17 – Bella Notte

Continued from Roman Holiday

“You know you’re in love when you don’t want to fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams,”
Theodor Seuss Geisel, Dr. Seuss

*******
Despite the title there will be no spaghetti and meatballs or serenading in this chapter, but hopefully still plenty of romance.
With thanks to V for loaning me this bit of Italian wisdom.

*******

Fiori di zucca farciti con ricotta e timo cotto al forno con pomodorini e pinoli tostati
Pecorino in crosta di mandorle con agretti, pere cotte al vino rosso e pepe rosa
Primo sale con fagiolini, patate novelle e crema di tartufi
Lasagnetta di burrata con melanzane e salsa di pomodoro e basilico
Risotto con fiori di zucca, zucchine, zafferano e provola

*******

The offerings at Il Margutta RistorArte read more like poetry than un menù.

Or perhaps it only sounded that way, spoken in Grissom’s deep, rich baritone.

And that was just the set menu and only the bare beginnings of it.

After a day spent surrounded by the sounds of it, Sara was starting to understand why Italian was the lingua franca for opera, as its almost melodic rhythms and natural euphony practically rolled off the tongue.

Well, not perhaps her tongue. Grissom, with his almost instinctive ear for languages was another story.

As much as she might be loathed to admit it, her husband’s Italian was, despite its limited scope, just as sexy as his French. Forget reading the phone book or encyclopedia, Grissom reading the menu was sexy.

Of course she wasn’t about to tell him that. Nor was she about to protest or complain when he continued to list off the various courses.

Although halfway through his recitation she did lean in to whisper more curious than concerned, “You have any idea what any of this is?”

“Apart from all vegetariano, not really,” Grissom freely admitted. “Although I’m pretty sure tagliatelle fresche al pomodoro e basilico con bufala e peperoncini freschi, is fresh tagliatelle with tomato, basil and peppers.”

Whatever it was, it all sounded delicious.

Even if it was certainly nothing like the bill of fair at the ristoranti italiani back in Vegas. But then Rome’s oldest vegetarian restaurant didn’t exactly serve cucina italiana or even cucina romanesca.

Which apparently did little to diminish the place’s popularity. From their secluded candlelit corner in the back, Sara peered out into the crowded dining room that was part art installation as well. And far fancier than most places they frequented when they did go out.

According to what Grissom had been told, it was the vegetarian restaurant in the city. What that meant exactly neither knew, as places specializing in cucina vegetariana were rather rare in Rome.

“Do I want to know how you managed to get a reservation here?” asked Sara. “More of that Grissom charm, or does that not work in Italian?”

“Pity mostly,” he confessed. “That and I think the clerk’s brother’s wife’s cousin works in the kitchen. Or something like that. I got lost somewhere in the middle of her explanation.”

Sara chuckled at this. “I suppose we could always try the menu translator on the phone,” she offered.

“Why don’t we just be surprised,” countered Grissom, closing his menu.

“Surprised?” Sara echoed. “I thought you weren’t all that keen on surprises, Gil.”

“They’ve turned out pretty good so far.”

“Yeah, the holiday’s gone without a hitch,” she rued. “If you don’t count volcanoes and…”

“No,” he cut in before she could get going, “I mean you.”

Her mouth formed the start of a surprised Oh, but before she could say anything more, their waiter rejoined them.

With turn about being fair play and all, as payback for his earlier comments on her abilities — or lack thereof  — when it came to ordering lunch in Italian, Sara looked to her husband to order, the challenge obvious in her eyes.

What Sara hadn’t counted on was the cameriere swiftly switching to a simple, rather practiced English as he offered to go through the menu for them if they’d like.

In any case, Grissom opted for the universal pick, point and please method of ordering.

“Not fair,” she grumbled once they were alone again.

Grissom shrugged as if to indicate he did try. Which did little to mollify his wife.

Although his taking up her left hand in his, his thumb brushing as it so often did these days over the simple gold band he’d slipped there during their wedding, did, however unintentional the act might be. The fondness and affection in that simple gesture always did make her heart flutter, even if they did hold hands more often these days.

Maybe it was all the time they spent apart or the fact that handholding was pretty tame as far as PDAs went in either Paris or Rome. It didn’t really matter. She enjoyed the warmth of it, the reassuring pressure and presence of it. That for no reason at all, he’d take up her hand and when it came time, seemed far more reluctant to let it go.

Grissom’s face and eyes softened into a smile as they met hers and he beamed at his wife with all the open admiration of a man who couldn’t believe his good fortune.  And while Sara was used to such looks in private, in the quiet comfortable confines of home when it was just the two of them alone, as intimate and palpable a look as it was, it was still new for it to be on public display.

“Thank you,” he said. “For all of this.”

“Dinner out was your idea,” she replied.

“You know what I mean.”

“Gil, almost every plan I made fell through. It was just supposed to be a simple trip to the south of France for a week. And instead we’re…”

“Here,” Grissom finished contentedly, as if he couldn’t have imagined any better of an outcome.

“I guess you can’t say it hasn’t been an eventful trip,” Sara conceded.

“No, you can’t,” he agreed. “But then life’s usually eventful with you. And no,” he added in anticipation of the question he sensed she was about to ask next, “that’s not a bad thing at all.”

For when it came to Sara, to his life with her, unexpected was an understatement. She’d certainly thrown a wrench in his plans. He’d been content to live and exist alone in his admittedly Spartan, purely rational and intellectual existence. Or at least he’d thought he was. But then as it turned out, this particular kind of unexpected proved to be far better than anything he ever could have conceived.

So he grinned, intoning softly, “‘Non tutte le ciambelle escono col buco.’”

Causing Sara to splutter, “Come again?”

“‘Non tutte le ciambelle escono col buco’ — literally Not all donuts turn out with a hole. Means not all things turn out as planned.”

“And you know this how?” she asked, curious as to how her husband had imbibed this complicated bit of Italian wisdom and yet hadn’t mastered much more apart from flirting than how to order a coffee.

“Signora Bianchi at the hotel,” he offered. “There was a couple complaining about how with the volcano shutting the airports down, their holiday had gone to hell. She only shrugged and…”

“And provided a platitude about donuts,” Sara laughed. “How did that go over?”

“Not so hot.”

“I can imagine.”

“Still, good to remember.”

“Yeah, but we get enough donut comments back in Vegas,” she said.

“Well,” he insisted in all seriousness, “you do know how to show a guy a good time.”

“I could say the same,” replied Sara, then at the peculiar look he was giving her, added, “You know what I mean.”

At this moment, their waiter returned with their drinks.

Grissom raised his glass, “A toast. To the best laid plans — may they often go awry.”

Sara grinned as she returned her husband’s affectionate salute.

“You do realize the origins of toasts,” she said after they both drank.

“Term comes from the Roman custom of dropping a piece of burnt bread into a jug of wine to cut the acidity, particularly if the wine had gone bad. The practice however…”

“Was to guard against poisoning,” she finished.

“Should I be worried?” he asked.

Sara looked as bewildered as her “What do you mean?” sounded.

“They do say poisoning is a woman’s art.”

“Funny. I’d be more worried about my cooking if I were you.”

“It’s not that bad, dear.”

“And you’re just digging yourself a bigger hole,” she laughed.

And her husband took the hint and changed the subject.

*******

Dinner was a leisurely affair, served and eaten that way. Plate after plate came, each successive dish more lavish than the last. Most were almost too pretty to eat; the art on the plate well matched to the fineness of the art on the wall. And neither of them had any reasons to regret their selections.

Although the fiori di zucca, fried zucchini flowers, were so light, almost airy in texture that Sara rued sharing. Grissom felt the same about his lasagnetta, which turned out to be a pasta shell filled with a piquant blend of cheeses, eggplant, olives, capers and spices. Still, with each course they nudged their plates to the center of their small table, the better to sample each other’s dishes as well as savor their own. It was a custom they’d long shared.

Though in truth going out to eat together like this was still rather new to them both.

Not that there weren’t plenty of fantastic restaurants in Vegas. But apart from breakfasts and lunches at Franks, they hadn’t eaten out together all that often. Too tired from work to be bothered with the fuss, or more frequently too often called into work to even bother to make plans, it was mostly take-out, supplemented by the occasional home cooked meal.

Which was fine in Sara’s opinion. Grissom’s Chemistry of Cooking lessons were a heck of a lot more fun than getting all dressed up to fight off the crowds waiting to get into the hot new restaurant of the week.

So the long drawn out dîners that were de rigueur in places like Paris and Rome took a little getting used to. Particularly for Sara who with all the rushed dinners, hurried breakfast and meals hastily grabbed in brief moments of respite over the years, had long regarded food as more necessity than a source of enjoyment. Yet she found she enjoyed the ritual of it, or perhaps mostly the company.

The latter she never did quite tire of. Even when they’d been living and working together 24/7.

By the time the waiter set down their dessert plates of goccia di cioccolato bianco con cuore di mousse e salsa di fragole and 4 bottoncini di cheese cake con mirtilli, lamponi, fragoline e ribes, the two of them had acquired not only the well-satiated glow of the well-fed, but also the quiet contentment of longtime lovers.

After a while Sara sighed, “I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”

“What?”

“You on vacation.”

And while he replied, “I thought that was the whole point,” he was thinking they should have done this ages ago, gone away, just the two of them.

Even if it would have probably led to some curiosity about the office. As neither of them was exactly known to take holidays, the two of them off at the same time –

But maybe that shouldn’t have mattered. Not maybe, it shouldn’t have.

Of course it wasn’t like they would have been able to get away anyway.

Still.

Yet there was little point to either regrets or dwelling on the past, as neither could be changed, this he knew. But the future was something else.

Part of him was entertaining thoughts about where they might go next time when he felt the brush of her foot against his leg. Initially regarding it as an accident inherent to sitting in such close quarters, he barely blinked.

The second time, he wasn’t quite so sure and it resulted in a momentary break in conversation, at least on his end. For her part, Sara looked as steadfastly and serenely nonchalant as ever.

By the third time however, he knew it to be deliberate. There was certainly no mistaking her bare foot having slipped beneath the cuff of his trousers. To which his eyes went wide and he let out a soft gasp while the corner of his wife’s lips only curled up at the edges.

At the curious look he was giving her, Sara leaned in, the dim candlelight more than bright enough to illuminate the mischief and desire in her eyes as she murmured low so only he could hear, “What, you’ve never had anyone play footsie with you under the table before?”

His expression plainly indicated that the idea had never even occurred to him and he felt her foot withdraw.

“I wasn’t suggesting you should stop. I just can’t say that I have,” he replied and she brightened at this. And even more so when he inclined his head to say, “Does this mean you’re flirting with me?”

“How very astute of you to notice, Gilbert,” she chuckled. “What else was I to do? I don’t know how to flirt in Italian.”

“Well, sometimes words are overrated.”

“Oh, really?”

He nodded with an impish smirk of his own.

The mere idea that Gil Grissom actually could and did flirt, and wasn’t half-bad at it to boot, Sara knew would strain the credulity of most of their friends and colleagues back in Vegas. Not that she could blame them. Hell, his facility for flirting had surprised the heck out of her in the beginning.

These days she merely regarded it as just one of her husband’s many unexpected charms and enjoyed it.

“Except,” he added, “you complain about my feet being cold.”

Sara pitched a blueberry at him in return for his cheek and they both laughed.

*******

Stepping into the warm, golden glow of lamplight and having not been able to take advantage of the view from the top of The Spanish Steps before dinner, they decided to take in the prospect.

Grissom motioned for Sara to go on ahead, musing as she did on how those who decried Chivalry was dead or horribly old-fashioned had no idea what they were missing.  Of course Chevalerie and protection from snakes notwithstanding, there were other more appreciative benefits to Ladies first.

The sight of his wife’s stockingless, slightly tanned legs peaking out from beneath the swirl of her skirt was definitely one of them. They certainly didn’t want for the amendment of heels, but then they never had.

Captivated and desiring to relish in the view, he loitered several steps behind.

About half way up, perplexed at the absence of her husband beside her, Sara paused and turned to peer over her shoulder.

And he knew he was caught.

Although Grissom didn’t look the least bit chagrined and Sara wasn’t about to chastise him for looking. Still smirking and shaking her head, as ever bewildered yet genuinely flattered by his attentions and open admiration, she only sighed, extended her hand and waited for him to catch her up.

But his next words caught her up short.

“I love you,” he whispered.

Sara could feel the strange warmth of a blush rise in her cheeks.

Unexpected and out of the blue as they were, the words came as a surprise.

They always did.

More than a year of marriage, him coming to find her in Costa Rica, everything they’d been through, none of that changed that fact. Not even knowing as she did, that he loved her. That there was never any doubt of it, obvious as it was in every look and touch, however ordinary.

He was trying, she knew too, had been trying, to be more open and free with his feelings as of late. So she secreted the sentiment in her heart even as she laughed, “What no Italian?”

Ti amo,” he readily supplied.

“Yeah, I’m not so sure I should leave you in Rome on your own for a few days. Since it appears that all you can do in Italian is flirt.”

Grissom chose to ignore this, saying instead, “Ou peut-être en français?” in his usual flawless French.

“If you did it in German, I’d be impressed.”

As he looked as if he was seriously about to attempt it, Sara nudged him playfully and muttered, “Show off.”

“Doesn’t make it any less true,” Grissom countered.

He did have a point there. That didn’t mean she was above teasing him about it nonetheless. “You’re only saying that cause you’re hoping to get lucky tonight.”

“No.”

She shrugged. “Too bad. It’s working.”

An eyebrow went up at this.

“So, where are we off to?” she asked.

For there was no question of going back to the hotel just yet. They were both far too much creatures of the night at heart for the evening to be anything but young at just a little past ten. Besides, enjoying it all too much as they were, and knowing all too well what tomorrow would bring, neither of them wanted it to end so soon, either the night or their holiday together. Yes, they were in no hurry at all.

There was just one problem.

“For the rest of the evening?” he questioned in return, stalling slightly, afraid she might be disappointed to discover he hadn’t given much thought to anything beyond dinner that night.

But Sara wasn’t in the slightest. “What no plans?” she queried more amused than anything.

Pulling her phone from his inside jacket pocket Grissom said, “I’m sure I could find something.”

“Hand it over,” she insisted.

Which he did rather reluctantly. Sara promptly shut it down before returning the phone to him, saying, “Pick a direction.”

“Is this a quiz?” he asked.

“Don’t worry. I do know how to say We’re lost in Italian: Ci siamo persi. With our luck, I thought the phrase might come in handy,” she smiled.

When he persevered in looking doubtful she laughed, “Where’s your sense of adventure? Or are you not willing to put your money where your mouth is, Gilbert?”

At the blank look he was giving her, Sara smirked, “You don’t remember?”

“No.”

And she was having a hard time keeping the incredulity from her voice as she asked, “Since when are you forgetful? ‘Wandering is good for you,’” she quoted. “‘Not all who wander are lost.’”

“Actually, Tolkien said that.”

“So did you, two days ago. After you got us lost in Provence,” she supplied.

“We were never lost,” protested Grissom. “We just weren’t where we wanted to be.”

“Right.”

Knowing any further contradiction to be a lost cause, he only shook his head and gave a resigned murmur of “I swear you really do memorize everything I say.”

“Not everything. Only what might come in handy to use against you later,” Sara countered with a grin. “Isn’t marriage wonderful?”

As a matter of fact, it was.

So Grissom didn’t protest when taking his hand she insisted, “Come on, we can be found tomorrow.”

*******

Continued in Pax Romana

To read more about Grissom and Sara’s night out in Rome see Better Angels

*******

Have a question or want to leave a comment or concern and don’t have a wordpress account? Please feel free to email me at kadhmercer@gmail.com

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. grissomsgirl72
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 22:22:40

    Okay, I just melted into a puddle of goo! You always manage to capture a moment in time when you feel like you’re sitting at a window looking in on these two. The fact that you work so hard to keep these two alive in our hearts and minds and do so extraordinarily well is still amazing to me…I bow to the Masters…

  2. vsky57
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 08:11:56

    Beautiful! I feel as if I am there in Italy. And I love the interaction between Sara and Grissom. It’s spot on with characterization. Intellectual, entertaining and flirting.

    Truly romantic and hot! Thank you so much for continuing with this! Better than a cannoli – sweeter!

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