Keeping Faith by Cindy Bradford (serial 55)
Chapter 20 Part II
Their last day there, they found seats on the upper deck of the boat for a three hour ride down the Danube.
“Look, there must be hundreds of castles along this river. It seems as if they are around every curve in the waterway. Every time I look up there is another one on the top of a hill. Is this not gorgeous?” Carol added.
Terraced vineyards lined the hills of the Wachau region; Baroque buildings jutted out among the tall trees as the boat slow waltzed down the waterway.
When they disembarked they discovered why Krems is a must see; one of the oldest towns in Austria with buildings from the twelfth century, its arched gateways framed the entries to the cobble stoned streets where vendors were selling local wines from kiosks.
“Should we taste?” Patrick asked.
“Today I believe I can face wine again. Yesterday, I wasn’t so sure,” Carol laughed.
They had been in Venice for less than an hour, when Carol exclaimed “There it is, Patrick!”
“What?” He looked startled.
“The painting I want!”
Under a sunburned umbrella, that looked as old as the Rialto Bridge, sat a young man in his late twenties, his brush dancing across a fabric of vibrant hues. He didn’t look up as they approached, but concentrated on the canvas stretched in front of him.
“Excuse us,” Patrick said softly, hating to disturb his intensity.
He stopped, placing the brush gingerly in the wooden groove of the easel and looked up.
Without as much as asking the price, Carol said, “I want that one,” pointing. It was oil, a single gondola on a deserted canal against a backdrop of slumbering, crumbling, brick structures. “Look at the way his shadows caught the light. It’s magic. Oh, I love it, Patrick.”
“I’m glad you found what you wanted. “Will you, can you pack it for travel?” he asked, turning to the artist who obviously spoke little English, but was accustomed to the request.
They waited patiently as he wrapped it as if it were a baby in a fleece blanket. Then they walked, up and down the narrow alleyways, pretending to know where they were in this city of palaces and canals.
“In some ways Venice looks out of place and out of time with the rest of the world, don’t you think?” Patrick asked, not waiting for an answer. “I think I identified with that when I came the first time. Its faded glory lures you. It’s too bad the future isn’t as promising as the past.”
“You’re not getting sentimental are you?”
“No. I still think it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been,” he answered, glad to be back on a crowded street.
“Let’s try that trattoria. Pizza and wine okay with you?”
“Perfecto, Patrico,” Carol giggled.
By train the trip to Florence took three hours. Carmella met them at the station and immediately swallowed them up, talking nonstop to the villa.
“Patrico tells me you want to take a cooking class.”
“I do?” Carol looked surprised.
“You told me a long time ago if we ever went to Italy, you’d like that.”
“Yes. I guess I did.”
“It’s okay if you’d rather not,” Carmella said, carefully. “But if you decide, I have one arranged for tomorrow. You can decide when you’ve had time to think about it.”
“What do you know about it?” Carol quizzed.
“The owner is a dear friend of mine, Ilaria. She takes you to the neighborhood market where you select your own fresh ingredients. That alone will inspire you. Then she teaches you about oils. Finally you cook, of course while sipping a glass of nice wine.”
“Patrico, her husband does a wine class at the same time.”
Patrick looked at Carol hopefully. It’s up to you.”
She was quiet for a minute. “Okay,” she said, though not extremely convincingly and the mood seemed to change from upbeat to slightly strained until Stefano suggested the couple check out their bungalow.
It was as if nothing had been moved since Patrick had last stayed there. The air, however, was strangely cool and he knew it wasn’t due to the air conditioning.
“I’m sorry, Carol. I…I thought you would enjoy a cooking lesson. I would never have said anything, otherwise.”
Carol looked away. It was hard to stay angry in this remarkably romantic setting.
“I’m sorry too. I overreacted and took it that you hate my cooking. But I’m the very one who has admitted I’m a lousy cook.”
“You’re not lousy.” He brushed her hair back and kissed her. “You couldn’t be lousy at anything.”
The next three days were a frenzy of events, first the classes, followed by shopping, wine tastings and beautiful side trips through the snaking sandy roads, flanked by cypress trees on rolling hillsides that cast long shadows over the lush valleys.
When it was time to leave, Patrick was a mixed bag of emotions; this place was so much of his past, comfortable, soothing, somewhere to take your soul when it longed for solace and strength. But Maine was home and a new chapter was beginning.