Daniela paced the bare floorboards, her hand to her mouth as if muffling a scream. She knew he wouldn't take the news well and had chosen her time carefully to tell him that she was leaving. Late evening was her choice, he wouldn't shout or make a fuss knowing the children were asleep.
"Wolf. Don't do this! Just don't. You know why. We were never 'in love' in the first place. I was young, you were stupid...we both were stupid!"
Her parting words echo in his brain as he sits slumped in his armchair, a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand, in the other a dangerously tilted glass, threatening to tip the amber liquid onto the floor. He never used to drink, quite the opposite, his body was his temple. Wolf had always looked after himself. Even at 50, he was svelte, well muscled and tanned due to days spent in the great outdoors. But lately, booze is the key to oblivion and oblivious he wishes to be.
He always thought that even through a marriage of convenience, after a time, she would come to love him. After all, they'd had two children together, children they both dearly loved. They'd been together over 2 decades. Why had she waited so long? He'd become blase, sure she loved him in her strange way. Sitting alone wasn't good for him, his head filled with the conversations of the years and those last words she uttered before she packed and left, quietly in the night. The only way to quell the madding crowd within his skull was to drink himself into a stupor.
"What about the children?" he'd asked.
"I've done my diligence Wolf. I've raised them, nurtured them but it's time for me now. I need some space, I need a life. We were never meant to be together, not for this long!" She kept talking while dressing and throwing a plethora of items from the wardrobe, still mounted on their coat hangers, into a large wheelie suitcase. She'd spun around, never uttering a word and left to meet the parked car waiting for her on the street. He'd been struck immobile, dumb, welded to the bed, as he let her go.
In his heart of hearts, he knew it had been over for a long time. They hadn't slept together for years, barely a touch or a kiss between them except on occasion in front of the kids to maintain the charade. They rarely fought. It was enough to have a glance from her, a warm smile, a hot plate of food put in front of him at night and he was able to delude himself that they were indeed soul mates, even if the physical side of their relationship was long gone. It was enough for her that he provided for his family and left her body alone. There was another caressing her olive skin, another waiting in the wings for his divorce before making her his and she could tolerate her life of motherly drudgery, she could wait.
It was 1983 when he took his 'gap year' after finishing his apprenticeship. It began with a Contiki tour with drunken compadres. A whirlwind bus trip through Europe, the highlight of which seemed to be pubs and clubs and scantily clad girls. Three weeks of bad behaviour and sexual misconduct. Most of the trip, a blur of drunkenness and the fog of hangovers. Except for Rome. The others were hung over and it was early morning for Romans. He headed out alone and joined a walking tour led by a goddess in her own right. Daniella Vitozzi, a student of La Sapienza, took tours during her university holidays. Her olive skin, glowing in the mid-morning light, the soft curls of her hair tamed by a loose ponytail, the waft of Nina Ricci perfume permeating his skin as she sauntered ahead of the group raising slender arms and pointing out the features and relishing the history of the ancient landmark. Wolf, walking behind her was attracted more to her shapely form and her accent. Her shapely body barely hidden beneath Bermuda shorts. As she began outlining the features of the Flavian Amphitheatre she turned to face the group, her khaki shirt unbuttoned, revealing her curviture. She was beyond beautiful. High cheekbones, chocolate eyes and as her mouth formed the words he imagined it working magic around his. She noticed him, and her gaze fell more upon him, her words directed more to him than the portly American Tourists in his wake. At the conclusion of the tour, he steeled himself and asked if she would be interested in lunch.
Picking at anti-pasto and seductively sliding an olive into her marvellous mouth, she told him how she was about to complete her course in philosopy and communication. She told him she wanted to travel, she told him he had strong shoulders, she told him, she'd love to see a kangaroo and the outback. She told him he could teach her conversational English. He told her that Rome was his final destination and that he was leaving that afternoon. They exchanged addresses and they promised to write - in English.
I am coming to Australia for 2 years on working visa. I am very excited to see all Australian animals and swim in the sea. I very sorry for not have written to you for so long. If it is not too much for you, I would very much like to see you, perhaps you could let me stay for little time until I get place of my own. I understand this is strange request but you are a very nice man. I feel safe with someone I know better than in hostel. Please say it is OK.
Cordiali salutiShe arrived early summer, looking as beautiful as he'd remembered her. He picked her up on the early QF 4 flight at 6:30am.
"Keep me awake until evening?" She had pleaded, in order to avoid maximum jet lag.
They walked through Fitzroy Gardens, lunched in Flinders Lane, took a cruise upon the Yarra then headed back to his flat in St Kilda. The modest 50's dwelling was neat and clean. Only one bedroom and bathroom. A tiny but well-equipped kitchen gave away the fact that he liked to cook. A bright, sunlit living room with a fabric couch positioned against a latticed window, the evening sun streaming in straight ethereal lines onto the polished floor.
"Wolf, this is charming. Bella!" she had squealed. "I love your home!"
He showed her the bathroom and she asked to take a shower while he prepared pasta for their evening meal. She emerged wrapped in a short silk kimono, smelling sweet with lank wet hair sticking to her decolletage. He handed her a bowl of steaming marinara pasta and she smiled, "No meat pie?"
They sat on the couch drinking Frizzante, talking, catching up. His heart melting with every word, he loved her accent, he loved the look of her, he loved that at last, here she was. Close enough to touch.
As the time to sleep drew near, he showed her to his bedroom. She winced quizzically, 'No, no, we don't sleep together. I'm sorry if I give you the wrong impression? We are just friends no?"
Wolf had more hope than expectation and quickly corrected his posture, "Oh. Oh of course, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for us to sleep together, you have my bed. I'm fine on the couch, really."
She kissed him on the cheek, thanked him again and closed the bedroom door behind her. Wolf's disappointment not too severe, this was her first day 'don't push it', he'd thought to himself as he imagined himself wrapped around her, inside her before he delved into dreams on a couch too short, too narrow.
She only stayed a couple of weeks before heading north to chase the sun and itinerant work. He'd dutifully dropped her at the station, embraced and said goodbye.
"You know you can stay with me any time, any time at all." he'd reassured her. She smiled and once again, disappeared from his life. Or so he thought.
"WolfThen she called.
Great weather, good people, having a lovely time. Wish you were here.
"Wolf! Come stai? How are you?"
She sounded different, 20 months of travel had given a slight strine 'twang' to her accent. The enthusiasm in her voice excited him, she seemed genuinely pleased to talk to him.
"Dani? Er, fine, good. Where are you?"
"I am in Melbourne! I just got of the bus from Sydney. Can I come and see you? Perhaps stay for a little while? I have proposizione, er suggestion, proposition for you."
Intrigued, he complied. Hopeful, perhaps this time she might find him attractive. Deluded, he thought she might even be in love.
The proposition was complicated. Her visa was soon to expire but she wanted to stay. Italy held no charm for her and she'd dropped out of her degree before final exams. She wanted residency in Australia, she wanted him to help her get it.
"What if we get married, then I can stay on a spice visa?
"You mean a spouse visa." He corrected her, trying to shroud his disappointment that the proposition was not more romantic.
"Yes, yes, spouse, matrimonio visa! My friend tells me that we just have to be together for four years. Then I can be resident, then I can be full Australian. What do you think?"
"But, I don't know enough about you. We have to jump through hoops to convince Immigration that we're a couple? I mean, I don't know your favourite colour, or if you have a birthmark or anything about your family?"
He flopped disparagingly onto the couch. She stood in front of him and began to unbutton her blouse. He was transfixed. She slid her left foot down the back of her tanned calf and flicked off her right shoe, then slid her right foot down her left calf and discarded the other. Soon followed the blouse and the skirt. She stood in front of him in her underwear before straddling his thighs.
"Here is my birthmark," she whispered as she unclipped her bra. A tiny brown smudge above her left breast revealed itself. "My family are from Turin." She kissed his neck. "My favourite colour is red." She reached for the hem of his T shirt and lifted it over his head, scruffing his longish hair. "My....." The sentence was never finished before the two were entangled, clothes discarded and the straight beams of sunlight formed zebra shadows on their naked bodies.
Of course he'd marry her, they could learn about each other before applying. Who knows? Perhaps she would learn to love him after all.
"Shut up! Shut the fuck up!" he yells to the invisible crowd battling between his ears. Their taunts and accusations piercing his heart, as she had when she left. "Leave me alone. Get out of my head!"
Posted for River of Mnemosny Challenge No: 5
Continued in Psychosomatic Warfare