Random thoughts swept across his mind as he lay awake, waiting to fall asleep. When in Alice’s apartment, he recalled, he had noticed that Jack’s and her taste ran strictly toward his preferences for Art Deco and to simplicity. Rolling over and looking around, he saw that Emily’s flavor for interior decorating, Classic Antique, still permeated his whole residence.
He decided that her look had to go.
The following morning with the help of the Beekman housekeepers, he directed that all of the antique pieces of furniture be put into basement storage until he would sell them at auction. As it turned out, most of the furniture in his place ended up in the basement. At the end of the task, he surveyed the whole flat and let out a loud, long whistle. What remained was his bed, a couple of lamps, one dining table, and two chairs. His prior tunnel-vision—love is blind, after all—had prevented him from noticing that Emily’s world engulfed his.
“I don’t even like antiques,” he muttered under his breath.
He had put in as much hard work as anyone on the team of maids that cleaned up the emptied space. They had tried to make him go outside while they worked, but he had insisted on working with them, asking the crew chief to give him orders for what to do. He ended up cleaning his extensive collection of silverware and sterling service items, but he didn’t mind the work. He enjoyed standing in his kitchen, rubbing the metal, and observing with a child’s joy how the tarnished utensils turned bright and shiny again. The analogous connection to his own life never dawned on him.
Before long, the entire flat was as clean as could be and ready for whatever new furniture he might put into it.
The following day he woke up early, surfed interior-design pages on the Internet, took note of items that he liked and who carried them, and went off in a taxi to shop for and purchase items for delivery. Within a week, his whole place was filled with designer pieces of his choosing, arranged the way he preferred.
Once the renovation project’s flurry ended and daily activity returned to routine, Almarón felt the walls close in on him again. He needed to get out. Knowing that Alice was out of town on a photo shoot, he phoned another friend—someone he’d known since childhood and had stayed in touch with, now and then, as their lives progressed. He listened to the phone ring as he waited to ask her for advice about what he should do.
Carmela Ariana spoke with a charming, soft voice that carried a slight Barcelonan accent. She suggested to her friend, “Go outside and walk in Central Park as often as you can.”
“But, isn’t it too cold outside?” he asked.
“I should think that time spent in the park would do you a world of good,” she repeated, “... fresh air invigorates the mind and soul. And you can always bundle up until spring arrives.”
He hesitated, but he vowed to take her advice.
“I will, as usual, do as you say, Caramel—his favorite nickname for her, but first, you have to come over and see what I’ve done to my place. I promise you’re going to love it.”
Curious, Carmela took Almarón up on his offer, when, after a few days had passed, she entered the 23rd floor from the elevator, walked to his door and knocked.
“Caramel, come in! Take a look, what do you think?” he asked, opening the door wide as he marveled at her upscale mode of dress and the whiff of Angel perfume that he detected.
Carmela walked through the entire apartment, looked around, and responded, “It’s gorgeous! You know how much I love the simplicity of Deco. You do remember, right, Carlito?” (Her nickname for him.)
“Of course, I do…”
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