She bent down to read the label. The fitted dress followed her decline, accentuating her elegance. She extended her chin showing a neck worthy of nobility.
– It’s excellent, ma’am – the waiter prodigy promptly behind the buffet table – Aged seven years. Shall I prepare you a cuba libre?
She first looked up at the offerer, then straightened up. When she was well erected, she told him:
– That stuff hurts. Do one smooth with a little ice, thanks.
The waiter pushed his head back in surprise, then in front of those eyes looking at him and waiting for him, accompanied by a placid smile, he repented and took a glass. He poured the rum, a couple of ice cubes and handed it to the lady.
– Thank you – she said, nodding a bow.
Two boys who had witnessed the scene while filling their plate with canapés and skewers of olives, went away talking indecisively whether to estimate the situation with curiosity, admiration or disdain.
The man to her left instead remained. She turned her back on the tables and advanced to make room for those who, after her, claimed a drink. The man waited for her to arrive at a sufficient distance to ensure the privacy from the indiscreet ears of the waiters and patrons of the buffet and finally approached her.
– You have good taste in alcohol.
In a slow movement, she turned her head to her right and stretched her lips in a polite smile. She was waiting for him.
– Healthy habits.
– If you know when to stop.
– I learned when to stop when I was very young. I could always be fallible though. For example, I should stop this conversation immediately. It seems that you are a very moody and feared man.
– Are you flirting with me?
– In a place and an evening like this it would be boring not to.
– You look like an intelligent woman.
– I’m practicing the opposite. I aspire to a life of empty femininity.
– Foolishness is of the wise.
– Do you just need a glass of rum and a smile of willingness to defend an idea without foundation at all costs?
– Your promptness is enough for me.
She turned her head forward again. She had never turned her torso towards him or moved with her body. Having sensed the distance, he had limited himself to standing still on his right, abolishing every instinct to speak before her.
She raised her glass, took a sip. Then lowered the glass.
– From what they say you defend at all costs also the idea you have of yourself – she said without looking him in the face, keeping her gaze towards the room.
– Do you have the habit of listening to other people’s voices? – he replied, looking in the same direction.
– Not really much, but you intrigue me.
At that point she changed her position and moved to find herself straight ahead of him with an air of peaceful challenge.
– Each person remains anchored to the idea of itself – he replied before she could speak again. He looked her straight in the eye showing not to give in to the malice he was reading in those eyes.
– True, but it’s not always a good thing – she said, tilting her head in a gesture of vague provocation.
– Never said it’s positive.
– Wouldn’t it be fun to rebuild a new identity? Maybe you would live a better life – she said, bringing the glass to eye level. Now they looked at each other through an amber veil.
– To spend with you? – he said condescendingly.
– With someone … – she replied lowering the glass as if the charm had vanished. Malice had moved to her lips – I think I will go away.
He smiled. He knew he would lose her even before he conquered her. In a few seconds she would be gone and would never return, he had not deluded himself. Now or never, he had the last chance to stop her, a sharp phrase, of which he was considered master, was enough, but he said nothing. After all, he didn’t want to change, he was comfortable with that idea of himself.