Il Risveglio di Rebecca

The Awakening of Rebecca

“You should decide to join me,” Catherine’s proposition had not come unexpectedly. “In London, someone with your qualities would fare very well.” If there was one thing Catherine always had, it was a weakness in encouraging people to follow their dreams. The idea of moving had brushed Rebecca’s mind several times after her last meeting with her aunt, at the beginning of autumn. With the end of winter, what she had considered a pleasant desire to escape had come alive again.

“But my life is here, and I am happy with it,” she repeated to herself, aware of her feelings for the land that had seen her grow. Yet, that offer had come back to mind before responding to the dinner invitation.

Her job as a restorer had come shortly after her qualification. Her affinity for warm colours had developed over time spent at the art gallery. Art had taught her to look beyond the surface, to seek the story hidden behind every brushstroke. From yellows to ochre, all the shades that lit up the works of the Sienese school. In a few years, she had gained the trust of the studio. Deciding how to operate the first painting entrusted to her had been a task of great responsibility, which she had accomplished excellently. The satisfaction of seeing the vivid and original images re-emerge under layers of time was incomparable. A job made of concentration and careful gestures, to bring them back to their original splendour. Bent over the work, the outside world ceased to exist.

After the relationship with Roberto, she dedicated herself body and soul to her profession. Now, with the lengthening of the days, her need to re-emerge into life began to make itself felt. Spring was a call too powerful to be ignored, an invitation to rebirth that resonated in every corner of her being. The same sunlight, with which she checked the imperfections of the canvases, called her outdoors. Rebecca had truly realised this on a March afternoon. Like every year, nature had set a date for a change of clothes, ready to celebrate the season of renewal.

Carefully laid out on the bed, the new Terra di Siena dress was admired in all its splendour. A long silk dress, with a crossed neckline and an elegant slit. Above the white sheets, the amber colour of the dress radiated through the room. Rebecca remained for an indefinite time enjoying that moment, glad to have heeded her friends, who had insisted so much on the purchase. “You've turned the page, Rebe. It's the right choice,” Antonella had repeated to her.

“Are you sure it's the right choice?” she found herself asking one morning when bending over a frame trying to assess how to intervene on the dust of a canvas.

“I believe so, but I don’t think they’d notice the difference,” she had answered distractedly before realising she was speaking aloud.

“At worst, we'll hang a poster in the living room.” The voice belonged to a tall man, with green eyes and dark hair. His smile was the most elegant way to get out of gaffes. The canvas, a harvest festival, had remained for years in the country house of her grandparents, passed down in stories from who knows how many generations. For Marco, its value was primarily emotional, and having it restored was a tribute to their childhood, he had later explained.

Returning to Catherine’s villa was a journey through memories for Rebecca. Every part of that landscape was familiar to her, even after years. Wearing the dress was the best compliment to her figure. Every movement, the dance of the fabric emphasised her steps; a visual harmony that captured the gaze of those around her. From the shoulder straps, the silk delicately descended down her body. The crossing under the neck continued in a long back neckline, highlighting Rebecca's bare back. An elegant choice for the dinner Catherine had organised with a few friends for the reopening of the house.

The villa, a little rustic jewel hidden among the gentle Tuscan hills, was the perfect stage for an evening. Two old jars guarded the table with wine glasses. The laughter and conversations of the guests mixed with the rustling of the leaves, creating a concert of natural sounds. From the patio, which had started to fill with guests, the view was lost among fields and woods. The green of the young leaves alternated with the flowers of March. Violets and marigolds in the garden adorned one side of the villa; a wisteria and a magnolia on the opposite side. A scent, still mild for the season, spread in the air from the late afternoon.

Rebecca, with a radiant smile, moved among the guests with the grace of someone who knew they were in the right place. The warmth of the evening caressed her skin. The bronze button that bounced on the slit of her thigh reflected the warm light of the sunset. Engraved, two letters adorned the dress.

“MB, my initials,” teased a familiar voice as he handed her a glass of wine. “Catherine doubted you would come. With that dress, you’ve surprised me twice today.”

“We only wear the lab coat at work,” Rebecca’s response came naturally. “Yes, indeed. The cameo is one of the dress's qualities. For the painting, I fear it will take longer than expected.”

“Don't worry, I know you’ll do a great job. It’s an excuse to see you again,” Marco's last sentence betrayed his sincerity. Before the last word, a hint of insecurity had crept in between thinking it and saying it. In front of that image of a vestal, the confidence of their first meeting wavered, his attraction did not.

Lifted just right, the glass of wine had masked Rebecca’s hint of a smile. On her back, her shoulder blades corrugated in a lively harmony. “Looks like we’re going into summer, it seems,” she said, with the voice of someone who knows how the game is played.