Cesare couldn’t wait to see Mel. At the airport, he, Antonio and Caroline had hired a car. It was only a short drive to Vodnjan in the hills.
Unfortunately Mel was working the evening of their arrival so all they’d managed to do was speak on the phone.
But early on Wednesday they had all arranged to meet up in Vodnjan to drive off to a dress designer’s in Pula.
For later that day, Cesare was delighted to find that Mel had arranged a boat trip for the two of them to see the sunset. It had warmed his heart to be asked.
It was the sort of romantic thing two lovers might do. Did she want to rekindle their relationship? He hardly dared to hope.
Choosing wedding dresses wasn’t really Cesare’s thing. Nevertheless, he had volunteered to act as chauffeur and accompany the girls.
He welcomed any opportunity to spend time with Mel. He would give his opinion, though he knew nothing about dresses.
Antonio had left for a business meeting with a supplier of Croatian wines who was hoping to strike a deal to supply his hotel.
Besides, it would be unlucky if Antonio, as Caroline’s groom, saw the dress beforehand.
When Cesare saw Mel in the morning, standing waiting for them in the square at Vodnjan, she was even more beautiful to him than the last time. In a grey cotton dress with a cardi across her arm, she looked fragile.
He suddenly became concerned about her. Her collar bone was too prominent; she had lost weight.
What Mel needed clearly was more of his home-made pasta. But her skin glowed with the kiss of the Croatian sun and her eyes lit up when she saw him.
She was a picture standing there in the old mediaeval square of Vodnjan, where for centuries lovers had met and embraced, parted and wept.
All human life was here and Cesare didn’t know how things stood for them both. Cesare was so nervous.
He wasn’t sure whether she wanted him to be forward or reserved and he was scared of doing anything to frighten her off.
His dearest wish was to gather her to him and feel her body melt into his. Instead, he took her hand very formally and kissed it in the old Italian way, with a slight bow.
As soon as he’d done it he felt foolish. They had been so close back in Sorrento, but now they felt like strangers.
He watched as she was swept up by Caroline in a full embrace. He wished he’d been courageous enough to do the same.
Nevertheless he was thankful he was now in her presence and delighted in hearing the two girls twittering like birds in the back of the car as he drove.
“Each day I get a different idea about what design would be best,” Caroline began. “That’s why I need you, Mel, to keep me on track and help me make a decision. What do you think about something off the shoulder like this?” Caroline showed Mel some photos torn from magazines as they sped off down the road.
“Personally, I think something a bit more elegant with some more detail would be lovely.”
“I was hoping you’d say that,” Caroline clapped her hands. “What do you think of this one from the designer in Pula? It’s original, but I’m not sure I could carry it off.”
Cesare smiled as he negotiated the streets of Pula. He’d never imagined there would be so much to say about beads and buttons, silk and taffeta, underskirts and bows.