Back in France…
Leonardo has prepared a surprise for his conquest. He has invited Shasta to share an early supper in the old castle ruins on the island of St Louis.
Leonardo is impatiently waiting, checking everything over and over again. He should know by now that Shasta is always late. Finally he can hear the sound of the boat arriving. He grabs the flowers and waits for her to appear…
Shasta wonders what Leonardo is up to this time, asking her to dress up and sending a taxiboat for her…
She follows a trail of rose petals from the quay towards the old castle ruins. Leonardo is so romantic. When she raises her eyes, she can see him waiting on the makeshift landing with a huge bouquet of pure white flowers.
‘Thank you, Leonardo. These are my favorites.’ Shasta buries her nose in the white lilies, and inhales deeply.
She sneezes, feeling her eyes watering.
‘Scratch the flowers!’ He grabs the bouquet and throws it over the landing. Shasta rushes forward just to see the beautiful flowers scattered on the ground.
‘È impossibile! I can’t do this with you sneezing and crying.’
He takes her hand. ‘Shasta… Cara mia… Ever since the first time I saw you, I’ve been waiting for this moment… Hai cambiato la mia vita per il meglio. (You have changed my life for the better.) Il sole shines brighter, gli uccelli – the bird’s song is more beautiful and I see il mundo in a whole new light because of you…’
Suddenly he bends down on one knee in front of her. ‘Ti amo, cara. To be able to spend the rest of my life with you gives me something to look forward to day after day.’
Shasta can feel herself go ice-cold and then start sweating… What is this? Is he…? No. It can’t be. We’ve only known each other for a couple of weeks.
She watches him fumble with a blue box. A blue jewelry box. A blue jewelry box. Blue as in… She squints to see better… Shasta freezes, Ohmygod! A Boucheron box!!!
She is petrified but mentally she’s doing cartwheels and clapping her hands. He must surely hear her heart beat like a drum in her chest?
Hesitantly Leonardo opens the box. He draws his breath, scrutinizing her face, waiting for Shasta’s reaction to the enormous diamond.
‘Cara… Vuoi sposarmi?’
She gasps, blinded by the beautiful, sparkling, expensive ring.
Leonardo clears his throat, repeating the question, ‘Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?’
Hypnotized by the stunning jewel, she reaches out without a word and lets Leonardo slip it on her finger.
It’s a perfect fit. It looks like it belongs on her hand and Shasta knows she will never, NEVER, take it off…
She can’t take her eyes of it.
God it’s beautiful!
Leonardo waits patiently, still on his knees.
What is he doing? Oh, an answer… an answer…
‘Yes. Si! YES!’
Leonardo is relieved. For a moment he thought he’d misjudged her feelings for him…
Wasn’t it for the ring, he might have…
‘Carina, mi amore…’
As if on cue, music fills the air. An orchestra on the ground floor plays a romantic Italian tune…
‘Vuoi ballare?’ (Would you like to dance?)
‘Sei bella… sei bellissima… Ti amo…’ His softspoken words are like caresses.
Shasta abandons herself in Leonardo’s arms to the music and his expert dancing.
And that is where we leave them…
Part I – End of Chapter 09