Friday, April 1, 2011
“I’m Florence,” she told my husband. To me she said “Florencia. Like the city of Florence.”
“Don’t you say Firenze in Italian?” I asked.
She frowned. “No. It’s Florence. But I am Florencia.”
“Aren’t you Italian?” I asked.
“I am from Argentina,” she said, clearly annoyed.
Her hair was dark and she had an exotic look, sort of like the Italian actor Vanessa Ferlito. Actually, more like Salma Hayek, the Spanish actor. Hayek makes more sense because Florencia declared, “I am Latin.”
Coming to Fern Forest was Will’s idea. The trip was a surprise for Florencia’s 28th birthday. She came into the house and looked around, inspecting. Had he done well? The jury was still out. It was chilly, snow on the ground. Not at all like Buenos Aires. And certainly not like Manhattan, where Florencia works as a photographer’s assistant. I thought—wait until she sees the treehouse.
Will had rented a car—at a premium because he’s under 25—and told her what to pack. A warm jacket. Yes, her Converse sneakers would be fine. A bathing suit. Nothing fancy.
H showed them around and afterward they sat in our living room by the wood stove. Florencia devoured a plate of cheese and crackers and sipped a glass of white wine.
“What did you do in Buenos Aires?” I asked.
“Photographer,” she said.
“What was your subject?”
“Fashion. And boats.”
She stretched out on the couch, her head on a cushion.
“Are you tired from the trip?” I asked.
“I am always tired,” she said. “I don’t sleep. Four hours. Five. That is enough.”
H cooks breakfast and asked about dietary restrictions. It seemed cheese would not be a problem.
“I don’t do breakfast,” Florencia said. “Just toast.”
H said we would have toast for her. For Will there would be bacon and eggs, banana chocolate chip muffins, granola, fruit and yogurt. He’s finishing up a one-year internship in Manhattan working with an executive search company and heads home to England in a week. “You’re deporting me,” he said. He doesn’t want to leave New York. Love does that to a man.
H offered to make a reservation for dinner at the Bobcat. “What time?” he asked.
“Late,” Florencia said. “In Buenos Aires we don’t eat before nine.” Eight-thirty was the latest slot available, and they had to be satisfied with that.
“This is not New York,” I told them. And H serves breakfast between nine and ten a.m.
While Will was asking about Vermont and things to do, Florencia popped up and announced that she was going to the spa. In a New York minute she was in her bikini and wrapped in one of the terry robes we furnish for guests. She asked Will to join her, but he said, “I don’t want to get wet.” She went alone, and after a few minutes he wandered out and stood by the spa to keep her company.
It was ten-thirty when they came in from the treehouse the next morning. H served them tea. I had placed Florencia’s setting facing east. She wanted to face west. H brought her toast and an omelet. She ate all of the omelet and the toast. She ate half a cantaloupe and strawberries. She ate a muffin. Will ate three muffins. When I went to clear the table, she grabbed the last muffin. “I’ll take this,” she said. It appears she does do breakfast after all.
Over breakfast they bickered about Will’s horrible driving (to be fair, they drive on the left in England), about his not telling her the correct clothes to bring (to be fair, he said, he’d never been here before), about how men should not dance ballet (Will took ballet lessons as a boy), about Will’s squeamishness about spiders and being visited by one in the treehouse (“I killed it,” Florencia said). To distract them, I gave them our zodiac book so they could look up each other’s qualities. Florencia quieted down to read about herself. She’s an Aries Pig. As a Pig myself, I know just how thorny we can be.
“What does this mean—excessive?” she asked.
Will translated. “You want to have more than you need.”
“I do not,” she said.
“Yes you do,” he demurred.
“What does it mean—genial?”
“Friendly,” Will said. “That’s not you.”
“Yes it is. I’m very friendly.”
“No, you’re not,” he said.
In fact, she is very friendly—in an ardent sort of way. You want to hug her. But not too tight.
Will looks like Ethan Hawke with his thin handsomeness. Like H, he’s a Rabbit, a peacemaker. A sweetie-pie who likes to please. Although she might not admit it, Florencia is well pleased.
“Florencia is a little like Miss Piggy,” I said.
“Who is Miss Piggy?” she asked.
Will said, “For most of my childhood I had a huge crush on Miss Piggy.”
“Miss Piggy likes to have her way,” I told Florencia. “And she’s excessive.”
“I’m not like that,” she said.
“Yes you are,” Will said.
Wisely, H stayed out of it.
H and I had to go to town, and we left them alone in Fern Forest. We came back in the early evening and found them still in the treehouse. They had taken a soak in the spa (Will agreed to get wet). They had watched a movie on Will’s laptop. They had napped (Florencia does indeed sleep). They had eaten grapes left over from breakfast. And that last muffin.
That night they drove to Burlington for dinner and ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s. When they came from the treehouse the next morning—at ten-thirty—Will announced that the first thing she said when she awoke was, “I want breakfast.” H had made blueberry pancakes. She ate three. She wanted toast. I had made sourdough bread the day before and suggested it makes wonderful toast.
“She wants white bread toast,” H said. She got white bread toast. I don’t mean to say that Florencia was difficult. You can’t help but be attracted to her. Her complaints were good natured, even funny. She’s a woman who enjoys being a little challenging. Will was up for the challenge. And so were we.
Before they checked out, Florencia clicked through photos she’d taken with her fancy camera. The driveway with the sun setting through the trees. The treehouse in daylight. The treehouse lit up with colored lights at night. The spa. Mt. Abe. The main house. The breakfast. She’s got a good eye for composition. Will requested that H take a picture of them in front of the treehouse. Then Florencia asked to take a photo of H and me. When she left, she hugged us. She looked well rested, well fed, and happy. As far as giving her a nice couple of days to relax for her birthday, I’d say Will did all right.
Posted by Louella Bryant at 9:40 AM