Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Month: November, 2012

midnight in Venice.

They walked out into the Venetian night, the cold sharper than it had been before, but dulled by the two bottles of Amarone they’d finished.  The cobbled streets of Cannareggio were hung with tiny lights, a twinkling string of stars leading from bridge to bridge.  As they walked past shutters they heard the sounds of living behind them; television broadcasts and washing up and scolding children.

“How are we getting back?” Selim asked her.  She had forgotten how far they’d walked, how far they were from the hotel on the Giudecca.

“It’s not so far to walk to San Marco,” she said, pulling out her map and studying.  “Provided we don’t get lost.  But I think that’s actually faster than taking a taxi, see?”  She traced the route on the map: a nearly straight line walking through the city, the curvy, backwards S of the Grand Canal.

“So we walk,” he said.  “It’s rather Eyes Wide Shut.”  The streets were quiet, nearly deserted in the untouristed Ghetto Vecchio.  “You’re not too cold?” he asked tenderly, holding her leather-gloved hand in his.

“I’m fine,” she replied.  “And you’re right, it’s like some sort of film.  Something dark and mysterious.  Venice is one of those places that isn’t quite real.”

“Isn’t it.”  They paused in an empty piazza, a little campo, really, with trees and benches, a statue of the Virgin Mary standing silent sentinel.  “I don’t want to wait until we get back to the hotel,” he said.  His voice was dark and dangerous, steeped in desire.

She looked around nervously.

“There’s no one here,” he said.

“We’re outside,” she protested weakly.

“I’m sure that’s never stopped you before.”  In the silence of the piazza she felt his words echo off the walls of the surrounding buildings, buffeting her.  She looked around again.

“There,” she said sharply, pointing at a low, narrow sotoportego.  They walked into the shadows, and she braced herself against the rough-hewn walls.  He wrapped his coat around them both, enveloping her and drawing her close, and he kissed her hard.

a restaurant in Venice, seeing an old friend.

“And you?” Sara asked.  “No babies, no weddings?”

Francesca shook her head.  In Italian she said, “You must not read the tabloids.  A wedding is the furthest thing in my life.”  Then in English: “I’m married to my work, for now.”

Selim kissed the top of her head.  “For now,” he echoed, smiling.

If Sara felt awkward she hid it well, and stood.  “I will bring you some food, yes?  Tonight we have a simple menu, a soup with zucca–pumpkin–a risotto with shrimps, and a roast pork.  It’s ok?”

“It’s perfect,” Francesca replied, squeezing Selim’s hand under the table.  “Can you sit and eat with us?”

“If we’re not busy, yes,” Sara said.  “I can join you.”  She turned and went back to the kitchen.  When she had passed through the swinging doors, Selim turned and whispered to Francesca.

“What did you say to her in Italian?”

“I said I’ve changed a lot since school,” Francesca lied.  “When we were younger, we all had a different idea of how our lives were going to turn out.”

He poured them more wine and clinked his tumbler against hers.  “I know the feeling,” he said, “but I can’t say I’m disappointed.”

“I can’t imagine you expected to leave a trail of women in your wake,” she replied.

“I never expected a woman like you,” he murmured, kissing her hair again.  The waitress returned with two bowls of a deep orange soup, topped with an apostrophe of rich green oil and a dollop of mascarpone; Sara followed with a basket of bread and a third bowl of soup.

“I can sit with you now, to start,” she said.  “Soup is pumpkin with an oil of salvia–sage,” she translated herself.  It was hot, slightly sweet, at once buttery and fresh and creamy; Francesca loved it.

sick on Sunday.

The next day, as far as she could tell, was Sunday.  They woke late and ate breakfast in bed, dawdling over spongey cakes and bright fruit.  Francesca had been dying for crispy bacon and was surprised, when she ordered it, that Selim ate most of it.

“I didn’t think you ate pork,” she commented.

He reached for the pack of Marlboro reds on the bedside table and waved it at her.  “I don’t smoke, either,” he replied, pulling a cigarette from the pack and placing it between his lips.  He grabbed his bathrobe as a gesture at decorum and stepped out on the balcony to smoke.

She watched him through the tall windows, silhouetted against the sheer curtains.  He offered her the world last night.  He promised to satisfy her–more than satisfy her.  Her life before Wednesday seemed a fading dream; vague snippets of sports broadcasts and cheering fans, the scent of muscle rub and Acqua di Parma and Amstel Light, the low growl of a Maserati.  When she got off the plane in Milan, she would be returning to something entirely different than what she’d left.

Watching Selim, she wasn’t afraid.  She almost felt prepared.  The scent of his cigarette smoke wafted into the bedroom on a cold draft and nauseated her; she ran naked into the bathroom and vomited bacon and fruit and cake.  Before she realized it, Selim was behind her, holding her hair, with a towel at the ready.

“Maybe it was the bacon,” he said wryly.

He helped her to her feet and held her elbow as she stood shakily.  “I’m not sure what happened,” she said.

“You just need to rest,” he answered, guiding her back to the bed.  “I must have tired you out last night.”

She batted him weakly.  “If that’s what you want to believe,” she replied.

inspiration #26 : another Lana.

“Million Dollar Man” by Lana del Rey.

I don’t particularly like watching Lana live; it’s a bit awkward.  she hasn’t quite mastered her stage presence, and honestly, the videos she produces are so creative I’d much rather watch them.  but since I’m apparently the only one who likes this song, the only video is this live one.  anyway.

as I mentioned earlier (here and here), I’ve already begun working on the second Francesca book.  if you’ve read any of the brief excerpts, you’ve likely realized that Selim (the man who causes Francesca to stray from Paolo) figures prominently in the second book.  Selim is Francesca’s Million Dollar Man.  like Lana says, he’s “dangerous, tainted, and flawed.”  one of the things I’m trying to explore in this book is why I, or Francesca, or any other woman would be so attracted–more attracted, really–to someone so obviously bad.  in my notes on Selim, I wrote “THE WORST BOYFRIEND EVER, WHICH IS WHY YOU LOVE HIM THE MOST.”  sigh.

it isn’t that hard, boy, to like you, or love you.

I’d follow you down, down, down,

you’re unbelievable.

if you’re going crazy, just grab me and take me.

I’d follow you down, down, down,

anywhere, anywhere.

one for the money, two for the show,

I love you honey

I’m ready, I’m ready to go.

how do you get that way?  I don’t know

you’re screwed up and brilliant

look like a million dollar man

so why is my heart broke?


Fenerbahce match.

[it occurred to me that there was zero context for the beginning of the second book]

Paolo had gotten off to only a fair start–a couple of crosses into the Fenerbahce box, but only one that looked dangerous, that Chicetti was almost able to turn into a goal, had it not been for a swift punch from the Turkish keeper.  Her attention was so focused on the screen that she hardly realized anything going on around her, and almost screamed when someone tapped her on the shoulder.

“I’m sorry, I startled you,” the man said as she whipped around to look at him.  It was the Turk.

“Selim!”  The impossible was happening.  Her jaw dropped as she stared at him bug-eyed, disbelieving.   “I’m sorry,” she stammered, “I was just trying so hard to follow. How did you–” she began asking confusedly.

“I saw you from my box,” he said, pointing to one of the luxury boxes several rows above her.  He had sat down behind her and was leaning forward, close to her face, so close she could feel his breath on her ear.  “I keep a suite here to entertain clients.  But I’m more curious about what you’re doing here.”

“My boyfriend is playing for Juventus,” she replied.

“Which one is he,” the Turk asked, smiling.

“Number four, Romaldo.”

“Ah, Romaldo!” The Turk exclaimed.  “He’s fantastic.  Now I know why he’s playing so well this year,” he said, nudging her.


wake-up call (another bit of the new book)

The phone woke her several hours later.  It was Selim, again.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hi,” she drawled sleepily.

“Did I wake you?”

“Mmm, I was just having a nap,” she replied.

“What are you wearing?” he asked, and she could tell he was whispering into the phone.

“Nothing,” she whispered back.  She heard his breath catch.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m thinking of you.”  She knew how to play this game.  “And how you left me alone all day.”

“I’ll be there soon.  That’s what I was calling to tell you.  Stay exactly where you are.  I’m leaving now.”

She glanced at the clock.  Nearly six o’clock.  He’d be early.  She wanted to get dressed in her new clothes, she really did, but she was happy in bed.  And if he wanted her to stay there, all the better.

weekend excitement.

great news…the first book of the Francesca trilogy is done!

here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the second book…


Francesca rummaged for her room key as they rode the elevator.

“Pack your bag,” he said as they walked into her room.

“Where are we going?”

He was dialing the room phone and speaking in Turkish; he held up a finger to her to wait.

When he hung up the phone he turned to her.  “Upstairs,” he answered.  “I booked you another room.  It’s a suite, with a private entrance.  You can stay there as long as you need to, wait it out for a few days.  You’ll have more privacy, you won’t be bothered.”

“Will you stay with me?”  Her question hung in the air for several seconds until he answered her.

“I’ll come by when I can.  But I’ll see to it you’re cared for.  They’ll treat you well here.”

There was a knock on the door and a bellman appeared, come for her luggage.  She gestured to the single bag and he took it and led them from the room.  The bellman spoke to Selim in Turkish and Selim translated for her.

“He says he hopes you’ll be very comfortable.”

Francesca took a deep breath, trying to stifle the nausea she felt in the elevator.  “I’m sure I’ll be fine,” she replied.  Selim stroked her hair and held her close to him.