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PART I. There was a moment when it struck her that she may have been dead for some time without having been aware of that rather lamentable fact. A giant green shiny thing in full bloom.
At her expense. A monstrous basil plant, with her dead brains in the pot to feed on—she both the Lorenzo and the pining Isabella, he the sturdy herb who benefitted from their sad story. She could feel him draining the substance from her as he explained something to Daisy or Pansy or whatever her name was the daughter of friends who had brought their little flower along for the first time, bless their soulsflourishing a chunky Cuban between his stubby fingers, embellishing his lecture with gestures worthy of an Italian—the vecchio libertino that he was and would remain till his demise.
At the ripe age of fifty-five Hugh could still turn heads and demoralize marriages.
And what about Nora Hilary, the middle-aged Henry James scholar, the egghead, the mother of a freckled pubescent, the wife of a womanizer? Neither more nor less beautiful than twenty years ago, she was a reasonably attractive woman, who often consoled herself with the thought that although she may not be mistaken for Sophia Loren, she was certainly more of a looker than George Eliot.
Well, it was something. It was not the promise of another episode of adultery that shook her so that evening at the table. It was the realization that the flower with the comprehensive cleavage was young and plump, while she was old and limp as a direct result of passively suffering that botanizing basil of a husband of hers to suck the sap right out of her.
If Hugh wanted to preen and sprout for that glutted flower some more, he was welcome to it. Nora just did not want to be the source of nourishment in an amorous process that had no promise of amour for her. Dame Nature could give her a break; she had done her duty by that demanding matron: she had been a faithful wife and a conscientious mother.
Indeed, she had raised little Henry as well as she could, despite the fact that she had never felt cut out for motherhood.
Her worst crime may have been the ill-suppressed gleam of criticism with which she frequently caught herself scrutinizing her son, the uncompromising gaze of the artist sizing up her own work. Anyhow, one offspring was proof that she had done her share toward populating the globe, and thus she did not have to bother with a little James. It was time she focused on herself—before her time was up.
The private life. That was her current aspiration. To read, write, lounge and linger at her pleasure, to measure out her tasks with no one to ask, Why that, why then, till when? Finally marriage would not impede Art—she had learned her lesson from the Master, and it was still not too late.
Had the basil plant so easily uprooted itself and found some other congenial soil, some other pot from which to suck?
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Was it grief or relief that she felt at her apparent dispensability? Well, the die had been cast, and so she was not only to have a private life but one in Italy.
The house in the country had been chosen and paid for—like her husband, she made her plans in secret this time—the owner had most probably already spent the advance, and the old shelves and corners had been freed of dust and cobwebs in her honor. Having always lived in cities, she would for the first time find herself surrounded by rolling hills and copulating herds instead of the urban excrescences of some concrete jungle.
Peace and quiet would be the greatest adventure! No buses screeching to a halt like they always did in front of the apartment complex, no bored neighbors peeking in at the windows, no late-nighters rumbling down the stairs or climbing up in the company of giggling nightcappers.
Even the name of the old house was music to her ears: Il Silenzio. She had deliberately chosen it based on its strategic position, not too close but elan anti aging longevity center of michigan too far from human habitations.
The house itself was much too big for one person, and Nora was sure that Signora Primavera had been puzzled when she communicated to her that she was eager to rent, for herself alone, the two-story, four-bedroom, five-bathroom villa with an Olympic-size swimming pool. No, freeloaders were absolutely not welcome. As soon as Nora caught sight of Il Silenzio from the end of the tortuous ten-kilometer dirt road leading up to it, she knew her sojourn would be an aesthetic joyride, a plunge into the lake of beauty, an inexhaustible source of idyll.
Hyaluronsavas ráncfeltöltés hátránya was isolated, all right, made remote both by its location and by elan anti aging longevity center of michigan considerable garden, the olive grove, and the tiny vineyard protecting it from all sides, isolating it from the kind of disturbance that humans always engendered.
Upon closer inspection, Nora found everything in the garden well tended without being excessively neat, Nature more assisted than controlled. Ancient trees shot upward a dozen meters, their leafy boughs sprawling comfortably in the air, shelter for chatty flocks of birds above and shade for overheated humans below.
Among the grass that was not too rigorously cut, there were flowers and flowering bushes for every season; something would always be in bloom, there would be constant spots of color.
A set of iron furniture, chairs with a round table that presented as rather rusty and uneven, was complemented by a company of white plastic deck chairs also past their prime.
But there was charm in their very shabbiness; they simply seemed to have conformed to their surroundings and were now part of the garden, just like a blade of grass or the stem of a flower.
She was to enjoy the delicious life of a recluse without having to fritter away time on the gardening chores that the upkeep of such a rustic and romantic place demanded.
It all had to be tended, and Nora had been offered the choice of metamorphosing into a gardener or paying a pro to do it. She had opted for the latter and felt grateful to the green-thumbed individual in advance. All that time saved would ideally be put to good use, its result a composition that would make elan anti aging longevity center of michigan name, or at least begin its construction. She had visited Italy, her favorite country, several times before and had on those occasions gathered any experience she needed to fill a book.
She would not, then, be writing about writing or about a middle-aged writer finding love; Under the Tuscan Sun was not to be followed by Beneath the Umbrian Sun, at least not as a result of her literary endeavors.
She had come to Italy this time in search of a certain experience, that of writing in Italy. So while she might be surrounded at times by rolling hills, picturesque peasants, and confused Anglo-Saxons when she occasionally descended her hilltop hermitage and mingled with fellow humans, they were not in the least welcome on her pages. While the Master had done it to sublime effect, to use Italy the way James had would be the work of a transparent copycat. To resemble the crowd-pleasers, then, was strictly against her credo; she was not in the least disposed to compromise her Art for the sake of a by-and-large uncultivated readership interested in page-turners, tearjerkers, and whodunits.
The mercenary muse did not tempt her; she had enough money to live comfortably, and she did not need lots of it so as to catch herself a husband—the one she had was more than enough. And fame? He had kept her waiting a good half an hour, but they both knew that she did not in the least mind it.
Yet no answer came as he nestled himself comfortably between the arms of the plush chair opposite the sofa his niece was sitting on and lit a Cohiba. The latter occupation was still keeping him busy when impatience finally got the better of her. Did she leave because she left you?
Her uncle could not help admiring her fine long legs and the shock of red hair reaching to her slender waist. Do you think I deliberately hurt my wife? There is such elan anti aging longevity svájci öregedésgátló műanyag megmunkálás of michigan thin line between passion and mania.
She stopped in front of her uncle and smiled at him. Yes, her uncle was an incorrigible Peter Pan, just like her own William. The two men shared a reluctance to accept other than youth and beauty as the focal point of life and a failure elan anti aging longevity center of michigan accept any kind of responsibility in human relationships.
The difference was that her uncle had got married and made a bad job of it, while Will and his friends danced just out of reach of the marital noose and consequently felt less trapped and so were more likely to behave themselves with their girlfriends. What advantage there was to getting serious, the men could not fathom.
As for Will and Anna, they had been together for twelve years, an interval during which other people got married and divorced three times. And Anna, with youth and beauty still on her side, could afford not to care about the paper. Or could she?
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Having recently turned thirty, was she right to consider herself still young? Was it possible that her smugness was on the verge of becoming outdated? Anyway, before you forgive me my trespasses and put me down as a hopelessly unserious amoroso, I have news for you. This time I am serious.
So serious, in fact, that I want to tie the knot again. The problem is that, as you know, I have one knot already tied, and without untying it first, I cannot do it the second time. After eighteen years of marriage? It sounds a bit retarded, Uncle, literally. Gosh, I guess it is, really, surprisingly enough. Being married has always given you the perfect excuse to keep it light with your lady friends. And this is why the idea of a second marriage does not contradict your uncontrollable urge to hunt youth and beauty: I bet my shorts you are marrying nothing short of a stunner, but as soon as you get tired of her—and you and I both elan anti aging longevity center of michigan you will—you can safely continue your headhunting in the comfy svájci fimo anti aging beszállító of this second wedlock.
I am not worth your breath. The important thing is that it is a situation in which everyone wins: not only will it make me and her happy, but your aunt will also be relieved of the burdens of my company.
She has amply proved that she wants to be free. And Henry is all grown up, with his own flat to move to as soon as he finishes boarding school. She is, in fact, more than beautiful: she is irregular, interesting, attractive, unique. No symmetry to bore you, no perfection to take for granted; instead, an accidental turn of the head may transform her profile into something suddenly dazzling, even more so because it is unexpected.
Or the way she smooths her hair back—what elegance is in that movement of hers! But all such nuances are lost on you as long as they are not the accompanying graces of superficial perfection.
A graceful movement does not turn you on, Uncle Hugh, to put it crudely. He liked the girl for being so candid and found nothing in her speeches by which to be offended. Besides, she was right. He had also wondered why the hell he had married Nora, of all women, and although he knew the answer perfectly well, he still had trouble accepting the fact that such a reason had sufficed.
The prosaic explanation was that he had met Nora when he was going through a short but violent phase of satiety. It was the most frightening thing he had ever experienced. He had up till then considered himself the happiest of mortals, his single passion in life to squeeze the utmost out of the little he had been given, to live as intensely as he could in order to make the best of the brief interval allotted a human being on earth—that was the motto he made his own after having read a bit of Walter Pater.
Paintings and sculptures that embodied youth házi szemránckrém beauty were all fuel to this passion, but it was Woman—or better to say Young Lady—that constituted his main interest. And then, one day, he had arrived at a point where he could not, for the life of him, imagine any new combination of graces that he had not already encountered.
The variations that constituted an attractive female form seemed to him limited and exhausted all of a sudden.
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Mere physical beauty would no longer suffice; he was certain only a harmonious balance of body and soul would appease his desire. Just what he wanted. After a few months of monogamy, however, he woke up parched. Once again, he felt that terrible, unquenchable thirst for amorous expedition in the land of the young and lovely.
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His sexual stomach was rumbling; his appetite was that of the starved beast who ravaged everything in its path in order to get its fill.
The casualty of this rampage, as it turned out, was not his next love interest but the one who was standing unwittingly in the way—his wife. Hugh walked to the window and stared out onto the park.
The grass seemed unrealistically green and silky, and the ball-shaped bushes did not help to mitigate the impression of artificiality. Nora had never liked that park; she had always found unnatural nature more offensive than straightforward artifice. What was the house she had rented in Italy like, he wondered. I was, in fact, thinking back on the days when I met your aunt and remembering why I fell in love with her in the first place.
I will tell you the story some other time. Is it the big-breasted Russian girl who laughs all the time because her profile is élénkítő anti aging szérum becoming that way? Nika, right? She is the youngest in our class and wears glasses only because she wants to look intelligent. Which she is not, I assure you. But, silly me, that is not a prerequisite in your case. She has been more than usually silent lately.
Starry-eyed and empty-headed, quite a combo. You are not even close. Not only did he consider Denise beautiful, he thought her the most exquisite creature he had ever laid hands on. She is not tasteless but rather taste incarnate. There is no one who would dare elan anti aging longevity center of michigan be as original as she is. And to see you really in love, no matter with whom and for how long, is a delightful spectacle. Lately you have resembled more of a penis on legs than a man capable of valuing women beyond their measurements.
I mean my bringing an undergrad of your university into the family. Not that I would have any say in the matter, either way. But at least I can go on not despising you. But Denise was happy to do almost anything, anytime. She was a young woman in whom an extraordinary amount of élan vital was coupled with a lack of persistent enthusiasm about anything. Thus she came across as an adorable flake, who took up this and dropped that, be it a French or a cooking class or a course in graphology, tai chi, botany, or flower arranging—just a handful of her recent exploits.
If ever there was someone with a broad horizon, it was Denise Logan. He would not for the world have admitted it to a living soul, but already he felt her interest in him flagging.
He was like one of the hobbies his lover took up so passionately only to light-heartedly abandon it for the sake of the next project on her list.
The experience was shocking to him for several reasons. First, he had always been faithful to the one and only passion of his life—namely, the passion for Youth and Beauty—even though it caused his fellow humans to classify him as unfaithful.