Chapter 13: Up Top

“To know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded” Emerson

When she was younger she was nervous about not having the right clothes. Her friends were at a humble state of the middle class and at fourteen years old it was necessary to own certain marks of clothing to avoid bullying. She couldn’t afford them, so she would beg her mother to buy the cheapest thing of that mark to avoid the taunting. Resulting in having to brave through a bitter winter in a Reebok windbreaker and a Ralph Lauren jumper two sizes too small, found on sale. All she ever wanted was to be rich because then life would be easy.

A tall gent walked over to them with docile eyes and a warm yet crooked smile. His hair was parted awkwardly down the middle and couldn’t be described as long or short. He wore a dark blue shabby suit and wore the jacket halfway on, just resting on his arms halfway down his back. This bothered her immensely. On or off. Make a choice.

“Leo” he introduced himself in a very regal manner. The other girls snuffled as if in a coven and then jovially all gave him a soft hug and a kiss.
“Cosa c’e?” He huffed humbly and bowed his head.

The banter continued between them. Leo, albeit dressed like a homeless person gate crashing a wedding for the free booze, was actually an owner of not one but two palaces nearby and he was always broke.

People stopped kissing cheeks so she assumed the interaction was over. They walked on and she continued to follow without questions.

“Ok, we have an hour” Heather stated as she looked back and squinted as if figuring out an equation.
“I’ll find something for you”

For what? Maybe she’d missed something. Leslie noticed her confused face and grabbed her arm. To make her walk faster and also to comfort her.
“We’re going to a Biennale party at Leo’s”

Suddenly they were at a door, a huge heavy green door. Heather heaved it open after struggling with the key. They walked into a dark cool foyer with a marble floor. A humble palace. They walked up to the stairs and up and up and up. By the end, they were all sweating when they reached the fifth floor.

“Grocery shopping is killer here” Heather panted struggling with the second key. They walked into the small kitchen, a few dirty dishes lay in the sink, the fridge was full of photos, a sunflower plant was struggling to survive and random clothes hung from the kitchen chairs. A solid sunbeam shone through the window directly onto the kitchen table. At that moment Leslie lined up three tumblers on the table and pulled a plastic bottle from the fridge.

“Vino Sfuso!” she exclaimed in a winning fashion. “The cheapest way to drink in Venice. Less than four euros for this baby”

Vino Sfuso- Tap wine that can be found all around Italy and Venice but must be drunk on that day or the next.

She poured the white wine and passed it to Heather who was immersed in finding the right song on the I-Pod.
“Mo’ Money Mo’ problems”
They clinked glasses and knocked it back.
“You’ll need a little bit of wine to socialize with the people at this party”
Heather started piling clothes in front of her.
“Choose! They should all fit.”

She shuffled through the clothes as the girls danced around the apartment singing to their favourite songs. Each in different rooms. Each in separate harmony. She chose a beige baby doll dress.

“Nice” Heather said as she sniffed it and then smiled in pleasant surprise. She placed some feather earrings on top and pointed towards the bathroom. She felt like a weird version of Cinderella meets Pretty Woman. Seagulls flew past the window and perched on a chimney top a few metres away. She exited the bathroom to see Heather's legs disappearing through a door in the ceiling. She followed up the ladder and they climbed out of the attic onto the roof. They sat on the Altana, a rooftop wooden terrace, and looked over the city. The rooftops reflected golden with the setting sun and the churches poked out around the city.

How small it felt from up here.

They sat in silence until the bells started chiming all around the city. Six o’clock.
Sweet Motown music played from downstairs and they all sat admiring the view. A sigh or a giggle here and there. A little clink of glasses to some minor accomplishment or a male dismissed. How good it felt to be so high up, life felt right and the seagulls agreed.

Alas, time to descend back to the real world.
They walked out and around the corner straight into a crowd of school kids blocking the way to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. Peggy was a woman who used her ways to get what she wanted. The kids didn’t notice that they were blocking the whole street. They were all just gormlessly looking down at their phones. The ladies shuffled through and stopped into Ai Gondolieri for some coffee. Batteries recharged they strutted on. Feeling fancy in their flowy dresses. They reached the palace and candles lit the entry with a red carpet behind an iron gate.
“You’re early,” said Leo as he opened up the gate.

“Of course! You said free booze” Leslie grinned. They’d agreed to help out with the set up in return for gatecrashing the swanky party.
They walked into the gigantic foyer that leads out to the canal through vast gothic windows. The floor was a chessboard of black and white marble and the walls were adorned with silk wallpaper and grand portraits of Venetian nobles. A chandelier hung down with at least thirty arms twisting out holding what looked like mini wedding cakes and Venetian lamps lit the balcony.

Their first job was to find the Murano glasses for the toast. She was sent upstairs on a mission. The staircase wound around itself as she went up to the old servants’ quarters. This would be difficult later on coming down after a couple.
She wandered through the rooms based on her basic directions that she’d been given. She passed a picture of Charles and Diana in the hall from their visit years ago. Wow, how many other royals had been here? She passed a room and heard weeping.

A lady stood in the mirror trying to pull up the zip to the back of her dress. Her hair was perfectly curled up, she wore pearl earrings and all of the furniture in the room was finished with gold. Her balcony looked out over the Grand Canal and a piano sat in the corner. The four-poster bed had silk drapes surrounding it. The door creaked and she looked her in the eye. Her beautifully painted face contorted and she burst into tears and crouched over her elaborate dressing table.
She rushed to comfort her, not knowing how.

“Great, now my make-up is ruined too” The lady gurgled sobbing. She rubbed her back speechless.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know you but can you help me?” She pleaded. Hesitantly she zipped her up and handed her a tissue.

The lady breathed in and smiled at the looking glass with her fine-tuned smile.
“You can do it,” The lady said to herself and turned to her. “Thank you, I’m Elizabeth. I’m sorry for crying. This is my party and I couldn’t find anybody to help. It’s amazing the older and richer you get how real friends tend to disappear”
She hugged her and she hugged her back. She realized that there are many different ways to be up top.

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