Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Month: December, 2012

Standard High Line.

standard highline

[before this: wine bar.]

It would take longer for him to get downtown than for her to shoot across to The Standard, and she was grateful for the geography because it would give her a chance to pull herself together.  Back in the Liberty Suite, she tied her hair back and washed her face with cold water, in an attempt to sober up.  She brushed her teeth, then carefully reapplied her makeup, adding a red lip stain to cover the swollenness she feared Selim would be able to see on her lips.  She heard him open the door and rushed out of the bathroom to greet him.

“New lipstick?” he asked.

“I went shopping.  Do you like it?”  It wasn’t a lie.  It just wasn’t entirely accurate.  It came to her so easily, she thought.

He held her shoulders, looking at her face for a moment.  “Is that all that’s different?”

“I never wear red,” she mumbled.

“I like it,” he said, and his voice sounded wolfish to her, or his teeth looked sharper, something about him seemed more predatory.  Like he was circling her, a fawn in the woods.

He played with the dark green strap of her bra, running his finger under it, snapping it against her bare shoulder where her sweater had slipped off.  She smelled her own breath, minty freshness covering the whiskey and the wine and the sweet lingering marijuana taste of Justin’s kiss.  She didn’t know what would happen if she kissed Selim now.

[after this: rich girls.]

goldfish and picture books.


Upstairs, she watched as Leo changed into his Toy Story pajamas and brushed his teeth, standing on a stool so he could reach the sink.  He had a goldfish bowl on the vanity and he slowly and deliberately counted out six fish flakes and sprinkled them on the surface of the water.

“Do you remember when we went to the aquarium?” Francesca asked, gently mussing his hair.

“Yes,” Leo said pointedly.  “I got the fish from Daddy,” he continued.

“What’s his name?”

“Luke Skywalker.”

“You named your fish Luke Skywalker?” she asked, trying to suppress a laugh.

“Yes.  He’s my favorite Jedi.”

They walked back to Leo’s bedroom, decorated with posters of the solar system and framed pictures of him at different ages, with Ricci and Giulietta.  For a brief moment, Francesca wondered again if this is what her child would have been like–precocious and sweet, sensitive and blond and curious.  She picked up Leo and hugged him tightly.

“Ouch, Zia Francie,” he kicked against her.

“Okay, okay,” she said, releasing him onto a beanbag chair.  “What book do you want me to read?”  She should have brought him a new book, she thought.  She hadn’t had a chance to pick up anything special for him.

“This one,” he said, selecting a hardcover picture book.  Jumanji.  It had been one of her favorites.

“‘Now remember,’ Mother said, ‘your father and I are bringing some guests by after the opera…'” She began reading, nestled into the beanbag chair next to him.  She finished reading the book even though he had already fallen asleep, then she picked him up and tucked him gently into bed, kissing his forehead before she left.

sailing vacation.

[before this: rich girls.]

The next morning, the crew served coffee and pastries on the deck as they got underway, waving goodbye to the Amalfi coast.  They were set to cruise leisurely down to the Aeolian Islands, off the coast of Sicily.  Giulietta appeared wearing a snakeskin-print cover-up, elaborate Jimmy Choo sandals, and enormous Gucci sunglasses.  She already looked tanned, like she had prepared for this trip.  Francesca, in contrast, was wearing as promised one of Selim’s button-down shirts, a colorful, printed Etro scarf in her hair, Celine sunglasses, and bare feet.  She had a flat white pedicure on her toes and felt quite chic, even next to her overdressed sister-in-law.  Selim was slow to emerge from below decks; Ricci was standing at the wheel, coffee in his left hand, chatting with the ship’s captain.  He wore a t-shirt and swim trunks, both of which had probably been carefully selected by his wife, and with the breeze blowing through his light brown hair Francesca thought he looked more relaxed than she’d seen in months.

Giulietta shook a small pink packet of sweetener into her coffee and declined pastries.  Francesca chose a large croissant and went to work peeling the flaky, golden layers apart before drizzling them with honey and eating them.  She had a big, foamy cappuccino by her side.

“How do you stay so skinny eating like that?” Giulietta asked her.

“I’m not that skinny,” Francesca replied.  She lifted the tails of her shirt and grabbed at a barely-existent chunk of her left thigh.

“I think you’re perfect.”  Both women tilted their heads up to see Selim standing above them, paying Francesca a compliment.

“Thanks,” she said, offering him some honeyed croissant.  He took it, holding onto her hand and licking the honey off her fingers.  Giulietta turned away nervously.  Francesca raised an eyebrow.  “Hey,” she said quietly.

He walked up to stand at the bow of the sailboat, like a figurehead, the wind blowing back his dark hair and rippling his shirt and shorts.  It was going to be okay, she thought, laying back on the smooth teak deck.  She unbuttoned her shirt and balled it up under the back of her head.  Unlike in the scenario she had described to Selim on the phone, she was wearing both parts of her bikini.

Christmas morning.


When she woke it was Christmas morning and her bed was empty.  Or rather, Paolo was gone and she was alone.  She heard Christmas carols, the Vienna Boys’ Choir or something like that, traditional carols in Latin.  Wafting down the hall she could smell something incredible–spicy, vanilla, maybe, a warm, holiday scent.  Buttery.  And then coffee, richer and darker.  She opened her wardrobe and selected her most festive robe–a red and black embroidered kimono Alessandro had brought her from Hong Kong after he first moved there.  She still had light red marks on her skin where the boning had dug into her.  The silk robe felt divine–soft and smooth and cool on her skin.

She padded down the hallway barefoot, following the promise of breakfast.  Paolo was standing in her kitchen, wearing his D&G shorts and his wool sweater over his bare chest, barefoot.  He was concentrating on a small pitcher of frothed milk and a white cup and saucer.

“What are you doing?” Francesca asked, walking up to him.

“I’m trying to make a damn heart in this foam,” he said quietly, as if speaking any louder would disturb his art.  “I’ve already had to drink two of them because I messed up.”  He gestured towards the dirty cups in the sink.

“You’re adorable,” she said.  “Especially in those,” she added, slapping his ass playfully.

“Hey!  I almost had that one!”  She had upset his cappuccino efforts.

“I’ll drink it anyway,” she said.  “What else smells so good?”

“I toasted some panettone,” he said, abandoning the idea of designer foam and dumping the remaining frothed milk into his cup.

“Where did you find panettone?”

“I brought it from Torino.”

“When?  Last night?”

“Yeah, I had a big bag that I brought in when we came home.  I guess you didn’t notice because you were too busy devising your evil plan to make me your sex slave.”

“But look, now you’re a free man.”  She kissed him.  “Buon Natale.”

Merry Christmas, everyone.  For more of the holiday with Paolo & Francesca, visit this compilation of Christmas excerpts.

holiday flashbacks.

we celebrated Christmas with Paolo and Francesca earlier this year, and it looked like this…

agent provocateurSanta Claus Is Coming

red satin ribbon

Buon Natale

cartier box

Open It

rich girls.

[before this: wine bar]

The DJ was spinning a song she loved, The Virgins’ “Rich Girls”, a song that had been popular on the runways a couple seasons ago.  She wrapped her arms around Selim’s neck, still holding the champagne, pulsing her hips against him.  Instinctively, she fingered the diamond on her left earlobe, checking to make sure it was still there.  She moved closer to Selim, kissing him as she danced up against him, the crush of people surrounding them pressing them into each other.  His chest rose against hers, she felt his lips on her shoulder, on her neck, his tongue circling the diamond on her earlobe.  She breathed heavily, wantonly, twining her legs in his so she could grind with him.  The music had shifted to techno, throbbing beats mimicking their bodies’ motion, Calvin Harris singing about feeling so close and she still wanted to be even closer to Selim.  Strobe lights circled around them, the lights of the city flickering outside, the heady combination of the Cristal and the joint they shared before they went up and the fog machine and the pulsating music made her head spin, and she had never felt so alive in her life.

NB: there are better dance remixes of this song, but this video is CLUTCH.

in Moscow.

In the morning she showered haphazardly.  She washed her hair and shaved her legs distractedly, when she tried to watch, around her ankles and knees, she noticed her hand was shaking.  It seemed to take an extraordinarily long time to rinse the conditioner out of her hair.  She took her time drying it because she felt like it was important for her hair to look nice, so the doctor would take her seriously.  She wore a lot of moisturizer but little makeup, a grey striped cashmere crewneck and her fat jeans.

Selim had waited for her and rode with her in the Mercedes to the doctor’s office.  He checked her in at the sleek, modern reception desk with the doll-like receptionist, wide-eyed and perfectly coiffed, pouty pink lips that repeated her name after him.  Then he sat with her in the leather armchairs, flipping through magazines, listening to soft American music, until a uniformed nurse opened a door and called her name again, butchering the syllables abruptly.

He squeezed her hand and kissed her forehead, then walked with her and handed her off to the nurse.

“The driver will be waiting for you,” he said.  “Good luck.  I love you.”

The nurse had taken her arm–firmly, leaving no room for prevarication–and was leading her down the hallway.  Francesca looked down at her shoes, watching them keep walking along the tiled floor.  She wore velvet smoking slippers, they were black with gold embroidered skulls and she was appalled at herself for having worn them.  She looked like a babykiller.

wine bar.

She stopped in a cafe on Avenue B, near Tompkins Square Park, and though it was still early in the afternoon, had a glass of wine.  There were a few other patrons in the bar, on iPads or laptops, while the bartender cleaned glasses for the evening and fussed with the music.  Bruno, she thought.  Now it was the wine reddening her face.  That had to be it.  The wine.  She had seen Bruno just that one time on Capri, and once in Milan after that, at dinner, with her brother and his wife.  She wasn’t attracted to him.  That wasn’t to say he wasn’t attractive, she thought, remembering his well-cut Zegna suit and the tortoiseshell glasses that made him look a little like Clark Kent.  An Italian Clark Kent.  At the time she had just gotten together with Paolo, and even an Italian Clark Kent couldn’t hold a candle to a football superstar.  She finished her glass of wine.  The bartender came over and poured her another.

“I didn’t ask–” she began.

“It’s on me,” he said.  “Enjoy.”  She held his gaze for a moment, unblinkingly staring into his icy blue eyes.

“Thanks,” she said, replying the way Americans spoke, so casually.  She looked down to the bar, letting her hair fall halfway over her face.

“What do you do?” The bartender asked.

She picked up her Leica point-and-shoot from the seat next to her and waved it at him.  “Photographer,” she answered.

“Here in the city?”

“No, I’m from Italy.”

“You don’t sound like you’re from Italy.”  The bartender looked puzzled.

“I lived here for a year after school.”

“Would I have seen your work anywhere?” he asked.

“Maybe?  I shoot fashion, mostly in Europe, occasionally here.”

“Oh, cool.  Is that why you’re in New York?”

“Just vacation this time.  My boyfriend came over for work.”

“And left you alone?”  The bartender leaned in.  He had cropped black hair, a beard and mustache, shirtsleeves rolled up to the elbows to reveal muscly forearms covered with tattoos–she noticed angels and skulls, script lettering spelling poetry or song lyrics, one that reminded her of the shape of an indeterminate midwestern state.

“So it seems,” she murmured.  He stayed leaning on the bar, she swirled her wine in the glass but didn’t drink.

a day in the park.

Something had changed with Selim since Venice, since Moscow.  The difference was barely perceptible at first but she came to recognize it by the frequency of his phone calls, the candor of his text messages, his seeming willingness to be more open with her.  To be more open about her.  Where he had once called her in whispered tones, in stolen moments, he now spoke freely.  She asked about it one day, when he called and she could hear his daughter in the background.

“Where are you?”

“I’m with Eva at the park,” he said.  “It’s my afternoon with her.  She’s got it in her head to fly kites.”

Francesca imagined him unfurling the six-year-old’s kite, butterfly-shaped, she pictured, probably pink and purple, showing the little girl how to run with it and then release it into the air.  The way her father had taught her, in the rolling space of Parco Sempione.  She felt a pang–of what?  Nostalgia?  Regret?  It was hard to place.

“I miss you,” she told Selim.

“I miss you, too.  I think we should go away together.  I’ve got to go to New York for some meetings in several weeks.  Can you come?”

“I’d love to,” she said.  “I love New York.”

“I was hoping we could go together.  I want you to show me all your old haunts.”

She laughed.  “My haunts are from almost eight years ago.  I’m sure it’s all changed.”

She heard him calling to his daughter in the background, “Eva, no, wait–” and then he came back to her.  “Darling, I have to go.  I have to chase her down.  I’ll call you later.”

This time, when he said he’d call her later, she knew he would do it.  He had promised to protect her and he was following through.  And she remembered that night they’d met, when he told her he was the marrying type, that against all odds, Selim was the kind of man who took commitment seriously.

This time she wouldn’t be scared.

inspiration #27 : Dani Osvaldo

I’ve been doing revisions on the first book so I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Italian soccer players and their requisite hotness.  I present to you Exhibit A, a model for Paolo Romaldo, Mr. Pablo Daniel (“Dani”) Osvaldo, of AS Roma.

feast your eyes…

osvaldo 2



I am a sucker for 1) glasses 2) a Rolex Daytona 3) a man in a suit 4) long hair.  good Lord!