That very morning, Mario Capello watches as Aleda passes under the melancholy arches of the famed Bell Tower, trying to avoid the minefields that are puddles at her feet, scattering clouds. To him she is beauty as the morning, and as cold, for she scowls like a Boticelli painting under a red hat with no brim.
This is strange, thinks Mario, it’s not her hour.
She brings the morning with her, that gray Venetian morning, defying the drab colors of the crowd. There are only Italians and tourists there, sitting outside under the stainless steel of the sky, drinking and smoking and eating; they don’t seem to notice her. The city is hungry because the sidewalk painters are out sketching, vying against each other for inspiration. They may be literate, but they can only express themselves on canvas like cavemen on stone walls. These aesthetic ones see the young woman in the red hat and they hurry to sketch her before something – divinity perhaps – takes her away from them.
She is love – no? But he doesn’t love her. He admires her, lusts after her, yes. It’s because a man like Mario is no longer looking for love from young beauties such as the Lady Gambrelli. It’s not the fault of the young woman; it’s the machinations of age and, perhaps, wisdom. A woman like the Lady Gambrelli is dangerous for an old man like Mario Cappello. One must beware his own limitations. She comes as an angel upon the cold air, but she is deadly in her way, somehow. He wonders this. No – she is not deadly by her words or her actions. That is a fool’s belief. Aleda is deadly only because of her image, her presence, her … and now he can’t put a finger on it. It’s elusive. He thinks that he is fatuous, and that in creeping age he’s beginning to understand why his daughter feels that he has long gone “past it.”
Mario waves to her and holds out the morning black purple. Her scowl doesn’t vanish as she approaches, and he realizes his mistake. It’s not her label – her grapes – it’s a competitor. He must go back and bring her own bottle in an effort to patch things up.
- “The Danger in Her Charms” (excerpt, historical/literary/romance)