Hansu sighs loudly and surveys the half-empty dance floor one more time. She is finding her search for a suitable father to a child to be dull and unrewarding. She has considered giving up but then her mind drifts to the scene in her bathroom that very morning.
Had she not discovered multiple gray hairs sprouting from her scalp? The finest hint of wrinkles around her eyes? Aging is simply not a reality she is prepared to face.
Hansu abandons the discotech and heads back to her small home at the edge of nowhere in Hidden Springs. Though she has lived here for awhile, she never took the time to get to know anyone very well. Her secret life, visiting and revisiting the Fountain of Youth, has made her paranoid and suspicious. But she decides to let her guard down and tentatively enters a dating site online, in hopes of finding someone, anyone as long as he is fertile and willing.
After leaving multiple requests on the profiles of potential mates, she is pleased to receive a phone call first thing the next morning. A stuttering, nervous voice on the other end of the line asks for her by name and proceeds to fumble through a long explanation about who he is and why he wants to date her. Hansu responds with what she considers to be appropriate answers, trying to sound flirtatious but not desperate–even though she is starting to feel a little frantic without her magical, restorative waters.
At last she is able to get her suitor off the phone. He has closed the conversation revealing his name and Hansu mulls it over. Bert Alto, could he be related to the Altos from Sunset Valley? She wonders if her brother Sigismund had managed to alienate his neighbors in some fashion, as he was prone to doing. If this character, Bert, was in fact related to Vita, would harsh words travel between them regarding the Notorious family? Because a little simple math would result in the discovery of Hansu’s true age and she didn’t want to scare this guy away. It is a good thing they made a date for that very afternoon.
Hansu proceeds to the Diner and finds a comfortable spot to wait for Bert’s arrival. She carefully surveys each man that crosses her path wondering if it could be him. Suddenly she hears an annoyingly familiar tune–‘Musicbox Simmer.’ She knows the ice cream truck cannot be far behind. Sure enough, the sunshine yellow vehicle decorated with a mural of the treats for sale lumbers into view and parks right in front of her. A man climbs out and Hansu is shocked to see he has the trademark Alto salt-and-pepper hair. She considers bolting but time is ticking away for her–if this guy is the guy she is going to hook up with, so be it. She doesn’t even hesitate but immediately walks towards him, her hand out and a seductive smile on her face.
They make formal introductions and a few stabs at small-talk but Hansu senses right away that Bert is painfully shy. She isn’t sure what to say to loosen him up.
Hansu notices Bert is wearing a very expensive Simex timepiece on his arm.
“My goodness, what a beautiful wristwatch! I’m surprised you can afford it, driving an ice cream truck,” Hansu says, her eyes twinkling. She means it in a light-hearted manner and she hopes interjecting humor into their first meeting will ease the way towards quick romance.
But Bert does not seem amused. In fact, he seems pretty shocked.
“I…I inherited it! What are you implying, that I’m some kind of bum?” He looks horrified. Hansu realizes she has stumbled onto shaky ground with her lame attempt to be cute and hurries to make up for it.
“Did you inherit the ice cream route as well?” She asks, trying to sound sincerely fascinated by his career choice. “I’ve always wanted to see the inside of the truck, could you show me?”
Bert eyes her with doubt but Hansu turns up the wattage of her smile. “Pretty please?” she says in a low tone that implies intimacy. He falls for it and leads her around the back.
Before long, they are rumbling off in the truck, the repetitive tune chiming away and Bert blathering on about his life-long dream to make people happy with frozen delights at affordable prices. They pull up in front of the Hidden Springs police department and within a few moments, uniformed officers and plainclothes detectives are lining up. Bert reaches under the seat and produces a box of glazed donuts. “I offer them special, just for our boys in blue,” he explains with pride in his voice.
Hansu nods and fakes enthusiasm, telling him how clever he is. She is thrilled to see Bert eat up her compliments, which she bestows at every opportunity. She asks in detail about every aspect of his job and the truck and his customers. Engaging a man in a conversation that virtually centers on himself will surely make the impression Hansu longs to make–that she simply cannot get enough of him even though they have just met.
Bert’s voice rings out strong and confident when he talks about ice cream but after awhile, they lapse into silence, the only sound the cloyingly sweet notes of the truck’s tune on an endless loop. Hansu is not sure how much more of ‘Musicbox Simmer’ she can take and makes a big show of pointing out they have climbed the hills to Hidden Falls. “I love it here, it is sooooo romantic,” her voice gushing with enticement. Bert pulls his vehicle into the parking lot of the viewing station. “I can’t leave it turned off for too long,” he apologizes. “But I’d love to take a quick peek.”
“Of what?” Hansu asks, her eyes locked onto his with a come-hither look. Bert blushes furiously and with a twitching grin, takes her hand and leads her to the deck. They look out over the verdant valley in silence and then Hansu grabs Bert into an embrace. She can sense immediately that he is turned-on by her aggressiveness. “When can I see you again?” she growls into his ear with desire. He giggles nervously and stammers something about tomorrow. “You’ll need to ditch the truck because I like to do the driving,” Hansu insists, her voice both forcible and provocative.
The next day, they meet again at the Diner, as early as Hansu can get herself together. It is getting harder and harder for her to pull herself away from what seems to be excruciatingly harsh lighting in her bathroom and a mirror that mocks her rapidly aging face. Just this morning, she could not help notice frown lines across her forehead and little etches in the skin around the corners of her mouth that were not there the day before.
So the minute she sees Bert, dressed in a chalk-striped suit with a loud pink shirt and garish coral tie, she virtually runs to grab his hands and tell him how devastatingly handsome he looks, how his taste in fashion has her swooning and his distinctive hair color makes him seem so distinguished. Her date is so overwhelmed by her barrage of flattery, all he can do is shrug and thank her.
Hansu suggests they take a tour of a history exhibit at City Hall and Bert agrees. “I just love old things, don’t you?” he asks and she cringes, hearing the word ‘old’ and her mind flashes to the soothing, sparkling waters of her secret fountain. How much longer can she wait to revisit it and rejuvenate herself? Not long. Once inside the venerable building, she pretends to be engrossed in the antique photographs that line the walls, showing scenes of the town as it was built up. The tiny former post office, an ancient gasoline station, broken-down shacks where mansions now stood.
Bert is especially intrigued by a picture of a snack shack with a long line of customers at Hidden Falls. “I wonder what happened to it?” he says aloud.
“I wonder what’s behind that door?” Hansu replies, pointing to what appears to be a storage closet.
“Maybe some kind of records or archives?”
She pulls Bert by the arm. “I bet someone who works here could answer your question.” She opens the door quickly, shoves Bert inside, crowds in behind him and pulls the door shut.
Inside, as Hansu suspected, is a jumble of things that are being stored or simply forgotten: stacks of unopened crates, an abandoned trophy case, dusty signs of businesses that no longer exist and holiday decorations. Fortuitously, she sees a tri-folded privacy screen; in spite of his feeble protesting, Hansu leads Bert behind it and embraces him with a hungry whine. He responds with a helpless moan and falls against her, nuzzling her neck. “We shouldn’t be back here,” he mutters, his voice thick with lust.
“What’s the matter, loverman? Afraid we’ll get caught?”
Those seem to be the magic words because in just a few short moments, Hansu accomplishes her ultimate goal. Over the sounds of Bert’s heavy panting she thinks she hears the faintest chimes and then her head is filled with a rush of swirling, magical liquid, calling her name, calling her back to take drink after drink of sweet cool water.