Friday, June 1, 2012

48 ITALIAN NIGHT

~Chapter 48~
ITALIAN NIGHT

she
True to his word, Edward steps out of the stairwell eight minutes later, messenger bag slung across his black leather jacket. His face lights up when his eyes find me near the door, making me feel slightly less foolish for how desperately I’m anticipating his touch.

He bypasses my lips and goes right for the spot just below my ear, adding a mumbled, “Missed you,” and I’m all goose bumps and gushy warmth.

Fifteen minutes later, Domenic drops us at the entrance of Key Foods.

“Divide and conquer?” Edward suggests, threading the wire handles of a plastic hand basket over my arm while he takes one for himself.

“Sure, I’m on produce and bread, you get the pasta and stuff for sauce?”

“Is meat sauce okay?”

“Sure, but I don’t do veal.”

“I can work with that. Meet you at the register. Winner pays,” he adds, dashing off.

I rush through the produce section, grabbing Romaine, garlic, and a lemon. Moving to the bakery, I select a still-warm loaf of French bread and a bag of “freshly baked” croutons. Still unsure of the inventory of provisions at home, I toss in a small container of freshly grated Parmesan. When I turn the corner, I see Edward unloading his goods onto the conveyor belt. I can’t complain that I had more items to gather; he’s got cans of peeled and diced tomatoes, two different varieties of pasta, and a pound of ground beef.

“I want to stop next door to grab some wine, and we should be all set,” he informs me, tucking me into the back seat with the groceries. He pokes his head back in at the last second and asks, “If you don’t have a preference, I was going to go with Chianti Classico.”

“That’s fine,” I answer, pleased to be consulted but happy he’s already made a decision. If this were Jas, we’d still be agonizing over which head of lettuce to buy. No wonder I stopped enjoying cooking.

HE
We haven’t cooked together since Christmas, and that didn’t really count, because I was directing the whole scene. This is an unchoreographed dance. Two people in tee-shirts, jeans, and slippers, moving around each other with ease, but not without our ever-present sexual tension. I waste no opportunity to skim my hand along her hip every time we pass each other in the narrow space between the counter and cooktop.

Holding my wine glass in one hand and working the wooden spoon through the sauce with the other, I’m feeling no pain by the time the Animals track clicks on. My hips start to roll through the familiar first verse:

Baby, do you understand me now?
Sometimes, I feel a little mad.
But don’t you know that no one alive can always be angel
When things go wrong I seem to be bad…

Maybe I forget for a second that I’m not alone, or maybe I’m just so goddamn happy right now, I couldn’t care less.  I give myself fully over to the chorus and belt it out:

“But, I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood!”

Peals of laughter ring out behind me, and when I spin around, I see Bella folded over the counter, shaking uncontrollably. She’s abandoned her chef’s knife, which is a good thing, and she’s pounding her fist against the granite. I figure she’s entertained, so I continue into the next verse:

“Baby, sometimes I’m so carefree
With a joy that’s hard to hide
And sometimes it seems that all I have to do is worry
Then you’re BOUND…”

On the word ‘bound’ I loop my arm between her belly and the counter and pull her roughly to me. She’s a limp weight on my arm.

“Stop! Stop!” she begs me, laughing so hard she cannot draw a breath. Tears are streaming down her face and she’s doubled over in what seems now to be pain. I loosen my grip and let her retreat to the stools. While her laughter dies down, she continues to mop her face and avoid looking at me.

“Wow.” I couldn’t get her to laugh that hard bound and tickled.

“Sorry, Edward,” she says once she finally gets control. “It just never once occurred to me that you’d be completely tone deaf. I mean, Edward Cullen actually has a flaw!”

“Tone deaf? What do you mean?” I regard her incredulously.

She gasps and covers her mouth. With eyes wide and frightened, she mutters, “You didn’t know?”

Now it’s my turn to laugh. At the top of my lungs, most likely on all the wrong notes, I belt out, “Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood!”

she
A half hour later, my stomach is still sore from the continuous laughter from Edward’s “serenading”.  Perfect Edward is positively delectable, but imperfect Edward is a man I can totally love.

Fortunately, he switches his iPod to Turandot, Scene 1 as we sit down to the table. He can’t sing what he doesn’t know.  I feel like we’re in some authentic Italian ristorante, but I have to admit, the music rolls like the audio track to a foreign movie. Without context, without subtitles, it is nothing more than background noise. Pretty, but disconnected.

As usual, he continues eating long after I’m full. “The garlic bread is perfect. I love the crusty top.”

“Secret Higginbotham family recipe.”

“Oh… shoot!” he exclaims suddenly.

What?”

“We didn’t get dessert!”

“Seriously? How are you not five hundred pounds?” I start to laugh again at his dejected expression, but then I remember my truly depressing news. “Edward, I have to go away for a few days to close the Warwick deal.”

He flinches but recovers quickly. “I had a feeling that was coming down the pike. When?”

“Not for two weeks.”

A grin possesses him. “That’s longer than we’ve been together.”

I attempt to share his nonchalance, but I fail miserably. My mouth feels stuck in a grimace. He tickles at the side of my hand where it rests on the table. “We’ll figure something out. Come on, we’ve got work to do.”

“This is your genius plan? You’re going to distract me with pots and pans?”

“No, Isabella. I’m going to distract you with wild, animal sex. This is just foreplay.”

I clear the table while he puts the leftovers away and runs water into the dirty pot. “I got this,” he says. “Why don’t you Google Turandot and get us started?”

“You sure? I feel like I’m getting off too easy.”

His laughter lifts above the running water and floating soap bubbles. “You think summarizing an opera is easier than scrubbing a pot?”

“Hmmm, good point.” I give him the stink eye as I head back to my room to grab my laptop. Returning to the main living space, I take advantage of my somewhat hidden vantage point to spy on him. Edward’s still busy at the sink, and he’s still got the spring in his step that buoyed him earlier into his impromptu concert. His lips are moving again, but I can’t hear him from my spot in the hallway. It’s such a privilege to see Edward in an unguarded moment, and it strikes me suddenly what he’s given up to have me here in his life, 24/7.

Sure, he pretty much does as he pleases, and there are plenty of perks to having a live in girlfriend and submissive. But still, he’s been a bachelor for a good, long time, and he’s most definitely been on his “bridge club behavior,” as my mother would say, since I’ve come into his life. Not a sock on the floor or a dish left in the sink. He burps once in a while, but he usually has the good graces to be sheepish about it and excuse himself, and he’s discreet about his toilet behavior, unless he’s trying to make a point in a scene. Come to think of it, he’s one of the most considerate roommates I’ve ever had.

And he is without a doubt, the most strikingly handsome and devilishly appealing men I’ve ever had the pleasure to gaze upon at close range while locked in intimate embrace…or otherwise.

I shove off the wall and make my presence fully known. Edward looks up and smiles, as if he’s surprised that I’m here. Or maybe he’s just happy. Either way, his genuine response warms me from the inside out.

HE
How is it that I still get a jolt to look up and see Isabella melding with the trappings of my life? Padding into the guest room to get her stuff as if we’ve been roommates for years. Traveling from room to room without even needing to watch where she’s stepping, already so comfortable with the layout. And calling me out on my awful singing voice. Next thing I know, she’ll be farting and claiming the remote.

Plopping herself down at the counter in front of me, wearing her faded indigo YWCA “Woman Power” tee shirt, worn jeans, and new slippers, she flips up her laptop lid and her eyes dance with the activity reflected off her screen. I’m stacking the dried salad bowls inside the huge teak serving bowl, another piece of equipment I haven’t had a reason to dig out for the longest time, when I hear her exclaim, “Oh, wow! I got another response to my first entry!”

“Oh yeah? What’s it say?” I bend down and slide the bowls to the back of the corner cabinet.

“Hmmm, let’s see, ‘Hello princess. I came across this site by accident (honestly!)…yada yada… you asked for comments from those who have some experience, I have none. But anyway...’

“Hunh, you seem to be attracting all kinds of people to your posts. Interesting.”

“Weird, huh? Okay, she goes on to say that her own existence is ‘less than vanilla’ and then she quotes Leonard's mother from The Big Bang Theory: ‘I've been responsible for my own orgasms since 1982,’ and then says she’s been ‘…reading, rather than writing erotica but that's where it stops … with no scope for change at present.’”

“Hmmm, she sounds a bit wistful,” Isabella says.

I toss my towel to the side and fold my arms onto the counter, leaning forward toward her. “You have to expect that people outside the life are going to find this titillating, Isabella.  It’s a common fantasy, but only a small percentage actually make the choice to live it.”

She smiles brilliantly. “I am living the dream, Edward. No doubt about that.”

I tip my chin toward the computer. “Go on.”

“Okay, she worries that I may be a little overzealous now that I’m on the verge of getting everything I ever thought I wanted, but I’m embracing my sub side with ‘a little too much fervor.’ And she thinks you have some work to do, too, if you have to try to be less Dom and more boyfriend.”

“Well, she obviously didn’t see me scrubbing that pot just now.”

“Do you think I have too much fervor for my sub side?”

“Most definitely,” I answer with a grin.

She rolls her eyes and reads on. “She says our collaring ceremony sounded like it has had a profound impact on me, and she’s sure those emotions will be recalled each time I wait on my knees for the start of every play session. ‘Please keep your head, and stay safe, signed, Less Than Vanilla.’”

“All good advice.”.

“Mind if I post my Happily Ever After chapter before we start on the opera?”

“Go for it.”

“It’ll just take a second. It’s all set up to go.”

I can sense her excitement as she posts again. “You’re bound to get some interesting reviews on that chapter, you know. Even without Black Velvet.”

“Mmm,” she answers, her eyes sliding to mine as she finishes her task, “but he was always my very favorite.”

I shrug. Maybe she needs a reminder. “Hey, you’re the one who banished him, baby.”

“I’m fully aware of that, thank you. I believe I have my hands full with you.” Her lips twist into a cute smirk.

“I believe you will later. Now, are you ready to get down to business on this opera?”

“Ready.”

“Okay, meet me on the couch?”

“Why, where are you going?”

“Grabbing the iPod remote.”

she
“Wouldn’t the video be helpful?” I ask.

“Probably, but I was thinking we should read through the story first, listen to the music, and conjure up our own visuals. That way, we won’t spoil the drama of seeing it played out on stage.” Edward’s iPod is docked across the room and he now holds a slim remote control between his long fingers. He lifts my feet from where they’re sprawled along the couch and slides in underneath them, setting my heels back down in his lap. Oh, okay. “Make sense?”

“Sure. Here, I’ve got it up on Wikipedia. We can at least start with this and then maybe head into something more scholarly later?”

I start to turn the screen so that he can see, too, but he stops me. “Why don’t you do the first act and then we’ll switch?”

“All right.” Edward gives me his full attention, while absently rubbing my feet. It’s not a bad trade-off. “We’re in Peking in front of the Imperial Palace. A Mandarin reads an edict—Any man who desires to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles. If he fails, he will be beheaded.”

“Youch! Steep penalty!  I hope she’s worth it!”

“Well, if the picture is any indication, she is one cold-hearted bitch! So this poor shmuck, the Prince of Persia, has failed and he’s to be beheaded at moonrise.”

Moonrise?”

I shrug and read on, “The crowd surges forward and a blind old man is pushed to the ground. His slave-girl Liu cries for help.”

“Wait, slave girl? This is totally my kind of story,” he smirks, eyes flashing with excitement.

“Focus, Edward.” I give him the two fingers pointed at my eyes and then his. “A young man hears her cry and realizes the old man is his long-lost father Timur, the deposed king of Tartary. The old guy tells his son, Prince Calaf, that only Liu has remained faithful to him. When the Prince asks her why, she tells him that once, long ago in the palace, Calaf smiled upon her.”

“Hmm, must be a hell of a smile,” Edward muses.

Nothing compared to yours, my Dark Prince.

“Anyway…the moon rises, the doomed Prince of Persia comes out for his execution. He’s so handsome that the crowd and Prince Calaf beg Turandot to spare him—there’s a song here called O giovinetto!—but it doesn’t thaw her heart, and she orders him executed.”

“That is harsh.”

“This Prince Calaf of Tartary, who has never seen Turandot before, falls immediately in love.”

“Ha! Nothing inspires love like ordering the last guy’s execution! Talk about a masochist!”

“Oh brother, only you would take an Italian opera and see BDSM references in every line.”

“Oh come on, Isabella, slave girls, murderous dommes, submissive princes everywhere? I’m not making this stuff up! You don’t think Puccini had a thing for domineering women?”

“We now return to our regularly scheduled program…” I say with mild chagrin, because his adorable enthusiasm is completely contagious, and I have to admit, he seems to make a very good point. Then again, I see kink everywhere I look, so I’m really not the best judge either.

“So the dazzled prince is about to rush towards the gong and strike it three times, the gesture that indicates he wishes to marry Turandot, when the ministers Ping, Pong, and Pang appear—”

“Wait, seriously?”

I have to giggle. “Yes, seriously. They try to talk him out of it. Then his father and Liu try to talk him out of it. She sings Signore ascolta! (My Lord, listen!) and her words touch his heart. Then the Prince sings this aria called Non piangere, Liu (Don’t cry, Liu)…”

“Oh here, I have that one. Can you find the translation?”

“Sure.” He scoots up my legs until he’s right next to me and this time he accepts the screen when I position it between us. Edward clicks a button, and the room fills with a passionate tenor voice belting out the plaintive melody. Edward snuggles closer and puts his arm around my shoulders.  We both follow along with the translation, moved not only by the rich aria, but also by the lyrics—the Prince beseeching Liu to take care of his father if he should meet his end.

The aria ends with a dramatic coda and then the room is silent. Neither of us moves, we simply absorb. After several moments, Edward tips his head back to the couch and closes his eyes. His thumb rubs circles on my shoulder, but I don’t think he’s conscious of the motion.

“Play it again?” I whisper. Without opening his eyes, he aims and clicks the remote. While the song resets, Edward’s lips quirk up into a smile.

HE
“Ping, Pang, and Pong…” I stop to chuckle, because seriously, they sound like panda bears, “prepare themselves for either a wedding or a funeral. Meanwhile, Turandot’s father urges the Prince to withdraw his challenge but of course he refuses, because where would the fun be in that? Turandot comes out and explains that her ancestress, Princess Lou-Ling, reigned ‘in silence and joy, resisting the harsh domination of men’…oh hell, Isabella, how much clearer could this be?”

“Just tell the story, mister,” she admonishes with a tiny huff that she doesn’t really mean.

“Fine. Lou-Ling is ravished and brutally slain by an invading foreign prince. Turandot claims that this long lost relative now lives inside her so out of revenge she’ll never let a man possess her. She too warns the Prince to withdraw, but again he refuses. She presents the first riddle: What is born each night and dies each dawn?

“I don’t suppose it’s vampires…”

“You’ve been spending too much time in the YA section at Barnes & Noble. Try again.”

“I don’t know…stars?”

“Not a bad guess, but no. It’s hope. Which the Prince correctly replies, by the way.”

“Okay, score one for the Prince.”

“So right away she asks the second riddle: What flickers red and warm like a flame but is not fire?

“I’m going with blood.”

“You would be correct.” Impressive, my girl. “Okay, so you can imagine that Turandot is starting to get a little edgy here, and presents riddle number three: What is like ice but burns like fire?”

“The ice cube in my hot Master’s hand.”

Hell, honey, how am I supposed to concentrate here when you say shit like that?”

She giggles. “That’s not it then? With all the kinky references?”

“Uh…nope. It’s Turandot herself, the Ice Queen, and once again, our Prince guesses correctly!”

“So he gets to marry her?”

“Not exactly.” I read on. “She begs her father not to abandon her to a stranger, but the Emperor insists that an oath is sacred, and it is Turandot’s duty to wed the Prince.”

“The Ice Queen didn’t fall too far from the tree.”

“No, she sure didn’t. Okay, Calaf feels bad and offers Turandot a deal. If she can learn his real name by dawn, he will forfeit his life.”

What? That’s crazy! He’d already won her hand! Why would he do that?”

“I have no clue. Here, your turn. Act III.”

“Oh gee, thanks.”

she
“Okay, that night, Calaf hears a proclamation: On pain of death, no one in Peking shall sleep until Turandot learns the stranger’s name. So basically, it’s either him or everyone else. The prince then sings this aria called Nessun Dorma, which means…”

“Nobody shall sleep,” he chimes in.

“Show off. So yeah. ‘My secret is hidden within me, my name no one shall know…On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines…’”

“So he’s planning to tell her his name in the morning? Man, this guy is a total glutton for punishment.”

“Yes. But he ‘expects that his kiss will then dissolve the silence that makes her his’…and at dawn, he will win!”

“Aha! He expects that his kiss will make her change her mind and spare him. Hang on, I have this one for us to listen to.”

Edward flips through the tracks until he recognizes the beginning of the piece.

Kinky waters run deep, apparently. “You actually know this one?”

“Yep,” he says. “Paul Potts won Britain’s Got Talent with it about five years back. It was all over YouTube. But I’m playing you Pavarotti. Here, let’s see those words?”

By the end of the aria, I can honestly say I’m moved for the first time and feeling as if I’ve really missed out by not exploring this sooner. I’m guessing by the amused look Edward gives me after the dramatic finish that I’ve drooled or look otherwise dazed.

“Moving on?”

“Okay,” he agrees, tucking me under his arm and keeping me there this time.

“Uh oh, it gets dicey for poor Liu and her old master. The guards basically start torturing the old man, and Liu speaks up and says she’s the only one who knows the prince’s name so they spare her master. Then of course, they turn to torturing her. She eventually says, “Love,” which earns her more torture. Liu finally seizes a dagger from a soldier’s belt and stabs herself rather than revealing his name. The crowd leaves with Liu’s body leaving just the Princess and Calaf. He berates her for her cruelty and then kisses her…Jeezubs!”

“What’s wrong, Sweetheart? You’re not buying that was a turn-on for him?”

“This guy’s a case. Even better, Turandot is totally not into this kiss at first, but then…oh brother.”

Edward laughs while I continue.

“She admits to loving and hating him and then asks him to leave.”

“How does that work out for her?”

“He’s not buying it. He tells her his real name and places his life in her hands…again!”

“And?”

“Next morning, the two of them go to see the Emperor together. She declares that she knows the Prince’s name and it is…”

“Calaf.”

“No, Edward, pay attention. Love!”

“Ah…missed that.”

“The crowd cheers and acclaims the two lovers, colorful full cast number, yada yada.”

“I think it’s possible that everyone in this story is in need of some serious therapy.”

“Well, honey, not everyone is as well-adjusted as we are.”

He looks at me hungrily and not in a particularly well-adjusted manner. “Are we done here? Because all this talk of executions has really got my blood boiling.”

HE
Later, afterwards, my sweet naked girl nestled into my side and the two of us perfectly sated, a disturbing thought occurs to me.

My mother picked this opera with us in mind.


And worse yet, she seems to have been spot on with her choice.

6 comments:

  1. BWAHAHAHAHA!!!! ummm I soo wouldn't know how to take that... that his mother chose this opera for him.

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    1. Hee hee. Let's just say they kind of know their son!
      xx

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  2. Good evening Born, I hope all is still well. I'm wondering how things are going to go when Bella is out of town. Will he find away to go with her or will he send her with presents?;) You know, the naughty kind so she will remember him. :P

    As for his mother. Oh my. Now that is a mother who knows her child. LMAO. Kinda scary actually. It should be a very interesting evening.

    Thanks for sharing. Take care and peace. T.

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  3. I hope you'll enjoy hearing what happens during their time apart.
    x
    b

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  4. So that's where the famous song Nessen Dorma comes from. I've heard the song, knew it was opera, but not where from. Cool! I wonder just how well his mom knows him in this area.....does she really know? Why is it that kink is seen everywhere by kinky people? That's hilarious!

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    1. YES! I learned so much researching this opera. Hope you enjoy the scene where they go!
      I was channeling my own response to life, kink everywhere.
      Not sure if that's true, but it's me.
      xx

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