" your aunt is very lucky, she has two lives; the one she's living and the book she's writing" the hours.
The yellow, bright sunlight was what woke me up. So yellow, so painfully shiny, coming from the crack between the curtains. I blinked several times as the sunlight shone directly on my face, burning my eyes yet it felt so good; sometimes I thought it what made me wake up every day and go on with my life, it just looked so cheerful and bright next to the dullness of my universe and that was an enough reason for my existence.
I was a lonely person. I lived between my house, Enola's and the scent shop. But it never really occurred to me that I was lonely. I mean I was okay with my life, not happy but I wasn’t sad either, until the age of innocence vanished. Until my mother killed herself and a year later, my dear old man's departure. It was the summer after I finished my school years. I was fifteen. A child, but I had a mind and a soul of a woman. I woke up that morning feeling uneasy; waiting for a disaster to happen. I headed to the kitchen in my white night gown; my father was already at the kitchen table. He wore a pained expression, it was another kind of pain; one I had never seen before.
"Morning…Ness" he'd begun. "I'm leaving"
"Of course you're leaving, you should go to work!" I avoided looking at his eyes.
"No, Carina" he'd said in his thick Italian accent. "I'm leaving for good"
"wh-why?" my voice trembled.
He sighed heavily. "I can no longer take care of you Nessa, my part is over"
"But…but I'm your favorite ugly duckling" I laughed bitterly. "You love me papa, I need you! You can't abandon me!"
"You're not an ugly duckling Carina, you’re a swan, you will always be my swan but I have to let go, the rest of your life is for you to discover, goodbye Ness" he kissed my forehead and left with his burlap suitcase before I could recover from the shock and move my wobbly legs to catch him.
I groaned as I struggled up, out of my warm, comfortable bed. A smear of blood against the white sheet caught my attention, and then my eyes moved involuntarily to the slight cut on my wrist. I sighed; I always seemed to forget how delicate my skin could be.
I poured myself into my old jeans and my orange, long sleeved kaftan, for some reason I had been feeling cold lately. I brushed my long hair hastily and as always, swept it to the side. I was already running late and tourists tended to come more often to the scent shop on weekends so I didn’t have time to pass by Enola's.
The amazing mixture of scents slapped my nose as soon as I arrived to the shop. My partner Wendy wasn’t there yet. I switched on the lights and put on the "open" sign outside the door. I played the usual, soothing Brazilian music CD and switched the air conditioner in moderate mode, I just couldn’t take the cold, maybe I was sick or something, I thought.
Today was a very thriving day for the shop. We didn’t stop mixing, we even ran out of fresh pomegranates and oranges. People really loved floral scents.
It was Wendy's lunch break when an unexpected customer came to visit our humble, little shop. I looked up in surprise when I saw Alex's imperfect face entering the store with another man. A very handsome man too. The man grinned and pointed at me, Alex nodded and they both approached my counter.
"Good afternoon Vanessa" Alex's voice came deep and husky.
"Good afternoon Alex and Alex's friend" I said in a businesslike tone. "How can I help you?"
His friend laughed. "Hello Vanessa, I heard so much about you, or may I say, your cookies"
I grinned widely. "Oh, we don’t sell cookies here"
He laughed again. "I know, but seriously girl, I nagged Alex for meeting the famous chef in person"
Alex rolled his eyes.
"I'm no chef, but I can cook" I said matter-of-factly.
"And you're beautiful too" he grinned.
I laughed, hiding my embarrassment. This guy was a total stranger but I felt as if I had known him forever.
"So what's your name Alex's friend?" I asked him, grinning.
"Jon" he stretched out his hand to shake mine.
"Nice to meet you Jon, call me Nessa" I shook his hand, It was soft and warm.
He nodded. "Sure, Nessa"
"So don’t we get to have free cookies?" he asked in a childish way. I laughed.
"Of course!" I muttered excitedly. "After all, Alex saved my life and you're his friend?"
"Cousin" Alex answered coldly, interrupting Jon. I could see the resemblance; they both had dark, bronze skin, thick eyebrows and beautiful, imperfect features. Except for the hair, Jon's hair was so short, almost bald.
"Sure" I smiled at Jon sweetly. "So, what are your favorite scents guys? I can certainly help you here!"
"I think we better get going" Alex said.
"You go, I'll stay. I want to have my own scent" Jon winked at me. I giggled. He was adorable.
Alex looked at Jon and then at me. "You know what? I think I want my own scent too, I can't leave you alone here Jon, she might hurt you" he had a half smile on his face, yet his eyes were serious.
"I don’t think she will" Jon smiled at me and I had the feeling that he might hurt me with that dazzling smile of his.
"Great" I said hesitantly.
"So what's your fave scent Jon?" I asked him.
He shrugged. "I don’t know, what do you think I'd like?"
I made a "come here" motion at him. He hesitated at first and then he saw my serious expression and got closer to me almost immediately. I sniffed his neck, his collarbone and his chest. I nodded.
"Apple spice" I answered his thoughts. "Wait a second I'll get the ingredients and you can watch me do it!"
"Great" he wore his dazzling grin again.
I sat the ingredients before me on the counter; apple juice, cinnamon, and drops of grapefruit. , I mixed the fresh apple juice with the rest of the ingredients and poured the liquid into the small glass bottle; both men were watching me in fascination.
I closed the bottle with the cork, wrapped a small baby blue ribbon around it and handed it to Jon.
"Wow" he said. "Thank you very much Nessa!, how much?"
"It's on me" I grinned.
He opened his mouth to say something but I didn’t let him. "Look, next time you can pay, just not this once, 'kay?"
"You're amazing girl" he said. "She's amazing" he turned to Alex.
And for the first time since I met him, Alex laughed. He looked different; much younger.
"So, you want to sniff me too?" Alex asked, preparing himself to get close to me.
"Nah, no need, I can smell you from across the room" I said casually.
" oh" he grunted.
"Almond joy" I said, catching his eyes accidently. "But…with a zest of lime.
Um, we have it ready, I'll just mix some lime with it"
Wendy's gold head appeared at the door. Her lunch break was already over. "Hi" she said to nobody in particular.
"Hey wends!" I exclaimed.
"We have customers" she grinned while eyeing them both. "Hot ones!" she whispered into my ears.
" hello, I'm Wendy, Nessa's partner" she introduced herself " I can see you guys are liking it here"
"Oh, you both have Disney names?" Jon asked. "Charming!"
We all laughed. "Vanessa is a Disney name?" I asked him, I watched Disney cartoons on my childhood, never came across a Vanessa.
"The little mermaid" he said, blushing. I laughed. "Little mermaid? I know an Ariel, not a Vanessa"
"Vanessa is the sea witch" he winked. "When she turns to a chick"
Wendy chuckled and nudged me playfully. I looked at Jon and gazed at the natrual content glow on his face.
When we closed the shop at sun set, I went to Enola's straight away. Every Friday we'd gather at her house for dinner, her daughters and all their kids would come. I loved them so much, they were my family now. Besides I was so eager to tell them about my new friends, about Jon in particular, I wouldn't consider Alex a friend. Yet.