Charlii yawned, stretching her arms up and behind her. She twisted, stretching her back to the left and then to the right. Before she turned her head back to the bar, the front door opened. An old man entered. His great gray mustache entering before him. Charlii wanted to laugh till she saw the equally bushy eyebrows of snow and gray straining under the weight of thick, wet hair dripping over his forehead. He removed his tweed cap and wrung it out before hanging it on the coatrack, already dripping with coats and umbrellas. Pushing his wet bangs away from his eyes, he placed his free hand on the railing to walk down the three steps one at a time.
The old man sat two stools away from Charlii. She watched him pull the long, blue neckerchief from around his neck and glide it across thick, black hair. Only the ends were wet. As soon as he pulled his hair back, it flopped back onto his face.
“What a night,” he said, his voice gruff from cigarettes and weariness.
“I’ll say,” Charlii.
The old man straightened his back and fell to his feet. “Pardon me, I didn’t see you there,” he said nodding his head to her. “Do you mind if I sit here?”
“Please,” said Charlii, torn between repressing a grin of amusement at his formality or smiling coquettishly in appreciation. “Seems like the rain will never stop.”
The old man lifted himself back onto the barstool. “The rain always stops,” he said. “But some rains bring more than wet. And this is one of those days.”
Charlii extended her hand. “I’m Charlii.”
“Gomez,” the old man said, offering her his business card. “Pleased to meet you. If ever you need a piece of art, you let me know. I only deal with the best in the style modern.”
Charlii looked at the card, simple and white with gold lettering. Gomez Ramirez-Perez, Dealer in Fine Modern Art. Paintings a Speciality.
“I’ll keep it handy,” said Charlii and placed in her notebook. She wrote his name on the open page and wondered at how much she’d written since arriving at the bar.
“Good evening, Señor,” said Balder with a grin broad and firm on his face. “¿Cómo puedo servirte?”
Gomez lifted his head to look at Balder’s face. “Liquor Mirabilles if you please.”
“Right away,” replied Balder.
Charlii watched Balder pull a clear bottle of gold liquor from the shelf behind him. He set a glass with ice in front of Gomez and poured. Charlii’s eyes caught flashes of lightening as the liquid danced from the bottle and flowed over the ice.
“Let a fairy of gold dance on your tongue and remember the old country,” said Balder.
Gomez held the glass in front of his face. Charlii watched flames from the candles reflected in the mirrors behind the bar dance in the glass.
“España,” he said. “How I miss the Alhambra, the magnificent Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, Paseo del Artes, Guggenheim at Bilbao.” He sipped his drink and closed his eyes.
“The Ciudad de Las Artes y las Ciencias,” said Balder, gazing at no place in particular.
“Yes,” replied Gomez with a sigh. “I visit when I can. Have you seen them?”
Charlii slipped off the arm she was leaning on, realizing Gomez was speaking to her. “No,” she said.
“You should, while you are young enough to enjoy them.”
Charlii stared as Gomez took another sip of his drink. The thick mustache no longer looked as upkeep as he entered. Simple age lines around his eyes eased the stress lines away, his pounding lips turned up to a smile, and pink entered his golden cheeks.
“I’d like that,” she said. “Maybe when I get enough money together -“
“Bah!” snorted Gomez. “Always money. We all need it. We all want it, but what is life worth? We must enjoy it while we can. You must go. I see in you one who dreams.”
“Gomez!” shouted the voice of a man from the rear of the bar. “You old skin-flint. What you are doing out on a night like this?”
Charlii and Gomez turned. Charlii recognized the young man and woman who had entered with Phillip and Lilla earlier in the evening. They had sat so quietly drinking their absinthe, Charlii forgot they were there.
“Martin,” said Gomez. His eyes rounded, and Charlii noticed a gleam in his pupils. “So, you have not killed yourself for your art.”
“How can I?” asked Martin. “You don’t pay enough to make it possible. Shelly and I were just saying how unfair art dealers are. All of you.”
Charlii clinched her fists at the insults young Martin was making until she saw the smile on his face. Shelly walked up behind him with a smile just as large.
“Come,” said Martin, reaching for Gomez’s arm. “You must come sit with us. Prattle on about Spain to us.”
Martin held his hand on Gomez’s without gripping as Gomez dropped his feet to the floor and stood. He turned to Charlii. “You’re not another artist, are you?”
“Of course she is,” answered Balder. “A poet. One day she’ll be famous.”
“Oh, I like poets,” said Gomez. “Much quieter than artists, but much more depressing. Thank you for allowing me to reminisce, Charlii.” He allowed Martin to lead him to a table where Shelly pulled out a chair for him.
“I’m not a poet,” said Charlii to Balder.
“You write poems,” replied Balder before walking to the other end of the bar where two men who had just entered sat.