When Patty woke up, it was already full daytime in the bedroom of the Verona military hospital. Candy, sitting next to her, stood up straight and with a slam, closed the book she was reading.
- Candy? ... – Patty did, holding out a weak hand to her.
- I’m right here, my friend – she answered, taking her hand – Stay quiet. Every thing is all right now. Rest. This is the only thing you’re allowed to do…
- What… What happened to me? I… I remember that horrible pain in my belly during the night, then that strange impression to hear an ambulance siren. But it’s hard for me to remind what happened next…
- Ah Patty! You can say that you really scared me!!! – Candy did, nervously chuckling – You had a lightning appendicitis crisis that needed an emergency surgery. We were obliged to stop the train in Verona as it was the closest city with a hospital. You got surgery last night. Thereafter, the surgeon told me that if we had waited longer, you could have died of peritonitis! You’ve been so lucky! A true miracle, so well that it’s the tenth candle that I’ve been lighting at the hospital church!...
- The priest must be very happy of this godsend – Patty made notice with a teasing tone. In spite of her weakness, she was recovering her impertinent funniness and this delighted Candy.
- May be! I’m very inclined to buy whole crates of them by way of thanks! – The young blonde retorted, laughing. But, grimly, she added, with a trembling voice: You know, Patty, I’ve been so afraid, so afraid to lose you!... Every people I loved in my life have been taken from me, and I really thought, that it was once again happening to me. If you only knew how relieved I feel!
A burning tear went to heavily crash on her cheek, and Patty’s eyes got wet in return. She took Candy’s hand and strongly squeezed it. Overwhelmed with emotion, she struggled to control her trouble, and finally said:
- Tsssss, tsssss! Nice try but you won’t get rid of me so easily, my dear. I’ve seen others, and don’t have false hopes: I’m not ready to let you down. I’m going to be so glued to you that you’ll no longer bear me anymore!
- You’re very heartless with me! – Candy laughed while wiping a tear – But I’d like to give it a try.
Those melodramatic effusions did not last long, abbreviated by a brief knock at the door followed up by the irruption of a man dressed with a white coat that Candy recognized immediately. It was Alessandro Biazinni, the surgeon who had operated Patty.
- Good morning, Ladies! - He greeted them with confidence.
In his thirties, that tall and slender dark-and-curly-haired man looked very different from what Candy remembered. That night, she was so worried about her friend’s health that she had not noticed at all how much attractive he was. But now, having her mind clearer, she quickly gave her eyeglasses to Patty, who, after wearing them, couldn’t do anything but note the obviousness. Troubled, she felt her cheeks getting red as her glasses were getting covered with mist. The surgeon was enjoying the little comedy that they were playing in front of him, but tried to look casual. He took a document hanging at the edge of the bed and asked, eyebrow arched, with an almost perfect English:
- How do you feel today, miss O’ Brien? I can see you don’t have fever, which is a very good sign. Do you have any pain?
- A little, but I can bear it – Patty mumbled, having more and more difficulties to hide her trouble. He had particularly one of the most charming Italian accents…
- I’m going to prescribe you some more painkillers that you can take if you feel the need to. First of all, you must rest and mustn't try to stand up. You’ve been close to the worse last night, you must be careful then.
- Don’t worry, doctor – Patty replied, turning her head towards Candy – My friend here is the right person to take care of me!
- I’m a nurse… - Candy pointed out with a smile before the medic’s interrogative look.
- Interesting, interesting… - the surgeon answered, putting back the temperature curve on the bed – American nurses are visibly more distinguished than I thought!...
- Don’t believe the appearances, doctor! – Candy cried out, laughing though admitting innerly that the haute-couture dress she was wearing, contrasted indisputably with the nature of her profession – I also wear very well the uniform, you know, and I’ve been honouring it for more than ten years yet.
- I'm going to be the object to your intense scrutiny then? – He did, his eye just glittering with mischief.
- You can be assured of that! I want the best for my dear Patricia!
- In that case, you don't have to worry about anything. I will pay a very particular attention to your friend… - he said, giving one of the most eloquent look to his patient. She felt her cheeks burning as he approached her to control the drip that was hanging over beside her bed. He bowed his head towards her and told her, with the most solemn of tones:
- Miss O'brien, you'll have to wait for that evening to eat. Until that time, you are allowed to drink, but in small slips. Your body must first eliminate the last effects of the anaesthesia.
- Of course, doctor. I will closely follow your advice – she stumbled.
- Great! If all my patients were as obedient as you are, my days would be much more restful!
Patty shrugged her shoulders, getting redder, and lowered her head to hide her emotion. An amused smile took form on the doctor's face who added, giving to the young ill lady the mercy killing:
- I see that you're recovering some colours! This is very encouraging!
Patty turned immediately scarlet, vainly trying to sink into her bed to shy away from the mischievous look he was offering her. The medic emitted a stifled laugh and walked to the door. When arriving underneath the doorframe, he turned around a last time, shooting her a very seductive smile that completely took her aback.
- Your company is very pleasant, ladies, but I'm obliged to leave you. Many patients are waiting for me and unfortunately, they are less charming than you are. I will go back at the end of my service to check if you are fine. Until then, let me wish you both a good day!
With that, he greeted them both and disappeared. Dumbfounded, Patty and Candy did not exchange any word for a few seconds. That latter finally took the initiative to break the silence and bowed to her friend who began to chuckle when discovering her flickering look.
- I know what you are going to tell me and I do agree with you. He is i-rre-sis-ti-ble!!!
Leaning on the vaporetto gate that was sailing back up the Grand Canal of Venice, Terry, his hair brushed by the sea air, was staying thoughtful. The baroque facades of the Doges City were still shining with the ochre light of that late summer evening. He was benefiting from few hours before the night falls and this comforted him. He was having time enough before him to find his way in the narrow and dark alleys of the town. He unfolded the piece of paper on which his father had written the address he was supposed to go: "Contarini Fasan Palace, Minotto street".
- The Count Contarini has been a long time friend. He will be very pleased to welcome you – he had told him, as he penned the address on the piece of paper – You will be very comfortable in the search of "you-know-who". But I hope that the first thing you'll do after finding her, will be to come and introduce her to me…
- Fear not, Father! – Terry had replied, taking with a moved hand the note he was holding out to him – I would be very honoured and you will be my first stop before we return to New-York.
The Duke had nodded with a smile of satisfaction. Across his eyes squinting with joy, he observed his son who was showing a face that expressed both anguish and excitation. They had just landed few minutes ago on the wasteland that served as makeshift airport to the city of Venice. Like most towns of that time, it only had a simple field away from the agglomeration to welcome, in those times of aviation still in its infancy, the rare airplanes that used to come and land there. Of course, there was not a real transit transport to come back to town, and the young man had been very fortunate that one of mechanics of the site, about to go back home, offered him to carry him to the city entrance.
In few hours, he would find back the woman he loved and that perspective had brought his father to almost thirty years back, in a time in which he also was crazy in love with an amazing young woman, to whom he had stupidly renounced by excess of pride and concern for classic conventions. At that time, he did not know that he would suffer all along his life from the gaping wound that this break-up would leave, that this secret injury he had to shut would change the enthusiast and freedom-loving being he used to be, into a dark and embittered man, cruel and ruthless. His son's happiness was taking him back to his own failures because, if he had been braver, he would have been able to know that feeling of ecstasy. But all of this now was a part of a past that was gone. A chapter of his history was closing with the about-to-come promising future of his son, and a comforting warmth had invaded his wounded heart.
Terrence had offered him to accompany him but he had refused under the false pretext that his plane needed a good checking before leaving the following morning. In reality, he did not want, with his presence, to disturb a little more the condition of excitement in which his son was. It was up to him to take his destiny into his own hands. He had proved to him since many years that he was able to do it, but he could observe, by his own experience, but also by watching him, that loving too much a woman could make you as weak as a little child. This is why he did not want to perturb him in his quest. He wanted to leave him the choice of his decisions and actions. Terry was a man now. He had acquired an experience of life much more mature than his, that he had maintained under the golden panelling of a Ministry. Instead of giving him lessons, he was having everything to learn from him, and though he regretted that paradoxical situation, he felt some pride before his nobility of soul and his bravery that honoured the name of Grandchester. He had always sighed before the mediocrity of his legitimate progeny: a lazy and incompetent son, and a daughter whose silliness was equal to the few charm the nature had granted her. Terry raised the level in all kind of ways, and once again, the bite of remorse went to shot into his heart. He hoped that with time elapsing, his son would forgive him his attitude towards him, even if he knew that he would not be able to forgive to himself everything he had me him suffer. He had hurt him too much, conscientiously. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to go back but now, as their relationship was cleaning up and changing, he was determined to make in his turn his son proud of his father. The task would be difficult but he was very decided to make everything possible to repair his mistakes of the past, by not beginning to interfere in his private life.
At the time of separation, they had pressed each other in a modest embrace but imbued with a tender affection that had left them both mute of emotion. Then, Terry had thrown himself into the mechanic's Fiat 509 which had started with backfires, lifting up in its wake a thick cloud of dust that quickly hid the car from Richard Grandchester's view, whose gaze was lost to the horizon, his heart filled with hope.
On the ground, Terry did not have any difficulties to find his way. In spite of his rudimentary Italian, he was able, thanks to the address on the paper and many gestures, to get the direction to the count Contarini's palace, a narrow two-floors building of flamboyant gothic-style, built in the middle of the fifteenth century, along the Grand Canal, just in front of the famous basilica of the Madonna della Salute. As he knocked at the door, he raised his head to admire the splendid marble balconies with pierced wheels motifs that gave a very special identity to the edifice. A few moments later, the door opened and an austere head appeared in the doorstep.
- My name is Terrence Grandchester – Terry introduced himself with a nod – My father, the Duke of Grandchester, is sending me to pay my respects to Count Contarini. Could you please inform him about my presence?
The domestic remain silent for a while, observing the young English man from head to toe.
- One moment, please… - he let finally slip, indifferent to his interlocutor's obvious eagerness. Then he closed the door on the stupefied young man's nose. That latter was about to leave when the door opened again, this time widely.
- Lord Grandchester, please do come in. The count is waiting for you.
Terry entered the hall that he found very dark and overloaded with hunt trophies. On the side, an ebony wooden stairs was leading to the upper floors. The man that seemed to be the butler, invited him to climb the steps to the first floor. On the landing, two doors were facing each other. The butler knocked at the one on the right. A voice answered, half-muffled by the partition wall that separated them. The servant opened the door and with the hand, offered Terry to come in. It was a medium-sized square bedroom, bathed with the sunlight that was gloriously crossing the ogive-shaped windows. Lightly away in the shadow, an old man, with white and curled mid-hair, dressed with a dressing gown, was sitting in front of one of the windows, and was observing with a telescope the comings and goings of the boats and gondolas on the canal.
- You're surprising me in full entertainment, lord Grandchester – he said, without leaving his observation post – The Canal traffic is a real Commedia dell' arte. This is a source of great amusement for me. You should see those gondoliers insulting each other after having failed to enter into collision – he followed, his stunted body shaking with laughs.
Finally, he pushed away his telescope, left his seat and came closer to Terrence, who was standing up, without moving.
- How strange! ... – He said as he placed his wrinkled face very close to the young man's – You're a subtle mixture of your father and mother…
- You knew her? – Terry retorted instantaneously, though regretting immediately his audacity.
- I did, young man, and I can even tell you that I was also in the running to seduce the divine creature she was. But the British charm revealed itself more persuasive… or luckier. I would rather opt for the second hypothesis.
Terry retained a doubtful frown before the old man's boast, whose allure evoked more The Miser, by Moličre than Rodrigue, by Corneille. The glittering with mischief eye he was reflecting to him was not able to question the charming being he might have been in his youth. He glanced around for that face he could recognize on portraits hanging on the walls, and stopped, surprised, on a black marble bust that was seating in the bottom of the room, on a chest of drawers, between two stuffed pheasants.
- Shakespeare? – He asked while moving towards the sculpture.
- Well, himself. Another damn English! – The count answered, chuckling of laughs – Are you fond of his plays, my young friend?
- In reality… - Terry did, with a shy smile on his lips - I'm a theatre actor in Broadway, and Shakespeare's works occupy a significant place in my register, just as in my life…
- How funny! – The old man cried out, eyes wide-opened with surprise – Do you know that that house inspired Shakespeare for his play, Othello? Desdemona is supposed to have lived here before being killed by her jealous husband…
- This is what the legend says, and there is always a little of truth in a legend, isn't it?
- This does not leave me indifferent, you're right – Terry answered, smiling – This is a great privilege for me to be in those history-loaded walls.
- Believe me, too much history have some disadvantages, such as… such as some undesirable ancestors who come and bother us during the night… - he whispered like if he did not want to be heard.
- Are you talking about g… ghosts? – Terry asked, a thrill of fear running down his spine.
- I am, my young friend!¬ Oh, please, don't look so baffled! The witty England is not the only country that has spirits! – The count replied, sniggering.
Ignoring the pun that wanted to be humoristic, Terry replied:
- To be honest, I would have preferred you don't have any. I still have some bad memories of my nights passed in the family manor in Scotland, in which chains and steps noises used to trouble my sleep.
- Oh, Don't be worry! Here, you won't have any noise. They rather tend to pull your blanket off and to tickle your feet!...
- I beg your pardon??? – Terry whimpered, looking visibly terrorised.
- Ahahaha!!! I was joking! – The count cried out as he gave a frank hit to his guest's back whose face had lost all colour – You're not going to tell me that at your age, you still believe in ghosts!
- I don't, of course!... – Terry stammered, embarrassed to look so ridiculous.
- Rest assured, the only things that will wake you up will be the churches bells that surround us, and in Venice, there is no shortage! It's quite an animated concert!!!
Recovering his colours, Terry remained nevertheless sceptical as persisted on his interlocutor's lips, an ironic smile that did not encourage him to trust. That latter walked then to the chimney that faced the windows, on which was a very substantial in size mirror. He pulled the strap that stood next to it to call a servant.
- I imagine that after that long journey, you'd like to have some rest… My maid will lead you to your bedroom in which you'll be able to groom and change yourself. I've always some spare clothes for my guests. Be sure to use everything freely. The meal will be served in an hour in the dinning-room downstairs. Will I have the pleasure to have you at my table, lord Grandchester?
- Of course, count Contarini. I sincerely thank you for the hospitality you're giving me. This is very kind of you.
- Believe me, my friend, this is not the quality that characterizes me the most – the old man answered with a mysterious tone as he escorted Terry to the door – At my age, few are the chosen ones who can come to my home. You should rather thank your father! If you were not his son, my butler was given the order to throw you to the water!
Once again, Terry wondered if the old man, in spite of the seriousness he displayed, was not playing with his nerves. But he did not have the time to react, as the servant bursted in the same time. He rushed to follow him to run away from the strange and anguishing householder. Definitely, his father was having strange relationship!!! That statement did not reassure him at all, especially when, as he entered his bedroom, an enormous elk head welcomed him – a trophy from a probable hunt in the Nordic countries. Hanging over the bed, it was staring at him with his lifeless gaze. One thing was sure: ghosts would never venture to come here. However, this would not dispense him from the nightmares he was certain to have in that lunatic asylum!!!
The day had elapsed very quietly. Patty had fallen asleep again and Candy had plunged back into the reading of her book. Quite simply, she was a little bored. This was the only book in English available, and it was not the most exciting. She yawned, stretched on her seat, then took back the book between her hands, tapping its cover with a distracted look. But the sudden burst of a nurse in the bedroom put an end to her boring.
- Miss Andrey, would you mind to come with me at the reception desk? We have a little problem…
- Is it serious? – Candy asked as they were walking along the corridor that led to the hospital entry.
- It is not, don't worry. It's just a little bit, well… bulky!...
When arriving at the reception desk, Candy understood without any difficulty the nurse's insinuation: a mountain of suitcases was blocking the path, so well that the staff and the visitors were obliged to zigzag to circulate. The strict minimum for two ladies…
The young American outlined an embarrassed smile before the grotesque of the situation.
- They've just been delivered from the railways station and I've been well specified that they were yours – the nurse did with a hint of mockery in her voice.
- Believe me – Candy thought – If the decision had been mine, there would be far less of them, and I would not be standing there, ridiculous, in front of that amount of cases while I ignore what most of them contain…
For an instant weak, she regretted to have let Annie handle her luggage. That latter had explained to her that a young woman of her standing had to travel with such a load in order to preserve the family prestige. She had to have a different dress each day, even if that meant to change herself several times depending on the event of the day.
- You understand, Candy – she had told her as she sighed before the extravagance of her equipment – You are the Andrey's heir. You'll represent the family on the boat and in the foreign countries. Dressed like a poor girl, people could think that we have financial issues. They could ask questions, rumours would circulate, and it would damage the company. Every thing is linked!
- I can't believe that a simple piece of cloth can have such influence over the securities of a corporation… - Candy had answered, perplex.
- Unfortunately, this is the way it works. Knowing your nature, I guess how much you can find this futile and ridiculous, but there are codes to follow, and disobey them can cause much more damages than you imagine. A simple deviation, and we can lose all respectability, all consideration. This can ruin our reputation!
- Gosh! This is scary!!!... In what strange world do we live in?... Well!... I will literally apply those codes and I will do my best to honour the Andrey's name. I wouldn't like Albert comes to regret my adoption…
- Don't be silly! – She sneered – He knows what matters the most in life, but the society in which we are evolving sets the bar above all those essential concerns. Of course, we are not obliged to agree with them, but if, by adapting ourselves to them, we can by our presence and our actions get the mentalities improved, the both poor orphans we used to be will be very proud of what they've done.
- Well, this is a convincing point of view. But… Are you really sure that I've to take so many of them??? – Candy did, as she pointed her the multitude of clothes displaying on the bed.
Annie's categorical and firm Yes had closed the talking and Candy had stopped insisting. But now, before the staff's ironical smiles, she was cursing her friend and her excessive enthusiasm.
- What am I going to do with all these cases? – She whimpered – They will never fit Patty's bedroom!
- Listen – The nurse did, filled with pity before Candy's contrite expression – I can offer you to make a selection of things that you'll put in one or two suitcases, and I will make carry the rest to the basement where we store our material. You'll take it back when you leave.
- Really? You're saving my life! I sincerely appreciate your help, miss! Miss… ?
- Emma! My name is Emma – the nurse answered with a pretty Italian accent, shaking frankly the hand that Candy was holding out to her – Pleased to help you!
- I hope I will have the opportunity to do the same to you in return. Do not hesitate to ask me if necessary. If it is in my abilities, I will be delighted to do it.
- Don't worry for this, miss. I do not expect anything in return. This is natural to help people.
Candy granted her with a warmth smile then leaned over her luggage in order to choose the ones she wanted to keep. She put apart a case for Patty that contained her grooming items, some nightgowns and few dresses, and repeated the same thing for her own person. The housing issue questioned her suddenly. Indeed, where was she going to stay during Patty's recovery? She did not want something too far from the hospital. She wanted to be able to stay with her friend as late as possible without fearing to come back to her hotel at night. She did not know if there was one in the area and turned to Emma to ask her the question.
- A hotel around here? No. But there is a little boarding house at the foot of the street. "At Roberta's". It's modest but very well held. Unfortunately, I don't think it will meet your expectations.
- Think again. This will be fine. I'm going to have a look at it right away. Please, if my friend wakes up before I come back, could you tell her the reason of my absence? I wouldn't like her to worry.
- Don't worry. Take your time. If necessary, I'll save a meal tray that you'll eat with your friend when you return.
Candy thanked her with a smile and left, stepping sprightly, for the boarding house. Reaching the street, she was surprised by the air mildness that contrasted with the stifling heat of the hospital. A line of plane-trees was protecting with its kind shadow her exploration of the place. The weather was fine, the sun was slowly losing height but was still far from ceding before darkness. She crossed a little boy in short trousers who was running and laughing after his dog, and she thought with nostalgia about her little residents of Pony's home. It was good for her to walk and to take some fresh air. Staying inside for hours really annoyed her, but it was better than lying in a bed like Patty. Those were not the idyllic holidays she expected to, but it would be a very good topic of conversation when she comes back to America.
In America… So many things to tell to Terry! She was so eager yet, though her journey in Europe was just beginning. In spite of the exoticism of the place, she knew she would find the time passes very slowly and she immediately blamed herself for her lack of gratitude towards Albert and her friends who had organised this trip.
Albert who did not know about her misadventure and who might be very worry! How could she have forgotten to inform him??? Obviously, the emotions of those last days had made her lose all reason and she had to come to herself before losing it completely! The seven ringing bells of a surrounding church interrupted her in her thoughts and increased her dismay. It was vain at that time to search a post office that would certainly be closed. Upset, she decided to go there the following morning in the first hour and to send, as fast as possible, a reassuring telegram to her benefactor. Lost in her thinking, she did not notice, at first, the sign of Roberta's boarding house, solidly fixed to the wall of the small building that sheltered it. A notice below on which were written the words "english spoken" reassured her completely. Actually, it was not difficult to travel abroad: they all speak English!
She shook the little bell next to the doorway. It opened few seconds later over a buxom woman, dressed with an apron, her hair tied under a black and white scarf.
- Good afternoon, madam. Roberta, I presume? – Candy asked, nodding at her interlocutor.
- I am. May I help you?
- Let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Candy White Andrey and I'm looking for a bedroom for a few days. A nurse from the hospital told me that you might houses me.
- You're very lucky because normally in summer, with all those tourists, we are full. But a couple of Americans has just left this afternoon, and I can rent you their bedroom if you want.
- This is perfect, madam, and thank you. I'm going to tell my friend who is sick and must stay in bed at the hospital. I'll come back in the evening if you don't mind.
- Come back when you want, miss. The door is always opened. Since then, your room will be cleaned. It's number six. The key will be on the piece of furniture in the entrance corridor.
Candy thanked once again the hotelier and turned back. She found back Patty awake, her cheeks pink with contentment.
- My God, you look extremely happy to see me again!!!
- Don't take this the wrong way – Patty chuckled as she pointed with her head the bedside, on which was put a little vase with a red rose inside – but you're not the reason of my good mood…
- It smells very good! – Candy cried out as she plunged her nose in the flower – Who has given it to you?
- Alessandro??? Alessandro Biazinni, the doctor?
- Himself! – Patty answered, with an excited nod – He offered it to me earlier, during his evening visit.
- Damn! He's not wasting time!...
- Oh Candy! Don't be so suspicious! This is just a flower, come on… There is nothing wrong with that.
- This is still a red rose!...
- Perhaps the florist did not have any other colour to offer? Come on, Candy, don't you think it is a delicate attention?
- I do! But he is also Italian, and you know their reputation: charming, seducing… I wouldn't like that Casanova plays with your fragile little heart…
- Don't worry. I think you're assuming too much about the Italians' reputation. Doctor Biazinni acted as true gentleman with me.
- This is what I really fear… - Candy thought innerly though deciding to shut her interrogations. It had been a long time since she had not seen her friend so cheerful. This is why she did not want to ruin that new happiness. Nevertheless, she promised to herself to watch carefully the handsome Italian and discover his true intentions.
- He told me that I'm recovering quickly and at this rate, I could leave the hospital in a few days – Patty continued with a cheerful sigh.
- That's really a good news!!! I'm looking forward to you leaving that place, my dear Patty. There are so many pretty things to see around here.
- You know, Candy, I don't want you to stay here because of me. You must go out and visit the city.
- Come on, Patty, there is no way I leave you alone here! You'll get bored to death!!!
- This is the reason why I want you to take profit of your freedom for the both of us. Listen, you could meet me at lunchtime and tell me what you've seen. I would travel through you.
- I'm not sure…
- Come on, Candy!!! Don't be so stubborn! You'll be my eyes and my ears. You'll make me dream so much that it will even give me more incentive to get better and see with you all those wonders!
- Ok!... – she finally said with a sigh of resignation – But in any doubt, well' go back to where we started!
- If you want, but trust me, I'm sure this is the best thing to do.
- I'll bring you back some specialties!!!
- Candy!!! You're really just a stomach!!! – Patty cried out, laughing – But well, I don't say no because I fear that, like in most hospitals, the food here may not be very good.
- This is something we're going to check right away! – Candy replied as the nursed came in, pushing the trolley that carried two meal trays.
- The timing is good! I'm dying of hunger!
The two friends feasted on pastas and hot minestrone soup. More specifically, Candy was the most voracious. Patty, thought very motivated at the beginning, had to quickly renounce to her meal. Her stomach remained still weakened by the surgery and the drugs she had to take, she was dizzy at slightest effort. She let herself go deeper in the hollow of her pillow and murmured, with a tired voice:
- I think that I'm going to join very soon the arms of Morpheus… This is very tiring to stay in bed all day long…
Candy smiled with amusement as she noticed her friend had lost none of her irony. This was what she liked the most about Patty: her discrete appearance caused by her inbred timidity that artfully hid a personality full of humour and malice.
- I'm going to let you rest then… - she said as she pated her lips with a napkin – You'll be in better shape tomorrow. I'll take profit of the morning to search something for you that will prevent you from getting bored and that will get you busy during your long days.
- You're so kind to think about me, poor being that the illness has confined to the bed…
- You don't have to overdo it! - Candy laughed – In a few days, you'll be dancing at the handsome Alessandro's arms. He is the one who said it!
- I don't remember him evoking that eventuality – Patty said, getting red, her eyes glittering with emotion – but this could encourage me to recover even more quickly…
- For now, think about having some rest – Candy answered as she kissed her friend's forehead – Tomorrow is another day… Sweet dreams!...
Patty nodded with a smile and closed her eyes slowly. Quickly, her breath took a regular rhythm and Candy thought she could leave her sleeping quietly with angels. She took her handbag and the suitcase she had put aside, and left the hospital. Fortunately, the street that led to the boarding house sloped gently down which eased the carrying of her heavy baggage. Her bedroom was on the first floor and this was with a big sigh of relief that she let her drop on the bed. She took off her leather shoes with the back of her feet and stayed laid down for a while by staring at the ceiling. Suddenly, someone knocked at the door. It was her landlady, Roberta, who was carrying a big pitcher of hot water.
- I thought you'd like a good hot bath, miss.
Candy tanked her for that pleasant initiative and warmly invited her to come in. The landlady went through the room and poured the pitcher in the bathtub that was at the bottom of the bedroom, close to the window. A screen would protect her from indiscrete eyes and would give some intimacy to the grooming corner. After three round-trips, the bath was ready and Candy lost no time in plunging into it. She moaned with satisfaction as she felt the soft contact of the warm water on her tired body. She let her head fall backwards on the edge of the bathtub and closed her eyes. She savoured the moment, a smile of satisfaction on the corner of her lips. She played for a long time with the bath salts, passing and passing again the soapy sponge on her skin, flapping the water with her feet to relax. But the temperature of the water slowly decreased and the young woman had to resign herself to leaving this little corner of paradise. She quickly dried herself, then coated herself with a perfumed oil she had found on the bathroom desk. That smelled good lilac, one of her favourite flowers, which made her even happier. She wore her nightdress and laid down flat on the bed. Her head on the side in the hollow of her arms, her gaze rested on her handbag next to her, half-opened, at the bottom of the bed. Terry's letter was almost out of it, and she took it with a languid hand. The fine and delicate handwriting of the young man was dancing before her moved eyes, and the words she had so often repeated in her mind since she had read them for the first time, were taking flesh, murmuring to her ear all the tenderness they evoked.
I haven't changed…
The soft and warm voice of the young man was infiltrating all her being, and for a moment, it seemed to her that she was able to feel him against her, that she was able to touch him. Those strange sensations were taking possession of her and consuming her from the inside, delightfully titillating her belly, increasing the rhythm of her breath, wrapping her with a delicious warmth that was taking her towards a territory that was not unknown to her but she had never dared penetrate. All shaking, she sat up straight, short-winded and cheeks on fire. She hurriedly closed the letter and placed it back in the handbag. Then, several seconds later, realising the strangeness of her behaviour, she let blurt a nervous laugh she covered up with her hand. All along those years, she had restrained her more secret desires and now, as she was free to fully live them, she was feeling guilty like a little girl caught in the act of silliness. Her female body was slowly waking up from a long sleep she had imposed to herself. She realised that if Terry was able to make her live such remote intense emotions, what would happen when they would meet for real?
In search for some fresh air, she went to the window and opened wide it. A light breeze came and caressed her pretty face and disrupted her golden locks. She looked up and saw the guiding star that glittered intensively in the sky. The love star was one of the first that shined after dusk, and remained, even during the starriest nights, one of the more shining aster that people could easily distinguish among the thousand stars surrounding. In a few hours, Terry would have too the opportunity to admire it from his Horacio Street's balcony… She did not know yet that a hundred kilometres away, the young man was also leaning on a balcony over the canal of Venice and was contemplating the same sky wearing its nocturne colours, with a special thought for her, promising himself that the following morning would be the last one they would live far apart.