Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Month: August, 2012

inspiration #21 : Palm Springs.

Palm Springs has nothing to do with Paolo or Francesca.  it doesn’t inspire this novel at all.  but it is my favorite place in the USA (weird, I know, am I Betty Ford or what?).

Palm Springs inspires the very act of writing, because yes, I do this for the love of the game, absolutely.  I’ve been a writer since I was ten years old.  but I’m a capricorn and a pragmatist, and I’ve got some goals in life.  like that house in the photo above.  mid-century modern, gorgeous pool, nestled in the San Jacinto mountains.

have you spent a night in the San Jacinto mountains?  sitting outside by the fire, looking at the stars, listening to stories about Patti Smith and life on the road, drinking Tecate and tracing dreams in the sand?  he says he has a girlfriend, she sounds like a wife, she’s in Orange County and you’re there in Palm Springs, standing by the pool at the Ace Hotel.

Palm Springs inspires the act of writing because I want to sell these books and buy that house.  it’s as simple as that.

trying to drive.

“I’m sure I caught you at a moment of weakness,” she said, walking her fingers up his thigh.  “And I intend to do it again.”  She marched on towards the fly of his tuxedo pants.

“I’m trying to drive,” he said, reaching over her arm for the gearshift.

“Is that a problem?” she asked, tracing her fingers around the bulge in his trousers.

“It is when you’re wearing a coverall.”

“Jumpsuit,” she corrected.

“Jumpsuit.  Whatever.  I won’t be able to get you out of it in this car, so yes, it’s a problem.”  He didn’t try to stop her hand, though, as she continued playing with his stiffening cock through his pants.

“I don’t think that’s a problem,” she purred.  “We’re almost home.”

“What do you think your uncle would say about you now?” he teased.

“Leave my uncle out of this,” she said sharply, retracting her hand.

“Whoa, wait.  I’m sorry.  I wasn’t thinking–”

“That’s just wrong, Paolo.  He’s my uncle.  It’s not funny.  That’s like saying, ‘imagine your mother watching you jerk off.'”

“I didn’t mean it like that.  I’m sorry.”  He pulled into the courtyard of her building and turned to look her in the eyes.  “I’m sorry,” he said again, more quietly.  “That was rude and out of line and now I’ve ruined the amorous mood that you had going here in the car–” and he moved closer to her face– “and I’m going to have to sleep on the couch by myself and dream about you in the next room, all warm and lithe and perfect under those sheets–” and then he kissed her, carefully at first, then probing, and reaching with his hands for her breasts.

She kissed him back, and moved her hand back to where it had been, touching him through the fine wool of his Tom Ford tuxedo.  She unzipped him and reached in to free his cock, grasping it all around and beginning to jerk him off, first slowly, then working up to a faster rhythm.  He reached in between her legs and began rubbing.

“Damn your jumpsuit,” he said raggedly.

“We’re steaming up the windows,” she observed, maintaining her steady conquest of his shaft.  She felt him tighten.

“Wait–” he said, barely able to speak.  “I don’t want to make a mess–”

She leaned over and wrapped her lips around the head of his cock.  He came almost immediately in her mouth, and stroked her hair as he leaned back in the seat.

“Oh, Cesca.”  He was still breathing heavily.  “Damn.  Oh, fuck, that was good.”

She sat up and wrapped her fur around her shoulders again.  “Let’s go inside,” she said.

He zipped up and got out of the car, and they walked across the cobblestones to the front door.  “You don’t think anyone saw that, do you?” he asked.

She looked around the courtyard and back at the car.  “Listen.”  The building was silent.  “Everyone’s asleep.  And look at those windows,” she said, pointing to the Maserati.  “You couldn’t see in them if you tried, they’re so steamy.”

Paolo grinned.  “You’re wild, you know that, don’t you?”

“You make me wild,” she whispered in his ear, leaning on his shoulder.

Buon Natale.

“Now may I open my present?” he asked, grinning.

“I suppose so,” she said, sipping her champagne.

He untied the red satin ribbon, letting it drop to the floor, and slid his finger under the glossy black paper, opening the package methodically at the seams.  She had never seen anyone open a present so neatly.  Under the wrapping he revealed a black and pink box with the letters “A P” embossed in gold script.

“Are you sure this is intended for me?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m sure,” she said.

He lifted the lid of the box and unfolded the black tissue paper.  Inside he found a black French leavers lace demi-bra, waspie, and high-waisted panties, spangled with miniature crystals and tiny copper threads.  “I don’t think it’s my size…” he began.

“This piece,” Francesca said, taking the panties from him, “is called an ‘ouvert.'”

“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”

“I think you’ll catch on once you see it on.”

“I don’t mean to be rude,” he said, “but what are you waiting for?”

He handed her the box and its contents and she ran into her bedroom.  She heard him walk into the bathroom, whistling a little bit of The Barber of Seville, splashing water on his face and brushing his teeth.  She stood in front of her mirror and adjusted her Agent Provocateur ensemble.  The waspie, in particular, seemed somewhat pointless–a combination garter belt and corset, it was just something extra to put on and take off.  But, she supposed, that was the whole point.  The lace, for all its structure and adornment, was soft, without all the boning and underwires, the outfit would probably be relatively comfortable.  She smoothed her black stockings and stepped into a pair of vertiginously tall Dior black satin d’Orsay heels.  Merry Christmas, Paolo.

She walked out of the bedroom and down the hall towards the living room.  She could still hear him whistling Rossini in the bathroom as she picked up the red satin ribbon from the oriental rug and coiled it in her hand.  As she passed the bathroom again she knocked on the door.

“Come on,” she said.  “I’m waiting.”

He opened the door a fraction and stuck his head out.  “Sorry, just a minute,” he said, but she was already back behind the closed bedroom door.

Francesca set the ribbon on her bedside table and looked in the mirror again.  Pretty good.  The sheer black stockings emphasized the contours of her long legs, the waspie drew attention to her slim waist, and her breasts were creamy and full above the demi-cup of her bra.  Admittedly, she thought holiday knickers were a little ridiculous, and she couldn’t remember ever having worn lingerie embellished with crystals, but in the low candlelight of her bedroom it looked amazing.  And she hoped, at least, it would make up for the lack of decor in the rest of her apartment.

She heard Paolo’s footsteps outside the door.  “Ready or not,” he said, turning the knob.

He stopped short when he saw her.

“Wow,” he said quietly.  “Wow.”

She walked towards him, slowly and deliberately.  “Buon Natale, baby,” she whispered.

inspiration #20 : the original shower scene.

I’ve mentioned before that I wrote a short draft of an erotic novel about a fashion photographer and a football player (coincidentally also named Francesca and Paolo) when I was a teenager.  it was pretty awful.  but it had decent enough bones to pick up again after fifteen years and rewrite, so I do have to thank my tenth-grade self for that.  also, it’s nice to be reminded, occasionally, that I’ve learned a few things since then.

so this excerpt is the original shower scene.  the first chapter (or the first few chapters, as it may now turn out) follow pretty much the same narrative: Paolo and Francesca meet at the arena during a photoshoot / football practice scheduling mishap, they go out for a drink, go home together, sleep together, and take a steamy shower the next morning.  I’m ashamed to transcribe the original scene, because it is AWFUL, but it’s been a fascinating exercise to compare what I wrote then with what I’ve written now.  though it’s pained me to do so, I haven’t edited anything below.  welcome back to 1997.

She was so deep in thought that she took no notice of the bathroom door opening.  Redundo quietly opened the shower door, but still, Francesca did not see him as her back was to the door.  He ran his finger down her spine.  She turned around, surprised.  Saying nothing, he pressed up against her body as she leaned against the wall.  For the first time, their lips met as they hands urgently explored each others’ bodies.  Finally, he placed his hands on her shoulders and pushed her down until she was kneeling on the tile floor, the water splashing around her.  He reached for her hands, taking them and placing them on his balls as she lifted her head to gently tongue his cock.  He groaned with a combination of agony and ecstasy as she began to devour him with her entire mouth.  Knowing that he was going to come, and not wanting to yet, he placed his hands on her shoulders again and gently pushed her down onto the ceramic floor.  She laid there as he hovered above her, straddling her, and then slowly eased his cock into her.

Neither of them had even thought to turn off the faucet, so they made love under the warm rain of the shower, wet, steamy, and intense.  And there they laid afterwards, panting, their perspiration mixed with the water that had fallen around them.

some notes:

1. no, I obviously had never had sex.

2. it also makes you wonder if I’d ever taken a shower.

3. ah, the melodrama. “devour with her entire mouth”, “a combination of agony and ecstasy”.

4. there was a real soccer player named Redondo (a stone cold fox from Argentina, please see here and here) who inspired the original character’s name.  because I am terrified of slander and libel, I have changed it to Romaldo.

a conversation with a sea lion.

When she got back to her flat she collapsed on the sofa and returned Paolo’s calls.

“What happened to you?” he asked when he answered his phone.

“I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry.  It’s this thing with my brother, and his bank.  Something happened last night–I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it’s bad, and Ricci’s involved–and I felt like I had to come home to see him.”

“You didn’t even wake me up,” Paolo said finally.

“I know.  I didn’t know what to do.  I just felt like I had to come back to Milano.  If I had gotten you up, maybe I would have changed my mind.  But I think I did the right thing.  I got to spend some time with Leo, I took him to the aquarium–Giulietta just seemed a little bit off, I mean, obviously, but still, when I got there it was like she was on something.  So I took him out, and we had fun–he’s such a funny little kid.  Sometimes I think he’s like Ricci and sometimes he reminds me of myself.”  She paused.

Paolo waited to speak.  “I would have come with you.”

“What?”  She was surprised.  “No, you wouldn’t have.  It would have been too weird.”

“I would have.  I wish you had gotten me up before you left.”  He sounded hurt.

She sighed.  “Really.  You would have driven two hours with me, gone to my brother’s house, tried to have a conversation with my crazy sister-in-law, who probably would have asked you all sorts of ridiculous and strange questions because she’s like that anyway plus she’s on some sort of sedatives, then you would have taken my three-year-old nephew to the aquarium and had inane conversations about whether fish sleep or not, and then, to top it all off, go out for lunch at a Chinese restaurant with my brother who just lost a ton of money that wasn’t his to begin with and really seems to be at the absolute end of his rope.  You would have done that.  I don’t think so.”

“You didn’t even give me the chance.”  He was hurt, undoubtedly.  She couldn’t understand why.  It wasn’t like she had left him to go to Paris and party with Kanye West.

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “I really wasn’t thinking about anything other than getting home.”

“It’s ok, I know.”

“I had a conversation with a stuffed animal sea lion.”

“A what?”

“A sea lion,” she said.  “It’s a marine mammal.  Looks like a seal, but with whiskers.  Like a walrus, but no tusks.”

“How exactly did this happen?”

“I bought it for Leo at the gift shop.  And then one thing led to another, and there was a point when I asked the sea lion what his favorite Chinese food was.”

Paolo laughed, and for a moment, Francesca was relieved.

inspiration #19 : Blow-Up.



my favorite director, hands down, is Michelangelo Antonioni.  I think I’ve written before about his “alienation trilogy” (L’Avventura, La Notte, and L’Eclisse) starring the ridiculously gorgeous Monica Vitti (oh, wait–I haven’t written, but I’ve pinned).  anyway.  the films are a bit heavy, but also breathtakingly beautiful, which I think is why I like them.

in 1966 Antonioni made his first film in English, in swinging London, about a photographer (modeled after David Bailey, parodied by Austin Powers) living the dream–wild parties, naked or half-naked women wandering around his studio / flat, drugs, sweet cars.  the film is Blow-Up, critically-acclaimed and Antonioni’s first commercial success.

it’s an English film by an Italian director about a fashion photographer.  you can rent it streaming on Amazon.  enjoy!

vacation, part three : peeping.

Natalya went inside to bring another bottle of wine and Tomasi followed her.  When several minutes had passed and they hadn’t yet returned, Francesca turned to Paolo.

“I wonder if everything’s ok,” she whispered.

“I’m sure,” Paolo replied, “but you can poke your head in and check if you’d like.”  Curiosity overcame her and she did, opening the screen door about six inches and looking inside.  She almost called out Natalya’s name, but saw movement through in the kitchen.  There was Tomasi pressing Natalya against the refrigerator, his back to Francesca, his hands pushing up her sundress and feeling up her breasts.  Francesca stayed and stared, she wasn’t sure how long it had been when Paolo joined her.

“What’re you looking at?” he whispered, standing behind her.  She didn’t reply, and he saw what she was watching soon enough.  She was sure he could feel her pulse racing, and she knew for certain when he reached around to her, grabbing her tits from behind and pulling her into him.  He kissed her neck as he played with her breasts, and she rotated her hips against him, feeling his growing cock against the small of her back.  Tomasi was devouring Natalya, he had pulled the straps of her sundress off her shoulders and underneath she was braless; her small, perky tits, the ones they had all seen during their topless beach activities, Tomasi had attacked them, taking each one into his mouth in turn.  Natalya had her hand in his shorts and was stroking him slowly and evenly.  She opened her eyes and saw Paolo and Francesca standing in the doorway.  With her free hand, she gestured to them to come in.

what are Cheerios?

Giulietta appeared at the top of the stairs in a bathrobe.  “What are you doing here?” she asked Francesca.

“Bruno called me,” Francesca replied.  “He’s looking for Ricci.”

“But why are you here,” Giulietta reiterated.

“Giulietta, I’m sorry, I didn’t know what to do.  It sounded serious.  I thought maybe I could help–”

“You?  Help?”  Giulietta stayed at the top of the stairs; her pose reminded Francesca of an old Hollywood film, right before something awful happened.

Francesca scooped up Leo, who had been clinging to her leg.  “Maybe Leo and I can go out to the aquarium, give you a little time to yourself.”

“How’s Romaldo?” Giulietta asked.

Francesca looked confused.  “Fine,” she said.  “He’s fine.  So,” she continued, ignoring Giulietta’s non sequitur, “Leo and I are going to go to the aquarium, and we’ll come home in a couple of hours.  Do you think Ricci will be back then?”

“I don’t know when he’s coming back,” Giulietta said flatly.

“Ok,” Francesca said.  “Ok.  We’re going to go now, we’ll see you in a little bit.  Leo, say bye to mama,” she directed her nephew.

Giulietta turned and walked away from the stairs into the hallway, and Francesca heard her bedroom door close.  She turned to the maid.

“Can you help me get his clothes and car seat?  And anything else we might need?”

The maid nodded and walked upstairs.  Francesca set Leo down and wandered towards the kitchen.  “What do you think, should we have some breakfast?  I’m pretty hungry,” she told her nephew.

“Are we really going to the aquarium?”

“Of course we are.  Right after we have breakfast and you change into your clothes.”  She looked around the kitchen.  “What do you normally have for breakfast?” she asked him.

“Cheerios,” Leo said, climbing into his chair.

“What are Cheerios?” Francesca asked.

“Cheerios,” Leo replied.  “Cheerios are Cheerios.”

“You’re not helping at all,” she said under her breath.  The maid returned with some neatly-folded clothes.

“The car seat is in the foyer,” she said.  “I’ll put it in your car when you’re ready to leave.”

“Thank you,” Francesca said.  “Antonella, what are Cheerios?”

The maid opened a cabinet and pulled out a big yellow cereal box.  “From America.  Breakfast cereal.  You can tell you don’t have kids.”  For the first time since Francesca had arrived, Antonella cracked a smile.  She served a small bowl for Leo and poured some milk.  “Would you like some?” she asked Francesca.

Francesca looked at Leo spooning the little o’s into his mouth deliberately.  “Ok,” she answered.  Antonella served her a slightly larger bowl of Cheerios and she and Leo sat together and ate breakfast.

vacation, part two : a day at the beach.

They had a paddleball set and were volleying back and forth in the sand.  Natalya sat up and watched them for a moment, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand.

“Boys,” she said, shaking her head dismissively and reclining again.

Francesca watched for a while longer.  Both men were in perfect physical shape.  Tomasi was a little taller than Paolo, and he liked to pretend to serve Federer-style, stretching out to his full height and smashing the ball.  He was slightly slimmer than Paolo, too; where Paolo’s body was muscled Tomasi’s was leaner.  He had tattoos–it seemed they all did–but his were tribal armbands and a fierce-looking gladiator on his back right shoulder.  She found her eyes drawn down to his swim trunks, and she studied them, too, or rather, what she imagined was beneath them.  Natalya was no fool, she was liberated and open with her sexuality.  They probably had a fantastic sex life.  He was probably hung like a stallion.  She felt her cheeks flushing just as Paolo noticed her watching and waved at her.  She waved back, then turned over and returned to her book.

A little while later, Paolo and Tomasi walked back to them, dripping wet from the ocean.

“We’re going to take a walk and bring back some lunch,” Paolo said, toweling off cursorily.

Francesca nodded.

“Anything special you want?” he asked.

“Nope, whatever you choose is fine for me,” she said.  “Thanks, babe.”

“I want something low-carb and high-protein, with no sodium added,” Natalya said.  Tomasi spanked her ass with the paddleball paddle.  “Ouch!” she yelled.  “You know I’m kidding.”

“Of course I know,” Tomasi said.  “You’re a beast.  You eat everything.  I just wanted to smack you,” he grinned.

Francesca felt herself flushing again, the heat rising up from her chest to her face.  She was glad Paolo was wearing his dark aviator sunglasses so her eyes wouldn’t have to meet his.

inspiration #18 : palmistry.


I have a story about this, and it struck me the other day that it fits well (pending fictional interpretation) into this book.  As rational and capricornal as I believe myself to be, I put a fair amount of stock in the occult (I attribute this to my childhood love of Zilpha Keatley Snyder novels like The Egypt Game and my personal favorite, The Headless Cupid).

So imagine the scene: a balmy late-summer evening in Europe.  Copious amounts of good red wine.  A colleague mentions she knows how to read palms.  I give her my hand and by tea-light candle she tells me my future.  The most fascinating part is when she tells me I’m not going to marry for another ten years, so the next day I promptly run out and begin a series of affairs.  I walk away from the so-called “love of my life” because the time is a gift.  I’m ages away from needing to make so serious a decision.

I’m interested in what it is about the framing of something as a fortune, whether it’s through a palm reading, tarot cards, or some other form of divination, that causes people to see their lives differently.  What is it about hearing that I have ten years of freedom that causes me to take advantage of it?  In terms of advancing the plot, it’s quite powerful.

Heads up, reader.  There’s a palm-reading scene coming up.  And all of the attendant ambivalence, as well.