My husband Dan had recently been offered a two-year assignment in the Firenze branch office of his company. It was the opportunity of a lifetime which couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient point in our lives. We’d been married for six years and now a few loose ends were starting to fall into place for us.
After months of gut-wrenching indecision, we believed the time was right to start a family; the spectacular apartment overlooking Central Park became available and our bid was accepted; my art gallery had taken off and was written up in Aesthetica Magazine, drawing the attention of the world-famous artist Klaus Voormann who stopped by one day out of the blue. I was shocked when he proposed the idea of exhibiting one of his original drawings for a month or two and even more surprised when he showed me photos of the artwork he wanted to display – the cover of The Beatles album, Revolver.
No, this was not the time to pack up and move to Italy but even with all the amazing events balancing precariously on the pinnacle of our lives, how could I ask Dan to turn down this dream assignment? I couldn’t. After all, it was only for two years.
We were able to sublet our spectacular apartment overlooking Central Park; I regretfully left Klaus Voormann in the hands of my capable gallery manager and with ineffably heavy hearts we put our hopes and plans for a baby on hold – at least for the immediate future. With very mixed emotions we left New York for our new life in Firenze.
My husband’s company arranged for our living accommodations in an exquisite apartment overlooking the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. During the first couple of weeks of our stay, I busied myself becoming familiar with our new home. There were endless shops and museums to occupy my time but I could only do so much sight-seeing. Unbelievable as it might sound, I soon found myself becoming bored in one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
To make matters worse, Dan was assigned to the Padua office for one week. Located 140 miles north of Florence, he clearly couldn’t commute. He’d have to stay there and I wasn’t allowed to go with him. I had trouble sleeping while Dan was away and found myself waking up at the ungodly hour of 4:00 AM. I’d make a pot of coffee and write in my journal until the city yawned and brushed the sleep dust from her eyes.
One particular morning I was feeling unusually lost, my journal sitting on the desk mocking me. Coffee cup in hand, I went out to the balcony to breathe in the early morning air when I spotted a man walking down the street. I wasn’t too far away but I couldn’t clearly see his face. He wore a fedora-type hat and long black coat, his gloved hands by his side. Perhaps, like me, he was also having trouble sleeping. There were a couple of things about this scene that struck me as ordinary yet peculiar: the man’s casual way of walking indicated he wasn’t in a rush but he kept his eyes straight ahead, never glancing from side to side. There were also no signs of activity anywhere in the city, not even a ripple in the water. The man continued walking until he was no longer in view and I soon forgot about him.
The next morning the man was back, again carrying himself in the same determined yet unhurried manner. He reminded me of a character in a film noire detective movie. I found myself becoming more intrigued. When I saw him approaching on the third morning, I quickly grabbed my Nikon and snapped a photo. After three days of this routine, I decided I clearly needed to find a project I could sink my teeth into, something creative. While visiting the Uffizi Gallery later that morning, I discovered many types of art courses were offered there. I registered for photography, a subject I knew a little about. It was also one of the few classes that included day trips. All I needed was my camera.
Dan finally returned from Padua and after a romantic weekend reunion, he was off to work and I headed to the Uffizi. There were only four other people in the class – a married German couple and two Irish nuns. As I gazed out the window, a man’s voice as deep and mellow as a glass of montepulciano resonated throughout the room. I turned to see someone familiar – the man I had spotted walking by the Ponte Vecchio! He was quite handsome with light hazel eyes and a shock of black hair. He introduced himself as Leone – not Mister or Doctor or Professor – just Leone, our instructor.
The course was interesting, the scenery breathtaking and the teacher took his job very seriously. I was enjoying the class but, as I told Dan, it could have been a bit more fun. Leone was all business. That’s why I was totally surprised that rainy Tuesday when I was the only one who showed up for class and Leone suggested we wrap up early and get a bite to eat.
We went to a café in the Uffizi and for the first time the impersonal teacher relaxed; I truly enjoyed his company and when our conversation turned to my gallery in New York, Leone was very impressed. During lunch I got a text from Dan saying there was a business dinner he couldn’t get out of and would be home late. Curious about the disgruntled look on my face, Leone asked if anything was wrong. I explained the situation and he said it must be fate, the perfect opportunity for me to see his studio. I was grateful for the diversion.
Leone’s studio was simply but elegantly decorated. The walls were covered with his stunning photos, all black and whites, each one a masterpiece. His work consisted solely of portraits; this surprised me considering all the beautiful sights in Italy. Leone said faces had much more interesting stories to tell than places and asked if he could take a few photos of me. I was a bit reluctant but flattered and so I agreed. It was there in the back room of his studio where our affair began.
In the eight years since Dan and I met, I had been with no one else. I had no idea how monotonous and unimaginative our sex life had become. My affair with Leone was dynamic, passionate, electrifying. We were ravenous when we were together and starving when we were apart. Our relationship became extreme. Leone brought out my wildly sexual, erotic side; there was nothing we wouldn’t do to give each other pleasure. The more we saw each other the more we wanted each other. Our affair became all-consuming and never diminished for the 20 months we were together. Twenty months! I had friends whose marriages didn’t last 20 months.
Always in the forefront of my mind was the fact that Dan and I would be returning to New York and for the first time during my affair with Leone I became afraid. There was more going on than sex. There were deep feelings. There was affection. There was love. That was never supposed to happen.
Two weeks before Dan and I left for New York I told my lover I would never see him again and even though it killed me, I ended our affair. One week later Leone sent me a text which read “I think about you too much”.
Why can’t I stop loving him? Why can’t I stop this hunger inside me? I wanted him so much but I desperately did not want to hurt my husband. Dan was such a good and decent man. He didn’t deserve any of this. I was in love with two men and it had to end.
Dan and I returned to New York. We moved back into our spectacular apartment overlooking Central Park. I resumed ownership of my fabulous art gallery and added two new photographs – one of the Ponte Vecchio and another of a man with light hazel eyes and a shock of black hair.
We settled into our usual routine. We got comfortable in our apartment and talked about having a baby. It was like nothing had changed in the two years we were away but everything had changed.
Exactly one month after leaving Italy, I found out I was pregnant. Firenze, mi amor!
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