Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: Cristal

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.

an evening cruise on the Bosporus.

When she returned to her hotel room that afternoon, all signs of the Turk were gone; the room was as immaculate as when she’d checked in.  But when she opened her suitcase to change into a t-shirt, she found a note on top of her carefully-folded clothes.

Francesca, It was a pleasure.  Will you join me for dinner tonight?  Together we can enjoy Istanbul.  I’ll send a car for you at 8pm.  Selim

Francesca collapsed onto the giant bed and kicked off her heels.  Tonight?  She had planned to order room service with Timo and watch Real Housewives on the satellite TV, but with any luck, Timo would be passed out already, after the night he’d had.  She looked at her watch.  Four o’clock.  She had time either to buy a new dress or take a nap.  Both seemed equally essential if she was going to survive another evening in Istanbul.  She mentally flipped through the outfits she’d brought with her: jeans and tops for working, the L’Wren Scott dress she’d worn last night, a Givenchy blouse and the Prada pleated skirt.  Of all options, the Givenchy-Prada combination was the only possibility, but it seemed too prim for this city.  She reflected on the women at the dinner last night.  These people dressed for the evening.

She lifted the phone next to the bed and pressed zero.

“At your service, Ms Ghiberti,” the concierge answered.

“Ciao, I mean, good afternoon.  Is there an Yves Saint Laurent boutique in town?”

“Of course, Ms Ghiberti.  May I connect you?”

“Please, will you.”  There was a pause on the line.

“YSL Nisantasi,” a sales associate answered.

“Hello, do you speak English?” Francesca asked.

“Yes, of course,” the associate replied.

“Good, thank you.  I need a dress.  Do you have the black knit that was the runway look?  Size 38, please.”

“I have to check.  One moment, please.”  She heard the sound of footsteps, and the faint pulsing of the music that YSL played in all their boutiques.  It struck her as funny that even in someplace as foreign as Istanbul, Yves Saint Laurent was always the same.  “I’m sorry,” the associate said, “we don’t have the black.”

“Do you have anything comparable?” Francesca asked, slightly despairingly.

“How do you feel about red?” the associate asked.

Francesca laughed to herself.  “The same dress?  That will be fine.”  She gave her credit card over the phone, along with instructions for the store to deliver the dress to the hotel concierge no later than six-thirty.  Satisfied, she burrowed into the pillows and fell asleep.

At six-thirty the phone rang.

“Ms Ghiberti, your package is here.  Would you like us to deliver it to your room now?”

Francesca glanced at her watch.  She wanted to sleep more but should probably start getting ready.  “Please,” she answered.

“Very well,” the concierge replied.  “I’ll be up in a moment.”

The dress was exactly as Francesca had expected, but red.  She hung it on the back of the bathroom door to steam and drew a bath in the huge tub.

At 8:05 she walked into the hotel lobby, and a doorman rushed to greet her.

“Your car, Ms Ghiberti,” he said, escorting her outside.  He opened the door to the same (or was it a different one?  how could one ever tell?) black S-500 from the night before.  Selim was already sitting in the back.  He looked her up and down approvingly.

“You are stunning in red,” he said, kissing her deeply.

At least her dress had had the desired effect.  “Thank you,” she answered.

“I have a surprise for you,” he said, clasping her hands in his.

“I can’t imagine,” she murmured.

The driver took them to a yacht club on the Bosporus, and the Turk led her down the dock to a gorgeous vintage Chris-Craft, all lacquered teak and polished brass trim.

“Selim!” she exclaimed.

“The best way to see Istanbul is from the Bosporus,” he said, leading her to the gangway.  A captain stood aboard, helping them on.  She noticed champagne chilling in a bucket in the cabin.  When they were underway, Selim went inside and returned with two flutes and the bottle; he passed her the glasses and popped the cork over the side of the boat, in a display she found both ostentatious and endearing.

“How often do you get to enjoy this?” she asked him.

“The boat?” he replied.  “Honestly, almost never.  My wife is afraid, with the children, and I hardly have any free time I’m not spending with them.  It’s a shame,” he said wistfully.

“It’s perfect for tonight,” she said, raising her glass to him.

“To us,” he said, “and no one else.”

“To us,” she toasted.

As they cruised the Bosporus he pointed out the city’s landmarks–Topkapi, Hagia Sophia, all the mansions and the skyscrapers visible from the water.  As she had been the night before, Francesca was transfixed by the lights of the city.

“It’s magical, isn’t it?” Selim remarked.

She turned to him and embraced him.  “It’s incredible,” she said.

The captain docked the Chris-Craft at a small, private quay in a different part of the city than where they’d been before.  The Turk helped Francesca off the boat and along the quay to an alleyway, only wide enough for two people to walk abreast.  They were in the old part of the city, a maze of tiny paths amidst crumbling buildings, the beautiful decrepitude for which Istanbul is known.  They walked in silence, Francesca looking around with wide eyes, wishing she had her camera.  After a few minutes walking he led her through a heavy carved wood door and they were inside a courtyard.  Francesca caught her breath–it was all stained glass and hanging gardens and candlelight, an intimate, kaleidoscopic version of the city.  And it smelled divine.

“Dinner,” Selim said with a smile.

later, with the Turk.

He had a car waiting for them to leave the party, a big black Mercedes S-class, and a driver who took them to a bar in Nisantasi.  He pulled around the back, purposely avoiding the crowds at the front of the club, the photographers, the step-and-repeats, the men in tight shirts and girls in tiny dresses.  A hostess showed them to a table at the back, red and candle-lit.  Selim said something to her in Turkish and she walked away.

“Why do you advertise in this kind of magazine?”  A waiter came over to their table with a bucket and a bottle of champagne; Francesca recognized the label, and the waiter popped the cork as discreetly as he could, pouring two glasses of Cristal.

“What do you mean?” Selim asked, after they had raised their glasses..

“Look at you,” she said.  “You’re drinking, you’re smoking, you’re with strange women.  You’re obviously not an observant Muslim.”

He grinned, lightly stroking her forearm with his fingers.  “How I was raised, Islam is just something you are.  This is how I’ve always lived.  Turkey has always been secular.”

“So why do you support this kind of publication?”

“These readers are aspirational.  Maybe some middle-class women will choose to wear the headscarf but that’s as far as it will go–my wife wouldn’t, none of her friends would.  It’s a movement of the lower classes, as tactless as that sounds to say.  But when they want to buy a Tiffany open heart necklace, I want them to come to my stores.  It isn’t a political statement, it’s just commercial.”

“And that’s it?” she pressed.

“Why are you here, if you’re so troubled by it?” he countered.

“Same as you, purely commerce.”

“I’ll try to give you more reasons to enjoy Istanbul,” he smiled, and wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her close to kiss her.

Francesca knew she had been flirting with this man all night, she had left the party with him and accepted his expensive, ostentatious champagne and sat beside him in the dark, smoky bar, letting him touch her and hold her and speak to her softly, but she hadn’t thought about what happens next.  She had been with Paolo for so long that she had forgotten what it was like.  With Paolo, everything just happened.  This man, the Turk, was playing it out.  The wife, the ex-wife, the two children, everything that comprised his life that he was able to ignore or neglect or disavow tonight.  She drank the crisp, dry champagne, fingering the long, elegant stem of her glass and watching him watch her.

“I was walking in Venice one day,” he began, speaking low and deliberately.  “I was alone, just wandering, it was January and cold.  That damp cold of Venice, the cold from the water and the stone.  I went into a palazzo to get warm, someplace along the Grand Canal, and I came face to face with that sculpture, you know–” he posed like Rodin’s Thinker, his elbow on his knee and his chin on his hand.

“The Thinker,” Francesca said, “I know where that is.  Ca’Pesaro.  I did the same thing, once.  We were on a school trip and I thought I was going to be an artist, you know, everyone fancies themselves an artist in Venice, so I would wander off with my camera and take photos of pigeons or doorways or views down a narrow canal.  And then I stumbled into Ca’Pesaro and saw the Rodin and I spent the entire afternoon there.  I love Venice,” she said wistfully.

“It was the same for me.  I love Venice.  I go there twice a year, at least.”

“Venice?  Why?  I live only several hours away but I haven’t been there in five years.”

He fingered the gold pendant hanging from her neck.  “Can you guess?”

She closed her eyes and laughed at herself.  “Of course.  You must go to Vicenza for the jewelry shows.”

“I’m like you, I think.  My work brings me to the best places in the world.  Several times each year to Italy, several times to New York, to Paris, to Geneva.  I love the travel.”

They were having a conversation.  Sitting in a bar, flirting, sure, but having a conversation about their lives.  Like adults do.  She would sleep with the Turk, Selim, Francesca knew that, she could tell by the way her heart raced each time he touched her arm.  She would let him make love to her all night long and she wouldn’t care if she ever saw him again, but this moment, to him she was the most fascinating creature on earth.

“I think we are getting divorced,” he said, quietly.

“I’m sorry to hear,” she replied.

“Why do you say that?”

“I’m sorry to hear when anyone gets divorced.  It’s sad for a dream to end like that.”

“Have you ever been married?” he asked her.

She shook her head.  “I can’t imagine it,” she said.

“Why do you say that?  You must have a boyfriend.  You don’t ever think of marrying him?”

He had caught her off guard.  “I don’t think he’s the marrying type.  I don’t think I’m the marrying type.”

The Turk laughed.  “My problem is that I am the marrying type.”

“You won’t have to worry about that with me,” Francesca replied, twirling a strand of hair in her fingers.