Both Sides Now…
In a class I took last semester we were asked to write a story that takes place in a different country (and we weren’t allowed to say the name) with a protagonist who lost something. I wrote “What She Lost” and it eventually took second place in the SNHU Fall Fiction Competition. In that piece I wanted to play with the idea of losing as gaining. If you’ve read the story you now my protagonist Clementine loses her wedding rings, but gains something – a realization. The final project for that class was to re-write the story from a different perspective, and I found that to be a very interesting exercise – to explore the feelings of the other character. I’m going to include the rewrite below, so you can read “What She Lost” from Tommaso’s perspective as well. (If you haven’t yet read “What She Lost” you can follow the link above to find it.)
I think that Tommaso is a far more empathetic character than Clementine, and his realization likely more painful – even though the action of the story is hers, the stakes feel higher for him. I think his version is better. What do you think?
What He Lost…
Tommaso couldn’t sleep when she was here. His heart beat too fast at the proximity of hers. His eyes wouldn’t close; they wanted too badly to gaze upon her. He lay next to her in the cocoon of blankets and sheets, savoring the scent of her skin on his. The first courageous rays of sunrise beat back the night and snuck through the window illuminating the dark lashes fanned across her freckled cheeks. He took one last whiff of her hair and slipped from bed and into the kitchen to start the espresso.
Clementine, an American, had no love for the ceremony of the espresso. Heating the water and pressing the grounds bored her. She had a Keurig machine at her flat, whatever that was, where she pressed a lever and the foul brown water poured out. She claimed it was just as good while biting her lip and looking off to the right. Tommaso couldn’t help that his eyes automatically narrowed and his lips turned down at the thought. His espresso was far superior, and it was only one of the reasons she liked sleeping here better. He smiled as he waved the rich scent toward the bedroom with a tea towel.
She was stirring; her moans and sighs made the skin on his chest tighten. Her dark curls were visible in the half light splayed against his pillow. He lifted the bottom of the duvet and slid beneath. He cradled her foot in his hand, and skimmed his fingertips up her shin and down her calf. He kissed her perfect toes, the shiny red polish slick against his teeth. His thumb traced the arch of her foot. “Tommaso…” she sighed.
“Wake up, Piccola.” His lips blazed a lazy trail up the tender flesh of her thigh. “I’m hungry.”
Clementine was extraordinary at convincing him to come back to bed.
“I’m awake now,” she said after, pulling his body to surround hers.
“Come watch the sun rise across the piazza. I love the look on your face as you watch that little dog of Signor Mangone’s eat his breakfast,” he said.
Tommaso opened the French doors to the balcony and the light from the rising sun turned the violet room to lavender. Clementine sighed. She picked up his shirt from the floor and pulled it on, fastening just enough buttons to make him crazy. He walked over to the bed and pulled her to him. His mouth met hers with all the passion and history of his people combined in a single kiss. “I thought you wanted me out of bed?” she asked, winking. He took her left hand and raised it to his lips kissing her palm and the inside of her wrist before tucking her hand beneath his arm and leading her to the balcony.
He poured the coffee, distracted by how the white cotton of his shirt pulled across her curves, how the buttons barely contained her. Tommaso opened the paper, and spread it across the table so he could read and watch her out of the corner of his eye. Clementine sipped her espresso and kept her eye open for Signor Mangone’s cucciolo as the piazza simmered to life. First came the shuffle of shopkeepers, and then the clink of dishes from the café. The sweet scent of pipe smoke wafted up to the balcony as the old men escaped their wives for a half hour to pick up the cornetto for breakfast.
“Oh, there’s my little boyfriend,” she said, moving to the rail to watch the little toasted marshmallow wiggle his way across the cobbled courtyard.
Tommaso snorted and put down the paper. “See, Piccola?
He smiled as she ruined the rolled r.
“Oh, he is gone for another week. I don’t know how my heart will survive. I will have to drown my sorrows in coffee and pastry.”
“That too. I’ll go get breakfast.”
“You know I love you.”
He did. Despite all the obstacles, he’d worked to make her his, and last night at the Ponte Milvio his heart had burst with happiness as the lock clicked and she’d thrown the key into the Tevere.
Clementine returned to the balcony with a loaded tray and was pushing the spare sections of his paper out of the way with her left hand when glassware and pastry exploded at their feet. A lone fork skittered across the tile and teetered on the edge of the balcony before gravity stole it and it fell three stories to the piazza below. Tommaso jumped out of his seat. A blob of amarena jam globbed on the top of his foot.
“I’ve lost my ring.”
He’d never seen her like this before. She was strong, confident, the kind of woman who was always in control. He would call her cold before emotional, but he could see her eyes glistening, and her face had lost its rosy glow. One time he’d gone swimming at night off the back of a friend’s boat. He’d had a little too much wine and jumped in. He hadn’t realized that once he was in the water the dark sky and the lack of gravity would make finding the surface impossible. He now felt that same flood of panic he’d felt then rising in his chest. He needed to remain calm. He could fix this if he kept his head.
“When did you last see it?” he asked.
She looked down at her hand. “I, I had it in the bath last evening. I remember I saw it when I was shaving my legs.” She took a deep breath. “I had it at dinner, you remember that ridiculous waiter? When he spilled the wine and I went to the bathroom to wash up I remember taking it off to put on some of the moisturizer the attendant offered. The cream was lovely, orange and coriander I think-”
“Oh! That’s easy, we’ll go back to the restaurant when it opens, they’ll have it-”
“No, I remember putting it back on.” Clementine looked wobbly, he held her arm and lowered her to a chair. Her face in her hands she whispered: “it’s in the Tevere.”
“Are you sure?” He knelt beside her; his hands on the outside of her thighs.
“When we were at Ponte Milvio. We closed the lock. Then I threw the key in… I’m sure of it.”
She was here, with him. He didn’t understand why she was so upset about a circle of gold. “Why are you so undone, Clementine?”
“It’s my wedding ring.”
“I’m aware. But I’d hoped…Now that… I didn’t realize it meant so much to you.” His eyes searched hers. His chest collapsed under the pressure of disappointment. The lines between his brows faded, but the corners of his mouth turned down. He stepped away; his eyes on the floor. “You’ll have to ask your husband to replace it then.”