Chapter One : Monaco

International jet-setting superstar Monaco D’agostino wandered with every appearance of lightly weary diffidence through her palatial villa in southeast Italy, on an island in the waters between Italy and Greece, and smiled a pretty and pleased smile at everyone she met.

She smiled at the small handful of highly trusted servants who kept her villa in the state of relaxed and uncluttered efficiency which she preferred. She smiles at the larger number of security guards her status as billionaire businesswoman, pop star, movie star, and children’s entertainer sadly required, especially since she had chosen to live on such a tiny island which was so open to sea-based incursion from all sides, but which she insisted had to dress casually and blend in with milieu so as not to offend her highly refined and particular sensibilities with signs of overt aggression. She smiled at Hasmont Dellvue, a dear friend and periodic lover who was the current occupant of her meticulously and lovingly perfected guest bungalow. She even smiled at the amusingly dirty and awkward seabirds who squabbled and squawked amongst the rocks down by the southern beach over which she now so carefully and casually wandered. She hadn’t cared for the birds at first, but now their raucous and ill-tempered antics seemed the perfect complement to the tiny world of relaxation and gentility she had created for herself.

But her famous smile, of which she had many, was not entirely the result of her legendary acting skill. She was genuinely happy, although not for any of the reasons people might have thought. She treasured her world of wealth and power and privilege and her long and spectacular career, but they were not the source of her greatest joy, she thought with a certain thrill of spiritual pride. They were, after all, merely artifacts, to be enjoyed to the fullest without attachment or dependence.

What truly mattered were the needs of the soul, the spirit, and it was these needs which were foremost in her mind as she settled on a seemingly perfect random rock close to the water, spreading her thin blanket on it and lounging languidly thereupon, evidently taking advantage of the lazy late-morning breezes which wrapped around her like a caress to take a little of the sting out of the island’s perpetual sunshine while she basked and bronzed her internationally admired slender and well proportioned body.

But in reality, so to speak, she had chosen this rock quite specifically quite a long time ago for what she was about to do, and had chosen it specifically for its comfortable flatness and relative lack of visibility from most of the rest of the villa. She had the casual and unpretentious nudism and ease with most things private that comes from a thoroughly European childhood and total confidence in, and indifference to, the beauty of body and countenance which she had so carefully maintained and used as a vital stepping stone to getting where she was right now.

But still, even for a woman whose every nook and cranny had been filmed, photographed, and admired from every possible angle and in every state of use or repose countless times, some things were still so utterly personal that they were to be done only in private, and what she was about to do certainly qualified.

She closed her eyes as she relaxed her body and mind, letting the natural movements of water and air around her as she felt solid rock below and firey sun above wash all the usual detritus of consciousness from her mind and soul like water washing paint from a stone.

My mind is pure, she intoned into (and from) the deepest part of herself. My mind is pure, my soul is pure, the world is pure, all impurity and impermanence is an illusion, and I am free.

Once all within her was still and calm and eased, she opened her eyes, gazed up into the endless cloudless blue of the Mediterranean sky, and said/thought/felt/knew, with her entire being, Time to Go.

And then, Monaco D’agostino, arguably the richest and most famous woman in the world…. wasn’t.

A seabird alit on her now-empty blanket. some bright part of its dim avian mind telling it that this was something unusual had just happened, and in its world, that meant the possibility of food.

It pecked and hopped its way through a complete if perfunctory inspection of the blanket, the rock, and the tiny particles of a mysterious grit left in the exact center of Monaco’s outline, then flew off, too simple of mind to be disappointed for long.

It said “How was it?”
It also said “Fine. ” then after a pause, “Better than usual. ”
It seemed pleased with this answer, but then said sternly and strictly “Forget for now, remember later. ”
It also said “I know. ”

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