Martina looked back over her shoulder to savor the valley, the clay tiled roofs in the Sardinian town, and the mountains beyond. Its beauty washed over her, and for one moment she was at peace. Tranquility. Where had it gone? Had it vanished forever on that windswept beach? Or did it simply lay dormant, waiting, for a time like this, for a place like this, and for a man she could love. If she could ever love again.
Martina turned back to the rock, chalked her strong hands, and started up. Her blue gray Nordic eyes explored, discovered, then caressed pockets, edges, and other imperfections in the near perfect limestone. Her hands and feet glided ever upwards in a vertical dance, reminiscent of her days on the stage, filled with grace and power. Sometimes the movements took her back to when her long lost daughters had danced alongside her in their gossamer gowns as Tchaikovsky soared and filled the theater and set souls free. But today the rhythm took her elsewhere, nowhere near those memories, but rather up and up, over the roofs, over the valley, over the limestone cliff to the heights above.
Kane watched her as she ascended. His back against an ancient pine that had been twisted by the wind, his pack lay at his feet. He'd seen her here before, a few days ago, and had returned each day hoping to see her again, thinking this time the spell would be broken, his words would be freed, and he could speak again. Kane climbed too. But not like Martina. He understood her mastery, knew on some level that only a few could do what she did, and maybe none better. That first day, after she'd gone, he'd tried the routes she'd climbed. Impossible to him. Couldn't make the first moves. And she'd climbed them alone, no partner, no rope, no bonds.
At his hotel he'd Googled her, because he thought he'd recognized her. Not as a climber, but as a dancer. A dancer he thought he'd met, or at least seen before. He was almost certain he'd found her, learned who she was. Her face was unique. High Russian cheekbones draped with deep Argentinean skin. But it was those graceful ballet like steps that gave the most important clue, even though her right leg moved differently than her left. Article after article on page after page detailed her long career, her ascension to the Bolshoi, her mastery of the art, her romances with Baryshnikov, and others. Her crippling injury and forced retirement. And then the story ended almost completely just three years earlier. More searching, hours unending, and Kane finally found an article, an obituary, in a Buenos Aries newspaper, and then Kane understood why the pages ended, why she had withdrawn from the spotlight, from the worldwide forum that she had ruled, both on and off the stage.
"La Regina" the articles had called her. But no more. In his emergency room, "the emerge", his refuge, he'd witnessed firsthand the carnage wrought on those left behind, and he had used it remorselessly in his writing, without conscience. The second story, or was it the first, or tenth? They had made him rich, and for a while, not so much famous as notorious. But no more. There had been no words in many years.
He watched her finish the climb, then he stood and walked towards her at a pace he hoped would put him at the base of the cliff at the precise moment that she would arrive back in the horizontal domain. His heart beat faster, his mouth went dry, and he realized he had no idea what to say, or how to say it. He was, quite simply, at a loss for words. He recognized that this was both an ironic and, lately, chronic state.