Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Un Sospiro - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Strangers No More

Bellosguardo seizes Sergei. Its formal name is “Villa of the Saracen”. Built in 1521 by yet another banking family, the Bardi, it sits on a hill on the Piazza of Bellosguardo. Tradition says Dante gave the hill its name. Bellosquardo means “Beautiful Sight.”

The Duomo, the Tower of Arnolfo, Piazza della Signoria and the Campanile of the Duomo are viewed “in façade” from Bellosguardo. Nowhere else in Florence is this view possible.

“This is you,” declares an intoxicated Sergei.

“You are very poetic,” she tells him. “In this place I create, meditate, work, play with the children, pray sometimes, party … other times.”

“Do you weep? Do you suffer? Do you rapture?”  he asks.

“How very Russian to question me about these things! Would you like to see the rest of the house? Could I get you Krug champagne, Perrier or a Courvoisier?  Anything to avoid his uncomfortable questions.

“No! I’m happy just to drink the sight of you in this place. Here is my hand, as the song goes, I’m a stranger in paradise. Please call me Serge."

Lucrezia takes Serge’s hand, gestures with her hand in his, “In the name of Baccio D’Agnolo (Angel’s Kiss), teacher of Michelangelo, the builder and architect of the Villa of the Saracen on the hill of  Bellosguardo;  I welcome you with all my heart.”

Seven dolphins, out of whose open mouths water is splashing noisily, surround the Fountain of Minerva at the center of the Loggia.

 “My bedroom is the closest to the Fountain of Minerva; sometimes the windows in my bathroom are left open so that the sounds can lull me to sleep when I am restless.”

The Loggias, as they were then known in the Renaissance mean, splendid courtyards. They are an extension of the Villa itself, covered on three sides. The tiles are the redbrick Florentine tiles, baked to almost a burnt red cinnamon. Hence the name “cotto”, meaning an object, which has been cooked or baked in an oven or a kiln. As you can see for yourself, this Loggia has ten tall columns on each side of the villa. But, Angel’s Kiss who designed the Loggia, decided to be unique. The twenty columns holding up the Loggia and the second floor, face each other. He placed the fountain of Minerva in the center of the Loggia a massive bronze and wrought iron gate to the left of the Loggia which opens into the Great Hall, and he covered the side on the left of the great hall, to create a sort of viewing salon, because down below is Florence at your feet.

“Ah! Minerva, goddess of wisdom. That must be the statue representing her. She looks very fierce and sexy, like you, in spite of the cold Carrara marble,” states Sergei.

“Water is a very erotic element.”

“That’s very romantic,” Sergei whispers into Lucrezia’s ear.

“Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth,” answers Lucrezia, running her tongue over his well formed ear lobes..

The Loggia of Minerva is at the very center of the villa. Any sound, especially at this time of the morning, is magnified and radiated throughout the villa. After a long kiss, Lucrezia continues the “piccolo tour of the Villa of the Saracen.” keeping her voice down.

Sergei turns the knob of a ponderously tall oak door; Lucrezia urges him to enter. As he steps into the Great Hall, he goes Aaah!!! Over 3,500 square feet of Florentine vaulted ceilings, soaring 20 feet high. greet him. On the floor are several enormous Tabriz, Qom and Shiraz carpets. The tiles are the original Florentine cotto tiles in a very dark red after nearly 450 years of use. The draperies lavishly trailing on the floors are in chartreuse, a mélange of yellow and lime green velvet. The furnishings are massive, and austere, overflowing with male energy.”

Florence is a very masculine city, “Even the Gobelin and Bearvais tapestries hanging on its high walls show hunting and fighting scenes.”

A concert grand in ebony, a harpsichord in green and nightingale yellow and a golden harp stand out.

“Do you,” he asks timorously, pointing to the musical instruments.

“Only the piano and the harpsichord. I love the sensual lines of the harp It adds grace to an overwhelming Great Hall. Don’t you think?”

Sergei does not speak. Lucrezia walks slowly, amid the rustle of her gown, to the light switch hidden behind one of the long draperies and turns on an enchanted land of lights from the chandelier about 8 feet in diameter in the center of the Great Hall, its arms of carved cherry rosewood, to the myriad lights hidden among the vaulted ceiling.

“I don’t understand,” Sergei says. Even without lights, I can see very clearly.”

“That’s the genius of Baccio D’Agnolo/ Angel’s Kiss. Look at those 4 high and wide windows. The moonlight is enough to guide you, and on dark winter nights, the lights from the garden are all that’s needed.”

“Did you know that most of Moscow and Leningrad (Saint Petersburg) was planned by Florentine and Venetian architects?” asks Serge.

“Yes. Would you like to wait in the Great Hall while I take a peek at the children?”

“May I come with you, I promise I’ll be quiet.”

“There might be a problem. Nanky Poo our Hungarian Puli, sleeps in the hallway opposite the children’s room. He might bark at you and wake up Tristan and Allegra.”

“That won’t happen,” Sergei reassures her. He pulls her against him and kisses her on her bosom. They pass through the corridor. Suddenly a black object, Nanky Poo, appears, wagging his tail, curiously eyeing Serge who kneels down beside Nanky Poo, petting and playing with him in silence. “You see, doragaya maya, I have a way with dogs.”

“Now we are in the hall facing the children’s bedrooms," she explains. Nanky Poo ambles beside them soundlessly. Lucrezia enters Tristan’s room, adjusts his blanket, and then repeats the ritual with Allegra.

“Thank you for this gift. Allowing me to visit your sleeping children. It is an intimate part of you which you have shared.”

“Where do we go from here?” He murmurs. It is a minefield of a question, and full of innuendos.

They cross the Great Hall where at the far end of the wall, Serge sees a spectacular travertine granite fountain with a basin. It resembles a tall holy water font. 

“Once a guest got so pissed he didn’t make it to the Loggia outside or any of the bathrooms and puked all over the basin,” Lucrezia reveals.

Serge laughs loudly. “He must have been either Russian or Irish.”

They embrace, bending over with laughter. Lucrezia replies in between kisses, “She was American.”

They enter the library .The vaulted ceilings dominate the room. The boisserie of Sumatran Rosewood on two walls entirely filled with leather bound books, would give a bibliophile a never-ending orgasm. Another bookshelf contains musical scores. There are several round tables, which could sit four people comfortably, but are clearly used only for her projects. A tall ecritoire with a small table beside it is massed with orchids; an ochre sofa faces the 25-foot granite fireplace. A Bosendorfer concert grand piano and a vertical Petroff study piano also grace the room.

“I did not think that people lived like this today,” says Sergei. He studies the ochre sofa, done up in the softest suede, which faces a high marble fireplace.

“Since the world is called a Valley of Tears, why not live in splendid misery?” Lucrezia asks as she gestures towards the open door next to the library.

“I’m being flippant. Forgive me,” she says touching his sleeve softly.

Serge takes in the gilded Venetian bed covered in yellow silk damask, two gilded dolphins holding up lemon yellow lampshades on the nigh tables, the late Empire Recamier, the vis-à-vis divan (just for two) and, in yellow silk damask, the mahogany forte piano, from whence the modern piano descends, the white Hungarian shepherd (a Komonder) snoring loudly underneath the forte piano. He closes his eyes and covers them with his hands.

“No! This is too much! I don’t want to see your bedroom. I don’t want to feel anyone’s presence.” He turns around unsteadily and heads back to the library, passing through a corridor, which connects Lucrezia’s bedroom to the library. On a long narrow refectory table the length of the corridor, are photographs of Manfredi, her former husband, the children, other friends and family members.

His turquoise eyes flash. “Ah! Yes! I like this room much better. You are the only dominant force in it. I was jealous in your bedroom’’

“Don’t be’’, she strokes his face. Jealousy at this particular moment seems just and reasonable, because your objective is to preserve a good which you fancy or hope will belong to you,” she speaks to him silently. 

Lucrezia’s golden eyes flash. “Please remember, I am the only dominant force in the Villa – except for the entities who were here hundreds of years ago. By my own choice, I have been sexually abstinent for sometime.”

“That’s only sex. I mean Love. Why no-sex?” queries a curious Serge.

“Because,” replies Lucrezia tersely.

“Thank you for telling me.” Sergei takes Lucrezia’s hands and kisses her palm in silence.

Lucrezia, finding herself off guard by his reaction, impulsively speaks out. “It’s complex. I am a being full of contradictions. It’s a test to keep my passions always under my command.”

Sergei still says nothing, continues kissing and licking each of her fingers. Lucrezia embraces Sergei and caresses his hand, neck and cheek lightly. Sergei nuzzles her ear lobes, her mouth and her cleavage. Lucrezia pulls herself gently away and tries to explain her sexual abstinence though she is aware Serge has not asked for reasons. Perhaps because he has not, she tells him, “You see, my interior life has been very disciplined.”

“I too, have not touched a woman as I have touched you just now for a long time.”

He has the good grace not to give me an explanation, and I do not intend to ever ask him. I think that people explain too much.

“Most people do not esteem what they understand, and venerate what they cannot see.”

At this bewitching moment, she decides to believe him. She wants to, she chooses to give in to Sergei and to her folly. The pox on the savants. She is going to live her own Romance to the fullest.

I will take the pain and the joy and I hope I can have them in equal measures. After spending all those cruel, monotonous and tormented years in Siberia, Sergei more than other men is fully aware what living in the here and now truly means. The past is gone, never to be relived again, the future is yet to occur, and the present is the only thing that must be lived,  she muses. 

His directness devoid of pretensions disarms her. There is something of the devil-may-care, convention-be-damned attitude in  him which excites her.

 “I believe you,” declares Lucrezia, her golden eyes boring through his very being.

“Would you play something beautiful for me on the piano?”

Lucrezia sits on the mahogany grand piano, and begins to remove her 11 carat ruby ring. He takes her hand and covers her palms with tiny kisses.

  “Allow me,” he mutters into her palm and slowly takes it off. Blood red ruby scorpions adorn her ear lobes. She takes them off, He sucks her ear lobes delicately. Nosferatu wooing his mate? Her ruby bracelets, which encircle her wrists are endowed with a complex lock. She shows him how to slide them of her wrists, as his lips, tongue and fingers caress the inside of her wrists. He aspirates the scent of her skin, “Tuberose?” She smiles, showing off both her dimples.

“That is tantalizing!” exclaims Serge. A large ruby scorpion composed of 15 three carat gems hangs almost defiantly from the base of her neck. He strokes the insect, it’s stones as red as pigeon’s blood. His lips touch the nape of her neck and wander ever so lightly to her throat, lower, and lower, towards her moist cleavage.

 “Aaaaah! your scent is erotic,” he says without removing his lips from the plain between her mounds. She clasps Serge’s head, grasping his locks so tightly that he kneels down so as not to lose his balance. His head is between her breasts.  The only sounds; their breathless staccato and the constant rustling of her gown. Serge looks up.

 “Lucrezia maya! I am at your feet, still waiting impatiently for your music.”

Above them the vaulted ceiling, which looks down on the grand piano, is a window so high its massive shutters (restored in the 18th century) are never closed. A  puzzled crystal moon peers down. Below, the city’s flickering lights are all seen through the leaves of a 350 year old oak tree in the gardens of  the Villa of the Saracen.

She begins playing “Un Sospiro” A Sigh, by Franz Liszt, the Titanic composer and pianist who wrote exquisite, lyrical, ardent and taxing works for the piano. 

“Sospiro. I shall always remember this moment,” he says. Silently, his eyes well with tears. Of all the compositions for piano by Liszt, Chopin, and other giants she should choose to play Sospiro for me is too much. I an indeed blessed, he thinks.

"Sospiro. The Concert Etude number three in D flat Major. It is the most expressive and aggressive virtuoso piece by the supreme Romantic composer,” he reflects on this as he loses himself in Sospiro and in Lucrezia.

She is playing for him alone, declaring her passions, sharing the poetic beauty with him. There is a haunting, floating tenderness to the theme, at first played delicately, then as it rises in dramatic intensity, its vibrations hold you captive, before dying away in a long drawn out Sospiro – Sigh. Like a perfect coitus.

Sergei slides into the Florentine cotto  and lies down under the concert grand piano. The reverberations are wondrous to hear. It masks sighs and sobs which might escape his throat. It will give him time to hastily wipe off his tears.

Lucrezia feels a softness, perhaps a doleur for Serge. 

“It must be painful for him to stand for long periods and this day has been grueling.”

“Only my children, and sometimes Dvorak the Komondor  are allowed to listen to me underneath the piano. 

“Sospiro” is my sigh of Love. A sigh I have long suppressed. The piano is my instrument. Its vibrating chords send out a loud lament of longing and of desire. The piano and my body are one. Tears of love are clouding my eyes but I know every note. He will not notice it.  

“Sospiro” is at its last chords. Lucrezia feels Serge stroke her left ankle as her foot presses on the pianissimo pedal. 

“Fine. The end.”

“Sospiro, yours and mine,” Sergei whispers, removing her soft silk shoes, kissing her feet, and caressing her calves.

The voluminous silk gown rises and alters its shapes as both of them move within this orange fire. Its rustling sound magnified by their breathing. Enfolded in one another’s arms, they stand up, inching towards the sensuous curve of the grand piano, kissing each other’s lips, cheeks, chins, forehead, earlobes … with their lips, teeth and tongue. Lucrezia swirls, leans on the most sensuous curve of the grand piano and exposes the tiniest of buttons on the back of her orange silk taffeta creation, thirty buttons in all. Feverish, trembling hands remove with difficulty the buttons; a few pelt the floor.

“Forgive me, I am not used to … and this orange is so profane. It’s the exact color of the Cardinal’s capes in the Vatican,” Serge’s voice is breaking.

“I ordered the fabric from the Vatican and promised I would never wear it to any function inside the Vatican.”

Then, fierce hands grasp the fabric and all the buttons fly like pomegranate seeds into the floor.

“Yes! Yes! Tear my camouflage. Do it now before I change my mind,” Lucrezia cries.

" It’s beautiful to be admired by the object of your desire," she thinks as Sergei’s hands and lips wander down and around her back. She is naked underneath her Cardinal’s orange gown except for the ivory silk stockings and the ruby Scorpion dangling from her neck into her breasts. Lucrezia offers Serge her breasts. She unties his bowtie, lifts his arms, licks his palms and deftly removes the cuff links. She loses herself into his eyes, ripping out the gold studs of his dress shirt, ping! as they scatter all over the Florentine tiles.

Lucrezia has always nurtured a fantasy of a perfect love triangle, a ménage a trois – she, the man (as opposed to a man) and the piano. Now it’s happening when she least expects it!

With the grace of a fallen predator, Sergei swoops Lucrezia off her feet and carries her to the ochre leather sofa, limping slightly. The sofa is long, of impeccable suede, and designed as a lark for Lucrezia by sculptor Gio Pomodoro. It is almost as wide as a double bed. She is sitting on Serge’s lap. She lifts one leg over his head and is now astride him as she unbuttons his trousers held by a slim, black alligator belt. Elevating herself slightly, she tugs at him so as he rises, she eases the trousers and his boxers from underneath him and Sergei does the rest. He grasps her by the waist and with strong arms, sets her down beside him so that he can untie the shoelaces of his orthopedic shoes. As Lucrezia fondles his thighs, he shakes the heavy shoes off his feet.

“You’re beautiful,” they tell each other.

“Let us be naked totally, not only with our bodies. Let us tear at the veils which cover our hearts, minds and souls,” utters Sergei. “Lucrezia, say my name. Call me Serge. Look at me. Don’t be afraid. Look at me,” Sergei repeats softly. “Be as vulnerable as I am Lucrezia, You are more desirable to me without all your masks and veils." 

She is copiously wet from her ardor.

"Serge. Serge. Serge."

She spreads her wetness against his thighs, and places his hands against her butterfly. As he suckles her tiny nipples till they become engorged, she caresses his rock hard penis, now viscous with her liquid. Suddenly, Serge begins humming from somewhere deep inside his throat as his tongue flips slowly back and forth on her clitoris. Alexander Borodin’s Polivetsian Dances, inspired by the music from the steppes of Central Asia. It was turned into a famous Broadway hit “Kismet”. “A Stranger In Paradise” is its most famous song, which stayed on the hit parade for months. The song is none other than the melody of the Polivetsian Dances.

“Take my hand Lucrezia. I’m a Stranger in Paradise,” he sings in a melodious voice, lifting her and softly depositing her on top of the concert grand piano. “This beast weighs more than two tons, it’s on three sturdy legs, and I am right at the center of gravity. Never fear.”

Serge remains standing, he uses light feathery strokes on the insides of her thighs They part wider than the biblical Red Sea. He gazes at her face, then at her blonde pubic hair then shifts his eyes to her vulva.

" I’m lost in a wonderland, a stranger in Paradise."

 She feels more liquid ooze out of her golden orifice.

She is humming the music silently, as his lips burrow deep into her labia. “Yes! Serge! Don’t stop! Let me surrender all my elan vital.”

By now, He has slid up on the piano. Using the tips of his fingers and his lips, he spreads her liquid over her abdomen, nipples and mouth.

" Lucrezia, a pianist’s hands must be like heaven on a man’s organ,” he whispers.

She dips her forefinger (the finger of power) into her deliciously wet vulva, tastes it and takes in its scent. Heady, like that of a she wolf in heat. She rubs her wetness into his organ, slowly at first into the orifice of his organ.

 “He is not circumcised.” She observes. Then, with more force, two of her fingers scoop out her liquid and rub it into his penis, just as she unexpectedly sits up, turns and slides her mouth into his thick penis. Her tongue bathes him more.

He moans. “Lucrezia, I am into the rare.” 

He strokes her wet locks. April In Florence, even after midnight can be languorous. Their bodies are glistening with sweat. The friction caused by rubbing their moist bodies together is electrifying, he extricates himself from her mouth, and slides easily into her welcoming vagina.

He begins his thrusts gently. She follows his rhythm, undulating beneath him, like a King Cobra and his mate. They hear drumbeats, in their ears and in their hearts. “Look at me Lucrezia. Don’t take your gaze away … We are suspended in time and space.”

The lunges increase in frequency and ferocity. He is deep inside her now. They are resonating! She feels him till her entrails tremble. An explosion is enveloping them. Their bodies convulse as one. His eyes never leave hers. “Lucrezia, Dushenka Maya. My soul.  I have been born today,” he says it so softly she almost misses its significance.

“Serge, Krasavitsa maya, Now, I know the meaning of the word surrender.”

“We have surrendered. Look!” Serge rans his hands all over her.

She was still experiencing what anthropologists call “the sexual flush” in primates. Their bodies turn red, almost as if they are inundated by a rush, All females are endowed with it, but the phenomenon is more readily seen in women with fair, almost translucent skin which is never exposed to the sun’s rays.

“It was beautiful” they both declare, then laugh, hold hands and say, ”one, two, three … flick/flock.”

“How do you know that? it’s an old Russian children’s game!”

“We also say it in the Philippines. So there.”

“We must have many more paroxysms together,” she tells him softly. 

"Endless ones everywhere. All over the world we must make love, always love, never fuck," he replies. 

Their bodies are still entwined on the concert grand. Lucrezia ponders on Serge. She does not think his imperfection mars his beauty. Perhaps it does, but she doesn’t care. Is that what the sages mean when they tell us love is blind? The man has bravery and balls to sell to millions of people, if indeed bravery and balls could ever be sold. The Marquis de Talleyrand, a consummate diplomat and statesman for France also had one leg slightly shorter than the other. It did not seem to deter his never-ending stream of mistresses and inamoratas.

“Love, like fire, cannot subsist without continual movement: as soon as it ceases to hope and fear, it ceases to exist” La Rochefocauld said that in late 17th century France. An authentic cynic, he knew what he was referring to,” declares Serge.

“How could I not have noticed?” she asks, running her hand down his maimed leg and covering it with kisses. “You were right to call me self-centered.”

“Unless I am under stress, I can compensate for it quite well when I walk, except … when I’m running down long flights of marble steps after a delicious woman,” he replies playfully.

“How did it happen?” Lucrezia asks softly, touching, and kissing his leg again.

“In Siberia, I was hunting for animals to eat – foxes, rabbits, minks, anything. The deep snow covered a big hole in the ground. I fell and broke my tibia. The doctor was making the rounds in the other villages, so one of the hunters set the bone as best as he could. There were no pain killers!”

“It must have been excruciating.”

“It was torture! I never drank vodka before. After this experience, for a few months, I was drunk all the time. Sveta, my wife, did the best she could when she came back several months later.”

At Lucrezia’s puzzled look, Serge explains. “You see, Sveta, my wife was allowed to join me in Siberia because she was an orthopedic surgeon. In exchange for spending some time with me, Sveta was expected to look after the people in the villages, the workers in the oil fields, the indentured slaves in the diamond mines.

“She was in prison with you,” Lucrezia gasps.

Serge shakes his head. “It was not a cell. It was a log cabin. You had to chop your own wood and kill your own food, in addition to the forced labor. I was not considered escapee material; my struggle was and is political. By that time, all the world press was writing and talking about my exile in Siberia. I knew the authorities would not torture or kill me, at least not bodily. They wanted to destroy my will.”

The telephone jars the library. With the vaulted ceilings, the sound reverberates. “Don’t answer it,” urges Serge nervously. Lucrezia reassures Serge, “It might be Gucci New York.” The telephone keeps on ringing.

“At this hour of the night?” asks Serge in disbelief.

“The chairman calls anytime, especially if he knows I might be awake.”

Serge is the first to slide off the grand piano, then he carries Lucrezia to the suede sofa, Lucrezia picks up a cream colored telephone by a carved side table and a pumpkin colored cashmere shawl to sit on,

“Our body fluids might stain the suede sofa,” he roars with laughter. She waits for it to subside.

“Only Doctor Aldo Gucci is that persistent,” she chuckles. “Si?” she says in Italian. Silence. She can hear someone breathing. Lucrezia passes the telephone to Serge. He takes the telephone calmly, covers the mouthpiece with his hand, and listens. Several seconds later, he presses the button and puts the phone down.

“My caresse, my war is just beginning.”

She feels cold shivers and her hand trembles. He apologizes for what has just occurred. “When I was in Russia, the KGB and the GRU were ever present. The CIA, British Intelligence also followed me but it was harder for them inside Russia. I knew the KGB and the GRU watched my every move. What's more, they knew that I knew it. That’s part of the game. Sometimes they go out of their way to let you know that you are being watched.”

“Did anyone speak to you?’’

“I only heard the breathing as always.” Serge apologizes for this grotesque joke.

“It is I who must apologize for my thoughtless remarks regarding your royalties and other fruits of your labor. As a child, my rich clan in the Philippines and in China, practiced faith, hope and charity, but I am not so sure about social justice.”

“Methinks spooks of the Homo Sapiens kind are involved. Stupidos and Gagos. “Does this happen frequently?”

“Too many for mere coincidences. They are always trying to unnerve me, but of course it now takes on a different color,” he stops to gaze at her face and body.

The air in the library has turned chilly. It’s almost dawn. Lucrezia reaches for the cashmere blanket draped on the huge Gio Pomodoro sofa and covers Serge. She nuzzles him.

“This is Florence. It’s full of clever, malicious, anarchistic and highly individualistic Florentines. They burnt Savonarola, the monk, when he broke their chops. Even Machiavelli, a Florentine, could not make them mind. Leonardo (da Vinci) walked out, never to return, and Mussolini, “the Duce” himself, was unable to cope with the Florentines. They eat authority figures alive here and then spit them out for breakfast. Please don’t be concerned about me.” 

She scoops up her silk taffeta creation from the cotto and says, “I shall be right back with a kimono for you.” She disappears before he can protest.

In the Dining Hall, Lucrezia clambers on one of the parapets of the tall windows. The Dining Hall faces the Piazza of Bellosguardo and although the windows are too high for the merely curious, someone dexterous and determined could climb up the tall oak trees and hide among its branches if the shutters of the windows were open. They are not. They never are after dark. Lucrezia takes a very careful and stealthy peek through the shutters. She is in darkness while the Piazza of Bellosguardo is bathed in light from the electric lamps illuminating the Piazza. This time of morning the Piazza is deserted but today there are two innocuous looking coupe cars, one gray, the other cream, each with two men in it.

 “The bastards! The cowards!”

Lucrezia runs back to her bedroom, opens the Fornari mahogany armoire, removes a brown and gold man’s kimono, looks in the mirror of the armoire as she closes it, studies her own white and gold kimono, scrutinizes her face, gives herself an air of composure and re-enters the library. Seeing the expression on Serge’s face, she announces, “It’s something I have been saving for myself.”

Serge radiates a smile and puts on the kimono. Lucrezia admires his lean, hard, well-proportioned body. There is an ugly red welt on his chest. My God! My ruby scorpion pendant. She caresses the welt. He lifts her in his arms and parades her all around the room, placing her at last on top of the Bosendorfer at the precise erotic curve of the tempting Concert grand piano.

It will soon be dawn, they both realize sadly. Lucrezia tells Serge about the watchdogs in the Piazza.

“Still trying to wear down my nerves.”

"Have you an idea who they might be?"

"Ljubov maya, my love, they could be CIA, KGB or MI6. They could be doing this separately, they could be rogue elephant KGB and CIA working hand in hand or perhaps they are authentic Russian, British and American spies doing a joint venture in Operation Akimov," he chuckles. He gazes at her intensely. 

"I see that you have not asked me why. You understand don't you? You are one of the few people who has taken the time and has the intelligent brain to read between the lines of my book."

She nods. "It is because of your book"Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984?"

"Exactly. We will discuss it in detail some other time, if you don't mind."

"Of course I don't mind. I repeat we are in Italy and particularly among the tough Florentines.  And then Lucrezia suggests, “Let’s not make it easy. Two or perhaps I should say three can play this war of nerves.”

“You’re right. Italy is not only a different country, it’s unique,” exclaims Serge. “Mussolini once said governing Italians was not hopeless, it was impossible.”

“From the gardens behind the Villa of the Saracen, thus behind the Piazza of Bellosguardo, there is a secret trail through the wooded hillside. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to get down the hill , but easy to follow because the gardeners take good care of it. The trail leads to the highway of Scandicci.”

Lucrezia gives him a black silk turtleneck sweater to wear with his formal trousers. She laughs. 

“Amore, it’s less obvious than wearing the jacket with no studs nor buttons which I tore off in the heat of our passion. Never mind. The Conference on Human Rights starts at 10:00 a.m. Ruffo will drop off your dinner jacket, with all your studs and the cuff links at your hotel, the Excelsior.“

She drapes both her arms around him, “Darling Serge. Forgive me. Your studs are all over the cotto.”

“My wonderful one, lead me out Lucrezia. I am no longer a Stranger in Paradise.”

They go through her bedroom, into yet another salon, which looks like it might have been done entirely by Erte. A wide glass door opens into the formal gardens. They walk ten paces and find a secret door , behind a graceful cherry blossom tree.

“Pozeluy manja, Kiss me,” Serge clasps Lucrezia tightly against his chest and suddenly with his eyes glistening murmurs, “thank you for the Sorcery.”

“Till later, Seryosha,” Lucrezia murmurs. “A quarter of a mile down Scandicci, there will be taxis on the Piazza.”

She watches him go, he walks a little, then runs back to embrace her. 

This time she turns. “Oh Serge, this is too difficult,” and sprints back to the formal gardens stifling the emotions which are flowing out of her very being.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this chapter has real impact on so many levels. Beautiful, unique and intriguing love scenes, lots of color and suspense throughout the chapter. Only thing I am left wondering about: was the piano top closed or open, and wasn't it hard on one's back, having to lean on either the wood or the strings?


Isabel Van Fechtmann

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