Excerpt from Carissima

Francesca

"Espresso, signora?"
"Signorina, per favore."
"Ahh! Signorina Donata. Mi scusi! Io non l'avevo riconosciuta. Ti adoro molto."
"Grazie, grazie. Si, un espresso."

The Alitalia flight attendant's hands shake as she pours my cup of espresso. Naturally, I am pleased that she recognized me, but I am still piqued that she called me "signora" instead of "signorina."

The flight attendant places my cup of espresso on my table, then nods her head and walks away, rolling her cart to the next passenger. We still have not taken off. Glancing out my window, I see five other planes waiting in front of mine. Because of inclement weather, my flight to New York has been delayed by three hours. It is ten a.m. My flight was supposed to have departed at seven a.m. The passengers began complaining after an hour, asking to be taxied back to the terminal instead of sitting on a plane in the baking sun. The crew decided to bribe everyone with refreshments.

"Excuse me, passengers. We apologize again for the delay. We have just received word that we will be able to take off in about ten minutes."

Sighing deeply, I return my attention to the letter I was reading before the flight attendant interrupted me.

Francesca,
I need your assistance with a delicate matter and am asking you to come to New York. I would rather not get into the details in this letter. If you must know more before coming, we can talk on the phone. If you choose not to come, of course I will respect your wishes and not ask you again. All I ask is that you please do let me know either way what your decision is.
A presto,
Lorenzo

"Passengers, please return to your seats and fasten your seat belts. We've been cleared for takeoff."

The flight attendant's voice interrupts me. But it is not like this is the first time I am reading the letter. In fact, I have read it four times, hoping to decipher more of its vague message. Folding the letter, I place it in my purse. It has been years since I have traveled on a commercial flight. But of course, my days of flying on a private jet are over. At least none of the passengers in my first-class cabin have bothered me. A few took a second glance, but that was it. My star is beginning to fade-at least in Italy. I suppose I have myself to blame since I stayed out of the limelight for so long. But I was tired. I needed to rest and contemplate.

Peering out my window, I see we are still low enough so that I can make out the sand formations that form the island of Sicily. Of course, it is another beautiful summer day on the island. Even from my elevated height, I can see the sun shimmering over Sicily's deep azure waters. Mount Etna looms in the distance, adding to the surreal panorama. After living for more than a decade in Rome, I had had enough of city life and ached to return to my home. My villa in Taormina, Sicily, has been a much-needed balm for me. But my cravings to be loved by the world have not died altogether.

On this trip to New York, my focus will be on someone who once was very special to me and whose affection I lost. This will perhaps be my greatest role: reclaiming that love.