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Authors: Julie Sarff

The Knotty Bride

BOOK: The Knotty Bride
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The Knotty Bride

By Julie Sarff

 

Copyright 2014 Rose Moon Press and Julie Sarff

Version A

If you have read the tiny book Love in Lipari, you will want to skip to Part II of this book.

 

Books in the Sweet Delicious Madness Series:

1. The Hope Diamond

2. The Heir to Villa Buschi

3. The Treasure of Croesus

4. The Knotty Bride

 
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Part I

 

Late September

(Indian summer.)

Chapter
1

 

T
he mood in Rupa’s Multiplus
this afternoon is light and bright, as if none of us has a care in the world. As if I have not lost my filthy rich A-lister boyfriend and Rupa has not separated from her beloved husband of eight years and Francesca is not being forced to deliver pizzas for a living. Although, Francesca says she doesn’t mind delivering pizza for a living. She adds that, whenever possible, she tries to deliver a little something extra.

“I try to give them a message from their dearly departed. So I stand outside their doors for a few minutes listening to see if I can talk to a dead relative or two. I’m gathering quite a following. Pronto Pizza has actually seen a spike in sales to women of a certain age. And the widows give huge tips,” she says, smacking her lips together after applying bright pink lipstick. The same bright pink lipstick she has been applying every five minutes since we left Arona.

There are a million things I love about Francesca, and one of them is her inability to care if she colors within the lines. She never bothers to use a mirror. I swivel to look at her in the back seat, and she smiles at me through pink teeth.

I, too, smile before returning to sifting through a bunch of bed and breakfast brochures. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize good fortune, especially when one is as heartsick as I am. But I am a lucky person, and let me explain why. It’s a lucky person who has one very good friend, and I, dear reader, have
two
great friends. My best friend in the whole world is Rupa Brunetti. She is currently driving her Multiplus at a very slow rate of speed on this very fast autostrada. I glance over at her fondly. She and I have been friends since the day I caught her driving down a pedestrian avenue in Arona, scaring the daylights out of finely dressed Italians. She rolled down her window, spoke English with a heavy Hindi accent, and the two of us became instant friends.

Lately, Rupa and I’ve been through a lot. This is due in no small part to the mysterious and possibly deceased Carlo Buschi. He was the former owner of the posh villa where, up until recently, I was employed as a maid. It was during my employment that I learned about Carlo Buschi's penchant for stolen antiquities. Indeed, the man seemed driven to possess every treasure of the ancient world. In spite of my intentions to let sleeping dogs lie, I’ve been sucked into Mr. Buschi’s nefarious affairs with all the force of a galaxy-sized Hoover. It’s due to these same affairs that we find ourselves on this autostrada, inching our way southward along the spine of the Bel Paese.

But before I come to the exact reason why we’re inching our way southward on this autostrada, allow me to finish what I was saying about being a lucky person and having two great friends. My other great friend, Francesca, who is once again smacking her lips in the backseat, is also a blessing. Sometimes I forget this fact. Sometimes I feel like Francesca is a little unbalanced. The truth of the matter is Francesca claims to talk to the dead. Sometimes she is spot on with her communiqués from the beyond; other times however, she is very, very wrong. For instance, when I first met her, she quite casually told me that Silvio Berlusconi was about to bite it. She announced his impending death left and right. Obviously, she was mistaken. As anybody who reads a newspaper knows, Mr. Berlusconi is alive and kicking, and perhaps causing all kinds of mischief at this very minute.

Incorrectly predicting the demise of the former Italian Premier is one example of how wrong Francesca can be. Another example of how wrong she can be is this: around the time Francesca was predicting the eminent demise of Mr. Berlusconi, Francesca was also insisting that she had received a particularly tantalizing message from someone claiming to be the dead Carlo Buschi. This person claimed that several priceless diamonds were hiding somewhere on the Buschi property— diamonds which had been cut from the original French Blue as it was crafted into the infamous Hope Diamond currently on display at the Smithsonian. Francesca and I searched high and low for those diamonds, but it was all for naught. We found nothing but a box full of useless lira. With Silvio Berlusconi prancing about Italy and no diamonds of any kind to be found on the Buschi property, it appeared that Francesca was a hack. But this is not the case. Francesca isn’t a hack. As I alluded to earlier, some of Francesca’s information from the beyond is spot on. For example, one day she delivered a message to me from the dead about my long lost love. It’s a tale stranger than fiction, but somehow Francesca knew things that I’ve never confessed to anyone.

“I can’t help it if some spirits lie,” she usually says when I press her about the fact that her information from the dead is correct less than fifty percent of the time. “They just do; they lie. Spirits have their own agenda.”

Given that she often delivers inaccurate messages from the dead, coupled with the fact that she devised a cockamamie idea to ‘haunt’ my ex-husband when he refused to grant me a divorce, Francesca and I have had a bumpy road to friendship. I, however, am not one to hold grudges, which is why I stop sifting through my vacation brochures long enough to consider how fortunate I am to have her for a friend as well.

Once more I am struck with an urgent need to show my appreciation. I give the other occupants of the car a second round of appreciative smiles.

“Why so creepy?” Rupa implores.

Now I ask you, has any person on this miserable planet that spins round and round ever had such good friends? Friends who say it like it is. I ramp up my grin because hey, grinning is better than crying. I could very well be throwing myself a pity party right now. Why? Because when it comes to love, I am the most unlucky person in the world.

I know you might not want to hear it. After all, the world is full of sad tales. But trust me-- in the category of truly awful luck in romance, I think I could place first, beating out such well-known examples as Anna Karenina(true, she was fictional), Princess Diana(let’s hope she found true love in her last remaining days) and even Tom Cruise. In a nutshell, my sad story goes like this: my first boyfriend left me for another when I was only seventeen. Several years later I caught my spouse, Enrico, groping a woman in our driveway. Four years after that, I began working as a maid at Ca’ Buschi, which had been acquired by a very famous movie star. And that movie star and I came so close to becoming an item. So close.

I know it seems impossible, a woman like me dating a man like that. Yet it almost happened. Like all great romances, it started with the typical meet cute. On a very dreary   November day, as I was chasing Villa Buschi’s secretive gardener Signor Tacchini around the rain-soaked grounds of the villa, guess who arrived? That's right; you may know him from such movies as
My Favorite Pharaoh
, where he was praised for being “The next Yul Brynner.” Or from
Insanity,
where he was stuck out in space with the world’s last snow leopard and a fellow astronaut who talked incessantly. Or for his Golden Globe winning voice-over of Jack the yak in the animated movie,
A Yak for Christmas
.

Yes, the mega movie star I am talking about is Brandon Logan.
The
Brandon Logan. You see, Brandon arrived at Villa Buschi on that rainy November day quite unexpectedly. He stepped out of his silver Maserati looking all hot and bothered. Thinking about it now, I’m almost blinded by the scene that plays like a movie reel in my mind. You see, Brandon was glistening. Absolutely glistening. A God among men.

“What is with you?  Why are you making that ‘mmm’ sound? Are you daydreaming about Brandon again?” Rupa asks, causing my memory to swirl away into the void.

“I wasn’t making any sound, and I certainly wasn’t daydreaming about Brandon. If anything, I was daydreaming about Oscar. Mmm, Oscar has such lovely eyes,” I wave her off and return to the blinding, glistening, hot and bothered Brandon in my mind. I remember that even though he looked all handsome and debonair on that dreary day, I looked affright. I was covered head to toe in freezing mud.

You know, now that I think about it, it was all very Jane Eyre-esque except we weren’t out on the moors, and Brandon Logan was anything but an aloof, somewhat-warped member of the landed aristocracy like Mr. Rochester. By contrast, Brandon was actually quite friendly. He ushered me inside his house and subsequently smiled at me over a pot of warm water he had placed on the floor to warm my feet. He was so charming and charismatic that I almost passed out.

The long and short of it is I fell hard. And I daresay something happened to Brandon that day that caused him to begin to fall as well. What is that mysterious thing that can make an ordinary encounter so magical? How is it that when one meets the right person, one can feel it deep down inside? I don’t know. I really don’t, but exactly eight months after our first meeting, Brandon Logan told me that I had melted his heart like the sun melted snow. It’s a very sappy sentiment from one of the world’s leading men, I know. Yet for a few brief moments, the two of us were envisioning a very happy life together.

But remember when I said I could beat Tom Cruise in the losers-in-love category? Sadly, there never was so much as a first date. Brandon left to make a film and never telephoned. Five months later, when he returned from the deepest, darkest jungles of the Congo where he was making his film with his beautiful co-star Anna Liddiano, things went horribly wrong. They went so wrong that when I last saw him I told him I was having a torrid affair with someone else. It’s quite laughable to think about me having a torrid affair with anyone, but those are the very words that came out of my mouth. By the horrified look in his eyes, I think he believed me. And I believe those words were the final nail in the coffin. Now things with Brandon and I are officiously over. Yes, they are over before they even started— and all because I made a few errors in judgment and stashed 102 homeless cats in his state-of-the-art workout gym.

See? I have the saddest love life in the world. Still, I always feel it’s better to dwell on the positive, which is what I’m doing right now. I am dwelling on the richness of having two friends rather than on losing a boyfriend. Because friends will always be there, while men come and go. The truth is that men are as changing and ethereal as a teeny tiny bird caught up in a massive air current.

“You are beginning to creep me out too,” Francesca says as I smile at her in the back seat.

I stop smiling and stare outside the window at the countryside. For no apparent reason, I begin thinking about my 31st birthday, which passed a week ago. I received a grand total of two gifts: a blouse from Rupa and a promise from Uncle Tommaso to babysit the boys “sometime in the near future.”

“I want you to take a real vacation this time, Lily. Not like when I took the boys to Umbria and you couldn’t enjoy a moment of it because you thought you were being followed by angry Turks. Although I do have to ask that you limit your vacation to a week. Alice has begun to complain about the fact that the children are always over at our house. Of course, we understand there’s nothing you can do given the terrible hours you work,” Uncle Tommaso said on my birthday as he handed me a pink and black striped box of  “Happy Birthday” pastries from the
Forza Zucchero
pastry shop in Piazza della Republica.

Come to think of it, Uncle Tommaso really is the sweetest person. I mentally add my dear uncle to the list of people that make me such a fortunate person. Thankfully, Uncle Tommaso is the exact opposite of his nephew, my former husband, Enrico. Not only has Uncle Tommaso helped me monetarily, but he has also helped look after my boys. His willingness to babysit is a huge comfort because after I got fired for stashing all those homeless cats in Villa Buschi, I had to take a job at
The 1000 Flavors of Italy
gelateria where I often work three to midnight.

I let out a little sigh over my horrible work hours and watch a green sign labeled “Cremona” whirl past. The sign reminds me that the wonderful task of choosing where to go on my first vacation stretches before me. So I stop reminiscing about what a fortunate person I am and artfully, arrange all my brochures in a fan shape on my lap. It’s funny that Uncle Tommaso told me to “only take a week of vacation” as if that is somewhat limiting. At this point even a weekend away by myself would be absolute heaven.

Incidentally, when I had my fight with Brandon Logan, I told him I was having an affair with a friend of mine: the lovely Oscar Ozgern who I have been helping to track a golden hippocampus and who has beautiful crystal blue eyes. I’m not proud of the fact that I lied to Brandon. After all, that’s a horrible thing to do to another person, and I feel terribly guilty about it— so guilty that when Rupa presented me with a chance to escape Arona, I decided it best to get out of Dodge. I packed up my things, left a message with my ex-husband that I would be out of town for one night should the boys need me, and then made my way over to Rupa’s house. Along the way, I stopped at the local travel agency and picked up the bed and breakfast brochures that I now balance on my knees.

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