constant companions, as if he expected them to understand. Sometimes she waited for the dogs to answer him. That hadn’t happened yet, but it wouldn’t surprise her when it did. They were usually lying on the floor near one of the small round tables toward the back, cups filled with water close by.
Two weeks after the night she’d first walked into Angel’s Crossing, Bella watched as he closed the shop. He seemed especially lost in thought that night. She found his aloofness a challenge. He didn’t seem to notice that women were interested in him. That she was interested.
She vowed that would change. Soon.
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