CRAVING U (The Rook Café)

BOOK: CRAVING U (The Rook Café)
12.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


A Rook Café Novel




This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and
incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is


Copyright © 2014 by Mirella Muffarotto. All rights reserved, including
the right to reproduce, translate, distribute, or transmit in any form or by
any means.


Edited by Mirella Muffarotto

Cover design by Mirella Muffarotto

copyright © Mirella Muffarotto, 2014



Original Title: Via Castelli 4

First Italian Edition March 2013

Copyright © 2013 by Mirella Muffarotto

All rights reserved

Translated from the Italian by Douglas Grant



ISBN-13: 978-1500228033

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Digital Edition June 2014


The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and
trademark owners of the wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction.

The Rook Café series

CRAVING U is the book 1 of The Rook Café series, but can also be read
as a standalone. A contemporary coming-of-age story, an emotional whirlwind of
passion, torment, expectations and doubts, dreams and love: gentle but reckless
young love, a love made up of exclusive, overpowering feelings, a totalizing
emotion, complete in and of itself, that turns your legs to jelly and leaves
you breathless, driving your heart to pound out of bounds.


For my family, my very
first supporter. Without you, none of this would be possible. I love

And to everyone who is reading this book right now, lots and lots of



The future is
unknowable.  Seers, astrologers, oracles, and sorceresses have tried to learn
its ways, always in vain.  But while you cannot control destiny, you
choose how to live your life....

The mild October breezes had blown the
northern fog off the hills, revealing a field in front of a country home where
the smells of black truffles and wild fennel rushed the senses, mixed with the
fragrance of kneaded flour and egg that came from the kitchen where Paola was
preparing a cake for her tenth wedding anniversary.  Her husband would soon be
home from his work in the fields.

These fertile lands, set where the plains
of the Po River valley meet the first gentle foothills  that gradually rise
into the Alps, were home to the Vendramini Estate, a 50-acre vineyard with good
southern-facing lands in the small town of Orgiano, population 3,158.

The illuminated windows of the house at 23
Palladio Road opened onto a large living room with wooden beams overhead and
terracotta tiles beneath, not to mention onto a thick bob of brown hair that
hid the round, innocent face – a ripening fruit, just like this tale – of an
eight-year-old with a big smile, the typical carefree look of a girl of her

Marika – for that is her name – was, as
she still is, the only child of a couple who both came from well-to-do farming
families in this wealthy northern county.  She was the youngest grandchild of a
generation of winemakers, down-to-earth people who had flourished on this
generous soil.  She was in the third grade at the Berici Elementary School, and
her days rocked gently to the rhythms of school and family.

She had finished her homework, and was
just getting ready to dedicate the rest of the afternoon to the sacred reruns
, one of her favorite Japanese cartoons from the ‘80s,
when the doorbell rang.  There was no ignoring that bell, for it was always
accompanied by the barking of the house guardian, a fuzzy sienna-brown mutt
with a yellow tuft of fur on his head.  This was Milù, a fortunate stray who
had joined the family at the beginning of the year.

“Mom, someone’s at the door!” she yelled,
hoping that she wouldn’t have to get up and miss even a second of Georgie being
carried off to safety in her step-brother Arthur’s arms: a scene that was only
seen in its original, uncut version by the original generation of the cartoon’s

In the blink of an eye, Carlotta was
bounding noisily into the room.  A year older, very tall, awkward, and equal
parts overbearing and irreplaceable, like a sister, she hurried to Marika’s
side to giggle together at that scene that felt so full of promise and so

They were cousins on their fathers’ sides,
daughters of two Vendramini brothers who worked the family farm without a
moment’s rest.  Growing grapes is tiring work that leaves no room for vacations
and which forces you to have a bit of patience, to accept the rhythms and
follies of nature, to respect the land, and to attend to the needs of each
individual bunch of grapes.  Grape vines, in fact, dislike harsh climates and
suffer from strong winds; damp seasons bring acidic wines; summer sultriness
sweetens the grapes, making them strong, but of inferior quality.

Marika had often gone with her father on
his tours of their terraced lands to see if the grapes were ready for
harvesting, which was done by hand, while her grandfather Giovanni sung along
in his big, familiar tenor voice: “Those who don’t like wine shouldn’t be
allowed even a sip of water.”

“Arthur is so sweet and gentle,” commented
Carlotta dreamily.

“And Georgie keeps running after that
stuck-up Lowell,” Marika said, rolling her eyes as she said his name.  “She
doesn’t understand boys,” she stated, sure of herself.  “I would know who to
choose if I was in her shoes.”  She was still at an age when it was easy to
believe in simple, clear answers to problems of the heart, to believe in a
world where everything was either milky white or black as night.

Seven years passed, and, for better and
for worse, Marika grew up, surviving the famous growing pains of a changing
body.  Middle school had not been kind; in the midst of her early-adolescent
growth spurt, her physique had rounded in ways that were anything but feminine...
how many tears were shed after cruel comments from bullies and the popular
girls, always ready to tease her!

At fifteen, many of her habits changed – she
stopped playing with dolls (though she never gave up cartoons) and started
watching her weight – but the things that had been important to her as a child
were still the same.  And Carlotta was still her best friend: together they had
passed through their self-conscious preppy phase and glam phase, reliving the
fashions of the past, with all of their charm bracelets and fluorescent
extensions and black leggings underneath improbably short miniskirts.

They had sung Britney Spears’ hits
together and dreamed of living in Newport Beach in Orange County.  They had
fantasized about the aliens of Roswell and about their classmates, pretending
to be Sanae sharing all of her secrets with Captain Tsubasa
... of
course, assuming that there was an after!!

Unlike her cousin, a couch potato who was
allergic to all forms of exercise, Marika was on the local amateur synchronized
swimming team, the
Rocket Splitters
, and did modern dance twice a week
at a school run by an American choreographer who had studied at the Alvin Ailey
Dance School, Mr. Deven Maller, one of the most renowned dance directors in the
province of Vicenza.

She believed in the goodness of man and in
a merciful God without bias, and went to mass every Sunday in Don Luca’s church
– a volcanic priest with an even more volcanic passion for soccer who had a
talent for drawing skeptical youth toward himself and the Gospel.  But Marika
couldn’t stand hanging out with the cliquey bunch of teenage girls at the St.
Judith youth center just outside Orgiano who made life miserable for the entire
community by welcoming the girls who imitated their every move with open arms...
and excluding all those who showed any individuality.

In a progressive world, difference should
be seen as a source of wealth.  Marika’s friends were the proof of this: a
group of the most disparate looking, acting, and thinking teenagers you could
find, they had their hangout at
The Rook Café
in the out-of-the-way
village of Pederiva, near the old water wheel of the former mill, a walled
farmhouse that had been fortified in the Guelph style.  A lively crew of
friends, capable of being equally caring and cold, but certainly not a bad

There was the inseparable Carlotta;
Valerio the lover boy; Lucrezia the tease; Sandra the sweetheart of the youth
center; gossipy Livia; the stuck-up Marcello; and Dario, always second best.

And then there was Matteo, Matteo Zovigo:
sixteen years old, ash brown hair with streaks of gold, cut short and worn like
he just got out of bed, soft features, and intense sky blue eyes that you could
almost fall into like a deep, clear sea.  He was a polite boy with a friendly,
disarming look and a smile that could make you faint.  Since his youngest days,
he had played soccer for the local semi-pro prep team at the Pigafetta Stadium
in Pederiva.  His position: playmaker.  Those who knew about these things said
he had real talent.

Marika and Matteo had known each other
since the first years of elementary school; after all, Orgiano is a small town
and everybody knew practically everybody else.  They had never been in the same
class because he was a year older, but their last names were close enough
alphabetically to ensure that they were often near each other when classes were
lined up in single file or when places were assigned on the school buses for
field trips.  And so, almost without noticing it, they became friends.

Marika represented spontaneity and
lightness for him, but at the same time, she was his greatest weakness: the
only one who really understood him and whose advice or criticism was worth
listening to, even to the extent of choosing her company over that of his
oldest friends.  With the passing seasons, he grew steadily more protective of
her without realizing it, and unbeknownst to him, this made him vulnerable.

While Carlotta was the loyal
partner-in-crime of a thousand adventures, Matteo was nevertheless the most
important person in Marika’s life.  The sun around which everything else
revolved.  He was her strength and her rock.  He would always be there for her,
and that was enough.

They had an even-handed relationship and
respected each other’s needs.  Marika would sit through hours and hours of
soccer matches on TV; Matteo would listen to non-stop love song dedications on
the evening radio programs.

Every afternoon, the circle of friends got
together at
The Rook –
an after-school hangout for some, a place of
employment for others – to talk and gossip and take turns in whatever
competition was on offer: in the winter, video games, darts, and pool; in the
summer, soccer, volleyball, and softball.  They were all competitive, and none
of them was a good loser.  Every game was played as if it was the finals of the
World Cup.

Marika’s average height made her a lousy
striker in volleyball, but she was pretty good at setting the ball, and
whenever she played with Matteo, who excelled in every sport he played, they
wiped up the competition.  It gave her a strange feeling of power to be his
partner, but the feeling melted away instantly whenever she found herself on
the opposing team.  He taunted her mercilessly.  “You suck,” he’d say, every
time he swatted a winner.  “Hey guys, what team would be complete without the
prowess of Marika Vendramini?”

Not to mention all the times that, after
they marked off a goal with two T-shirts, he shouted out, “I’ve got Marika,”
and then proceeded to embarrass her with his supremely superior man-to-man
defensive skills.  He made her look like she had two left feet.

  He seemed to give her a
hard time every chance he got, and she simply couldn’t understand why he never
showered such “attention” on the other girls of the group, even those who – in
her opinion – were much worse than her.

If there was a summer water balloon fight,
Marika was instantly his primary target.  “A
fter all, Lucrezia and Livia can’t
get their hair messed up, can they?
”  During the Carnival parades, she took
on the semblance of a snowman from all the shaving cream he sprayed her with. 
If they were at the beach, he was the first to douse her with cold water, and
in clubs, he never failed to make sarcastic comments about her carefully
practiced dance style.

In reality, though, all this was just one
side of the coin with Matteo.  When the fun and games were over, she was the
only one he needed, the only one he sought out.  Openly protective of her, no
one in their group would ever dream of crossing the line and truly treating her

The crueler members of their circle
explained his strange attitude toward Marika by saying that he saw her as
one of the boys

Maybe that was the reason... but maybe
not!  We’re only at the first pages of their life, if truth be told.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, as evening
approached and Matteo waved goodbye to
The Rook
crew, hefted his soccer
bag, and headed in the direction of the practice field, Lucrezia unfailingly
dusted off her familiar refrain: “Would you give me a ride home on your scooter
before going to practice?  Otherwise I’ll have to walk.”

Liar!  Loser!  Liar, liar
Marika would have given Lucrezia a ride herself if it meant keeping her from
Matteo.  A strange sense of unease filled her soul whenever she saw them
leaving together.

That’s how jealousy first crept into her
that green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on
, as
Shakespeare calls it.  These irrational feelings made her realize that she
had fully entered the evolutionary stage of being a teenager, marking the entry
point into adulthood.

All of a sudden, her view of Matteo
changed dramatically, and every single thing that happened between them lost
that sheen of innocence that had once been there, taking on new, complicated
meanings.  Extremely exciting meanings.  Without warning, watching the
Soccer Club
matches became an essential event of her week, and being picked
up for school by Matteo was something to brag about.  Nothing would ever be the
same again, and she was tortured by the thought that this change would ruin the
relationship they had; even so, it wasn’t frightening enough to keep her from
following this unknown and exciting road.

Like any good teenager, Marika felt the
desperate need to confide everything in Carlotta, whose first comment was, “I
told you so,” and who then undertook a ridiculous investigation into Matteo’s
behavior so as to uncover his secret thoughts... if there were any.

Despite the fact that Marika’s stomach now
turned somersaults every time he was near, Matteo appeared to notice absolutely
nothing, and his attitude toward her didn’t show any signs of understanding; if
anything, he was becoming ever more distant because of an increased soccer 

BOOK: CRAVING U (The Rook Café)
12.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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