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She ran her fingers through his hair, separating the deep mahogany corn rows. Her fingers gently gripped the ends and her hands found a place on the sides of his head. Excitement gripped her body and she bit her lip slightly. Viola had never expected anything to escalate so quickly. But he was like heroin to her, although she had done her best to suppress the animal within her. She just kept coming back for more.
Intently looking back in thoughtful awe was perhaps the most beautiful man she had ever seen: Deep, hazel eyes, high chiselled cheek bones and a strong jawline. Lips which flowed from bow to corner as if they were gentle ocean waves reaching the shoreline. He seemed to be everything that she had wanted. But the question she really should have asked herself is love enough alone?
Viola was dawdling alone the shoreline of sunny Milan one warm summer's eve, enjoying the feel of the cool water crash at her feet and the warm sand cushioning her toes. She unlaced the skyline, paying close attention to the patterned outline of the cliffs now filled with cawing seagulls, admiring enviously how she wished to be free from so called human slavery and live a nomad life like the gulls, migrating south each winter time. The beach itself had now quietened down, the sounds of children and families alike had now been seemingly drowned out by a gentle breeze which resonated through the entire sandy auditorium.
There were still a few stragglers left: a little old couple who were out with their metal detectors and a few of the local food vendors were packing up their stands for the night; and away off in the distance was a man towing his fine white stallion through the shore line.
“The sun is setting rather rapidly now,” Viola thought to herself. “I suppose it would be best for me to get back home before Father begins to worry.” She turned wistfully from the water and began to make her way back up onto the main path and head for home. She knew that Mother would have dinner on the table and Father is awfully pernickety about tardiness. However, home was less than ten minutes from the beach.
Viola picked up pace a little more quickly as she approached the secure entry to the apartment. The rustic wooden door was a welcome sight after her astronomically busy day at work, her stomach growled in hunger, lunch had seemed so long ago. She pushed the door open to be greeted with the scent of fresh paella and pinot noir out in wine glasses on the dining room table. Viola removed her shoes and darted inside towards the kitchen.
“Busy day again?” Her father laughed, picking himself up from the armchair to greet his daughter with a tight hug.
“Yes, Daddy,” she replied, laughing and returning his hug with equitably eagerness. “You wouldn’t believe how many difficult customers had to deal with; who knew that the French were the fussiest when it came to wine?”
“Ah, but did you manage to get there in the end?”
Viola nodded. “That’s my girl!”
“Dino would you get in here and help me to plate up dinner?” a voice rang from the kitchen. Dinner was at last ready. “Viola, would you light some candles on the table?”
Viola went over to the cabinet near the dining table and picked out four little vanilla tealights and placed them at each corner of the table; as she lit the candles individually, her mind wondered about what lay in the future nearby. Viola had been working at her father’s vineyard for a few years now. She still didn’t have enough money to move out from her parents’ villa. Her heart was longing for that independence now, more than ever.
“So, I’ve had to hire more staff for the vineyard,” Dino stated. “Your mother and I, as you know, are getting on a bit.”
Viola looked up from her plate and listened to her father intently.
“You’ve probably seen us struggling to pick the grapes from the vines...” Dino’s eyes darted over to his wife, Gianna.
“So, we have decided to hire the extra help for gathering. There’s no way that we could let you do that by yourself.”
“I see,” replied Viola. “I guess I will need to begin their training relatively soon then, Father?”
“Yes, we have already completed the interviews and they begin tomorrow at dawn.”
Viola opened her eyes as the sun peered in like friendly face the next day. “The crack of dawn,” she thought to herself. “I suppose it’s time to get up and over to the vineyard.” She had to pry herself from bed; given the choice she would rather take the latter and lie in until at least noon.
Viola rubbed her eyes and undid her tightly knotted bun at the top of her head. A veil of brunette hair fell just below her shoulders and whispered at the end. She dragged herself to the shower and in there she contemplated the next moves in her near future. “I wonder if I will ever move out from this place?” she dwindled. “I feel like I’m just stuck in limbo, not quite moving forward to where I want to be.” She wondered with her age if she was going to be able to find a husband and begin a family. Kids she was still unsure about, but Viola knew that at some point she may begin to want them.
Flop. Her wet feet hit the cool cream tiles in her en-suite. She liked her mother’s house but now that she was approaching 24, she was ready to spread her wings in the world.
Viola made her way down the stairs of the apartment. The smell of bacon and eggs filled her nostrils and her stomach rumbled again. She made herself a strong coffee, and used so little milk it was the same colour as her father’s eyes, and sat down at the kitchen table. Gianna laid down the fluffiest crostata she thought she had ever seen, alongside a little cream and mixed fruit berries to go along with it. She wolfed it down as though she hadn’t seen a meal in days and after she was finished she read the paper while she slowly sipped her coffee. Just as she took her first mouthful her father, Dino, appeared from the lounge.
“It will be a busy day for you, Viola,” he chuckled. “I’d stock up on all the coffee you can drink today.”
“Oh, ha-ha.” Viola smirked. She looked down as she chuckled and then up to meet her father’s gaze.
“I’m sure I will have to,” she replied. “I suppose someone has to take care of the newbies joining today!”
Her dad chortled. “You’ll do a fine job… that I’m certain of.”
Viola stepped off the bus and began to make her way towards the vineyard gate, where twenty fresh faces stood awaiting eagerly. It was a mixed bunch, all different shapes and sizes from incredibly tall to short, wide to slender. She greeted them all with a warm smile which was reciprocated with enthusiasm by most.
“Are you the boss’ daughter, Viola?” said one.
“Yes, sir, I am,” she beamed. “Shall we begin role call?” Everyone in the group nodded in agreement.
She began to quickly look over the new recruits and read out their names one by one.
Viola got about halfway down the list when she noticed a man quite near the back of the crowd. He was tall in stature and his arm muscles were well defined, as if laborious work was second nature to him. His eyes snapped with hers for a moment and she felt a pang in her chest. Her stomach felt as though it would explode. He quickly looked away and scuffed his shoe on the ground, kicking a stone away from a lizard. Viola noticed his eyes more than anything. They were a deep chocolate colour, the same as her coffee that morning and his skin was tanned a beautiful olive colour. “He obviously has spent a lot of time out in the sun for his career.” She cleared her throat and looked back at the clip board.
“R-Raphael Bianchi,” she stuttered.
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered her promptly, his mouth stretching on one side.
His voice was deep, like an alto. “Maybe between alto and bass.”
Finally the role call was finished. Viola took the new recruits into the central courtyard of the vineyard to begin the induction.
“I suppose, you will all know why you were hired?” she began, her eyes circling the crowd to ensure she had their full attention.
“My father, he has run this vineyard for the last 30 odd years... even longer before I was born. So, you’ll also know that my father and my mother are no longer able to fulfil the duties that are required since he was able to develop the vineyard to the size that it is today.” A few nodded from the crowd, holding on to her every word.
“We will begin with a tour… so you can get a feel for the kind of environment that you will be working in. So please stay close to me, and don’t touch anything without the proper training. We will deal with the paperwork today and then tomorrow you will begin your training properly.”
She then turned and began the tour. She swiftly brought the group through the inside, explaining in detail the processes of how her father liked the vineyard to be run.
“As you can see, my father’s processes are tightly knitted together…” Viola panted.
“He runs a tight ship so it’s important that you follow the regulations closely… but we will pick up on that more tomorrow!” The crowd breathed a sigh of relief. Her eyes darted quickly over the tired, sweaty faces of the new recruits. “I think that will be enough for today. Go home and get some rest. We have another early rise tomorrow.” She waved her hand and dismissed the workers. One by one they began to gather their belongings and headed for the exit. Viola turned made her way along the factory floor, down the winding staircase into the office vineyard. When she reached the door to the staircase, she looked over her shoulder to make sure that everyone had left the factory. She caught the eyes of Raphael again, who had a lambent look on his face. He looked at her for a moment and then turned away. Viola sighed. “It’s not like me to get so flushed. Why do I feel this way?” Not wanting to ponder any longer, she made haste down the stairs and into her father’s office, to begin the mountain of paperwork that found its way to her desk.