There she stood on the quayside dark, beguiling and achingly beautiful
(The poster with this extract was a merit winner in the 2009 Power of Fiction competition.)
|Image: All Rights Reserved|
|London : Hodder & Stoughton|
When Fitz had gone Thomas walked unsteadily to his desk. He put down his glass and stubbed out his cigar, then he opened the drawer where he had placed the scroll. He picked it up and ran his thumb over the paper, deliberating what to do next. So many years had gone by and, little by little, those years had changed him, so that now he barely remembered the young man he had been when he had first lost his heart: carefree, insouciant, audacious. Like a caterpillar he had shed his skin but emerged a moth when once, if things had been different, he might have emerged a butterfly. He was aware of what he had become and yet he had been powerless, or perhaps unwilling, to change. It was easier to build a shell and hide in it.
He sank back into the chair and opened the scroll. The sight of Valentina’s face caused his heart to stumble and he took a sharp intake of breath. He could feel her. His eyes began to mist and he blinked to clear them. What unrestrained beauty. What mystery. His head swam as the recollections burst forth after such a long incarceration. He closed his eyes and pictured her smiling face. How beguiling that smile had been. And those dark eyes that hid so much. Eyes that drew a man in with an enchantment not of this world. As the tears ran down his face he knew that she still hadn’t let him go. Alba’s torch had illuminated the dark space in his heart that he had shut down and, yes, it was still as devoted as it had been. Then that familiar scent wafted in again. At first it was barely perceptible but, as he traced the sketch with his eyes, he began to discern that sweet smell of figs, now enveloping him in a miasma of memories. Then a light shone through the mist and there, she stood, on the quayside dark, beguiling and achingly beautiful… Valentina Fiorelli, la bella donna d’Incantellaria…
Extract from the book Last Voyage of the Valentina
By Santa Montefiore
All Rights Reserved
London : Hodder & Stoughton, 2005.
Call Number: English MON
Extract contributed by Teo Wen Yih, St. Margaret’s Secondary School
Available at NLB
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