The silk kaftan billowed against her bronzed skin before Blanche pulled it over her head and let it flutter to the ground, landing on the terracotta tiles in a rippled heap of muted colour. She smiled at her painted toes gripping the edge of the wooden diving board, the one she and her sister had begged Giovanni to build over the pool the previous summer.
She paused, bent her knees and bounced once, twice before springing and folding into an elegant arc. She pierced the water and swam near the dolphins which decorated the bottom, emerging at the far end of the pool. She hung her arms on the smooth, warm concrete which edged the pool allowing her lower body to sway gently. As the water drained from her skin and briefly darkened the stone before evaporating, movement caught her attention. Her two year old nephew was thwacking snails with a toy truck. Snails always appeared around the pool following a rain shower.
‘Vi my lovely, what did the snail do to you?’
‘It made my space gooey. Cattiva lumina!’ His pout returned as he gave it one last bash for good measure.
‘He’s not a bad snail Vi! He’s just come out to find food and drink. We mustn’t kill animals. He hasn’t hurt you has he now?’
Giovanni hovered nearby, talking on the phone which had the longest coil of phonewire Blanche had ever seen. Giovanni had known someone who knew someone who had provided the special telephone cable. There was nothing he could not source.
Ingrid appeared in the pagoda which bridged the back of the house from the pool area and placed a lunch tray on the table. As she watched Ingrid arrange items on the table she allowed the chinking of glass and clatter of cutlery to sooth her the throbbing at the back of her head. Sounds of daily life at the Tuscan vineyard with the family she loved more than anything.
On closer inspection the table top appeared shiny. Aluminium where it should be teak, and the cutlery had morphed into surgical implements. A nurse stood in Blanche’s line of vision, obscuring her view of lngrid. She closed her eyes and turned her head away, preferring to watch the sunlight dance on the surface ripples. She watched aghast as her forearms slid down the edge and her shoulders felt the cool cover of water. Her fingers were the last of her to feel the Italian breeze. An exhaustion wrapped itself around her and although she always swam under water, this time the sinking sensation was accompanied by no urgency to return to the surface. Perhaps a little sleep on the bottom, next to the dolphins she coveted….