He came early in the morning today, much earlier than the opening time of Panificio da Marietti, the famous bakery cum restaurant in San Vito. He was tensed, concerned about the unknown denouement of his fate. Rosella had to almost run from her first floor bedroom as he kept pressing the doorbell.
‘Are you sure signora Marietti that Alba will say yes to me after tasting the love cookie?’ He asked Rosella impatiently, without waiting for her to completely open the door.
‘The love cookies never fail.’ Rosella chimed; her voice was sweet and composed. She noticed that his chest was heaving heavily indicating that he came running all the way. She signaled the giovane, the young man, to come in the lounge, ‘You, all maschi, are same. Men are known to be impatient.’ She started arranging the antique rosewood chairs, which were kept upside down with their seats laid on the tables’ surface. She looked back at the young man, who was still standing at the door and looking unsure. She said, ‘Come inside. It will not take more than an hour or so. It should be prepared freshly. After all, you don’t propose a girl every day.’ She smiled and asked, ‘By the way what’s your name and what time do you plan to bring your girl here? Have you given the ring? I don’t remember having it.’
‘I told you yesterday. I am Santino and my girlfriend is Alba,’ replied the young man as he carefully took out a golden ring from his pocket and gave to Rosella. He continued speaking as he stepped in and now was helping her in arranging the tables, ‘I invited her here for the morning coffee at nine. She lived in Bresso and would be crossing whole Milan to reach San Vito.’
‘Good. I shall reserve that table, over there, near the window which opens in the garden.’ She said, pointing a table near the window at the far end of the lounge.
Santino went to the window which was covered by red and white silk curtains. He gently opened the curtains. He had to close his hazel eyes instantly as the morning sun rays flashed. After a few seconds when his eyes adjusted to the light he was ravished by the beautiful view of the garden, which was full of the carefully nurtured roses. There was a small marble fountain in the center of the rose garden. Tiny water streams were flowing out of it. The sunlight was streaking the tiny streams with gold and all the colors of a rainbow.
‘Paradiso! It’s heaven. She will like it.’ He exclaimed.
Rosella clearly noticed his satisfaction through his happy face. She said, ‘When the love cookie is served, you open the curtain and propose her,’ she paused for a moment to see the reaction of Santino who was still mesmerized by the heavenly view of the garden. She smiled on his state, as she came closer to him, and continued, ‘and then the climax will follow.’
‘Oh, Signora Marietti! You are as beautiful as these roses. I love you.’ Santino said as he gently held Rosella’s right hand and kissed on it.
It was her first kiss. A shiver ran through Rosella Corsentino; she had never felt something like this until now in her last sixteen years. Although she was dying for it, she did not expect it on the very same day on her sixteenth birthday.
‘Oh, Rosa! You are as beautiful as these roses. I love you.’ Ambrogino Marietti murmured as he finished kissing her lips and was now softly nibbling on her earlobe.
She blushed. He paused to see her expression. He liked her pink face. He upheld her chin in his hand and kissed her lips again, this time more passionately. Within no time Rosella felt his tongue deep inside her mouth. Not letting her lips uncover from his, he lifted Rosella in his arms and slowly walked toward the garage, at the corner of the garden.
Since then, it had become routine for Rosella Corsentino and Ambrogino Marietti. Every Sunday after the morning service in church Santa Maria Maggiore, Rosella came to Panificio da Marietti to learn how to make cookies and her training session ended by making love with her trainer in the garage. Ambrogino, who always compared beauty of Rosella to that of the roses in the garden, never forgot to present the most beautiful rose to his lover after their love session.
‘Gino,’ she said as she turned to Ambrogino, who was still trying to control his breaths after their lovemaking in a hot summer afternoon.
‘Uh?’ Ambrogino sighed lazily as he gently stroked her cheek.
‘You are the best baker in the whole Milano,’ Rosella’s smile was breathtaking.
‘…and you have the best body in the whole Italia.’ Ambrogino hands were becoming uncontrollable. Rosella blushed and hid her face in the broad white chest of Ambrogino. The fragrance of her blonde hairs was sweeter than that of the roses of the garden. He bent forward and kissed her head. Very slowly he pulled her up and kissed her forehead, bringing her closer to his body.
‘Sei proprio un bambino cattivo! You are really very naughty! Do you have anything better to do than this?’ She scolded Ambrogino in an unsuccessful attempt and softly pushed him.
He smiled as he rolled and rested on his back, pulling her completely on him. He, by his fingers, carefully placed a stray lock of her blonde hair behind her ear. Suddenly his grip became tighter as he pulled her face down, ‘I am sure you like it too, Rosa.’ He said and before Rosella could reply him, her lips were locked by his once again. That afternoon Ambrogino presented two roses – one red and one pink – to Rosella.
It had been more than six years since Rosella first came to Panificio da Marietti. She was now 22 years old fully grown pretty woman. The love between her and her trainer was however as fresh as the roses in the garden of the bakery. After her high school, she started working full time in the bakery. Within no time she was better backer than her lover master. People even from Milan came to Marietti bakery to buy cookies made by her. Ambrogino was happy man, both for having a beautiful and faithful lover Rosella and for finding his business expanding much beyond a small village of San Vito.
‘Let me try this today while you sit at the counter.’ Ambrogino said in her ear as he kissed on her cheek.
‘What’s special today my Maestro?’ Rosella asked giving his way, her hands still flouring for the next batch of cookies.
‘You will know soon, Rosa,’ said Ambrogino as he pushed her aside and took her place.
Rosella smiled and walked to the counter, ‘so I shall taste the authentic Marietti’s cookies after a long gap.’
Ambrogino turned to reply her but just smiled and soon became busy in his work. He had too many things to complete. After all, he was going to propose Rosella that day.
‘Bon sang! Rosa, what are you doing here so early in the morning? Doctor has told you to take rest.’ Christophe, an elderly black French, said in a scolding voice as he entered the lounge. His voice suddenly broke as he spotted handsome Santino who was standing next to Rosella and who now had turned to see the source of the voice in the serene atmosphere. Christophe scanned him from head to toe. His expert eyes easily gauged the excitement on Santino’s face. He understood why Rosella was standing in the lounge with the young man. He knew that Rosella preferred to arrange everything by herself when a guy chose the bakery to propose a girl. It was said that every love or marriage proposal made in the bakery was successful. That was why the bakery had been trending among the young love couples as a place to propose for the marriage.
Christophe now turned to Rosella and said, this time his voice was softer, ‘Oh, ma chère dame! How dutiful you are, my dear lady! I know you always prepare for the love cookies by yourself for the proposal days but in your current situation I can’t allow you to take the risk of stressing yourself against the doctor’s advice.’ Christophe had to stop as he saw the young man becoming restless.
‘Signora Marietti! You never told that you were not well. I would have scheduled it some other day.’ The young man said, His excitement was fading fast. He looked at his wristwatch to read the time and murmured, ‘Oh, it’s already over half past seven. Alba would have already started.’ He then asked Rosella nervously, ‘shall I call her to cancel the appointment?’
‘No, my young boy,’ Christophe replied, ‘every part of this place retains the aura of Gino’s and Rosa’s immortal love. Let her come. You wouldn’t be disappointed by your choice of the place to propose her. Alberto, the young baker from Pistoia, and I will take good care of you and your girl. This time also, as it happens every time, the magic will happen.’ He turned to the kitchen and called his assistant baker loudly, ‘Alberto! Alberto!!’ He asked Rosella, ‘Hasn’t he come yet?’
Before Rosella could answer, Santino interfered, ‘and the love cookie?’ His voice wavered as he mumbled, ‘I heard that its recipe is special and it should be prepared only by Signora Marietti.’
‘Boy, as I told you, don’t worry and leave the rest on us. I have been making the cookies,’ he immediately corrected himself as he saw Santino looking at him in disbelieve, ‘… I mean assisting Marietti family in making the love cookies, for more than fifty years. Now you go and bring the girl here on time. When you will come here, everything will be more than you could wish for.’ Christophe said and strode to the kitchen, ‘Oh god! Don’t know when Rosa will trust me and inform me such booking in advance. Now I have so many tasks to complete for the love cookie; moreover in less than an hour and half.’ He was audible even when he disappeared in the kitchen.
Rosella smiled and turned to the young man who was standing bewildered. She said, ‘Don’t worry. Gino has never failed. He is the best baker in whole Milano. He and I shall do whatever we can do to make your day.’
‘You said Signore Marietti?’ Santino was surprised. His friend who suggested this place for the proposal had told him Marietti’s love story. Santino knew that Ambrogino Marietti died in a freaking accident, a year later after marrying to Rosella Corsentino.
She ignored the reaction of the young man. In fact, she was lost somewhere, ‘Uh? Did you say something? Sorry, I forgot your name. And I guess, you are here to propose your girl. Aren’t you?’
‘Santino. My girlfriend, Alba, is on the way to San Vito. She will reach here at nine, and yes, I need your help to propose her.’ Santino replies. He was looking confused.
‘She will definitely say yes to you. I am sure she won’t find such a handsome man anywhere in the Italia.’ Rosa said as she pushed herself hard to remember the name of the young man and his girlfriend.
‘Grazie,’ Santino held the old lady hand in his both hands, ‘thank you. I trust you Signora Marietti.’ He knew that it was too late for any alternative.
Rosella came at the door to see the young man off. After crossing the portico, Santino turned to her and smiled nervously. But Rosella was too busy in her thought to look at the young man. She was looking at the garage in the rose garden.
Rosella came near the kitchen’s door and stealthily tried to see Ambrogino who had almost prepared the dough for the cookie. He opened her big wooden box in which she kept all the roses given by him after their love sessions. He picked a dried rose and carefully crushed its petals mixing the pulverized pieces in the dough.
‘Rosa, why don’t you go for a walk in the garden while I bake them?’ He said, without letting his effort to become any less in his work.
Rosella was surprised but then she quickly realized that her lover did not have to see her to find her presence. She went to him and rested her head on his broad shoulder as she stood beside him, ‘So this is your secret recipe for the famous, delicious cookies of San Vito!’ she closed her eyes to enjoy the scent of masculinity emanating from Ambrogino’s sweating body, ‘I never knew that you mixed our love roses in the dough.’
He turned and gently kissed her rosy cheek and said, ‘Yes, I do. But these cookies are the special ones, and you will know it very soon. Now go to the garden and wait for me in the garage. I shall join you once I put them in the oven.’ He smiled.
That afternoon, when they finished their love session, Ambrogino ran to the bakery and brought a tray which had one recently baked cookie in a porcelain plate. There was also a pink rose in the tray. He said in a romantic voice as he approached Rosella, ‘La mia bella Donna! Oh my beautiful girl, now may I request you to taste this cookie and make me accomplished.’
Rosella picked the cookie from the plate and brought it closer to her mouth. The warm, sweet aroma of the freshly baked cookie mixed with the scent of hundreds of the roses around her was permeating her brain and made her to forget everything. She could hardly see anything. Her eyes were closed as she opened her mouth and put the cookie between her teeth.
‘Wait!’ A sudden sound broke the entrenched magical spell. She opened her eyes to see young Christophe running towards them, ‘Wait Rosa. Don’t eat it.’ He stopped to control his bated breath and murmured in Ambrogino’s ear, ‘Désolé! Sorry but you picked the wrong cookie.’
Although Christophe tried his best to keep his voice as low as possible, he could be heard in the whole garden. Rosella, however, could not hear what Christophe was saying. She was totally bewitched by the taste of the special cookie prepared by her lover.
‘Oh no! You are late Chris!’ Sighed Ambrogino as he watched Rosella who was taking another bite of the cookie.
She was beautiful. Accentuated in a cherry red silky skirt and pink top, she appeared to Rosella as one of the roses that Ambrogino gave her. Rosella came near to old Christophe and held his arm.
She said, ‘They will make a nice pair, same as Gino and I do. Isn’t it Chris?’
‘Indeed, my beautiful lady.’ Christophe said.
Now young Alberto also joined Rosella and Christophe at the counter and was watching with them the young couple who was sitting at the table far end of the lounge. It was half past nine. No other customer was there in the lounge. It was Sunday and typically people of San Vito came to Panificio da Marietti after morning service in the Church that usually went until ten.
Santino was nervous and looking to the counter every now and then. His eyes had lots of hope when he saw the old Rosella Marietti slowly moving towards his table. She was holding a tray that had one recently baked love cookie in a porcelain plate. There was also a pink rose in the tray. Moment Rosella kept the tray on the table the young man opened the curtain of the window. No one surprised when Alba was lost in the stunning beauty of the garden.
‘Paradiso! It’s beautiful!’ She exclaimed.
Santino smiled as he looked into Rosella’s eyes.
‘Why don’t you offer the Gino’s love cookie to bella ragazza? I am sure the beautiful girl will like it.’ Rosella offered the tray to the young man.
The warm, sweet aroma of the freshly baked cookie was too tempting for Alba to wait for any formal offer from her companion. She picked the cookie and took the first bite.
‘The ring is in this cookie.’ Rosella heard the young Christophe who took out a cookie from his coat pocket and handed it over to Ambrogino. A golden ring shone in the sunlight as Ambrogino broke the cookie carefully by his fingers.
‘Oh my god! I can’t believe this!!’ Alba said as she held the shining golden ring which she found when she broke the cookie.
‘Rosa! My first and only love!! I promise to be with you, forever. I want you to grow old in Panificio da Marietti and make sweet cookies for the patrons of our bakery even when I am not there. This bakery and I will never be complete without you. Will you accept to be my wife until the eternity?’
‘Say yes my beautiful lady!’ The young Christophe pleaded as Rosa was still taking time to believe the reality.
‘Come on! Say yes young girl!’ The old Christophe murmured standing at the counter.
Alba was still shocked. She was taking time to believe the reality. Santino, who was sitting on his knees on the wooden floor and offering Alba the pink rose which he was holding in his both hands, was becoming nervous.
‘Chris, Gino picked the wrong cookie. Why don’t you give him the right one?’ Rosella called loudly for Christophe.
‘It’s the right one, Rosa.’ Christopher answered, ‘Look, the ring is right there in her fingers.’ His eyes brimmed with tears. He turned to Alberto and murmured, ‘Alzheimer erased all her memory but the day Gino proposed her.’
‘Yes! yes!! yes!!!,’ said Alba as she took the rose from the Santino and spread her right hand to him. Santino gently slid the ring in her slender finger.
‘She said yes. Signora Marietti, Alba said yes.’ The young man hugged Rosella and gently planted a kiss on her cheek.
‘Yes,’ said Rosella as she took the rose from Ambrogino and spread her right hand to him. Ambrogino gently slid the ring in her slender finger. Ambrogino hugged Rosella and kissed her passionately.
Rosella touched her wrinkled cheek to feel the wetness of Ambrogino’s lips. Alberto and Christophe with teary eyes clapped as the young pair hugged and kissed each other.