a restaurant in Venice, seeing an old friend.

by s.m.

“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.