"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time” Mark Twain
For her whole life, she’d assumed she was going to fail. Nobody had much faith in her.
Don’t fail that exam, don’t lose those friends, don’t look a mess, don’t be late, don’t lose this guy too.
There was always the assumption that she was the cause of life’s mishaps. Some people blame bad luck. She had learnt to blame herself. So now she had that voice in her head, that never-ending voice that told her it was all her fault.
Don’t mess it up.
Heather met her at the door of the balcony and they walked up the stairs.
“I see you’ve met Michele,” She said into her ear in a Sherlock Holmes voice as they ascended the spiral staircase. She nodded back furiously unable to stop smiling.
“Just so you know, the tattoo on his arm…is the date of when he got that tattoo on his arm. You know, just to give you an insight to his intellect and depth.”
At that point, she just found it cute. How innocently naïve, he must be a good person. Her brain would take any information about him and make it positive as she wanted to believe in her fairytale. She never dreamt of a white wedding but more of a montage of her favourite films. Those varied from Disney to Tarantino, which in some cases had the same satiric humour and involved heroism, cool outfits, a bit of violence and horses.
“Upsy Daisey” Heather beckoned as they climbed round and round the spiral staircase. Finally, they reached the top and exited onto a small balcony.
“Now where is it” Heather mumbled as she foraged under some garden chairs. She pulled out a bottle of Montenegro from a seat.
“Haha! I hid this last time we helped out as those people were boring. They stood staring out over the rooftop at the illuminated palaces.
“That’s Palazzo Grassi and that one to your left is Ca’rezzonico. Both worth checking out on a rainy day.” She casually pointed out the museums hugging the Grand Canal while swigging back the digestif.
Heights scared her as it always conjured up an innate urge to jump. She didn’t want to die but there was always a little voice in her head asking “what if?”
They watched the city glow to the muffled murmur of party-goers down below. A few more swigs and they made their way back down to the party. Their job was done so they were free to mingle and divulge with the other guests in the Aperitivo hour. Heather had found some fellow artists and they were thick in conversation about rating this year’s Biennale. She sipped her wine in silence and concentrated on concentrating. She aimed for an interested and understanding facial expression that didn’t seem too enthusiastic. As she was afraid of a question being aimed at her.
Somebody barged into the back of her. She turned around to see Michele walking towards the door and he signalled an imaginary cigarette towards her with raised eyebrows. She didn’t smoke but excused herself and followed him out anyway. She walked out to an empty street but heard some commotion towards the Accademia, so she went that way.
Michele stood there smoking with a very drunk blond guy at the Vaporetto stop. His sports bag was on the floor and he was chanting in Finnish whilst kicking it around in circles.
“They just won a hockey tournament” Michele sighed. The Finn was a regular at the bar and his drinking habits lived up to Viking expectations. A group of Italian student girls who were also regulars and Michele were all gathered around him. Each one trying to pacify him and get him onto the boat pulling up. He was too drunk and needed to go home. Michele looked at her with concerned eyes and signalled that she stayed back. The Finn did not want to get on the boat and was pushing them all away whilst kicking his bag and swearing, but only in Finnish.
At this point, a small, also drunk Italian guy was descending the Accademia Bridge. His shirt was ripped and his eyes were glazed. He started yelling obscenities down at the Finn, Michele and the girls. It created a moment of calm as everybody was so shocked at this tiny human being so feisty, like a Chihuahua. The girls tried to hold in their giggles. This made him even angrier and he approached the girls, spitting on the floor and pointing at the Finn whilst growling insults at him about foreigners.
The Finn saw red and his ancestor’s presence rose up in him. He charged towards him and pinned his neck up against the wall with his forearm. Michele ran up behind him and used all of his strength to pull back his arms before he choked him. If the police came they would not favour the foreigner. Michele was struggling to hold him back, the Finn’s arms were flailing everywhere and the Italian kept getting closer and screaming insults at his face. He had to be taken out of the equation. She was terrified and didn’t know what to do. She stopped thinking and ran over to the Italian and dragged him around the corner away from the Finn. She pushed him up against a wall with ease as he wasn’t strong.
“Leave!” She pleaded “He’s going to kill you.”
She could see through his eyes to the back of his skull. There was nothing there. He swung at her and spat on himself. He swaggered back around to where the girls were trying to calm down the Finn. Michele was crouched over trying to catch his breath. The Italian picked up a beer bottle and smashed it on the side of a bin and walked towards the Finn’s back. The Finn didn’t hear him coming.
Michele looked up and looked at her desperately.
She nodded back, defeated and exasperated.
He grabbed the little guy by his shoulders and tossed him into the canal as if dusting lint from his shoulder. The Finn turned around at the splash.
“He went that way!” She cried pointing in the other direction and he charged off around the corner.
Michele came over and pulled her into his chest. His neck was wet with sweat and some blood leaked through his shirt.
“Welcome to Venice, anyone you don’t like… you can just throw them in the canal” he huffed into her hair, still breathing hard.
She was shaking through the adrenaline and fear but felt alive. She wanted the embrace to last forever until she realized that they may have just killed a man.
They walked to the edge of the canal. He hung onto the chains of the boat stop, gurgling in the grubby water.
“We can’t leave him”
They both grabbed an arm and pulled him up onto the cool pave stones. He lay there panting and the blood meandered through the pave stones until it reached her feet. She took Michele’s hand and they walked away back to the party, no longer afraid of life.