Luka and Giovanni talked all afternoon and long into the evening. At one point they had gone for a walk by the lake and on their return, unthinking, Luka had taken off his jacket.
Giovanni had smiled when he saw the grass stains on Luka’s pristine shirt, though Luka had been too busy listening to notice—Giovanni was mired in regret for how he had raised his grandchildren.
They were now back in his study and nursing cognacs.
‘You had a lot thrust on you when Benito died,’ Luka offered. ‘I know how my grandfather struggled and there was only me.’
Giovanni nodded. ‘There was no real time to grieve my son…’ Then he looked out to the lake. ‘I am still so cross with him. Or rather I am still cross with myself. I could not bond with Benito. Maybe if I had things would have been different.’
‘Giovanni.’ Luka could hear the pain in the old man’s voice. ‘How Benito lived was his choice. Neither of my parents cared for me in the slightest but I turned out…’ He halted and then both men shared a wry smile.
‘You trust no one,’ Giovanni pointed out. ‘You screw around and you bury yourself in work. But yes,’ he conceded, ‘we make our own choices. Now I worry for my grandchildren.’ And, after a long day of revelation, he told Luka what was really on his mind. ‘I am thinking of getting them to track down my Lost Mistresses.’
Luka said nothing.
‘Luka?’ Giovanni invited his opinion.
‘Isn’t the past best left alone?’
‘It never leaves you though…’ Giovanni said, and his voice was wistful, but then he cleared his throat. ‘I should let you go… It is getting late.’
Luka was sure that there was a lot Giovanni wasn’t telling him.
‘I’ll come and see you again in a couple of days,’ Luka suggested, but as Giovanni went to stand he waved him down. ‘I can see myself out.’
‘Thank you.’ He rested back in the chair but then let out a frustrated sigh. ‘I didn’t close up the attic.’
‘Alma will probably have taken care of that,’ Luka offered but he could see that Giovanni was still concerned. ‘I’ll go and check it before I leave.’
He left Giovanni in his chair looking out to the dark lake.
The house was quiet; there was just the sound of a loud clock in the entrance as he made his way up the staircase.
Luka was actually considering taking a walk past the stables. Giovanni had given him a very nice bottle of wine from his cellar; perhaps he and Maya could share it?
Indeed Giovanni hadn’t closed up the attic and so Luka went to pull the doors closed but just as he did, he heard a noise and looked in.
There, standing with her back to him, was Maya. She was wearing a long pale dress that dipped low at the back and, instead of the boots she had had on this morning, her feet were in heels. She was holding her glossy hair up on her head and admiring herself in the mirror, lost to the world.
Maya really was lost in the deepest of daydreams.
She was imagining walking down the grand staircase now and oh so casually bumping into Luka on his way out.
Of course it could never happen—she shouldn’t even be here after all—but it was bliss to dress up and to picture his response to this version of her.
But then her worlds collided.
Catching sight of someone in the mirror, she let out a small scream. Almost immediately realizing it was Luka, Maya was drenched in shame at being caught by him.
She moved as if to run away, except there was nowhere to hide and so she tried to dash past him.
‘Hey…’ Luka caught her wrist. ‘Why are you running off? I’m not going to say anything to Giovanni…’ At first he had thought she was worried about being caught snooping. Now though, when he saw her burning cheeks and that Maya couldn’t bear to meet his eyes, it dawned on him that she was embarrassed. ‘It’s fine,’ he said. ‘It really is.’ And yet still she would not look up, and so he told her a further truth. ‘You look beautiful tonight.’
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