It’s strange for Andy to see her Rodin in its new home -- sitting in the middle of Nile’s new glossy cherry round dining table.
She’d forgotten the way it catches light, how the purposeful chisellings of an old master give it depth when exposed to the light and not covered by a sheet, reduced to an old trinket the way a person might store old books.
“Are you sure you want me to have it?”
Andy’s not getting any younger. Each day, the mirror reflects some new unexpected new experience back at her. She can’t be sure she’d call it unwanted. She’s pretty sure she’s been wanting this for centuries.
“It looks much better here,” she vows.
It really does.
It’s the centerpiece of Nile’s kitchen in her new home in Ostia Antica. Joe and Nicky had helped set her up with it on Andy’s request, somewhere that she’d have the support she needs at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t hurt that the country is one big starter pack of art history for someone who’s interested in that kind of thing.
Nile’s having them over for snacks and drinks, eager to show off the new place. It’s beautiful. It’s just off the beach and the seabreeze wafts in. There’s something about seeing Nicky breathing in the air from the Tyrrhenian Sea that reminds her that sense memory isn’t just baklava, it’s the sense of peace you get from the familiar smell of home.
Nicky’s in the kitchen finishing up with the tray as Joe leans over to rub the head of the top of the Rodin.
“Quit it,” Nile warns. “If you give it a bald spot…”
“I’m sure Andy has another two lying around,” Joe guarantees.
She doesn’t. She does, however, have a few Michelangelos that no one knows about. Yet.
Nicky arrives with provisions -- dates, cheeses, cured meats, dried apricots, and wine -- before settling down in the chair beside Joe, handing him a prepared plate. “It’s a very beautiful statue,” Nicky says, ever the peacemaker.
“It is,” Nile agrees, staring at it wondrously. “I still can’t believe you knew Rodin.”
“You’d be amazed at the list of people I’ve met,” Andy remarks, pouring herself a tall glass of wine.
She doesn’t mention that she’s forgotten most of them. People are all the same to her -- mortal. At least with artists, some part of them lives on. She’d always liked that.
“What about you two? You’ve been around for a millenia. Are you gods, too? Muses?” Nile turns on Nicky and Joe, eyes wide with interest.
They ramble on about the various low-level artists they’ve run into over the years. They’re shockingly humble about it, but Andy knows it’s less that they don’t want to brag and more that they don’t really remember the details.
Nicky and Joe have a habit of losing the bigger picture when it comes to one another. The rest of the world vanishes and she has no doubt that threaded through their timelines of people they’ve helped are those they’ve inspired.
There’s the one big fish, of course, and Andy sees them leading up to it.
Nicky is gesturing to Joe, his fingers tap, tap, tapping on his palm on the table until Joe lifts his hand and turns it to press a kiss to his palm. “There was that writer. Remember? He did the novella,” he reminds him.
Joe hums thoughtfully. “Apparently our story was very inspiring,” he confesses to Nile, stroking his thumb along the tendons of Nicky’s wrist. “Two lovers, on opposite sides of a war. Of course, I had to pretend that Nicky was a beautiful Italian woman. He took some liberties, the writer,” Joe admits, “but he captured the essence of our story.”
“It was so good, it inspired a poem,” Nicky says, his eyes bright.
Andy sees it for the mischief it is, but Nile hasn’t caught on yet.
She’s hanging on their every word. Kids, thinks Andy. They’re always so easily taken in by a story.
“There have been so many versions of our story,” Joe muses, reaching for the wine to top up both his and Nicky’s glasses with the Chianti. “I’ll still never understand why you like the modern ones better,” he complains, an old gripe directed straight at Nicky. “Two households alike in dignity on the movie screen doesn’t feel the same, and they never get the romance right in the balcony scenes.”
Andy’s watching Nile intently. She sees the expression change, from her eyes widening to the way her lips part.
“Wait,” Nile insists.
Andy never gets tired of watching the other shoe drop.
“Hold up. Are you telling me that you’re Romeo?” she demands of Nicky.
“Of course not,” Nicky assures her with the easy byplay of a man setting her up for the one-two punch. Nile’s a baby, but one day she’ll recognize it for what it is. Until then, she’s teething on Joe and Nicky’s ridiculous sense of humor.
On time as ever, Joe swoops in. “He’s Juliet,” he says, popping a date into his mouth and grinning at her -- all teeth, date caught between the bared grin. “I’m Romeo.”
“Are you telling me that you two are Romeo and Juliet?”
“It was just a matter of good timing,” Joe reminisces. “We just happened to be in England in the 16th century and suggested to a local playwright that we knew some good source material.” He winks at Nicky as he reclines back in his chair. “What can I say? Apparently, people love a star-crossed romance, but they didn’t listen when I criticized the ending.”
“They die,” Nicky points out, “but they forget to write the part where they keep going. I think, maybe, that’s a different story.”
Andy sits back as Nile starts demanding to know what else they’ve inspired, ever grateful when Nicky slides her a plate of homemade baklava as she watches Joe and Nicky stumble down their history as muses to the Renaissance (not that it would have stayed a secret long, given there are a few paintings and statues in this country that exist because of them).
“Fuck,” Nile exhales. “Romeo and Juliet.”
“Just think,” Andy says, as fond and annoyed as ever when Joe and Nicky look at one another and their world shrinks. “One day, you won’t just be appreciating the art. You’ll be inspiring it,” she vows.
Nile will have her own collection of art she brings in and art she inspires.
Plays, paintings, stories, legends -- they’ll write them all about her.
Andy won’t be around to see them, but in Joe and Nicky’s (and eventually Booker’s) hands, she knows that she’ll be fine. “If you really want to get them started,” Andy whispers, on her way to get a new bottle of wine, “ask them about Michelangelo’s crush on Nicky.”
“Oh, not this again,” groans Joe.
“Are you serious?” Nile’s laughter is rife with disbelief, but Andy can hear the intrigue in her words. “ I want to hear everything.”
“Joe, it was nothing to be jealous of, I only have eyes for you...”
Andy lets their voices wash over her as she grips onto the corkscrew and a new bottle, staring at herself in the reflection of Nile’s kitchen windows. She’s wanted it to be over for so long that she never stopped to think what would happen when she finally faced the finality of mortality.
She hopes they’ll miss her. At the same time, she hopes it’s easy to forget her, though she knows it’ll be hard on Joe and Nicky, especially since she knows it’s making them worry about their own time.
That time isn’t up, though.
No sense living like a dying woman when she’s got years to go. By the time she returns, Nicky is talking about an awkward escape in Florence and how he’d jumped into the Arno River only to be fished out by Joe a few miles down the way.
She’s with the people she loves, the ones who love her.
“Let’s drink,” Andy encourages. “And maybe the wine will loosen my tongue and my memories.”
Here, in Nile’s new home, she’s safe. The clock may be running out, but Andy’s had a good run of it, and the truth is, there’s no place she’d rather be. While there are faces missing from around this table due to history and circumstance, the company’s not half bad.
If this is how she’s going to spend the rest of her life, Andy thinks that she could get used to it.