capitolo diciassette

Andare in basso

capitolo diciassette

Messaggio  simona80 il Dom 06 Mar 2011, 17:52

Chapter Seventeen
―Bella?‖ Edward whispered in her ear. Her regular breathing and lack of response indicated that she was sleeping.
―I won‘t let anyone hurt you.‖ He kissed her cheek softly. ―Least of all myself.‖
Bella awoke the next morning to the sounds of the shower. She was trying to work out how someone other than she could be in her shower when the sounds stopped and a tall, bronze haired man wrapped in a small, purple towel walked out of her bathroom.
Bella‘s eyes widened in surprise and she gasped, fanning a hand to her open mouth.
―Good morning,‖ said Edward, clutching the towel that was slung low on his hips with one hand while he grabbed his clothes with the other.
Bella stared.
And she wasn‘t staring at his face.
Regardless of what she was staring at, his hair was wet and sticking out in unruly spikes from his head. Beads of water clung to his shoulders and chest and glistened off the surface of his tattoo. The contours of sinew, muscle and veins, symmetry and balance, idealized proportion and classical lines would be breathtaking even to the casual observer.
But Bella was anything but a casual observer. For she had spent the entire night with this very body in her bed, spooning her close and playing with her hair. And this body was attached to a damn fine mind and a very deep, passionate soul.
Nevertheless, Bella was staring at his body, and thus the term aquatic demi-god flitted through her consciousness.
Edward grinned. ―Are you alright?‖
She closed her mouth. ―Um, fine. Good morning.‖
He walked over and leaned down, pressing a firm but gentle opened mouth kiss against her lips. A few droplets of water splashed around her on the sheets.
―Did you sleep well?‖
She nodded slowly, feeling a good deal too warm.
―You‘re not saying much.‖ He straightened up and smirked at her.
―You‘re half-naked.‖
―Right. Would you prefer me wholly naked?‖ He shifted the towel provocatively on his hips and grinned.
Bella nearly expired in shock.
―I‘m just kidding, sweetheart.‖ He kissed her again, with a furrowed brow.
And then a discomforting thought occurred to him.
He retreated backwards with a very serious expression on his face. ―I forgot about what happened to you in Phoenix. When you were little,‖ he clarified. ―I‘m sorry to barge in on you like this. I wasn‘t thinking.‖
Bella looked over at him with mute appreciation. And then smiled shyly.
―It‘s alright, Edward. You‘re just distracting. You seem happy this morning.‖
He grinned.
―Sharing a bed with you agrees with me. Can I make you breakfast?‖
―Um, sure. But you know I don‘t have a kitchen.‖
―I‘m a resourceful man.‖ Edward smiled at her warmly, his warmth enough to overcome her embarrassment about her cooking facilities.
Just before he closed the bathroom door behind him, she was treated to the barest glimpse of the most beautiful gluteus maximus muscles as Edward dropped his purple towel.
Bella gaped like a codfish.
The following evening, Alice returned to Seattle from her romantic holiday with Jasper and promptly checked her voicemail. After a frantic call to Carlisle, she immediately telephoned Edward and left the following message:
―What the hell is going on up there, Edward? What did you do to Bella? She only disappeared once in her life and that was when she was completely humiliated by her ex! So what the fuck did you do to her? I swear to God I‟m hopping on a plane. Call me ... And Dad says hi and he‟s glad you called. Would it kill you to call him once a week? He‟s picking up extra shifts at the hospital to combat the loneliness. And by the way, he put the house up for sale yesterday.”
Then, more than slightly worried about her best friend, Alice called Bella and left the following message on her voicemail:
―Bella, what did Edward do? He was raving like a lunatic on my voicemail. He isn‟t answering his phone so I can‟t get his side of the story. Not that I expect the truth from him. Anyway, I hope that you‟re alright and I‟m really sorry. But whatever he did, please don‟t disappear on me again. Not when this is our last Thanksgiving in the old house. Carlisle put it up for sale. Jasper still wants to get you a ticket, so call me okay? Love you.”
Afterwards, Alice returned to her normal life in Seattle, anxiously awaiting news from her brother and her best friend. And quietly planning a wedding.
After Edward had convinced Alice not to fly to Toronto in order to kick his ass, and he spoke to his father about taking the house off the real estate market, he promptly left a message on Bella‘s voicemail, which he connected with while she was talking to Charlie:
―You never seem to answer your phone. (fumes slightly) Do you have call waiting? Would you order it, please? I don‟t care what it costs, I‟ll pay for it. But I‟m tired of leaving messages. (deep breath) I‟m assuming you‟ve heard from Alice. She‟s furious, but I think I‟ve been able to convince her that you and I had an academic misunderstanding and have since kissed and made up. (chuckle) Well, I left out the kissing part. Maybe you can call and reassure her before she fulfils her threat to get on an airplane. (sigh) (deep breath) Isabella, I enjoyed waking up next to you yesterday morning. More than I can say on an answering machine. Tell me I‟ll be able to wake up next to you again soon. (lowered, smouldering voice) I‟m sitting in front of the fireplace wishing you were here, seated on my lap. Wrapped in my arms. Call me, principessa.”
Meanwhile, Bella was talking to Charlie.
―I‘m glad you‘re coming home, Bells, but I‘m already scheduled to work most of Thanksgiving weekend. I didn‘t know you were coming …‖ Charlie‘s voice trailed off into a cough as he tried to clear his throat.
―That‘s alright. Alice wants me to spend some time with her. She‘s getting married and I think she needs some help with the preparations. Now that Esme is gone.‖
―Sue invited me over for dinner with her and her kids. I‘m sure she‘d set an extra place for you.‖
Bella inhaled sharply.
―No way in hell,‖ she muttered.
―What‘s that?‖
―Sorry, Dad. It would be nice to see Sue but there‘s no way I‘m going down to La Push. No way.‖
Charlie paused uncomfortably.
―I don‘t need to go over there. I um, see Sue all the time. And she‘ll be there with her kids.‖
Bella rolled her eyes. And him.
―I‘ll see what I can do about switching my shifts around. Do you need me to pick you up in Seattle?‖
―Actually, Edward Masen is living in Toronto. He mentioned something about going home that weekend. I‘ll see if I can catch a ride with the Cullens from Seattle, if we fly in at the same time.‖
Charlie was quiet for a moment or two. ―Edward is there?‖
―He teaches at the University. I have a class with him.‖
―You never told me that. Or maybe you did and I forgot. You need to stay away from him.‖
―He‘s trouble.‖
―Why do you say that?‖
Charlie cleared his throat again.
―He never came home to see his mother when she was dying. Never spends time with his family. I don‘t trust him and I sure as hell wouldn‘t trust him with my daughter.‖
―Dad, he‘s Alice‘s brother. She knows I‘m coming home for Thanksgiving. She‘ll probably pick me up at the airport, anyway.‖
―Well, I don‘t like it. Make sure you have your cell phone and call if there‘s a problem. I‘ll run a background check on him.‖
―Is there something you aren‘t telling me?‖
―Why would you say that?‖
―A background check, Chief Swan? Isn‘t that a bit much?‖
―I‘m just keeping an eye out for you, that‘s all. Can‘t I do that with my only daughter?‖
Bella stifled the urge to say something cruel or rude in response.
―I‘ll buy my ticket and I‘ll let you know what‘s happening.‖
―Fine. Talk to you later.‖
And with that, Bella‘s largely unilluminating conversation with Chief Charles Swan of Forks came to an end.
She spent the next hour reassuring Alice that yes, she was fine and no, Edward was (perhaps surprisingly) no longer being an ass. And then she had to convince Jasper that she had enough money from her scholarship to purchase a flight home. She mentioned Charlie‘s scheduling conflict with Sue and promised that she would join the Cullens for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday night.
More than slightly exhausted, she then spent another hour persuading Edward that it was not a good idea for them to share a bed every evening, especially when there was the possibility that someone connected with the University could see them entering or leaving one another‘s apartment. He had acquiesced, albeit grumpily, while exacting a promise for another sleepover before seven days had elapsed.
Bella did not want to be the cause of Edward losing his job and so she was determined to limit the possibilities that they might be seen together.
She was also determined not to spend every night in his bed, for she knew where that would lead. She was still struggling to trust Edward, her reticence more than reasonable given the fact that he had only changed his disposition towards her recently. And he had all but admitted that his passion for her was teetering on the knife edge of his control.
Bella did not want to be persuaded into doing things she was not ready to do. She did not want to give him part of herself and then return to her apartment feeling used and lonely, as she had so many times with him. Yes, Edward was not him. But that fact made her no less cautious, although she wanted to trust him.
Despite her self-protection, Bella slept far more peacefully with Edward than without him and every day she didn‘t see him her heart ached.
Monday afternoon found Bella preparing for Edward‘s seminar and later, answering her (unbroken) doorbell. A delivery person stood outside the front door of the building, holding a large, white box. She signed for it and when she returned to her apartment, she opened a card that was attached to the box. The card had the initials E. A. M. embossed on the top, was handwritten, and said the following:
Dear Isabella,
Thank you for sharing yourself with me Friday night.
I am in awe of you.
You have the heart of a lion.
I would dearly like to tame you, slowly,
but without the tears or the goodbye.
P.S. I have a new, private email account at your disposal: eacm617[at]gmail[dot]com
Bella opened the box and was immediately captivated by a beautiful fragrance. Inside, she was stunned to find a large glass bowl filled with water. Suspended on the surface of the water were seven gardenias.
She carefully removed the bowl from its packaging and placed it on her card table, inhaling deeply as the perfume began to permeate her little studio.
She re-read Edward‘s note and eagerly opened her laptop so that she could send him a quick email from her gmail account,
Dear Edward,
Thank you for the gardenias; they‟re lovely.
Thank you for your card.
Thank you for listening.
Looking forward to seeing you soon,
Bella did not comment on his reference to The Little Prince because she did not know how to interpret it.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bella met Peter by the mailboxes before Professor Masen‘s seminar. They exchanged pleasantries and chatted briefly before they were somewhat rudely interrupted by Bella‘s cell phone.
The call was (miraculously) from Dante Alighieri. So of course, she answered it.
―I have to take this,‖ she murmured to Peter apologetically before she walked into the hall.
Bella smiled widely at the sound of his voice. ―Hello.‖
―Will you join me for dinner?‖
She looked around quickly to ensure that she was alone. ―Um, what did you have in mind?‖
―Dinner at my place. I haven‘t seen you since Saturday morning. I‘m beginning to think you only want email correspondence now that you have my new address.‖ Edward chuckled into the phone.
Bella breathed deeply, glad that he wasn‘t irritated with her.
―I‘ve been getting ready for my next meeting with Katherine. You‘ve been working on your lecture, so …‖
―I need to see you.‖
―I want to see you, too. But we‘ll see each other in a few minutes.‖
―Isabella, I need to speak to you about that. We‘re going to have to pretend as if nothing happened last week. And I‘ll probably ignore you, just for effect. I wanted to tell you in advance so that I wouldn‘t upset you.‖
He paused for a moment. ―Of course all I want to do is talk to you, but we need to keep up appearances.‖
―I understand.‖
―Isabella.‖ Edward dropped his voice. ―I don‘t like this any more than you do. But I would like to have you join me for dinner tonight, so I can make it up to you. And then we can spend a quiet evening by the fire enjoying one another‘s company. Before bed.‖
Bella‘s cheeks immediately flamed with colour.
―I‘d like to but I was planning on working all evening. I haven‘t finished the revisions Katherine asked for and I meet with her tomorrow afternoon. She‘s very demanding.‖
Edward began muttering under his breath.
―I‘m sorry, but I want to make her happy.‖
―What about making me happy?‖
―Edward, I …‖ Bella was at a loss for words.
He fumed slightly.
―I understand. But will you promise to see me Friday night?‖
―After your lecture?‖
―I‘ll be going to dinner. I‘d like you to meet me at my place after that.‖
―Won‘t that be too late?‖
―Not for what I have in mind. You promised, you know.‖
Bella blushed again at the thought of the new, mature sleepover she had only recently discovered.
―So will I see you Friday night?‖
―Yes. I‘ll have to come up with an excuse to give Peter. We‘re going to the lecture together.‖
Silence rippled on the other end of the telephone line.
―Hello?‖ Bella moved to a different location in the hallway, hoping her movement would improve her reception. ―Are you still there?‖
―I‘m here.‖ Edward‘s tone was suddenly glacial.
Oh shit, thought Bella.
Edward was silent for another moment before he resumed speaking.
―Did we or did we not have an arrangement that excluded sharing?‖
Double shit.
―Um, of course.‖
―I‘ve kept up my end of that arrangement.‖
―Edward, please – ―
He cut her off. ―Tell me that I misunderstood what you just told me.‖
―We‘re friends. He asked me to go with him to your lecture. I didn‘t think it was wrong.‖
―Do you want me seeing other women as friends? Going to public events with them?‖
―No,‖ she whispered.
―Then extend me the same courtesy.‖
―Please don‘t be cross, Edward.‖
Her request was met with silence.
―He‘s the only friend I have. Being a grad student in a strange city is very … lonely.‖
―I thought I was your friend.‖
―Of course you are. But I need someone to talk to about school and things.‖
―Anything to do with the University should be discussed with me.‖
―Please don‘t make me give up the one friend I have, apart from you. Then I really will be isolated, since I can‘t be with you all the time.‖
Edward flinched.
―Have you told him you are seeing someone?‖
Bella gulped. ―No. I thought it was a secret.‖
―Come on, Isabella. You‘re smarter than that.‖ He sighed loudly. ―Fine. I‘ll concede that you need a friend, but he needs to realize that you are no longer available. He‘s far too invested as it is and that could create a problem for us.‖
―I‘ll tell him I have a new boyfriend. We're supposed to go to the museum in two weeks to see –―
Edward growled into the phone. ―No, you are not. I‘ll take you.‖
―In public? How can you?‖
―Let me worry about that. So I suppose he‘ll be carrying your books to class in a few minutes?‖ His voice had shifted to sarcasm.
―Please, Edward.‖
He exhaled deeply into the phone.
―Alright. Let‘s forget about this. But I will have my eye on him. As for Friday, I‘ll give you a key or I‘ll call the concierge and he will let you in.‖
―See you in a few minutes.‖
When Bella and Peter arrived at the seminar room, the Professor was already there. He glanced at them briefly, scowled at Peter, and then turned his attention to his lecture notes. However, he noticed with satisfaction that Bella was using her messenger bag. The thought pleased him a great deal.
The rest of the graduate students, including Angela Webber, looked from Bella to the Professor and back again about three or four times. It was almost like watching a volley at Wimbledon.
Bella sat in her usual chair next to Peter and immediately adopted a deferent posture.
―Don‘t be nervous. He‘s been in a good mood all week. I don‘t think he will bother you today.‖ Peter leaned in closely, far too closely, to whisper in her ear. ―He must have gotten laid last weekend, more than once.‖
Professor Masen coughed loudly at the front of the room until Peter moved away from Bella.
For her part, Bella was still slightly flushed over Peter‘s remark. She kept her head down, writing copious notes in her notebook. It was a good distraction, for it stopped her from thinking about Saturday morning and what Edward looked like under his clothes, wet from the shower, dropping a small, purple towel …
The Professor barely looked at her and never called on her to comment or to answer a question. In sum, the lecture was a colossal disappointment from an entertainment perspective and left more than one graduate student wanting.
Angela Webber, however, was delighted that the course of the universe had finally corrected itself and all was as it (almost) should be.
―You are all invited to the lecture I will be delivering on lust in Dante and Aquinas at Victoria College on Friday afternoon at three o‘clock. I‘ll see you next week. Class dismissed.‖ The Professor quickly packed up his things and exited the seminar room without so much as a backwards glance.
Peter leaned over to Bella. ―Can I walk you home? We could grab some Thai food on the way.‖
―It would be nice for you to walk me home. But I‘m probably going to work right through dinner. And there‘s something I need to tell you …‖
On Friday morning, Bella stood in the entrance to her rather small closet wondering what she should wear. She knew that Edward would not be pleased when he saw her sitting with Peter at the lecture. She knew that she would be meeting Edward at his apartment later that evening and sleeping over. She had already packed her messenger bag in preparation for her visit.
She wanted to make a good impression when she walked into the lecture hall. She wanted Edward to notice her amongst all the other women and think that she looked pretty.
So for the first time that semester, Bella decided to dress up for school. She wore a black dress with black opaque stockings and a pair of black, knee high, high heeled leather boots that Alice had persuaded her to buy a few years ago but that she had never worn. She wore simple jewellery, pearl stud earrings that had belonged to Charlie‘s mother, and she wrapped a dark purple pashmina around her neck, fearful that her modest cleavage would turn out to be too much for a day time lecture.
Bella and Peter were almost the first to arrive at the large lecture hall at Victoria College. They quickly chose seats near the back, on the aisle, so as not to be too conspicuous. Faculty members usually took the best seats near the front and graduate students would not dare to meddle with that convention.
As soon as Bella stepped into the room, she felt his presence. A strange electricity hummed between them, even at a distance. She felt his eyes on her, too, and knew that he was staring. And that his stare quickly morphed into a scowl.
A sly glance to the front of the room confirmed her suspicions. He was glaring at Peter as he ghosted a hand to her lower back, guiding her to their seats.
Edward gave Bella a quick half-smile as his eyes raked over her form, resting a beat too long on the heels of her boots. Then he turned away and continued his conversation with one of the professors.
Bella took a few moments to admire Edward‘s appearance. He was breathtaking, as usual, dressed in a very handsome black Armani suit, with a white French-cuffed shirt and a black silk tie. He was wearing his eyeglasses and a pair of black dress shoes that mercifully, were not pointy.
Surprisingly, however, he wore a vest under his suit, and as his jacket was unbuttoned, Bella saw the fob of a gold pocket watch dangling from one of the buttons of his vest, with the chain leading to a pocket. She did not know this, but his manner of dress was in the single Albert style.
―Look at him. A vest and a pocket watch?‖ muttered Peter, shaking his head. ―How old is this guy? I bet he has a portrait in his attic that‘s aging rather rapidly.‖
Bella smothered a secret smile, but said nothing.
―Do you know what he had me do yesterday?‖
She shook her head.
―I had to pack some of his precious pens in a crate, insure it, and ship it to the Fountain Pen Hospital in New York. Can you believe that?‖
―What‘s a fountain pen hospital?‖
―Damned if I know. Some repair shop for sick fountain pens that caters to even sicker fuckers who have way too much money. And too much time on their hands. Or in their pockets.‖
Bella snickered.
The Chair of Italian Studies welcomed the crowd, which numbered about one hundred people, and offered a glowing description of Professor Masen's research and accomplishments.
Bella watched as Edward shifted uncomfortably in his chair, as if all the high praise and fine words displeased him.
His eyes found hers and she smiled encouragingly.
She watched as his shoulders visibly relaxed.
After a thinnish round of applause, he took centre stage, spreading his notes on the lectern and double-checking the readiness of his powerpoint presentation. When he was satisfied that all was well, he smiled in a very charming way at the crowd. From behind his glasses, his eyes eagerly sought out Bella‘s and connected with them briefly before he began.
―The title of my lecture is ‗Lust in Dante and Aquinas: The Deadly Sin against the Self.‘ Immediately, one might wonder why lust would be a sin against the self since it is always directed towards an other – the use of another human being for personal, sexual gratification. One might argue that suicide is more properly understood as a sin against the self for it is an act of self-murder.
―In order to understand the ‗selfish‘ aspect of lust, we must turn our attention first to one of Dante‘s sources, St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas died circa 1274, when Dante was nine years old. Nevertheless, his painstaking treatment of both virtue and vice provides an important organizational structure to Dante‘s Divine Comedy.
―In the Summa theologiae, Aquinas argues that any evil action or sin is an act against the self – a form of self-destruction. He views human beings as having a nature that is supposed to be both rational and good. Aquinas conceives of this nature, that of the rational animal, as being created by God specifically to pursue goodness, more specifically, the virtues.
―When a human being departs from this natural purpose or goal, she injures herself for she does what she was not intended to do. She wars against herself and her nature. She compromises the integrity of her being.
―Why does Aquinas hold this peculiar view of sin?
―First, because he accepts St. Augustine‘s definition of sin as a privation, a parasite on goodness. For example, adultery is a corruption of sexual intercourse between a husband and wife. There is no adultery without the goodness that is sexual intercourse, but adultery corrupts this goodness, feeding on it, twisting it.
―Second, because Aquinas accepts Boethius‘ assertion that goodness and being are convertible. In other words, anything that exists has some goodness in it because God made it. And no matter how marred or broken or sinful that being is, it still maintains some goodness so long as it exists.‖
Edward pressed a button and his first slide appeared on the screen to his left. Bella recognized it as Botticelli‘s illustration of Lucifer.
―No one, not even Lucifer encased in ice at the bottom of Dante‘s Inferno, is wholly evil. Evil as a privation can only feed off of goodness; if all the goodness of a creature was eliminated, the creature in question would no longer exist.‖
Edward cleared his throat. ―In this view, even a monster has some goodness left in him.‖
At this point, his eyes wandered over to Bella‘s before he looked down at his notes.
―Against this backdrop, consider the characters of Dante and Beatrice.‖
Another Botticelli illustration, one of Dante and Beatrice and the fixed stars of the Paradiso, was displayed on the screen.
―Dante and Beatrice have a relationship that typifies courtly love. In the context of the Divine Comedy, the character of Beatrice is connected with Virgil. She appeals to Virgil to guide Dante through Hell because she is unable to travel there, owing to her permanent residence in Paradise.
―In making the connection between Beatrice and Virgil, Dante is expressing his idea that courtly love is tied to reason rather than to passion. And this connection is another manifestation of Aquinas‘s emphasis on the importance of reason in the life of a human being.‖
At the mention of Beatrice, Bella began to fidget with her hands, keeping her eyes away from Edward lest she give anything away.
Peter noticed her movements immediately and took her hand in his, squeezing it gently.
They were seated far too away and behind too many people for Edward to see what was going on, but he could see Peter turned towards Bella and he could see her blushing slightly. And the sight almost completely distracted him.
He coughed slightly and Bella‘s eyes immediately flew to his as she hastily withdrew her hand from Peter.
―But what of lust? If love is the rabbit, then lust is the wolf. Dante says so explicitly when he identifies lust as a sin of wolf-like incontinence; a sin in which passion overtakes reason.‖
Edward posted the slide of Rodin‘s sculpture, Le baisir.
―Dante places Paolo and Francesca in the Circle of the Lustful in hell. Surprisingly, however, the story of their downfall is linked with the courtly love tradition. At the time of their lustful indulgence, they were engaged in
reading about the adultery between Lancelot and Queen Guinevere. Perhaps this was the medieval equivalent of porn-fuelled foreplay.‖
Polite laughter echoed across the lecture hall.
―Lancelot and Guinevere‘s affair was itself occasioned by the courtly love tradition, for it originated in Lancelot‘s allegiance to the beauty and virtue of his queen, and ended in seduction and adultery. In their case, as in the case of Paolo and Francesca, passion overtook reason, which should have told them that since one of them was joined to another, they should keep their hands to themselves.‖
Edward glared meaningfully at Peter. But Peter thought the glare was directed elsewhere, possibly to Bella or one of the women sitting in front of him, so he did nothing.
At Peter‘s lack of reaction, Edward‘s jade eyes grew all the more green, coloured as they were by a specifically hued monster.
―Perhaps this is similar to the proprietary relationship that exists between a couple when they are courting. If someone else were to start indulging in some of the special delights that should be reserved for the courting couple, no doubt anger and jealousy would result.‖
Once again, Edward‘s eyes met with Bella‘s and once again, he looked down at his notes.
―But the fact that Dante sees in Lancelot and Guinevere and in Paolo and Francesca a corruption of the courtly love tradition shows that he recognizes the very real dangers facing his attachment to Beatrice. If Dante‘s great passion were to overtake his reason, he would ruin them both. They would be publicly disgraced. So the fate of Paolo and Francesca is a very personal warning to Dante for him to keep his affection for Beatrice chaste. Which is no easy task given her great beauty and allurements, and the depth and degree of his desire for her.‖
Bella blushed and looked at the floor.
―And make no mistake, despite the fact that they were separated from one another for years, he wants her. He wants her and he wants all of her. Desperately so. His chastity is made all the more virtuous because of the strength of his desire for her. For of what worth is a chastity borne of revulsion or fraternal affection?
―However, it is important to stress that in this philosophy, sex is not equated with lust. Not even Aquinas makes such a claim, praising as he does the sexual union between a husband and wife. Lust is a misplaced love, but a kind of love nonetheless. For this reason, it is the least evil of the seven deadly sins and that is why Dante locates the Circle of the Lustful just underneath Limbo. Lust deals with the greatest of earthly pleasures …‖
Edward‘s gaze smouldered in Bella‘s direction as she stared back at him, transfixed.
―In this philosophy, sex is properly understood to be not only physical, but spiritual; an ecstatic union of two bodies and two souls, meant to mimic the joy and ecstasy of union with the Divine in Paradise. Two bodies joined together in pleasure. Two souls joined by two bodies and the whole-hearted, enthusiastic, self-less giving of the entire self.‖
Bella tried not to squirm in her seat as she recalled how she felt when Edward‘s mouth sucked her fingers, one by one, cleaning them of chocolate cake. The room began to feel more than a little warm.
―It is perhaps pedantic to point out that if one holds back and doesn‘t give one‘s entire self during intercourse, orgasm will be eluded. And the result is tension, frustration and sometimes, an unhappy partner. But the moment of orgasm is a foretaste of absolute transcendence and wholehearted, rapturous pleasure. The kind of pleasure in which all one‘s deepest urges and longings are wholly and mind-bendingly satisfied.‖
Bella crossed and uncrossed her legs.
―The idea of shared orgasm, one partner‘s ecstasy tripping the other‘s, highlights the shared intimacy of physical and spiritual union. Panting, twisting, touching, yearning, giving, and finally and most gloriously, coming.‖
Edward paused, sipping his glass of water thoughtfully as he struggled not to stare at Bella‘s flushed and downcast face.
He cleared his throat and smirked slightly. ―Does anyone feel faint?‖
Cheerful but reserved laughter echoed around the hall.
―I believe my words have illustrated Dante‘s thesis, namely, that lust is powerful enough to distract the mind, which is the faculty of reason, and prompt it to focus on earthly, carnal concerns rather than rising above to contemplate the heavenly concerns, namely, God. No doubt some of you would rather be rushing home to your lover‘s embrace than remaining here to listen to the rest of my dry lecture.‖
He smiled good-naturedly.
―Nevertheless, we must remember that lust is a mortal sin and seduction is one of its species. Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini committed adultery before they were murdered by Francesca‘s husband, Ginanciotto. It‘s worth noting that Gianciotto‘s final destination is the Ninth Circle of Hell, where the murderers are, while Paolo and Francesca occupy the Second Circle. Why? Because murder is worse than lust. At least lust is a kind of love, while murder is born of violence and hate.
―For someone who was unfamiliar with the joys of female companionship, Aquinas has some remarkable things to say about love. For example, he argues that a lover is related to his beloved as if his beloved were himself or were a part of himself. Union, then, is the natural outgrowth of love; it is not the love itself. Love is a movement towards the good – the good of the lover in their experience of love, and the good of the beloved, that attracts the lover. Love is always directed to the good, even if the good is only apparent, or only in perception, and not in reality, as in the case of Paolo and Francesca.
―One can see how the joys and beauty of sexual intimacy, expressed in the unifying act of making love, is the natural outgrowth of love. And in this case, as should be clear, sex is not identical with lust. Hence the modern distinction made in contemporary parlance between, forgive my vulgarity, fucking and making love. But sex is not identical with love, either, as the courtly love tradition demonstrates. One can love one‘s friend chastely and passionately, without engaging in sexual intercourse with her.
―In the Paradiso, lust is transformed into charity, the truest, purest manifestation of love. The character of Cunizza da Romano typifies this transformation. She had lived a life typified by lust, and had taken multiple lovers, but then repented of her sin and lived a life of charity. She was well known for her work with the poor - feeding them, clothing them, providing them with money when they were destitute. In Paradise, she is free from longing, for her desires are satisfied and she smiles with joy. She no longer has guilt over her previous sins but enjoys absolute freedom and fulfillment.
"Time prevents me from giving a more complete discussion of charity.
―In Dante‘s Divine Comedy, we find the dichotomy of lust and charity and a powerful manifestation of the chastity of courtly love, as typified by the relationship between Dante and Beatrice. And this ideal of courtly love is perhaps best expressed in the words of Beatrice, herself, ‗Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra.‘ Truer words were never spoken. Thank you.‖
The lecture hall erupted in polite applause and low murmurings of approval. And then Professor Masen began to field questions from the audience. In typical fashion, full time faculty members were the first to ask questions, while graduate students waited patiently for their turn. For Academia, like other parts of the world, was organized under a caste system.
Bella sat very still trying to absorb what she thought she had heard during Edward‘s lecture. She was repeating some of his statements in her mind, when Peter leaned over to whisper in her ear.
―Watch this. Masen is going to ignore Angela.‖
Angela Webber was in the second row, with her hand in the air. When question period began, Professor Masen pointed to people, listened gravely to their questions, and then offered reasoned answers. But before he could choose Angela, the Chair of Italian Studies stood up in order to indicate that question period had come to an end.
Another round of applause was given and received and Edward stepped off the platform. He was immediately greeted by an average sized brunette and a petite blonde, both of whom looked like they were professors in their mid to late thirties.
―I guess you were right, Peter. He didn‘t call on Angela.‖
Peter snorted. ―He‘s not going to allow her to ask a question in an open forum. He‘s worried she‘ll stand up and throw her bra at him, or hold up an ‗I heart Masen‘ poster.‖
Bella giggled slightly and watched as the brunette shook Edward‘s hand professionally and chatted with him briefly before stepping aside to speak to another professor.
―I was surprised no one corrected Masen on his mistake.‖
―What mistake?‖ asked Bella.
―He said that ‗Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra‟ was a quotation from Beatrice, but it isn‘t. It‘s a quotation from Dante. He says those words in the second section of La Vita Nuova, when he meets Beatrice for the first time.‖
Bella knew this, of course, but would never have commented on it. So she remained silent.
―It was a slip of the tongue. He can quote those texts from memory. I just thought it was funny that Mr. Perfect made a very public mistake and no one corrected him.‖ Peter chuckled to himself. ―Maybe that was why Angela had her hand up.‖
Bella smiled slightly. She knew that Edward's error had been intentional. But she would tell no one.
―You look pretty today. You always look pretty, but today you‘re just – glowing.‖ Peter smiled at her. ―I hope I‘m not stepping on your boyfriend‘s toes by telling you that. What was his name again?‖
I hope Anthony isn‟t in the Mafia.
―Well, I can see it in your eyes. You look happy to be back together with him.‖
And after weeks of seeing you sad, I‟m happy that you‟re happy. Even though you‟re back with your ex.
―Thank you,‖ she murmured.
―So why the dress?‖
She looked around the room. ―I didn‘t know if people dressed up for these occasions. I knew all the professors would be here and I wanted to look nice.‖
Peter laughed. ―Look around you, Bella. Most academic women don‘t care about how they look. I know I said it the other night, but I wanted to say again that I hope your ex treats you right this time. Or I‘ll have to go to Seattle and sort him out.‖
At this point, Bella was only half-listening to Peter as she saw Edward greet the petite blonde professor with a kiss on either cheek.
She raised her eyebrows in surprise.
And you gave me a hard time about Peter, Edward. I thought we weren‟t sharing …
Peter shook his head and muttered something under his breath.
―What‘s wrong?‖
―Well, the lecture was great. You can see why I came here to work with him.‖ Peter glanced meaningfully at Edward. ―But look at what‘s happening.‖
As if on cue, the blonde threw her head back and laughed uproariously, while Masen gave her a tight smile. She was under five feet tall, with blonde hair that was pulled back tightly into a severe looking bun. She wore Armani glasses that were both squarish and red, and an expensive looking black suit that was highlighted by a tight pencil skirt that barely grazed her knees. Bella noted that the woman wore very high red heels that were obviously designer and black fishnet stockings that would have netted only the tiniest of fish.
In short, the woman was beautiful but she seemed rather out of place amongst all of the other professional academics. And there was something about her demeanour that was decidedly aggressive.
―That‘s Professor Singer.‖
―The blonde?‖
―Yes. The dark haired woman is Professor Leaming. She‘s great. You need to meet her. But stay away from Singer, she‘s a dragon lady.‖
Bella‘s stomach flipped as she watched Professor Singer grip Edward‘s forearm in a far too familiar fashion, digging her claw-like crimson talons into his suit jacket while she stood on tiptoe to whisper something in his ear.
―Why do you say that?‖ she whispered.
―Have you seen her website?‖
―Consider yourself lucky. You‘d probably pass out if you read what she was into.‖
Bella drew a deep breath and willed herself to be calm, even though a wave of nausea washed over her.
―They call her Professor Pain.‖
Bella reluctantly dragged her eyes away from the sickening display which was the Professors Pain and Masen show and began wringing her hands nervously.
I wonder if her first name is Tanya.
―Um, I guess I should go, Peter.‖
―I‘ll walk you home.‖ He stood up and helped her with her coat.
They left their seats and were just about to walk down the aisle to the exit when the Chair of Italian Studies caught Peter‘s eye, motioning him to come over.
―I‘ll just be a minute. Wait for me.‖
Bella felt unsteady on her feet and so she sat back down, fixing her eyes on the floor.
Edward hadn‘t looked at her at all and from his body language she wondered if he was avoiding her gaze on purpose.
Peter had a brief exchange with the Chair and then turned around and pointed towards Bella. The Chair nodded and patted Peter on the back.
By the time he returned, Peter was beaming.
―Well, you‘ll never guess what that was about.‖
Bella shook her head.
―We‘ve been invited to the faculty dinner in honour of Masen‘s lecture.‖
She looked up at him in surprise. ―You‘re kidding.‖
―No. Apparently, there‘s money in the budget for a couple of graduate students and the Chair decided to invite me. When I told him I was here with you, he invited you to come as my guest.‖ He smiled. ―Poor Angela didn‘t get an invitation. This is your lucky day.‖
At that moment, Edward‘s eyes met Bella‘s from behind Peter's back.
She was floored by what she saw.
Edward was upset, angry even, and he was shaking his head minutely at Bella. She had no idea what he was trying to communicate to her. His eyes flicked over to Peter and then back to her again and he shook his head.
Bella looked away.
How can Edward be jealous when Professor Pain is all over him?
―We don‘t have to go, if you don‘t want to.‖ Peter coughed slightly. ―I know Masen has been a prick to you. You probably don‘t want to celebrate his latest success over paella.‖
Bella thought about this for a moment and she was just about to decline the invitation, when Professor Singer moved away from Edward in order to greet someone else.
She immediately breathed a sigh of relief.
―It would be rude to turn down the invitation when it came from the Chair.‖
―You‘re probably right, Bella. I promise you‘ll have fun. We‘re going to Segovia, which is a Spanish restaurant. The food and the atmosphere are great.‖
Since Bella‘s cell phone was switched off and since she was walking with Peter, she resisted the urge to text Edward to ask him what his problem was.
Bella followed Peter into the hallway and then outside the building into the crisp November air.
―Dinner isn‘t until seven. The professors are having a private wine and cheese reception back at the Centre, so we have some time. Would you like to go to Starbucks? Or somewhere else?‖
―Starbucks is fine.‖
Two friends began walking silently down the sidewalk. Within a few minutes, she finally drew up the courage to ask the question that had been bothering her.
―Do you know Professor Singer well?‖
―Not really. I‘ve heard things through gossip, mostly. And I saw a couple of emails once.‖ Peter shook his head and cursed. ―I wish I could unsee the emails she sent to Masen. They‘re burned into my brain.‖
―What‘s her first name?‖
Edward‘s quotation in his lecture is from Dante‘s La Vita Nuova, in which he describes his first meeting with Beatrice: Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra (Trans. “Now your blessedness appears.”)


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Data d'iscrizione : 01.01.11
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