They sit at long tables under grape arbors. Heavy bunches of grapes hang from the vines. An eight-piece dance band in white tuxes and black bow ties plays tunes from every decade. Heavy silver dessert forks and coffee spoons rest untouched on the linen tablecloth. She can’t eat another bite. All the glasses, at least, she has used: white wine, red wine, water.
A light breeze comes up. It feels heavenly on her face. With nightfall, the heat has gone out of the air. The heat must be trapped in these old stone walls — the walls of the farmhouse, the walls surrounding the vineyard. The aroma of fresh herbs floats from a nearby garden, rosemary, and mint, she thinks as she watches people dancing. The bride, her beautiful white dress with the daring silk bodice; the groom’s parents, a man with close-cropped gray hair and a red rose in his lapel, and his wife in a shimmering blue dress that looks specially made by an Italian designer.
She keeps one eye on the young man in the navy suit with the green silk tie. He looks like something Michelangelo might have sculpted, then breathed life into. This young man knows everyone here, and has danced every dance for the last hour. But he’s dancing with both older and younger women, probably cousins, friends, the mothers of cousins and friends.
She has no idea who he is. She feels outclassed in her red silk dress from Bloomingdale’s. She had worn the same dress at a wedding in June in Chicago. No one here has ever seen it. If there are any more weddings this fall, she will just have to go shopping in Siena or even Florence, that’s all there is to it.
“May I have this dance?”
Like a vision, Michelangelo man stands beside her. Has somebody cast a magic spell here? How did he sneak up on her like that? She didn’t even notice the song had ended. Or that another one had started.
“I’m not much of a dancer.”
“We’ll see.” He tugs her hand.
“Really, you don’t have to.” He obviously feels a duty to make sure every woman in the place gets at least one dance.
“Of course I don’t have to. I’ve danced with all the women I was obligated to dance with. Now I want to dance with you.”
She doesn’t need more arm-twisting than this. He leads her to the dance floor. The band is playing a quiet song from the 1940s, she thinks, something familiar. Grape arbors surround the dance floor and fill the air with sweet perfume. He turns and puts one hand around her waist. “My name is Giancarlo,” he says, switching to Italian.
“Candace,” she says. “I’ve been here for three weeks. I can’t believe I’m at this beautiful wedding.”
“Your Italian is marvelous.”
Your lips are marvelous, she thinks. Your curly hair, the color of black coffee, and your handsome chiseled face are marvelous too. But you can’t say such things to a man you’ve never met before. Not in Tuscany. At least not before the end of the first dance. He glides around the floor, leading her with slight shifts in his weight, slight pressure with his hands. Her feet know where to go, just as her mouth knows how to form the words.
“We don’t have weddings like this in Chicago. The food ... the music ... the grapes.”
“My uncle’s house is nice,” Giancarlo agrees. “But I am sorry for Lucia. She has married a playboy. I do not think they will be happy.”
“They certainly look happy.” Giancarlo makes a face. “I should not talk about the details. I know him. I’ve known him all my life, and he will never change. I tried to talk to my cousin, but she is in love and blind. What can we do?”
Giancarlo’s smile, Candace realizes, has a hypnotizing effect. Thank God a fast dance is starting, the Bee Gees. He makes no attempt to bring her back to the table, merely releases his hold on her waist.
“You are a beautiful dancer,” he says when the Bee Gees song ends. The band takes a break. Everyone is leaving the dance floor. Her heart sinks. Somehow she has managed to cling to him for two dances, something no woman before her had managed. Now he will bring her back to her table, his duty done. He will go back to his people.
“Thank you for the lovely dances.”
“Come, let’s get some fresh air. I’ll show you around,” Giancarlo says. And the really amazing thing is he doesn’t let go of her hand.
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About the author: Frederick Lee Brooke has worked as an English teacher, language school manager and small business owner and has travelled extensively in Tuscany, the setting of part of Zombie Candy. Visit Fred on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.