Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: Istanbul

life imitates art : Juventus match today

(photo via La Vecchia Signora)

in Rule of Thirds, Francesca goes to Istanbul a second time to watch boyfriend Paolo Romaldo’s Champions League soccer match against Turkish side Fenerbahce.  today, Juventus (Paolo’s team) visit Istanbul to play Galatasaray for a spot in the group stage of Champions League play.  FORZA JUVE!

above decks.

She and Selim sat on the deck after dinner, smoking cigarettes and talking, sipping a Fernet-Branca.

“I was thinking of coming to Istanbul sometime,” Francesca said, looking out over the dark expanse of the sea.

“I’d like that,” he replied.

“I thought we could look for a place.”

“I already have a place.”

“Then you could show it to me,” she said.  “I’ve never seen where you live.”

“It’s just a flat I got when I moved out of the house, I don’t think you’d like it.”

“So we could find a new place,” she said.  “I could start spending more time there.  We could be together more.”

“You’re not worried about your work?”  His question seemed strangely pointed to her.

“I can do my work anywhere.  I’ve told you that.  And I could even do some work for you,” she said, running her fingers up his arm.

“That was amazing this afternoon,” he said, his voice quieter, huskier.

She felt her face coloring at the memory of it.  It was amazing, her body as a vehicle for the climax of the sun through every one of her pores, the sea enveloping her afterwards in its cool depths.  When she didn’t reply he kissed her, hard.  Through a vent she could hear Ricci and Giulietta, they were arguing, and Francesca tore her face away from Selim’s mouth to listen.

“You don’t know what you heard,” her brother said.

“I don’t know what the words were but I could understand what he meant,” Giulietta yelled back.

“There you go again, making things up in your mind,” Ricci said angrily.

Selim looked at her.  “What’s wrong?”

“I’m listening to them,” Francesca whispered.

“What are they saying?”

“Shhh,” she hushed him, clapping a hand over his mouth.

“–think I should say something,” Giulietta said.

“There’s no basis for anything you could say,” Ricci replied.

“I know what I heard,” Giulietta repeated.

And then their voices were more muffled, and Francesca couldn’t understand what they were saying any more.  She had an awful sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that it was something to do with Selim, and when he touched her again, she recoiled.

“What is it?” His voice was still husky, still weighted with desire.  He was insatiable, this man.  Like her.

She shook her head.  “I don’t know.  I don’t know anything.”

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.

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.

“who’s going to steal just one Louboutin?”

[before this: dinner party in Istanbul, later, with the Turk]

They finally fell asleep as the sun was rising over the Bosporus, Francesca reluctantly setting her alarm for the shoot several hours later.  She awoke to full sun and Selim still asleep beside her.  Quietly, she showered and dressed, leaving him to sleep in the giant bed.  She met Timo downstairs in the lobby, and he handed her a small, strong Turkish coffee.  She drank it quickly.

“Rough night last night?” Timo asked, smirking.

“I hardly slept at all,” Francesca answered.  “I must have had too much to drink.”

“Usually when that happens I sleep like a baby,” Timo replied.  “I looked for you when the dinner was over and you had disappeared.  What happened?”

“Oh, yeah, I shared a car with the woman who sat across from me.  She was going this direction and offered to take me.”

“What about that man sitting next to you?”  Timo asked mischievously.

“What man?”

“Uh, the really good-looking one?  The one with the long hair and the perfectly-tailored suit?  Need I describe further?”

“Married,” Francesca answered dismissively.  “In fact, some woman walked up to him in the middle of dinner and practically assaulted him because his wife was at home with their kid.”  She was willing her face not to flush, not to give her away.

“Too bad,” Timo replied.

“Yeah, well, not really,” she said.  “I still don’t understand how things work here.  It all seems like a lot of drama.”

“Ugh, you’re telling me.  We went out to some ridiculous club in Taksim and there was practically a Range Rover full of paparazzi following us and we couldn’t get away, then one of the girls lost a shoe but she was saying some other girl stole it from her, which was insane because who’s going to steal just one Louboutin, right?  And then some old guy invited us all to the VIP room and it was like a full-on harem, like Topkapi 2012.  In-sane.”

“What time did you go to bed?”

Timo looked at his Bulgari watch.  “About two hours ago.”

Francesca sighed.

“I hope we’re done and sitting by the pool by the time I crash,” Timo added.

[after this: evening cruise on the Bosporus, lady in red]

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 #17 : Four Seasons Istanbul Bosphorus

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

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.