This is a story of circumstance, a whim of destiny that altered a life. Rachel and her friend Marion had decided in February to vacation in Italy the following July. Not in August; in August they would find no one but American schoolteachers in Italy, no Italians in August, and since they were American schoolteachers themselves, the prospect of staring at more American teachers during their vacation was thoroughly unappealing. No, they would travel to Italy in July, roam up and down the boot in a rented car for three weeks, and have a glorious time. Marion had an interest in history, Rachel had an interest in art, and they would have a lovely vacation.
They were both unmarried, Rachel thirty-two and Marion thirty- four, both slender women with a certain reserve due to their small-town childhoods, and they had been close friends ever since they'd met in college. They lived apart, but they were constantly together. They had planned their teaching careers together, and the fact that they taught in the same middle school a few hours from New York was not an accident -- they had planned it that way. They were careful planners, and they planned their trip to Italy most carefully, compared prices, tours, itineraries, worked diligently with maps, guidebooks, travel books, and phrase books, and paid their fees and fares well in advance to insure the best arrangements possible. Everything was planned down to the last detail, and then two days before they were scheduled to fly out of New York to Rome, Marion came down with the mumps and their plans dribbled down the drain of an indifferent Fate.
"You must go alone," Marion said on the telephone, her words bracketed by groans about how difficult it was to swallow anything.
"I can't go alone," Rachel said.
"But you must. You just can't throw everything away. It's not just the money. It's all that planning we did.
"I don't want to go alone. I'll be lonely. I don't want to wander around Italy on my own."
"Rachel, you must go."
Marion had the stronger personality, and she finally convinced Rachel that it would be silly not to go, that Rachel needed this trip, that Rachel would find it an adventure to be on her own in sunny Italy, that she would have a lovely time.
Two days later, Rachel boarded an Alitalia flight at Kennedy Airport and flew to Rome while reading a guidebook on the frescoes of Firenze.
* * *
Rachel did not rent a car, she traveled by bus and train. She did Rome, Milan, back to Florence, and then finally down to Naples. This was not her first trip to Italy, but this time she had three weeks and not three days, time enough to begin a love affair with one of the most beautiful places on the planet. But that is not our story. Our story begins on the ferry back from Capri, seventeen days after Rachel landed in Rome, the ferry docking in Naples and Rachel now feeling a degree of mental exhaustion, a surfeit of the beauty and the marvels of Italia, a bit of homesickness and a growing burden of loneliness. She wished fervently that Marion were there, there would be so much to talk about, so many things to enjoy together.
It was now three in the afternoon, and Rachel went straight to her hotel in the Via Chiaia. She had a shower to get rid of the sweat and heat of the day. She put on a cool yellow dress and a pair of brown sandals. At first she thought she might just sit in the cool hotel lobby awhile and read a newspaper, but that proved too boring, and she decided to walk up Via Chiaia and Via Toledo and have a lemonade in that lovely galleria she had visited only yesterday.
Fate, my darlings, a momentary whim. Of course the pattern of a life is more or less already writ, but sometimes the hand of destiny is needed to shake the cloth and make the pattern visible.
It was now five o'clock, the end of the afternoon siesta, and the Neapolitans were back in the streets. Rachel continued walking. She was now in the Via Toledo. She decided she adored Naples, the Neapolitans, the streets, the smells, the faces of the people. She found the women especially beautiful, although the average woman of Naples seemed shorter than the women of Rome or Milan. Finally she entered the cool interior of the galleria. She went directly to the cafe at the center of the cross, selected a table, sat down, ordered a lemonade and reveled in a feeling of serenity. This was nice indeed.
After ten minutes or so, as Rachel sipped her lemonade through a straw, two women sat down at a nearby table. They were obviously Italian, both in their forties, and Rachel thought they were extremely beautiful. They were tall, elegantly dressed, both with dark hair and flashing dark eyes, and they looked as though they might be sisters. Were they sisters? One of the women glanced at Rachel, and Rachel quickly looked away. Had she blushed? She hated getting caught looking at women. Sometimes she thought Marion knew her secret, guessed her secret desires, her yearnings. Unsatisfied yearnings.
Rachel had known for years that she was a lesbian, but so far she'd had only one experience with another woman, during her last year in college, and it hadn't been with Marion. That affair was the only secret that Rachel had ever kept from Marion, who hadn't even known the girl, Rachel's lover during a weekend when Marion visited her family in Ohio. Sometimes Rachel wondered if Marion had her own similar secret. Were they both lesbians and too afraid to admit it to each other? Rachel often thought so. What a farce it was. Rachel prayed that someday she would be brave enough to reveal all to Marion, who was really the only person in her life about whom she cared, the only person in her life who knew her inside out. Or at least partially inside out.
Meanwhile, when Rachel glanced at the two Italian women again, she realized they were both staring at her. Boldly staring. Now Rachel did blush. She felt the heat in her face. And then one of the women rose and left her table and walked over to Rachel.
Paralyzed with uncertainty, Rachel waited. The woman was so beautiful, she could hardly look at her.
When the woman reached Rachel's table, she stopped and looked down at Rachel and said in English: "Are you English?"
"No, I'm American."
"Yes, of course. You have such an interesting face. Won't you sit with us?"
* * *
Rachel learned they were not sisters but friends. The one who had approached Rachel was called Beatrice and the other woman was Maria. Beatrice spoke a fluent English, while Maria knew much less English and often had to depend on Beatrice for a translation. They ordered Rachel a new glass of lemonade and they began to question her about her travels, her life in America, her family, what she thought of Italy, and so on. When they learned Rachel was unmarried and traveling alone, the two women glanced at each other and seemed delighted.
Well, what does that mean? Rachel thought. She did not mind all the questions; Beatrice and Maria were so beautiful, she would allow them anything. And anyway she was happy to talk to someone. She had passed too many days in solitude. She learned the women lived together in a place called Mergellina at the north end of Naples. Beatrice was evidently an artist, while Maria earned a living translating philosophical monographs from French into Italian. Rachel wondered if the women were more than friends. The idea that they might be more than friends made Rachel a bit frightened, but she did her best to calm herself. You're stupid, Rachel thought. She did not need to be overwhelmed if they were more than friends.
They talked of museums. "Oh, you must see the archeological museum," Beatrice said. "They have nothing like that in Rome. We'll take you there tomorrow, if you like. Oh dear, you do have such an interesting face. Will you let me paint you? Come home with us. Maria will cook something extravagant and we'll have some wine. It's boring to be alone, isn't it?"
* * *
A few hours later they had an exquisite chicken dinner cooked by Maria, and Rachel had enough red wine to bring a flush to her face. The two women lived in a large flat overlooking a tiny harbor filled with fishing boats. Rachel loved the place. She loved the stories they told her, stories of Naples and Pompeii and Ischia and Capri. She loved these women. And they seemed to enjoy hearing everything she told them about America. After dinner, dusk having now settled over the Bay of Naples, they sat in a large square sitting room, Beatrice and Rachel beside each other on a sofa, Maria in a chair facing them. They were all quite drunk on red wine, and when Beatrice leaned toward Rachel and kissed Rachel's mouth, Rachel simply closed her eyes and accepted it. She wanted it. I do want it, she thought. She felt herself trembling as Beatrice gently stroked her breast through her blouse.
Then Beatrice pulled back from the kiss and said: "Which of us do you like more?"
"I like both of you," Rachel said. "You're both so beautiful."
Beatrice smiled. "Really? That's wonderful. But Maria is much prettier, isn't she?" And Beatrice turned to Maria and said something in Italian and Maria began unbuttoning her silk blouse.
Maria's fingers moved slowly. She'd had as much wine as the others, and as she sat there in a chair facing Rachel, her face glowed. Maria had long graceful fingers and each button received individual and careful attention. Finally the buttons were undone, and with her eyes fixed on Rachel, she slowly pulled the blouse free of her skirt and removed it. Then she removed her white brassiere and she held her full breasts in her hands as if offering them to Rachel.
Beatrice smiled at Rachel and said: "Isn't she pretty? What do you think?"
* * *
The windows in the dimly lit bedroom were wide open to a warm breeze from the sea. The bed was enormous, a huge thing with a red velvet canopy and mahogany posts. They were all naked, Rachel extended on the bed as the two women made love to her. Rachel lay with her eyes closed and quivered with each new touch of a hand or lips. She did not want to look, not yet. She felt lips kissing her belly, hands stroking her breasts. Then she groaned as someone started sucking one of her nipples. Her thighs were gently moved apart, her flank stroked. She could smell their perfume, a strange scent that reminded her of tropical flowers. She moaned as she felt someone licking her sex. The tongue probed her cunt, then tickled her clitoris. Finally Rachel opened her eyes and looked and found Beatrice kissing her breasts while Maria licked between her legs.
Beatrice stopped kissing Rachel's breasts and smiled at her. "What would you like, little one? Have you been with women before?"
Rachel shook her head. "No, not really."
"Wonderful, then we'll teach you everything."
Beatrice said something to Maria in Italian, and Maria immediately stopped kissing Rachel's sex and slid forward to kiss Beatrice's breasts. Maria, it seemed, did anything Beatrice wanted her to do. For the first time, Rachel look closely at the women's bodies. Maria's breasts and hips were larger than those of Beatrice. Beatrice had a shaved pubis, while Maria had dark hair covering her sex. Fascinated and excited to an extreme, Rachel watched as Beatrice lay back and raised and opened her legs to make her sex available to Maria's mouth.
Bending forward, Maria licked Beatrice's sex as Beatrice held her knees back to her breasts with her hands. When Beatrice looked at Rachel, the older woman said: "Fondle her, darling. Fondle her while she sucks me."
Rachel moved closer to Maria. She reached out and stroked Maria's back. Well, don't be silly, Rachel thought. They want you to do it. She slid her hand past Maria's waist and onto the rounds of Maria's buttocks. Such a long time had passed since Rachel had touched another woman's ass. Rachel ran her right palm over each smooth buttock as she slid her left hand under Maria's torso to find Maria's breasts. Maria's tits hung like ripe fruit, the nipples stiff under Rachel's fingers.
Beatrice muttered something in Italian, and when Rachel looked more closely, she saw that Maria was now tonguing Beatrice's anus. Rachel thought that was so hot, she almost came just watching it. In her ass, in her ass. Oh, that's lovely. Beatrice groaned as Maria sucked at the dark little ring of muscle.
Finally Beatrice came like that, Maria's tongue in her ass and Maria's nose pushing inside her cunt while Beatrice rubbed her own clitoris with her fingers. Beatrice's orgasm shook the bed. Rachel watched it all with the middle finger of right hand dipping in her vagina.
When Beatrice opened her eyes, she looked at Rachel and smiled. "Come here, darling. Come here and sit on my face."
* * *
When Rachel returned home, that fortuitous interlude in Naples had made her a different person. Marion, now recovered from her bout with the mumps, saw it immediately.
"Oh, something happened," Marion said. "You must tell me."
Rachel teased her. "Maybe I won't."
"I'll strangle you."
"I'll tell you if you'll kiss me."
"Yes, kiss me. A real kiss, not just a peck on the cheek."
Marion blushed, but she did what Rachel wanted, she kissed Rachel's mouth. And as she did so, Rachel passed her hand over Marion's breasts, found a nipple and pinched it through Marion's blouse.
Her mouth slipping away from Rachel's, Marion said: "Oh my."
"Do you like it?"
"Sleep with me tonight. I want to fuck you."
Marion closed her eyes and visibly shuddered. "I've been wanting that for years. If you only knew."
Rachel laughed. "I do know. Come on, we'll have some wine and I'll tell you all about Italy."