When Iris reflected on the evening they had spent together, all she could remember was the warmth of their togetherness and the feeling that they were right for each other. As she plumped her pillow again that night in her bed, she smiled again. It was past three in the morning and she had been back in her bed since the last two hours, but sleep seemed far away. Happiness bubbled inside her, wanting to be let free.
What a wonderful evening they had had!
The food at Giuseppe‘s was, delicious to say the least. Iris had been surprised by Alessandro’s choice of dining place when he had parked his car and walked to the small place by the side street.
She had assumed he would take her to a richly lavished place, meant only for the “so and so” of the society; instead he had taken her right into the warmth of Siena friendliness and hospitality. The restaurant itself was close to the centre of the Piazza del Campo, on one of the side streets. You might miss it if you were not looking for it. Inside they had been welcomed warmly by the owner of the restaurant, who had personally ensured privacy by giving them a secluded table in one corner. The furniture was all wood, the fittings done in holly green, giving a mystical ambience to the entire place. A strategically placed candle at each table gave a magical glow, and placed in the centre of each table was a small bowl of red and yellow roses.
Iris gave a chuckle as she remembered how she had looked around everywhere at people laughing, chatting loudly and wondered how Alessandro fit in here. Where was his reserve, his severity of expression? Didn’t he say they needed to talk in privacy? She looked at him while she sat down and a smile curved her mouth. Alessandro looked the part of a typical hearty Italian, as he spoke to the owner of the restaurant, his hands and his eyes moving at lightening speed. He clapped the owner and hugged him, before sitting down and joining her. Iris had looked at him in amazement, glad to see this unexpected side to Alessandro’s character. He had smiled at her, and the evening had taken a friendlier turn. They had talked amicably, as they never had before.
Iris plumped her pillow under her chin and continued reminiscing. Not that Giuseppe’s could be called a place where privacy could be maintained for long, if the man was as famous as Alessandro Bertoni was. Time and again, he had been greeted by various acquaintances, male and female. Finally the flow had seem to ebb and they had ordered their dinner.
“My son! What do you do here this evening?” A voice had boomed next to their table.
With an exclamation, Alessandro had got up and hugged him. “Uncle Sandro! What are you doing here?” They exchanged pleasantries and spoke a little more. Apparently his uncle was there with some old cronies, to enjoy men’s evening.
Then turning to Iris, Alessandro said, “Iris, come and meet my uncle and godfather, Alessandro Molinelli. He is also a very close friend of the family. Uncle Sandro, this is Iris Florence.”
No other explanation was given about who she was or what she was doing with him, Iris observed- just her name. But then, wasn’t that typical of Alessandro? He must do the same with all his women friends, she was sure.
“Signorina Florence, what a beautiful name you have!” Signor Molinelli smiled warmly at her.
“Buonasera, and thank you, Signor Molinelli.” Iris got up, and smiled warmly at this complimentary gesture, holding out her hand.
It had been taken and kissed as Signor Molinelli had looked up at Alessandro with shrewd eyes and said, “So finally, you have found a woman who has beauty as well as grace. I congratulate you, son.“
“You may also congratulate me on my forthcoming nuptials, uncle Sandro. Iris has consented to become my wife. “ Alessandro said quietly, his announcement startling his uncle.
To give Signor Molinelli credit, he quickly gained his equilibrium and stared hard at his godson. Then, he smiled warmly and said, “Congratulations my son! Happy news indeed! I am glad things have worked out. “
Alessandro saw Iris frown at this statement and quickly said, “Yes indeed, things have worked out from the last time I saw you.” As he said this, he picked up Iris’s hand in his and gave a warning look towards his uncle, “Iris took her time but in the end, everything is alright.”
Saying so, he gave her hand a squeeze and saw the frown disappearing from her face, to his relief, to be replaced by a shy smile.
His uncle understood immediately, of course and made a show of clapping him on the back, saying “Very good! I am glad. Congratulations to both of you. Iris, welcome to the family.”
Saying so, he bent to give Iris a kiss on each cheek and said softly to her, “I am very happy for Alessandro and the boys. The house will now be home.”
Tears shimmered in her eyes at his warm words. Iris gave him a genuinely warm smile and nodded her thanks.
Signor Molinelli cleared his throat and said jovially, “Well now, Champagne is the drink of the hour then. I will ask Marco to get you his best bottle. On me, my dear boy! Enjoy!”
He bid them both good bye and went to join his friends.
Dinner was served by then. It had taken them a while to get through and finish the huge spread in the front of them. They had ordered garlic Prawns, Ravioli salad, green Gnocchi, chocolate pasta, Ribollita and for dessert, a Tiramisu with Amaretto liquor. It had been a feast fit for the Gods.
There had also been a bit of dancing, and Iris had laughingly joined in when Alessandro had held out his hand to her for a dance. She had been surprised when Alessandro had mocked her for thinking, Siena didn’t offer night life. Granted, it wasn’t anything like Florence, but hey, it was there! Oh, how carefree and handsome Alessandro had looked, with his grey green eyes sparkling with mirth! How he had thrown his head back and roared when Iris had booed his efforts at hip hop dancing when they had been walking back to the car. And how her heart had gone crazy, when he had so tenderly taken her face between his hands and kissed her good night, his hunger and passion evident but in control. He had murmured sweet nothings in her mouth as he kissed her and she – she had kissed him back with all abandon. He had kissed her once more, promising to never let her go, promising to become one soon, and then left her at the door. Oh, she would remember it all, for all her life.
And suddenly, a sob broke through her reminiscences. Astonished, she looked around and found no one. Only then did she realise, she had tears flowing down her cheeks. It was she who had let out a sob of pure despair, at the thought of never seeing Alessandro so carefree again, when she left him. As another sob broke free, Iris hid her face in the pillow and gave a little moan of pain. Why did things have to be like this? She punched the pillow and moaned his name.
“Iris, tesoro mio, what is wrong?”
Iris was startled out of her misery by Alessandro’s voice so close to her. Raising her tear stained face, she saw Alessandro standing next to her bed, his eyebrow creased with concern. As another sob rented the air, she saw Alessandro curse and felt a dip in the mattress as he sat down. Next thing, she was picked up and placed on his lap as he cradled her face in his hands and looked into her eyes. He looked worried- for her.
His voice was husky too, as he spoke.
“Iris, my darling won’t you tell me what is wrong? Why are you crying like your heart is broken? What has happened?”
To tell him why she was crying was so tempting then! But Iris closed her eyes and shook her head as tears rolled down her cheeks. She was silent now. She was grabbed close with her head against his chest as he leaned into her and spoke softly, “I wish you would tell me. I can’t bear to see you cry like this tesoro! “
Suddenly, he jerked upright and cupped her chin. As she raised her hurt eyes to look into his alert ones, he asked softly, “Was it something about this evening? Am I the reason for these tears? Did I hurt you even when I was trying to be gentle?”
Her throat dried up. What could she say? She tried to move away from him but he held her fast as he asked again, “Tell me Iris. Am I the reason for these heart rending tears?“
Iris looked away as if she couldn’t bear to look at him any more. Alessandro closed his eyes and silently despaired. He couldn’t remember doing anything that might have hurt Iris this evening. But then, – a thought stopped him cold and made him break out in sweat on the cold night. Had she somehow understood the meaning behind his godfather‘s words this evening? Had she suddenly realised how he had plotted and planned to get her to to this stage of their lives?