Spring in Trinacria
"Sicilian shores are touched by three seas," read Lucia Mountjoy, cramped in the seat of her plane, heading to Catania, Sicily. The man in the seat beside her smelled as if he hadn't washed for a day or two, and rereading the guidebook gave her an excuse to bend away from him, hunched over the book. "This is reflected in Sicily's ancient name, "Trinacria", meaning island with three points." Lucy wished that she had the window seat, so she could gaze out the window, and ascertain the number of points below. No matter, there would be other opportunities to study the geography of Sicily once she landed.
Lucy was headed for the town of Taormina, some ways north of Catania. It was said to be one of the most scenic places in Sicily, built into the side of a mountain, with houses climbing the sides all the way up, until the town turned into Castelmola, on the summit. Both towns had famous views, overlooking the sea from one side, and Mt. Etna on the other. As a photographer, the view meant something to Lucy, aside from passing beauty. She was thinking of compiling a book of pictures from her year in Sicily, and looked forward to the adventure of living abroad.
Lucy, an American, who had lived outside Boston for her early years, before becoming a "sophisticated artiste" in her younger sister Susannah's words, and moving to New York. For a change of place, pace, and climate, Lucy's parents has given her a year abroad, to spend it where she liked. A friend had recommended Taormina, and she had engaged the lease of a small house in that scenic area, to share with her half-brother Peter, who would be joining her.
Peter was something of an artist himself. He did something or other with art history, she thought, as well as dabbling in oil paints. She had a vague idea that he was something of an art expert, making sure that paintings were in good condition, but he never talked much about his work. In fact, she rarely saw him, since he lived in England throughout the year, usually with his mother, instead of with his father and half-siblings in America. He traveled a great deal, and was apt to be called away at the most inconvenient times. In fact, he hadn't shown up for this flight, which vexed Lucy, since it meant that the smelly man had gotten the seat beside her. Had he heard of deodorant, she wondered idly, flipping through the pages of her guidebook. Glancing through pictures of temples, she ticked off particularly beautiful ones with a highlighter, to visit later. The smelly man rose, and slid past her into the aisle, and back to the WC in the back of the plane. Lucy leaned over the vacant sear, and gazed out the window in delight. They were almost near descent, and she could see the seashore below. It was a beautiful color, and the alluring green of the island pleased her. It had been right to come to this remote, beautiful place. Squinting out the window, she caught sight of Mt. Etna, and smiled at the sliver of steam that rose from its mouths. She should love to hire a small plane and take aerial pictures of this lovely island.
The man was back, and to replace the body odor, he had sprayed himself with cologne. Of all the wretched things to do... Lucy slid her nose into the collar of her expensive turtleneck, hoping that no one would notice. Finally, the descent was announced, and she put her guidebook away into her handbag.
In the Catania airport, she reclaimed her bag, and showed her passport to the appropriate people, though her flight had been from Rome. Fortunately missing becoming the person whose bag was being randomly checked, she wheeled her two bags out into the hall of the airport, to find her ride.
A scruffy man in a sweater approached with a cardboard sign labelled "Mountjoy". Lucy smiled, and shook his hand.
"Miss Lucia Mountjoy?" he asked. "Buon giorno. The taxi is outside. And I have a message for you, from your hotel."
"A message?" asked Lucy in surprise. "Very well, let's go out." The driver skillfully picked up one case, and wheeled the other before him, leaving Lucy to carry her handbag, and a larger camera bag. The driver stowed her bags carefully, and placed the camera case carefully beside the cases, before opening the door for Lucy. She was delighted to see that it was a Mercedes taxi, something she thought so out of place from America. Sitting down, she was handed a slip of paper from the competent driver, which she read while he steered carefully out of the lot, and onto the highway.
For Lucy Mountjoy the hotel clerk had copied down. Peter is unable to make it to the hotel tonight, but please enjoy yourself. He'll try his best to come by Saturday, and will meet you at the house. Best of luck and take care of yourself, apologies, Peter.
How nice it was that Peter had talked to her hotel instead of trying to get in touch with her in Rome. She had been worrying over the flight about his absence. Well, he hadn't missed his connection from London, it must be work things instead. How tiresome. In any case, Lucy decided to enjoy herself nonetheless, and settled into her seat to watch the scenery.
The drive from Catania to Taormina took time, since Taormina was on a mountain. For the last bit of the drive, Lucy was amazed at how the road wound up the mountain. Her taxi had started at sea level, and was crisscrossing up the mountainside on two-way roads with so many turns that this seemed folly. For some time they were stuck behind a bus filled with tourists, who merrily waved out the window at the procession of cars stuck behind their vehicle. Lucy waved back, eventually, but was pleased when her driver cut around the bus, and sped up the mountain to Castelmola, where she would spend the night at a hotel, before claiming the house tomorrow.
Looking out behind her, Lucy saw that most of the traffic had turned off at Taormina. A motorcycle cut around her, and Lucy checked her annoyance at the way Italians stared at people. It was odd to her, but normal to them. She's learn not to mind. As practice, she stared hard back at the man on the motorcycle, a young, attractive Italian man, surprisingly not sleazy. He was dressed well, and a pleasure to watch, only he turned off onto a side road. She continued up the Via Leonardo da Vinci, astonished at the curves in the road. Miles off because of the bends, but actually only several hundred feet down the mountain she saw a bus patterned in yellow and orange, and recognized it as having belonged to a group of American classics students she had shared her plane with. It was curious how they were following her, but she put it out of her mind when she turned another bend, and caught sight of the view of Mt. Etna. It was surprising that the whole world hadn't followed her, for the land below her was breathtakingly beautiful, with snow-capped Mt. Etna in the distance, and wrinkles of green land covered with snaky golden roads all between.
She arrived at her hotel about noon, in Castelmola. Climbing up into the town, she found lunch at a comfortable small restaurant, and settled into the multiple course meals with a sigh of contentment. A little over an hour later, she returned to the hotel to take a siesta. If she was going to be living in Italy, she might as well behave as the Italians did, and the concept of a siesta is too tempting to ignore. She sank to sleep beneath the covers, carefully setting her alarm so she shouldn't sleep too late, though thankfully she was adjusted to the time zone after a week in Rome.
Waking two hours later, Lucy brushed her long hair and changed her shirt. Changing her heeled boots for hiking boots, she opened her camera case, and removed one of the two cameras from within, and packed it carefully into a knapsack, along with her tripod, film, and a spare lens. She opened up her balcony, and was delighted to find that she had an amazing view down the side of the mountain, about ninety degrees off from the view of Mt. Etna, but still a lovely view, overlooking a terrace and the hotel gardens, full of bright spring blooms.
"I've got a Room with a View," said Lucy to no one in particular. "I suppose that I'm glad that Peter isn't here to tease me about it, though. Just the fact that my name is Lucia and that I'm visiting Italy with an older chaperone doesn't mean that I'm like the girl in Forster's book. But what a lovely movie..." sighing to herself, and shutting the balcony doors firmly, Lucy took her knapsack, and set off to find a place to take her first pictures.
Dinner, at eight, was at the hotel restaurant. Dining alone, Lucy felt distinctly abandoned, and wondered at Peter's engagement. Maybe he'd arrive early, which would be wonderful. It was awkward knowing no one in this town. At least tomorrow she'd have the house, and could go about meeting her neighbors. Currently, the restaurant was empty, except for an elderly German couple, and the group of Classics students from her plane. They were a nice group, she supposed, but they were a bit young for her, and anyway, they didn't know the town at all, either. Because of the students there were so few other patrons, and Lucy decided to go out in the evening, to save herself from solitary boredom.
Finishing her Pasta alla Norma, and accepting a plate of veal, Lucy stared into her wine glass. It was troublesome, Peter's absence. She wondered idly if he had called their father, and Lucy decided to call her sister, Su, before finding a bar and some company.
After an almond parfait, with a mind full of plans, Lucy went up to her room, and whipped out a calling card she had purchased in Rome. Calling home, and hoping that Su would be home by then, she waited for someone to pick up the phone.
"Su?" asked Lucy, delighted to hear her sister's greeting.
"Lucy! How are you? How's Sicily?"
"I've only been here this afternoon, but I'm sure I'll like it. Even the grass is scenic."
"Lucky girl. How's Peter?"
"He hasn't called you?" asked Lucy. "I thought he might have. He left a message that he might not come until Saturday."
"You poor thing, all alone. Well, don't lock yourself up until he arrives, so see the sights."
"I was going to visit a small pub not far from the hotel, to meet the locals."
"Of course. Do that. You'll get bored all one your lonesome."
"Thanks, kid. How's America?"
"Decently well, thanks. I found some more source material for my paper."
"More ‘New England Trade: The Switch from Cod to Textiles'?"
"Cod and Rum," corrected Su. "Just because I'm academic doesn't mean that you need to make fun of me. I'd be artistic if I could, but I can't. I suppose that I'd better start looking into the history of Sicily if I want an excuse for Mum and Dad to send me over, too."
"Right. Well, if you haven't heard anything from Peter, I guess I'll go out, and see what is happening in this town. I'm in the little town on top the mountain, and most of the nightlife is further down, so who knows. Maybe I'll meet people. That could be fun. Italians dress so well."
"I know," sighed Su, enviously. "I'll see you, then. Call when you've done something interesting."
"I will. Arrivederci."
"You too." Lucy hung up the phone, and looked through her clothes. Changing back into the heeled boots and her turtleneck, and pinning up the loose strands of brown hair into a twist on the back of her neck, Lucy grabbed up her wallet and set off out the door to find the pub she had spotted earlier.
It didn't take long for Lucy to locate and enter the building. As it was the day before St. Patrick's Day, and the pub claimed to be Irish, it was tolerably full despite the fact that it was a Sunday. Lucy was pleasantly entertained to see some of the classics students drinking in a corner, engaged in what seemed to be some sort of recitation contest. It sounded rather like Greek to her, certainly poetry.
Going up to the bar, she ordered cognac, glad for her years of Italian, and found a small table in the corner. Whipping out a book, to protect her should she be bothered by anyone unpleasant, she waited for her drink. Before long, the bartender approach her, carrying the glass, which he set down before her elegantly.
"You're American?" the portly man asked.
"Half," said Lucy. "My father is British, but I live in America."
"Where in Britain?" asked the man, who was clearly Welsh.
Raising an eyebrow at the Welsh accent in the Irish Pub in Italy, Lucy replied, "Sussex. I've spent a fair amount of time all over the country there, though. I'm a photographer. I was in Scotland last summer, taking pictures of the Highlands. Now I'm here."
"Sounds like a great job," the man replied. "Scotland... there's an archeology chap here who went to school in Scotland, University of St. Andrews."
"Oh!" said Lucy. "My friend Anna went there. Lovely place, I stopped to photograph the Cathedral and St. Salvator's quad while I was in Scotland."
"I'll introduce you to him then. Someone to talk to. You don't want to sit alone all evening."
Smiling her thanks, the bartender picked up her drink for her, and led Lucy over to a small table in another corner, where a man was eating the pasta course of his supper, an interesting combination of Irish and Italian foods.
"Marco," said the bartender, getting the man's attention. "I want you to meet my new friend, who visited your other country last summer."
"Scotland?" asked Marco, looking up. Lucy was delighted to see that he was the same attractive man she had seen on the motor scooter earlier that day. "What part?"
"Mostly the Highlands," admitted Lucy, "But a friend attended St. Andrews, and I had to visit it for my father, a golf fan. I'm Lucy Mountjoy."
"Pleased to meet you," said Marco, rising. "Marco de Luca. I was educated in Scotland, for reasons I've never understood. Nice place, beautiful, a trifle damp and cold. Biggest problem was that the Roman sites are so well excavated, and I'm not terribly interested in military encampments. I'm an archeologist. We've got a new dig here in Taormina."
"How interesting," said Lucy. "what sort?"
"A villa," said Marco, with both pride, and a sigh. "Or at least the ruins of it. Unfortunately I wasn't born when they dug up the villa at Piazza Armerina, but there seems to be some sort of lesser dwelling here, which I am determined to uncover. Please sit down, you don't want to sit all alone in a strange country, do you?"
"No, not really," admitted Lucy. "But am I disrupting your dinner?"
"No problem. It's nice to hear English spoken with a proper accent for a change."
Lucy slid into a chair across from Marco, and accepted her drink from the bartender, who left them with a smile.
"So," Marco said, before turning back to his dinner, "What brings you to Sicily, if I may ask?"
"The view. I'm a photographer. It's so pretty here, and warm."
"You're right about that. Apart from seven years of boarding school and eight years of various university work, I've lived in Italy all my life. And that makes everywhere else so much less appealing."
"But you liked Scotland?"
"Loved it. Home away from home. If I had had a mind towards medieval history, I should be quite happy to stay there. As it happens, I became infatuated with the Romans, and being a Syracuse boy, came back to the old island."
"When did the dig start?" asked Lucy, not remembering any mention of it in the travel guide.
"Just this last year. We haven't done very much, and have only just started up again. Last year we managed to uncover a room and part of the epistyle. Now we've been uncovering what may be the triclinium, the dining room, that is, and one or two funny little rooms off to the side."
"Sounds fascinating," said Lucy, wishing that she remembered more of her ancient history. Peter would know about these things. If only Peter were here, instead of slogging away at work somewhere.
"Are you taking pictures for a magazine, or a book, or are you here for fun?" asked Marco, pushing the plate away into the center of the table, and looking up with startling blue eyes.
"I was thinking of putting out a book of my work," said Lucy. "But I'm not settled yet. First I get to have a bit of a vacation with my brother."
"That's nice for you," said Marco. The bartender, who was playing waiter on a Sunday evening, brought Marco another plate, with some sort of hashed meat on it, and cleared the empty pasta dish.
"Have you been to see the sights?" asked Marco, when he had demolished part of the food on his plate.
"No. I only arrived this morning from Rome. I was there for a while, sightseeing and shopping. What would you recommend that I see here?"
"Oh, the theater is well worth a visit. Originally Greek. It's remarkably well preserved, and the view from the back wall is astounding. View from the seats isn't bad, either. Mt. Etna."
"I'm surprised that anyone watched the spectacles. Sounds delightful."
"It is," said Marco. "But full of tourists." He sighed again, and speared a forkful of meat. "Tourists are the bane of my existence. This town is swamped with them. Half of them really care about the things they see, but the other half don't. That's what I can't understand, and what I don't understand I find difficult to tolerate. Ignorance."
"I'm afraid that I'm rather ignorant when it comes to ruins. My brother, Peter, would appreciate them, though. I do know that Greek theaters were built into hills, though. I can well imagine that here, with this mountain."
"You'll be fine. You're an artist, and you see things."
"Thank you." The bartender had returned, and collected Lucy's cognac glass. "Another, please," she requested. "Would you like anything?" she asked Marco.
"I'm fine," he assured her. "Besides, I'm not finished this meal. I missed Italian meals in the UK."
"I can imagine," said Lucy. "I had an astoundingly large meal at the hotel, but it was hardly filling. You Italians manage your food marvelously."
"It's all the waiting. Time to digest."
The second cognac arrived, and Lucy sipped it pleasurably. Marco finished his plate, and leaned back against his chair, stretching his legs.
"Where," he asked, "In this backward and tourist-ridden town, are you going to find a dark room?"
"Actually," said Lucy, "I'll have to built one. I'm renting a house, and my parents are shipping in my enlarger from Boston. The rest won't be difficult to manage."
"That was industrious of you. Boston? I've known people there. No one any more, but my friend was studying for his doctorate at Harvard."
Lucy acknowledged the institution with a nod. Marco looked at his watch, with a sigh. "Eleven-ten," he murmured.
"Do you have an appointment? I'm not keeping you, am I?" Lucy was concerned.
"No. Nothing like that. I'm just always anxious about the night watch over my dig."
"Of course. You don't get thieves, do you?"
"It's not really a stable site. Vandals, more."
"Vandals? Do people trouble your work?"
"We've had a scrape or two. Damaged floors, mostly. A broken fence or two. Nothing much, but just enough to be tiresome."
"I'm sorry. It sounds wretched."
"We've got a night watchman, but one always wonders whether the fellow will do anything more than sit in the hut and play solitaire card games."
"I'm sure he must take his job more seriously than that!"
"I'm sure that he must too. I enjoy worrying."
"It sounds like it." Lucy finished the second cognac, and smiled at Marco. "Absolutely tiresome. I'd better run along, I've got to move house tomorrow."
"Yes. Good luck and all. It was nice meeting you."
"Yes, thanks for the company. I'll be sure to see the theater."
Lucy rose, and paid her bill at the counter. With a merry wave she left the pub, and walked down the cool street towards her hotel. The street was empty, save for a few cars, and a man with a bicycle, who hurriedly wheeled his conveyance on the opposite sidewalk. Trotting down a set of stairs, Lucy paused and gained her bearings, before crossing the road, and entering the dimly lit lobby of the hotel. She collected the key, heavily weighted with a brass lump with her room number engraved upon it, and found the stairs. Walking up two flights, and down a short hall, she inserted the key and entered her room.
Fiddling with the light, she cast off her turtleneck, and pulled on a flannel pajama top to combat the mountain night air. Idly wondering if Peter would be at his apartment in London, she dialed the number, and got the answering machine. Sighing, and leaving no message, she assumed that he was either with his mother in Sussex, or out of the United Kingdom. It was tiresome that Peter was away, and lonesome. Slightly cheerless, save for an entertaining conversation with an attractive Italian native, Lucy slid into fleece pajama bottoms, and curled into the soft bed.
Lucy woke to a bright beam of sunlight reaching through the shutters and onto her face. Noting that breakfast had already begun in the dining room, she quickly got out of bed, and brushed her long, curly brown hair, and brushed her teeth. Selecting a pair of brown linen pants and a tan sweater, she emerged from her room dressed comfortably, and ready for a long day.
The dining room, which doubled as a breakfast room, was half-full of chattering students, who appeared to be finishing their meal. Lucy located a buffet at one end of the room, and helped herself to croissants and coffee, warily staying away from the Italian version of Corn flakes which she considered duly inferior to the American variety. Taking up a small bowl of tinned peaches, and a boiled egg, she carried her meal over to her table, which faced mountains Northwest of Mt. Etna. She ate quickly in silence, and on finishing the meal thanked the woman who presided over the coffee pot, and went upstairs to pack and leave the hotel.
The house she was to rent was on the upper reaches of the Via di Leonardo da Vinci, within the boundaries of Taormina, but still near the top of the mountain, and Castelmola. Deciding that a brisk morning walk would do her good, Lucy took her two suitcases and the bags, and arrived at an arrangement that allowed her some flexibility. Wheeling the suitcases before her, Lucy set off down the road towards the house.
After walking twenty minutes with the cases, Lucy arrived at the number of the house that she was to lease for the year, set against one of the bends in the road. It was a little before ten at this point, when she was due to meet the realtor. Opening the gate to the small house, she stepped up onto the neat little porch, and set her cases against the wall. It was an attractive dwelling, coated with yellow stucco, with a small arrangement of potted birds of paradise in front, and an enormous aloe. One side of the house was snug against the road, and rose sheer up to the second story, where there was a small window. A narrow walkway led around the other side of the house, where Lucy discovered there was a small garden with a lemon tree, and a clothesline. The yard was fenced, and it bordered another yard, where a matronly woman was pegging up laundry on a line.
"Buon giorno" the woman called. "sei lei signorina Mountjoy?"
"Si. io sono Lucia Mountjoy." Lucy replied.
"Bless you," said the woman. "I was having nightmares that you would be one of these silly tourists who refuse to learn the language. Welcome. I'm Signora Crispini. We'll be neighbors."
"Pleased to meet you," said Lucy, smiling over the fence as Signora Crispini hung a large sheet across her line. "Peter and I will try to be as peaceful as possible so we don't bother you."
"Peter is your brother? Oh yes, of course. I'm so glad that you've taken the house at all, it's been empty for nearly a year. A lovely couple owned it, but the signora had an operation, and the height was not good for her. So the company the sold it to has been trying to let it. We've had summer visitors, but all along Signore Crispini and I have been longing for a long lease. And then we heard that you were coming to stay. You must come to dinner some time."
"Grazie. You are very kind."
"Signorina Mountjoy?" A call came around the corner of the house, and a balding man appeared. "Buon giorno. I'm the realtor, Signore Novelli."
"Lucia Mountjoy. We talked on the phone. My brother hasn't arrived yet, I'm afraid, but I will handle any documents we still need to sign."
"Molto bene. Come this way." Lucy followed him and carried out the necessary paperwork, before receiving a key and saying good-bye. She unlocked the door, and bundled her suitcases inside.
Inside the house was small, but comfortable. There was a kitchen with a stove and refrigerator and a large sink with a rack for dishes. The table was in the living room area, and there was a fireplace. Between the two rooms there was a small room, which Lucy bagged for her darkroom, with a scullery attached. The sink in the scullery would work well for developing negatives and prints, although it would have to double as a laundry place.
Upstairs Lucy found two bedrooms and a bathroom. Claiming the room that looked South towards Mt. Etna, Lucy stowed her cases and explored the bathroom, where she discovered a good supply of hot water and a large bathtub. In the downstairs hallway there was a mountain of boxes which the Mountjoys had sent along earlier, in which Lucy found towels, linen, dishes and her enlarger. Running out into the back yard, Lucy cut a bunch of irises and put them into a vase she had found in a cabinet, to brighten the living room. Drawing all of the curtains in the house, she marveled at the quaintness of the dwelling.
The door bell rang, and Lucy found Signora Crispini at her doorstep, with an invitation to be introduced to the other Crispinis, and a large dish of pasta alla Norma, covered in plastic wrap as a neighborly gift. Lucy stepped out of the house and followed Signora Crispini into the house next door.
It was a house that looked well lived in. Everywhere there were clothes, foods, religious knickknacks and books. She was introduced to Signore Crispini, an elderly, fatherly man, and to his niece, Caterina, a solid girl of about eighteen, and to their grandson, Paulo, who was fifteen, lively, and eager to show off his English to the pretty American signorina. Enjoying the domestic feeling of the family, Lucy was astonished when she discovered that it was nearly one o'clock, and hastily bid the happy family adieu, so that she might have time to go into Taormina for lunch and supplies for breakfast. Promising to come to dinner soon, she left them to return to her own little yellow house.
Collecting her bag and one of her cameras, Lucy shut up the house and headed down towards Taormina. Signora Crispini had told her about the staircases that criss crossed the winding roads, and cut the length of the journey to town. Glad for all of her work on the stair machines back in New York, Lucy set off on her journey to the pretty town further down the mountain.
The day was lovely, and the air crisp and fresh. Birds sang in the trees, and Lucy encountered a surprising number of cats and dogs on her way. People were appearing on the roads, heading to rest for siesta before continuing their days. Lucy stepped back onto the road, and halted as a train of cars and motor bikes sped by her. Unused to the confidence and speed of Italian drivers, she was momentarily stunned. Someone called her voice, and she looked around her to see who had called.
"Signorina Mountjoy," called the voice again. A motor bike had stopped some way up the road from her, and the driver was wheeling his vehicle towards her. After a moment she identified it as being Marco de Luca, the man she had talked to last night.
"Signore de Luca," she replied, with pleasure.
"It is good to see you again. Are you on your way to town?"
"I am," Lucy replied. "Will everything be closed for siesta? I had wanted to get lunch in town."
"I will show you to best places to eat," said Marco, "if you will allow me to give you a ride. You've a ways to go, you know."
"Grazie. But you hardly know me."
"What's to know? You want to see the town, and I am going there. It'll be much faster. I promise that I won't abduct you." He mounted the bike again. "Come up behind me, and hold on tight." Dumbly, Lucy followed, and grasped Marco around the chest. He started the engine of his bike again, and they flew down the mountain. Marco drove well, but quickly, with the joking aggressiveness of the Italian motorist. More than once he good-naturedly swerved near pedestrians, and cutting back into the road. Tourists were startled, but natives laughed, and shouted happily.
He arrived outside a stone gate, where he stopped his bike. "This is the main street," he said. "The Corso Umberto I. I'll take you to my favorite pizzeria."
"That's very kind of you. Is there also a shop for me to buy some basic groceries for my house?"
"Indeed. Not too far away."
"Grazie. Is this the pizzeria?"
"Yes. Come along. The father of my friend Luis owns this pizzeria. In fact, I'll be meeting him for lunch. Care to join us?"
"No, but thank you. I wouldn't like to intrude."
"If that is your only objection, you had better join us. Our friend Aldo will also be there, and his girlfriend, Gianna. She'll welcome another female face, and her English is excellent. You'd might as well make some more friends if you plan to be here a while. The mountain can get lonely."
Lucia gave in, and Marco led her into the attractive pizzeria, which was off an alley which reminded her strongly of the closes of Edinburgh. The shop was decidedly not Scottish, however, decorated with bright Mediterranean themes, with a picture of a woman holding out a pizza painted on the wall, her dark eyes smiling, and the pizza steaming. Underneath the picture was a table, where two Italian men and a very pretty young woman were sitting, merrily arguing over the wine list. Marco approached them, with a smile.
"Luis! Aldo! Buon Giorno, Signorina Gianna. This is my new friend, Signorina Mountjoy, an American who is staying in Taormina to take photographs."
"Buon Giorno!" the young woman cried out. "I'm Gianna. However did you meet Marco? Never mind, it is charming to meet you. Are you here long?"
"Yes, a year."
"Not a tourist then, I'm so glad. Tourists are so skittish. You are a photographer?"
"Yes. I'm hoping to put together a book."
"You will find no prettier island than this one. I should know, I have traveled all over the Mediterranean to study pottery."
"She makes Sicilian pots," explained one of the Italian men. "I'm Aldo."
"Pleased to meet you."
"And this is Luis," said Marco, pointing to the other Italian. "He's originally from Rome, and we've never let him forget it."
"They abuse me terribly, Signorina, don't mind them. Welcome to my father's pizzeria, where I honestly believe that we serve the best pizza on the East coast of the island. There is a wretched place in Palermo that is better, I must admit.""
"I'm looking forward to trying the food."
"Yes," said Marco, "Food. Have you ordered?"
"Oh, no. We have managed to decide on a wine, though, I shall fetch it." Luis jumped up from his seat, and went behind a screen into the back of the restaurant.
"The best part of eating at this pizzeria is that he can get special treatment." Lucia smiled at Aldo. "You have a first name, signorina Mountjoy?"
"Lucia. My family calls me Lucy."
"Signorina Lucy. Lucia is an Italian name, you should be well pleased. Ah! You must try this. It is a red wine, from Sicily, and rather delicious. Allow me to pour you a glass." Luis had arrived back again, and poured Lucy a liberal glass of wine. Marco scowled a little, but happily joined in the group banter as they decided on what to order for their lunch.
Staring at the menu, Lucy was glad for all of the Italian she had taken in high school. She quickly decided on a margherita for herself, and placed the order with the waiter who appeared on catlike feet by the table.
"Just a margherita?" Marco asked, raising a quizzical eyebrow. "Nothing more exciting? No fish, no vegetables?"
"I like my pizza plain," replied Lucy, smiling. "But thank you for your interest in the matter."
Gianna leaned over to Lucy again, and smiled brightly at her.
"It is such a pleasure to have another woman here, you must know. All these silly men! You must tell me about yourself. Have you brothers? I have none, just three sisters, but sometimes I feel as if I had several, with Aldo's friends."
"I have one brother, actually a half brother from my father's first marriage. He's a bit older than me, and wonderfully nice. Actually, he's due to join me anytime. I also have a younger sister, who is nineteen."
"What an exciting age," laughed Gianna. "I suppose that she is at university?"
"Not yet. She's taking a year off before going to school."
"Is she traveling?"
"Oh, no, researching. She's interested in history. I'm not. I'm artistic, instead."
"Yes, the photography. I'm glad that you are artistic, you'll have to tell me what you think of my pottery. Silly stuff, most of it, good for sales to tourists, but rather trivial all the same."
"I've seen Sicilian pottery, it's so colorful."
"Yes," agreed Gianna, smiling. "Now, how on earth did you meet Marco? He's been almost a recluse lately, with his dig and everything."
"I met him at the Irish pub in Castelmola, I was introduced by the bartender, since he knew Senor de Luca had been to school in Scotland."
"Senore de Luca!" exclaimed Gianna, merrily. "You make him sound so old. No, Marco is Marco, and he is young and pleasant and very smart. Isn't that right, Marco?"
"Absolutely," said Marco, automatically, watching the waiter return with his hands full of pizzas. "Lucy, this is yours, I think?"
"Thank you," said Lucy, flashing the Italian a brilliant smile, accepting the warm tray and its fragrant burden happily. She was terribly glad that she had come and met these friendly people, Gianna was so pleasant and merry, Luis's father's food so excellent, Marco so friendly and charming. The only person needed to make the party perfect was Peter.
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