Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: YSL

a knock on the door.


Francesca planned to leave Milan on Friday after work but had one stop to make before heading for the A4 highway.  She hadn’t told Paolo when she was coming, preferring to stick to her promise to surprise him, but she was still rushing to get to Turin.  She was eager to see him.

She had traded her big Bottega hobo for an overnight bag and a smaller YSL clutch in black patent leather.  Under her Burberry trench she wore skinny jeans, a slouchy striped sweater, and a pair of gorgeous black patent Givenchy heels.  She tripped into La Perla on Via Montenapoleone like it was her birthday.  The girls there all knew her, and after exchanging hugs and kisses, Francesca explained what she was trying to find.  Thirty minutes later, she walked out of the store with her street clothes in a La Perla shopping bag and an impressively expensive array of lingerie under her trench coat.

Traffic was heavy on the A4 out of Milan, but she darted her little Alfa around other cars and kept moving.  She made it to Turin in ninety minutes flat, a new record for her, particularly for a Friday evening, and was at Paolo’s flat ten minutes later.  She pulled into the lot next to his building and left her big bag in the back of the car; she would pick it up later.  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 the tall Givenchy shoes.  She rode the elevator up to his flat with her heart racing.  It had been almost three weeks since she’d seen him.

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, he 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.


inspiration #13 : Belle de Jour.

image via

I’ve felt like I’ve been hitting a wall this week…I’ve written very little (damn social life) and all my goals for this book seem suddenly and incredibly daunting.  But I did spend a bit of time this week at the movies, and just going out to the theatre reminded me how much I love film.  On top of that, Barnes & Noble had a 50% off sale on all Criterion Collection titles, so it was the perfect opportunity to add to my collection.

Belle de Jour arrived just in time for me to spend this rainy Saturday with Catherine Deneuve.  To say this movie is an inspiration is probably an understatement–after all, I straight-up reference it when Francesca and Anna go shopping.  I bought my first pair of Viviers after watching this film, too.

But I think what has most impacted me, watching it this time around, with Francesca and Paolo in mind, is Deneuve’s character Severine’s  sense of fantasy and curiosity.  How being inhibited is exactly what causes her to be uninhibited.  I’m not sure why Francesca should be drawn to Selim when she already has a good relationship with Paolo–by all standards, a fine catch.  In the same way Severine, with her perfect, handsome, doctor husband goes to work afternoons in the brothel.  It isn’t boredom.  It’s something deeper–a sense of restlessness and danger, maybe, transgressiveness–living a life she had previously only imagined.

And it’s a beautiful movie with beautiful people.  In Paris!





an opportunity.

She would have preferred to drive the two hours to Milan alone with her thoughts, but she owed a call to Timo and the work day had begun.

“You sound funny, Francie,” Timo told her, and his words echoed through the car’s bluetooth.

“I’m tired, Timo.  Yesterday was a long day.”

“Ugh, that’s Torino for you.  Industrial wasteland.  Square-headed people.  Except for those soccer players.”  She could practically hear him smirking over the phone.

“So the Turks,” Francesca resumed.

“The Turks,” Timo said, “It’s one of those nouveau riche fashion magazines, all Tiffany this and Cartier that, entirely branded and western.”

“Okay…and it’s called?”

New Direction or BeautyVision or something ridiculous like that.  All the chic names must have been used up already.  Anyway, so they want to fly you out to Istanbul–”

“And you–”

“And me, of course, because I’ve already explained to them that it’s a package deal, I have to travel with you, but that wasn’t an issue for them.  It’s a shoot on a boat, or a yacht, rather, one of those mega-catamarans or something on the Bosporus, you know, the kind that all these new oligarchs have, and it’s primarily shoes and accessories, so easy, and they’ve already secured some mid-range models, I think we’ve worked with about three of them already–”


“And they’re offering to pay a ridiculous sum of money and comp the hotels and all that, so it’s basically the easiest trip ever, two days, three nights, in and out, they’ll book us on a direct flight out of MXP.”


“But what?”

“But it sounds like there’s something you’re not telling me.  It sounds like you’re trying to sell this one too hard.”

“It’s a good opportunity, Francie.  It’s an easy shoot for a lot of money and they’ll work around your schedule.”


“But it’s one of those conservative magazines.  With an Islamic bent, you know, they make their models wear headscarves and be fully clothed.  No swimsuits.  No hint of leg.  No cleavage.”

“I thought Turkey was secular.”


“Do you think we should do it?”

“It’s a challenge.  If you can pull this one off and make it look amazing even with headscarves, you’ll be more than just a fashion photographer.  You’ll be an auteur.”

“Shut up, Timo.  If I don’t pull it off, I’ll be shooting grocery circulars until I’m 65.”

“And if you do pull it off, just think of all the doors it will open!  Riyadh!  Dubai!  Half the world wears headscarves now.  And they all buy luxury goods.  We’ll be in a tree hut resort in Bali for Christmas!”

Francesca had to laugh.  Timo was right, she conceded, it was a good opportunity.  But she had traveled in Islamic countries before–Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco–and had always felt a deep discomfort seeing the men running around, smoking in cafes and ogling foreign women and whistling at anyone who passed, while the women bustled around working or buying groceries or tending children, covered from head to toe in the hijab or burka.  These girls, you could see them on their way to class at universities, you could see their bright eyes and imagine them studying medicine or law or, less probably, photography, only to be able to practice if they kept their heads covered.  Without the scarves, they were as good as common prostitutes, these girls who studied so hard and dreamed of the west, who read fashion magazines without ever being able to wear the clothes, who know Chloe and Celine and Yves Saint Laurent but could never wear them outside of the house.  She didn’t believe it was freedom.  And she felt a deep-seated ambivalence about doing anything to encourage it, however benign it may seem.

“Timo, I forgot something at home.  I have to stop back there, and I’ll be in by noon.”

“Can I order you lunch?”

“God, yes.  The biggest panino you can find.  With prosciutto.”

“You got it, boss.  See you soon.”

“Ciao, Timo.”