Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: Nisantasi

“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.

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.