I dream of my lady in re.., p.1
I Dream of My Lady in Red, page 1
I Dream of My Lady in Red
by Paula Freda
© March 2014 by Dorothy Paula Freda - (Pseudonym - Paula Freda)
Bookcover photo © Freda Design Studio (Thomas M. Freda)
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof. This is a work of fiction; names, characters, places and incidents are a product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
With thanks to my Dear Lord Jesus and his Blessed Mother Mary whose strength, guidance, and her Holy Rosary, are my anchor in this troubled world, I dedicate this book to my husband, Domenick, whose love, patience and kindness over the past 43 years have kept my dreams and view of the romantic alive and vibrant.
I Dream of My Lady in Red
For the past 200 years, each female offspring of the Dellaporta family waited with intense eagerness to wear the red dress — on their eighteenth birthday at their coming out celebration, and sometimes not as eagerly on their 50th birthday. The matriarchal reasoning for the wearing of the red dress was that on their eighteenth birthday they would look lovely and enticing enough to attract the attentions of a suitable prospective young husband at their coming out ball. Wearing the dress on their fiftieth birthday — if they still fit into it — was to rekindle the passion between husband and wife should it have slackened over the years.
Adriana was the first eighteen year-old Dellaporta female to ever scoff at the idea of a debutante ball, and wearing the red dress, no matter how altered to fit the contemporary style.
Two hundred years ago the dress was a long flowing gown with a dainty scoop neckline over the tightly laced corset bodice. As the years progressed, so did the hemline shorten, the corset disappear, and the waistline's position fluctuate. Currently, the garment's princess bodice was held up by two thin scarlet silk shoulder straps, often referred to as spaghetti straps. The streamlined skirt reached slightly below the knee. Part of the accessories was a hair clip adorned with a silk red rose in full bloom.
As she had done several times this past month in response to her mother's entreaties, Adriana tried on the dress once more, and stood before the free-standing full length oval mirror — another heirloom handed down through the years — a beautiful Florentine mirror framed in rosewood lovingly carved with fleurs-de-lis. The mirror and the matching vanity in her room had been gifted many years ago by an Italian nobleman to his spouse, a daughter of the Dellaportas.
Adriana studied her reflection in the mirror. The red emphasized her lightly tanned skin and the warm dark brown waves of her shoulder length hair. The dress had been sized to fit her slender figure and medium height. The skirt fell in vertical waves to just below her knees. Her mother had told her that the dress was priceless. And if the Dellaporta line ever died out, every Dellaporta's Last Will and Testament specifically mandated the dress be donated to a local museum who had over the generations repeatedly requested to display it among their most precious acquisitions.
Perhaps it was the mood of the present generation, or the reason behind wearing the dress — to entice a suitable husband — the debutante ball itself, putting her on public display, that made Adriana shudder. If she resisted her mother's entreaties and her father's admonitions about tradition and family loyalty, at least until she passed her twenty-first birthday, she might side-step the tradition. Her parents would then turn their attention to her younger sister, Cassandra, who felt the exact opposite of Adriana, and zealously dreamed of wearing the red dress and the excitement of a debutante ball.
Adriana sighed, contemplating the dress and the silk rose clip. The accessory was made of the finest silk, but she'd prefer a real flower. The vase in the corner of her vanity held a bouquet of roses in full bloom - a Valentine's Day present from her parents, two days ago. On impulse, she took a small silver scissor from the side drawer of her vanity, and cut a rose to replace the accessory. She slipped off the silk blossom and threaded the stem bit through the gold pin, then clipped the rose to her hair above her left temple. As she did so, some of the petals fell to the ground. Closing the gap between the vanity and the mirror, she bent to pick up the trail of petals. At that very moment, a ray of sunlight streamed through the window sash, and encircled her body in a halo. The free-standing mirror reflected her image as she picked up the petals.
Unaware of her surreal image and the cascade of sunray, Adriana's thoughts were of the suitors who would vie for her hand in marriage. Certainly, the dress made her look beautiful and desirable, and her parents' wealth and her inheritance, more so. It was not a publicized fact, but many of the Dellaporta daughters had not been happy in their marriages. Another reason she wished to avoid the whole tradition. She wanted to marry and raise a family of her own. But most importantly, she wanted to love her chosen spouse and be loved in return for all their lifetime. To be loved for herself, for her spirit and her mind, and not for the beauty of the body that was transitory, or for her inheritance.
Occupied with her thoughts, she paused in the act of collecting the fallen petals, trying to imagine the man who might fit that description. She did not notice the subtle haze created by the sunray around her. In her mind's eye, she imagined that he would not know who she was, or her background and traditions. And it would not be love at first sight. He would fall in love with her slowly, day by day, as he grew to know her. And vice versa. A gentle, good man, with a modicum of common sense. A hard worker who did not aspire to a fortune. She would not find him at a debutante ball. No! she determined. I will not wear this dress or attend any coming out ball!
Adriana finished picking up the petals and stood up. The light coming from the window dimmed, the accompanying surreal aura cleared, the haziness dispersed. Adriana slipped out of the dress and replaced it on the hanger and re-hung it all the way back in her walk-in closet. In a few years her sister would wear it gratefully.
David Santangelo, born and bred on the north shore of Long Island, New York, had worked late last night in his midtown Manhattan apartment. He worked during the weekdays as a business consultant, and wrote mystery novels at home during the evenings and the weekends. Exhausted, he had forgotten to shut the vertical blinds on his bedroom window.
Sunlight filtered through the open slats. David stirred and blinked, coming awake. He turned on his side to check the time on the alarm clock on his nightstand. The alarm had failed to buzz. Of course, it hadn't buzzed, he reasoned, realizing it was earlier than his normal wake-up time, denying him precious extra few minutes of sleep, especially to continue his favorite dream. David settled back on his pillow to enjoy its memory.
Where had he seen her? He must have, somewhere. You just don't dream up someone, at least not as clearly and vividly as he had. Could a human mind do that, create a face and a body so real, that made him tenaciously rummage through his memories to find her? Was she real, or a figment of an overactive imagination? He was, after all, a writer who created characters for his mystery-action-adventure stories. But those characters took time to develop. Not like this lady in red. She was alive somewhere. He was certain of it.
His cell phone played the melody to "Lady in Red." David gave a deep sigh. No use, he thought, resigned, turning to pick up his phone.
He recognized the phone number showing on his Caller ID. It was his editor.
He pressed TALK. "Hello, Lilac," he greeted using her nickname. Helen and her husband, the senior editor, were good friends, going back as far as high school."
"Sorry to call so early, but Kurt and I have a calendar today s
"I'd love to join you, but it's not the best time."
"David, if you are worried about the expense, don't be. Your books are not doing badly. The firm is paying for our trip. And Kurt and I will cover your expenses." Hearing the momentary silence, and knowing that David wasn't the sort to take hand-outs, Helen coaxed, "Listen, the story you are now working on takes place in Florence, Italy, right?"
"Yes," David said.
"Well, as far as we know, you've never been there. I'm fairly certain you'd want to see firsthand the settings for your novel. And if you're worried about the money, Kurt and I can well afford it. We'll consider it an advance on your new book. From the scenes you've sent us thus far, I think it will do well, especially with the following you've developed recently."
David thought a moment. His finances at this time were not in the best condition, even with the fair royalties coming in from the books already published. Helen's offer was tempting. He wasn't a moocher, but if they considered the expense an advance, then seeing firsthand the backdrop for his upcoming book, would certainly help him produce a better manuscript.
"All right, he said. An advance."
"Great," Helen cheered. "We're leaving in two weeks. I'll get the airline tickets and e-mail you the itinerary within a few days. Kurt will be happy as well that you accepted our offer. You've been working steadily these past two years without a vacation. Neither of us have failed to notice that you're exhausted. And we don't want to lose a good author, and a friend."
David chuckled. "Okay, I admit what you're saying has a lot of truth in it. I intend giving you my best work."
"Good," Helen cheered. "Well, I'd better be going. As I said, Kurt and I have a very busy day ahead."
"Bye, and thank you," David said. He pressed END and replaced the cell phone on his nightstand. He was one of the lucky writers, knowing the right contacts, and doubly lucky that they were friends from his teen years. In high school he'd been classified a nerd, because he loved to read so much. Helen was targeted often as dumpy, frumpy, and frizzy-haired. She had grown up to be a beautiful woman and married the man of her choice.
David had dated regularly, but not found a girl with whom he wanted to spend his life. At least not found her in the real world. The lady in the red dress, if she was real, might make a difference. He had never heard her speak, or observed her in day to day interaction. But something about her expression, the tranquil look in her eyes, the way she moved as she bent to gather petals that had fallen from the rose clipped to the side of her hair — softly, gracefully, unhurriedly, stole his breath away, at least in his dreams. His mouth curved into a half-smile. Even if a girl resembling her did exist as flesh and blood, chances were she lacked the qualities of his lady in the red dress. He had decided never to use her as a character in his books. First, because she was private to his thoughts, and second, because critics would scoff at the character as far too good to be real.
Adriana breathed a sigh of relief. At last her parents had relented and accepted that their eldest daughter would never agree to a coming out ball. It had taken three years of obstinacy, but finally Adriana was free of the required obligation, at least, as of tomorrow morning, when she turned twenty-two, when the spell attributed to the red dress would no longer work for her. Of course, she knew there was no spell connected to the dress, but the legend persisted throughout the historical diaries kept in her father's library. The glass-paned doors to the large bookcase sheltering the volumes were kept locked, and only her parents, and offspring who had reached maturity, were allowed to read them. Adriana had not been permitted to read them until she turned sixteen. Years of curiosity dissipated quickly as she read the entries all written by men, with only a few of those men sensitive to, or in sync with the feelings of the women in their families. More interesting, if the women had been allowed to write their share of the entries, and made the men realize how many of the women were not happy, merely settling, resigned, and bearing up stoically.
Adriana wondered what would happen if she made entries in the latest volume. She imagined the shock on her father's face, followed by anger. Would he cross out the entry or tear out the page. Or to preserve the continuity of the books, just recopy that year's entries into a new volume, omitting hers. She might actually set a precedent for the future, if her father gave in to the occasional moment of understanding her feelings, and permitted her words to remain.
To keep the books clear and legible, entries were first drafted, and then entered in the writer's best penmanship. The time to make her entry must be at night, after everyone had gone to bed. She would sneak into the library. She knew where her father kept the key to the bookcase.
She would type a draft first, so as not to mar two centuries of perfect handwritten records.
Adriana sat down at the rich rosewood desk in the modernized boudoir that preambled her bedroom, opened the cabinet door on the lower right, pulled out and raised the shelf that held her laptop. Opening a new file on the screen, she tagged it simply as "Log File" and drafted her entry.
Today, my parents finally gave up the fight for my wearing of the famed red dress, and participating in a coming out ball. I'm free to make my own decisions and create my own life. No debutante ball or the red dress will influence my future. Not that I have any aversion to the dress itself, or its color. It's a lovely dress, and flattering. But if, when or where I decide to wear the garment, will be my decision, at my own whim.
Adriana reread the draft. Satisfied that it portrayed her feelings accurately, she tapped the print button. The printer below the laptop's shelf, typed and expelled the page.
That night, with everyone else asleep, Adriana crept into her father's library and wrote her entry in her best handwriting.
As she hoped, her father did not make an entry until a couple of weeks later, after she'd left for a trip to the Continent. She knew from the past that he didn't make daily entries. He was a busy man and normally wrote in the volumes when he considered his entry newsworthy for his descendents. Adriana, now no longer under her parents' guardianship, was free to come and go as she pleased, even move out if she cared to. But the latter was not in her plans for the time being. Only a vacation to spread her wings, so to speak, and enjoy being truly free, for the first time in her life.
David's head ached. The loud, boisterous music and ear-bursting percussion, along with the depleted oxygen despite the size of the dance hall, made it hard to breathe. Not helping was the huge disco ball slowly revolving above the crowd of men and women, dotting them in moving, blurring colors as they swayed in wild abandon.
David squinted tiredly and rubbed his eyes. This club was not living up to its description. The travel guidebook listed it as an easy-going 60's - 70's discotheque. He did not totally dislike contemporary music, but — and he blamed this lovingly on his dear mother — he preferred soothing melodies, and songs with graspable lyrics. All through his growing years, his mother's favorite radio station played, what today most considered, elevator music. She always set the volume to Soft, conducive to her son who loved to read.
His father worked long hours as a cook in a bistro, leaving early in the morning before his son and daughter rose, and arriving home long after they had gone to bed. Nonetheless, he loved them. Mom did not drive, and on his one day off, during the week, he chauffeured them wherever necessary, and faithfully spent time with them. "A good provider and a loyal husband," his mother described him. Both of his parents were now retired, and lived in a condo in Connecticut, near their daughter (his sister Shelly) and her family.
Another blast of ear-piercing notes, caromed through his thoughts, furrowing
Finally, David thought. I'll stay a bit longer for this one, at least.
The Chris de Burgh version filled the room. David smiled, noticing how the crowd on the dance floor silenced as couples fell into each other's arms and began to move to the charismatic notes and the smooth silken voice of the famed songwriter-singer. He felt the old familiar warmth the song spiraled through him, and he envisioned the image it inspired, indelibly etched in his mind's eye, his Lady in Red.
He saw her in his arms, a red rose clipped to the side of her hair, gliding with him across the dance floor, along with a line of young men waiting to break in and dance with her. "My God," he gasped as he realized the scene he envisioned was real, but he was not the one holding her. His Lady in Red truly existed. It was her, in the flesh. She was not a figment of his imagination.
David shook his head to clear it. Impossible! Was he attributing the woman he had created in his dreams to someone who happened to bear her resemblance? He had always been mentally stable, never taken drugs. "An intelligent young man with a clear head," was how his editor described him.
David stood up. He had to get a closer look at the young woman. Prove to himself that it was not his tired self playing tricks on him.
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