Inspired by the ‘Cake’ format of using 6 keywords, I chose 6 of my own by blindly stabbing my finger at a dictionary. This is what I came up with:
Como | eddy | hypocaust | pretext | start | trench knife
…and here’s what I wrote:
‘Your caffè, signora.’ A deep brown voice matching his deep brown eyes. You can see why these young things fall head over heels in love with their holiday waiters.
Drinking coffee by Lake Como is exquisite, with the sun dripping over the mountains, warm and golden. The air feels like olive oil, heavy with scents of vanilla, cinnamon and coffee. Back in the 60s the heady mix contained a distinctive cigarette smoke, too. A dirty habit indeed, but I rather miss that note in the perfume of Lombardy.
It’s a shame I’m here on my own, though that waiter could alleviate the boredom. I’ve been stranded in this paradise for a couple of weeks. It’s not too bad. I enjoy my own company. I’m alone with my thoughts most days, with Roy being on an archaeological dig, or whatever it is, at Lake Garda. Roman villas and remains leave me cold, but excite Roy to the point of exhaustion, apparently. He’s staying over again tonight, so I’ll be eating my pesche alone. I wonder when that waiter’s shift ends?
Il Lago di Como. It makes my body relax just thinking about it, like slipping into a warm bath. When Roy gets back he’ll set my teeth on edge talking about the wonderful Giulia. I can’t see what a woman of such beauty and intellect – according to Roy – wants to be knocking around with a load of smelly old archaeologists. Forget Indiana Jones and think more Albert Steptoe.
As I drained my coffee a small car, brakes squealing, mounted the pavement and skidded onto the small pontoon that made up the seating area of the lakeside café. The pontoon heaved violently and the air was filled with a cacophony of breaking crockery and yelling customers. The car missed me by inches. I saw the panic stricken driver’s face as he tried to gain control, and failed. The pontoon tipped sickeningly under the weight of the vehicle, and slid the tiny car into the waters of the lake like a fried egg off a fish slice. There was a protesting cloud of steam, and the car vanished from our view.
According to the news later that day, the carabinieri and fire brigade took ages winching the car to the surface. The poor driver was dead.
I adore taking the ferry across to Bellagio. The deep green water eddied round the back of the boat as it chortled its way across. Bellagio is my favourite place in the world. I’ve got to admit I was annoyed when my peaceful enjoyment was fractured by Roy’s text message:
‘Staying over again tonight. Giulia has raised a few issues about the hypocaust.’
‘I bet she has,’ I thought, as my pizza arrived. I didn’t want to think too much about Giulia’s hypocaust, and ordered another large glass of wine.
A little light-headed, I decided to walk off the effects of lunch by heading up one of Bellagio’s steep side streets. Their beauty rewards the physical challenge of climbing so many cobbled steps. The higher I went, the quieter it became, until I found myself alone. Well, almost alone. I felt there was someone behind me, but every time I turned there was no one there. Suddenly I felt a pressure at my throat, and a warm, rather smelly, body behind me. An instinctive convulsion made me thrash my elbow sharply back, and, to my surprise, the assailant fell away. I turned to see him bouncing and rolling down the steps, without uttering a sound. There was so much blood.
I spent ages at the police station. Apparently when I’d thrust my elbow back I’d pushed a knife back into his own chest. The knife he was going to use on me. He’s serious but stable in Como hospital, under police guard. I do hope he doesn’t die. I wouldn’t like to add manslaughter to my list of sins.
The next day I took myself for a nature ramble on the mountain path up behind the town. The metallic buzz of the cicadas reached a crescendo as the traffic sounds of the town fell away below. The air was abruptly split by a sharp cracking sound. Goodness, I hope the hunters weren’t about. Would they know I was here on the footpath? Surely, the footpath is well known as a popular walk for tourists… Another two cracks ruptured the air, followed by a sound like an exhalation, then something heavy rolling through the undergrowth. It took a bit of searching to find him, and by then he was quite dead. A hunter killed by his own ricocheting bullet, the carabinieri told me. I spent ages at the police station.
‘I’m sorry Jean. Desperately sorry. You’ve forgiven me before – can you forgive me again? I swear I’ll make it up to you.’
‘Of course, darling. Darling Roy, you silly old thing…’
‘Giulia’s completely mad. I hadn’t realised I was igniting an inferno. She was determined to get me to herself. She had friends in very low places…’
‘You mean the car mounting the pavement? The ricochet bullet?’
‘I think it was Giulia’s work.’ Roy looked beaten, ashamed, leaning on the poorly maintained handrail, gazing out over the ravine.
Not coincidence? Not accidents?
‘Never mind darling. We can start again,’ I whispered, leaning my head onto his shoulder and putting my hand on his back as a supporting gesture.
I’ll never know what happened. He was here one minute, gone the next. It took ages for the rescue team to get down to his body.
He had good insurance. I go to Como every year, now.