Disclaimer: I am borrowing them to play with, but I promise to put them back when I am done.
Subject: Of Canadians, courtship, counterpoint, and cocklesÖ
UN BUON GIORNO
"Another glass of vino? I normally donítÖ"
As she lazily reclined in her chair, CJís office light melted away into Tuscan sun, the kind of sunlight that causes nature to glow from within, not just a glaring spotlightÖ
Beyond the lusciously thick legs of wine running down the sides of her glass, she watched a group of young men ambling along the winding road. As they spied the small group of young ladies lazing under a nearby olive tree, their demeanor changed altogether. A smile played across CJs mouth and she watched, fascinated by this time-honored Italian courtship ritual. The boysí gait slowed noticeably and their attention was suddenly riveted by the marvelous countryside, which CJ was dead certain they hadnít the foggiest notion was actually before them. As the next sip of nectar graced her throat, she watched the spines of the girls straighten, their formerly casual postures and smiling faces now haughty. Sip. Now the boys make a great show of noticing the girls, scarcely ten feet away. Although she is too far away to hear their comments, she sees the unmistakable body language: the boys; surprised at seeing such beautiful women here, feel so fortunate that their hearts may just quiver and halt, so as not to disturb the stunning montage. The girls, patently unaware that anyone is speaking to them, continue to sit in silence, braiding their hair, shifting their legs, ignoring any sound but their own breathing. Sip. The boys make gallant, sweeping bows to the girls and continue on their merry way. With a full-fledged grin, CJ watches the boys stride confidently away, pounding each other on the back, content with their victory.
Deeply enmeshed in her vin santo and the elation of the Italian boys, CJ didn't even notice her door opening and an unkempt red head peering in.
"Watcha doing?" Danny inquired cheerfully.
"Danny, if you canít even recognize the medium of your employ, then youíve got bigger problems than how I spend a few spare moments."
"Ah. Funny today, are we?"
"Always. Havenít you attended my briefings? Iím the hottest thing going on CNN."
"No argument there. Would you care to elaborate on said Ďhotness?í My readers have developed a sudden fascination with your undergarments."
CJís head jerked away from her newspaper for the first time since Danny entered the room.
"Perhaps thatís a slight overstatement. A few readers. One. Me."
"Danny, that is flagrantly out of line. I could sue you for sexual harassment right here and now," CJ replied, with no compunction whatsoever.
"Sure, but the litigation might encounter some gray areas when I tell them that when you sit like that with your legs propped up on your desk, I can see up your skirt."
The resounding thud caused by CJís feet hitting the floor made it difficult for Danny to suppress his grin. The flat glare from the woman herself didnít help.
"Is there a reason why you are choosing to interrupt me at my place of business?"
CJ reached for her phone and pushed a single button, "SecurityÖ"
"No, no," he inserted quickly, "Iím just here to see how you are doing. I havenít been able to bother you in quite some time and I came to rectify the situation."
"Very thoughtful. As it so happens, however, I happen to be busy."
"I return to my prior, and as-of-yet-unanswered question: doing what?"
"I am reading the newspaper. I am the Press Secretary. Itís my job to keep abreast of issues reflected in the media."
Before Danny could get a sound out, CJ interrupted, "Perhaps that was a poor choice of words. I amend my former statement: I am just reading the newspaper. Itís not an uncharacteristic thing for me to do."
"Watcha readiní?" Danny continued, undaunted. His positive demeanor could have implied a deeper level to their acquaintance, or a distinct lack of neuron activity. "And why did it provoke the complete contentment I saw on your face before I walked in?"
Returning her gaze to the open paper, CJ replied, "I am indulging in one of my favorite fantasies, if you must know."
Dannyís eyebrow shot up as if propelled by a booster rocket, causing his whole head to jerk.
"No, Alpha Male, it has nothing whatsoever to do with you."
Chastised, the eyebrow resumed its proper place. The normally intrepid reporter rose slowly and carefully out of his chair and leaned over, trying to catch a glimpse of the article to which CJís attention was riveted. He half expected CJ to shift the paper out of his line of sight, but she made so move at all, either to help or hinder his efforts.
"Youíre fantasizing about an old man?" It was more of a statement than a question. "CJ, is there something that we need to discussÖ"
Her abrupt, leveling glance ripped the words right out of his throat. "This is the Pope."
Danny paused, considering the myriad angles from which he could continue to harass his favorite person. She anticipated him, however.
"No, itís not a ĎCatholic thing,í and no, Iím not particularly drawn to the geriatric crowd."
"Well then," he phrased carefully, "Iím having a little difficulty seeing the fodder for fantasy in that paper."
CJ sighed deeply, lowered the paper again to look him full in the face. "Itís Italy. Iíve always wanted to go. Over the years I have developed a full-fledged dream about visiting. Now, every time I see something related to Italy, my mind begins to wander in that direction, particularly when Iím swamped at work and feeling crushed by my responsibilities."
"Sometimes I imagine myself throwing this life away entirely to go live in the romantic Italian countryside, getting a job in a vineyard and pressing grapes with my feet for the rest of my life, my only real concern finding close-toed sandals to wear when I go out. And then, the nightlifeÖ Most nights spent at my tiny rented home that was formerly servantsí quarters for a larger villa nearly, watching the stars as only those who named the constellations saw them. When I feel wild, I drive my used Alfa into Bologna, or Florence, to dance the night away at a discotheque among beautiful, dark, intoxicating Mediterranean men."
By the time she finished speaking, Danny could see that CJ was no longer in the office with him, her face mirroring the dream-like quality of her voice.
"Iím Italian," he contributed.
CJís attention was immediately drawn back across the Atlantic.
"I could be Italian."
"Danny, youíre so Irish that your freckles are about to wage war upon your facial features. Other than that, you redefine the term Ďwhite boy.í I, on the other hand, can tan in the winter under florescent lighting," she finished with a tight, smug grin.
"Oh, and that makes you Italian?"
"Iím just saying."
"I could be Italian. Actually, the Irish and the Italians are very similar: ancient lineage, fondness for alcohol, tendencies toward civil unrestÖ"
"With as pure as your Irish blood is, I donít have the slightest doubt that you bear more than a slight Ďfondnessí for alcohol. In fact, I donít even think that I want to see you Gaelically intoxicated. Who knows what you might do?"
Danny feigned shock. "No God-fearing Irishman would assault a ladyís virtue!"
"Irish Catholic?" She asked hopefully.
"No dice. You guys don't play fair."
"We don't play fair?! Okay, let's just not go there. Besides, we really have become much more open-minded in recent years."
"Yeah, the number of mysterious British deaths has plummeted to the low millionsÖ"
He interrupted her, "Which is why so many of us have come to America - we have certain prejudices in common!"
"Americans do not maintain any kind of enmity against the British any longer," she scoffed. "We have risen above that."
"Which would be why America's freedom from King George's rule never gets mentioned in Bartlet's speeches, right?"
Touchť, she thought. Out loud, she said "Well, we don't actively protest. Why would we need to? We could turn England into an itty-bitty hole in the water with frightening ease and they know it. Besides, backlash against English colonization is going completely out of style. I mean, what about Canada?"
"What about Canada?"
"Well, Canada doesn't seem to feel any particular compulsion to blame their British ancestors for their problems."
"They no longer have any reason to: they brought in the French to improve the cuisine. You did know that the British eat squirrel, right?"
She ignored him. "In fact, although Canada does enjoy its independence, technically they are still subjects of the British crown."
"Big deal. So they practice their inbreeding in the permafrost instead of on an island."
"My point is that the Canadians handle their relationship with England with grace instead of guns."
"Sometimes we use pipe bombs."
"I'm considering getting irritated with you," she remarked.
"Okay, fine. But be reminded that the histories and relationships that England has with Ireland and Canada are vastly different. The British stopped giving Canadians a hard time when they realized that Canada was becoming extremely friendly with her neighbor to the south. Besides, how many Brits play hockey?"
"But everyone loves Italy," was her non sequitur response. That wistful note had returned to her voice. She glanced back at the paper and sighed again.
He swallowed his smart comeback. His sarcasm could not hide his genuine affection for her.
"Well, throw a coin in the fountain for me,' he said softly as he rose to leave. She didn't even blink. Her mind was already elsewhere.
Later that evening, an exhausted CJ barely managed to get her door open and not drop the numerous packets of briefs she had carted home with her. Dropping her load, she returned to the door to retrieve her key and lock it behind her. She almost missed the small, yellow memo stuck under the knocker. "A package has been left for you in the complex office."
Puzzled, she grabbed both the note and her keys and made her way back to the apartment's main office on the first floor. The night manager greeted her cordially.
"Hey, Miss CJ! You're looking pretty wiped out - no offense intended."
"Well, Max, I'm feeling pretty wiped out, so that's not surprising. I've got a package?"
"Yes, ma'am. I told the loony that leaving alcohol out where I can see it is not a smart idea, but he insisted," he said, grinning.
CJ barely heard him as she spied the beautiful bottle of red wine dressed with ribbons, sitting next to a small, thin wrapped package. She was so surprised that she didn't even wait until she got back to her apartment before ripping into the gift. A huge smile lit her tired features when she saw Andrea Bocelli's Romanza CD in the wrapping. A small note was taped to the outside cover.
"CJ, lassie - you'll get there someday."