Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: infidelity

inspiration #29 : two songs for a Monday

video is bizarre, so just listen to the song.  Zero 7: “Distractions”


again, awful video (what, Zach Braff?  remember him?) but I love this song.  Rilo Kiley: “Does He Love You?”

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.]

Manchester City.

On the way back to the Velvet, she debated what to do next.  She could wait for Paolo up in the room, or she could have a drink in the bar.  Though she would love to wrap herself in a bathrobe and sit in front of the fire, she felt like it would be a waste to come all the way to England, dressed as nicely as she was, and not at least give Paolo the chance to see her.  She settled on the bar.

Babe, I’m waiting for you in the bar.  She sent him a text.

Be there soon.  The entirety of his reply.  It was hard to tell over text, but he didn’t seem to be in the best of moods.  She ordered a Fernet and Coke, and the bartender looked at her like she was an alien.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“Milano,” she replied.  “You do have Fernet-Branca, don’t you?”

He turned to the wall of bottles behind him.  “Sure you don’t want a cosmo?” he asked hopefully, squinting at the shelves.

“She’s looking for Fernet, mate,” a voice said from behind her.  A man in a tweed blazer, printed button-down shirt and jeans.  “Second shelf, third bottle from the left,” he directed the bartender.

Francesca turned to the man.  “Thank you,” she said.

“Probably his first night,” the man replied, slightly under his breath.  “Poor bloke.”

The bartender set Francesca’s drink on the marble bar in front of her.

“Add it to mine,” the tweed blazer man said.

“No, it’s fine,” Francesca protested.  “I’m meeting someone.”

The tweed blazer man looked around.  “Not yet you aren’t,” he replied.  He extended his hand.  “Gavin,” he said.  “Call me Gav.”


“Waiting for your boyfriend?”  She nodded.  “Rude of him to keep you waiting,” Gavin said.

“He’s on his way,” she answered.

Gavin leaned in.  He wasn’t unattractive, she thought, he was sort of handsome in that English way, kind of a mix of Jude Law and Jamie Oliver.  “You sure of that?” he asked her.

She considered telling him, if she actually thought it would turn him off enough to leave.  But he was the type to see a fancy football-playing boyfriend, absent as he was, as a challenge.  He wouldn’t leave her alone.  It would just cause more trouble.

She swirled her drink, clinking the ice cubes against the sides of the tall glass.  “I’m certain,” she replied.

inspiration #25 : Alexander House Hotel.

I’ve written before (and before, and before) about how I started this book when I was in high school.  Part of the writing of it happened during my first trip to Europe, when my family traveled to Greece.  I was obviously enthralled by this beautiful new way of living–cheese for breakfast! miniature cars! bidets!–and the beautiful people who lived it.  Everyone I met seemed to bathe topless and smoke cigarettes all day long.  (I grew up in Connecticut.  Those things are simply not done.)

In Crete, we stayed at a great hotel on the beach, the Alexander House.  The owner (Mr Alexander) kept the suite next to ours, and wandered across the veranda one night to have a drink with the American guests.  I remember, as plain as day, this handsome, older Greek man sitting on a chaise and telling us how things are done in Europe.

“You have your wife, and your family, but you also have your mistress.  Everyone does,” he said, to our astonishment.

That easy, casual rationalization has stayed with me.  At the time, it defined what it meant to be European, for me.

lunch with Cristina at Obika.



image via Passport Delicious

[before this: an evening cruise on the Bosporus; lady in red]

“Oh!  So this is the best part.  Well, sort of.  It’s also the worst part.  So he’s some sort of tabloid celebrity in Turkey.”

Cristina raised an eyebrow.  “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Like, the paparazzi follow him around.  He comes from a wealthy family and that’s like society over there, they take it all very seriously, so every time he gets married or divorced–”

“EVERY TIME HE GETS MARRIED OR DIVORCED?”  Cristina almost spit her Valpolicella across the table.

“That’s the other part.  He’s been married or divorced a couple of times.”

“Which one is he currently?” Cristina asked.

“Which what?”

“Married or divorced?”

“Married,” Francesca replied sheepishly.  “But getting divorced soon.”

“Oh, that’s a relief,” Cristina said, drinking more wine.  “Because I’m beginning to see where this is going.”

Francesca stayed quiet for a minute.

“Well?” Cristina asked, selecting a slice of bread from the basket.

“You’re going to be too hard on me,” Francesca said quietly.

Cristina ground some salt and pepper, then dragged her bread through a pool of grassy green olive oil on her side plate, mopping it back and forth several times.  She paused with the bread midway to her mouth as if she’d just thought of what to say.  “It sounds like you deserve it,” she replied.

Francesca drank more wine.  “After the club we went back to the hotel,” she began.


“And, well, you know,”

“That’s the way to make a story really compelling,” Cristina said.  “Right when you get to the good part, start glossing over the details with, ‘well, you know…'”

“God, Cristina, he was so, I don’t know–so present, so into everything, so powerful.  He just conquered me, in every possible way.  I was possessed.”


“Something like that, yeah.  And I loved it.”

“So, not to put this too bluntly, but since you seem to be having trouble elucidating this event fully, you did sleep with him, correct?”

“I did.”

“Ok,” Cristina replied.  “And it was good.”

“It was fantastic.”

“And let me remind you that on a regular basis, you sleep with a top football player, so when you’re making the comparison–” Cristina whispered.

“I wasn’t comparing.”

“If you were,” Cristina continued.

“It’s completely different.  I felt completely different with him than I feel with Paolo.  I’m used to Paolo, I know what he likes to do, I know how he likes to do it, and yes, you’ve got a point–” she lowered her voice, glancing around the restaurant.  “Paolo is extremely athletic, and the Turk wasn’t like that, no, but there were other things.”

“Other things like anal?”

Francesca furrowed her brow and shook her head.  “No, not other things like anal.  Other things like a different emotional connection.”

“I see,” Cristina said, pursing her lips.

inspiration #22 : a discarded subplot.

returning to the long-lost draft of my teenage years…I had a weird, puritanical idea that Francesca should be relatively innocent regarding, of all things, alcohol.  yeah.  she sucks dick like a champ but she’s never done tequila shots.  riiiiiight.  and on the flip-side of that coin, Paolo, a professional athlete, had a tendency to become drunk and a little abusive.

I needed a way to start a fight between the two of them, and in my youth and inexperience I made several assumptions:

a) the man would be the one to stray

b) but it wouldn’t be his fault

c) because he was a victim of alcohol

d) and alcohol would also make him act out towards her

e) though she may harbor repressed rape fantasies, his drunkenness was no excuse for abuse


again, AWFUL.  and misogynist in a backwards way, or at least anti-feminist.  how dare I assume that a woman wouldn’t cheat, a woman wouldn’t drink, a woman would just allow herself to be a victim and then get fed up and walk out?  YAWN.

I’m proud to have accrued enough life experience to know that women cheat, women drink, and women are sometimes the ones who disturb shit for themselves.  it’s important to me to write Francesca as that kind of character; for all that’s difficult to relate to in this story–the shoes, the paparazzi, the men with consistently erect penises–I want her to be someone not unlike one of us.

it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.

lady in red.

Francesca sat at breakfast wearing sunglasses, drinking water and coffee in an attempt to will away her throbbing headache.  Timo tossed the newspaper on the breakfast table.  He had it open to a tabloid photo Francesca recognized from the night before, showing the Turk with his hand outstretched to block his face from the camera and her head turned, her hair obscuring most of her face.

“In case you’re wondering, it says ‘SELIM AND THE LADY IN RED’,”  Timo said, pointing at the headline in boldface Turkish.  “Now,” he continued, “it’s hard for me to tell because these people seem to be taking pains to hide from the camera, but it looks like that’s the man with the perfectly-tailored suit from the other night, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that woman looked a lot like you.”  He glanced under the table at her shoes.  “She even has the same Giuseppes,” he added.

“That,” Francesca whispered, “is an amazing coincidence.”

“Isn’t it,” Timo said smugly.  “Luckily, the bellhop was able to translate it for me.  Apparently these two had a beautiful and romantic evening–there was a boat ride on the Bosporus, then a dinner at a tiny little restaurant in the old city, and then they were out at some hot club in Nisantasi dancing until dawn.  Sound familiar?”

She sighed and waved over a waiter.  “I’d like to order something to eat, please.  I’d like some eggs and a pastry and some cheese and fruit.  And more coffee, please.”

“You’re not answering me,” Timo prodded.

“I have a splitting headache,” she said.  “What do you want me to say?  Yes, I went on a boat last night and then I had dinner and then I went to a club, and I did it all with that man.  Is that enough?”

“Not really,” he said.  “How do you like being called ‘The Lady in Red’?”

She rubbed her temples.  “I think it’s asinine,” she said.  “That dress is barely red.  It’s more like a Spanish red.  Oxblood.”

Timo laughed.  “I thought you said he was married.”

“He is married.  I expect that article had something to say about that.”

“Only how upset his wife must be, home with their sick daughter while he’s out painting the town…wait for it–red.”

Her breakfast arrived.  Timo filched a couple grapes from her plate while she dove into her eggs.

“He says he’s getting divorced,” she said.

Timo smiled.  “How many times have you heard that before?”

“Fair enough,” Francesca replied.

“It also refers to him,” Timo continued, folding the paper to read it more easily, “as the scion of a dual fortune, jewelry and textiles.  That must be why it’s news when he goes out with a woman who’s not his wife.”

“Honestly, I don’t know anything about that,” she said.  “It never came up in conversation.”

“I don’t imagine there was much conversation to be had,” Timo smiled cattily.  “Waste of time, really.”

She drained her coffee silently.  “It really is impressive that you picked up Turkish so quickly,” she finally said.

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.

inspiration #17 : Four Seasons Istanbul Bosphorus

if you’re going to have an affair, best to have it here.

waking up in hospital.

After Bruno had left Timo came back, bringing Francesca her bag.

“About last night,” he began.

“What about it?” she asked, digging through her bag with her right hand to find her phone.

“You and Bruno–”

“I have a horrible headache, Timo.”  She pulled her phone out from her bag only to find it was dead.

Timo took the phone and plugged it into the wall.  He really did think of everything.  “I saw you last night.”

“I imagine you did,” she replied.  “I don’t see what–”

“You said he had a girlfriend,” Timo interrupted.

“Really?  You, of all people, you’re going to give a lecture on the finer points of morality?”

Her phone buzzed to life.

“On the contrary.  I think it’s good,” he answered.  “I think you were getting a little obsessed with Paolo.  You need some sort of distraction.”

“I think you’re more obsessed with Paolo than I am,” she countered.  “And Bruno wasn’t a distraction.  It was a mistake.  We’d been drinking, it was late–”

“So it made perfect sense to get on a scooter,” Timo interjected.

“How did you get home?” Francesca asked him.

“I rode with the models.  We hired a G-wagon.  Everyone got home fine.”  He raised one eyebrow imperiously.

Francesca could tell she wasn’t getting anywhere with this conversation.  “Will you find out when I can leave, please?  And pass me my phone?”

Timo tossed the phone onto the bed and walked out of the room.  Francesca gingerly typed in her passcode and checked her messages–missed calls from her mother and Elena, a string of emails, and a couple texts.  One from a number she didn’t recognize.

Cesca, hi from Firenze.  Hope you’re enjoying Capri.  I’ll be in Milano on Friday.  Can I see you this weekend? X PR.

Firenze.  PR.  Paolo.  She looked at the details and saw that he had sent it this morning.  She saved his number in her phone as Paolo, just Paolo.  She’d remember who he was.

She leaned back against the pillows and closed her eyes.  He was coming to Milano for the weekend.  He didn’t say why.  He was obviously coming for some other reason than to see her, but he wanted to see her.  She wondered if her head injury was making her more confused than she ordinarily would have been.  As she drifted back to sleep she began composing her reply.

Ciao Paolo.  Capri was beautiful.  I’m free for dinner on Saturday if you want to meet then. xx Francesca.

Cesca, great.  Saturday is great.  I have a request–can we eat at your place?  I’m not trying to presume, but I’d like to be somewhere private. X PR.

That is presumptuous, Paolo.  And you assume I can cook.  Why all the secrecy?  xx.