But there was a problem. I was living with Dani and had been for over three years. Now the relationship had the sour aftertaste of too many rows, of too many things said that could not be taken back. I was to move out after Christmas, so we had agreed weeks before I met Michela, but Dani was determined that my moving out was only to be a new phase in the relationship, a chance for us to regroup and rethink, while I knew in my heart that it was the end. It was the jealousy, you see, the snarls I would get even for smiling at another woman, the snooping in my computer's files, the searching out of any detail that might smell of treachery. I felt trapped, and the greener her eyes became the more I was repelled.
Michela knew this, for I hid nothing of it from her, and the holding hands became hugs, and many sweet words of care. She had an ex herself, whom she saw occasionally, but only as friends, she assured me; the spark between them had died, and she was going to Canada to see an old girlfriend; to clear her mind. She wrote me a note, but I cannot think now why she did that when we saw each other twice a week. I only know there was a note posted to me, with kisses, warm and beautiful, and that I wrote her one too, typed and printed on my PC.
And so we came to the last lesson, the day before she was to go away. I took the bus, the metro and a bottle of wine to Michaela's. The weather was grey that morning, with clouds gathering in the North and a warning wind. We had our lesson, and then we cooked together, that lunchtime, agreeing that the ONLY way to cook pasta was to put the salt in the water just as it came to the boil, and then plunge the fusilli straight in. As we ate she lit a candle, and put Mozart on the player, his gentle genius filling the mood, amplifying it. After the wine we had grappa, the best grappa from the Veneto, her home, and we sat on cushions on the floor, talking, laughing loudly, holding quiet hands.
The city was muffled; the air expired that afternoon as a huge storm rolled in from the mountains. If you have ever seen a Milan storm, then you will know what it was like - its rage a boiling bruise against a fleshy sky. It came in fury, and words were stilled as we stared, for the rain came, and a clap of thunder so loud that alarms went off all over the city. We stood and walked over to the window, my arm round her. The wind thrashed and moaned; the noise of the rain was a savage tattoo, and a mist hung in the air. Below us we could see frantic scurrying: the busy pavements emptied as people huddled in doorways.
That initial fury lasted perhaps ten minutes, although I cannot say for sure. I know we drew closer together as rain lashed the window. I know her breath was on my neck as the rain suddenly eased; the sky became bright behind the clouds, and then, in a moment of inevitable perfection, we kissed, trembling at first we kissed, and of all the kisses of my life I remember that one most, for as we kissed, a moment of supreme Joy: the unseen sun lit up behind the clouds, crowning them, and every raindrop became a mass of colour that danced riotously, beautifully, until we were no longer in this world but one brighter: a world where the rain falls in happy colours. I cried, I could not help it, did not want to help it, and our hands held tighter as Time's chime reverberated, holding, holding, holding until it could no more, and we returned to the day.