Drink Wine and Be Beautiful
Publication date: May 26, 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Italian Tales of love, betrayal, longing, desire – and hope
Italy serves as the backdrop for stories of Italian women and expatriate women living in Italy.
A freak snowstorm in Rome changes the travel plans of two women, touching their lives in ways they could never have imagined. An ambitious Italian professional working in Brussels rails inwardly at her privileged boss, until fate presents her with a rare opportunity. A long desired trip to Bali, Indonesia serves as a needed chance for introspection. A cautious housewife in Rome thinks back to a fateful missed connection in Florence. A first-time mother feels debilitating guilt for not bonding with her newborn, until an elderly neighbor provides her with a new perspective.
The twenty-one stories in this collection follow women’s lives as they confront betrayal and love, alienation and community, despair and-ultimately-hope.
Snake Charmers and Donkey Carts
THE HAWKERS’ CRIES FILLED THE SQUARE, the guttural sounds of Arabic throbbing in Manuela’s ears. All around her, men yelled out in that strange language. Men were everywhere. They brushed past her in the marketplace crowds, and she shrank back. Unfamiliar smells filled the air.
She clung to Adriano’s hand as they walked through the Jemaa el-Fna square, willing herself not to cry. A cobra reared up his ugly head, its black tongue flickering, only a few feet from where she stood. She bit her tongue to keep herself from screaming. The snake swayed from side to side as the snake charmer played music on his pipe. A fat man in dirty robes approached her with another snake, trying to wrap it around her neck.
She stumbled backward, afraid she might faint, but thankfully Adriano was pulling her away, toward the dark, labyrinthine streets of the souk. Here she would do battle with the scooters and the donkey carts, but at least there were no snake charmers poised to place a slimy, wriggling serpent around her neck in exchange for coins.
Manuela breathed in deeply. It was all too much. The blood coursed through her veins at double-speed. Her heart pounded in fear and revulsion. She leaned in closer to Adriano, his comforting solidity managing to calm her and provide her with the courage she lacked in this odd city.
“Min fadlak,” said a robed man, indicating his wares.
Manuela instinctively shrunk from his attentions, but Adriano stepped closer, examining the delicate lamps shining in the dark marketplace. Their intricate patterns cast colorful, elaborate illuminations through inky night sky. Even she could recognize its mystic beauty.
“Kam else’er?” said Adriano.
The two men began haggling over the price, and Manuela stood silently, a spectator to the show. Life was a spectacle here, but one she took no pleasure in observing.
Three days into her holiday in Marrakech, Manuela felt only anxious and confused. The streets were too narrow. She had to remain vigilant not to step in the droppings left behind after the donkey carts passed. There were too many people pressed too closely together. People stood so close when they spoke to you. Adriano told her it was rude to step back, but she couldn’t help herself. The yells in Arabic sounded harsh and threatening to her ears. The sights and sounds, the colors and smells were too exotic.
Manuela could only relax when they returned to their riad in the evening, though even there she could not completely escape the lingering sense of foreignness. The wooden keyhole doors were too small, and she kept bumping her head on their frame. The sweet smell of spices filled the apartment with a cloying scent she was unable to banish, even after opening the windows for long periods of time in the hopes of airing the room.
She would step into the shower and rinse the city’s dirt and grime from her body, before enveloping her skin in a soft robe. When Adriano pushed her gently down to the bed, a sense of familiarity would calm her, and she could temporarily forget all about the stresses of this chaotic city.
Yet each morning she felt drained and exhausted once again, unable to face another day, desperate to return home, where things were safe and familiar. She longed to hear Italian spoken in the squares, to enter a restaurant and know that familiar foods were on the menu, to be capable of conversing with the shopkeepers.
But what could she do? Adriano seemed to thrive in this new environment. He craved exotic places. Where had he learned to count in Arabic? He and the hawker were aggressively shouting figures back and forth, and she saw the spark of excitement in Adriano’s eyes. For her, this city was hell on earth. For him, an exotic tale out of Arabian Nights.
She breathed in deeply once again, attempting to quell the panic attack she could feel working its way through her body. The hawkers came closer with their oils and their soaps and their leather slippers. She closed her eyes and suppressed the desire to scream.
Back home, her days were spent cutting through the red tape of property purchases in Tivoli and placating demanding clients. Her hard-earned vacation was supposed to relax her, not cause greater stress.
She’d begged Adriano to go back to the Sardinian resort they’d visited this past spring, with its well-designed bungalows, soft, white sand beaches, perfectly ordered rows of umbrellas and beach chairs, and crystalline waters beckoning just before them.
Just smelling the salt air caused a sense of well-being to wash over her body. She’d thought Adriano would book the tickets for the resort, as they discussed. It was charged to her account, after all. Instead, he stopped off at her house with two tickets to Marrakech.
“You’re going to love it,” he said, kissing her on the neck. “It will be an adventure. I swear, you’ll never want to come back to Italy.”
She sighed. Not wanting to return to Italy wasn’t the problem. It was Morocco where she never wished to set foot again.
Kimberly grew up in the suburbs of Boston and in Saratoga Springs, New York, although she now calls the Harlem neighborhood of New York City home when she’s back in the US. She studied political science and history at Cornell University and earned her MBA, with a concentration in strategy and marketing, from Bocconi University in Milan.
Afflicted with a severe case of Wanderlust, she worked in journalism and government in the US, Czech Republic and Austria, before settling down in Rome, where she works in international development, and writes fiction any chance she gets.
She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) and The Historical Novel Society and has published several short stories and three novels: Three Coins, Dark Blue Waves and In The Shadow of The Apennines.
After years spent living in Italy with her Italian husband and sons, she’s fluent in speaking with her hands, and she loves setting her stories in her beautiful, adoptive country.
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