“Have you ever thought of me that way?”
“Every single male friend of yours, single or taken, has contemplated you in a sexual way, at least once in your life. It’s part of the perk of being pretty.”
“What’s the other part of this perk?”
“I’d love to figure it out.”
She laughed, “I don’t even have many straight guy friends for you to make such generalizations. Most of my guy friends are gay.”
“Just think about it.”
Silence ensued. They were sharing a risotto con frutti di mare, or to put it more simply, rice with some rather overcooked mussels. The meal was certainly not as exciting as many of the others the two friends had shared over the year.
The only difference was that from their vantage point, the sea was storming underneath them, and in the distance, the sun hid behind some clouds.
“A ten, at midnight,” he said. Every once in a while, someone would enter the restaurant who seemed absolutely fabulous, absolutely riveting, and they would rank these couples based on their ménage-a-trois or foursome appeal. It was all harmless fun for the last night, or so she had thought. Now she was confused, because she had not heeded to the possibility that he would be interested in her, or even that the ménage would obviously involve her best friend.
After all, tomorrow they were going to be taking flights that would bring them back to the realities of two very different continents. The only convergence in their lives had occurred years ago, when they had been studying together in college. Since then, these yearly excursions had begun to occur with extreme frequency- almost every single vacation, in fact.
She turned around.
There was no one behind them.
“Seriously. I have had a bit too much to drink tonight. There’s no one behind me, except for the mirror,” she said.
She flushed a deep shade of crimson.
She began to scrape the melted fontina d’aosta and wild wood-eared mushrooms from the scallop shell.
“I’m serious, too,” he said. He looked at her flushed cheeks.
“Why now. Why after so long?”
“I’ve never met anyone like you, you’re hilarious, poignant, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who is less aware of her appeal to men,” he said. “I would never forgive myself if I did not try.”
She suddenly got up, flung her napkin down, and said, “Scusi, I’ll be right back.”
Before he could say anything about her terrible Italian accent, she sprung off towards the bathroom.
But when she was back, he was no longer sitting there. In fact, he was nowhere in the restaurant. She walked outside, after realizing that the bill had been settled in her absence.
The waiter told her that her companion had parted hurriedly from the restaurant in the car they had driven in with.
She sat down on the curb, wondering what exactly had happened. They had made a pact to remain phoneless during their travels so as to truly enjoy their vacation. Now she mentally worried about where he had gone, and that too, with her having no access to her wallet, which he had insisted she not bring.
When he was not back within half an hour, however, she was fuming, her white stole now drenched with the rain that had started to pour, plastered over her silk blue dress.
In another ten minutes, her silver stilettos began to prickle, and she took them off, standing barefeet. Finally, the restaurant owner drove her back to Castiglioncello to the hotel where they had been staying.
All his things were gone from the room they had been sharing, his suitcase removed from the space that separated their twin beds. It was as though he was never even there, as room service had been. Why would he have left, so suddenly, when they were supposed to part ways anyway the following morning.
The wine was muddling with her head, but more than that, she teetered because the note she had instinctively begun to hunt for could not be found.
(To be continued…)