Martina Landini, translated into English by Ruth Stephens
Chapter 1 – An Old Friend
Maria had been a journalist for many years and had travelled the world attending the fashion shows of the most famous designers. Though now approaching seventy and retired, she had still not lost her love of fashion.
A few years ago an extraordinary thing happened to her. As usual, Maria had been looking forward to attending the famous Milan Fashion Week, an exclusive event in which all the top designers present their latest collections.
Although no longer working for a magazine, Maria counted many of the designers among her friends and so a place in the front row was always reserved for her. But this year, Maria nearly didn’t go to Milan. She’d had influenza and would have preferred to stay at home, but her friend, the designer Gioacchino, had insisted and so she had decided to go. She took the train from Bologna, the city where she had lived since her retirement, and travelled to Milan.
Maria loves Milan. She had lived there for thirty years. The headquarters of the magazine she had worked for, Fashion Today, was in via Monte Napoleon, the most fashionable street in the whole of Milan. It is famous for its exclusive boutiques and for the comings and goings of the tourists that throng the city every day.
Maria took a taxi to her favourite hotel, Il Magnifico, where she planned to have a rest before going out again. That afternoon she had an appointment with Gioacchino, whom she had not seen for a long time and with whom she wanted to have a chat before he became too busy with the preparations for the show. They had arranged to meet in an old café behind the Duomo in the historic center of the city.
As soon as she set foot in the foyer of Il Magnifico, Maria felt she had come home again.
“Ah, my Milan, how I’ve missed you!” she thought, a little nostalgically.
The hotel hadn’t changed at all. It still had the same red and gold wallpaper and the same enormous crystal chandeliers. She went up to her room with her suitcases. As her appointment with Gioacchino was not until five o’clock she had plenty of time for a shower and a rest. She lay down on the bed. After all, it was only two o’clock…
Maria awoke with a start and looked at her watch. Now it was half past four! She’d have to rush or she’d be late for her appointment with Gioacchino. She slipped on her shoes and hurried out of the hotel and towards Piazza del Duomo.
Gioacchino was already there, sitting at a table waiting for her. He had ordered a glass of wine and was nervously smoking a cigarette. He was a tall man – very thin – so thin, in fact, that at times it was difficult to see how he managed to stay upright! He had a long face and a black moustache that curled up at the ends.
“Ciao, Maria! Welcome back. It’s good to see you.”
“Ciao, Gioacchino! It’s been a long time. But you don’t look well, what’s wrong?”
“Sit down, dear, and I’ll tell you everything.”