“Are you orbiting Orion?” Professor Rinaldi asked Bryanna as she moved around the statue, studying it closely. She was a huge fan of Greek and Roman Art.
She turned and smiled shyly at him. “I’ve never seen this statue before,” she replied. “Is it new?”
“Yes. My sister, Melina brought it back from her trip to Messina in May. Are you familiar with the story of Orion?”
“I’ve heard of the Orion Constellation.”
“Well, in Greek mythology, Orion was a giant huntsman whom Zeus placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion. There are two versions of his birth and several of his death. It is commonly told that he was born somewhere in Boeotia and that he was stung to death by the giant scorpion named Scorpio and then elevated to the heavens. Death by a scorpion is less embarrassing than death by the bow of Artemis, whom he hunted with.”
“Less embarrassing because Artemis was a woman?”
“She was the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and wild animals. Still, he being a man, it’s embarrassing to be felled by a female. So, for the men, I use the death by a scorpion version and for the women, I use the Artemis version. I keep both sexes happy.”
Bryanna laughed. She liked Professor Rinaldi. He made her feel so comfortable and always said that she was his best student. Over the summer, he asked her to assist him in doing research and cataloging at his home in Yorkshire. She loved spending time with him because he was her favorite professor. It was because of him that she loved Art History. Now that she was back at university, they could only get together on the weekends. This was the first weekend.
“I have some cataloging for you to do and then when you’re finished we’ll have lunch.”
“All right.” She set about doing the cataloging while he got busy doing something else. They were in his massive library which looked out to the immaculate gardens. In the background, Vivaldi played. It was a beautiful Sunday.
The time passed very quickly and it was time for lunch. While she cleared the area where she had been working, he went into the kitchen to get things ready. Ten minutes later, he popped his head in the library to announce that lunch was ready.
She followed him into the enormous kitchen where there was a large set table. “You can sit there,” he said, indicating the chair which faced the windows. “You can enjoy the view while you eat.” He held it out for her to sit. As she moved past him, she caught a whiff of his aftershave. She sat down.
They started with an antipasto salad. “Bon appetito,” he said as he joined her and after he said Grace.
He placed a bowl of steaming hot soup in front of her. It smelled heavenly. “Vellutata di cavolfiore, Cream of Cauliflower Soup,” he told her.
“It’s delicious,” she said, savoring the rich and creamy flavor.
He smiled. “Thank you. I love to cook. Have been doing it since I was thirteen. My mother taught me.”
“I wish I knew how to cook like this.”
“I can teach you if you like.”
“I’d like that very much.”
“Good. When we finish our cataloging and researching, you can begin your cooking lessons.”
When they were finished with the soup, he took up the bowls and returned with the main course which was Oven Baked Risotto with Caprese Chicken. Her mouth watered when she saw it and couldn’t wait to dig into it. For several minutes they didn’t say anything as they tucked into the food. In the background, Scarlatti Piano Sonatas played. Classical music was something else which she enjoyed because of him.
“I hope you don’t mind spending your weekends helping me,” he said now.
“No. I like enjoy helping you. I enjoy it very much.”
“Good. I’m relieved to hear that. I thought that you might prefer to spend the weekends with your friends or your boyfriend.”
“No. I-I like spending my weekends here. And I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“I find that very hard to believe. A lovely young woman like you and no boyfriend? It’s too bad I’m not twenty years younger.”
She smiled shyly and touched the side of her neck self-consciously.
“Am I embarrassing you?”
“If you think I’m overstepping boundaries, please don’t be afraid to tell me me so. I have had people say worse things to me. I have very thick skin, you know.”
“I’m not embarrassed. Honestly, Professor Rinaldi.”
“When it’s just the two of us, Bryana, I would like you to call me David.”
“All right–David.” It felt so strange calling him that but nice at the same time. “You-you haven’t overstepped any boundaries. I’ve never been called lovely before.”
“I’m very surprised to hear that. You’re lovely inside and out.”
His gaze lingered on her for several minutes before he abruptly left the table to return with dessert which was Zabaglione with Strawberries. She was barely able to finish it. “You just had a typical Italian lunch,” he informed her. “If you like we can walk it off before we continue with our work.”
“I would like that.”
After they cleared the table and she freshened up, they went for a walk on the moors. They were beautiful, covered with Heather. “What are those?” she asked pointing to the right.
“Those are sundew and cranberry. They are plants common to these moors.”
“What else would you find on these moors?”
“Wildlife. Many species of birds such as the red grouse, short-eared owl to skylark and snipe nest, breed and feed here. They feed on the insects, moths and butterflies which also make the moors their habitat while mice, voles, lizards and other small mammals are prey for the adder, Britain’s only poisonous snake.”
She glanced warily around her. “I don’t like snakes.”
He put his arm around her shoulders. “Don’t worry, you’re safe. Besides, I wouldn’t let any harm to come to you.”
They walked on, his arm still around her shoulders. “It must be nice living here,” she remarked. “So beautiful and peaceful.”
“It is. And it’s less than forty-minutes from the University.”
“It used to take me over 90 minutes to get to the university from Manchester. That’s why I decided to find rent a room at a student house in Osbaldwick. The landlady, Mrs. Rutherford is extremely nice.”
“Once you finish university, where will you go?”
“I guess I could move to London or return to Manchester where my family is.”
“What about Leeds? It’s closer to here.”
“I’ve never been to Leeds before so I don’t know much about it.”
“How about I take you there next week Saturday? We can spend the day there.”
“I’m doing this for purely selfish reasons, Bryana.” He stopped and faced her, his expression serious.
Heart racing, she asked, “What do you mean?”
“I don’t want you to move to London or return to Manchester. I want you to stay in Yorkshire, close to me. I suggested living in Leeds because you will be less than a 45 minute drive away. That means we can see each other every weekend like we are now.”
“I think I could manage living in Leeds,” she said simply.
He reached for her hand and gently squeezed it. “We’d better head back.”
They retraced their steps back to his house. It was early evening when he took her back to the student house. Outside in the car, he turned to face her. “Bryana, I know that I’m more than twice your age but I’m deeply attracted to you and I want to be in a relationship with you. Is this something you think you would want too? If not, I will completely understand.”
“I-I want to be in relationship with you too, David. The age difference doesn’t matter to me.”
“You don’t know how relieved I am to hear you say that,” he murmured huskily. His eyes dropped to her lips. “May I kiss you?”
She nodded, her heart pounding wildly in her chest. “Yes.”
He cupped her face between his large hands and kissed her tentatively at first and then it deepened when she responded. The kiss lasted for a long time and then he drew back. They were both breathing heavily. “I’d better walk you to the door now,” he said before he turned and thrust open his door. He walked around to her side and opened her door.
She stepped out into the fresh air. The sun was beginning to set. Her legs felt wobbly. She paused for a moment to regain her composure. She preceded him to the door. After she opened it, she turned to face him. “Thank you for lunch. It’s the best food I’ve ever had.”
He smiled. “You’re welcome. I will teach you to cook like that. Have a good night, Bryana.”
“Thanks, David. You too.”
“Goodnight.” She waited until he got into his car before she went inside, her heart still racing and her lips tingling from their kiss. Her mind was reeling from the shock and excitement. As of that moment, she and Professor Rinaldi–David had graduated from a platonic relationship to a romantic one.