Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: vacation

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.”

remembering Capri.

They used to go to Capri on holiday, when she was very young, at first, her mother and father and Ricci and Michele.  And after her father died, she and Ricci and Michele would go occasionally with Marco and Letizia and their children, always staying in a big rented villa overlooking the sea.  She remembered swimming all day long, snorkeling in the grottoes and only leaving the water to go back to the house for lunch.  On Saturday nights they would go into town and have dinner at a restaurant–the cook got the night off–where everyone knew Marco and stopped at their table to say hello.  She had a necklace from Capri, a gumball-sized polished coral bead on a gold chain.  Her father had given it to her as a souvenir on their last trip, when she was seven, because he had just taken her snorkeling for the first time and she had seen where the coral grew.  When her father died, Anna put the necklace away in her jewelry box, worried that Francesca would lose it.  She had to beg her mother to get the red bead back; Anna made her wait until she turned ten–an arbitrary number, considering Francesca had lost not even a sock as a child, much less anything more significant.  She wore the bead on a longer chain now, with a couple other talismans she’d acquired over the years: a gold cross from her grandmother and a Dodo zebra from Cristina when they’d both graduated from school.

She had loved Capri, loved learning how to swim there, loved the carefree afternoons riding with her brothers on scooters, picking oranges from neighbors’ trees, even loved going to the shops with Letizia.  Ordinarily, she would have been thrilled at the prospect of three days there.  But Paolo–she couldn’t wrap her head around him.  Maybe there wasn’t anything to try to understand.  Capri just seemed so far away–from Florence, from Turin, from Milan–from everywhere.  Out of sight and out of mind.

[after this: running into Bruno on Capriparty on Capri]

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.

vacation, part four : night.

[before this: vacation, part one]

“Look at the stars,” Francesca said, stopping to look up at the sky.

“Let’s really look at them,” Paolo said, lying down on the sand.  “Come here.”  She laid down next to him, the sand was warm and his body was warm but the breeze off the ocean was cool and she fit perfect beside him.  The milky way stretched out above them, and organza ribbon of white against the black velvet sky.  Paolo turned and kissed the top of her head.  “I love you,” he said.  “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” she replied.  “I’ve been waiting so long to say that, I don’t know why.”

“It’s easy to say things here,” he said.  “It feels right, you know?”

“I’ve known for a long time,” she whispered.

“Oh yeah?  Since when?” he asked.

“I’m not going to say since I first saw you, because that wouldn’t be true.  I was skeptical then.  But I knew I wanted you.  I was attracted to you immediately–you were so bold, almost careless.  It didn’t take me long to love you.  The morning when my arm was broken, when you told me about your mama and I told you about my father and you held me, I felt safe with you.  That was when I knew.”

He turned onto his side and propped himself up, his elbow in the sand.  “You had cooked dinner for me,” he said.  “I was confused about everything and angry that I couldn’t have protected you from that scooter accident, and I’d just shown up on your doorstep and expected you to be there.  And you were.”  He leaned down to kiss her.  “This vacation is good for us,” he said.

She sat up on her elbows.  “I’m sorry I’m distant sometimes,” she said.  “I’m sorry I was mean to you this morning, and grumpy on the plane.  You don’t deserve that.”

“You’re not, baby.”

“Let’s go to bed,” she said, standing and brushing the sand from her jeans.  “I’ll race you.”

They ran towards the hut, tripping and stumbling, and he caught her by the waist and lifted her up, and she laughed and kicked and he laughed and carried her into the hut.  The screen door slammed behind them and the breeze rustled the gauzy curtains and the mosquito net canopy and he laid her down on the big four-poster bed and undressed her, removing her t-shirt and her jeans, her beige lace bra and panties, and he looked at her naked on the bed, his eyes fixed on her as he undressed himself, and when he was naked too he laid there with her, chest to chest, thigh to thigh, feet and arms entwined.

[after this: vacation, part two : a day at the beach and vacation, part three : peeping]