The spires of the buildings framed the midsummer evening sky, dark blue, like a screen imploring a film to start. The parapets in the foreground gave the scene a medieval feel, as if muddied and embattled knights, new from a crusade, were due on the horizon; one could almost hear the distant clomping of hooves against the red earth, the clapping of scabbard steel against leather.

The aroma of the feast…the heavy, rich cured beef, lamb and pig, the brack of the roasted potatoes, the saccharinity of the yams, the allure of drawn butter and lemon, and the tickle of champagne…wafted in bands in the humid air, crossing the nostrils at varying levels, intervals and intensities, as if Dionysus were directing each of them to arrive just as the novelty of the former had left.

She strolled away from the spectacle, the coral-dyed pumps (Coral? Really, 'Speth?) wanting to sink into the turf. She stepped up onto the brick, glancing at the text message again, wondering. Happily, a weak breeze surfaced. It ruffled her fine, ginger hair and tickled her nose. Annoyed, she pocketed her iPhone in her bra, ran the fingers of both hands through her hair from temple to the nape of her neck, grasped it with both hands, twisted it behind her, and snapped one of the ever present red rubber bands from her reddened left wrist around the base of her skull, which caused a chill to run down her neck and through to her wrists. A bead of sweat trickled down her right cheek and settled at the corner of the lips, which she summarily dabbed with her tongue.

The dampness traversing and enveloping the expanse of her body from the late afternoon humidity gave the coral, linen dress weight and a feel of permanence, and of unwelcomed control over her movements. She wished she was in her room, naked and sprawled on the bed under the fan, or else in the pool…

"Soon," she prayed.

The sun, which had done its worst as she could feel freckles emerging, was ready to set and had turned a bright orange just hovering now over the Coca Cola headquarters building a couple of miles away. The air felt as if it was filling beyond its capabilities, stretching to limits of its capacity or possibly exploring new ones, before reaching critical mass. It seemed to be teasing her with the promise of slaking her misery, enjoying teasing her by trying to uncover how long she could endure before crying out in supplication. Her brain felt as though it were overheating, affecting its circuitry; it had become difficult to hold a thought, remember names of old friends, concentrate on the remaining agenda. She wanted to beat a hasty retreat for the lobby of her hotel, the bar of some nearby restaurant, a theatre, anywhere with central air conditioning.

But the text said here, now.

She was thankful to get it honestly. Any justifiable distraction was welcomed. Eve had been dreading this day since the raised letter invitation had arrived from her mother three days hence.

Dr. and Mrs. Charles Ashley Pemberton

request the honor of your presence

at the wedding of their daughter

Sarah Elspeth

. . .

Eve had tried her best to get away with not having to attend her younger sister's wedding, but her step-mother wouldn't hear of it, which meant her father would be forced to agree. She was, of course, going to be in the wedding party (despite, Eve was sure, the best efforts to exclude her by Elspeth), but no respectable southern wedding have a family member in the pews, let alone on another continent.

"Come now, Evie," Barbara had admonished her just two weeks ago, "The house won't be too crowded. Mind, you may have to sleep in the guest room the night before. You know Nana can't sleep on a full; she'll need your queen with the pillow top. But 'Speth will be just devastated if you aren't here to help manage, and Lord knows I will need your help running interference with everyone's comings and goings. You know that Robert is staying with his folks next door…"she trailed off these last few words with a hint of a lilt.

"Mom, I've told you," Eve interrupted in a measured tone, trying not to sound ungrateful and ignoring the Robert contrivance, "I am on assignment until Thursday. The only flight I could get is out of Gatwick at 10AM Friday. That will give me just enough time to land at Hartsfield, hop on the train and get to the hotel in time to lay my head down and be up by six." Eve hoped her stepmother had enough on her mind not to calculate the 5 hour time advantage between London and Atlanta.

"But sweetheart, I wish you weren't so dedicated to that career of yours," Barbara said with genuine disappointment. "It can't be good for your health. All those plane rides, the changes in climates must be doing murder to your skin. Did you look into those creams I emailed you about? Fountain of Youth, I tell you; done wonders for my…"

"My skin is just fine," she lied. The trust was that her eczema had returned and was worse than when she was a teenager, and there were bags under her eyes that sleep was not curing. "Plus, it's not like I'm the Matron of Honor…"

"Maid, dear," Barbara glibly corrected.

Eve bit her lip and took a deep breath before continuing. "She's got Libby to help her through it, and you. I'd honestly just be in the way."

"Well…" her stepmother said, obviously considering the point. After a few seconds pause, "Just do make it to the church by eight. That horrid job of yours is already making you miss the rehearsal and dinner…You know, your father cried last night…genuinely wept…I don't know how he'll get along without one of you under his roof."

Eve smirked a bit, knowing it wasn't the absence of his children from the home, but the realization that he would now spend the rest of eternity sharing it solely with Barbara that was more likely the cause of his depressed state.

"I haven't seen such emotion out of your father since…" The line went silent for a few seconds, then Eve heard her stepmother clear her throat, and could imagine her stiffening up to her full height, fiddling her pearls. "Just be there on time. Please. I'll send your dress and shoes over to the hotel. Just call down for them after you check in, and call me when you arrive."

"Okay, Mom," Eve answered, knowing not to test her now, especially when she had given in. "I'll text you…"

"No, please call me," Barbara retorted, obviously still preoccupied with her previous thought, "Texts are so impersonal."

This was code for 'I have just gotten the hang of emailing from the computer; I haven't got the time to figure out how to send one from my phone."

"Okay, I'll call straight away when I arrive. See you in a couple of weeks."

Eve hit disconnect and lay her phone onto the bedside table. Realizing what she had just said, she snorted a bit. She was sure that when her mother had lain the receiver onto the cradle, she most likely muttered something to the effect of 'Straight away? Good God, she's turning into a Limey!"

It was nearly two and she was still in bed. She glanced to her left and saw it was still raining and dark. Had it been a clear day, the sun would just now be peaking down Bickenhall Street and in through her window.

She was lucky to have this flat in Marylebone, she knew. It was in a very posh part of the city, full of people her own age, mostly in professional careers. She was quite a hit at the pubs when she first arrived. Not because of her beauty, or her intelligence, or her fashion style, but for her southern American accent. Truth, be told, she never thought she had much of an accent, having grown up In the suburbs of Atlanta. She had certainly heard worse from folks from Savannah, Macon, Tennessee and Alabama. She relished the attention for a while, but then started to feel like her friends and acquaintances were putting her on display.

Her roommate, Charlotte, owned the flat; or her father did. She was not quite sure, but never had any real reason or interest in finding out who. All she knew was that her father had purchased it in the mid-'80s when it was necessary for him to be in London for business and away from home on the Isle of Wight. He had been some sort of high finance investment banker, thinking up tax haven schemes for international clientele trying to shield their holdings from the tax authorities in their home countries. But then came the 2008 crash, and he was overleveraged and tried to get out too late, and he found it necessary to take out a loan on the flat, which had appreciated significantly since he purchased it, to keep the family finances afloat. When her father had a stroke a year ago, the ownership somehow evidently past to Charlotte through some sort of family trust, and somehow the debt ended up being forgiven.

Charlotte had moved into the flat in early 2008 while she attended University, which her father had encouraged, as it was more difficult for the bank to foreclose as long as there was a relative living there. With the cash from Daddy in short supply, Charlotte quickly snapped up Eve after meeting her at a CNC holiday in December of that year.

Charlotte had spent a three month stint interning at CNC, while Eve had just moved from their headquarters in Atlanta after a year to work in their London bureau's photojournalist desk. She had been letting a tiny flat in Whitechapel, and all she could think about for the three months she was there was Jack the Ripper. Eve was just as happy to pay the rent as Charlotte was to receive it. The flat was just two tube station's ride from the CNC London headquarters on Great Marlborough, on at Baker Street Station over to Regents Park, then south to Oxford Circus.

After dropping out of University in 2011, Charlotte secured a position as some sort of personal assistant for an executive with the Chelsea football club, which meant she was traveling with him most of the time. And when she wasn't traveling, she was trying with said executive at his flat on the River. So, for the better part of three years, she had the Marylebone flat all to herself, and Charlotte had very conveniently forgotten about the rent.

Eve stretched and turned onto her left side, sliding her hand down under the sheets. She playfully dug her nails into the flesh of Arthur's firm cheek.

"Careful you! I've had plenty of time to recuperate from last night," warned Arthur playfully in his deep, Scottish accent.

Just hearing him speak stirred something in Eve. She felt her stomach purr every time she heard his voice. She often thought her affinity for the Scottish accent, and probably for older men, came from her watching all those James Bond movies with her father when she was young.

She pressed herself against his back, gently kissed the back of his neck right at the hair line, then dug her fingernails in a bit deeper and nibbled his ear lobe…

She sat on a bench fronting 17th Street across from her hotel, The Atlantic, thinking of Arthur, wishing he could have been there with her. She looked at his name again on the text she had just received ten minutes before and slimed. What she would give now to be able to walk into that London rain.

She could see the entirety of the Atlanta skyline from where she sat. She looked out over the city she called home, but never really got to know from outside the Perimeter. She was amazed at how many new buildings had come up along Peachtree, how many friends from school had shunned the suburbs and come to live in Midtown, or the Highlands, or even here in Atlantic Station. She saw signs of familiar international companies on the tops of skyscrapers that she had never seen before, the hallmark of a "real" American metropolis. Atlanta had really grown up in her absence. Still, it was no London. Atlanta might be bigger and growing, but what it still lacked, what it probably would always lack, was character. London has character, and New York, Chicago, Paris Hong Kong, or San Francisco. Atlanta was still just a place to come when you couldn't find a good enough job where you grew up.

Arthur's text was professional, not personal. As the head of the photojournalist desk at CNC in London, he was technically her boss. His text was short, to the point.

Arthur: Got a tip that something's up in ATL. Are you near?

Eve: Y

Arthur: Keep an eye out.

His professionalism had most assuredly blocked out the fact that she was at her sister's wedding reception. But she didn't mind, and he would know that anyway. He seemed genuinely impressed with her enthusiasm for her profession and craft. Plus, she was tired of champagne, flowers, idle chat, posing for photographs.

Automatically, she raised her iPhone and started recording the skyline. Suddenly, a loud clap of thunder sounded, making her jump, and simultaneously a pattern of heat lightning crept across the late day sky above the city. She hoped that her jolting had not disturbed the video; it had been truly beautiful.

She was thinking about pausing it and sending the clip to Arthur when what looked like another, much more brilliant strike lighted up her camera so brightly that she had to close her eyes from the pain of it, and not a half of a second later, a deafening explosion, muddled with broken glass.

Eve's heart leapt to her throat. The hair on her arms were standing on end, and her eyes snapped open. Her iPhone was still focused on the skyline. She could see on the screen that several floors of the Bank of America building about halfway up were black with smoke. The sound of what might be a hundred car alarms wailed in the distance. Chunks of brown marble and glass were hurdling earthward, innumerable sheets of paper fluttering from all sides of the fissure in the building.

Then, the adrenalin hit her brain.

Eve shoved the iPhone back into her bra, leapt up and sprinted to her hotel just across the street, leaving her pumps behind on the ground. All she could think of was her camera, which was nestled in her suitcase on her bed in her room.

Just then, the air that had been taunting her seemed to relax, releasing its torrent in a deluge. The pumps wilted under the water's weight, and started to bleed their coral dye onto the steaming pavement.