Read To Tuscany with Love Online
Authors: Gail Mencini
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To Tuscany with Love
by Gail Mencini
Copyright © 2014 by Gail Mencini
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Published in the United States by
an imprint of Capriole Group LLC, Centennial 80161
For information regarding special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Capriole Group Corporate and Premium Sales at
Book and cover designed by Nick Zelinger,
Editor: Patti Thorn
Book consultant: Judith Briles
Author photograph by Ashlee Bratton
ISBN 978-1-938592-00-3 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-938592-01-0 (e-book)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013907682
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To Tuscany with Love/Gail Mencini
1. Italy—Fiction 2. Friends—Fiction 3. Reunions—Fiction
Manufactured in the United States of America
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, incidents, and events either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
To Ray, my forever love
ella had bought her solid, rough-hewn table for David’s first meal at home after their dreadful argument. She shuddered, remembering his anger and how she had been afraid that she had lost him.
Bella glanced at the stack of mail piled on the prized possession she had found at an estate auction. The previous owners had lived on Long Island and had shipped the table from the Italian countryside.They had discovered it in a vineyard estate undergoing renovation. It was a simple table, one that had silently shouldered decades of meals, conversations, laughter, arguments, and celebrations. Not stylish or valuable enough for their heirs, but perfect for Bella.
For her, it would always be David’s table.
A square of black caught Bella’s eye. It looked like sophisticated stationery stock, the expensive kind reserved for society party invitations. A swirl of silver calligraphy curled across it. She tugged on the black envelope, revealing an eight-by-eight-inch square with her name and address handwritten in a subdued yet elegant script. No return address.
Curious, Bella opened the envelope and found a cream-colored engraved invitation.
You are invited to rekindle the flame in Firenze
First class airfare and all expenses paid
No spouses, children, or friends allowed
Flight and lodging information enclosed
Regrets are for cowards
A photograph had slid out from the envelope along with the invitation. Bella knew the picture without looking. The eight of them had posed for only one picture together—the day they had left Florence at the end of that summer, thirty years before. When her copy had arrived in the mail, she had torn it into tiny pieces and flushed it down the toilet.
Bella had deliberately avoided contact with her classmates from that college semester abroad. But it was definitely time to set the record straight. No more hiding for her, or anyone else. Bella was determined to unleash her long-dormant anger.
Thirty Years Before
ho would have imagined that the punishment for a single night in the slammer would be spending the summer abroad?
Certainly not Bella, who’d be a junior this fall at City College and still lived at home with her mother. Bella had chalked up the notion of going to Italy as an impossible, idle threat of her mother’s. Yet here she was, sitting in a tiny car in Florence, as in Florence, Italy. Even before she had climbed into the toy car, her stomach had tried to set a record for consecutive cartwheels.
Her new group of friends back home had likely already forgotten she existed. They were busy planning another summer of protests against U.S. intervention in Nicaragua, which they swore was still happening, in spite of the Boland Amendment. Plans were in the works for a series of demonstrations like the one that had landed Bella in the overnight lockup.
Even though she wouldn’t admit it to a soul, she knew that she had a bigger issue than missing a summer with her friends. Bella had never, not even once, been away from her mother for longer than a day.
The woman driver of the miniature car braked to a sudden stop in front of a narrow, stone inn.
Bella was thrilled to see the end of their frantic race through the tight, cobblestone streets. At any moment, Bella had honestly expected one of the car’s side-view mirrors to be clipped off as they squeezed past oncoming traffic. With her own brand of driver etiquette, the woman had leaned on the car’s horn and screamed Italian obscenities out the open window at the driver of every car they nearly hit.
Bella released her grip on the seat and sucked in a gulp of air. The inn’s open door, weathered sign, and sagging shutters were at least twenty years older than the picture Bella’s mother had taped to their refrigerator. She sat motionless and stared.
The whining, coughing engine nagged her out of her trance.
Bella realized, with escalating panic, that her escort’s duty ended here. She turned to the woman, who was probably in her late thirties, the same age as Bella’s mother. Unlike her mother, though, whose tired eyes and pallid complexion had worried Bella as they parted, this woman was tanned, stylish, and oozed sexiness from her pores.
With a fluid wave of her manicured hand, the driver dismissed Bella to the curb, the only suitcase her mother owned clutched in her sweaty hand.
It served Bella right to be banished to summer school, albeit in Italy, for her transgressions. Bella had spent a sleepless spring night in the neighborhood lockup sitting on the cold, hard floor, shoulder-to-shoulder with her fellow protestors. And she had told her mother all about her plans to join the big demonstration in Washington, D.C., over the Fourth of July.
Four weeks later, her mother had handed her a plane ticket to Italy and a brochure for a summer college course abroad. How on earth had her mother found the money for the airfare and tuition? She worked two jobs, and even with Bella living at home and working at the diner, it seemed they barely scraped by.
Her mom insisted Bella go to Italy, as an early graduation present. But Bella knew the truth. This thinly disguised “gift” was her mother’s method of keeping her away from anti-government protests and out of jail.
Bella tripped over the threshold of the tiny hotel that would be her home for the summer. Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” blared out of a portable cassette player resting on the narrow reception counter.
On the left in the eight-by-eight-foot lounge area, four college men and a wholesome-looking girl Bella’s age rocked to the music. One tall, lean guy strutted around the tiny lobby and sang along with the music. He looked like a movie star with his auburn hair and matching auburn eyes.
“Hey, babe,” the strutter said. “Welcome to U of Miami Art in Florence.” He belted out the chorus of “Billie Jean” with a Southern drawl and dipped his shoulders as he slid backwards in a passable moonwalk.
The chocolate-haired girl waved and kept dancing. Her big-boned shape bobbed like a guy’s.
The other three jutted their chins and chimed in on the chorus.
If she could fly back home, this second, right now, Bella thought, she would. She would turn around, walk out the door, and do whatever it took to find her way back to the airport.