The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art was the only one in the world good enough to be compared to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which basically meant they only taught rich people and gave shows once in a while. With the place being next to the Palace, it didn’t take us long to walk there, even in her high heels, which she admitted she had to get used to walking in every time, let alone dancing in.
“But I’m fine now!” she giggled, and didn’t seem bothered when I didn’t say “Yes you are!”
Instead I went with, “Not after that last drink you’re not. And of course I did hear what that woman said to you, and more importantly what you said to her.”
I didn’t think she’d call me on that, for then I’d have to admit I was eavesdropping, but she simply blushed and hung her head, partly in shame and partly so I couldn’t see her grinning.
Stopping for a moment, I put my hand over her mouth; she fell obligingly silent, always being a good girl, as well as amused. “Wanna be a famous prima dona opera singer?” I whispered.
“Not especially,” she replied with a shrug.
“Do it anyway, all attitude. . . don’t say anything!”
Once there, I never broke stride as I gave the guard at the entrance a terse nod, holding the door open for her. She strode haughtily through it, pretending not to look at the suddenly-gasping guard. Enjoy it, baby, she thought, but immediately reverted to nice country girl and gave him a friendly “Buenas noches.”
“Good thing you wore those boots,” I muttered once we were inside, refusing to explain that, instead scolding, “I told you not to talk!”
She grinned, blushing. “Forgot. But why? What’s going on?”
“This is a show for special invited guests.” I put his arm around her shoulders and steered her, knowing she’d never remember which way to go. “Maybe we can get you off on mental incompetence.”
She chuckled and hugged me. “Afraid to admit it, but when I’m around horses, it’s usually true.”
“Don’t blame the horses.”
As I’d expected, soon enough someone challenged our right to be there, this one a bureaucratic jerk with a clipboard. “I do not know you.”
“You really need to get out more,” I smirked superiorly. “Everyone here recognizes the most famous actress in the world.”
“She is not on my list,” came the repeat monotone.
“Contact the people who actually know what’s going on,” I told the man sternly. “Then we’ll be more than happy to accept your apology.” I turned to her. “Let’s go, madame.”
She managed to hold the haughty this time until we were far away from the man– doing a damn good acting job, if I do say so myself!–before finally managing to look at me in something close to aghastment. “You need to give me acting lessons, mister!”
Making no reply to that other than a grin, I led her into the actual arena and found us some good seats. Reading from the flyer I’d been given, I translated, “A horseback procession celebrating the royal stud farm and the sixteenth century crossing of two Andalusian breeds, which gave rise to the superb horses of today.”
“Howz that different from what we saw at the fair?” she managed a good whine, wishing she could take the boots off for a few minutes.
“Top of the line horseflesh merchandise. Plus we get to sit.”
“Oh good!” She looked around and decided the people reminded her of those at Hollywood parties. “Not the actors, the behind the scenes movers and shakers. The money men and their trophy wives.” Then she grinned and waited for me to say something about her being perfect for that role.
Instead I went philosophical with, “Money can make men–and limber women–do strange things.”
“Limber, huh?” She had to keep herself from rushing into another fantasy, killed the thought with a Rush song. “Big money pulls a million strings.”
“Big money draws the flies.”
Grinning like a mean little kid, she continued the lyrics. “Big money leaves a mighty wake.”
“Big money leaves a bruise.”
“It’s the power and the glory.”
“It’s a war in paradise.”
“A Cinderella story.”
“On a tumble of the dice.”
She made a face. “We already did that part!”
The show started, and she thought of nothing else as she watched the horsies with a fascination that even took the self-proclaimed love of her life out of her brain. Luckily nothing happened to distract her from her happy place; she even gave what sounded like a sexual sigh of satisfaction when it was all over. Still clad in her tight green dress and honey-blonde hair up, plus the stilettos, she towered over most of the men in the post-show drinks room, either embarrassing or merely intimidating them.
Until she completely blew the mood–so to speak–by suddenly asking, “How do you say cucumber in Spanish?”
Not about to ask, I turned my attention, along with everyone else in the room, to a little stage in the corner, where two men dressed in centuries-old clothes began giving a fencing performance, unless it was a real duel over a girl or something.
As she watched the thrust and parry–and giggled to herself at the sexual connotations she couldn’t seem to stop thinking of–the younger of the guys was cut on the arm and immediately hustled away by his opponent, which basically told everyone the thing was indeed staged and dropped some of the enjoyment off the whole spectacle.
“Well, he’s dead,” Katarina announced cheerfully.
“Just a little scratch,” the woman next to her argued scornfully.
“A little poison on the sword and he’s done for.” She turned to glare at the woman. “Ever heard of Hamlet?”
Trying not to grin, I patted her ass gently. She, on the other hand, made no attempt to hide her smile. Now feeling completely relaxed, she started working the room, searching out any conversations in English. She’d never considered herself a brilliant conversationalist, but she knew herself to be a good listener, lively and quick to both sympathy and laughter, and with these qualities–added to her great beauty–no girl could go wrong.
So her mom told her, anyway. . .
Finally tired of meeting people she’d never meet again, she gave me a look that he interpreted quickly and easily. “I think it’s over here,” I smirked, and when she realized my cover for her escape was the old watercloset excuse, she clucked and scolded me like a maiden aunt, at least until we were out of earshot.
Instead I led her to a quiet balcony; she would not have been the least surprised if I’d either been here before or had scoped out the place while she was working the room. Wait, didn’t he say he always looks for the emergency exits? Glad he notices other things too!
Unable to stop herself, she looked over the railing and saw a gentle slope about ten feet down, an easy jump in a hurry, even in heels. “Ah,” she grinned. “You found this during your security explorations, didn’t you?”
“No idea what you mean, supposed-romantic lady.”
I smirked evilly, as if to say, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
Her only recourse was to douse me with a smile, showing every one of her perfect teeth.
But then she looked out past her little green escape hill, at the sight of the barns/ warehouses/whatever they were, and instinctively wrinkled her nose. “This place is butt-ugly!”
“You’ve never seen your butt, have ya?”
She winked. “Waiting for you to develop the photos.”
“Well, trust me, it’s as beautiful as the rest of ya.”
“Golly golly gosh!”
“Mmmm, I love your innocent character.”
“Knew ya would,” came the un-innocent smirk. “Plan on ravaging me?”
“Not that first time, no, but if you want to play that one day, don’t use your lousy German accent.”
Ignoring all the connotations that didn’t have to do with her acting, she huffed, “I can do a great German accent!”
“That was Russian.”
“Damn! It’s harder than I thought. Show me.”
“Why not?” That wasn’t whiny at all, right?
“I can’t be an actor,” he sighed. “Too exhausting.”
She looked smug, for some reason. “As true as that is, I have faith in you. Show me you agree by kissing me.”
“So people see us, so what?”
“That would embarrass me.”
She snuggled closer. “I love it! Big man shy about kissing in public! You blush every time, it’s so cute! You’re blushing right now! It makes you appealing, you know.”
I thought about saying “I know,” instead growled at her, a mock carnivore rumble, and she squealed and hid her face in my chest. After a moment she pulled back and propped herself up with her chin on my shoulder to look at me, tracing the line of my nose, then my lips, with one finger. She obviously wasn’t the least bit embarrassed about anyone seeing us
“See how simple it is?” she whispered.
“That’s because you’ve done it so often in movies you can’t tell this is reality.”
“This isn’t reality,” she sighed. “This is paradise. . .”
On the other side of the corridor from the balcony we could look down at the ballroom, if that was indeed what it was called here. Smiling, I pointed to a man in a green tuxedo, whom she had seen and avoided like a plague. In fact, she shuddered as she asked, “Ever heard of a song called Marche funèbre d’une marionette? Classical composers were just as weird as today’s, if they wrote a funeral march for a puppet.”
“Ever see the Hitchcock TV show?”
“Remember the theme? That’s it.”
“That weird little march? Very cool! Really set the tone for the weirdness it preceded.”
For some reason she leaned over and kissed me tenderly on the cheek. . . only to be startled out of her mood at the shout of “Bella Americana!” from what sounded like more than one love starved/drunk guy. And indeed it was a crowd of them, scaring her. But at least they sound fun-loving rather than dangerous.
She did her best to be Hollywood-gracious, even signing autographs, until finally someone noticed how uncomfortable she looked under her façade of cheeriness. “You are indeed a special lady. Any time you need help. . . anything,” the guy added with a last glance at me.
She grinned and remarked, “All I ask is that you treat me no differently than you would the Queen.”
Which seems like the perfect place to end it. . .