Whatever Makes You Happy - Kai Van Ginkel
He strode down the boardwalk towards her, as she stood at the edge watching the shining water. Her hands were clasped behind her and she swayed in the breeze, like a dandelion seed floating on the wind.
As he reached her, she glanced over her shoulder to give a glowing smile.
“Well, Hi stranger.” She trilled, spinning around, her sun dress dancing about her Balanchine dancer legs.
“Hello,” He said, his voice soft. He smiled at her as she moved to and fro, unable to stay still. She was too active to ever settle down, so alive and carefree.
“Shall we head out?” She asked, side-stepping him to head back up the walkway. He nodded, and the two began their march.
His hand reached out for hers before he thought better of it, and slipped it back into his pocket. Trying to touch her would ruin the moment.
Her hair floated around her, like rays of sunshine. She almost glowed in the light, and he found it hard to look at her. He found it even harder to look away.
“What shall we do today?” she asked, a bounce in her step.
Faceless couples littered the railings, all lost in their own worlds. The sound of the surf against the wooden posts, the occasional cry of a seagull overhead, and the laughs of children who ran about unaccompanied were the perfect backdrop to their date. Soft sounds that did nothing to drag his attention from his companion.
“Why don’t we just walk?” he asked in a whisper, watching her almost dancing across the boards.
She was so perfect, so wonderful. Her eyes were the color of the galaxy, a cosmic latte that had swirls of stars, and every time they met his it felt as if air was forced from his lungs. Her golden hair trailed down her spine, brushing the small of her back, and held every shade of sunlight he had ever seen.
“Whatever makes you happy.” she cooed, and the pair set off.
They handed their jacket to the coat-check, smoothing down their vest and tucking their tie in better. They were nervous, having never done anything like this before and not sure how it was going to go. Heart pounding, they were worried that they were going to start sweating.
Her back was to the door as they walked in, her champagne hair pulled into a sleek low bun. Her dress was an off-the-shoulder number that matched their tie, and her hands were rested carefully on the tabletop.
They slid into the seat across from her and gave a weak smile. They just weren’t sure how this was going to go, if the two would be able to communicate, or if it would be an awkward night of lipreading. And wouldn’t that have been a massive waste of money?
Hello Stranger. She signed, a wicked grin on her lips.
Their mouth fell open before a wide smile broke across their face. And here they had been so worried. They signed a greeting back. The table the two were at was out of the way to give them privacy, with candles to give them extra lighting and ambiance.
Her dark eyes seemed to glitter, like onyx set in ivory, as she asked what they wanted for the evening. Playing with a frayed edge of tablecloth, they tilted their head back and forth in thought. What could they ask for, what would be the best way to spend their evening together? They waved a waiter over and made a vague gesture at the wine list they hadn’t bothered even looking at. It was probably blank anyway.
Dinner. They said, thinking it was an easy way to start. They held their wine glass in an almost lazy way, not giving the server another thought as they stared deeply into her eyes. Her eyes were fathomless, and they felt it was possible to be trapped in them forever.
She smiled and assured them they would do whatever makes them happy.
“Well, Hi stranger.” she said from her place on the stone bench. The sunlight was on her like a spotlight, and gave her hair a halo. Her fingers were entwined in front of her, almost in supplication. Her ankles were crossed like a true lady, clad in extra shiny Mary Janes.
“Hello.” he hummed, looking around, his face split into a wide smile. They were both in a park, large oaks and maples filling the grass, well-worn stone for the pathways. In the distance there were birds chirping and the vague sounds of city life going on, but they were otherwise alone.
“What shall we do today?” she asked, her head tilted to the side, her dark eyes wide as she looked up at him. She was like a porcelain doll, like the one his sister had owned when they were kids, with delicate long lashes that would brush her skin.
Her hair was in long ringlets that trailed down her back and poured over her shoulders. He wanted to run his fingers through them, see if he could pull one straight and then let it go, if it would curl back up again. She seemed so breakable, he wanted to wrap her up and keep her safe. A part of him was glad he couldn’t actually touch her, or he would have worried she would shatter.
“Let’s have a picnic.” he said, walking up the path. He could hear her long dress fluttering down and around her legs as she stood. He could see a gazebo a few yards away, covered in ribbons and flowers. A fancy checkered blanket rested on the ground with two silk pillows for them to sit on. There was no food in sight, but it wouldn’t have mattered if there was.
“Whatever makes you happy.” she said, walking a few paces behind him.
He had missed Venice, it had been years since he had set foot in Italy and it eased something inside him that he hadn’t realized was hurting. He had spent most of his teen years running around these canals, living in his aunt’s villa down in Naples over the summer. He had missed the salty air and the beautiful sunlight, and as he walked towards the dock he ran his fingers over the brickwork of the walls.
She was sitting on a post, fingers drumming on her bare knees waiting for him. Her little lacy jumper showed off her long legs, sun-kissed without a line. She wore little strappy sandals and had nail-polish on her tiny little toes. Her goldenrod hair was bulled into a messy bun that made her look the sexy kind of rumpled.
“Ciao sconosciuto,” she called, waving at him. He licked his lips, grinning. He hadn’t expected the Italian, but boy was he pleased.
“Ciao, bella ragazza.” he said, skipping the last few steps to her and giving a jaunty bow. She gave a bell-like giggle, and he felt lighter than air.
“What shall we do today?” she asked as they walked to the edge of the dock. The sunlight shone between the buildings and they moved in and out of shadows, like cat-burglars.
“Well, if we had a gondola, bellissima, I would suggest we take a trip down the canals, but-” he stopped, surprised, as a boat came bobbing up to them. The gondolier stood high on the end, hat tilted over his face to block the sunlight, oar tight in hand on the side of the boat away from them. The boatman tapped the brim of his hat in a jaunty greeting.
“E la fortuna sorride!” he laughed, then gestured with a flourish. “After you, bellissima.”
“Whatever makes you happy.” she said, and hopped into the boat.
It was the most expensive yacht on the market right now. It was three-hundred feet long, had twelve luxury cabins, Corinthian leather seating in every room, and the name S.S. Fantasia in twenty-four karat gold along the bow. She lounged in a sun-chair on the deck, tanning in the afternoon sun, feeling every bit the fat cat that got the cream.
“Well, Hi stranger.”
She tilted her head up, looking over the top of her sunglasses. The beautiful sunshine-haired gal who had walked up wore a gorgeous little gold bikini, her hair pulled back in a low ponytail and a cover-up hung low on her hips. Her own sunglasses rested atop her head, and she cast a shadow over her sunbathing.
“Hello pretty lady.” she grinned, propping herself up. “Come to keep me company?”
The blonde giggled as she dropped down to the edge of the chair, perched like a dove on a branch. She pulled her hair over her shoulder and began playing with the end of it, curling flaxen strands around her finger over and over. She was just far enough away that she couldn’t accidentally be touched.
“What shall we do today?”
She sighed and let herself fall back, the sun’s warmth on her face. She felt so relaxed, and on top of the world. The only way this could be better would be if she had a Mai Tai next to her, but she didn’t want to have to get up and call the steward.
“Let’s just stay here and soak up the sun for a while.”
The blonde hummed, still playing with her hair. Overhead a gull called out, flying past them towards the distant shore.
“Whatever makes you happy.”
He clung to the railing, staring out at the cityscape, breathless. The setting sun cast Paris in a beautiful cherry glow, like a shot from a postcard. He had never been to France before, despite always wanting to, and to get a chance to experience this view that was so beautiful, made him almost want to cry.
He tried spotting famous landmarks, wishing he had a map with him to mark where each one was. He traced the edge of Notre-Dame with his eyes, the sunlight glinting off the stain-glass windows, when he felt someone walk up behind him.
“Hi stranger.” she said softly as he turned around. Her oversized sweater was dyed a reddish color by the sunlight, her twin braids almost looking strawberry from the lighting. She had a sweet smile, so soft and kind, and seemed to have eyes only for him.
How could she focus on him when there was this view? He turned back to the Parisian streets, its magnetic quality keeping him from focusing on his pretty companion for long.
She walked up to the railing, resting her hands on top of it as if it were fragile. She was silent next to him as he breathed in the afternoon air, listening to the people and the horse-drawn carriages below their quiet corner near the elevator.
“What shall we do?” she asked him, whisper soft.
What shall they do? He couldn't imagine moving from this spot. He wished that he had any artistic talent, so that he could capture this image forever and be able to take it home with him. The only way it could be better would be…
“Could we, could we go to the top?” he asked, glancing at the elevator with thinly veiled hope.
She smiled gently at him, motioning for him to go.
“Whatever makes you happy.”
He smiled gratefully, unhooked his cane from the railing, and limped towards the doors.
The hillside was perfect for star gazing. There were trees surrounding it, but the small clearing was completely unobstructed. He had a soft blanket on the grass, and was pacing back and forth, making sure he had the perfect angle for the meteor shower.
The sky was so clear, he could make out the constellations as easily as if he had a star-chart. He could make out the galaxies, their colors blending like a painting. It almost seemed like he could reach out and touch the stars, feel their heat.
There was a light breeze that would rustle the grass and leaves, but it was an otherwise perfect summer evening. It reminded him of some of the trips he went on with his mother when she was getting her doctorate.
“Well, Hi stranger.”
He looked back, watching her slip through the trees. She had a flowing white dress on, and her loose blonde hair reminded him of a painting he had seen of an angel coming down to earth.
“Hi.” he whispered, meeting her halfway. He wished he could touch her, but knew better by now, and instead kept his hands tucked in his pockets. She was so pale there was a glow from her in the starlight. It made her seem even less real, but the way she bat her dark eyes at him, her deep breaths and soft sounds of happiness, he was willing to ignore it.
“What shall we do?” she asked him, leaning in close, as if to whisper a secret.
“I’ve got a spot set for us, let’s watch the shower.”
“Whatever makes you happy.”
They sat down on the blanket, keeping a respectable distance from each other. He leaned back, tilted towards the sky as she curled her legs beneath her, fanning out her dress.
The first trail shot across the sky. He felt his breath catch in excitement, and he shot forward, leaning as close as he could towards the sky as if it would give him a better view. Then another, and another, soon the sky was filled with falling stars.
He was so happy.
He glanced back at her, sitting so quiet and content, a peaceful smile on her face as she watched the heavens. He reached back, and rested it on her hand, fazing through it to the blanket below.
“God I wish you were real.”
"Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today, and welcome to Fantasia Limited.” Daisy said to the group of investors. “As you already know, I am Daisy Lyman, vice president in charge of marketing, and I will be leading you through the tour today.”
Daisy Lyman was an older woman, nearing her fifties, with hair that had been recently dyed a shade of dark blonde to hide the gray and cut into a sharp bob to try and give her a more youthful appearance. The lacquer on her lips matched perfectly to the silk blouse she wore with her pantsuit. Her dark eyes almost blended into her pupils, making them striking to look at. Careful makeup hid most of the age lines on her face, but there was no denying that she had been a striking woman in her youth.
While still a beautiful woman in her later years, there was a quality to her mouth that spoke of unhappiness and displeasure that made her more severe. Still she had a genial smile on her face for the tour group that would have been at home on a billboard.
“Will we be able to see Mr. Lyman on this tour?” one of the gentlemen asked, raising on his toes a bit to be seen over other men in the crowd.
Daisy’s smile tightened at the edges, and the slightest flash of teeth showed.
“Unfortunately, my husband is often rather busy with the programming work. He likes to check the program every day to make sure it is still working at optimal levels for our customers, and would never dream of delegating such an important job. Let it never be said that Jonathan R. Lyman is anything but a consummate professional.” the last part came out a bit flatter.
Daisy forced her smile to smooth out, and clapped her hands together.
“But let’s get on with the tour, shall we gentlemen?”
She led the men down the crisp white hallway, lined with blank-and-white photos of different locations.
“We here at Fantasia Limited want to give our customers the happiest experience possible, by allowing them to experience any place in the world they wish and that their dreams can come true.” Daisy said, walking backwards to keep eye contact with her group. She lead groups like this every two weeks, so had no problem stepping carefully in her pumps so as not to roll her ankle.
“What about the date packages?” one of the men asked.
“Ah, the Fantasy Dates,” Daisy explained, eyes flashing briefly at the interruption. “These are our most popular package. It allows our clients to go on the date of their dreams with their ideal mate. Now, of course, there are limitations to what programs can do. You can’t consume anything, and of course touching is not possible.”
She paused as some of the men chuckled, and she gave a rueful smile.
“Yes, I know, but for some, just having the perfect companion for a while can make all the difference.”
She motioned them along, where they arrived at a large screen, showing the Fantasy Date male and female models. Daisy paused there, allowing the men to look around.
Daisy stared up at the blonde figure, a blank look covering her face for a moment. She steeled herself before back to the group with a large smile.
“Remember, here at Fantasia Limited, our motto is ‘Whatever makes you Happy.’”
Bio: Kai Van Ginkel is an Editor and Reader for Lupercalia Press. With a degree in Writing and Literature, they are an writer with a passion for politics and LGBTQ+ rights. When not working on their own literature, they can be found reading and reviewing books at Sleeping Dragon Reviews, or on twitter @KaiVanGinkel