Independent Press Award
2024 Distinguished Favorite
A Bridge to Home: A Piece of Baltimore
L J Hippler
I first looked at her, saw her all at once, that morning. Both of us saw the physical woman who seemed so at home in the lobby of the Lord Baltimore, short brunette hair barely kissing the collar of her white silk blouse, the long, crossed legs and the Armani heel, dangling like a moss green bauble from her tapping toe as she searched on her phone. Authentic, for some reason that English word flashed in my mind like a neon billboard in Tokyo. She was the real thing, the rarest of things, an authentic woman. I want, no I need, to tell her story. I will tell it from my own recollections, from conversations with people in her aura, and I'll admit it, from gossip. Some of the things I will tell you here I couldn't swear to legally. But this isn't a court of law; it's only me, telling you about her. If at times you wonder how I know of some of the events I describe, I don't. But I have come to know this woman, the people around her and their universe. So, my imaginings of events unseen are as accurate as anyone's can be. I knew already he had to have her. He was like that. Two days spent with Mr. Stark was enough to know all about him. "Ms. Ibanez? Hi. Robert Stark." He kept walking forward, coming closer than he needed to. The long right hand at the end of that long arm shot out and stayed in front of her, rigid, like a saw blade attached to the arm of a mechanical man. "Sorry we're late. This is my assistant, Mr. Faung." Thankfully, he remembered the Mr. Sometimes he would refer to me as Faung, like he was introducing his pet turtle. But the authentic woman nodded to me with a smile that would have put the proverbial Mona Lisa to shame and I was fine with whatever came next. Already I was at her service, not his.