[Saturday, September 27, 2014]
Where Friday had started cold and wet,
Saturday dawned warm and sunny.
Duraturo procured a handsome van
from the compound's motor pool,
and everyone piled into it for
a day rambling around town
looking at possible houses.
The town sprawled along
the coastline to maximize
the number of people who
could enjoy a sea view.
It didn't go very deep into
the countryside, though,
giving other people views
of the surrounding farms.
Cuoio wasn't terribly picky
about the location, as long as
it wasn't too far from the compound.
He cared more about finding a home
in which he could feel comfortable
and take good care of his people.
"This is the first house," Chiara said,
bounding out of the van. Pomarola
followed at a more sedate pace,
pink dress fluttering in the breeze.
Then Cuoio and the other men got out.
"This place is huge," Cuoio said as
he stared up at the manor house.
It had a walkout basement of
stone walls, above which rose
three stories of white stucco
with terracotta tiled roofs. It was
so big that it filled most of the lot.
"I know," said Chiara. "You'd
have lots of growing room here.
We would share the penthouse
above the common areas, and
there are six other apartments
for the rest of your staff."
They walked through it,
with Pomarola pointing out
the vast closets and Duraturo
praising the defensibility of
its thick outside walls.
"It's old," said Ahar, trailing
his hand along one wall.
"It has good bones."
"There's enough space
for a patch room here,"
Cuoio shook his head.
"It's too big," he said.
"We'd rattle around in it
like pebbles in a pail."
"How about I move this
to the bottom of the list,"
Chiara said. "It's not
untenable, but not ideal."
"Fair enough," said Cuoio.
They traveled to the next house,
which was actually closer to
the compound but would
point them toward the others
after they had explored it.
"Oh, I like it," Cuoio exclaimed
as he scrambled out of the van.
It looked very much like a larger version
of his current villa, creamy stucco topped
with terracotta tiles, its front flanked by
a wraparound porch and pergola.
"This is much greener," Salvo said.
"Look, the container garden has herbs."
Cuoio looked. He could identify basil,
at least, and there was a trailing rosemary.
The yard wasn't big, but it was very nice.
"The shade is lovely," said Ahar,
and Cuoio had to agree with him.
The main floor had a living room,
dining room, kitchen, powder room,
and an office in the back part.
"There's a rec room downstairs,"
said Duraturo. "It's not fancy, but we
could dress it up a bit. It has plenty
of room for me to add a wine rack."
They trooped upstairs to find
two medium-size bedrooms
and a third smaller one that
used to be a nursery.
"That would work great
for a bodyguard, because it's
connected to another bedroom,"
Salvo said as he peeked at it.
The bedrooms all shared
a common bathroom, which
had privacy barriers so that
several people could use it
at the same time without
getting in each other's way.
"It's too small," Chiara said.
"What?" Cuoio yelped. "This is
three times the size of my cottage!"
"There aren't even enough bedrooms
for everyone, boss," she pointed out.
"Do not worry about me," Ahar said.
"I have no fondness for living in
big fancy houses. For now, I
have a room in the compound,
but I'm looking for something
small and private to rent."
"Ask about outbuildings
in the countryside, then,"
said Duraturo. "Some of
ours are centuries old,
very popular with guests."
"Or you could get a guesthouse
in town," Pomarola added. "Some
of those are old enough to have been
carriage houses, once. Others were
built for gardeners or other staff."
"I will ask about both," said Ahar.
"Thank you for the suggestions."
"That doesn't help with this house,"
said Chiara. "We might fit everyone
into it now, but there's no growing room."
"But I really like it," Cuoio repeated.
"It don't blame you. It's beautiful,"
Chiara said. "It's just not ideal
for your needs. There isn't even
any kind of recreational space on
the main floor, and not everyone
could get down the stairs, boss."
Cuoio sighed. "Good point.
I hadn't thought of that one."
"It's my job to consider
Chiara said. "We'll find
something that works."
"Can we keep this on the list
if we don't find anything better?"
Cuoio asked her wistfully.
"We can, if you don't mind
the fact that you might have
to move again in a year
or two," Chiara said.
"I'd rather not, but it's
an option," Cuoio said.
"Put this one ahead of
the first house we saw."
So Chiara made the notes,
and they drove to the next house.
This one lay just outside the town, and
it was the farthest from the compound.
The scenery was beautiful, hills rolling
with green and brown brush between
the gray-green squares of olive groves
and the brighter emerald of citrus orchards.
They stopped at a 3-story farmhouse
surrounded by vineyards, olive trees,
and scrubland. The house was white
with the familiar terracotta tiles.
"This is in the middle of nowhere,"
Cuoio protested. "I'd love to have
a big yard, but this is ridiculous."
"It's a working farm," Duraturo said,
casting a covetous eye over the grapes.
Ahar was right beside him, petting them.
"If there's a basement, I could even do
a bit of homebrewing down there."
They got out and explored the place.
The grounds really were gorgeous,
but far more than Cuoio needed.
The four bedrooms upstairs were
bigger than the last place, though.
"Look, it has a dovecote on the roof
with a teleport pad!" Chiara exclaimed.
"That's a point in favor," Salvo said.
"I really don't want to live this far out,"
Cuoio said. "Besides, will my guests
want to drive all the way out here?"
"Mmm, possibly not," Chiara said,
frowning. "That's a downside.
I'll cross this one off the list."
"We still have one more,"
Pomarola said hopefully.
"I hope it's closer to town
than this one," Cuoio said.
"It is," Duraturo said as they
got back into the van. "The road
curves around here, and it loops
back toward the compound."
"The house we're looking for
is actually right on the edge of
town," Chiara said. "Beyond it
the farms start, but there are also
supposed to be some greenspaces
held in common by the neighborhood."
"That sounds interesting," Cuoio said.
"Is that one?" Pomarola said, pointing
at a dirt road between rows of trees.
"According to the map, yes, that's
a citrus orchard," said Chiara. "It
has oranges, lemons, limes, chinotto,
and bergamot among other things."
"That's a big yard," Salvo said as he
stared at rows of grapes and pole beans.
"It's not a yard, it's a community garden,"
Chiara said. "They grow a variety
of fruits and vegetables there."
"How does that even work, if it's
not anyone's yard?" Cuoio wondered.
"Residents of the neighborhood can
either pay a fee or work a certain number
of hours in order to enjoy them," Chiara said.
"Oh, that's nice," Salvo and Pomarola chorused.
"It would be good to grow things again," said Ahar.
"In my last village, I herded sheep, but I think
I am tired of doing that sort of work for now."
Cuoio wondered why such a good fighter
would be tending sheep instead, but
he kept his mouth shut about it.
"Here we are," said Duraturo.
The last house had a wide green lawn
in front of it, dotted with slender trees.
The building itself was newer than
the others, red brick and blond stucco,
with roof tiles matching the stucco parts.
The entrance was a deep notch
flanked by square columns.
"That's ... interesting," Cuoio said.
"The large yard is definitely a plus."
"It's almost empty, though," said Ahar.
"You have seen nothing yet,"
Chiara said smugly. "This is
the only house with a private pool."
She pointed to a line of trees and
shrubs, which almost obscured
the neighbor's house beyond.
Through the leaves they could
just glimpse a twinkle of blue.
Everyone promptly crowded
against the hedge row to peek in.
The pool was large and irregular,
with several boulders to make it look
more natural. One sculpted lump
had a slide and a waterfall in it.
"Ooo," they all chorused.
Then Cuoio shook himself.
"All right, let's not get hypnotized
by the pool. There are pools
at the compound. We need
to look inside the house."
So Chiara opened the door
and ushered them into the foyer.
A vaulted ceiling made everything
seem open and airy inside, plus it
reminded Cuoio of his cottage.
"The walkout basement is
down here," Chiara said as
she let them to the stairs.
This basement not only had
a huge rec room with couches
and a wet bar, it also included
a bedroom, a full bathroom,
and an exercise room.
Miniature murals lined
the walls in several places,
and there were odd little tables
built right underneath them.
"Look, a wine room!"
flinging the door wide.
Cuoio looked inside.
The stone room was
almost entirely lined
with racks for bottles.
"What in the world would
I do with that?" he said.
Duraturo threw an arm
around his shoulders
and said, "Don't think of it
as your wine cellar. Think
of it as my wine cellar."
"Now it seems much less
like a waste of space,"
Cuoio said with a laugh.
"Look around the room,
boss," said Duraturo.
"This is a tasting parlor."
Cuoio looked. Suddenly
he could see how convenient
it would be to throw a party and
serve wine. There was the bar
and the weird wall tables and
the coffee tables by the couches.
"Yeah, that fits," he agreed.
"There's more," Chiara said.
She touched a subtle symbol
and just like that, a door opened
in what had been a smooth wall.
"This was the only house that
came with a safe room in it."
The safe room wasn't much
to look at -- just a bathroom,
a kitchenette, a couch and
viewscreen, six stacked bunks,
and a ton of storage shelves.
It would be proof against
almost everything, though,
so for that Cuoio liked it.
They went back upstairs.
The dining room had cabinets of
carved wood, antiqued to look older,
and a table that could seat eight.
"This expands," Chiara said,
tracing a hairline crack in the table.
"It should seat ten or twelve with
the extra leaves put in place."
Just beyond that, the breakfast room
held a smaller table with five chairs.
Its glass doors led to an enclosed porch
whose scruffy concrete floor made
Cuoio wrinkle his nose. "Really?"
"You see a shabby floor, I see
a blank canvas just waiting for
a mosaic," Chiara explained.
"Someone probably used this as
a potting shed before," said Salvo.
They moved on to the game room,
which had a billiards table and
a poker table, plus another bar.
"Entertainment on the main floor,"
Cuoio murmured. "I like this room."
The kitchen was huge, with an island
for extra workspace that made Chiara
and Duraturo grin at each other.
"See how the island creates
a flow path around it?" Chiara said.
"We won't trip over people here."
If it sent them into a cooking frenzy,
Cuoio would gladly eat the results.
The great room had a brick fireplace
bracketed by windows with windowseats
that somehow made it both cozy and bright.
The master bedroom was enormous,
with a king-size bed for the boss and
a hide-a-bed loveseat for the bodyguard,
wood and glass doors leading to the office.
The bathroom was extravagant, with
two big walk-in closets, two vanities,
a separate bathtub and shower,
and a toilet in its own cubicle.
It was literally the size of a bedroom.
Cuoio walked back through to
the office, strolling around it.
"I like that this house has
the office in front," he said.
"The other one I liked had
the office in back, private."
Ahar nodded. "I have seen
this arrangement all over
North Africa and around
the Mediterranean," he said.
"It works very well for a boss
who does Business at home."
"I can see that," Cuoio agreed.
The office had a second door
that let out by the grand staircase,
so they all trooped upstairs.
There were two bedrooms
up here, separated by
a common bathroom,
windows looking out
the back of the house.
Unlike the other rooms,
these were unfurnished,
waiting for new occupants.
"Well, that's a bit awkward,"
Cuoio said. "I suppose I can
budget for furniture here, since
the rest of the house is furnished."
"I actually have a bedroom set,"
said Pomarola. "Bed, dresser, and
wardrobe along with an Oriental rug."
"That sounds nice," Cuoio said.
"I take it that's not from ...
your previous room?"
"No, this stuff has been in
storage for years," she said.
"I bought it for myself when I
began working as a comare,
because I wanted a nice place
to come home to between contracts."
"Well, let me know if you need
anything else," Cuoio said.
"Duraturo, what about you?"
The older man shrugged. "I'm
not picky about furniture," he said.
"I'll just choose something from
the resource rooms later."
"That's a good idea," Cuoio said.
He loved the fact that the Family,
despite being rich, never threw away
anything usable, but instead put it
into storage for anyone to take.
Poking around a bit more,
they discovered that a door in
Pomarola's bedroom lead into
a partially finished attic.
"Wow, this place is huge,"
Cuoio said, staring at it.
"It's meant as a bonus room
when it's finished," said Chiara.
"Well, there's your growing room,"
Cuoio remarked. "You could fit
a whole apartment in here,
maybe even two of them."
"Not if it goes through
Salvo said, frowning.
"I see two solutions,"
said Pomarola. "One,
make that bedroom into
a lounge. Two, build
a wall to create a hall --
that room's big enough
it won't miss a few feet."
"So we could have
more living space, or
recreation space, maybe
even a library," Chiara said.
"It's unfinished," Cuoio said.
"It could be whatever we want,
or happen to need at the time."
"I like the flexibility," Chiara agreed.
"Meanwhile, it's a good place to be
alone, to be quiet, if that's what
someone needs," Ahar said.
"We might put down a rug,
some cushions, an altar ..."
"Pomarola gets the key,"
Cuoio said firmly. "Right now,
the only access is in her room."
"Yes, of course," Ahar said.
"The near half goes over
the kitchen and dining area;
the far half is over the garages,"
Salvo said thoughtfully. "Could
we punch a new staircase?"
"A spiral staircase, sure,"
said Chiara. "A long one ...
maybe, I'm not an expert."
"What are we going to do
with a whole second garage,
anyway?" said Pomarola.
"Workshop," Chiara said
at the same time the men
chorused, "Weapons storage."
"No reason it can't be both, those
overlap anyway," Salvo said.
They filed back through what
would be Pomarola's room.
Ahar stopped to look out
the window. "Nice yard,"
he said. "Shall we go out?"
Cuoio peeked out and saw
a roil of green and brown.
"I'd like to see that," he said.
So they all went downstairs
to take a closer look at it.
Behind the house lay
a small patch of lawn with
several small trees and
various potted plants.
A cobblestone path led to
a private garden inside, and
beyond that, a larger area
of variegated scrubland.
It looked out over the farms
and olive groves that bordered
their little seaside town.
In the distance, they could
see small dots moving around
the farm that bordered the yard.
"Are those ... cows?" Cuoio said,
frowning. He didn't think that
cows moved quite like that.
"No, goats," Ahar said, smiling.
"Oh, I wonder if they sell fresh milk,"
Chiara said, "or yogurt, or cheese ..."
"We could ask," Cuoio said.
"I like all of those things."
The goat dots milled around
one of several small buildings
that lay between the yard and
a big barn painted in fading red.
"I wonder if any of those places
are for rent," Ahar murmured.
"Walk over and ask," Cuoio said,
pointing. "See, there's a path.
People must be neighborly."
There had been steps from
the neighbor's house to
the swimming pool, too.
"So you're settled on
this property, then?"
Chiara asked him.
"Yes," said Cuoio. "I
wasn't sure at first, but
it has many advantages,
and it's growing on me."
This was real. He was
actually going to do this.
He had a solid team now,
and freedom to choose more.
He had earned a promotion
and now he needed a house
that could support his new role.
It was all a bit overwhelming.
He had chosen a new house,
with a truly wonderful yard.
Cuoio hadn't expected
the rejoicing of the heart
that came with the decision.
"I'm glad," Chiara said.
They went back inside,
and Cuoio couldn't resist
another peek at what
would be his bedroom.
He trailed a hand along
the carved foot of the bed,
then the loveseat that would
fold out for Salvo to sleep on.
In the compound, that had
neither been possible nor
necessary, but some things
would need to change when
they set up house here.
"You don't mind giving up
a little privacy?" Salvo asked,
laying a hand on Cuoio's shoulder.
"Noi non potemo avere perfetta vita
senza amici," Cuoio said with a smile.
We cannot have a perfect life without friends.
"I have everything that I need right here."
* * *
This poem is long, so its notes appear separately.