I hitch a ride into town with a stranger in a jeep. He listens as, in broken Italian, I speak of drug-fuelled, all-night parties I have not attended, in the dining room of the villa with its frescoed walls and a vista that sweeps down to the fishpond, where the children play.
“Concealed in the vineyard,” I say, “is a swimming pool, where her chauffeur watches as my employer swims naked.” He listens.
“Her husband is working in Rome. I hear their middle-of-the-night arguments in the corridor adjacent to the huge bedrooms with spotless linen. I listen as she and the chauffeur make love. The chauffeur is her husband’s best friend.”
“What are you going to do?” he asks.
“I have been given the day off and I think I will go for good.” I say.
In town I drop sixty cents into the payphone and call, from Pisa to the mountains in the north.
My cousin answers: “Where are you?”
“Take the next train and come up for dinner!” he says,
“I will.” I say.
“We’ll wait for you.” he says.
I hitch a ride back to the villa with the driver of a Ford, who is obliging but laconic.
“The party isn’t always without me.” I say. “One weekend a famous artist stayed, and he and his friend decided to continue the party in my bedroom, when everyone else was asleep.” He listens.
“They weren’t taking no for an answer, so I played along for a bit, then told them they could pleasure each other and walked out of the room.” He listens.
“They had this little dog, a yappy chihuahua. The following night they smeared its shit on my bed. When I awoke, I put my sheets into the wash before going to wake the children. It turned out my boss had been sleeping with the artist’s girlfriend.”
“Is this the place?” he says, pulling up outside the iron gates.
I use the intercom, and the caretakers, an old Italian couple, come and let me in.
“Go and pack your suitcase!” they say, “The mother can look after her own children. It will give her something to do.”
As they drive me to the station they say:
“We have never seen such behaviour. These people, who are renting the villa and are staying in bed until four in the afternoon, while we are taking care of the house and they are taking the drugs. They are taking the piss!”
From Sondrio station, I take a coach to Torre Santa Maria where my mother was born. Wheeling the suitcase up the winding road, I breathe in the Acacia air. Adults and children sit together around a table on the terrazza eating, everyone is talking at the same time in their usual singsong way. My cousin hands me a bowl of pizzoccheri – its cheese still stringy, buttery, with crispy sage. I sit down and play my part.
Kim French is a movement practitioner and writer. Originally trained in dance and physical theatre, she lived in Dublin for ten years, spent a long time travelling and working all over the world, and now lives in London writing short fiction, flash fiction, poetry and plays, and looking after children.