Many years ago -- I began this journey with Jory and Ileana. Still inspired by the music of Depeche Mode ... it has changed as have I. Jory and Ileana have depth and years of love, pain, anger and fear behind them. Wow -- I can't believe it. I wish them well in their journey together. Ladies and gentlemen, Red Square Dawn
~It's only when I lose myself in someone else that I find myself ~Depeche Mode
The alarm pierces the silence. Jory’s hand creeps from the warmness of his 400-count cocoon. His hand trembles as he ceases its cry.
Jory covers his head with the pillow, but suffocation never comes. The longer he remains in bed, the more thoughts course through his mind, criss-crossing, bumping into each other, saying hello, excuse me, arguing, apologizing and going on their way. He presses the pillow into his face, relaxesthen throws it onto the floor in defeat.
Standing up is as much a chore as not falling down. The feeling of lightheadedness hits him almost as hard as the ground. Damn it. He struggles to his feet and wraps the comforter around his bare skin.
He shuffles along the carpet until he reaches the thermostat. A sigh of warm air rushes towards him as he turns the knob. He makes his way to the window and draws back the drape, revealing a city covered in frost and the pinkish hue of the approaching sunrise.
Jory lingers a while, paying more attention to St. Basil's Cathedral than to the lone woman carrying bread across Red Square. Jory calculates the height of his room from the cold ground. He doubles over as his stomach cramps. His cold skin turns clammy as the vodka begins to wear off.
On his way to the shower, Jory dials room service. His voice cracks, "Yeah, can I get some tea in 614, please? And a newspaper?" His Basildon brogue is more evident in times of hangovers. He drops his cloak behind him as he walks to the bathroom.
The fluorescent light blinds his weary, azure eyes. He turns the water on and struggles to the mirror. He slides his hand over his chin and down his neck. He steps into the shower. The heat reminds him of the club only hours before, packed with free spirits, lost souls and those caught in between.
It looked like a mock orgy as everyone danced to the trance music. The bass pounded in his chest. He’d first seen her at the bar as he ordered a drink. She danced seductively with two men, neither less beautiful than her. He wondered what it would be like to be pressed up against her, only sheer layers of clothing separating their sweaty bodies. Her athletic body seemed caramelized as the sweat beaded on her tan skin. Her pixie hair tousled enough to excite anyone. Maybe it was her confidence. Maybe it was her ass in those jeans. In the early hours, she left alone. Jory finished his drink, and then two more, enough for him sleep.
The bellman’s knock startles Jory. The water drips off his skin as he quickly wraps the towel around his toned body. He brushes his hand through his ebony hair as he stops and inspects himself in the mirror.
He tips the bellman without a word. Jory lowers the Earl Gray into the water, followed by two spoonfuls of sugar that sizzle as it dissolves. He sips his tea and picks up the newspaper, skimming over the articles until coming to his own.
The social status of his parents brought Jory and Tony Blair together for an interview after being voted out of Downing Street. He turns a few pages more and again sees the flaming wreckage. Cause unknown. Tragedy. Mourning. His fingers rub the cross that dangles from his neck. Silence.
Writing keeps Jory's mind away from the phone call, the funeral, not allowing enough time between words to grieve. He works on a story about his interview with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, using words he learned at Oxford and edits out any comments about how generous his parents were. He stares off into a memory.
He can’t sit inside anymore. His hand slides over the shirts and pants, Gucci, Versace, and Valentino. He puts on an Armani sweater and a pair of black pants, a little baggy, but they fashionably collect at his Doc Martens. He slips on his black jacket and finds his gloves in his left pocket.
Stepping into the corridor, Jory passes a couple clinging arm in arm. He turns to see the man reach under her shirt and caress the small of her back. In the lobby, he sighs as he prepares himself for the cold air that will savagely attack him as the doors open. In his mind Vivaldi's Winter Allegro in F Minor chants. Cold air rips Jory's breath from his lungs. Like a newborn breathing virgin air, he coughs uncontrollably. He slips on the glaze of ice that formed overnight. His hand catches an imaginary rail as he rights himself.
He journeys across the vast expanse of Red Square, past St. Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin. He walks towards Patriarch's Pond amid couples walking and children playing. Unfinished stories and memories ebb in his head. He had been here once before, years ago, when the grass was not so green or the sky so blue.
Footsteps behind him crunch in the snow. A mist escapes his mouth. Turning, he sees the woman from the night before. She clenches the camera in her bare hands. She is taking pictures of children playing hockey. The cold paints a red flush on her cheeks. Jory refrains from speaking as he leans against a lamppost. She moves but her camera never leaves her eye. Jory takes his attention away from her and glances at her subjects. He watches her as she captures the children’s game.
The two stand a short distance from each other. He searches for words. He should say something, even hello. She drops her camera to her side and walks away. He watches. Her eyes never peer at the ground beneath her feet. Jory waits until she is far enough away then follows. She continues towards a café called Margarita's.
His cold body welcomes the steamy, coffee air. She sits at a table facing the door. Jory pauses two tables from her and selects a seat. The waitress immediately brings bread and coffee to her. A soft, muffled interaction occurs as if they are continuing a conversation from the past.
He could invite her to lunch or even dinner. He could take her dancing. She would dance with him to the sounds of soft violins and the smell of perfume and elegance will fill the air. Her hands will touch his body and his will be close to hers. She will listen to him miss his mum and dad. She'll listen to stories and comfort him…
"Sir?" The waitress stands before him. Her kerchief makes her looks much older.
"Just some tea, please” he says, annoyed as she has walked into his daydream. The waitress shuffles away. He plays with the spoon and looks out the steamy window. Jory wonders where she is from or why she is here.
He watches her take out some pictures and place them onto the table. She breaks a piece of bread and eats it like a child. Jory strains to make out the black and white blurs she studies. “Probably pictures of children playing or couples walking in the park.” he thinks to himself, “Perfect."
The waitress returns with Jory's tea. Before he can ask for sugar, the woman’s chair scrapes along the wooden floor. She stands up, but her jacket remains. She walks to the back of the café and through a door. He hesitantly stands then walks over to her table. Jory looks around before focusing on the images. Before his eyes are not pictures of lovers and games, but pictures of graves and carcasses of cars. He does not linger as the waitress eyes him up. He walks to the counter and takes a bowl of sugar and returns to his table. The woman returns and he stares blankly at his tea cup.
She returns to her table. Jory pushes his chair back and stands up. He approaches her, avoiding eye contact and walks past her. He walks through the same door she did and finds the bathroom. He splashes water onto his face and runs his fingers through his hair.
His boots map out the wooden floor: 12 steps from the wall to the door and back. Her table is empty when her returns. He pays his check. Jory reaches for his coat and sees what appears to be a piece of paper with writing on it. Meet me at 6:30 in the hotel bar —Ileana. A grin appears on his face. He realizes it is the back of one of her black and whites. He turns it over. It is of him sitting in the hotel lobby peering distantly out the window.
Jory returns to the Pond at Patriarchs on his way back to the hotel. The same kids are playing hockey. Back and forth across the ice, doesn’t matter how cold it is. He remembers drilling the football in the park in the rain, his dad waiting in the car. He didn’t say a word, he just watched and waited. Back and forth, in the rain. Usually his mum would drive out, to remind them both to come home.
Jory arrives at exactly 6:30. Ileana begins what appears to be her second scotch, pushing the first empty glass away. She casually looks up as Jory enters. Her simple beauty excites him.
“Hello, I don’t think we’ve properly met yet. I’m Jory.” He sits next to her, nodding to the bar tender that a drink is in dire need.
“Why didn't you ask me to dance last night?” She smiles. "I saw you when you arrived Sunday. You were wearing a blue sweater." She speaks low, as if she doesn’t want anyone to hear her. She extends her hand to him, “Ileana.”
The bartender brings Jory a double vodka on the rocks.
“Bingo, mate, you?”
“England. Well, London…Basildon, Essex” he takes a long drink of his vodka.
About thirty minutes into the conversation he places his hand on her arm. After an hour and several drinks his words flow easily and their fingers start to intertwine. She grew up a heavy metal loving military brat. He leaves out any mention of his parents.
“Those pictures you had with you, today at the cafe?”
“Not what you expected?
Jory smiles “No.”
Ileana finishes her drink and stands up. “Come on.” She leads him out of the bar. He gently places his hand on her back as they step into the elevator. Her perfume faintly fills the elevator.
Jory trips over something as they walk in the door of her room. A Flak jacket, a pair of boots, and a fire extinguisher sit a just inside the door. “Sorry about that.” She doesn’t take her eyes off him, waiting for the question: Why?
She opens a laptop that sits on the desk. “Go ahead. Three years worth of photos. Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, Bosnia.”
He sits and begins to scroll through images so varied in context. Children playing in the dirt, a woman praying over a man, a solider sleeping by a tank...silence.
“His dad died in Vietnam. You imagine what they could talk about now?"
Jory stands and leans on the table. “Ireland," he pauses, "Your eyes, they remind me of Ireland.” We used to go there on holiday, my mum and dad.” The distance between them lessens.
She gently kisses him, afraid to wake him from the memory. Jory holds her closer to him, smells her perfume, feels the small of her back and tastes her neck. Her gentle touch begins to become more aggressive as she tugs him closer to her. He quickly realizes not to underestimate her strength because of her small frame. He can feel her nails scratching his back as she untucks his shirt. He pulls away and removes his shirt as she removes hers. He hands quickly pull at his pants, towards her. She’s warm, muscular, but soft, even with the tattoos. As their bodies mingle, he can breathe for the first time in weeks. His eyes lock with hers. Her legs wraps around him, her hands run through his hair, pulling slightly. She laughs.
“What’s so funny?’
“You don’t like your hair messed up, do you?”
A rare moment of shyness overcomes Jory. “You think that’s funny?” He softly places his hand to her face. This time, kissing her gently, losing himself to her.
An hour later, her hand rubs his sleepy face.
I'm meeting a friend at the bar." She kisses his forehead and leaves him in bed. He watches as she chooses new clothes. His head falls onto the pillow but is soon tapped on by Ileana. Her hand brings his face around to hers."Will you come with me?"
As she walks into the bathroom, he remembers the dream he just had. She was talking to his mum in the kitchen, like they’d known each other for years. Mum loved to talk. Ileana likes to cook. Jory falls asleep.
They walk into the bar. Jory holds her hand in his, constantly looking at her, worried because she has not said much. She glances over at him and smiles, stops, placing her arm around his waist and letting him taste her lips.
The now crowded bar makes it hard for Ileana to find her friend. They walk through the maze of people until someone taps Ileana on her shoulder. A tan, muscular man wraps his arms around Ileana and lifts her off the ground. Definitely Australian, you could almost smell the surf wax on him.
"You haven't changed, Paul."
"You cut your hair you beach bum."
Ileana spins around to face Jory. "Jory, this is Paul, we worked together for a while." Paul's hand meets Jory's in a firm handshake.
"You guys want drinks?" Ileana looks at Paul first
"I'll just have a beer." Jory chimes in
"Beer for me," says Paul.
Ileana turns to Jory. "What'll you have?"
"I said a beer." He immediately regrets how he just said that to her. Ileana touches her finger on his lips lightly and smiles. Ileana walks away leaving the two men to each other.
"She's amazing isn't she?" Paul's strong Australian accent hits Jory.
"Yes, she is."
"How'd the two of you meet? Not that it's any of my business, mate..."
"By coincidence really...I couldn't take my eyes off her last night…we were at this club..."
"Great, isn't she? She misses music so much. She used to play the piano...it’s just, well it’s just not the same for her."
"Were you there?" Jory crosses his arms.
"You mean with her in Baghdad? Yeah, it was a documentary. The IED exploded right next to us. The doctors said she was lucky her hearing was the only thing she lost. She is really amazing."
Jory runs his fingers through his hair again.
"It's funny, we grew up together right, and her dad was a real strict hard ass, military, ya know? I used to stay over at her house and we'd sneak downstairs late at night and watch movies. We'd always watch with the sound turned off so she got really good at reading lips."
They both turn and watch Ileana carry on a conversation with a couple at the bar as she waits for their drinks. She turns to both Jory and Paul and smiles before returning to her conversation.