Freya bit into her pastry. “Odin, honey, can you grab me some napkins? This lingonberry tart is just oozing all over the place,” she said, loudly enough so everyone in Scandia Bakery could hear her.
Odin, on his way back from the men’s room, picked up several dozen paper napkins and placed them next to Freya’s plate, it’s half eaten tart disgorging its contents onto the bone china plate.
“There you are my dear, ” he said, sitting down across from her and smiling at her obvious delight in the pastry. “See, I told you they were better here than at the IKEA cafe.”
Freya, smiling back at him, finished the pastry in three quick bites, using a fresh napkin to clean her lips with each bite she took. “Delicious,” she said, picking up the rest of the napkins and putting them into her leather-fringed and brass-studded purse.
“Do we have time to run into Muse? Cleo told me they got in the most amazing ponchos the other day,” she said, getting up and slinging her purse over her shoulder.
“Yes, of course we do dear,” Odin said, getting up again from his chair and pulling money out of the air. “Here you are my sweethearts; this should cover it,” he uttered, making sure the waitress and cashier could hear him.
“Thank you, sir, and happy holidays, ” said the server, smiling at the astronomical cash tip this old man and his wife had just left on the table. She continued to smile as they walked out the door and onto Forest Avenue. They headed up the street to Muse, Freya opening the door like she owned the place.
“Freya, it’s so good to see you!” said a bubbly blonde woman who rushed over to hug her.
“Cleo, honey, you look fabulous, are you going out tonight?”
“Yeah, me, Calliope and Thalia are going up into the Hollywood Hills. Thor invited us to a party.
Odin was looking at a rack of clothing. At the mention of his son’s name he smiled and remembered what it had been like to be so young so very many years ago.
“This is your color,” gushed Cleo as she presented Freya with a soft gray cashmere poncho.
“Love it,” said the older woman, dropping her purse and slipping on the garment. Freya took in her image from the full-length mirror. Perfect, she thought.
Odin was ready with a roll of bills. “Is this enough?” he said to Cleo.
“More than enough,” she said, placing the money in the cash register. “Any plans for tonight?” she asked while turning off the main lights and setting the alarm with a wave from her index finger.
Freya picked up her purse and grabbed Odin’s waiting arm. “We are meeting up with some old friends down at Hennessey’s; Connan, Fionanah and a few others, you know, the older crowd.”
“Sounds great! Have fun!” Cleo yelled as she got into Thalia’s waiting VW Eos.
“After you my dear,” said Odin.
They crossed the street and headed down Ocean Avenue. As they walked, arm in arm, Freya noticed that every shop window, every bit of greenery was covered with strings of twinkling lights, gorgeous glass bulbs seeping incandescent brightness. It was one thing that was still the same during the festival of light, although now it went by other names.
Freya paused at the door to the tavern.
“I’m going to take a little walk; work off the pastry. I’ll join you all in a bit,” Freya said to Odin as he opened the door for her.
“No problem, honey,” he said, smiling and giving her a quick peck on the cheek before walking into the darkened, music filled room.
Freya crossed over Coast Highway and followed the path unto the boardwalk. It was twilight, the sun just having been swallowed by the cloud bank which was hovering like a thick grey blanket, obscuring the sky and the ocean.
Freya stepped out of her sandals and unto the cool sand, enjoying the feel of the small hard granules as she walked to the ocean’s edge. The gentle waves lapped up to her ankles and Freya delighted in the shock of cold water.
Just one thing was missing on this night when the earth is flying so far from the life-giving sun, something to help nudge it back. Freya reached into her purse and pulled out the napkins Odin had given her. She held them out. The wind picked up, swirling in small eddies, and lifting the fringes of her poncho. Strong gusts caught the squares of paper, which became grey geese, moving their powerful wings, stroke after stroke, lifting themselves into the night and banishing the fog. A brilliant sky emerged, the deepest blue studded with stars, reflected in the absolute stillness of the sea.
Perfect, she thought, retrieving her sandals and smiling all the way back to meet her old friends.
Rina Palumbo lives and works in Laguna Beach. She is still in search of the perfect lingonberry tart.