A stranger in this Balkan city of Podgorica I felt the cool but comfortable night breeze on my body. My leather jacket and heavy trousers sheltered me nicely in my walk to the Pod Volat Restaurant. Wisps of my thirty-five year old ebony hair gently waved to the people passing. A quite lovely lady with long dark flowing tresses looked me over carefully as she passed, raised her eyebrows and gave me a flirtatious smile. I smiled back not so flirtatiously but quickly diverted my blue eyes, remembering my own blonde beauty awaiting me at the restaurant.
I could see the restaurant in the distance and picked up my gait. I was anxious to see Erica and determine if the passion flame of three years past still held its magical heat. Our romantic encounter in New York had run for six months before her Montenegro family members played on her sympathies to come home. And, home she went, leaving me with an engagement ring in my suit coat pocket that she never got to see. The fact of her leaving did not break my heart but it hurt and gave me some serious tremors. She did not want to leave New York but her family’s arguments were too compelling – mother ill, father and siblings unable to cope, too much for her heart to bear. Our last night together was tearful but filled with incredible love-making. She even told me she loved me, and, yeah, I told her the same.
So, as luck would have it, my attorney work brought me to within visiting limit in Kosovo. We had stayed in touch, so our reunion was planned. Because of my arrival time, it was her idea to meet at the Pod Volat Restaurant, popular for both tourists and locals. With flight uncertainties and because I wanted our reunion to be in a much more romantic setting than an airport terminal I turned down her offer to be picked up at the airport.
My heart picked up its tempo with the Pod Volat looming bigger in the foreground. My ground steps kept pace with the heart tempo as I reached a darkened alleyway.
Movement reached my ears simultaneous to seeing two bulky men figures grab and pull me into the alley. Some light came from the neon lights some distance away but it was difficult to make out my assailants as they pulled me deeper into the alley. The men were dressed in dark clothes and they held my arms tightly and painfully, wedging me closer to their own bodies. I tried to kick up, but they had the leverage and heeled my shins with their own feet.
So, I used my head – literally! Fast and hard I whipped my head from side to side, connecting with their temples. The jolting hits almost knocked me out and I was hoping for that effect with the goons.
My head did just enough damage to loosen their grips on my arms and I bolted from the alley. Thankfully, I heard no running taps on the alley pavement.
Racing fast and hard, far enough to be in front of the restaurant I looked back and saw no one. It seemed a small miracle had canceled out a mugging or something more sinister.
Inside the Pod Volat, I took some deep breaths and leaned for a moment against a wall. The maitre d came to me and asked about my health. I told him I was just winded because of my eagerness to see Ms Erica Vukovich, and had she arrived? At that very moment I looked and saw her at a table toward the end of the big lovely room – made all the more lovely because I had made it there.
Erica rose from her seat at the table and rushed to greet me with a wonderful smile on her face, attached to that fantastic face and body I remembered so well.
We kissed unashamedly until we both felt the eyes of patrons on us. We then took our seats at our table, ordered cocktails, and gazed into the eyes of the other.
After some hand holding across the table and many endearing sentiments, she became serious.
“I made a mistake, Deke, a big mistake. I left New York and should not have. I’ve never stopped loving you. My hope was that you would propose to me, then my family would have to back off.”
“Ah, Erica, I had the engagement ring in my pocket that evening you told me you were leaving.”
We both laughed, and she asked, “Do you still have it?”
I ceremoniously reached into my left jacket pocket and pulled out the small box, left my seat and knelt by her chair: “Will you marry me, Erica? I love you with all my heart.”
With my proposal, Erica stood, tightly embraced me, and gave me one long lingering kiss – until we heard the patrons in Pod Volat applauding.
Just a tad embarrassed we reclaimed our seats at the table and talked of our plans for the immediate and distant future.
Sometime during that wonderful night, Erica apologetically spoke of her brothers. “You know, they threatened to try and scare you away from meeting me tonight. I knew they wouldn’t do it.”
My smile could never convey to her the satisfaction she had just given me.
I got a suite in the Hotel Ziya, and we stayed for three days, time to gather Erica’s belongings for our trip back to New York.
I never got to meet the brothers…well, not really…
Flash Fiction by: Billy Ray Chitwood – November 30, 2016
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