Suzanne – October 1985
Suzanne couldn’t quite believe her eyes when she arrived at the building on the Corso d’Italia. Her first view was of ornate wrought iron gates to an imposing mansion built in the Palladian style. A uniformed concierge greeted her at the entrance. Giving Caitlin’s name her luggage was organised and she was immediately escorted to the lift, which stopped, on the fourth floor where there were just two doors. One led to the offices of Farrar European Ventures and the other discretely anonymous. Suzanne opened the door with the keys that Caitlin had supplied and walked into what she could only describe as a film set.
Suzanne explored her new abode thoroughly, exhaling gasps of astonishment at each new vista. Technically it was not an apartment. Mario had split the fourth and fifth floor of the building vertically to form an office for his business with apartment above for him and a duplex apartment for Caitlin. Nothing had prepared Suzanne for the sheer scale of the place, nor the luxury finish that Mario had achieved.
She was actually mistress, albeit by default, of a four bedroom, five bath-roomed home which oozed style and comfort. The imposing architecture had been left intact so that ornate doors, fireplace mantels, carved panelling and decorative plasterwork remained. She noted that the grand chandeliers oddly complimenting the simple almost austere stripped wood floors and minimal modern furniture. The whole was saved from severity by the addition of some large colourful pictures and an array of brightly hued cushions.
Suzanne unpacked her bags and settled into one of the suites. She felt strangely small and lonely in the huge palatial space. She had yet to explore the upper floor so made her way up the staircase to see what more the apartment had to offer. The door at the top of the stairs led out onto a roof terrace, the views were astonishing; looking directly onto the Villa Borghese surrounded by its extensive park and beyond to the cityscape of the whole of Rome. Suzanne pinched herself literally. She really couldn’t believe her good fortune to have all this at her disposal. She sat out in the early evening sun for a few minutes enjoying the warmth and the amazing view. With the city laid out at her feet like a three dimensional map Suzanne could trace the route she would take to work each day. Incredibly she would be able to stroll along the Corso d’Italia and arrive at the Embassy in a round five minutes. Rousing herself from her self-congratulatory reverie Suzanne rattled downstairs to locate the phone. She must call Caitlin and thank her for this most generous of gestures.
Charlie answered her call,
‘Hello Auntie Annie’ her voice sounded solemn, ‘I’ll get Mama for you.’
‘Thanks Charlie.’ There was a pause while Charlotte fetched her mother, ‘Hi Caitlin. I just called to thank you so much for lending this place. It is absolutely AMAZING, the location, the views from the roof, the rooms. Everything is beyond my wildest imaginings and I really can’t thank you enough.’ Suzanne was not given to hyperbole inducing a wide smile from Caitlin that, though her friend couldn’t see, could hear in her voice,
‘Hey, no problem; that’s what friends are for, right? I’m glad you like it, I was sure that Mario would do it justice. He’s really talented with interiors.’
Suzanne seconded this endorsement of Mario’s talents and proceeded to describe the conversion to its owner. ‘I can’t wait to visit now’ Caitlin responded to the glowing report. ‘While you’re on Annie, I have something to tell you’ Caitlin hesitated collecting her thoughts, ‘Michael and I are going to marry’ she paused for the information to sink in. Suzanne knew of her pregnancy and about Caitlin’s dithering on the subject. ‘The wedding will just be a quiet registry office affair this time. I’d really like you to be with us for the party. I’m sorry it’s short notice too it’s going to be on Friday 11th October at the Dorchester starting at 2.00. Please say you’ll come.’
‘How can I refuse?’ Suzanne responded with a smile wondering if this was the right thing for her friend to do. Rebecca had met the guy and although she had been non-committal about him Suzanne had detected some unstated misgivings. ‘I’ll book into my usual Pimlico hotel’ Suzanne joked, referring to her home. Caitlin and Suzanne chatted for a few more minutes and then said their goodbyes.
‘See you on the 11th then. Good luck Caiti. I really hope that it works out for you this time.’ Caitlin put the phone down with the words ringing in her ears. Would it work out she wondered. She was still yet to be convinced.
Suzanne put in a call home and was again greeted by a juvenile voice.
‘Auntie Annie!’ screeched Tyrone nearly deafening her in his excitement followed by silence as his confidence evaporated,
‘Can you call Mummy for me darling or Uncle Jack please?’ Rebecca’s voice came on line immediately as she had rushed to get to the phone before either of the boys did. She had missed a few calls this way recently.
‘Hi Annie; how’re things in Rome?’ Suzanne gave Rebecca an account of the breathtaking apartment, much of which Rebecca knew from her own visit with Caitlin at Christmas, was it seven or eight years ago; eight definitely as it was when she was pregnant with Ty.
‘I just called Caiti mainly to thank her for lending the apartment. She told me her news and asked me over for the wedding party. I’ll arrange the time off on Monday and come for the weekend if it’s all right with you?’
‘Of course it is. It is your house y’know’ responded Rebecca, thinking how bizarre that they were all living in each other’s properties.
‘Do you think it’s the right thing for Caiti?’ prompted Suzanne.
‘Not really no’ Rebecca answered resignedly, ‘I think it’s just that he’s outwardly suitable. Her father is really pleased.’
‘What does Charlie think about it?’
‘I’ve hardly seen her. She seems to have got to that stage where she wants to do girls stuff. She’s not much interested in rough and tumble with my boys anymore. Can’t say I blame her. Ty and Roo, sorry Ben, are the same; it’s all boys’ games now.’ Rebecca sounded sad.
‘Cheer up’ Suzanne said, inadequately.
‘It’s all Daddy this and Daddy that at the moment’ added Rebecca her voice sounding bitter, ‘they don’t want cuddles with their mummy anymore.’
‘Hey you sound really down Becca. It’s only a passing phase, don’t worry so much.’
‘I’ll get Jack for you. Sorry to be a miserable bitch. It’ll be nice to see you for the weekend. I think I’m a bit down about that as well. I have a feeling that Michael will put a wedge between us and Caitlin.’ Suzanne heard her calling Jack to the phone and interjected quickly,
‘What makes you think that?’
‘Not sure, something about him; he seems like he’s acting a part. Here’s your father. Bye Annie, love you.’
After she had completed her calls Suzanne drifted into the kitchen and had a poke around. Why wasn’t she surprised to find that the fridge had been stocked with everything she could possibly need for her first few days in the city? Suzanne smiled in gratitude to her benefactor as she poured herself a glass of chilled Prosecco and made for the rooftop to enjoy the last rays of sun. Rebecca’s words echoed in her mind. Suzanne hoped sincerely that Rebecca’s instincts were wrong.
Suzanne – October 1985