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Claudio Hermani

DREAMING IN CASHMERE

Towards evening the clouds disappeared and when the stars and the crescent moon appeared, they shone from a crystal clear sky.

At the same time, the temperature dropped by two degrees with each passing hour, so that Mara was dressed far too lightly, when the time came to go home from the office.

The cold had also promptly paralyzed her streetcar; the loudspeaker didn't even promise a late arrival, but simply excused the cancellation of line 4.

Everyone waiting set off. Those who like Mara had a feasible distance to walk, walked, others waved for cabs or begged for help on the phone.

Mara walked quickly to get warm, but the thin soles of her pumps and nylon stockings allowed the cold to creep up her legs while her nose and cheeks flushed red.

After an hour, she was home and had to turn up the radiators first; it was fifteen degrees in the living room. She ran a steaming, fragrant bath that would warm her and improve her mood.

They actually felt wonderfully soft, perfectly hugging her legs and seemed to work immediately, soothing, warming, comforting. So, Mara poured herself a matching vermouth, along with olives and smoky almonds, almost like at a Milanese aperitivo. 

 

She kept all the lights off and sat in her favorite armchair, looking at the moonlit trees outside of her windows.

Carlo had taken her to Italy once. Apart from Milan they had been to Lucca and Pisa and then to the oceanside, always to places where Carlo knew his way around. Thus, the most charming little hotels, the most beautiful walks, away from the tourists, the finest osterie and ristoranti, where he was always greeted warmly.

She and Carlo walked through a pine forest, the path was covered with needles, the sun’s rays painted figures on the forest floor, sometimes there was the sound of an unknown bird.

Finally, they came down to the beach, which was wide, white and deserted, because it was autumn. They walked barefoot into the water and then follow the water's edge to the right, with Carlo leading her. After about a kilometer they came to a very simple, wooden beach hut, with a covered porch facing the sea.

Approaching it, Mara saw that there was a table set for two, with flowers and an ice bucket. She turned to Carlo and looked at him in wonder and excitement:

"Did you....?"

He led her to the two steps and made a bow: 

"A little lunch for my Principessa!"

The table was rough wood, the wicker chairs had blue cushions to match the cornflowers and napkins, the slightly bubbly wine was very cold and very good. 

There were puff pastries in small blue bowls that tasted like Parma ham, pizza or Parmesan. 

And of olives and smoked almonds.

Then, out of the corner of her eye, she perceived a movement and turned to the pine forest, from which four men dressed in white jackets and carrying large trays appeared and approached, in a line. They placed the serving trays on a table in the background, on which Mara now also saw a pile of plates and bowls, more ice buckets with wine and mineral water, rechauds on which copper pots were now placed.

The elder amongst the four men came to them, greeted them politely in the name of the Baronessa of V. and introduced himself: "Sono Giovanni, my colleagues and I are very pleased to serve you here, today. Please, tell me EVERYTHING: what you want, when, and what. And if we don't have something, one of the ragazzi will quickly run up to the Palazzo and get it!"

 

Everything was – what else – perfect!

A succession of small, fine courses, always contrasting the previous flavor, texture and ingredients: a variety of raw fish and seafood with the best olive oil and crispy bruschetta, then a small risotto with porcini mushrooms, a perfectly grilled king prawn, a tiny filet of venison, a piece of Taleggio, a persimmon mousse on walnut ice cream.

With confident politeness, Giovanni explained the various courses, while a younger waiter kept pouring new wines, into new glasses, of course. A third cleared away plates, the fourth was probably the chef.

Both Mara’s and Carlo’s moods were getting better and better. Carlo made her laugh, Mara caught his loving gaze, while she ate, drank, talked.

How the final espresso could be so hot and creamy was a mystery hidden behind a door in the back; it was accompanied by Vin Santo with cantuccini.

It was from the same door that the wide daybed had probably appeared, which now stood in the back of the veranda when Giovanni said goodbye with the words:

"I hope you enjoyed everything, thank you. We will now head up to the palazzo, but if you need anything, there is a telephone behind the door that you can use to reach us. Here you are now undisturbed, the beach is private. A very, very old privilege. The Baronessa would be happy to greet you towards evening."


She experienced the rest of the afternoon as if they were on a cloud, feeling light-headed from the delicious wines, the air and her delight at Carlo's surprise - she had never experienced anything like this. 

And he was so proud and happy too.

At some point they fell asleep under a blue linen sheet, to the sound of the waves.

 

Then the air became cooler and Mara awoke with a shudder. She sat up and, after a second, realized that she was sitting in her armchair, in her apartment, in Hamburg and not by the Tuscan sea.

She called Carlo in London and told him to come home, immediately!