Here is our weekly instalment of Black Fox, previous ones can be found under the 'fox' and 'romance' tags
And now, in the theatre...
“ Thank you, Miss…”
“ Corradi, Maestro, Viola Corradi” I fell silent, uncertain. Politeness demanded that I complimented him on the concert, but that would have sounded shallow, what I had just heard went well beyond compliments. Something was nagging at me though. Well, why not? It would be better than idle conversation anyway.
“ Maestro, if I may ask you a question?”
“ Why tonight? Wouldn’t Thursday have been the best moment for such a move?”
He nodded: “ It would have indeed, but I was not sure we could make it. The professori and I tried to keep things under wraps during rehearsals, but when today one of the musicians was nowhere to be found and the cultural attaché arrived I realized it had to be tonight, television was here anyway, it could work”
“ And with the students’ bootleg cell-phone recordings, the whole performance is likely to be on YouTube already”.
“ Exactly, but…am I keeping you from someone?”
“ I am just waiting for a couple of friends, but, please don’t let me hold you up, Maestro, you must be tired”. He didn’t look tired though, quite the opposite, he looked alert and intent, I could feel his whole attention focused on me while we were speaking, it was almost a physical sensation and, I realized, not displeasing at all.
“Here you are Viola, glad you could come”. Without knowing how I found myself enveloped in a bear hug.
“ Glad to be here, Paolo, thank you”.
He released me and moved back, giving me the once-over “ You look fine, according to Lucia you were about to faint” raising his eyes he noticed Hu Xiaowen who had retreated into the half-shadows.
“ Maestro, I see you have already met miss Corradi, may I introduce my cousin, Lucia Montresor?”
“ Pleased to meet you at last, madam” he inclined his head, “ Paolo speaks often about you, always in the highest terms”.
“ We were about to head out and have a bite to eat, Maestro, would you like to join us?”
He glanced at Paolo and me, “ If you are sure I’m not intruding…” .
“Not at all” I said, with maybe a little more force than expected. I didn’t even know why I cared, in all likelihood I would never see him again, but I didn’t like the idea of Hu Xiaowen thinking of me and Paolo Montresor as a couple.
An hour later we were sitting in the best pizzeria in Chiarenza, digging in a couple of their panara , the extra-large pizza that takes its name from the wooden platter people around here serve polenta on. Between one bite and the other Lucia was throwing pointed glances at me and Hu Xiaowen, she looked ready to burst. I nudged her under the table with my knee in the code we had been using since elementary school: tell you everything, later.
“ So there I am, green as grass, my first day at La Fenice, and they show me the racks where everybody keep their instruments. The lower rack is almost empty, I choose a spot and set my case down…. And when I come back, after lunch” Paolo paused and looked at us, all listening in rapt attention. “The first thing I see is my violin floating towards me in half a meter of water: acqua alta, the wind had brought in the high tide from the lagoon. I almost dropped where I stood, I tell you. Afterwards I learned that was the usual initiation for new musicians there, we land-rats had to learn the ropes of living in Venice ”.
“ Was there any damage?” asked Hu Xiaowen, tense.
“ I was lucky, water hadn’t made it into the case yet, but I got a few white hair that day”.
“Venice can be unsettling” I agreed “ I and a university mate rented a flat together, a small place the owner, a Milanese lawyer, used in the holidays. The moment of realization came when we saw that the fridge was set upon a stool. Our first acqua alta was spent perched on the sofa, drifting around the living room”.
When one of us thought of looking at the time, it was past three AM and the pizzeria’s owner had been giving us dirty looks for a while already.