CHAPTER 1 - "WELL BELOVED"
am the most well loved woman in the world," Marianna Vecchi Marin said aloud
while walking on the cobbled path through her not-yet blooming garden. Then, in
a whisper, she said the phrase again.
reaching the back door of her modernized 1840 white colonial home in the northern
suburbs of New York City, she entered the kitchen where she found her son, Matthew,
recently 18 and her daughter Kaitlin, l6, preparing their dinner.
going up to take my bath now," Marianna said.
right," Matthew replied.
looked the other way and said nothing to her mother. Marianna started up the back
stairs to her bedroom thinking only about the gourmet dinner she had prepared
for her husband, Keith, the dress she would wear and the promise of an intimate
finale to a perfectly prepared romantic night. She did not notice her daughter's
hostility or her son's sarcastic tone.
her bedroom, she locked the door behind her, undressed, carefully folded her clothes
and placed them in the white wicker hamper. After arranging ten aromatic votive
candles on the rim of her circular marble bathtub and sprinkling rose-scented
bubble bath into the tub, Marianna regulated the water so that it would take some
time to fill.
naked by the open window, she imbibed the sun's paintbrush on the cerulean sky
after the sun dropped behind the rolling hills beyond. On this unusually warm
March evening, she imagined her garden in full bloom and the twilight's arresting
effect on her meticulously planned rose garden.
knew that even the most discriminating Milanese gardener would admire her achievement.
He could sit on one of the uniquely designed wrought iron benches she had imported
from Southern Italy and contemplate the statue of a pre-pubescent boy whose innocent
penis spouted water into a fabricated pond.
lantern-like lampposts would dazzle the gardener while he watched the varied pastel
lights illumine one after the other muting the cold white rays of the ascending
moon and the sky's still vivid reds.
understood the pleasure he would take in her orchestrated garden because at her
request twenty years ago, shortly after she and her husband, Keith Matthew Marin
III bought the house, her grandfather's gardener had come from Italy to help her
design and plant it. After he returned to Milan, Marianna hired a local gardener,
who, with her assistance, perpetuated the original design.
that the garden reflected the perfect order she had achieved in every aspect of
her life, Marianna decided to capture its beauty in a painting of the rose garden
in the early evening just after the lamplights went on…with herself as the centerpiece.
lonely figure sitting on a bench, the artist painted her in three-quarter profile.
Dressed in a long flowing white silk dress that clung to her well-proportioned
figure, her corn-dyed shoulder length hair blowing in the gentle wind, Marianna
wistfully perused the symmetrical rows of white, pink, red and yellow roses in
bloom next to her. The elaborately framed painting, which hung over the fireplace
in her living room, became a metaphor for the fantasy she wove about her perfect
inner smile glowed in Marianna's azure eyes while she lay in the bathtub basking
in the bubbly blue water. Taking deep breaths, she inhaled the myrrh and jasmine
exuding from the votive candles while she pretended that her naked husband lay
beneath her with his arms wrapped around her breasts. Marianna playfully caught
the bubbles in the palm of her hands and lovingly caressed the thighs of the make-believe
real Keith would be home at 8:30. Marianna knew that she had thirty more minutes
to soak in the bathtub before she had to dress for dinner. When he arrived, they
would have their nightly cocktail…dry martinis, with an olive for him and a cherry
for her. Nine o'clock precisely, Marianna would serve him the gourmet dinner she
had prepared earlier.
Matthew and Kaitlin were little, Marianna fed them and put them to bed by six
forty-five…time enough for her to take her bath. By the time they were eight,
they had learned to take care of themselves. Marianna derived satisfaction from
knowing that her children were independent and self-sufficient. They warmed up
their pre-prepared dinners in the microwave, did their homework, played games
with each other or looked at television. Most of all, they quickly learned that
they dared not disturb her once she entered her bedroom.
Marianna forgot she had children after she closed the door. During the day, she
did all the chores a mother does: driving her children to after school activities,
taking them to church with her, buying clothes at expensive children's shops,
bringing them with her to the market and seeing that they were presentable to
her friends and neighbors.
during the frenetic days when seemingly only her children occupied her mind, she
never ceased to think about Keith and the ideal love they shared. She saw everything
that occurred in terms of what Keith might think. Would it make him happy? Should
she tell him about it or keep it from him? What should she do to please him?
longed for her private moments when she could indulge her fantasies. She felt
thankful that the children were adolescents. It was easier for Marianna to find
the time to rest in the late afternoon. She lay on her bed daydreaming about the
magical lovemaking she and Keith would share later. Her vision often surpassed
the reality…something she did not permit herself to admit. If Keith's performance
in bed did not live up to her expectations, she closed her eyes and pretended
she was experiencing the scenario she had rehearsed.
were days when Marianna hardly saw her children. She lost track of their comings
and goings. On evenings when Keith remembered to ask about them, Marianna would
answer his question vaguely.
aren't they in their rooms? Perhaps they went out to visit a friend. There must
be a note on the kitchen counter."
did not pursue his questioning about the children. In reality, neither he nor
Marianna thought about the children very much. Keith's work as a senior vice president
for a major financial institution, his current mistress and his preoccupation
with ways to placate Marianna did not leave him much time.
he made some effort to keep abreast of Matthew and Kaitlin's comings and goings.
His standing in the community and his peace of mind depended upon others perceiving
him to be a successful and concerned husband and father.
aware of his imperfections, Keith needed to sustain Marianna's unrealistic image.
It made it easier for him to cover up his true feelings when he joined in her
made love twice a week, Sunday morning and on one night during the week. Marianna
would choose the night for romance. The previous night or in the morning before
Keith left for the office, she invented ploys that would alert him to be ready
for romance on the chosen night. This morning, Marianna had made a point of showing
Keith the red camisole she had recently bought. Ignoring his lukewarm response,
she assumed he understood her meaning.
they finished eating their gourmet dinner, she would playfully lead Keith to their
spacious bedroom with the four-poster bed. While he undressed, she would retreat
to her bathroom and soon after make her entrance wearing her camisole. Then, she
would dim the lights, lock the door and slip into bed.
of Marianna's propensity for exaggerating his capability, Keith could go along
with Marianna's fantasy while exerting a minimal effort. When Keith felt himself
able, he placed his hand on her breasts and touched her lightly on her private
parts. He hesitated to offend Mariana's sensibilities by trying some of the sexual
techniques he unabashedly used with his mistress.
of her husband's reservations and deceit, Marianna held her breath. She enjoyed
pretending that a wicked prince was about to take her against her wishes. "No,
no," she whispered in his ear. By now, he knew that meant yes. Slowly parting
her seemingly resistant legs, he mounted her and accomplished his husbandly duty.
Afterwards, he patted her back, whispered that he loved her and playfully called
her his precious little girl. Giggling like a child, Marianna lapsed into baby
talk until she drifted into sleep.
after they were married, unable to live with a nagging suspicion of his infidelity,
Marianna purposively buried all doubts about him in a part of her unconscious
already crowded with unpleasant childhood memories
something different occurred. While in her bath, she heard loud voices coming
from downstairs. Marianna shut out the knowledge of this disturbance. She forced
herself to think only of pleasant things, focusing on the beautiful dinner she
had prepared for Keith, and of course, the aftermath.
believed that Keith understood her every wish just as she understood his unspoken
desires. Often, she would answer his questions before he voiced them. How she
loved when he smiled and nodded in agreement. .In reality, Keith was thinking
of other things. He found it less burdensome to smile and nod his head; he had
no desire to engage Marianna in futile conversation.
she rose from the bathtub and wrapped herself in the ultra-soft violet bath towel,
the voices downstairs seemed louder than before. Jarred, Marianna again made an
effort to ignore them. How could anyone disturb her tranquility…her precious bath
time? She continued with her ritual of placing moisturizing cream over her entire
body, except of course, for her private parts, which she doused lightly with her
in front of the wall mirror in the bathroom, she brushed her long hair while admiring
her high cheekbones, porcelain skin and dimpled cheeks. Not bad for forty, Marianna
emphasize her feminine delicacy, she most often wore flowing chiffon dresses that
flared at the bottom just below her knees. A talented local dressmaker made the
dresses for her in pastels: pale violet, sky blue, dusty pink, emerald green and
her favorite, coral.
let her hair hang loosely around her face. It had required her hairdresser's expertise
to find the formula that would crown her glory with a golden halo. During the
day, Marianna wore her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Letting her hair down was
another signal to Keith that she desired him. Her preparation culminated when
she slipped into her coral chiffon dress with the low cut back.
shortly after their marriage, Keith told her he adored her back. From then on,
she replicated that dress over the years. Seated at her ornate dressing table,
she lightly touched her neck and wrists with an expensive perfume Keith had bought
her last Christmas. Each time she used it, she thought of her good fortune to
be married to such a kind and loving man.
last, she heard no noise coming from downstairs and she assumed the children had
gone out for the evening. Happy that she and Keith would be alone in the house,
Marianna lovingly smoothed out the rose satin bedspread, gave the room one more
look to see if everything was in order, closed the door and walked down the staircase
to the kitchen. .
in life, Matthew learned not to question the behavior of his parents, who found
it difficult to deal with feelings or reality. Going along with what they did
and said made it easier for him to do his own thing. That included drinking alcohol
since fourteen and trying Ecstasy.
bought it from a man who hung around near the playground after-school. He tried
it by himself in the privacy of his room. The first and only time he used "E,"
it made him sick so he made a vow never to take it again. However, he kept a stash
of it just in case he needed it someday to exchange for a rare baseball card.
and Kaitlin finished their warmed over spaghetti in silence the way they usually
did. Then, surprisingly, Kaitlin asked Matthew for some "E." When he
refused to give it to her, she blew up.
an asshole, Matt and you know it…a hypocrite, just like the rest of the family.
I know damn well you have some in the house…I think you're on it half the time,
when you're not too drunk to remember to take it. You're even too stupid to know
that alcohol and drugs don't mix. Shit, I think you want to kill yourself just
to wake Mom up and get even with Dad.
I don't give a damn about what you do to yourself…but you could be more generous.
A pill or two won't deplete your endless supply. I'm out of money until next week's
allowance…and I really need it tonight." After this tirade, Kaitlin sat down
on the stool near the kitchen bar and glared at Matthew.
had none of her mother's fragile beauty. She took after Keith and his dark haired,
long nosed mother. Matthew had inherited Marianna's beautiful features and reddish
brown wavy hair. Like his mother, he dyed his hair a corn blonde.
fourteen, Kaitlin asked her parents to let her have her nose fixed. Keith said,
"No, you're only a child." Marianna saw her the way she saw everyone
else in her family. They were all perfect. How dare anyone question Kaitlin's
beauty? The nose went unfixed; Kaitlin bore a grudge against her parents.
it, Kaitlin, you're going to disturb Mom in her bath…that would suck and you know
don't give a shit about whether or not Mom is disturbed…you know she'll just pretend
the noise isn't there…like she always does. Damn, Matthew, just give me a pill
and I'll be out of your way."
not going to be part of your corruption. I'm not going to be responsible for your
downfall…you're getting there without my help. It'll help your character if you're
two-year seniority over his sister gave him the authority and experience he needed
to advise her, he thought. In June, Matthew would graduate from high school. In
September, they expected him to become a freshman at Keith's alma mater. An early
admission candidate, Matthew's letter of acceptance had arrived this morning;
Matthew did not show it to anyone.
had no intention of going to college in September, despite his knowledge that
his father had called in some serious debts to get him accepted. Since Matthew's
grades in high school were only satisfactory, Keith had made a point of telling
Matthew how difficult it had been to get him accepted. Keith adjured him to "shape
up" in college and not shame his father.
deeply resented his father's lecture. What did he know about his own son? Nothing.
Any comparison between him and his father annoyed Matthew. He found the idea of
attending his father's college repugnant. Perhaps someday he might go to some
college of his own choice… work his way through, if necessary. He would wait for
the right moment to tell them he planned to take the year off and work.
are you to lecture me? You've just about ruined your own life. I'll just go into
your room and find them…I know you've got them." She rose to go.
pushed her down and held her on the floor. "You're not going to get any from
me…so give it up, stupid. God, I hate you Kaitlin…you've been a pain in the ass
since you were born."
this time, Kaitlin kept yelling "Let me go…let me go…you son of a bitch…let
me fucking go."
your voice down, or I'll gag and tie you down here. Mom would sure like to see
that when she comes into the kitchen. That'll give her a sense of reality! Throw
her into a coma!" Matthew whispered while holding his hand over Kaitlin's
mouth. She pulled his hand away.
let me up. I'm going out…. just give me a dollar." Damn, a dollar wouldn't
even be enough for a coke. A friend had promised to pick her up; Kaitlin hoped
she could borrow something from her.
let her go and gave her a five-dollar bill. For some reason, he felt sorry for
her. He watched her slam the door behind her.
been wrong about his drinking and taking "E". He'd only been a party
drinker. Even then, he threw up after his fifth beer. He had tried hard to cut
down on his drinking. Shit, Kaitlin had better not tell anybody he drank…she'll
be sorry if she does, he thought. He took his jacket and went out.
thereafter, Marianna came into the kitchen. She ignored the dirty dishes in the
sink since they did not fit into her perfect night. Jane would do them in the
morning. She tried to pick her lovemaking so that it fell on the night before
Jane came in to clean.
went into the formal dining room to check the table setting on the intimate mahogany
round table in the alcove leading to the French doors that opened out to the flagstone
patio and her exquisite rose garden. The moon and the stars lit up the cloudless
sky. Yesterday, the hot sun bore down on the damp, warm earth all day encouraging
the red, blue, and yellow crocuses to break through. This morning, a soft rain
had caressed the premature flowers. Marianna opened the French doors wide and
breathed in the fragrant, spring-like air. She noticed the outdoor thermometer
said 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
lit the ice-blue candles in the silver candelabra she had been given by her father's
mother who came from Milan to America to attend Marianna's wedding. She thought
about Keith's family, which unlike hers came over with the Pilgrims. His ordinarily
diffident New England mother somehow made certain that people knew about her membership
in the "Daughters of the Revolution."
had changed her religion for Keith. For that, he knew, he owed her a great deal.
The Congregational Church had little ritual. During her childhood in New York
City, Marianna loved the Mass, the robes of the priests and the liturgical music
she heard at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. Her earlier memory of attending
their neighborhood church in Milan was not so vivid.
did not remember either her father or mother attending Church very much. Her father's
mother insisted on taking Marianna to Church every Sunday. Despite this exposure,
Marianna did not hold strong religious beliefs.
a member of the Congregational Church in Bedford assured her immediate acceptance
in the right social set. Therefore, when Keith's mother and father, who lived
in Greenwich, Connecticut, asked her if she wanted to become a member of the Congregational
Church, Marianna consented, despite her knowledge that her Italian Catholic mother
the front door open, she stopped ruminating and began straightening out the already
perfectly laid silverware, thereby showing off her bare back to Keith when he
entered the dining room. When Keith saw her, he realized he had forgotten Marianna's
morning camisole display. Damn, he felt sated. He had just left Carol, his assistant
at work and his mistress. Working together had culminated in a yearlong intimate
relationship. Keith doubted he could satisfy Marianna tonight.
to worry Marianna if he pleaded ill health, Keith retreated to the first floor
powder room where he swallowed a Viagra pill. He had taken it with him to Carol's
but had no need of it.
was disappointed that he had not come up to her immediately to kiss her behind
the ear. Sometimes she hoped so hard that he would, that later, when she thought
about every moment of what had happened that night, the kiss behind the ear became
part of her memory.
rest of the evening proceeded according to plan. With a satisfied smile on her
face, Marianna fell asleep. Keith waited for five minutes before gently removing
her head from his left arm and placing it on her pillow. He quietly left the bed,
slipped on his pajama pants, tiptoed out of the room and down the stairs. He walked
over to his secret hiding place behind the kitchen cabinet and took out a pack
of cigarettes and lighter. After grabbing his cell phone from his desk, he went
out to the patio.
lit his cigarette while walking down the path toward the greenhouse where he sat
on one of Marianna's uncomfortable wrought-iron benches and dialed a number.
honey. Everything okay?" He heard the languid reply. "Everything is
wonderful---you seem to get better each time."
more than great, honey. I can hardly wait to be with you again," Keith lied,
as he knew she was lying. He'd been tired and anxious all evening in anticipation
of his meeting tomorrow.
knew they were both lying, but to her it was part of the game of getting ahead
in the corporate world. To show him she cared about him outside of the bedroom,
she asked if he'd had a nice evening after he left her.
usual…are we ready for tomorrow morning's meeting? You know how important it is
that we get this account. It may mean a promotion for me…and for you."
to worry. You know you can count on me. I have our best people working on it.
I will see you at the Tarrytown Hilton at 8:30 a.m. promptly. You'd better go
to sleep, so you can be your best tomorrow. I love you, Keith. I miss you."
miss you too, honey. See you in the morning."
lit another cigarette. Since Marianna did not know he smoked, he would have to
brush his teeth, shower and gargle thoroughly to wipe out any smell of cigarettes
on his breath. He rose, buried the butts under some dirt behind a tree and walked
back to the house.
felt angry with himself and with Marianna for carrying on this elaborate deception.
Her playacting was getting on his nerves, even though he had to admit, it made
it easier for him to deceive her. If she did not look like a porcelain doll, he
would have left her a long time ago. He knew that despite everything, some of
the dizzy rapture he'd felt when he met Marianna remained.
they had retreated into their own worlds…Marianna into her fantasy world and he
into his work…and yes, he admitted, his women. No matter, he thought, he still
believed in the sanctity of marriage. He laughed to himself…with a little cheating
on the side…it all works out very well
only women did not want it all. Now, Carol had begun asking more from him than
he wanted to give her. He would have to promote her and transfer her out of town.
He didn't think she'd object because he knew she wanted to further her career
more than she wanted to be with him.
walked back through the French doors, entered the house, locked the doors, took
off his pajamas and put them in the laundry for Jane to wash. Naked, he went upstairs
to his bathroom where he took a shower and gargled with mouthwash.
he had his own bathroom outside the bedroom suite. Marianna and he agreed that
it would be best that she have her own bathroom so that he would not disturb her.
slipped into bed and looked at Marianna's beautiful face. Still lying on her back,
a smile on her lips bore witness to an apparently satisfied afterglow. She couldn't
be that satisfied, Keith thought; the damn thing didn't last more than a minute.
Maybe her dream is fulfilling her fantasy…more than he could do for her.
away, he focused on tomorrow's business meeting. After an hour of thinking about
how the conversation between him and his prospective client would go and how elated
he would be when he got the account, he fell into a dreamless sleep.