I'ld like to thank my beta-reader stsgirlie - without you I would not have dared to write this fic in English...thank you for your fast and encouraging help.
The story is dedicated to my friend Mr-Spock1, who shares my dreams about a certain house in Umbria...
AN: The story and the characters belong to the HBO-Film "My House in Umbria", directed by Richard Loncraine. I love this film so much and wanted to retell it from a different perspective. But for a short time I change the script, I do hope that I don't offend any other fan of the movie by taking this liberty .... imho this is what fanfiction is meant to be good for....
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His stay in Umbria
He set the fork down on the plate rather forcefully and pulled the chair back. He just had to get out, his patience hanging by a thread. "Excuse me, I think I'll just take a walk before I retire", he said, and then to his niece: "Good night, Amy! Sleep well, we've got a long day ahead of us tomorrow."
Without waiting for a reply from anyone he turned and made his way from the veranda onto the gravel walk that led away from the villa.
When he was out of sight of the group assembled at the dinner table, he slowed down and took a deep breath to calm down. Why was he in such a turmoil of emotions? He had known his life would change irrevocably and turn a way he and Francine had not intended it to, as soon as their front door had closed behind the police officers that night in Vergentsville three weeks ago, but the biggest attack on his well established way of living had not come from his sister's girl herself, but derived from the whole situation, he found her in - here in this remote house in Umbria.
The sweet smell of the bougainvilleas filled the air at this part of the front wall, and he raked through his hair impatiently. It had sounded innocent enough: she is living with an elderly English lady who had been travelling in the same train compartment and also survived the terrorist attack with only mild injuries. He had not been prepared for what he found, when he came over with the next convenient flight to Florence and took the taxi to the address he had been given. His nerves were tried already due to the hard to get to location, so the appearance of his hostess had been almost too much of a surprise to handle.
"Elderly english lady" really was not a description that fit her at all. Mrs. Emily Delahunty had swept into the hall like the warm breeze that came through the open doors of the veranda, the silk shawl flowing about her youthful figure, with a smile of welcome that seemed to radiate from her whole body, her eyes searching his immediately and full of emotions as he had not seen any before.
He found himself giving an excuse to flee to the room prepared for him and when he finally joined her in the garden, as she had asked, his businesslike composure was back in place – or so he had thought.
But when she had him to sit next to her on the patio-swing his irritation grew worse than before. And then she insisted he'd take a brandy. He was not used to hard drinks. One beer was what he and his collegues would share from time to time, keeping a clear head for scientific discussions, and his wife would never even contemplate the idea of buying any liquor to have in the house; guests would come for a coffee or on rare occasions a glass of wine.
He had never felt so awkward. Why on earth did she want to get so close to him? He had never dealt with a woman like her before, and he had not come here to work on his social graces. The idea alone made him angry. Luckily the arrival of the young German and Amy had allowed him to get up and he just kept standing, trying to start a conversation with Amy. He had no success. Mrs. Delahunty on the other hand was obviously very skilled in gently bringing people to talk. She had a way of focussing on the person she was talking to, a skill he reluctantly admired while he watched her, and she was an excellent listener.
By now he had passed the corner of the house and reached the small stretch of the garden overlooking the valley. He stopped to sit on the stone bench between the white roses and looked back at the villa. It was a charming building, and he remembered the dinner on his first evening. The setting had been the most beautiful and romantic he had ever dined in, and the whole affair in fact quite pleasant. He had for the greatest part answered questions about his field of research and his life in Pennsylvania, just like he did at the social gatherings at the conferences he attended a few times every year.
The next days had found him rising early and going for a walk, notebook and collecting jar at hand. These hours were very enjoyable and thankfully, as his hostess was a very late riser, there was no danger of her wanting to accompany him as she seemed to desire at every other time of the day.
Then, one day, when he returned to the house with Amy's doctor, he found the other guests and Mrs. Delahunty at a late breakfast table and she hit him with the suggestion of a trip to Siena as soon as he had walked through the door. He had not been able to suppress a sigh, he dreaded being crammed in a car with all of them for hours and being pulled along to see whatever the group fancied. But it couldn't be helped. They planned it for the next day and it turned out just the way he had imagined.
As soon as they were on the road she had started. Sitting next to him on the backseat of the car she had plunged into a description of a dream she said she had about him last night. It was really the most ridiculous topic possible and he chose to just pretend to be listening. What caught his attention, against his will, were her hands, which she used to great effect when she was talking in an animated fashion. She had very long, slender fingers, well suited to be adorned with all those rings. He started wondering where her money might come from, when her question brought him back to her imagined story. Not having listened, he gave a non-committal "No" as an answer.
He had still no idea why this woman took such an interest in him. It was not like him to feel flattered, on the contrary, it made him uneasy. Normally he was very sure of himself – he didn't see any reason why he shouldn't. But she would look at him as if she was searching for something, as though he was falling short of her expectations, whatever they might be. He hated that feeling. In his professional life he was the one who asked the questions.
On their way to the cathedral in Siena he found himself being quizzed about his break-up with his sister. Well, this was not unexpected, and she seemed sympathetic enough to his reasons.
Then, just when he thought the trip might be quite nice after all, she persuaded him to join her for a quiet breather in a peaceful little place, which turned out to be a bar in a secluded courtyard. She really seemed to enjoy his company; though he made a point of not touching the drink she had ordered for him (against his explicit wishes) and gave just monosyllabic answers.
He got up from the bench. He would have to sit all day tomorrow on the plane, so he'd better to exercise his legs as long as he had the chance. The moon was almost full, giving him plenty of light, and he had already taken the walk up the hill through the olive-trees this morning, accompanied by Mrs. Delahunty of course. He kicked some broken branches in frustration as he recalled the argument they had about miracles, fate, love – all her favourite themes. She was as irrational as one can be, and he never got along with such people for more than ten minutes in any given circumstances. So why would he suddenly care now? She had been hurt by his words, shocked, disappointed, whatever – and somehow he felt guilty.
He realised that the same strange feeling had come up in the afternoon again. He had answered a call from Francine and at the end of their conversation he had told her about what he had come to know of Mrs. Delahunty's past, without thinking much about what he was saying. But after he had dropped the receiver back on the phone he had spent the next ten minutes staring out of the window, his words replaying in his head. Well, what he had told Francine had not been a lie, but it did not sound like the truth either. He found this very disturbing. Not that it mattered what his wife thought of his hostess – he was glad that his recollections had seemed to amuse her – but he would really like to know how he himself felt about her – if he was honest with himself. What he had described over the phone was definitely just one side to a complex puzzle.
Another side to this woman was absolutely intriguing. That she was willing to share her home with complete strangers had seemed like an eccentric folly to him when he first learned of it. Now he acknowledged that she genuinely loved to give without expecting some return payment. His mind went back to the afternoon hour in the bar in Siena. She had talked non-stop and by and by related different bits and pieces about her childhood and teenage years. Although he made no comment at that time, he was deeply affected. What she had told was almost too shocking to be true, and it was not difficult, to supplement what she did not tell with one's own conclusions.
And despite having obviously never received any real love in her whole life, she was these days devoted to help and care for anybody who seemed to be in need of it. If only she would not refuse to accept that he was not in need of her attentions, it would be so much easier to admire this unusual strengths of character.