Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: sex

let’s talk about sex.

“You never talk about what you want. You never talk about what turns you on, your fantasies.”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“But maybe I want to hear you say it.”
“And you think this is the right time?”
“There shouldn’t be a wrong time. I’m not saying you have to act it out. I just want to hear you talk about it.”
She wanted to know what he would say. And, after today, if violence was a part of it. She imagined it must be. A person couldn’t just dole out that kind of beating if he didn’t somehow like the feeling of flesh under his fists.
“For a long time, everything sexual was in a way idealized for me. I imagine you know that. I didn’t have any experience.” He paused to swallow and she studied his face, its striking clarity. He was unashamed. She couldn’t imagine telling him the same story about what had happened to her, in New Jersey, in a bathroom with an American boy named Todd.
“I’d read too many books, maybe. I thought sex was always going to be on a four-posted bed with a woman in a white nightdress who protested then succumbed. I didn’t want to believe it was as simple and carnal as it is.”
“Simple and carnal,” she repeated.
“Wouldn’t you agree? That’s what it is when you’re in a shared dorm room and you’re rushing to finish before your roommate comes back and everything you obsessed about for such a long time is, in the end, so instinctual. There’s never really any question where you put what. A degree of finesse, perhaps, but it’s not at all as confusing as you imagined.”
“That’s not a fantasy,” she said quietly. “It’s just history.”

trench coat.

The concierge at his building knew her and let her in the front door; he smiled at her approvingly, looking at her hair piled high on her head, the cat-eye liner on her eyes, and the length of her legs stretched from the hem of her trench to her tall Givenchy shoes.  She rode the elevator up to his flat with her heart racing.  It had been almost three weeks.

The distance from the elevator to his front door felt like a hundred meters, and the sound of her heels on the wood floors echoed through the hallway.  Surely he would know it was her.  Finally, she reached his door and knocked, three efficient raps.

She heard him moving inside, turning down the volume on the television and walking towards the front door.  Like a man, Paolo opened it without looking through the peephole.

Francesca stood before him, leaning against the door jamb.  He was speechless.

“Open my coat,” she said, walking towards him into the apartment.  She put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him back into the living room.  She could tell he hadn’t been expecting her; he was wearing baggy Juventus sweatpants, black with a team crest and Nike swoosh embroidered just below the hip, a plain white v-neck tee that clung tantalizingly to his chest and biceps, and at least a day of stubble on his face.  “Go ahead,” she said.  “Open it.”

[after this: take out / eat in.]

mile high.

In the end, she was glad she had flown with Selim. Their seats were massive, full-reclining, and almost entirely private. She ate, she slept, she watched two films and she even pulled out a notebook and started making a list on the gridded paper of places she wanted to go. She showed it to Selim, asking if he’d ever done any of them. The Whitney, yes. The New Museum, no. The High Line, no. Daniel, yes. Ippudo, no. Did she want to go to any Broadway shows, he asked. Not particularly, she answered. Would she be able to amuse herself during the day, while he was working? Oh, certainly.

Before landing she went into the bathroom to brush her teeth and attempt to look presentable. She assessed her appearance in the mirror, dismayed in the fluorescent lights. A little more Touche Eclat under her eyes, a little more bronzer on her cheeks, and she looked more alive. A quiet knock startled her.

“Just a minute,” she said.

“It’s me.” Selim.

She unlatched the lock and he opened the door, squeezing into the small lavatory with her.

“You’re kidding, right?” She still had her makeup bag unzipped on the baby changing table.

He held his finger to her lips. “Come on,” he whispered. They stood face to face, already touching in the tiny space of the bathroom. He moved his hips against hers, pressing her into the door, and he nuzzled in to kiss her neck.

“I still can’t believe you,” she said, but she pushed back against him anyway, wending her fingers into his hair, pulling him closer to her. “I just did my makeup.” He unzipped her jeans and pushed them down her thighs.

“Sit there,” he gestured to the basin. She balanced herself on the edge of the sink while he sat on the closed toilet lid. “Now put your legs over my head,” he said, and ducked in between them.

She leaned back against the mirror and held on to the edge of the basin with one hand, the faucet with another, bracing her feet against the wall behind Selim.

“I want to make you happy,” he whispered into the inside of her thigh, kissing a trail to her labia. She gripped the faucet more tightly as he increased his intensity, targeting her with his tongue, slipping one finger, then another, quickly into her. The bell rang to call them back to their seats for landing. She squirmed against him.

“Not yet,” he said, moving his thumb to flick her clitoris. The bell rang more insistently. And then she was floating for a minute, heat emanating from the core of her body, dizzy and disoriented, and he was slipping out from between her legs, standing her up and pulling up her jeans, splashing his face with water and toweling it off.

“I’ll go out first,” he said, leaving her in the lavatory. She glanced in the mirror again and was pleased to see the color had returned to her face. As she left the bathroom she met a flight attendant eyeing her suspiciously. Francesca stared down the uniformed woman, defying her to say something. The flight attendant remained silent. Francesca noticed a cheap, glossy tabloid rolled in her quilted nylon tote bag.

[after this: New York State of Mind]

a moment of intense brutality.

Selim was still awake, waiting for her in bed.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.

She shook her head, climbing into bed on the opposite side.  She tried to take up as little room as possible, making herself linear along the edge of the mattress, lying on her side with her back to him.  He touched her shoulder and she flinched.

“Hey,” he said softly, stroking her damp hair.  “I’m sorry.”

When she turned to him her eyes were shiny with tears.  “Sorry?  Sorry?  Of course you’re sorry.  It’s all over now, you’ll have your money in the morning.  It’s easy for you to be sorry.”

“I never meant–”

“What did you think was going to happen in there?  When I went with him?  We were going to play checkers?  Talk about the weather?”

“It was the only thing–”

“Do you want me to tell you what we did?”

“Please don’t.”  She could see genuine pain behind his eyes.  He was proud; it would ruin him to visualize it.

“Why?  I had to do it.  You made me.  Don’t you want to know what you made me do?  For your precious five million Euros?”  She was sitting up perfectly straight, seething now, teeth bared.  Still he shook his head no.  She could hardly bear to think of it again, she didn’t want to say the words, to relive it all in her retelling, but she wanted him to suffer.  She wanted him to feel as awful as she did.  “First, I just had to watch them.  I watched the girl undress him and call him ‘daddy’ and suck his dick, and then he fucked me, doggy style, and I’ll never get that sound out of my head.  He made me jerk him off so he could come on her fake tits, and she made this show out of eating it, licking her fingers, all, ‘daddy, daddy’ again.  Next he had her eat me, he had her go at it until he was good and hard again, and then he made me ride him.  He finished by sticking his dick down my throat, making me gag as he came, and I could barely breathe.”  She was shaking, and the color had drained from Selim’s face.

“I never thought–” he stammered.

“You sold me.  Because you’re too fucking proud to walk away, because you’re too fucking greedy.  I hope it was worth it.”  She rolled over onto her side again.

She woke up early the next morning, slipped out of bed, and wheeled her small suitcase out of the suite.  She took one last look at the strand of diamonds coiled on the nightstand before she closed the door quietly behind her.  There was an early train to Milan, and she made sure she was on it.

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.]

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

post-coital cigarette.


image via Tumblr.

[before this: sick on Sunday]

Her pillowcase was wet and streaked with black mascara, she had been crying and hadn’t even realized it until she felt the cold wetness against her cheek.  He took her hand and kissed it.  “I love you,” he said, and she shook her head.

“Why did you do that?”

“I love you so much,” he repeated.  For the first time, she didn’t believe him.

He stood and pulled up his shorts; he fished his cigarettes out of his jacket and went to the living room to step out onto the balcony and smoke.  When he returned to the bedroom she called him to her.

“Give me your cigarettes,” she said.


“Just give them to me.”  He complied, handing over the pack of Marlboros.  She shook one out and put it between her lips.  “Light it for me, please,” she said.

“You don’t smoke–”

“Maybe I do now.”  She inhaled deeply.  “I’ve had a really difficult day and you didn’t make it any fucking better,” she said as she exhaled.

“You looked so perfect lying there,” he said.  “Your back, it had a perfect curve, like the dunes in the Sahara, down to your perfect ass.  You’re so beautiful, you know.”  He leaned over and kissed her shoulder.

She remained aloof.  “I don’t think you can understand the kind of pain I’m feeling right now.”  She had smoked her cigarette down to the filter and extinguished it in a glass of water on the bedside table.

He got out of bed and took a pill from her prescription bottle.  In the living room, he crushed it with the base of a glass then swept the powder into the tumbler and topped it with vodka, swirling it as he walked back to bed.  “Drink this,” he said.

She did as she was told, nearly gagging on the vodka, trying three times before she was able to drink it all.  The Vicodin left a white trail down the inside of the glass.

“You’ll sleep well tonight,” he said.  Part of her doubted she’d ever sleep again.

midnight in Venice.

They walked out into the Venetian night, the cold sharper than it had been before, but dulled by the two bottles of Amarone they’d finished.  The cobbled streets of Cannareggio were hung with tiny lights, a twinkling string of stars leading from bridge to bridge.  As they walked past shutters they heard the sounds of living behind them; television broadcasts and washing up and scolding children.

“How are we getting back?” Selim asked her.  She had forgotten how far they’d walked, how far they were from the hotel on the Giudecca.

“It’s not so far to walk to San Marco,” she said, pulling out her map and studying.  “Provided we don’t get lost.  But I think that’s actually faster than taking a taxi, see?”  She traced the route on the map: a nearly straight line walking through the city, the curvy, backwards S of the Grand Canal.

“So we walk,” he said.  “It’s rather Eyes Wide Shut.”  The streets were quiet, nearly deserted in the untouristed Ghetto Vecchio.  “You’re not too cold?” he asked tenderly, holding her leather-gloved hand in his.

“I’m fine,” she replied.  “And you’re right, it’s like some sort of film.  Something dark and mysterious.  Venice is one of those places that isn’t quite real.”

“Isn’t it.”  They paused in an empty piazza, a little campo, really, with trees and benches, a statue of the Virgin Mary standing silent sentinel.  “I don’t want to wait until we get back to the hotel,” he said.  His voice was dark and dangerous, steeped in desire.

She looked around nervously.

“There’s no one here,” he said.

“We’re outside,” she protested weakly.

“I’m sure that’s never stopped you before.”  In the silence of the piazza she felt his words echo off the walls of the surrounding buildings, buffeting her.  She looked around again.

“There,” she said sharply, pointing at a low, narrow sotoportego.  They walked into the shadows, and she braced herself against the rough-hewn walls.  He wrapped his coat around them both, enveloping her and drawing her close, and he kissed her hard.

“the opera doesn’t last all night.”

The bell at her door rang shrilly; though she was expecting him Francesca was startled, and she dropped the lipstick she was applying.  Paolo rang the bell again.

“I’m coming!” she called out.

She opened the door.

“Come on!” he said, grabbing her shoulders to kiss her.  “I don’t want to be late.”

“Just a minute,” she said, turning back into the apartment.  She took her small satin Bottega Veneta minaudiere and a champagne-colored mink stole that had been her grandmother’s.  He closed the door behind her.

“You look incredible,” he said as they waited for the elevator.  “Is there a technical term for what you’re wearing?”

“It’s a jumpsuit,” she said, laughing.

“Ah, a jumpsuit,” he replied.  “It looks like it’s complicated to get into and out of.”

“Not horribly complicated,” Francesca said.

“Hopefully not too complicated for me to figure out,” he grinned.

“You do know we’re going to the opera,” she said as she climbed into the passenger seat of his Maserati.

He reached over the gearshift to stroke her leg.  “The opera doesn’t last all night.”  He turned the key in the ignition and they roared out of her drive.

[after this: trying to drive.]

Anatomy of a Scene : Second Shower Scene.

photo via Flawed Louise.

 At the beginning of the book, when Paolo and Francesca first meet, there’s a hot scene in Paolo’s shower.  They are strangers, knowing barely anything about each other except for their names, and it’s exciting and new for them both.  I knew I wanted to write another shower scene with the two of them–I do all my best thinking in the shower, and the act of showering / bathing, for Francesca, reoccurs throughout the book at critical points.  For this post, I wanted to detail a bit of the thought process that went into writing the scene.

[before this: fight.]

“I’m sorry,” she said.  He opened the door and she crowded into the tiny shower stall with him, they knocked the nozzle out of place and it sprayed all over them and they laughed, a little at first, pressed against each other and feeling the laughter in their muscles, then harder, shaking their bodies until they couldn’t stop. [it is important that Paolo’s family’s apartment has one shower and it’s a small one; it is a subtle signifier of their socio-economic status, which was the whole point of the argument Paolo and Francesca just had.]

“I’m sorry for being such a pretentious, spoiled, obnoxious snob,” she managed to say, and he squeezed shampoo in her hair and wrapped his arms around her neck to lather it.

“And I’m glad you recognize it,” he said, kissing her cheek.

She sprayed him in the face with the shower head.  “That’s enough,” she said.  “You didn’t have to agree.” [I like the idea of playfulness here, both to indicate their affectionateness but also to deflect Francesca’s awkwardness.]

“But it was true,” he protested.  “You said it yourself.”

She moved her body against his, warm and slippery.  “Let’s not fight, babe,” she whispered.  “Not ever again.  Not about something like this.”

He massaged her scalp, rinsing the lather from her hair, kissing her forehead, her ear, her jawbone, the hollow of her neck.  She reached for him and he was ready, erect, hard in her hand, and he backed her against the tile. [they use sex as a way to bridge the distance between them.]

“Quiet, quiet,” he said.  She gasped as he entered her; the pressure of the angle was unfamiliar and he pulled back, instinctively, and moved slower and shallower.

“It’s ok,” she whispered.  She didn’t know what she was saying, suddenly the words just came out of her mouth, like someone else was speaking through her.  “Go harder,” she said.  “I deserve it.  You should punish me.  I deserve it.” [I have no idea where this part came from–it suddenly occurred to me that Francesca would do anything to deflect attention from how she really feels and defer to Paolo’s feelings, trying to ‘make it up to him’ somehow.]

He quickened, and soon he was slamming her against the tile, his hand pressed over her mouth; she felt her tailbone hitting the hard wall and it hurt but he didn’t stop; she was standing on her toes and flexing her thighs and bracing herself but it didn’t help, he just kept driving into her.  She screamed against his hand, bucked against his body, and he pressed against her more.

He put his hands on her shoulders.  “Get down,” he said, pushing her to the floor.

“What?” she whispered.  “I can’t–”

“Get on the floor,” he repeated.  She arranged herself so she was kneeling on the tile, straddling the drain, in between his legs.  [it’s hard to describe the physicality of sex scenes!  I try to make it possible for the reader to visualize without sounding like a how-to manual.]  He took his cock in his hands and jerked himself off, a rapid motion that had her worried he would punch her in the nose, but no, he just came on her face in three quick spurts, and she pushed back against his thighs trying to make space to wash her face.

“Don’t say you didn’t ask for it,” he said, stepping over her and out of the shower.  He took a towel from the rack and walked out, leaving the water running and the glass shower door open, an imprint of her ass visible in the fog.  [it’s obvious now that even though they’ve laughed and apologized, there’s something carnal in Paolo that is still angry.  I particularly like having him step over her like he’s stepping over trash on the sidewalk.]  She sat on the floor of the shower for a while, watching his semen wash down the drain.  It was New Year’s Day.  [call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s possible to imagine a scene with a girl sitting on the floor of a shower without recalling Eva Green in Casino Royale.  I wanted to evoke that same feeling of loneliness.]