He repeats the endearment and she seems to relax. “I like the Italian translation of my name better,” she tells him and agrees to meet him for lunch.
Konrad arrives a few minutes later with a basket full of goodies. He is wearing a simply cut blue linen shirt which makes his eyes shine. “I want you to meet someone today, someone very special,” he tells Cara.
“I’m not sure I am up to company.”
She is on the verge of changing her mind about going when Konrad reassures her, “I promise you’ll like her, a lot. Please don’t spoil the surprise,” he begs. She follows him reluctantly.
He takes her to a nearby city garden, the size of small backyard. They enter through a low iron gate. A clochard is sleeping on one of the few stone benches, the sun on his back. Some of the benches are formed in the shape of open books, Cara notices, and suddenly remembers that she’s stopped here once before on one of her walks when the granite books were covered with cushions of snow.
“I know this place. It was even charming in winter, but now it is …” She throws her hands up into the air and swirls around her own axis a few times. She is wearing a long flowery dress that hugs her hips and a dark grey cardigan which suddenly reminds Konrad of his mother. “All the pink blossoms,” she says and motions with her arms as if to embrace the trees. “Spring is definitely my favourite time of the year.”
“I thought you would like it here. Come,” he puts their basket on the nearest bench, but before Cara can sit down, he leads her away to a corner of the park.
“Cara – Carusia,” he corrects himself and lets go of her elbow, “this is Carolina.”
Cara finds herself facing a black statue of a young girl, with a firm look in her stone eyes and a certain defiance in her posture. The weight of her body rests on one leg; both her hands are carelessly placed on the curves of her small but already rounded hips, the left hand clasping one hip, the right leaning against the other with the back of her palm. With her shoulders pulled back, the young girl exposes her budding breasts without any trace of shyness or shame.
“Sculpted by Marcello Tomassi in 1968,” Cara reads the inscription and walks around the statue, touching the fingers of the hand turned away from the body, palm up. “I haven’t noticed her before,” she says, and continues after a brief silence. “While Paris was on the barricades, Signor Tomassi was living out his sexual fantasies.” She lets go of the girl’s hand. “I’ve got an idea.” She moves away to search for something in the basket, finds a red apple, and places it in the girl’s open palm; the colour of the fruit in stark contrast with the black body of the statue. “Now, we can call her Eve,” Cara proclaims and returns to their bench to unpack the rest of the picnic.
Konrad picks some magnolia petals off the ground, holds them in his fist, looking at Cara, busying herself with the food he’d prepared.
“A wonderful treat,” she says and motions for him to come over, biting into one of the other apples.
Konrad releases the petals from his hand, and watches the crushed flowers slowly fall through his fingers before he retrieves the apple from Carolina and joins Cara on the bench.
So many things left unsaid. Konrad feels the weight beginning to crush him while Cara continues preparing their meal. Weeks have gone by without him being able to ask anything that he truly wanted to know and not daring to talk about his own past. My train keeps on somehow departing without me, Konrad thinks. But every time he wants to bring things to a head, Cara either vanishes without explanation, or she is there, with all her abandon and joy – like now, chatting away about the flowers she has planted in the pots outside her window and about the latest word count of her novel – and it does not make sense to disrupt the moment. Sharing these simplest things with her makes all his anxieties dissipate. He is scared to push her away, of losing what they have, even though he cannot define what it is. He only knows that it is not enough, and the desire for more is gradually becoming impossible to bear.