Gabriela gathered her hair into a chignon, dark and silky as a raven’s plumage without a trace of grey thanks to a bottle in her bathroom cabinet. She added a red carnation.

You’re only going for lunch!


Humming quietly to herself she slid open a glass door and padded bare-foot onto cool white marble tiles of her third-floor apartment’s balcony. A twinge in her left ankle made her wince.

It’s getting worse.

She narrowed her eyes from the glare of the late morning sun and looked at two vapour trails in the otherwise cloudless sky. So many days and nights spent flying around the world eroded her enthusiasm for flight. 

Out in the bay children squealed with delight as they jumped over white-crested waves. To hear them enjoy themselves was enough for Gabriela; she never wanted any of her own.

A gentle breeze gathered ozone from the crystal-clear water and wafted it in to mix with the scent of Mediterranean pines. The fragrance and saline tang on her lips helped boost her mood on the days she passed here when the opportunity to escape from her busy life on tour allowed.

In the ancient harbour at the southern end of the beach expensive yachts and fishing boats bobbed in a gentle swell. Gabriela liked the banter and humour of the fishermen when she wandered down to the harbour to chat with them. They appreciated her not only for her financial support of the Fishermen’s Mission but also the way she countered their banter in their own vernacular and always with a laugh. The so-called sailors aboard the gleaming white yachts she found far less interesting since most of their conversation involved their wealth and imagined attributes.

A smile exposed her almost perfect teeth. They cost a small fortune to repair due to neglect during her nomadic childhood following her mother around migrant worker and gypsy camps. Though she never knew her father she had many ‘uncles’ over those formative years. Maybe someday she would try to discover his identity.

A tough life but through it she learned about people, their strengths, their many weaknesses and flaws including her own. And she learned flamenco, not the touristy style of young women one finds on the Costas, no, Gabriela emulated the passion of the gypsies’ flamenco around their campfires. Her extraordinary talent and striking good looks catapulted her to stardom as a bailaora diva. 



Gabriela's glass lately swung back and forth from half full to half empty. To retain optimism in the murky world of entertainment required considerable effort as the years passed. 

The men she met in the business tended to fall far short of what she wanted. This guy for the lunch date seemed different. He wasn’t in the business. Well, not unless one lumps a painter of landscapes and seascapes in such company. It was his exhibition she opened yesterday for her friend Maria who owned the gallery.

Gabriela bought one of his paintings and agreed to leave it displayed at the gallery until the end of the exhibition. 

She liked the hesitant way he invited her to lunch; a pleasant change from overconfident guys hitting on her.



With a glance in the full-length mirror of her wardrobe she smoothed down her pale blue slacks and matching top. More comfortable than the heavy, brightly coloured traje de flamenco she wore on stage and the gowns at glitterati events.


Not bad for a woman of forty-five, she mused.


With her manicured fingers she touched a string of white pearls at her neck and matching earrings, a contrast to her Latina complexion.

Twiddling the necklace, she decided it looked too much for lunch and replaced it with a thin gold chain. She kept the earrings in place.

And now she dithered whether to wear her designer prescription sunglasses or her contact lenses. Plumping for the latter, she sat at her dressing table, lifted the lenses from their box and inserted them into her deep brown eyes. For the crow’s feet around those eyes, she refused to have cosmetic surgery.

Eschewing makeup other than subtle lipstick and a little eyeliner she sat back in her chair and wondered about the painter. What was it about him that gave her butterflies in her tummy? A long time passed since anyone created such an effect within her.

Just one more gig, a week at Comédie-Franҫaise in Paris, and she would be finished.

A picture of the finca and vineyard she bought further down the Andalusian coast for her retirement came into her head. It needed a lot of work to renovate the house already underway by a local builder. The interior painting and furniture she would do herself, a labour of joy. The vines needed attention. 

Would she regret retiring at the height of her career? No! She would retire before her mental state deteriorated further. Years of descending deep into her emotions on stage made her performance so remarkable it threatened collateral damage to her sanity. And the physical toll on her body could not be ignored.

A rummage through her collection of twelve pairs of shoes she kept on the bottom shelf of her walk-in wardrobe found a pair of black court shoes, simple with a low heel. A statuesque five feet nine, she seldom wore high heels. A little chuckle came out when she joked to herself, she could run in the court shoes if her lunch date turned out to be another guy who thought something extra came after the meal. She would not need to run. A three-day defence course for women with the New York Police when she headlined on Broadway taught her how to protect herself, usually by targeting the most vulnerable part of the attacker’s anatomy.

The painter didn’t look or act like a guy for whom the skill would be needed. 

Slipping her Louis Vuitton bag over her shoulder she set off to see if he really would turn out to be different.


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