Vittoria and her father waited in Portofino for the boat he’d hired to take them to the monastery. They sat at an outdoor table on the quay. Strolling tourists, boats rocking side by side. Buildings in ice cream colors. He ordered espressso. She didn’t want anything. “Go ahead, order what you want,” he said. She turned her head.
He sighed. He was used to the silent treatment.
It was that way between them. Always a struggle. And there was a lot more to the thing than I knew, even after some three years of my relationship with her, such as it was.
“You don't know the whole story yet,” she said.
“That’s only because you haven’t told me,” I said.
“Don’t think Giancarlo was the only one who wanted to marry me.”
There also was the handsome young nephew of her father’s best friend in Long Island. Franchino was in America for a few weeks vacation from Milan, where he was the manager of one of the family’s Audi dealerships. He told everyone he was looking for a suitable wife. So relatives and friends brought candidates for the young prince to inspect, all sorts of girls, eager to join that wealthy family. But no one suited him. That one, she talks too much. This one, she is too fat. And so on.
One day Vittoria accompanied her father to his friend’s house, and Franchino spotted her. She was only 13 or thereabouts, but Franchino knew that very soon she would bloom into a truly stunning creature.
“Franchino was the kind of guy who went right after what he wanted,” Vittoria said. “I remember the time he had this gleam in his eye, and he chased me around a table. He caught me, and before I knew what was happening, he kissed me on the lips. I couldn’t believe it! So I slapped him on his face, hard. He didn’t expect it, but he laughed.”
Franchino was not only handsome and rich, he was talented as well. He played the guitar, sang in a lovely tenor. He wrote songs for her. Would you believe it? Beautiful songs. Love songs. And what’s more, he went to the old man and told him, “I know she is only a child, Signore, but in a couple of years, with your permission, I will marry her.”
The old man said he would think about it for a while, but he’d already made up his mind. A few days later he took Franchino aside. “You are welcomed to join my family,” he told the confident young man. They shook hands. It was settled, then.
“But what about Giancarlo?” I asked.
“I had strong feelings for him,” she replied. “And at the same time I had strong feelings for Franchino. I couldn’t make up my mind.”
Decisions, decisions. Both Giancarlo and Franchino were mad about her, no doubt about it. Constant telephone calls, letters, gifts. An endless stream. Sometimes she just had to tell them both to stop, for God’s sake, and then she shut herself up in her room to get some peace.
Both young men had good qualities. Giancarlo was industrious, worked hard, made a lot of money. He said he would do anything for her, give her whatever she wanted. Then Franchino. He sang such lovely songs, written especially for her. Love songs. He, too, would give her anything she wanted.
Vittoria consulted her aunt. What did she think? “Well, on the one hand Franchino is the one who will go places,” auntie said. “But doesn't he always try to boss you around? Didn’t he tell you to change your blouse because he didn’t like you showing yourself off to others?”
“True,” Vittoria replied. But, she thought, that wasn’t so bad. He liked to fight, so did she, and she knew she’d always win.
“Giancarlo, on the other hand, is more understanding, isn’t he? He accepts you just as you are.”
“So I’d go with Giancarlo. Even though your father has already told Franchino you will marry him.”
Vittoria blinked. “What?”
“Didn’t you know? Franchino asked him for your hand, and your father said yes.”
The old man had said nothing to her about this. And when, she wondered, would he finally condescend to let her know of his plans for her? Absolutely incredible.
Well, she would show HIM.
“That explains why nobody was smiling at your wedding,” I said.
“Whatever became of Franchino?”
“Well, I don’t know if I should tell you this. You’ll get mad.”
“No, I won’t.”
“About a month ago the phone rang. I said hello, but nobody answered. Then I heard a guitar, and his voice. He sang one of the love songs he’d written for me ten years ago. He said that after all these years he still had feelings for me, that he’s never forgotten me. It made me cry.”
“He told me he was married, and had six children.”
“That’s it. Nothing more. He went back to Milan.”