In the car I told Lucia the whole story.
" Paola Adami? I hadn’t recognized her”.
" You two know each other?”
" I have the displeasure, but last time I saw her she was a brunette and her lips weren’t rubber. Her husband owns a couple of factories, he is a big name in the shoe-making business. Was also one of the first local factory owners to de-localize, went to Poland or Romania, I believe.
Since a few years he is also a major sponsor of the symphonic season, I guess she thinks that gives them shares in the musicians too”.
" Someone must have forgotten to tell Hu Xiaowen, the poor man looked cornered”.
" Good for him you went to the rescue.” She sighed “Some people have all the luck, my chance encounters are of the 'better forgotten’ kind. You do plan on seeing him again, right ?”
I snorted a laugh: " As if. The evening was lovely, he’s great company, but a man like him must have glamorous women falling all over themselves to grab his attention, better not even think of it”.
"Sensible girl,” she answered in her best ‘if you say so’ tone, “ Movie on Wednesday?”
" Of course. Your turn to choose”.
The rest of the drive back went in chit-chat, that early in the week the road was almost deserted and more than once I felt myself on the edge of slipping into open-eyed dreaming, Lucia’s light-hearted gossip was my connection to the waking world.
At home, preparing for bed, my brain kept conjuring up scenarios in which I and Xiaowen met again, why had Lucia brought up the matter? I hadn’t even considered the possibility before her question, and by the way, since when had I started thinking of him as ‘Xiaowen’?
I tried to force my drifting thoughts in other directions, with the only result of waking myself up thoroughly. I tossed and turned for an eternity before giving up and going back to my translation just to give myself something else to think about . When, at long last, I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open and went back to bed, the bells of the parish church were tolling the call to early Mass.