Trespassing

He sat at the back of the car, gazing out of the window, his mind miles away, when he spotted her walking through the fields.  What on earth was she doing there?  He tapped on the glass partition.  “Please pull over, Rodney.”  The car slowed and then pulled over to the side of the road.  “I’ll be right back,” he promised before he opened the door and stepped out.

Oblivious that she had been spotted and that someone was approaching her, she walked through the field dotted with bright yellow daffodils, her mind elsewhere.  She had a fight with Tyson and after storming out of his flat, she decided to go for a drive in the countryside to let off some steam.  It was quite by accident that she came across this field and on the spur of the moment, decided to stop her car at the side of the winding road and make her way through it.

It was very peaceful out there and it helped her to think clearly.  It was no use remaining in a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere.  She didn’t love Tyson and he didn’t love her.  They were just prolonging the inevitable.  She made up her mind then and there that they should go their separate ways.

“Are you lost?” A voice asked, startling her and she swung around to see to whom it belonged.

She found herself staring at a tall, athletic, extremely good-looking man, well dressed in an expensive dark blue shirt and black trousers.  He had thick, dark hair, a swarthy complexion and classic features.  He looked either Greek or Italian and in his late thirties or early forties.  A quick glance at his hand told her that he wasn’t married.  She realized that she was staring and that he was waiting for an answer to his inquiry.  She shook her head.  “No, I’m not lost.  I was driving by, saw this place and decided to stop.”

“You’re trespassing, you know.”

“Trespassing?”

“Yes, this is private property.  Didn’t you see the sign over there?” he asked, pointing behind her.

She looked back and it was then she noticed a sign saying, Private Property.  No Trespassing.  She turned to face him again.  “No, I didn’t see it.”

He was watching her with a suspicious expression on his face.  “It’s hard to miss.”

Clearly he didn’t believe her and her lips pursed in indignation.  “As I said, I didn’t see it.  If I had, I would have turned around and climb right back in my car.  I don’t want to get in trouble with anyone for trespassing on their property.”

“What’s your name?” he asked, surprising her.

“Do you want it so that you can report me?” she asked.

He smiled.  “No,” he assured her quietly.  “I’m asking out of curiosity.”

“Roberta.”

“Alexis,” he said, holding out his hand.

She shook his hand.  “You’re Greek.”

He nodded.  “Yes.  What brings you all the way out here, Roberta?”

“I needed to get away for a while, to clear my head.”

“Are you in some kind of trouble?”

“No.  I had a fight with my boyfriend, that’s all.”  Why on earth was she telling her business to this perfect stranger?  He was still holding her hand and his eyes were intent on her face.  He was very disarming.  Her pulse was racing and her heart was pounding.

“I’m sorry, Roberta.  I didn’t mean to pry.”  He released her hand.

“Maybe I should go—”

“No, please don’t.  Stay a little while longer.”

“But, I’m trespassing.  What if the owner catches me and—”

“Don’t worry about him.”

“You know him?”

“Yes, I do.  He’s a reasonable man.  Excuse me for a moment.”  He whipped out his phone and walked a little distance from her.  “Rodney, I won’t need the car for the rest of the afternoon.  See you in the morning.  Thank you.”  He flipped his cell closed and slipped it back into the breast pocket of his shirt.  When he joined her, he asked, “I’m going for a walk, would you care to join me?”

She hesitated.

“We won’t go far.  Just up to the hills over there.”

“Okay.”  She fell into step beside him.  The countryside was beautiful with its rolling hills and fields of yellow flowers.  “Do you come here often?”

“Yes, I do, especially on the weekends.”

“I envy the people who live in the countryside.  After working in the city it must be nice to get away and come home to peace and quiet.  And the scenery is breathtaking.”

He was looking at her.  “Do you love him?”

She glanced at him, confused.  “Who?”

“Your boyfriend.”

She lowered her eyes.  “No.  I think we’ve outgrown each other.   We fight a lot and we’re not happy.  It’s time we ended the relationship.”

“Ending a relationship is always tough but sometimes it’s for the best.”

“Tyson and I have known each other since high school.  We dated on and off.  Now that I think about it, when we were just friends, things worked perfectly between us but the moment we decided dating, things went downhill.  Now, things have gotten so bad that I don’t think we can even be friends.   When two people are not meant to be, it’s best they don’t force it.  We should never have gotten involved with each other but remained just friends.”

He studied her, his eyes taking in every detail of her features, thinking that there was no way that he could be just friends with her.  He was deeply attracted to her and the desire to see her again was overpowering.  “Are you busy this Saturday?” he heard himself ask.

“No.”

“The owner of this property is having a costume ball and I would like you to come…as my guest.”

She stared at him.  He was serious.  He really was inviting her to a costume ball.  Immediately, her mind conjured up images of people dressed as kings, queens and fictional characters.  She had never been to a ball before and the idea of dressing up thrilled her.  “I’d like to come,” she said, smiling.

He reached into his pocket and took out a card which he handed to her.  It was an invitation to the ball.  “Do you know who you will come as?” he asked.

She considered for a moment.  “I think I’ll come as Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.  I’ve watched the movie with my niece and loved it.  And it’s not every day that you get to dress up as a princess.  What about you?”

“I don’t know as yet.  I guess you’ll have to wait and see”

She glanced at her watch.  “I really must go now.”

“I’ll wait you to your car.”

When they were standing beside her car, she held out her hand.  “It was nice meeting you, Alexis.”  He had the most amazing eyes—they reminded her of rich, dark chocolate.

He grasped her hand.  “It was a pleasure meeting you.  I look forward to seeing you at the ball.”

“Thanks for inviting me.”  It was hard to keep a clear head when he was holding her hand and staring at her.  Her heart was racing and she seemed to have a little trouble breathing.

He released her hand and watched as she climbed into her car, waving as she drove off.  The sun was beginning to set, casting an orange glow on the field.  He cut across it to get to the manor.

All the way home, Roberta thought of nothing else but about Alexis and the ball.  She couldn’t wait to see what costume he would be wearing.  She could see him as a dashing count or a Greek warrior or even a gladiator.  She had just pulled into her parking spot underground when her cell rang.  It was Tyson.  “I’m sorry about today, Roberta.  I said a lot of things I shouldn’t have.  It’s obvious that we don’t work as a couple.”

She sighed.  “I’m sorry about the things I said too.  And you’re right. We don’t work and it’s time we parted ways for good.  I wish you all the best, Tyson.  There’s a woman someone out there for you.”

“I wish you all the best too.  Take care.”

“Goodbye, Tyson.”  She ended the call and slipped her phone back in her bag.  It was finally over between them.  They were both free to move on with their lives.  As she got out of the car, she thought of Alexis and her heart skipped a beat.  Tomorrow after work, she was going to get her costume for the ball.

Saturday came and she was beside herself with excitement.  Every time she thought about seeing Alexis again, her heart somersaulted.  She took her time and put on her costume and then examined her reflection when she was done.  The dress hugged her slim figure and the wig with the few curls cascading about her face while the rest was pulled back suited her.  She smiled as she adjusted the tiara, quite pleased with how she looked and hoped that Alexis would be impressed.  Drawing quite a bit of curious looks, she made her way to the garage.

When she drove up the graveled driveway, she couldn’t help marveling at the impressive Victorian mansion that loomed above her.  A parking attendant came to take her car.  Nervously, she climbed the steps to the large doorway where two footmen stood.  They reminded her of Cinderella.  Music, voices and laughter filled the air.  There was a man at the door who asked for her invitation.  She showed it to him.  Heart pounding, eyes wide as they scanned the large room where the guests were, she walked slowly through the doors.  She recognized Queen Elizabeth I, Mata Hari, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and a host of others but there was one person she was just dying to see.  Where was he?

“Hello there,” a voice said behind her and she swung around, her expression brightening when she saw Alexis.  “You’re not wearing a costume!” she exclaimed.  He looked incredible in the black suit, black shirt and no tie.

He smiled.  “The host isn’t required to wear a costume,” he replied and saw her eyes widen.

“You mean this estate belongs to you?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  All of this was left to me—the only son of Demetrius Yannos.”

“Demetrius Yannos was your father?”  Demetrius Yannos was the media mogul who was listed among the world’s richest people and was featured in TIME Magazine as person of the year.  At the age of three, the self-made millionaire from the town, Galaxidi, migrated to England with his family.  At the age of forty he married a beautiful English model half his age and they had two children—a boy and a girl.  Five years ago, Demetrius died of a heart attack while vacationing in Mykonos with his wife.  The story was all over the news.

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me who you were when we met?”

“I wanted you to be interested in Alexis, not Demetrius Yannos’ son.”

“I would be interested in you regardless of whose son you are,” she assured him.

His expression became serious as he returned her gaze.  “After meeting you on Monday, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you,” he confessed.  “I’ve been looking forward to this evening all week.”

She swallowed hard when he reached for her hand.  “It’s—it’s over between Tyson and me.”

“So, you’re free to date?”

“Yes.”

“Good.  Let me introduce you to some of the guests and then, I’ll get you something to drink.”  Still holding her hand, he took her over to different people and introduced her.  Some of them were people who worked for him, friends and relatives.  She met his younger sister, Diandra and her husband, Thomas.  They were dressed as Cleopatra and Marc Antony.  Diandra was fair like her mother and very pretty.

After making the rounds, meeting new people, Alexis got a non-alcoholic Sangria for her and they went out on the terrace to enjoy the mild evening.  “You look very beautiful tonight,” he told her.  He was leaning against the balustrade watching her as she gazed out at the sprawling grounds below.

She smiled at him, feeling a little self-conscious.  “Thank you.”  Her hands were feeling hot in the long white gloves so she removed them and draped them over the balustrade.  Her heart leapt in her throat when he took her glass from her hand and set it on the ground.  He took her hands and drew her closer to him.

“I want to be with you, Roberta,” he told her quietly.  “From the moment I met you and we started talking I knew that I wanted to be with you.  Do you feel the same way about me?”

She nodded, her heart thudding.  “Yes, Alexis,” she murmured breathlessly.

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.  Freeing her hands from his, she wound them around his neck, kissing him back.  In the back of her mind she thought how true the words that, One day you will meet someone who will make you realize why it never worked out with anyone else.

 

Sources: WikipediaPinterest

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The Precinct

“How’s Viola?” Franco Manetti asked his friend and partner of twelve years, Joe Martin, as he was getting ready to leave for the night.

Joe stopped writing his report to look at him, his expression was one of exasperation.  “Why don’t you ask her out already?” he demanded.  “You’re always asking about her and she’s always asking about you.  You’re not dating anyone and she’s not dating anyone.  Why don’t you two date each other?  Look, the precinct is having its Christmas party is next month, why don’t you ask her to go with you?”

Franco considered his suggestion.  “That’s a great idea,” he said.  “Are you sure you don’t mind me asking your little sister out?”

Joe rolled his eyes.  “If I minded you asking her out, would I be encouraging you to?”

Franco laughed.  “I guess not.  I’m sorry, pal.  I just thought it might be awkward for your partner to be taking your sister out, that’s all.  Well, have a good night.  I’ll see you in the morning.  Say hello to Dora for me.”

“You have yourself a good night too.  By the way, Viola is coming over for dinner at our house tomorrow night.  You’re welcome to drop by.  You can ask her to the Christmas party then.”

“I can’t come by tomorrow, I’m afraid.  I am having dinner over at my parents’ place.  Could I call you instead and talk to Viola?”

“Sure.  She’ll be there until ten.”

Franco pulled on his jacket and grabbed his keys.  “‘Night, Joe.”

“‘Night, Franco.”

On his way home, Franco recalled the first time he met Viola.  It was on a Tuesday, around noon.  She came to the precinct to see Joe.  They were going out for lunch.  He was at his desk doing paperwork when she walked in.  He looked up as she went over to where Joe sat.  Joe was away from his desk.

Franco stared at her.  She was dressed in a black pants suit over a red blouse and her hair was pulled back at the nape of her neck.  For several minutes, he just sat there staring at her.  She smiled and held out her hand.  “Hi, I’m Viola, Joe’s sister.  You must be Franco.”

He got up and shook her hand.  “Pleased to meet you,” he managed to say.  He waited for her to sit down in the chair beside Joe’s desk before resuming his seat.

“Joe has told me a lot about you,” she said.  “You and he have been partners for a long time.”

“Yes, for twelve years.”  He knew he was staring but he couldn’t help it.  She was so beautiful.

“I remember when Joe joined the force our mother was terrified at first.  She feared that he would get shot or killed but Dad encouraged her to have faith.  He told her that Joe was serving God and his community.  It took some time to convince her but now instead of worrying she prays a lot.  What about you?  Did your family have a problem with your choice of career?”

He shook his head.  “My parents were just relieved that I wanted to be in law enforcement instead of ending up like some of the kids I used to hang out with in our old neighborhood.”

He wanted to ask her if she had a boyfriend.  He could hear his mother saying to him, “I hope that before I die, you meet a nice Italian girl and marry her.  Nearly all of your cousins are married and have children.  Guido is married and has blessed your father and me with two grandchildren.  Your little sister, Sophia is married.  You’re the eldest and you’re still single.  What are you waiting for?”

He noticed that Viola glanced at his hand to see if he was wearing wedding ring.  Just then Joe returned to his desk.

“I see that you two have met,” he said with a smile.  He grabbed his jacked and pulled it on.  “Ready?” he asked Viola who was looking at Franco.

She glanced up at her brother and nodded.  As she stood up, she turned to Franco who was on his feet, watching her.  “It was nice meeting you,” she said, smiling at him.  “I hope we see each other again.”

“Me too.”  He watched her walk away, thinking he had just met his dream woman.

As he pulled into his parking space, Franco promised himself that he was going to ask her to have dinner with him on Saturday and then invite her to go with him to the Christmas party.

They were having dinner when out of the blue, his mother asked, “So, have you met a nice Italian girl as yet?”

Franco was about to lift the fork to his mouth but he paused to look over at his mother who was watching him very intently.  “I met a nice girl, Mama,” he said quietly, “but, she’s not Italian.”

She wrinkled her brow.  “She’s not Italian?  What is she?”

“She’s Joe’s sister.  You remember Joe.  I’ve brought him here for dinner once before when his wife, Dora was visiting her parents in Florida.”

“Yes, I remember Joe,” his father said.  “He’s a very nice guy.”

“How come you never mentioned his sister to me before?” Mrs. Manetti asked.

“I did. I told you about the time when she and I first met.”

“Oh yes, but that was last year.  You mean to tell me you haven’t been dating anyone since then?”

“No.  After meeting her, I don’t want to date anyone else.”  He glanced at his watch.  It was eight-thirty.

“Why do you keep looking at your watch?” his mother asked irritably.  “Are you going somewhere after you leave here?”

He shook his head.  “No, Mama.  I’m going straight home after I leave here.”

“Why do you keep looking at your watch, then?” she insisted.

“Oh, Carmela, leave the boy alone,” Mr. Manetti snapped.  “If he wants to look at his watch, that’s his business.”

“If you must know, Mama, promised Joe that I would call over at his house tonight.”

“Oh.  Eat your spaghetti before it gets cold.”

It was nine o’clock by the time, they finished eating and he helped to clear the table.  He excused himself and went down into the basement to make the call.  Joe answered.  They spoke for a while and then he went to call Viola.  Franco’s heart began to pound.  He was really nervous now.  When he heard her voice, his heart leapt in his chest.  “Hello, Viola,” he said, sounding a bit breathless.  “How are you?  Good.  I’m fine too.  I—I was wondering if you would have dinner with me on Saturday evening.  You would?  That’s great.  I’ll pick you up at seven.  Sure, I’ll take down your address.  Just hold on while I find something to write on.”  He put the receiver gently on the sofa and got up.

He looked around wildly for some paper and a pen.  He saw an old newspaper on the coffee table and a pen beside it.  It was opened to the Crossword section.  Dad, he thought, with a grin.  He tore a piece of paper and grabbed the pen.  He hurried back to the phone.  “Sorry about that,” he apologized.  He wrote down her telephone number and address and put the piece of paper in the breast pocket of his shirt.  “I’ll see you on Saturday.”  He sat down in the sofa and talked with her for a while before he said, “Good night, Viola,” and hung up.

His parents were in the living-room.  His father was watching TV in his favorite chair while his mother was on the sofa mending his shirt.  She glanced up when Franco entered the room.  “How is Joe?” she asked.

“He’s fine.”

“You were on the phone for a long time.” She looked at him, suspicious.  “Are you sure it was Joe you were talking to all this time?”

“Carmela, leave the boy alone.”

Mrs. Manetti clucked her tongue and continued mending the shirt.

Franco sat down on the sofa beside her and spent an hour with them before he left.

“Viola told me that you invited her out for dinner tomorrow night,” Joe said to him the next morning as soon as he sat down at his desk.

“Yes, I did.  I wanted to go out with her before the Christmas Party.”

“Good for you.”

Franco smiled and got to work, although every now and then his mind went on Viola.  He couldn’t wait to see her the following night.

He took her to the River Café, nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge with stunning views of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty.  They got a table beside a window where she could see the East River.  For the appetizer, they both had the summer salad and for the main course, she had the Organic Chicken while he opted for the Lamb.  And for dessert, they shared the Chocolate Brooklyn Bridge.  The conversation between was easy and they felt very comfortable with each other.  He learned that she was a Community Outreach Coordinator at a government agency in the Bronx and that she was bullied in high-school because of her weight.

“I was overweight,” she said.  “I ate a lot of junk food and spent most of my time sitting around the house, reading or watching TV.  I wasn’t active except when I was doing gym at school.  So, I was teased at school because of my weight and height.  I didn’t fit in with the other girls who were tall and skinny.  In grade ten, I decided that I wasn’t going to change my habits.  I stopped eating unhealthy foods, went on a diet and walked home from school instead of taking the bus.  It worked.  I dropped to and maintained a weight that worked for me.  As you can see, I’m not skinny but I’m not overweight either.”

He looked at her.  “I think you’re beautiful,” he said.

She smiled, feeling a little shy.  “Thank you.”

“We are having our annual Christmas party on December 16 and I was wondering if you would like to go with me.”

“Yes, I’d like that.”

After dinner, they went for a walk, enjoying the warm night air and the views of the bridge over the River.  Then, it was time to take her home.  When they were standing outside of her condo in Queens, he said to her, “I had a great time tonight with you.  Viola, I really, really like you and I want to be in a relationship with you.  Do you feel the same way about me?”

She nodded.  “Yes, I do, Franco.”

He smiled, looking relieved.  “Good.  I’ll call you tomorrow.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  She watched him as he walked away, her pulse racing and her heart pounding.  Things were really looking up now.

They began dating and by the time the Christmas party rolled around, things had gotten very serious between them.  He took her to meet his parents one Sunday afternoon.  Viola was nervous about meeting his mother.  Mr. Manetti was very warm and friendly.  At first, Mrs. Manetti didn’t say much.  She was busy sizing her up.  Then, when the men went out into the backyard, leaving the two of them in the living-room, Mrs. Manetti cleared her throat.

“Come and sit beside me,” she said, patting the empty seat on the sofa.

Viola went over and sat down next to her, trying to act calm when there were butterflies in her stomach.  She turned to look at the older woman who was studying her with those sharp eyes of hers.

“I had my reservations when Franco told me about you,” she began.  “I wanted him to find and settle down with a good Italian woman because my other two children married outside of their culture.  Franco is my first born.  He will always have a special place in my heart.  I want him to be happy.  And I can see that he is very happy because of you.  I can tell that you love him and I know that he loves you.  So, you’re not Italian but as long as you’re good for my Franco, that’s all that matters.”

Viola breathed a sigh of relief.  “Thank you, Mrs. Manetti.  It means a lot to me that you feel this way.”

“Good.”  Mrs. Manetti smiled and patted her hand.  “Now, why don’t I cut you a nice big slice of cake?  I baked it just this morning.”

When Franco and his father joined them a while later, they were chatting as if they had known each other for years.  “It looks like you’ve won over my mother,” he said when they were alone.

“Yes.  She’s a wonderful woman who wants what’s best for her son.”

He reached for her hands and held them, his expression serious as he gazed down into her face.  “You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I love you, Viola.”

“I love you too.”

“Marry me,” he said as he released one of her hands to reach into his pants pocket for the box.  Then, he got down on his knee and opened the box to show her the engagement ring.  She gasped when she saw it.  It was an elegant 3 carat oval shaped diamond.

“Yes, I will marry you,” she replied, her eyes wide and watery.  She watched as he put it on her finger and then he was on his feet.  He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

A short while later, he announced their engagement to his parents.  “This calls for a celebration,” Mr. Manetti said and he disappeared into the kitchen.  He was back with a tray four glasses and a bottle of wine.  After he filled each glass he raised his in a toast.  “To Franco and Viola,” he said.

They all raised their glasses in merriment.  And in Spring of the following year, Franco and Viola got married at her family’s church and had the reception at Prince George Ballroom.  It was a glorious night.  “We never thought we would see Franco settle down,” Guido said to her, laughing.

Sophia said to her, “It’s good to see Franco so happy.  I wish you two a lifetime of happiness.”

“Happy?” Franco asked as Viola and he danced.

“Very,” she replied.

He smiled and then twirled her around the dance floor as his mother watched them, happy to see that her son had finally found and married a nice girl.

Sources:  River Cafe; Marisa Perry; Prince George Ballroom

Friends

They started out as friends.

Talked for hours on the phone.

Went out for pizza or to the

movies when they didn’t have

any other plans.  Some

Saturday nights they would

order in spicy Thai food

while watching classic or

foreign movies.

 

They didn’t know exactly

when their feelings for

each other began to

change.  Perhaps it was

the afternoon when they

went to the amusement

park and rode on the

carousel.

 

She held on to the pole

laughing as Tony tried

to take a photo of her.

Then, on the spur of the

moment, he leaned forward

and kissed  her.  It seemed

perfectly natural but she

was no longer laughing.

When the ride stopped

and he helped her

down, their eyes held

for a long moment.  They

were very close to each

other and his hands were

still holding her by the

waist.  Her legs were

a bit wobbly and she

held on to him for a

while longer until she

no longer needed the

support.

 

When they were

standing outside of

the park and away

from the crowd, he

stopped and pulled

her aside.  “I’m sorry

about just now,” he said.

“I shouldn’t have kissed

you.  I hope you’re not

angry with me.”

 

“I kissed you back,” she

said.   “Where do we

go from here, Tony?”

 

He moved closer, his

expression serious

as his eyes searched

her face.  “Where would

you like us to go, Nicole?”

 

She reached up and

kissed him.  “Does this

answer your question?”

she asked minutes

later when she drew

back to look up

at him.

 

“Yes, it does” he said.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Famished,” he replied, rubbing

his stomach.  They laughed.

“I am in the mood for

some Penne arrabiata.”

“So am I,” he agreed, reaching

for her hand and lacing his

fingers through hers

as they walked to

their favorite Italian

bistro.

 

That was two years ago.

Now they were engaged.

Their wedding was in

two months.  Before going

on their honeymoon, they

planned to go back on

the carousel ride–where

for them, the journey from

friendship to romance began.

 

 

black and white couple

 

Florence

She sat at a small table outside of the local cafe set in the maze of

streets near Piazza Antinori.  One could get lost in Florence but won’t

mind at all.  It was a beautiful, bustling and exciting place.  There was

so much to see.

Around her mingled the sound of dishes cutlery, the clink of

glasses as people toasted each other and the voices and laughter

of tourists and locals alike.  She heard French, Spanish, English, Italian.

Whiffs of cappuccino, hot bread and pasta filled the air.  It was early

afternoon.  She had spent the morning visiting the Duomo and the

Antinori palace.  Now she was at this little cafe buzzing with locals,

and enjoying a glass of wine after having delicious Ravioli, drinking

in the friendly ambiance around her as she watched couples, friends,

students on summer break and the locals walk by.

This was her first time in Florence.  She loved it.  She loved the

cobbled streets, the history, the people and of course, the food.

She will definitely stop by this delightful cafe again and try their

Beef tagliata.  Hopefully, she would get a table inside.  Not that

she minded eating on the sidewalk.

This was her first trip alone.  Usually she traveled with her

Sister, June.  June got married a couple years ago and her life

was not wrapped up in her husband and their two children.

No plans for Travel any time soon.

She signed.  Being alone in a city like Florence wasn’t so bad.

She could get used to it.  She could just lose herself in the maze

of streets that now seemed to be beckoning her.

She finished her wine and grabbing her handbag, she

got up and headed to the nearest street.

 

This trip could be her own personal adventure.  Who knows….what

could happen in the city of love…

woman in Florence

Sources:  Tripadvisor; Antinori Palace

Ingrid Bergman

I just read in the Stabroek News that the 68th Cannes Film Festival unveiled its official poster featuring legendary actress Ingrid Bergman in a tribute to what would have been her 100th birthday this year.  I think that’s wonderful.  She was an actress I truly admired and appreciated.  She had gentle beauty and an air of quiet refinement.  She was very classy.  I remember her in films like Casablanca, Gaslight, Anastasia and For Whom the Bells Toll.  She acted with some of Hollywood’s A list male stars–Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper.  It would have been interesting to see her star opposite Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Burt Lancaster.

Acting was something Ingrid always knew she wanted to become.  Her father, a Swedish artist and photographer wanted her to become an opera star and had her take voice lessons for three years.  She wore her mother’s clothes and staged plays in her father’s empty studio.  He documented all of her birthdays with a borrowed camera.  He died when she was thirteen.  Her German mother had died when she was two years old.

After her father’s death, Ingrid was sent to live with an aunt who died just six months later from a heart disease.  She moved in with another aunt and uncle who had five children.  Her aunt Elsa was the first one who told Ingrid when she was 11 years old that her mother may have “some Jewish blood”, and that her father was aware of this long before they got married.  Her aunt cautioned her about telling others about her possible ancestry as “there might be some difficult times coming.”  This reminds me of Queen Esther who was intially cautioned by her uncle not to let anyone know that she was a Jew.

In 1932 when she was 17, Ingrid had only one opportunity to become an actress by entering an acting competition with the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.  For Ingrid it was a terrible moment.  She recalled:  As I walked off the stage, I was in mourning.  I was at a funeral.  My own.  It was the death of my creative self.  My heart had truly broken…they didn’t think I was even worth listening to, or watching.”

This couldn’t have be further from the truth as she soon learned after meeting one of the judges who told her, “We loved your security and your impertinance.  We loved you and told each other that there was no reason to waste time as there were dozens of other entrants still to come.  We didn’t need to waste any time with you.  We knew you were a natural and great.  Your future as an actress was settled.”  What a thrill and relief that must have been for the aspiring actress.  She received a scholarship to the state-sponsored Royal Dramatic Theatre School where Greta Garbo had earned a similar scholarship just years earlier.

Ingrid’s dream was now a reality.  She was given a part in a new play and over the summer break, she was hired by a Swedish film studio which led to her departure from the Royal Dramatic Theatre a year later to work full-time in films.  She starred in a dozen films in Sweden, including En kvinnas ansikte which was later remade as A Woman’s Face, starring Joan Crawford.  Ingrid made one film in Germany in 1938.

Then it was off to Hollywood…Thanks to David O. Selznick, she starred in Intermezzo:  A Love Story, her first acting role in the United States.  It was a remake of her 1935 Swedish film, Intermezzo.  Ingrid didn’t plan to stay in Hollywood.  She thought she would complete this film and return home to Sweden to be with her husband, Dr. Peter Lindstrom and their daughter, Pia.

Selznick had concerns about Ingrid.  “She didn’t speak English, she was too tall, her name sounded too German, and her eyebrows were too thick.”  However, Ingrid was accepted without having to modify her looks.  Selznick let her have her way because he understood her fear of Hollywood makeup artists who might turn her into someone she wouldn’t recognize.  He told them to back off.  Besides, he believe that her natural good looks would compete successfully with Hollywood’s “synthetic razzle-dazzle.”

Selznick, who was filming Gone With the Wind at the same time, shared his early impressions of Ingrid in a letter to William Hebert, his publicity director :

Miss Bergman is the most completely conscientious actress with whom I have ever worked, in that she thinks of absolutely nothing but her work before and during the time she is doing a picture … She practically never leaves the studio, and even suggested that her dressing room be equipped so that she could live here during the picture. She never for a minute suggests quitting at six o’clock or anything of the kind … Because of having four stars acting in Gone with the Wind, our star dressing-room suites were all occupied and we had to assign her a smaller suite. She went into ecstasies over it and said she had never had such a suite in her life … All of this is completely unaffected and completely unique and I should think would make a grand angle of approach to her publicity … so that her natural sweetness and consideration and conscientiousness become something of a legend … and is completely in keeping with the fresh and pure personality and appearance which caused me to sign her.

Not surprisingly, Intermezzo was a huge success and resulted in Ingrid becoming a star.  She left quite an impression on Hollywood.  And Selznick’s appreciation of her uniqueness made he and his wife Irene remain important friends to Ingrid throughout her career.

Before making Casablanca, Ingrid made one last film in Sweden and appearing in three moderately successful films, Adam Had Four Sons, Rage in Heaven and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  According to her biographer, she felt guilty that she had misjudged the situation in Germany.  She had dismissed the Nazis as a “temporary aberration, ‘too foolish to be taken seriously.’ She didn’t believe that Germany start a war because the good people of the country would not allow it.  Sadly, she was wrong.  She felt guilty for the rest of her life and when she was in Germany at the end of the war, she had been afraid to go with the others to witness the atrocitites of the Nazi extermination camps.

In 1942, she starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, a movie famous for its wonderul lines and the famous song, “As Time Goes By”.  I was surprised to read that Ingrid did not consider it to be one of her favorite performances.  She said, “I made so many films which were more important, but the only one people ever want to talk about is that one with Bogart.”  I thought she and Bogart were great together.

I think I only saw For Whom the Bell Tolls once but really liked it.  My sister and I liked how she looked with her short, blond, curly hair and a “sun-kissed complexion”.  I read that Ernest Hemmingway wanted her to play the part of Maria.  When he met her, after studying her, he exclaimed, “You are Maria!”  When Ernest told Ingrid that she would have to cut her hair to play the part, she was quick to respond, “To get that part, I’d cut my head off!”

For Whom the Bell Tolls, was the film that saved the song, “As Time Goes By” from being removed from Casablanca.  Warner Brothers wanted to substitute the song and planned to re-shoot some scenes with Ingrid but thanks to her hair-cut, they had to drop the idea as there would be a problem with continuity even if she wore a wig.

A year later, Ingrid won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Gaslight.  It was a gripping and suspenseful movie of a wife being driven to madness by her husband, masterfully played by Charles Boyer.  She next starred as a nun in The Bells of St. Mary opposite Bing Cosby, garnering her third consecutive nomination for Best Actress.   She came in a succession of Alfred Hitchock movies, Spellbound, Notorious and Under Capricorn (I never heard of this one).

During her marriage to Lindstrom, Ingrid had a brief affair with Gregory Peck.  This affair was kept private until five years after Ingrid’s death, when Gregory revealed in an interview with Brad Darrach of People, “All I can say is that I had a real love for her (Bergman), and I think that’s where I ought to stop…. I was young. She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work.”

Unlike her affair with Gregory Peck, the one with the Italian film director, Roberto Rossellini was a very public one.   Although Ingrid received another Best Actress nomination for Joan of Arc in 1948, the film was not a hit, partly because news of her affair with Rossellini broke while the movie was still in theatres.  It was her admiration for Rossellini which had led Ingrid to write him a letter, expressing her admiration and suggesting that she make a film with him.  She was cast in his film, Stromboli and during production, she fell in love with him and they began an affair.  She became pregnant with their son, Bergman became pregnant with their son, Renato Roberto Ranaldo Giusto Giuseppe (“Robin”) Rossellini and this affair caused a huge scandal in the United States.  She was denounced on the floor of the United States senate and Ed Sullivan chose not to have her appear on his show despite a poll showing that the public wanted her there.  However, Steve Allen had her on his equally popular show, noting, “the danger of trying to judge artistic activity through the prism of one’s personal life.” 

The scandal drove Ingrid back to Italy, leaving her husband and daughter.  She went through a very public divorce and custody battle for their daughter.  She and Lindstrom divorced a week after her son was born and she married Rossellini in Mexico.  In 1952, Ingrid gave birth to twin daughters Isotta Ingrid Rossellini and Isabella Rossellini.  Five years later she divorced their father and the following year she married Lars Schmidt, a theatrical entrepreneur from a wealthy Swedish shipping family.  That marriage lasted until 1975 when they divorced.

In 1956, Ingrid starred in the movie, Anatasia. It was her return to the American screen and her second Academy Award for Best Actress which her best friend Cary Grant accepted for her.  She made her first appearance in Hollywood since the scandal when she was the presenter of the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 1956 Academy Awards.  She received a standing ovation after being introduced by Cary Grant.  In 1969, she starred opposite Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn in the hilarious and delightful movie, Cactus Flower.  It was nice seeing Ingrid take a turn in a light romantic comedy.

In 1972, US Senator Charles H. Percy entered an apology in to the Congressional Record for Edwin C. Johnson’s attack on Ingrid 22 years ago.  In 1974 she won her third Oscar for Murder on the Orient Express, earning her the distinction of being one of the few actresses ever to receive three Oscars.  Her final role was as Golda Meir in A Woman Called Golda.   She was offered the part because, “People believe you and trust you, and this is what I want, because Golda Meir had the trust of the people.”  This interested Ingrid and the role was greatly significant for her because she still carried the guilt of misjudging the situation in Germany during World War II.  Ingrid was frequently ill during the film although she hardly showed it or complained.  She was a real trooper.  Four months after the film was completed, on her 67th birthday in London, Ingrid died of breast cancer.  Her daughter, Pia accepted her Emmy.

Ingrid was a  woman of grace, natural beauty who brought realism and dignity to her roles.  She was a star with no temperament, making her a delight to work with, unpretentious, unique, hard-working, “a great star” who “always strove to be a ‘true’ woman.”  She was not a saint but a woman with real emotions.   She was not afraid to speak out against racism.  During a press conference in Washington, D.C. where she was promoting, Joan of Lorraine, she protested against the racial segregation she witnessed firsthand at the theatre where she was performing.  This drew a lot of publicity and some hate mail.  In a news column in the Herald-Journal, she is reported as saying, “I deplore racial discrimination in any form.  To think it would be permitted in the nation’s capital of all places!  I really had not known that there were places in the United States–entertainment places which are for all the people–where everybody could not go.”

Notes to Women salute this remarkable woman and actress who won our hearts and deepest admiration with her grace and courage.  We celebrate one of the greatest leading ladies that ever graced the silver screen.  She once said, “I am an actress and I am interested in acting, not in making money.”  Dear Ingrid, we are so very thankful that you chose acting over opera.

I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say.

I can do everything with ease on the stage, whereas in real life I feel too big and clumsy. So I didn’t choose acting. It chose me.

I don’t think anyone has the right to intrude in your life, but they do. I would like people to separate the actress and the woman.

Time is shortening. But every day that I challenge this cancer and survive is a victory for me.

If you took acting away from me, I’d stop breathing.

ingrid-bergman

Sources:  Stabroek News ; Wikipedia; IMDB; Brainy Quotes; Herald-Journal

Audrey Hepburn

“For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
 For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
 For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
 For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
 For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
 People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
 As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.”
Audrey Hepburn

We adored her as Eliza Doolittle and Sabrina.  She starred opposite some of Hollywood’s top notch leading men–Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Fred Astaire, Henry Fonda and William Holden.  There was a sweet, endearing quality about her and such grace.   She was a delight to watch.

She had such a lovely British accent.  However, I learned that she was not born in England.  She was born in Ixelles, Belgium.  She was the only child of an English banker of Irish descent and his second wife, a baroness and Dutch aristocrat.

Audrey spent her childhood chiefly in the Netherlands, including German-occupied Arnhem, Netherlands, during the Second World War. Her parents divorced when her father, a Nazi sympathiser, left the family.  Hepburn referred to her father’s abandonment as the most traumatic moment of her life. Years later, she located him in Dublin, Ireland, through the Red Cross. Although he remained emotionally detached, she stayed in contact with him and supported him financially until his death.

In 1939, her mother moved her and her two half-brothers to their grandfather’s home in Arnhem in the Netherlands, believing the Netherlands would be safe from German attack. Hepburn attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945, where she trained in ballet along with the standard school curriculum.

In 1940, the Germans invaded the Netherlands. During the German occupation, Hepburn adopted the pseudonym Edda van Heemstra, modifying her mother’s documents because an “English sounding” name was considered dangerous, with her mother feeling that “Audrey” might indicate her British roots too strongly. Being English in the occupied Netherlands was not an asset; it could have attracted the attention of the occupying German forces and resulted in confinement or even deportation. Edda was never her legal name, also it was a version of her mother’s name Ella.

Audrey studied ballet in Arnhem and then moved to London in 1948, where she continued to train in ballet and worked as a photographer’s model. She appeared in several European films before starring in the 1951 Broadway play Gigi.

She starred opposite Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday for which she won the Academy Award  That was the first movie I saw her in with her short, sophisticated hairstyle.  I loved the part where Gregory Peck’s character put his hand in the mouth of the statue, La Bocca della Verità (in English, “the Mouth of Truth”) and when he pulled it out, it looked like he had lost it and Audrey’s character screamed.  He then popped his hand out of his sleeve and laughed. It turned that Audrey’s scream was real.Gregory Peck decided to pull a gag he had once seen Red Skelton do, and did not tell Audrey beforehand.  The gag worked and for me it was one of the most memorable moments of the movie.  When my sister and I visited La Bocca, I couldn’t help but think about that scene.

What I admired about Audrey Hepburn was  her work with UNICEF.  Her war-time experiences inspired her passion for humanitarian work and, although she had worked for UNICEF since the 1950s, during her later life she dedicated much of her time and energy to the organization. From 1988 until 1992, she worked in some of the most profoundly disadvantaged communities of Africa, South America and Asia. In 1992, Hepburn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. 

Audrey was grateful for her own good fortune after enduring the German occupation as a child and for this reason she dedicated the remainder of her life to helping impoverished children in the poorest nations. Hepburn’s travels were made easier by her wide knowledge of languages; besides being naturally bilingual in English and Dutch, Audrey also was fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, and German.

Her first field mission was to Ethiopia in 1988. She visited an orphanage in Mek’ele that housed 500 starving children and had UNICEF send food. Of the trip, she said, “I have a broken heart. I feel desperate. I can’t stand the idea that two million people are in imminent danger of starving to death, many of them children, [and] [sic] not because there isn’t tons of food sitting in the northern port of Shoa. It can’t be distributed. Last spring, Red Cross and UNICEF workers were ordered out of the northern provinces because of two simultaneous civil wars… I went into rebel country and saw mothers and their children who had walked for ten days, even three weeks, looking for food, settling onto the desert floor into makeshift camps where they may die. Horrible. That image is too much for me. The ‘Third World’ is a term I don’t like very much, because we’re all one world. I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering”. (Wikipedia). 

I always have the image of her with African children and the way she was loving and playful with them.  You could see that her heart was in what she was doing and that being there made her happy.

What a classy lady Audrey was.  She was a true leading lady not only on screen but in real life.