Etheline. She was what he dreamed of. She was what he left behind. Ray was enchanted by her eyes, crippled by her voice, delighted by her skin, incapacitated by her lips. They had four weeks together. She was a native of Florence, Italy. Etheline had traveled the world, but was in love with her home. She made a living giving tours to people studying abroad and selling flowers on the street. Ethaline loved both of those things and knew that she could never leave.
Raymond had been in one of her tour groups and immediately fell for her. He asked many questions on the tour, most of which a five-year-old knew. But it was a chance to talk to her. He found her selling her flowers outside a bakery the next day. Raymond asked her to create a bouquet fit for a queen. He bought it and handed it to her with a juvenile smile on his face. Her eyes widened and said, “But I am no queen.”
They saw each other every day, taking walks and doing all the things a couple that has been together for twenty years do. To Ray it was perfection. Her hand would crawl inside of his in a way that tickled but was incredibly intimate. There was nothing he didn’t love.
On his last day in Florence, Raymond proposed to Ethaline. He asked her to come back to America with him. They would live a charmed life, he claimed. Ethaline looked at him and stroked his face with the back of her hand. A tear escaped from her eye. She turned for a moment, scribbling something on a scrap of paper. She placed the paper in his hand, kissed him softly, and turned. She knew he would be disappointed and heartbroken, but it was all a dream to him. She knew they would not be able to continue living their life in America. She would be grounded there. This was where she belonged. He did not.
Raymond went to the airport full of rage. The note was in Italian. She knew he couldn’t read it. He had planned it all out. He had planned that moment the day they met. This was not how it was supposed to be. He returned to America.
Years later, after Raymond’s failed attempts at finding a suitable replacement, he had the note translated. It was one sentence, clear and concise: “I was born to fly.”
He crushed the old paper in his hand. Raymond went out into the night, searching for another Ethaline, one that wouldn’t need to fly.