“Doc?” John calls after several minutes, but there is no answer. “If you don’t come out, I’m going to have to go in after you!” He is just about to go upstairs when he hears the doorbell.
“Marlena!” a voice cries out from the other side which John recognizes as Celeste. He opens the door; Celeste is frantic. “John, where is Marlena? I have to warn her!”
“Celeste, Marlena’s not in any danger--”
“No, John, you are wrong, she is in very grave danger! Where is she, I must warn her!”
“She’s right upstairs... Doc!” he calls again. When she still does not come out he goes upstairs and knocks on the door. Silence. He opens the door. “What the hell? She was just here, what happened?”
“Oh no! Where is the ring, did she put it on?”
“The...? Come on, Celeste, you don’t really think that--”
“Yes, John, you must believe me--the ring comes from Stefano, it is enchanted and has the power to transport someone through time. He will use it to bring her to him!”
Meanwhile, at the hospital in Paris....
“Josh, something’s wrong here.” A young woman is scowling over one of the monitors.
“What is it, Toni?” he asks, going over to investigate.
“It’s registering some sort of temporal disturbance...” She looks up, alarmed. “We haven’t sent anyone back yet, have we?” she asks.
Toni hesitates. “According to this, some form of time travel has just occurred...”
“How is that possible?” Josh asks. “We’re the only ones who... Tessa, you’d better come have a look at this.”
In the vast dining hall of the Palazzo DiMera, several hundred guests have arrived and there is a palpable aura of anticipation. Stefano, Mimi, Adriano, Cristina, all the courtiers and donne di palazzo are seated around the horseshoe-shaped table. Inside the horseshoe, musicians and dancers are setting up for the ballet they will be performing between the courses of the dinner. Even Raphael is present, invited to immortalize the evening’s festivities through his painting.
“So, what will be the evening’s entertainment?” Emilia asks Giangiovanni, a cortegiano.
“A new ballet, commissioned by the maestro di casa,” Giangiovanni responds. “I hear it will be spectacular.”
“Indeed,” Emilia agrees, observing the elaborate stage machinery. “What is the subject?”
“It is called La fenice eterna,” Giangiovanni replies.
“The Eternal Phoenix,” Emilia repeats. “We have seen many mythological subjects lately, but I believe this will be a first....”
How appropriate, Mimi thinks, seeing the intricately folded napkin at her place setting, in the shape of a bird with outstretched wings. The Phoenix rising from the ashes. He thinks of everything.... For the first time she realizes how long he has been planning this occasion, how long she has been in denial. Nevertheless she cannot help admiring the artistry of the napkin-folding; she has never seen anything like it in the twentieth century. Every detail of the event is perfect, from the arrangement of the table to the backdrop of the performance. They really know how to have a feast in the fifteenth century, don’t they? Of course the twentieth has it’s advantages too... silverware, for one. Oh well, you can’t have everything....
The main door opens, drawing everyone’s attention. “Ah,” Stefano says at last, “I see our guest of honor has arrived. Now we may begin the feast.”
A bewildered Marlena takes a few tentative steps forward, taking in the myriad expectant faces turned toward her as the waiters bring in the antipasti, twenty-four cold dishes served in fantastic and ingenious presentations including castles made of salami and fruits carved into the shape of flowers and animals. “Come, we have been expecting you,” Stefano says to her, rising and pulling out the chair he has reserved for her.
“Where am I?” she whispers, “who are you?....”
“The Contessa seems perplexed,” Annamaria comments.
“Perhaps she is overwhelmed,” Marianna suggests. “Or maybe she is nervous about her upcoming wedding.”
“It is highly unusual to have the feast before the ceremony,” Annamaria remarks.
“Everything about the new maestro di casa is highly unusual,” Marianna observes. “I wonder if the Contessa even knows the wedding is to take place tomorrow....”
“No, it can’t be,” John says in disbelief.
“Yes, John, you must believe me,” Celeste insists. “Stefano will stop at nothing to have Marlena!”
“How do we know where he’s taken her?” John asks.
“I do not know, they could be anywhere... any time!” Celeste responds.
“Don’t you have any psychic vibrations about where they are?” John asks, becoming increasingly agitated.
Suddenly the phone rings and John runs to answer it. “Hello?”
“Hello, is Dr. Marlena Black there?” Tessa asks.
“No, who is this?”
Tessa identifies herself. “Is this John Black?” she asks.
“Yeah, what is this about?” John asks, suspicious.
“We need to ask you some questions concerning your time-travel experience,” Tessa explains.
“Time travel?” John asks, stunned at the coincidence. “Well Tessa, I’ve got a few questions about time travel to ask you myself...”
“The Contessa di Evani?” Marlena asks, trying to understand.
“Yes, my love,” Stefano replies softly.
“Why don’t I remember anything?” she asks, staring at a biscuit in the form of a rose as though it held the answers to her questions.
“Do not think of the past, think only of the future... our future,” Stefano responds. “Look around,” he adds, indicating the dining hall with a sweeping gesture. “All of this, I have prepared for you alone.”
“It is breathtaking....”
“She is quite lovely, this Contessa, isn’t she?” Adriano remarks to Cristina. “Stefano did not exaggerate.”
“She is beautiful, yes, but she seems troubled,” Cristina comments. “I cannot help but feel that she does not belong here.”
“I am sure she is merely overwhelmed, and it is clear that Stefano loves her very much,” Adriano replies.
“Do you believe that she is the Contessa di Evani as Stefano claims?” Cristina asks her brother.
“We have no reason to doubt him,” Adriano points out.
“I suppose you’re right,” Cristina finally says. “But still, I wonder. We know that Stefano and Mimi come from another time. Is it possible that this Marlena comes from their time as well?”
“Mimi!” André calls out as he sees the woman leaving her room the next morning.
“André... where’s Kristen?” she asks.
“She’s coming, she just had to fix up before we leave,” he replies.
“Leave? Where are you going?”
“Oh, not too far, just exploring the countryside, really. This part of the country has some awesome ruins. Hey, would you like to come with us?”
“Oh no, really, if it’s all the same to you I’d rather stay here.”
“Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t want to come investigate Etruscan tombs. There are some great legends about those tombs too, especially one close by. Stories about people being buried alive there, centuries ago, just sealed up and no one ever heard from them again.”
“Sounds romantic,” she says ironically. “You know André, I’ve got to hand it to you. I never thought anyone could make Kristen forget about John... although, if anyone could, it would certainly be you.”
A shadow crosses André’s face at the mention of John’s name. “Kristen and I are very much in love.”
“Of course you are, I never meant to imply otherwise. You must be ecstatic, that she fell in love with you after... how many years of pursuing John? Well, it doesn’t matter. The point is that you’re together now. I’m happy for you, André, truly I am.” She takes his hand and squeezes it. “Now, go and explore those awesome Etruscan tombs. Just be careful not to get locked in!”
To be continued....
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