Ida and Hornet share a conversation about loss, art, and friendship. My sincerest apologies to John Berendt.
Hornet pressed her lips into a hard line and ran her eyes around the room. None of the paintings on Ida's walls looked familiar, but they seemed nice enough. Expensive too. She blinked hard to clear her view of them.
The scrape of Ida's chair broke the silence. Hornet looked back, startled, but Ida merely crossed the room to a glass-fronted cabinet and lifted down a hand blown vase. It looked pure black at first glance. On closer inspection, Hornet saw ribbons of gold, green, red, and glowing violet diamonds. The vase let out a delicate tink as Ida set it on the table and resumed her seat.
"One of Maestro Archimede Seguso's pieces," she said, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and tapping one free. "He produced a series to capture his memories of the night La Fenice burned down. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one of them."
Hornet leaned forward in her seat, then realized that she was holding her breath. Though she knew about as much of vases as she did of paintings, this one seemed special.
"Why did he use green and purple if it's supposed to be a fire?"
"Because he wasn't capturing fire in general; it had to be the fire he saw that night. La Fenice was undergoing renovation at the time. It was full of paints, solvents, and God only knows what else. They all burned in their own ways. As the flames consumed La Fenice, they grew and changed, never the same from one moment to the next. That's why Maestro Seguso needed over one hundred pieces to fully realize his vision. He wanted to remain faithful to every moment of that night."
It really did look like a fire at night, Hornet decided, with its sinuous trails of color that reached up into the inky black. Hornet rested her chin on her folded hands and peered more deeply into the glass. Flecks of gold leaf glittered in the black glass like embers scattered across the night sky. When the light hit them just right, they almost seemed to move.
Hornet leaned a little closer, then jumped back. A breath of warm air wafted over her face. All at once the vase burst into greedy life, tiny streams of colored flame licking over its smooth edges while smoke spiraled up from the mouth.
She blinked, and the blaze froze into sleek crystal once more. Hornet looked up, her lips parted in a soundless gasp as she searched Ida's face for some sign that she had seen it too.
Ida blew out a stream of smoke and smiled. "The loss of La Fenice devastated people all around the world, not just Venetians. Tears, outrage, demands for justice--what you'd expect from a national tragedy. Still, I can't help thinking, had La Fenice not burned, these vases would never have existed." She stubbed out the cigarette and reached for a fresh one. "I'm not saying that justifies the fire, but in the face of devastating loss, it helps to focus on what you've gained."
Hornet let her head sink back to the table. "I don't feel like I gained anything."
"Oh? You learned the truth about a friend." Ida shook her head and returned the vase to its cabinet. "If that's not a treasure, I'm afraid I don't know what is."