/ Language: English / Genre:love_contemporary,

Every Boys Got One

Meg Cabot

To: Jane Harris Fr: Claire Harris Re: You Hi, honey! It's me, Mom. I know it's a big secret that your friend Holly and her boyfriend Mark are eloping in Italy, and that you and Mark's friend Cal Langdon (the handsome New York Journal reporter with the big book deal) are going, too, as their witnesses. But I just saw Holly's mother at the Kroger Sav-On, and I thought I'd warn you: She doesn't seem to like Mark very much at all. Just wanted to let you know. PS I don't understand why you don't like that nice Cal Langdon! He seemed so smart when I saw him being interviewed on Charlie Rose. And so handsome! PPS Don't forget to wear a sweater! Cartoonist Jane Harris is delighted by the prospect of her first-ever trip to Europe. But it's hate at first sight for Jane and Cal Langdon, and neither is too happy at the prospect of sharing a villa with one another for a week—not even in the beautiful and picturesque Marches countryside. But when Holly and Mark's wedding plans hit a major snag that only Jane and Cal can repair, the two find themselves having to put aside their mutual dislike for one another in order to get their best friends on the road to wedded bliss—and end up on a road themselves ... one neither of them ever expected.

Every Boy's Got One

Meg Cabot

For Benjamin

Many thanks to Beth Adler,

Ingo Arndt, Jennifer Brown,

John Henry Dreyfuss,

Benjamin Egnatz, Carrie, Feron,

Michele Jaffe, Laura Langlie,

and Greg and Sophia Travis

THANKS

BEGIN READING

___________________________________________

Alitalia Boarding Pass

Passenger Name Frequent Flyer Number

Langdon, Cal E17H616

From: Flight Class Date Departs

NYC-JFK 1516 K 13Sept 626PM

To: Gate Boarding Time Seat

ROMA-Fiumacino 30 550PM 21D

GROUP 4

___________________________________________

___________________________________________

Alitalia Boarding Pass

Passenger Name Frequent Flyer Number

Harris, Jane ---

From: Flight Class Date Departs

NYC-JFK 1516 K 13Sept 626PM

To: Gate Boarding Time Seat

ROMA-Fiumacino 30 550PM 21C

GROUP 4

___________________________________________

John F. Kennedy International Airport

--Duty Free--

Reg #06 Tran#8971

Cshr#0084 Str#2411

1 New Republic Mag $2.99

1 AA Batteries $1.59

Subtotal $3.88

Total $

Payment Credit Card

C Langdon**** **** *** **** Exp 2/08

March 25 3:59PM

Thank you for shopping JFK Duty Free

Enjoy your flight!

John F. Kennedy International Airport

--Duty Free--

Reg #06 Tran#8972

Cshr#0084 Str#2411

1 Gift PK Toblerone $9.99

1 Dramamine $2.29

1 Earplugs $0.79

1 Advil $2.29

1 Us Weekly Mag $1.99

1 Bottled Water $1.29

1 Bottled Water $1.29

1 Bottled Water $1.29

1 Bottled Water $1.29

1 Bottled Water $1.29

1 Travel Diary $12.95

Subtotal

Total

Payment Credit Card

W Harris **** **** *** **** Exp 3/08

March 25 4:02PM

Thank you for shopping JFK Duty Free

Enjoy your flight!

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

On Their Elopement

Composed by Jane Harris, Witness

aka Maid of Honor

aka Holly's best friend since first grade and roommate since freshman year at

Parsons School of Design

Dear Holly and Mark,

Surprise!

I know neither one of you would bother to keep a record of your elopement, so I’ve decided to do it for you! This way, when you’re approaching your twentieth anniversary and your oldest kid has just wrecked the Volvo and your youngest has just come home from her cushy Westchester private school with head lice and the dog’s thrown up all over the living room rug and, Holly, you’re asking yourself why you ever moved out of the righteous East Village pad we shared for so long, and, Mark, you’re wishing you’d stayed in resident housing down at St. Vincents, you can open this diary and go, “Oh, so THAT’s why we got married.”

Because you two are the grooviest couple I know, and totally belong together, and I think eloping to Italy is a BRILLIANT idea, even if you did steal it from Kate Mackenzie in Human Resources.

The eloping part, I mean. Not the Italy part.

But she HAD to elope. I mean, with in-laws like hers? What CHOICE did she have?

But you two are doing it for the pure romance of the thing—not because you HAVE to, because both your families are perfectly respectable.

Well, I guess there is that teensy religion thing with your moms.

But whatever! They’ll get over it.

Anyway, that’s what makes your elopement so special.

And I plan to record every detail of that special-ness, starting now, before we even get on the plane. Before I even meet you guys at the gate. Which, by the way, where ARE you, anyway? I mean, we were supposed to get here three hours before our departure time. You know that, don’t you? I mean, it says that right on the ticket.For international travel, please arrive no later than three hours prior to departure time.

So. Where are you guys?

I suppose I could email you on my new BLACKBERRY, but as you keep reminding me, Holly, it’s for WORK PURPOSES ONLY, which is the only reason the IT guys let you have them (thanks for mine, by the way. I mean, it’s nice of Tim and those guys to think of me, even though I don’t exactly work there anymore).

God, I hope nothing happened to you. I mean, on the way. People drive like maniacs on the expressway.

Wait—you didn’t change your minds, did you? About getting married? You can’t. That would be awful! Just AWFUL! I mean, you two are so perfect for each other… not to mention, it would be totally unfair to cancel on me. My first trip to Europe, and my travel companions ditch me? As it is, I can’t even believe I’m really doing it. Why did I wait so long? Who turns thirty without having been outside the continental United States at least once in her life? No Paris with French class in the 11th grade. No “Cabo” for Spring Break in college. What’s wrong with me, anyway? Why am I such a non-transcontinental flying freak?

And okay, seriously, what is with the guy with the cell phone over there? I mean, he’s cute and everything. But why is he yelling? We’re going to Italy, dude. Italy! So chill.

Okay, ignore the guy on the cell phone. IGNORE THE GUY ON THE CELL PHONE. I can’t believe I’m wasting the first pages of your travel diary on him. Who cares about him? I’M GOING TO EUROPE!

I mean, WE’RE going to Europe.

I think. If you two aren’t lying in the twisted wreckage of your taxi to the airport on the Long Island Expressway.

Let’s just assume you were running a little late this morning and that you aren’t dead.

Thank God you two are making me do this. You and Mark, I mean, Holly. I’m finally crossing the Atlantic, and for what better REASON? God, it’s so romantic—

(Oh, wait, that’s the same guy who was in front of me at the duty free! The one who was rolling his eyes because I bought all those bottles of Aquafina. Obviously he hasn’t read this month’s Shape . They say air travel is very dehydrating, and that you should drink half your body weight in water during the course of your flight if you want to avoid jet lag.)

And okay, they have water on the plane and all, but is it good water? I mean, as good as Aquafina? Probably not. I saw this thing on Ask Asa on Channel 4 where they sent the water from a plane to a lab and it was filled with all these microbes! And okay, it was the water from the tap in the plane bathroom, and no one would really drink that, but still.

Not that MY mom and dad wouldn’t kill me if I did what you’re doing, Holly. Elope, I mean. And to ITALY, of all places.

But it’s just so totally you, Holly. God, you’re lucky. Mark is so… grounded. And Mark, I know I give you a hard time about being such a sci-fi geek and all, but seriously, if I could meet a guy as—

(Oh my God! Cell Phone Guy just practically threw his phone at one of those little carts with the old people in it! The one taking them to their gate! And just because the guy driving it made that backing-up-truck sound to warn him he was in the way. God, what’s go this panties in such a bunch? Although he hardly looks like a panty-wearing type of guy. Jockeys, more likely. Or maybe boxers.

Oh, no. How can I give this diary to Holly and Mark if it’s full of musings about some random guy’s underwear????

NOW what am I going to give them? I can’t give them candlesticks or something. This is HOLLY. It has to be something SPECIAL.

Okay, well, one mention of underwear. You guys don’t mind, do you? I mean, it’s just underwear .)

Where was I? Oh yeah. Mark. So cute, in spite of the Star Trek Next Generation marathons he makes you watch, Holl. So responsible, with the whole doctor-and-health-column thing. Which reminds me, I need to ask him about this mole on my elbow. God, Holly’s so lucky, she can get her moles checked for free anytime she wants. Why can’t I find a boyfriend with a useful skill like that? All Malcolm can do is beat me at Vice City. And what good is that? Can a high score on Vice City save you from a life threatening carcinoma? No.

Okay, now I totally can’t give this to Holly and Mark.What is wrong with me ?

Cell Phone Guy just hung up on whoever it was he was talking to. I just heard him go, “That is inexcusable,” but that was all I could get because they’ve got CNN turned up so loud in here. Now he’s got out his Blackberry. He’s typing into it furiously. I will never be able to type that fast into mine.

But maybe that’s a good thing. Cell Phone Guy is a classic example of a Type A personality, as illustrated in last month’s Shape. I can practically SEE his blood pressure going up. I hope he doesn’t stroke out on the plane.

Although I wouldn’t mind giving him CPR.

Oh my God, I can’t believe I just wrote that.

But he is kind of cute. I mean, if you like the tall, rugged, sandy-haired, razor-stubbled-with-piercingblue-eyes-who-knows-how-to-use-a-Blackberry type.

Okay. Now I definitely won’t be able to give this to Holly and Mark as a wedding present.

Oh, wait, I can just rip out the pages with Cell Phone Guy comments. Or black them out with a Sharpie.

Or maybe I should just get Holly and Mark a nice silver frame from Tiffany’s instead. But that seems like kind of a lame present to get for someone who has held your hair back while you were throwing up tequila shooters as many times as Holly has for me.

Although of course I’ve done it for her often enough, most recently Friday night when the entire art department took her out for a bachelorette party. For two people who are supposed to be eloping, Mark and Holly told an AWFUL lot of people beforehand.

!!!! On CNN it says a plane is being held at the San Francisco airport under suspicion that a passenger aboard it has a highly contagious virus that they’re worried will spread worldwide!!!!

You know what this means:

I need more snacks for the plane.

Seriously, those people have been on board that plane for TWO HOURS with no food service. If I go two hours without eating, I get that weird thing where I can’t see out of one eye. And Toblerone won’t do it. I need something with protein. Like smoked almonds. And maybe some cheese popcorn. Which I bet they don’t even have in Italy. I better go back to the duty free and stock up, just in case….

e-mails

___________________________________________

To: Tara Samuels <tara.samuels@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Travel Services

Where is everybody? I’ve been calling for the past half hour, and nobody there is picking up. Does Travel get half days on Fridays through September, or something, while the rest of us slobs have to give them up on Labor Day?

I asked you guys to book this ticket a month ago, but I’m at the airport now and they claim I’m in coach, not business class.

In a middle seat . For as even-hour flight .

Freaking Frodo wouldn’t last for six hours in a seat that small. How is a six-foot-four, two-hundred-pound man supposed to do it?

Someone had better pull some strings or you’re going to have one very unhappy journalist on your hands.

C. Langdon

___________________________________________

To: Dolly Vargas<dolly.vargas@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Last night

Thanks for last night. However, I think moving in together might be a little precipitous. And I don’t think your husband would really appreciate it.

Let’s just keep things casual for now, and see how things go. Okay? I’m off to some podunk part of Italy no one’s ever heard of because Levine has some idiot idea he’s going to get married there, but I’ll be in touch when I get back in a week.

C.

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Tara Samuels <tara.samuels@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Travel Services

I’m SO sorry, Mr. Langdon, we were in a budget meeting, which is why no one picked up. I’ve been calling the airline ever since I got back, and they’re booked solid. I could get you in business class on another flight… but not until tomorrow. Would that be all right?

Again, I’m so sorry about the misunderstanding. I can’t imagine how you ended up in coach. We ALWAYS book you in business class, as you know. Except of course when the plane you’re taking is so small, there isn’t a business class. Which isn’t the case here. I can’t apologize enough, really. Could we upgrade you to a suite when you get to your hotel?

Tara

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Dolly Vargas <dolly.vargas@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Last night

There you are! I’ve only left ten messages on your cell phone. How COULD you have snuck out like that this morning, without even leaving a note?

And Peter and I aren’t married , sweetie. We have an understanding—the same one you and I have.

And of course I wasn’t asking you to move in permanently. Just offering you the spare guest room until you find a place of your own. I know how brutal the New York real-estate market can be.

Not that you’ll have any problems, the way sales are going for Sweeping Sands . In fact, the penthouse across from mine just went up for sale, a steal at two million. Interested? I could speak to the co-op board on your behalf….

In any case, darling, call me when you get back from Mark’s little elopement.

XXXOOO

Dolly

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

OK, I asked Cell Phone Guy to watch my stuff for a minute while I ran to buy snacks, and he was TOTALLY rude about it. He said, in this very snarky way, “I highly doubt anyone is going to steal your water , miss.”

!!!!!

Which wasn’t even what I was asking him to watch. My water, I mean. Clearly, I meant my BAG. I mean, the last thing I need is for the airport to blow up my stuff because I left it unattended.

Whatever. It’s just like Malcolm says. Some people just suck, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I should have known Cell Phone Guy was one of them. Especially the way he keeps banging at the keyboard of that Blackberry. He’s still at it. How can someone so anal retentive look so good in a pair of jeans? I don’t get it. I mean, evolutionarily speaking, his kind should have been wiped out a long time ago. Because who’d want to mate with someone with THAT kind of attitude?

OOOOOOH, I see Holly!!!! Holly and Mark are here, at last! YAY!

I wonder where Mark’s friend Cal is. The best man, I mean. We were all supposed to meet at the gate….

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where are you?

I’m at the gate. I don’t see you. You didn’t take my advice and cancel the thing at the last minute, did you?

Forget it, you’re not the leave-em-at-the-altar type.

So. Nervous yet? I’ve got the flask, don’t worry. We’re going to need it, too, there’s a real nut job on this flight. Apparently she thinks there’s a possibility we might crash land in the Sahara.

Hurry up and get here, I want to kiss the bride—

Oh, there you are.

Cal

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Oh my God.

Cell Phone Guy is Cal.Cal Langdon , Mark’s best buddy since elementary school, the one who’s been traveling all around the world for the Journal , writing about social unrest and economic instability for the past ten years. The one with the new book that’s just out—the one he supposedly got this huge advance for.

I wish I were on that plane that’s stuck in the San Francisco airport instead of on this one. I would rather have a deadly virus than have to spend a minute more in the company of Cal Langdon, aka Cell Phone Guy, aka Mark Levine’s Best Friend.

Oh, but guess what? HE’S SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO ME. That’s what he was so mad about before. He was calling Travel Services at the Journal , trying to get them to change his seat so he could sit in business class, or at least on the aisle, and not in the middle, like he is now.

Ha ha. Ha ha, Cal In the Middle. Hope you like bumping your elbow into mine every five seconds, Mr. IHighly-Doubt-Anyone-Is-Going-To-Steal-Your-Water,-Miss. Because I am SO not giving up my aisle seat. No way.

And don’t expect me to share my water with you, either. OR my Toblerone. Or my cheese popcorn. I don’t care how long we’re stuck on this runway, or what kind of virus might get into the ventilation system. You’re getting nada from me, mister.

I’m not telling Holly how much I hate her husband’s best man, though. I don’t want to spoil this special time for her.

I am so not going to be able to give them this travel diary as a wedding gift. Oh well. It’s probably just as well, since my handwriting is barely legible, thanks to the Armrest Nazi next to me. Excuse me, Mr. I’m- So-Big-I-Need-To-Take-Up-Your-Space-Too. Could you please move your stupid hairy arm with the stupid waterproof watch that tells the altitude and the exact time on all seven continents which I know you so need, being such a fancy world traveler who knows so much about foreign policy and things a poor little cartoonist like me couldn’t even begin to understand?

I’ll tell you one thing: if this is a setup, Holly is dead. I mean, I know she doesn’t like Malcolm, but could she seriously, even for one second, entertain the idea that I might like Mister Nothing-Comes-Between- Me-And-My-Blackberry here? Please! He asked me what I do for a living (he was so just making conversation because Holly and Mark are seated right behind us, and he didn’t want to look like the Uptight Anal Retentive Control Freak he really is in front of them), and when I said I was a cartoonist, he was like, “You’re kidding.”

Totally deadpan. You’re kidding.

And get this: he’s never heard of Wondercat.

Never. Heard. Of. Wonder. Cat.

He has to be lying. He writes for the paper in which Wondercat was born.

And OK, he’s abroad all the time, and you can’t get the Journal everywhere. But doesn’t he watch television ? He may have been gallivanting all around the world for the past decade, but excuse me, he’s back now, promoting his stupid book. Hasn’t he seen Wondercat’s commercial for energy saving products on New York One? Everyone watches New York One, if only to check the temperature.

My God. Who is this guy? And why does Mark even like him????

I think I’m going to have to have a word with Holly. Does she know what she’s getting herself into, marrying a man who’d be best friends with a guy who doesn’t watch TV????

e-mails

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: I’m going to kill you

What in hell is a Wondercat?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: I’m going to kill you

Excuse me. I don’t believe you are allowed to use these things on planes.

Mark

PS You didn’t tell her you didn’t know who Wondercat is, did you?

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: I’m going to kill you

You can’t use them while you’re in the air, according to the FAA— although I doubt the veracity of this, as I’ve left mine on plenty of times and none of my flights have ever plummeted into the sea because of it.

You can, however, still legally use them when you’re sitting uselessly on the tarmac while the air control tower guys are having a limbo contest, as they are apparently doing right now because I can see no other conceivable reason why we’re not being allowed to take off.

And yes, I did ask her what a Wondercat was. Is that why she is busy scribbling into the travel diary she bought at the duty free? Because I offended her so deeply with my lack of knowledge about her cat?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: I’m going to kill you

Yes. And stop emailing me, Holly keeps asking who I’m writing to. I told her it was the hospital, and now she’s mad that the hospital is emailing me when I’m supposed to be eloping.

Mark

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: I’m going to kill you

How would the hospital even know that, anyway? The word elope means to run away with a lover with the intention of wedding in secret. How secret is your wedding going to be if the hospital knows about it?

C

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: I’m going to kill you

I had to tell the hospital I was getting married.And the paper. They weren’t going to give the time off, or let me out of my column, otherwise. DON’T TELL Holly. She still thinks the only people who know what we’re really doing are the four of us.

And of course the entire art department at the New York Journal . But she doesn’t know that I know that.

Mark

PS Quit writing to me. I’m turning this thing off.

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: You Dog

Your secret’s safe with me.

But seriously. Is this girl one of those cat people? For the love of God please tell me I’m not going to be stuck in a middle seat in coach next to one of those cat people. She doesn’t carry around pictures of it in her wallet, does she? Her cat? Because I will suffer an aneurysm midair if that’s the case—

AT THIS TIME THE CAPTAIN HAS REQUESTED THAT ALL ELECTRONIC DEVICES BE TURNED OFF AND STOWED AWAY UNTIL WE HAVE REACHED CRUISING ALTITUDE

Notes Holly and Jane

What do you think of him?

Oh my God, Holly. What is this, the ninth grade? You’re passing me notes? On the PLANE????

Well, how else am I supposed to talk to you with the stupid food cart in the way? And they won’t let us turn on our Blackberries. Come on, hurry up, while he’s asleep. What do you think of him?

He’s not really asleep. He’s just faking it so he won’t have to talk to me. I know because he’s still playing armrest war with me. Every time I put my elbow on the armrest, he puts his there, too, to block mine.

You don’t like him?

Holly, he’s never heard of Wondercat!!!!

Janie, he’s been doing foreign correspondence for the past ten years. They don’t get family papers like the ones that run Wondercat in places like Kabul.

But you said he moved back to the US a couple of weeks ago—

And you think he should have spent those weeks catching up on YOUR comic, as opposed to, I don’t know, FINDING A PLACE TO LIVE???

Well. He also made fun of me for bringing so many bottles of water on board.

You do have kind of a lot.

Excuse me. Nine out of ten people found dead after getting lost in the desert actually have water left in their canteens, they were just so concerned about conserving it, they didn’t drink enough of it to survive. It’s true. I saw it on the Discovery Channel.

Okay, okay. But what do you think of him???? Do you like him? He’s cute, right? I told you he was cute.

He seems very… smart.

The Blackberry thing. I knew it. I told Mark to tell him to put that thing away. I know nothing freaks you out more than guys who are smarter than you.

I can’t believe you just wrote that. First of all, it’s not even true, and second of all, in no way is Cal smarter than me. I mean, yes, he has traveled all over the world covering news stories about grisly wars and Ebola outbreaks and has written a book and stuff, but that does not mean he is smarter than I am. I mean, can he draw a cat?

Besides which, I happen to like smart men.

Right. Like Malcolm.

Oh, that’s low, even for you. I will have you know that Malcolm can do a 360-degree spin in midair and not lose his board.

You have got to stop dating snowboarders and musicians, Jane. You’re 30 years old now. You’ve got to start thinking about the future, and date people who will actually stick around for a change, instead of going off to their next X-Game or gig.

Maybe I don’t WANT a boyfriend who sticks around. Have you ever thought about that?

Then why did you cry so much those first couple weeks after Malcolm moved out?

I just felt bad for The Dude. You know they’d bonded.

Yeah, well, there’s that, too. The Dude needs some stability in his life. He might not bite people as much if he had a positive male role model in his life. The same could be said of you. Plus, financially, you’d be much better off with a partner who actually has steady employment. As a freelancer, you are paying a premium for health insurance. If you married a guy who had his own insurance— through, say, the paper—that’d be a big chunk of change saved. Plus you’d have security. And a 401K.

This is pretty funny coming from a woman who once spent an entire month’s rent money on a pair of purple leather pants.

Hello. Can we talk about things that happened in this millennium, please?

Fine. You know what? It’s very unfair of you to throw all that stuff about 401Ks and all of that into my face, when you know perfectly well that I HAD all that when I was dating DAVE, and you saw how THAT turned out.

OK, well, I’ll admit walking in on your boyfriend in bed with your HR rep can be psychologically scarring. Especially considering it was Amy Jenkins. But you’ll recall that I ALWAYS told you it was never a good idea to date a foreigner. You can never tell when they’re lying.

Hello. Dave was BRITISH.

Yes, but that accent had us fooled. If he’d been from this country, we’d have known right away he was an HR rep—who re monger. But really, Janie, just because things didn’t work out with Dave is no reason  to start dating unemployed losers half his age—

Need I remind you that Malcolm is not unemployed? You know he got that big Winter Cal Games contract. That’s the only reason he left. I mean, he had to move up to Canada. For the snow.

And the fact that he was a chronic wake and baker had nothing to do with you ENCOURAGING him to move.

Well, at least he isn’t an anal-retentive control freak like SOME people who happen to be sitting next to me, HOGGING THE ARMREST.

Jane, your bedroom still smells like the inside of a bong.

It is so typical of you to bring this up at a sensitive time like this. After all, YOU’RE the bride. I’m only the bridesmaid. Or witness. Or whatever.

Well, other than the “smart” thing, what do you think of Cal? Do you like him?

I get fan mail from Wondercat readers in SRI LANKA, Holly. SRI LANKANS have heard of Wondercat. But not Mark’s friend Cal.

So? Have you ever read any of his articles on land-mines?

At least I know what a land mine is!!!!!!!!!

Just try to get along with him, will you? Because otherwise it’s going to be a really long trip.

No problem. Now stop writing to me, please, my food is here.

___________________________________________

Benvenuti in

(Welcome to)

Alitalia Inflight Menu

Durante il volo da New York a Roma verra servita la cena e, prima dell’ arrivo, la colazione. I piatta che gusterete sono stati preparati per voi. Buon appetito.

(During the flight from New York to Rome we will be serving dinner and then, prior to arrival, breakfast. The dishes on today’s menu have been specially prepared for you. Enjoy your meal.)

~~Cena~~

Farfalle al pomodoro pachino e foglie di basilico Rolle di tacchinella e broccoletti accompagnata da caponata de melanzane e patate

(Farfalle pasta shapes in a fresh pachino tomato and basil sauce Turkey roll with broccoli stuffing served with aubergine stew and potatoes)

Oppure

(Or)

Filetti de pescatrice con potage de zucchine e insalata Catalana

(Monk fish fillet with green zucchini potage and Catalan style salad)

Assortimento dei fromaggi, accompagnali da composte di frutta e cruditees Caffe “Espresso” e cioccolatini

(Cheese assortment accompanied by crudites and fresh fruit compote Italian “Espresso” coffee and chocolates)

___________________________________________

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Oh my God. The Italian food on the plane is better than the Italian takeout around the corner from my apartment. And I thought their insalata caprese was to die for.

The movie is starting. It’s the new Hugh Jackman! OH MY GOD, I HAVE DIED AND GONE TO HEAVEN! I AM GOING TO EUROPE WITH MY BEST FRIEND AND THEY ARE SHOWING A HUGH JACKMAN MOVIE ON THE PLANE.

If only the Armrest Nazi would MOVE HIS ELBOW.

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

As usual, the food on this flight is barely edible. And what passes for entertainment in this country these days is truly depressing. The in-flight movie appears to be yet another romantic comedy about a harried young career woman who finds love in a completely unexpected place. My traveling companion is watching it with rapt attention, as she swills from her many, many bottles of water. She is clearly envisioning herself in the role of the harried young career woman.

I think I can say with a certain amount of confidence that she is NOT picturing me in the role of the handsome young leading man. In fact, her marked lack of enthusiasm for me borders almost on the comical. She is taking great pains never to allow her elbow to touch mine on our mutual armrest, as if she fears she might contract some sort of deadly virus from doing so.

And all this, because I happened to remark on her rather remarkable penchant for bottled water.

Oh, and the Crazy Cat thing. Or Wondercat. How was I to know Wondercatis a comic strip, and that she is its creator? I haven’t read a comic since Mark and I were kids, and used to shell out 35 cents a week for the latest edition of Spider-Manat the Big Red Food Mart. I certainly have never made a habit of reading comic strips in the newspaper—not since I turned ten. The newspapers I choose to read don’t have comic strips in them.

Although I don’t suppose it would be politic to admit that, seeing as how the tome we all work for features two pages of comics daily—not to mention horoscopes and Dear Abby. In fact, now that I’ll be living in one place for an extended period of time, I suppose I’ll have to start subscribing. So I have that to look forward to. In addition to so many other joys I’ve missed while I’ve been living out of a bag, such as apartment hunting, buying various electronic devices like a toaster and stereo equipment, and waiting all day for the cable guy who promised to come between ten and two, and then didn’t show.

Ah! Domesticity! How I haven’t missed you!

But I suppose domesticity can have its benefits. Mark is happier than I’ve ever seen him. He seems almost to welcome the noose that awaits his neck at the end of this journey. Although I suppose when the noose looks like Holly…

And she does, I’ll admit, seem to think about topics outside of her nails and yoga and Must See TV, unlike most of the American women I’ve encountered lately. I even had an intelligent conversation with her last week about Gore Vidal.

But I had intelligent conversations with Valerie in the early days, as well.

And as for this friend of Holly’s… I don’t know. I suppose allowances must be made because she’s an artist.

But is cartooning really art? My mother would surely think so.

But Mom thinks the lint she picks from the dryer and hot-glues to clothespins is art. And sadly, she is supported in this belief by the art community of Tucson, where she’s lately set up a studio.

Still, though she may be an artist, Ms. Harris does have very shiny hair. It’s brown, like her eyes.

The tattoo of a cat head—Wondercat, I’m supposing—she wears just above her right ankle is somewhat off-putting, however. And her mouth never seems to stop moving. Now she’s telling the flight attendant how much she enjoyed the male lead’s last film, in which he played some kind of mutant.

This seat is so uncomfortable. I can just fit into it, if I don’t inhale.

Oh, well. I’ve slept in worse places. At least there aren’t any guerrillas hiding in nearby undergrowth, waiting for the opportunity to slit my throat. Or snakes.

God, I hate snakes.

So that’s something, anyway.

___________________________________________ 

Benvenuti in

(Welcome to)

Alitalia Inflight Menu

Colazione

(Breakfast)

Spremuta fresca di arancia

Omelette alle erbe fini con funghi, pomodori e bacon ala griglia

Assortimento di tieviti e pano tostate caldi

Caffe, te, latte

Freshly squeezed orange juice

Herb omelette accompanied with mushrooms, grilled cherry tomatoes, and bacon

Assortment of pastries and croissants

Coffee, tea, milk

___________________________________________

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Cell Phone Guy was right. There is plenty of water on board this flight. There’s also a lot of wine. Being drunk by the very loud group of people behind us. Who keep yelling to the flight attendant in Italian so I don’t know what they’re saying. But it doesn’t sound very nice.

I also don’t think it’s necessarily appropriate to drink wine with breakfast, which is what they just woke us all up to have. I would have preferred to sleep for the rest of the flight, since it seems like we just had dinner after all.

But they came around with the cart and asked us all if we wanted breakfast and that woke everybody up, and now we’re all cranky. But especially me because I fell asleep with my mascara still on and I guess it got kind of gunked up underneath the sleeping mask they gave us, and when the flight attendant woke me up to ask me if I wanted breakfast and I took off my sleeping mask, I still couldn’t see him because my eyelashes were all stuck together. And then he said, “Oh, no, I think not,” about me wanting breakfast in a kind of horrified voice.

So then I had to hurry to the bathroom to try to pick the chunks of mascara from my eyes before Cal could see it. Which he didn’t, thank God, because he was still asleep.

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that Cal woke up while I was gone, and I guess went to the other bathroom, where I suppose he brushed his teeth with the little kit they gave us just like I did, because his breath was minty fresh when he replied to the question I asked him, which I only asked him to be polite and make conversation, something I’ll be sure not to do again where he’s concerned.

Anyway, I asked him if he was excited about the wedding, he said, “Not exactly.”

Which is not especially something you want to hear from the best man of your best friend’s husband-to-be, in my opinion.

I have to admit I was so shocked I just sat there and stared at the thing on the wall that counts down the kms until we get to Roma (425). I couldn’t think what he meant by it.

It seemed to me that the only thing he could mean by it was that maybe he doesn’t like Holly or something, which is ridiculous because of course who doesn’t like Holly? She’s very kind and pretty and is the art director for a huge urban newspaper, which is a thankless job that doesn’t pay nearly as well as it should, considering the fact that she has to work with crazy cartoonists like me, not to mention all the other psychos at theJournal , like that Dolly Vargas from the Style section who is always on Holly’s back for not making the reds in the Valentine’s Day issue red enough.

Plus she completely adores Mark. So why wouldn’t Cal like her?

So I asked him—maybe a little defensively, I’ll admit, but hello, I’ve known Holly for years, and if it weren’t for her, Wondercat would never have seen the light of day, but would still be just a silly sketch in my notepad, and I still wouldn’t be able to pay my American Express bill every month—what he had against her, and he said, totally politely, “Oh, I haven’t got anything against Holly. I think Holly’s great and Mark’s lucky to have her. It’s just marriage I have a problem with.”

So then I realized he’s one of those monogamy-phobes.

So I told him about how lobsters mate for life, and if they can do it, why can’t we, and he looked at me sort of funny and said, “Yes, but they’re crustaceans.”

To which I replied that I knew that, but that lots of mammals mate for life as well, such as wolves and hawks (at least that’s what Rutger Hauer said in Lady Hawke , so I assume it’s true), and how I think it’s romantic and the way things should be.

And then Cal said, “If it’s so romantic, how come over fifty percent of marriages end in divorce? How come the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the US isn’t complications from childbirth but murder by their spouses?”

What can you even say to something like that?

I swear, if this guy starts spewing those little factoids of his about divorce and murder rates while Holly’s within hearing distance, I’ll kill him. KILL HIM. She’s got enough on her mind right now without hearing THAT kind of stuff… I mean, what with her mother and all.

Ack! We’re landing! In a few minutes, I’ll be on foreign soil, for the first time in my life! I’m sure the Armrest Nazi, being a seasoned world traveler, would think it’s stupid, but… I’m so excited!

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

I got it! My first stamp in my passport! It’s kind of smudgy and you can’t really read the date. But it’s THERE!

Though it TOOK long enough to get it. What is with the LINES in this place? I mean, seriously, do you think they could have opened more than one customs booth? There must have been three hundred people in line ahead of us. This NEVER would have happened in the US. I mean, Americans just would not have put up with it.

Still, it gave me a chance to look around and realize right away that my shoes are all wrong for this country. NO ONE here wears Steve Madden slides. NO ONE. The Italian women have slides, all right, but they have these wicked pointed toes and tiny little heels. Plus they are all wearing long pants, not jeans like Holly and I, and they have these cashmere scarves thrown casually over one shoulder even though according to the Weather Channel it’s going to be 24 degrees Celsius every day while we’re here, which is in the 80s. I think.

So what’s up with that?

Also, it was just SLIGHTLY disturbing when the Customs guy was all, “And where in Italy are you staying,” and I said, “Le Marche,” hoping I’d pronounced it right, and he made a face and went, “Why would you go THERE?”

Frankly, I do not believe that by offering me his opinion on my final destination that he was allowing me to pass without delay or hindrance into his country, as my passport says he has to.

Besides which, he’s wrong. Holly always said her uncle’s house was in the most beautiful section of Italy there is. And okay, according to my guidebook, Le Marche (also known as the Le Marche in English) isn’t that well known to foreigners. But her uncle seems to have liked it well enough to spend a million bucks on a sixteenth-century villa there.

Besides, what’s not to like? Le Marche “forms the eastern seaboard of central Italy—with the Apennine Mountains, noted for their bare peaks and dramatic gorges, forming a natural boundary between it and Umbria and Tuscany. The areas nearer the coast are celebrated for their fertile rounded hills topped by ancient fortified towns.”

Um, at least according to my guidebook.

And OK, maybe it’s not super popular with anyone but Italians (except for my customs agent). But my guidebook also goes on and on about its unspoiled beauty….

Whatever. Why is my bag always the last one to get through the fricking carousel? And why is Cal laughing so hard at it? My bag is not funny. OK, I painted a Wondercat head on it. But that’s only because it’s a black rolly bag, and there are only five billion other black rolly bags that look exactly like it. At least I can tell mine apart from all the others at a distance of a hundred yards.

Plus, my bag’s not as big as HOLLY’s. I mean, I didn’t cram a wedding gown into MINE. Just because HE has this dinky little backpack, Mr. Jet-Set-Travel-Guy—

Oh, here’s the taxi stand, at LAST. I can’t WAIT to get to the hotel and take a nap. Even if it IS only ten in the morning here. I’m so TIRED….

What is that incessant BEEPING coming out of my bag? Not just MY bag either… EVERYBODY is beeping!

e-mails

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com>

Re: You

I hope this thing works! You said you’d be able to get emails in Italy, so I hope you get this. Everything here is fine, don’t worry. Well, Dad stuck his hand in the wood chipper again, but he was wearing his chain-mail gloves, so he just broke a blade, didn’t lose a finger. He is so forgetful sometimes!

Anyway, I know I’m not supposed to say anything to Holly’s mom about how she and Mark are eloping, and you don’t need to worry, I haven’t said a word, even though I saw her at book group last night and she was practically in tears when we were discussing the scene in which the couple in the book— another one by that nice man who wrote A Walk to Remember … he’s just so talented. But why do all his characters have to die at the end?—got married.

When we asked what was wrong, poor Marie said all she’s ever wanted is to see Holly settled. You know how Holly was always dying her hair purple and getting things pierced and dating the most inappropriate people all through those years you two were in school together. (Thank goodness you were never like that! You’ve always been so sensible. I thought your new friend Malcolm was so sweet when I met him last July. How is his investment banking job, anyway? I’m so happy you’ve finally found someone so responsible! And he looks so young ! You’d hardly know he was your age. Must be good genes!)

I really wanted to say something to Marie like, “Well, you aren’t going to have to worry much longer about Holly staying single,” but of course I didn’t.

Although I sort of wish I had said something now, since Marie went on to say, “I don’t care who she marries, as long as he’s a nice Catholic boy! I have nothing against this Mark of hers, but he’s, you know. Not one of us .”

Oh, dear. I don’t think Marie is going to be very happy when she gets Holly and Mark’s telegram telling her they’ve gotten married.

And Mark is such a nice boy, too. It’s such a shame.

Well, I hope you arrived safely. Be careful of pickpockets in Rome. I hear they like to careen past tourists on Vespas through those little narrow streets and snatch handbags and cameras right off by the shoulder strap! So be sure not to wear your shoulder strap slung across your body or you could be dragged to your death.

Love,

Mom

PS Love to The Dude!

PPS What is Mark’s friend like? Is he nice? I’m sure he must be, if he’s a friend of Mark’s!

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Ruth Levine <r.levine@levinedentalgroup.com >

Re: Hello!

Hi, sweetie! I know you’re off to Europe today with your little friends, but I just wanted you to know that last night we had dinner with the Schramms—you remember, you learned to swim in Susie Schramm’s backyard pool when you were four—and Lottie Schramm told me that Susie is a corporate lawyer in—get this—NEW YORK CITY! Yes! She works at a firm called Hertzog, Webber, and Doyle on Madison Avenue (so fancy!), and lives on the Upper East Side, not three blocks from your own place! Isn’t that incredible? I’m surprised the two of you have never run into one another at H & H Bagels!

In any case, Lottie gave me Susie’s email to pass along to you. It’s  sschramm@hwd.com. You really ought to drop her a line, Mark. Dottie showed me a picture. Susie’s grown into a real beauty, and lost every bit of her baby fat (Dottie says because she does Pilates three times a week and hasn’t touched a carb in three years).

Hope you’re having fun! Don’t forget to wear a sweater in the evenings. I understand it can get chilly there at night.

Love,

Mom

___________________________________________

To: Ruth Levine <r.levine@levinedentalgroup.com >

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Hello!

Ma. Stop trying to fix me up with other women. I am in love with Holly. Got it? HOLLY.

Mark

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Inge Schumacher <i.schumacher@freemail.co.it>

Re: Greetings!

I am understand you will have arrived today! This is perfect. I am making your uncle’s house, Villa Beccacia, a home for you. All is ready except the towels which dry on line. I am understand three rooms beds to be made. You arrive by car tomorrow afternoon? You will call me at Villa Beccacia and I will greet you on the autobahn to show you way to villa.

I am hoping you do not mind, my great-grandson Peter visits me on school holiday during your stay. He is good boy, and drives each morning on his motorino to fetch the brotchen for you. Tschuss!

Inge Schumacher

Villa Beccacia

Castelfidardo, Marche

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Tara Samuels <tara.samuels@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Travel Services

Success! I’ve booked you a seat to Rome on the 6P .M. flight today. I’m SO sorry about the confusion, and to make up for it, we managed to upgrade you to first class. Enjoy your flight!

Tara

___________________________________________

To: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: You

Hi, Mom! I’m writing this to you from an Italian taxi cab! We’re on the way from the airport to the hotel where we’re staying for the night before going on to Holly’s uncle’s villa in the morning. Holly made the paper give us Blackberries for emergency use. I can see why they gave one to Holly, because she’s the art director, so her job is actually important. But ME??? I’m a freelancer, I don’t even really work there anymore. But Holly talked them into it. Isn’t that cool? Of course we have to give them back when we get home. But whatever.

It is so… different here. I mean, I’m only in the cab, but already, it looks way different from home. All of the billboards are in Italian! Well, I mean, I know you’d expect that, but I mean, REALLY in Italian. Like there are no recognizably English words AT ALL.

And all of the buildings have these roll-down metal shutters, painted in all these bright colors, to keep out the sun, because I guess it can get really hot, and no one has air-conditioning.

And there are window boxes EVERYWHERE, with CASCADES of red and pink and blue flowers frothing down them. It’s so pretty!

And everywhere you look are these funny little half-cars, like Volkswagen bugs that got cut in half, called Smart Cars. In fact the biggest car I’ve seen here is the minivan we’re in. I guess Italians aren’t really having big families anymore. Either that, or they don’t go anywhere with the kids.

I really don’t think you have to worry about my bag getting snatched, Mom. The only people I see on Vespas here are fashionably dressed, skinny women, with long flowing hair, driving around in long, pointy shoes with tiny little heels!

I’m so tired, I can’t type anymore. I can’t WAIT to get to the hotel so I can crash. I need a shower in the WORST way.

Love to Dad. Tell him to keep wearing those gloves.

Janie

PS The Dude was fine when I left him. Julio, the super’s son, is going to look in on him every day after school. I bought him some special tuna Pounce for a treat. For The Dude. Not Julio.

J

PPS Mark’s friend is NOT a nice guy. He’s totally awful! His name is Cal Langdon and he’s some hotshot reporter who thinks he’s all that. He doesn’t believe in marriage and thinks Mark is making a huge mistake. I don’t know how I’m going to survive a whole week in his company. HE’S NEVER HEARD OF WONDERCAT.

J

___________________________________________

To: Julio Chasez <julio@streetsmart.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: The Dude

Hi, Julio! It’s me, Jane! I realize I’ve only been gone a day, but I just wanted to make sure everything is all right. You know, with The Dude. I know how he can get. Just make sure he gets two cans of fresh food a day (one before you leave for school, and one before you go to bed) PLUS dry food and fresh water, and he should be fine.

Be sure to wear the oven mitts if you have to touch him! And whatever you do, DON’T give him any catnip!

Thank you SO MUCH for taking care of him for me. You are the BEST!

Love,

Jane

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

Can you believe it? He got an email from his freaking mother about some girl from his hometown who lives in NY now. I’m going to lose it.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

Um… why are you emailing me from inside the same car we are both sitting in? Also, I thought we were only supposed to use these things for work purposes.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

I can’t exactly talk to you about the email he got from his mother IN FRONT OF HIM, now can I? Except this way.

And how are they ever going to know what we use these dumb things for, anyway? How are you holding up?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

Good. It’s pretty here.

How do you know that his mom emailed him, anyway?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

Duh. I read it over his shoulder just now. I saw you and Cal talking at the baggage carousel. What did he say?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

Oh. Nothing.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

Come on! SPILL!

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

Is this a setup? Are you and Mark playing Fix Up the Best Friends? Because I told you before, I’m TAKEN. Besides. He’s not my type.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

You have a type ? What is it? The only thing the guys you’ve dated have in common is that they’ve all been unemployed. Or, if they HAD jobs, they were also screwing Amy Jenkins, like Dave.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

Whatever happened to her, anyway?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

Who? Amy Jenkins?

She married a rich lawyer, moved to Pound Ridge, and squeezed out two kids.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

No! No, she didn’t! Why did you tell me that? THAT’S NOT FAIR!!! She tried to ruin my life!!! Why should SHE have a happy ending?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

You call living in Pound Ridge with a lawyer and two kids a happy ending? You so know she spends her days working out and helping the nanny make wheat-free snacks.

Don’t worry. In a couple of years she’ll pudge out and he’ll trade her in for a younger model and she won’t be able to get a job to support herself anywhere because she doesn’t have any references, and one day you and Cal will pull into an outlet Benetton to pick up a pair of socks and she’ll be working the cash register.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

I don’t want to talk about this anymore.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

Why not?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

Well, for one thing, he’s sitting right next to me! He might see! Cut it out!

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

He’s not paying attention. He has his own emails to catch up on. Come on. What did he say? He must have said SOMETHING. You guys just sat next to each other for seven hours. Are you telling me he didn’t say ANYTHING that entire time?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

Nothing. Really. Oh, at the baggage carousel, he said he was sorry for stepping on my foot.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

That’s IT? Wow. That’s weird. Did he talk about his marriage at all?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

HIS WHAT?????????????????????

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

God, use question marks much?

His MARRIAGE. He was married once, you know. He’s divorced. I just wondered if he’d mentioned it.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

He didn’t say a word about this. But it explains an awful lot. Who was the NOT SO lucky girl?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

Her name was Valerie Something. I don’t know, really, it was ten years ago, back when he and Mark just graduated from college. They met in a bar. He was the newest cub reporter, and she was a model. They went out for about a month before he decided she was the best thing that ever happened to him and married her. They only lasted about a year. Apparently, as soon as the divorce was final, she married an investment banker, and Cal asked for an overseas post. According to Mark, she broke Cal’s heart.

And what did you mean by that explains an awful lot?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

Nothing.

Oh, so you’re saying he has a heart after all?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: His Mother

Come on. He’s a nice guy. He’s had a crappy time with women—I guess his mother left to “find herself” when he was still in high school, and lately, his little sister’s followed suit. He was just put through the wringer by another model, and spent the past decade recovering in places where they don’t have cell phone service. Or working toilets. Can you blame him for being a little rough around the edges?

Besides, he can’t be THAT bad. Mark says Cal’s always been a real ladies’ man—that he’s got a girl in every port, if you know what I mean. In fact, Mark was sure you two would hit it off right away. He said you’re just Cal’s type. Apparently, he’s partial to brunettes.

He really must not like you.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: His Mother

Wow. That’s really nice to know. Thanks so very much for that.

J

PS Oh, and thanks for trying to fix me up with him, but even if I COULD stand him, which I can’t, he’s a modelizer. You KNOW once a guy’s had a model, he can never go back. So, nice try.

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

The girls are emailing back and forth about us.

Mark

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

That is blatantly obvious.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

What do you think they’re saying?

Mark

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

I honestly could not care less.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

Don’t you like her? Jane, I mean? Holly was sure you’d like her.

Mark

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

She seems harmless enough.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

You don’t like her.

Mark

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

I didn’t say that. All I said was that she seemed harmless. Much in the way an anaconda seems harmless, when it’s wrapped around a tree branch ten feet above your head.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

She’s not like that.

And she already has a boyfriend, anyway.

So get over yourself, fathead.

Mark

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

Fathead. Harsh.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

Seriously. ARE you seeing anyone—anyone SPECIAL—these days?

Mark

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

They’re all special, my friend.

But special enough to shackle myself to her for the rest of eternity, the way you’re doing?

No.

But your concern for my romantic well-being is, as always, greatly appreciated.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

Look, it’s just that I know how tough things were for you after—

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Benvenuto

Oh, look. The hotel. Stop e-ing me, please.

Cal

___________________________________________

RICEVUTA TAXI-ROMA

Percoso:

Da… Fiumacino A… Hotel Alexander

Firma

Importo Corsa 80.00 Euro

___________________________________________

___________________________________________

Benvenuto al nostro albergo!

(Welcome to our Hotel!)

Gentile Ospite,

Nel porgerLe il nostro cordiale benevuto, abbiamo pensato fe FarLe cosa gradita offrendoLe, al suo arrivo, un assaggio di acqua dalle proprietaria salutari.

Dear Guest,

We wish to express our warmest welcome to our hotel. Given our genuine care for our Guests, we invite you to enjoy the healthy qualities of this bottled water.

___________________________________________

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

We’re HERE!!!!!!!! At the hotel, I mean.

It’s the sweetest little place, tucked into a side street that isn’t wide enough to let a car coming from the other way pass by. And packed with people! I thought it was a pedestrian walkway and that the taxi driver was going the wrong way. But it turned out it was the Via di Buffalo, which is the street our hotel is on.

Still, it was kind of scary when those Italian school kids kept knocking on the car windows. I wonder what the driver yelled at them to make them run away like that. This is what comes of not having enough social programs for young people. Those kids should have had something better to do on a Saturday than stand around the Via di Buffalo, knocking on tourists’ car door windows.

Not that I want to tell another country how it ought to be bringing up its children, or anything. But still.

All I wanted to do was get to my room and take a nap, but Cal had to start arguing with the taxi driver when he saw the receipt. He said over his dead body was he paying 80 euros for a ride from the airport and that the taxi driver might think he could bilk the tourists that way, but that he, Cal, had been to Rome before, and he knew the fare from the airport wasn’t a cent over 40 euros. In English. Which it turned out the driver perfectly understood. And after a lot of grousing, he finally agreed that 40 euros would do.

So it’s good Mark invited Cal along with us. I guess.

Anyway, my room is so adorable, a tiny little blue-and-white thing with gold curtains that, when I opened them, turned out to be for a window that looks out over the most beautiful courtyard, with white doves flying around it, and bougainvillea spilling from window boxes all over the place, and a sky stretched over it that, I swear, looks bluer than the sky over Manhattan, somehow. It is EXACTLY like Helena Bonham Carter’s room in the pensione in Room with a View . Only there’s no view. Well, except for the courtyard and the sky.

And there are big bottles of water right here in my room, for later, and I turned on the TV, and everything was In Italian!

I mean, I knew it would be. It’s just SO WEIRD!

I thought I would be way too tired to want to go out and sightsee, but now that I’m finally here, I’m really stoked! I want to get out there and see EVERYTHING. After all, we only have about 24 hours in Rome before we leave for Le Marche.

On second thought, I didn’t sleep very well on the plane, thanks to The Armrest Nazi. I suppose I shouldn’t call him that anymore on account of him having been so tragically jilted all those years ago by that model.

But seriously, what did he expect, marrying a model? Modelizers get exactly what they deserve.

Maybe I’ll just rest my eyes for a minute or two….

Funny. I miss The Dude. I’m so used to his big gray body curled up to mine in bed, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to slee—

   —

      —

         —

            —

               —

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Arthur Pendergast <a.pendergast@rawlingspress.com>

Re: The Book

Where are you this week? Nigeria? Well, wherever it is, just thought I’d give you the good news: Sweeping Sands made the Times extended list. Number 18. If you’d agreed to tour, we’d have probably debuted even higher. But I know, I know. You’ve got this wedding to go to. Oh, it’s also number 48 on the USA Today list. Which isn’t bad for a hardback.

Check out this cover sketch for the UK edition and let me know what you think.

Have you given any thought lately to what #2 is going to be about? The second book on your contract, I mean. No hurry, just that it’s due in a couple months, and you still haven’t submitted a proposal. Have you given any thought to dirty diamonds? That’s a pretty hot topic these days. And I hear Angola is nice this time of year.

Arthur Pendergast

Senior Editor

Rawlings Press

1418 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10019

212-555-8764

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Aaron Spender <a.spender@cnn.com>

Re: Things

What’s this I hear about you throwing in the foreign-correspondence towel and taking a post stateside? What are you, going soft on me in your old age? It can’t be because of this multimillion-dollar book deal I hear you landed a while back, because the Cal Langdon I knew never cared about money. I distinctly recall you saying, that night we were trapped in that bomb shelter in Baghdad, that you never wanted to own any material goods because they might “weigh” you down.

All I can say is, you can buy a heck of a lot of pot holders with the kind of green you’re raking in, buddy.

Anyway, if you’re serious about staying home for a while, why work for that rag? Believe me, I’ve been there, and it is not where you want to be. Come on over to where the REAL news is being made. Print media is dead. It’s all about television these days. I can set you up with a really sweet deal, if you’re interested. Let me know.

Barbara says hello.

Aaron Spender

Senior Correspondent

CNN—New York

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mary Langdon <m.langdon@freemail.com>

Re: Mom

So I heard from Dad you’re back in the States for a while—well, except for some jaunt to Italy to be a witness to some guy named Mark’s wedding (it’s not Mark from next door, is it? Didn’t he end up becoming a doctor or something else really boring? Typical).

I also heard you got a cool mil for some book you wrote, and that they want a second one. What are you going to do with all that scratch? Try to lure the ex back from Mr. Investment Guy?

Why don’t you send some of it my way? I’ll keep it safe for you. This whole weaving thing isn’t really working out, anyway, and I was thinking of heading up north with this guy who’s got a tiedye biz going out of his van.

Anyway, keep in touch. And welcome back to the good old US of A. It sucks just as much now as it did when you left.

Mare

PS Have you heard the latest about Mom? She actually has a SHOW. An ART show. Of her stupid lint/clothespin people. I don’t know how SHE can get a show and I can’t. My weavings are way more artistic than her lint people.

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Graziella Fratiani <graziella@galleriefratiani.co.it>

Re: You

What is this I hear about you coming to Roma and not calling to me? I would not have known a thing about it if Dolly Vargas hadn’t happened to mention it during our interview. You are a naughty, naughty boy. Where are you staying? Call me. You know the number. I will come by your hotel and give you a true Italian welcome.

Ciao, amore XXXX

Grazi

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

Art sent the UK cover design for Sands today. It’s got a very romantic feel to it that I’m not sure is entirely appropriate, considering the book’s subject matter. Well, I suppose if it tricks unsuspecting readers into buying it, expecting it to be a work of fiction about a mummy’s curse instead of a nonfiction treatise on Saudi Arabia’s tiring oil fields, all the better.

I can’t believe Aaron Spender is still among the living. I’d have assumed Barbara Bellerieve bit his head off and ate it on their wedding night. I still marvel at my own lucky escape from her clutches. If it hadn’t been for that Daisy Cutter…

And Mary. I guess that grand I sent her last month didn’t last very long. What the hell does she do with it all? It’s not like she ever has anything to show for it. She can’t smoke it ALL away, can she? I wish Mom and Dad had taken some control over her earlier in her adolescence. She probably wouldn’t still be living out of some guy’s van at the age of twenty-five.

But I guess they weren’t necessarily the best role models, as parents go, considering Dad’s obsession with the track and Mom’s conviction that she’s the next Grandma Moses. It’s surprising, actually, that Mary isn’t a bigger flake than she is….

Much like some people I could mention. It was amusing, coming from the airport, to hear Holly’s friend squeal at the sight of every monument—and every passing billboard. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone get so excited about a sign for mouthwash. I thought she was going to have a coronary when we drove by the Colosseum. I’m not entirely sure which impressed her more… the fact that it’s stood for over two thousand years, or the fact that Britney Spears was recently there, filming a television commercial (at least, that’s what Holly’s friend announced to all of us).

There is something refreshing about American enthusiasm for antiquity. I guess I forget, having been away so long, that there is still a place on this earth where there are no structures older than half a millennium. It must be impressive to see something that existed fifteen hundred years before the Mayflower….

Of course, if we hadn’t slaughtered all the Indians and destroyed their native lands, it would be different.

Good Lord. It just occurred to me. What if that wasn’t what she was impressed by? What if it was the Britney Spears thing?

But no. No, that couldn’t be. Not even an artist could be that shallow.

I’ll have to remember to change money later, if I can find a place with a decent exchange rate. I blew my last euro on that cab ride—

That was the concierge. Grazi is here. That didn’t take her long. I called her less than half an hour ago. Still, I thought she’d be coming over later tonight, not NOW.

I guess it would be ungentlemanly of me not to see her, though….

___________________________________________

To: Julio Chasez <julio@streetsmart.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: The Dude

Hi, Julio! Me, again! Just checking in, since I haven’t heard from you. How’s The Dude doing? Does he like that salmon pate I got him? I figured he’d appreciate a few treats, with me being gone. I hope you found the Pounce. I left it on the counter, with the oven mitts. Really, you should only need the Pounce if he tries to attack. Which he really shouldn’t, I mean, he KNOWS you. You two are buds. Right?

Well, let me know how he’s doing as soon as you get a chance. No biggie. You can just email, if you want. Or call. From my phone in the apartment. That way it won’t cost you anything. Don’t worry about the time difference, you can call at any time. I don’t mind being woken up, if it’s for The Dude.

J

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Oh my God, this place is FABULOUS! When I woke up from my nap, it was two, and I called Holly to see if she was hungry, and she was, but Mark was still asleep, and Modelizer/Armrest Nazi didn’t pick up his phone (much to my relief) when Holly tried him… you know, to be polite, and not exclude him.

So Holly and I met in the hall and the two of us just strolled right out onto tiny Via di Buffalo, which I suppose is named after the mozzarella, which is made from buffalo milk, at least in Italy, and we started walking, and in half an hour, not five blocks from our hotel, we’d seen the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Piazza Navone, and a bunch of other sights I can’t even remember, as they all involved monolisks with bumpy writing on them.

But that’s not all! We saw portrait artists, right on the street—good ones, not like the cheesy ones in New York—and people eating gelati, and groups of senior citizens following around tour guides holding a flag, and I threw money in the Fontana di Trevi—I don’t know how much, because it was Italian— which apparently guarantees you’ll be back there someday. Which I hope is true, because it’s a kick-ass fountain, almost as cool as Ozzy’s pool on The Osbournes .

And we were solicited by a humpbacked dwarf with no shirt on and a tattoo that said Antonio on his shoulder, and I gave him some money, and then I bought a bottle of Diet Coke that cost five euros, which is more than a six-pack back home, and I realized I gave the humpbacked dwarf enough money to buy FIVE Italian Diet Cokes.

I really need to get a grip on this money thing. Although I’m sure Antonio (if that’s his name) needs the money more than I need Diet Coke.

And then Holly wanted her picture taken with a hot guy dressed as a gladiator in front of the Pantheon, so I started to take one, but then this very blowsy older woman dressed in a toga came over and demanded ANOTHER five euros, just for letting me take the picture with her hot gladiator boyfriend! The guy just stood there looking all sheepish while this went on, but Holly was all, “I want it, it’ll be funny,” so I forked over five more euros and took the picture.

Holly said later that right before I took the picture, the gladiator handed her his plastic sword, and when she asked him, “What should I do with this?” he went, in a long-suffering voice, “Keel me. Please.”

Which in and of itself was totally worth five euros.

And everywhere we went, lots of Italian vendors came up to us, another one every five seconds, it seemed, going “Bag, California?” I guess because we look like we’re from California, even though of course we’re not, though we are sort of tan thanks to Holly and Mark’s share in East Hampton.

Only how they knew we were American I can’t tell, though we were talking a lot, I suppose. And I am apparently the only girl in all of Rome who wears Steve Madden slides.

But then Mark called on Holly’s cell and said he was hungry and Cal wasn’t answering the phone in his room, so we agreed to meet Mark for a snack.

Except that on the way back to the hotel, we passed a church where a wedding was going on—or about to go on, anyway. I saw the crowd and assumed it was another sight we should see, but then it turned out to be a lot of tourists like us waiting outside a church with some flower girls and maids of honor, and we realized it was a wedding!

So then Holly said she had to stay to see the bride for luck, since she was getting married too.

So we edged into the church and stood there and waited and it wasn’t long until a sleek beige Mercedes sedan pulled up and the bride, looking incredibly chic in an ivory sheath with a tiny veil got out, beaming and speaking in Italian to the little flower girls who started jumping up and down.

I got some very good photos of the whole thing and wanted to ask her if she wanted me to send her copies (the bride I mean), but I didn’t know the right words in Italian, and besides, by that point her father had come out of the church and lent her his arm, and that’s when Holly and I realized we were standing right in the aisle, with the groom at the front of the church with the priest, trying to see past us to catch a glimpse of his wife-to-be in her gorgeous ivory sheath.

So we scampered out of the way and I looked at Holly and saw tears in her eyes!!!!

I thought she’d been stung by a bee or something so I was like, “Let’s go find some ice!” but it turned out that wasn’t it at all. Holly looked at me all tearfully and went, “I want my father to lead me down the aisle! Only he doesn’t know I’m doing this. And I’m not even going to have an aisle. Because we’re going to get married by some clerk in some office .”

Then she burst into tears right there on some street I can’t remember the name of.

Of course I had no choice but to hustle her as fast as I could to the cafe where we’d said we’d meet Mark for snacks. Only I knew it was my duty as witness/bridesmaid to get her cleaned up before her future husband saw what a psycho he was marrying. Not that he didn’t already know, since Holly cries at the end of every episode of Seventh Heaven she sees, even the reruns, and won’t pick up the phone on Monday nights as a consequence.

But still.

We got a seat right away at the cafe across from the Pantheon—an outdoor table, even. In New York, you practically have to chew off your own foot to get an outdoor table anywhere. Maybe the waiter saw how dire our need was, considering Holly’s tears. Anyway, he sat us under the shade of his restaurant’s big fluttery awning, and I said, “Un verre de vin blanc pour moi et pour mon amie,” forgetting I wasn’t in 11th-grade French, but in Italy.

The waiter totally took it in stride though. “Frizzante?” he asked me.

I had no idea what he was talking about, but remembering I was in Italy and not France, I managed to say Si and not Oui.

My first foreign language exchange! I’d spoken English with the Diet Coke guy and Mr. Gladiator’s pimp. And OK, the exchange hadn’t been in the actual language spoken in this country. But it had still been foreign.

Then the bread basket came, with a little pot of silky white butter, and we dug in, because even when she’s crying, Holly can still eat, which is one of the many reasons I love her.

And I told her how lucky she is her father ISN’T here, since, like her mom, he doesn’t exactly approve of Mark. Which is ridiculous, because Mark is totally perfect husband material, being completely sweet and thoughtful and funny and self-deprecating and totally the opposite of his horrible friend Cal the Modelizer in every way. Plus Mark’s even reasonably good-looking. Oh, and a doctor. With a weekly health column in a New York paper that’s read by millions. What more could the Caputos ask?

A Catholic, apparently.

Sometimes I get so mad at Holly’s parents for what they’re doing to her, I just want to spit.

But then, Mark’s parents are just as bad, in their own way.

“L–like it even matters to us,” Holly sobbed, as the waiter reappeared with two glasses of white wine on a tray. “I mean, I haven’t been to church since I was eighteen! Church was their thing, not mine. And Mark hasn’t set foot in temple since his bar mitzvah. We have no intention of raising our children any particular religion. We’re going to bring up the kids a-religious. And then when they’re old enough, they can decide which religion—if any—they want to belong to.”

I nodded because I had heard this many times before. The wine in the glasses the waiter was putting down in front of us seemed to catch the sun and dance around before my eyes like fool’s gold in the bottom of that stream Laura found on that one episode of Little House on the Prairie .

“Why can’t they just respect that this is the man I love?” Holly asked, picking up her glass and taking a gulp. “And, yes, he’s Jewish. Get over it.”

I sipped my wine too—

And nearly spat it out! Because it wasn’t wine at all! It was champagne!

Only better than champagne! Because the bubbles in champagne usually give me an instant headache.

But these bubbles were tiny and light—barely there at all.

“What is this?” I asked, in wonder, holding my glass up to the light and looking at all the lovely bubbles.

“Frizzante,” Holly said. “Remember? He asked, and you said Si. It’s like…fizzy wine. Don’t you like it?”

“I love it.”

I loved it so much, I had another glass of it. By the time Mark joined us, I was in a VERY good mood.

Fortunately, so was Holly. There was so much people-watching to do in our corner of the piazza that she soon forgot all about the wedding we’d seen, and her yearning for her dad to give her away at her own. Soon we were able to pick out the American tourists as quickly as the Italians obviously could. I don’t mean to say anything negative about my countrymen and women, but hello, the Fab Five have their work cut out for them.

Holly was instantly cheered, as always, by the sight of Mark. He asked for a menu and got one—in English!—and ordered mussels and an antipasto platter, and we sat and ate chunky crumbles of parmesan and fresh tangy olives and buttery slivers of salami and garlicky mussels and had fun watching other suckers get fleeced by the handsome, morose gladiator and his pimp.

Then the shadows started getting longer and Mark checked his Blackberry and said we should be getting back to the hotel to change for dinner. So we got the bill—which Mark insisted on paying—and started back, Mark with arm around Holly’s waist, and her head leaning on his shoulder, her unhappiness from a few hours earlier blissfully forgotten.

And I wished SO HARD that awful Modelizer Cal was with us, so he could see how cute Holly and Mark are together, and how great a couple they are, and what sweet parents they’ll make, and what a crime it would be if they didn’t get married. I mean, how could anyone look at Holly and Mark and think, for even one minute, that marriage is an antiquated institution that ought to be abolished? They are living proof that it works. Just because Modelizer’s wife turned out to be a money-grubbing beeyotch doesn’t mean—

Ooooh! I got an email! On my Blackberry! PLEASE let it be Julio!!!!

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Malcolm Weatherly <malcolmw@snowstyle.com>

Re: Ciao!

Hey, babe! How’s it hang in? So ya there yet? Whaddaya think? Pretty rad, huh? Yeah, I-ty blew my mind when I was there last year for the European Open. Even the freaking coffee tastes better there.

But I don’t get the whole “everything closing from noon to four and lunch and everybody serving nothing but pasta after ten” thing. Bummer if you wake up at one and want a freaking waffle.

But make sure you try one of those bidets. It’ll change your life!

Stay away from those I-ty Latin Lover types. I know how those guys operate. They only want a green card, anyway. Not that you’re not, you know, totally hot.

Aw, gotta go, I’m up next on the half pipe. Luv ya.

Mal

PS Know what? I kinda miss The Dude. Give him a big kiss for me, willya? Oh, you can’t, cause you’re in I–ty. Sorry.

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Isn’t that sweet? I miss The Dude, too. If he were here right now, he’d be curled up around my feet.

And my toes would be losing all circulation because he weighs so much. But still.

I don’t understand why Julio hasn’t written, though. What if he forgot? To feed The Dude, I mean?

But how could he forget? I stuck a giant sign on his dad’s door, to remind him….

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Walking through the piazza behind Mark and Holly.

Well… while I was looking at them, and thinking how cute they are, and what a shame it was that Modelizer Cal wasn’t there with us to see them and all, I got a pang.

A PANG.

I’ll admit it. I mean, I am totally happy for Holly and in full support of this elopement scheme. Really, given the situation, I don’t see how she and Mark have any choice BUT to elope.

But seeing them together like that, her head on his shoulder, his arm around her—I felt a pang.

Because where is MY Mark? Really? Where IS he?

Because I know he’s not in Canada right now, hitting the half pipe—or the full pipe. Or even both, as in Malcolm’s case. I mean, I like Malcolm and all, and we have a blast together. But I can’t really picture him strolling through the piazza with his arm around my waist. Skateboarding through it, certainly. But having a nice glass of bianco frizzante as the sun sets? Not so much.

I’m sure he’s out there, somewhere. My Mark, I mean. He has to be, right?

But what if I never find him? Or what if I already met him, and I messed it up somehow? This would not be unusual, since I mess up everything. I mean, what if My Mark was DAVE who cheated on me with Amy Jenkins (that whore)?

Oh, God, no. Fate would never be so unkind.

Or what if My Mark was Curt Shipley, who took me to the prom in 11th grade, and we made out in his Chevette afterwards, and then that summer, I found out he’d been making out, in that same Chevette, with Mike Morris after the fireworks on the Fourth of July?

Which means I must have turned Curt gay, because he certainly wasn’t gay BEFORE we made out.

Oh, my God. What if Curt Shipley was the man of my dreams, and I TURNED HIM GAY?????

Killing self now.

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Sorry

Sorry I missed it when you called earlier. I was dead to the world. We still on for dinner tonight?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Sorry

Yes, I happened to hear how “dead to the world” you were as I passed by your room on my way to meet the girls. I wasn’t aware that corpses were sexually active… at least, if I’m to assume the heavily accented female voice calling your name with ever-increasing volume as she climaxed was, indeed, coming from Room 204.

Mark

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Sorry

Oh. That was Graziella. She won’t be joining us tonight.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Sorry

I am sorrier to hear that than words can adequately express. See you at eight.

Mark

PDA of Cal Langdon

It was a mistake to invite Grazi in. I should have insisted on going to her place. I’d forgotten how… loud she can be.

___________________________________________

ANTIPASTI

Insalatina mista all’aceto balsamico Carpaccio tiepido di manzo con parmigiano e rucola Medaglioni d’astice con insalata di stagione

PASTA

Fusilli con pomodori e basilico Garganelli con pesto, patate e fagiolini Tagliolini con zafferano, gamberoni e zucchine

SECONDI PLATTI

Medaglioni di vitello in crosta di basilico con purea de melanzane e parmigiano Filetto di manzo alle erbe aromatiche Tagliata di manzo con timballo de patate e cardamomo Filetto di rombo al forno con limone e capperi

INSALATE DI STAGIONE

SELEZIONE DI FORMAGGI ITALIANI

DOLCI

Bavarese al cioccolato bianco con crema cocoa alla liquirizia e latte di madorle Mousse al cioccolato fondente con sedano candito Crema al limone Budino al cocco con frutto della passione

___________________________________________

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

Insisted on paying for dinner, as spent majority of it pontificating on Sweeping Sands, and felt I had to make amends. Also, it was the least I could do after Mark’s revelation regarding Grazi. Eight hundred euro, but worth it—especially the wine.

Don’t think I made a friend of Ms. Harris, however. Which is a shame, because she looks rather fetching in heels—a point that was driven home rather hard when she stumbled outside the restaurant, and I was forced to pry her heel from where it was wedged between two cobblestones.

The tattoo IS of Wondercat. It’s the same cat’s head that she’s got on her luggage. I’ve never been one for tattoos, but hers is rather fetching.

I can’t believe I wrote the word fetching. This country goes to my head like prosecco.

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Oh, my God, that restaurant was so fancy that they even had tiny little chairs for ladies’ purses! Seriously! Like the waiter held my chair for me, then he pulled out this matching stool for my bag! The bag I bought off an outdoor table on Canal Street in Chinatown, then bedazzled with Wondercat’s face! In a seat of honor!

It was almost too much. There was silverware on the table I had never seen before.

Plus, in the ladies’ room, there were actual folded hand towels for every visitor. Not paper towels. But a huge stack of tiny hand towels, so when you dried your hands, you reached for one, then threw it into a laundry basket underneath the sink.

I have no idea what I ate for dinner. It was delicious, though. The waiter said a bunch of stuff, and Holly, who speaks a little Italian, and Modelizer Cal, who I guess speaks a little more than that, just nodded and went, “Si, si.” And then plates began to appear, of squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese, and perfect little circles of foie gras, and curls of endive dripping in butter and cheese….

That meal had to have been three thousand calories, at least.

But I didn’t care. Because it was all so delicious. THIS IS SO FUN!!!!!!!

Well, except for Cal. It’s no WONDER he’s never heard of Wondercat. I doubt he’s ever read anything for fun in his entire life. Holly made the mistake—BIG one—of asking him what the book he wrote is about.

Of course a modelizer like him can’t be writing something cool like a spy thriller or dick lit, like Nick Hornsby or anything. Oh, no. HE has to have written a book about—get this—how Saudi Arabia’s oil fields are on the decline, and soon won’t be able to meet the world’s demands. This, of course, is going to crush Saudi Arabia’s economy, and have serious repercussions throughout the rest of the globe, as well.

Yeah. Who cares? Guess what, Cal? In Saudi Arabia, women aren’t allowed to vote or drive cars. Why should I care if that nation’s economy goes down the tubes? Maybe if they’d let women have some say in their country’s governance, they wouldn’t be in this sorry position in the first place.

Sadly, he SAW me yawning. Cal, I mean.

And instead of just politely accepting my apology— “Sorry, jet lag”—he was all, “This could have a profound impact on you, too, Jane. What do you think those water bottles you’re so fond of are made from? Petroleum.”

Geez! I love Mark to death, but why is he even friends with this guy? Oh, sure, maybe the ex left him a bitter shell of a man. But does he have to take it out on me?

Also, he may think he’s slick, but when I was leaving my room to meet Holly and Mark for cocktails down in the lobby, I got a major eyeful of what he spent the afternoon doing, as she slunk out of his room and down the stairs. I don’t care what Holly says about me being his type, it’s a total lie. Cal Langdon’s “type” is STILL clearly five-foot-eleven blonde models, NOT five-foot-four brunette cartoonists into whose jeans TWO of said models could easily fit.

As if that’s not bad enough, when we were waiting for a taxi to take us home, I looked over and saw Mark take off his jacket and wrap it around Holly, who was shivering a little in her sleeveless pink dress. Then he put his arm around her, and the two of them nuzzled each other.

NUZZLED. They were NUZZLING.

And I looked over to see if Cal had noticed, and he totally had, he was looking right at them.

And I will admit that it was impossible to tell what was going on behind those steely baby blues of his.

But I imagined—my second BIG MISTAKE—that he was feeling the way I was… that Mark and Holly are the cutest couple EVER and totally belong together and it’s a CRIME what their families are doing to them, being so unreasonable about the differing faiths thing.

So I went, in a soft voice so Mark and Holly wouldn’t overhear, “Do you STILL think those two shouldn’t get married?”

And the Modelizer went, “I give it a year. Two, tops.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I couldn’t believe it! I mean, where could he POSSIBLY be getting that?

So I went, “Are you crazy? They’re totally in love. Look at them.”

Cal: “You know love is just a chemical reaction in the brain caused by surges of phenylethylamine, don’t you?”

Me: (confused) “You’re saying Holly and Mark don’t really love each other? That it’s all in their heads?”

Cal: “I’m saying no one loves anyone. People are attracted to one another and pair up to breed due to our natural mating instinct. But that attraction doesn’t last. As with all drugs, the body develops a tolerance for the phenylethylamine, and eventually, the attraction you once felt for your partner fades. It’s all perfectly natural. You can get the same amount of phenylethylamine, a stimulant the mind craves, by ingesting vast amounts of chocolate as you can by, quote, falling in love, end quote.”

Me: “So… you don’t believe in romantic love?”

Cal: “I believe I just said that.”

Me: “Because of the vast amount of time you’ve spent studying the subject?”

Cal: “From my own personal experience, yes. And from the relationships I’ve observed around me.”

Me: “So Holly and Mark are going to break up because there’s no such thing as love?”

Cal: “Oh, no. Well, yes, eventually. But well before that happens, they’re going to break up because their backgrounds are too different.”

I really don’t think I can be blamed for saying, “At least they’re both human, unlike the skank I saw leaving your hotel room earlier.”

I had the satisfaction of seeing him, for the first time since we’ve met, completely speechless.

Sadly the effect was ruined when one of my stiletto heels got caught between the cobblestones outside the restaurant. It gouged away all the silver lame. I don’t think it can be fixed, either.

I’ll admit the cobblestones are charming, but have these people never heard of asphalt? It was totally humiliating too, the Modelizer had to help me pry it loose. My heel, I mean.

His hand fit all the way around my ankle. You know, his fingers met his thumb on the other side.

Thank God I remembered to shave my legs in the shower before dinner.

God, I’m so jazzed from all that good food, I don’t think I’ll ever fall asleep. Plus, I keep thinking about The Dude. He has to be all right, doesn’t he? I mean, Julio would have called if there was anything wrong. I left my cell number by the phone, so Julio could call from my phone, and not wrack up a bill on his parents’ line.

And I just checked it, and he hasn’t called. So The Dude is good. No news is good news, right? The Dude HAS to be good.

It’s just that we’ve spent maybe only five nights, total, away from each other since he was a kitten. Who is going to get up during The Dude’s 4-AM windowsill yowl at the moon and comfort him if I’m not there? That yowl used to drive me insane. But now I sort of miss it. I’d give anything to hear that yowl right now. In fact, I don’t think I’ll be able to go to sleep without it—

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___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Customer Service New York Journal Travel Privileges <TravelPrivcustser@thenyjournal.com >

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com >

Re: Car Rental

I realize it’s Sunday, and that your offices are closed. However, when I made the reservation for a rental car in Rome, I specified that I needed a four-door sedan with trunk room for four VERY LARGE bags. I asked for a Jaguar or Mercedes, NOT a Toyota. Now I have to cram one of the bags in the backseat with two passengers, and we’re going to be driving through MOUNTAINS. Do you really think it’s safe to drive through a mountain range with a large, overstuffed suitcase between passengers in the backseat?

I didn’t think so. I’ll expect to hear from you on Monday.

Mark Levine, MD

___________________________________________

To: Julio Chasez <julio@streetsmart.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: The Dude

Hi, Julio! I have to admit, I’m getting kind of worried. Is everything OK? I mean, you haven’t written back to me, and I just want to know if everything is going all right. I know you’re busy with school and hockey and all, but if you could just send me a tiny message, letting me know The Dude’s all right, I’d really appreciate it.

I think I’ll try your pager.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where are you?

????????????????????

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Where are you?

I’m still in the dining room, finishing breakfast. Where are YOU?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where are you?

Outside. Hurry up and finish and get out here. You’ve got to see this. Mark and Cal are trying to cram all of our bags into the trunk, only they won’t fit. So they’re doing physics. All serious, like it’s a puzzle or something. Something actually IMPORTANT. Get out here, or you’ll miss it.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Where are you?

I’m not done with my yogurt yet.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where are you?

Oh my God, it’s just YOGURT. Get out here. You can have yogurt anytime.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Where are you?

Not like this. This is the best yogurt I’ve ever had.

What does Fett-Grassi 3.7g mean anyway?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where are you?

Fat grams.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Where are you?

SERIOUSLY??? SATURATED OR UNSATURATED??? OH MY GOD, I’VE EATEN FOUR CONTAINERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com>

Re: How are you?

Hi, honey! Thank you for emailing me back so promptly. I hope you made it to your hotel all right. Things here are good. Well, except for Dad nearly broke his tailbone from a fall off the roof as he was cleaning the gutters. But he bounced off the hydrangea bush, so all is well.

I don’t want you to worry, but after I wrote you yesterday I ran into Holly’s mother again, this time at the Kroger Sav-On, and I mentioned how lovely I thought it was that you all were going to Italy to stay in her uncle’s villa, and Marie didn’t seem to know a thing about it. I know I wasn’t supposed to mention the elope ment, but Holly did tell her mother she was going to her uncle’s, didn’t she? I hope I haven’t spoiled anything.

Love,

Mom

PS Cal Langdon, the reporter with the New York Journal ? Why, I just saw him on Charlie Rose the other night! He was being interviewed about some big book he’s just written. Apparently, it’s selling very well. He’s very handsome, Janie.

Still, imagine not thinking Mark should marry Holly. Those two were made for each other! And who’s never heard of Wondercat? What has he been doing, living under a rock???? Well, I guess so, actually, since his book is about Saudi Arabia….

Mom

___________________________________________

To: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: How are you?

Hi, Mom! Things here are fine. Well, except that Holly and I are waiting for the guys to go check out of the hotel so that we can rearrange the way they’ve packed the rental car. It’s too small for all of us, plus our luggage, so Holly and I have to sit in the back with Holly’s giant suitcase. Which we don’t mind, especially, except that they packed our bag of Toblerone in the trunk. What good will it do anyone there?

We leave for Holly’s uncle’s villa today. It’s about a four-hour drive from Rome to where the house is, on the Adriatic coast. I can’t wait to see it! Everything here is just so different and fun. Even the yogurt is better.

But then I found out that’s because I was eating full fat yogurt for the first time in my life. Oh well.

I wouldn’t worry about Holly’s mom. People in their family borrow their uncle’s place all the time, since he’s away so much.

Tell Dad there are people he can hire to clean the gutters.

Love,

Janie

PS You saw Cal Langdon on Charlie Rose ? It figures. He is so full of himself. And as for his not thinking Holly and Mark are perfect for each other… Please! I don’t even like to remember what Holly was like before she started dating Mark. I mean, remember the whole green hair phase?

And you’d have to have lived under a rock not to have seen Wondercat’s recycling campaign at D’Agostino. There are circulars for it everywhere.

J

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Why did you let Mark drive?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Hello? You were there. How was I supposed to stop him?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Yeah, but he sucks at it. I mean, really, really sucks at it.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Hello. It’s Italy. Everyone sucks at driving. He blends.

Besides, I had to let him drive, after that whole thing with Cal rearranging all the suitcases.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Yeah. What was UP with that, anyway? Why is Cal so… bossy?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Mark says it’s because Cal has an enormous you know what.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Head?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

No, you idiot. You KNOW what I mean.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Wait. WHAT??? SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Mark swears it’s true. He says Cal has always been supremely self-confident because of the enormity of his you know what. Well, at least up until that model broke his heart and all.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

You are making that up. About his you know what, I mean.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Um. Have YOU seen him sit with his legs crossed?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

That doesn’t mean—Oh, my God, you ARE serious.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Apparently, despite his ex-wife’s desertion on what was to be their first wedding anniversary, he has every reason in the world to feel quite pleased with himself.

Does THAT make you think a little more fondly of him?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

NO!!! Size doesn’t matter, and you know it.

Well, not that much.

She really left him on their first anniversary?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

He came home from work, preparing to change clothes and take her out for an evening of celebration, and found a note. She’d had movers in while he was at the office. They took everything. Except the cat.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

They had a CAT????

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

It was her cat. She left it with Cal because her new boyfriend was allergic. Cal took care of it for almost a year, hoping Valerie would change her mind and come back. But she didn’t. So Cal got himself assigned to Iraq.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

What happened to the CAT?????

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Oh. The cat died right before he decided to leave. Of cancer. Mark says he isn’t sure which left Cal more brokenhearted—his wife leaving him, or the cat dying.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

You are such a liar. You made that whole thing up about the cat dying. What really happened to it?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

He gave it to Tim Grabowski in IT.

Still. The cat COULD be dead now, for all I know. Poor, poor Cal.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

You are so pathetic.

And I wouldn’t feel too sorry for Cal Langdon if I were you. He’s doing just fine for himself.

Promise you won’t let Mark drive through the mountains. He will plunge us to our deaths.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Um. Yeah. Maybe I’ll drive after lunch. Or we can get Cal “Large Appendage” Langdon to do it.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You trust him to drive????

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Yes, of course! Unlike some people, he’s actually used to driving in a foreign country.

What is your problem with him, anyway? He was perfectly nice during dinner last night, didn’t you think? And he’s been nothing but charming all morning. So what gives?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What is up with this?

Nothing. Stop e-ing me, they totally know we’re talking about them.

Thank God they don’t know WHAT we’re talking about, though.

Ew.

J

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Ruth Levine <r.levine@levinedentalgroup.com >

Re: Hello!

Is that any way to speak to your mother, I would like to know? I KNOW you think you’re in love with Holly.

And I will admit she is a very nice girl.

But I don’t think she’s the RIGHT girl for you, Mark. You two come from two different worlds. Don’t get me wrong, I completely appreciate the Italian heritage. They brought so many important things to the world, such as pasta and that nice Mario Batali from the Food Channel.

But what kind of future do you and Holly have together? What religion would you raise your children? Are you going to have a Christmas tree? You know the Di Marcos down the street have an entire holy manger scene in their front yard every year, made from cut-out pieces of plywood. Is that what you want, Mark? The baby Jesus in your front yard? Are you trying to kill me?

I’m just saying, I’m sure Susie Schramm has grown into a very interesting, vibrant girl. Why don’t you see her, just for lunch? What could one lunch hurt? You have a little lunch, catch up on old times… who knows where it could lead?

Call me, Markie. I’m worried about you. Really.

Mom

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Darrin Caputo <darrin.caputo@caputographics.com>

Re: Hello, it is your mother

I am using your brother’s email to write this to you. Your father says I should not, that you are an adult and I should let you lead your own life, like your brothers.

But all of your brothers found nice Italian girls—except for Frankie with that stripper. But even she is a good Christian, when she is not taking her clothes off for money.

Even Darrin, even HE found a nice Italian boy. Bobby came over for dinner last night and finished up ALL my chicken parmigiani. Such a good appetite.

I don’t understand why you cannot do the same as your brothers. What is so wrong with finding a nice Italian boy to settle down with? Even a Polish boy would be all right, if he were Catholic. Why do you have to be with this Mark? He is a very nice boy, but he is not Catholic. What does he know about anything?

I am asking you to think about what you are doing with your life. People are starting to think things about you and this Mark. I saw Jane Harris’s mother in the grocery store, and she was talking like you and Mark are getting married. If you are not careful, other people will begin to think the same, and eventually word will spread to Father Roberto, and then how will I be able to hold my head up at Mass on Sunday?

Think about your life, Holly. Do the right thing.

Mom

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Graziella Fratiani <grazielle@galleriefratiani.co.it>

Re: Yesterday

It was so lovely to be seeing you yesterday afternoon. You are a twenty-first-century man, not like these Italian boys I constantly meet. You know, still living with Mama, and expect all women to cook and clean for them. It’s nice to be with a man who washes his own socks.

Did I tell you, I’m between shows at the moment, so I can take a little time off from the gallery. Might I to be joining you at your little villa later in the week? I think I can—“rough it”? Let me know.

Grazi

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Julio Chasez <julio@streetsmart.com>

Re: The Dude

Hey, Ms. Harris. I got your messages. Just wanted to let you know your cat is fine. Really.

And no, I haven’t had to use the oven mitts yet. And yeah, he ate all his salmon pate. And the Tender Vittles. And the Science Diet. And the Fancy Feast. And the Sheba. And he tried to gnaw through a box of Girl Scout cookies you left on the counter, but I took it away before he could.

Also, he chewed a hole through your sofa. But I guess you knew that. And he took a pretty big chunk out of my thumb when I caught him eating a tube of your toothpaste and tried to take it away. But the doctor says I’ll be fine. I guess cats have cleaner spit than humans or dogs or something.

Hope you’re having a nice trip.

Julio

___________________________________________

To: Julio Chasez <julio@streetsmart.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: The Dude

Oh, my God, I’m so sorry about your thumb! PLEASE save your doctor’s bills so I can reimburse you when I get back!

You are the BEST!!! I cannot thank you enough for taking such good care of him!

Yes, I know about the sofa. It’s okay, really.

THANK YOU!!!! I’ll see you in a week!

Love,

Jane

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

It’s actually kind of hard to write this with the suitcase wedged onto the seat between me and Holly, but it’s better than trying to make conversation, because everyone seems to be in a bad mood since we all checked our Blackberries after lunch. Well, except for me. Since Julio says The Dude is fine!

I’ll have to make sure I reimburse Julio for his medical expenses, of course. But just knowing that Dude was in a good-enough mood to bite him must mean he’s not missing me too much.

I don’t know what’s eating everybody else in this car….

Well, I sort of do. It turns out Mark, who was supposed to be the one in charge of bringing CDs to listen to in the car, forgot. So the only thing we have to listen to is Italian radio (Hello. You do not know what disturbing is until you’ve heard Italian rap) or the Queen CD Cal happened to have in his backpack.

Yes. Queen.

I have now heard “Fat-Bottomed Girls” twelve times. Holly joked that it’s going to be her and Mark’s wedding theme song.

Thank God Mark pulled over when we got to the foot of the mountains and let Cal take over. You never saw such narrow, twisty roads in your life. I thought I was going to heave. Thank God I had Dramamine with me.

Plus, every time we made a turn, Holly’s suitcase fell on me. Well, not really fell, since Holly was holding onto it, but it LEANED HEAVILY on me. By the time we pulled over for lunch, I was chafed from the stupid thing rubbing against my shoulder, and in a pretty bad mood myself… especially when I saw the restaurant Cal had pulled up in front of.

I mean, God forbid he should choose a place in an actual TOWN. Oh, no, not Mr. I’ve Backpacked Around the World With Nothing But a Razor and My Queen CD (and some condoms, I hope, if he makes a habit of porking supermodels at every stop with his ABNORMALLY LARGE APPENDAGE—if what Holly says is really true, which I doubt. She’s probably only saying it to make me like him. Well, it’s NOT going to work).

Anyway, Modelizer has to pick this ridiculous looking Ho-Jo type place with these plate-glass windows in the middle of nowhere, perched on a CLIFF, practically.

Only when we walked in—me trying to rub some life back into my shoulder—we saw that there were like a million people there, looking out the plate glass windows at this beautiful waterfall rushing right past the dining room.

And the waiter was totally nice even though we didn’t have a reservation, and sat us at a really lovely table right by the waterfall window. And instead of giving us menus, he just told us (in Italian, of course) what they were serving, which Holly and Cal said Si to, even though I didn’t understand a word.

And then the next thing I knew, a carafe of bianco frizzante appeared as if from nowhere!

And then the waiter brought a giant bowl of deliciously cheesy pasta, which he spooned out onto each of our plates, and which seemed to melt as soon as it reached my tongue.

And then he brought a HUGE fish, swimming in butter, for the table to share, and a giant bowl of crisp, fresh, vinegary salad, and all this bread, and the whole thing only cost—get this: twenty-eight euros.

That is five Roman Diet Cokes right there.

The real question is, of course:

Why aren’t more women in Italy fat? That’s what I want to know. Because the women in that restaurant looked totally normal weight.

Mark said it’s because they aren’t loading up on empty calories the way Americans do. You know, soda and fries and stuff like that.

And maybe so.

But a few more meals like that one, and I guarantee I won’t be fitting into my one-piece. Which would suck, because Holly says the villa’s got a kick-ass pool.

So then after lunch we walked around the parking lot a little to get our circulation back and take in the view, which was stunning. And I was standing there enjoying the sun on my face and listening to the rushing water when Cal—I mean, Large Appendage—came up to me, and was all, “About what you said last night…”

I assumed he meant what I’d said about Holly and Mark being so perfect for each other, and that he was going to apologize for saying otherwise—especially since they were over by the car bickering about how it was Holly’s turn to drive and Mark was saying how he was more comfortable with stick than she was and it was a totally cute argument that was making me long for my own soul mate with whom to bicker.

Only instead, he went, “Graziella Fratiani happens to own one of the most popular art galleries in Rome, and is both an enterprising businesswoman and a good friend. She is hardly a—what did you call her? Oh, yes. A skank.”

CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT???? I was totally shocked. I just stood there looking up at him (why does he have to be so tall, anyway? And why are tall men always so… hot?) totally unable to think of anything pithy or witty to say. As usual.

And in a way he DID have a right to be mad. I mean, I don’t know Graziwhosits Fratiwhatever. Maybe she’s not a skank at all. Maybe she’s this totally kindhearted and generous woman who gives huge amounts of money to cancer research and volunteers at the local orphanage….

Yeah, right. No one in her thirties has thighs that thin without the help of the medical community.

And no one who’s had that much work done is hanging out with orphans.

Plus, no one who stops by guys’ hotel rooms for an afternoon quickie isn’t a skank.

And even though Holly had asked me to try to get along with Large Appendage, just for the trip, and is making him out to be this big tragic hero, on account of his ex leaving him for someone richer (I bet she regrets it now, if she saw that episode of Charlie Rose my mom was talking about), I looked up at him and before I could stop myself, was all, “Wow, really, one of the most popular art galleries in Rome?”

Cal: “Yes.”

Me: “And she didn’t, like, inherit it from her dad or get it in a divorce settlement from an ex-husband?”

Cal: (looking kind of chagrined) “Well. Yes. I mean, her grandfather started the business, but—”

Me: “I see. Well, it might interest you to know that there are women who’ve actually started their own businesses from scratch without any help from their fathers, and who’ve managed to land seven-figure development deals with the Cartoon Network due to their own hard work and perseverance.”

Which is all true. I mean, I don’t actually GET the seven figures unless the Cartoon Network picks up Wondercat as an animated series.

But he doesn’t have to know that.

Besides, even without those seven figures, I’m doing fine. Just as well as Grazi who sits. Probably.

And even if I’m not, the money is MINE. I earned it from MY hard work, not my grandpa’s. And so what if I live in a studio apartment? He doesn’t have to know that. What do I need a lot of space for anyway?

It’s just me and The Dude, after all.

He didn’t even have the grace to look embarrassed, though. He was just all, “Regardless. You don’t have the right to call her a skank.”

So then I looked him dead in the eye—well, as close as I could, anyway, from my twelve-inch height disadvantage—and said, “Well, you don’t have the right to say Mark and Holly shouldn’t get married.”

“Actually,” he said. “I do.”

AND THEN HE STALKED AWAY!!! Before I could get another word in! Before I could stalk away!

Which actually is probably a good thing because when I tried to stalk away in the other direction, my Steve Madden heel slipped in the gravel and I nearly fell down and I would have fallen if I hadn’t grabbed hold of the fender of a Smart Car parked nearby.

He didn’t see, though.

Anyway, this pretty much settles it:

Cal Langdon = Spawn of Satan.

But at least now I know where we stand. And I will be able to begin taking evasive action. Obviously, from this moment on, I can never

a) Leave Cal and Mark alone in a room together

b) Leave Cal and Holly alone in a room together

c) Leave Cal alone anywhere

I will have to watch him like a hawk. It would be SO like him to drop unsubtle little hints about phenylethylamine and the dissolution of his marriage here and there in order to shake Mark’s conviction to go through with his.

And Holly, as I know only too well, is already wondering if she’s doing the right thing. I CANNOT let that man destroy the one actual solid romantic relationship left in the universe… well, except for my mom and dad’s, but ew, don’t want to think about that right now.

The only thing is, he obviously thinks he knows what’s best… not just for Mark, but for everybody. I mean, that bossy way he chose where we were going to have lunch, and then, once we were there, what we were going to have.

And yeah, it was delicious.

But still.

I have to find a way to let him know he is NOT in charge here—WITHOUT letting Holly suspect anything’s wrong. Because Holly’s worried enough about everything. If she finds out the best man doesn’t even think this wedding is a good idea, it’s all over.

I’ve got to prove to this guy that I am not at ALL impressed with the size of his member. His having a huge you know what does absolutely NOTHING to intimidate ME.

And you know, I don’t think his thing can really be all that big because it’s not like he walks all bowlegged or whatever. Curt Shipley’s was HUGE and you could see the sun shine between his inner thighs when he was coming toward you….

Oooooh, I have an idea. If his email is the same as everyone else’s who works at the Journal ….

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

It’s me. What you said back there in the parking lot—about how you’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure Mark doesn’t make the biggest mistake of his life—that’s pretty presumptuous of you, don’t you think?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

Ms. Harris. What a surprise. You’re emailing me.

From the backseat.

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

Oh, please. Like you and Mark weren’t doing the same in the cab yesterday.

I realize you and Mark are friends—good friends, since childhood, just like Holly and I are.

But you haven’t seen him in a long time. How do you even know what’s good for him anymore? And you certainly don’t know Holly well enough to make any kind of judgment about her. How can you presume that you know what’s best for either of them when the truth is, you hardly know them at all?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

You are certainly entitled to your opinion. Just as I am entitled to mine.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

You’re not entitled to your opinion at ALL. Because it’s WRONG. You have absolutely no factual basis for it. You can’t know Mark is making “the biggest mistake of his life” by marrying Holly because you hardly know Holly. You’re basing your opinion on your own personal biases against love and marriage. And that has nothing to do with Mark OR Holly. That was just your own stupidity.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

Now who’s stating an opinion for which she has no factual basis?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

Um, hello, any MORON can tell you that marrying a model you’ve known for a month is stupid. I’m sorry, but it’s true.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

Has anyone ever told you, Ms. Harris, that your tactlessness is astounding?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

ME??? I’m not the tactless one, Mr. There’s No Such Thing as Romantic Love. Holly and Mark are in their thirties, not their twenties, and they’ve lived together for over two years. They are NOT making the same mistake you did. They are consenting adults—neither working in the modeling industry—who are in love. End of story.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

Perhaps we should discuss this face-to-face. My persuasive powers are at a disadvantage on handheld portable devices.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

No way! I don’t want Holly getting wind of the fact that you aren’t one hundred percent behind this wedding thing. She’s freaking out enough about her family not being behind the idea. If she finds out the best man’s against it too, she’ll die.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

I meant sometime when Holly and Mark were not with us.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

Well, I don’t see when that’s going to happen.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

You don’t anticipate that, during the next seven days we will be spending together, there will be a time when we will be alone together?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Holly and Mark

God, I hope not. I mean, no, I don’t. Let’s just keep this conversation on paper. Or email. Or whatever. I don’t want Holly getting wind of it. I—

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Well, THAT was totally humiliating. Holly’s cell phone went off right when I was about to rewrite that last message to Cal, and I accidentally pushed Send.

Then Holly asked me to answer her cell phone, since she was concentrating on driving, and her purse was in the back-seat anyway with me and Mark (Cal, of course, got the front seat, since he’s so TALL) and the phone was ringing.

And so I answered it, and this weird old lady was all, “Hellooo? Hellooo-ooo?” and I was all, “Holly Caputo’s line,” and the old lady was like, “Vat? Vat?” with this German accent, and I was like, “Holly, there’s a German lady on the line.”

And Holly went, “Oh, that’s Frau Schumacher, my uncle’s housekeeper. She’s meeting us at the exit to take us to the house since I haven’t been there since I was little and I don’t remember the way, and she says it’s too hard to explain. Tell her we’re on our way.”

So I went, “Oh. OK. Hello, Frau Schumacher?”

And Frau Schumacher was all, “Helloooo, Holly?”

“No, this is Holly’s friend, Jane,” I said. “Holly can’t talk now because she’s driving. But she said to tell you we’re on our way.”

“Vere are you?” Frau Schumacher wanted to know.

So, to be helpful, I looked out the car window, and saw one of those green-and-white signs that let you know the name of the next city that’s coming up.

“We’re just outside Carabinieri,” I said.

Which made Cal start laughing VERY VERY hard. Even though to my knowledge, I hadn’t said anything funny.

“Vat?” Frau Schumacher sounded confused. But it was hard to tell with all the LAUGHING in the car.

“Vere are you?”

“We just passed Carabinieri,” I said into the phone. Now Holly was laughing, too. I leaned forward and swatted her, while Mark asked, confusedly, “What’s so funny?”

“Jane,” Holly choked, between chortles. “Carabinieri isn’t the name of a town . It means police. We drove by a police station just then.”

Really, I don’t see what’s so funny about that. I mean, how am I supposed to know what carabinieri means? I’ve only just gotten down si—yes—andgrazie —thank you. I’m still trying to keepbuon giorno — good day—andbuona sera —good night—straight… not to mention Non ho votato per lui (I didn’t vote for him) in the event of any rampant anti-Americanism that might rear its ugly head.

“Vere are the carabinieri?” Frau Shumacher wanted to know, sounding panicky. “Zey are following you?”

“No, no,” I said, into the phone. “Sorry. No, I made a mistake.”

“Zey zink zey own the roads, the carabinieri!” Frau Schumacher shouted. “In Germany, the polizia, zey know zeir place!”

“No, no carabinieri,” I said. “There isn’t any carabinieri… I made a mistake…”

“Give me that.” Suddenly, the Modelizer was leaning over, trying to snatch the phone from me.

“I’ve GOT it,” I said, outraged, and yanking the phone out of his reach.

“You guys,” Holly yelled, jerking the wheel.

“I told you you don’t know how to drive a stick,” Mark said, as Holly’s suitcase landed on him.

Then, because of the knowing look Cal threw me—as if, just because Mark was criticizing Holly’s driving, they weren’t destined for each other—I tossed the phone at him.

“Here, you big baby,” I said—probably sounding like a baby myself. But I don’t care.

Cal picked up the phone and began talking to Holly’s uncle’s housekeeper in smooth, fluent German. While the two of them were yakking away, I poked Holly in the shoulder and asked, “Why does your uncle have a German housekeeper in Italy, anyway?”

“How should I know?” We were almost out of the mountains now, but Holly was still paying rapt attention to the road. “She’s just lived in the cottage next door forever, so Uncle Matteo made her his housekeeper.”

This was a very unsatisfactory explanation.

About as unsatisfying as that email conversation with Cal. Just who does he think he is, anyway, presuming to tell me MY friend isn’t worthy of his? And what did he mean by wanting to talk about this face-to-face? Is he high? I am never letting myself be alone in the same room with him. He might try to work his Large Appendage magic on me! Just like Curt Shipley used to! Girls—and, I know now, boys too—were powerless when Curt Shipley had them in his sights. It could be the same with Cal Langdon! Men who are supremely confident in the size of their own you know what do seem to exude a certain something….

Although, really, he’s so pompous, I can’t actually see myself falling for him, Large Appendage magic or not.

He is kind of hot, though, the way his hair sometimes falls over his eye…

If only he’d shut up about stupid Saudi Arabia once in a while.

AAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOO

Sorry. Suddenly we went over this peak, and my eyes were DAZZLED by what I was seeing below us:

Deep green valleys, over which tiny little cities are perched (the ancient fortified cities from the guidebook) clustered together within stone walls on brightly sunlit hillsides….

Crumbling castles presiding over a patchwork of farmyards below them…

Sun-baked houses with orange tiled rooftops, with chickens in the yard pecking beneath brightly colored laundry hanging from lines outside shuttered windows….

Oh, my God. I think we’re here ! Le Marche!

And that Customs guy was wrong. It’s BEAUTIFUL.

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Graziella Fratiani <grazielle@galleriefratiani.co.it>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Yesterday

If you really meant it when you said you’d come, you’d be entirely welcome… by me, at least. I can use an ally. My ego has taken about enough bruising as it can during this trip. The maid of honor is, to coin a phrase, a bitch.

Looking forward to seeing you.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Ruth Levine <r.levine@levinedentalgroup.com>

Re: Hello!

Cal, it’s me, Mark’s mom! How are you? I understand you’re with Mark right now on his little European jaunt. I hear it’s very nice in Italy this time of year. I hope you’re getting plenty of rest and relaxation— you certainly deserve it after all that hard work you put in on your book. I saw it the other day at the Barnes and Noble. It was in the number-six spot for the bestsellers. Congratulations! That is fantastic.

Of course, Mark’s father and I always knew you were destined for great things. It was pretty obvious from the day we met you, when you and little Markie took apart our vacuum cleaner’s motor on the kitchen floor to see how it worked. It still ran perfectly well after you put it back together, despite those leftover pieces.

Well, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m writing to you after all these years, so I’ll get to the point:

I’m worried about Mark. I’m sure this Holly is a very nice girl.

But I’m not so sure she’s right for our Mark. She’s the ARTISTIC type, for one thing. I know she has a very good job with the paper Mark sometimes writes that little column for. But let’s face it: she doesn’t exactly earn the kind of money I know some of Mark’s past girlfriends are making now—Susie Schramm, for instance. You remember Susie, don’t you, Cal? She’s a lawyer now, with a very high-powered firm. I think Susie’s SO MUCH more of Mark’s type than this Holly girl.

And I DON’T mean because Holly’s not Jewish. You know I NEVER judge people by their religion. After all, your family was—what was it again? Protestant?—and it never bothered me a bit! We quite enjoyed your mother’s Christmas Eve cocktail party every year.

It’s just that Mark has always been such a romantic. I’m sure deep down he thinks things like religious background don’t matter. But you were always much more practical, Cal—not to mention, you’ve been around the world, and seen much more than Mark has—so I know you understand.

Plus, having been through a divorce yourself, I’m sure you wish someone had taken you aside in a brotherly manner and warned you not to rush into anything with that Valerie person. She was no good for you, anyone could see that. I knew it the minute I met her. What was she thinking, wearing that off-the-shoulder thing at your wedding? I realize it was couture and that Oscar de la Renta designed it just for her. Still, it hardly fit in at the country club here, now, did it?

And what about the children? Mark and Holly’s, I mean, if, God forbid, they should have them? How are they going to raise the children? I don’t want my grandchildren having no sense of identity because they’ve been raised in TWO religions. That’s worse than being raised with none!

Anyway, I’m just hoping that since you’re with Mark right now, you could try to talk some sense into him. He’s always respected you, and I just know if you told him not to rush into anything— to give Susie Schramm a call when he gets home—he’d listen. She has completely outgrown that under bite, you know. It’s a miracle what orthodontia can do.

Thank you, Cal. And please give my love to your parents. Except for an annual Christmas newsletter from your mom, I haven’t heard much from them since they split up. But Joan’s hacienda in Tucson looks lovely—at least, judging from her newsletter. And I hope Hank is enjoying himself in Mexico City, and that that little misunderstanding at the track back in Dayton got cleared up.

Affectionately,

Ruth Levine

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

Well… this is definitely going to be an interesting trip.

The bride-to-be’s uncle appears to employ a German half-wit as a housekeeper, who went on ad nauseum about how things are so different now in Le Marche than they were right after the war (no need to ask which one… around here, there was only one war) and that Americans are welcome now with open arms, in spite of what they did to Ancona. No mention, of course, about her own country of origin’s having started that war.

The groom’s mother has another girl in mind for her daughter-in-law.

And the maid of honor appears to hate my guts.

This should be a lot of fun.

Sarcasm aside, Le Marche is an extraordinarily beautiful area of the world, filled with Renaissance towns still virtually untouched by American influence… no McDonalds, no twenty-four-hour convenience marts, no superstores. No wonder so many Italians flock here every summer. The waterfront resorts are reportedly packed from July though August. And there are even supposed to be some beaches down by Portoforno and Osimo that rival the Cote d’Azur for natural beauty.

Still, stunning vistas and Renaissance churches aside, Le Marche is not exactly where I’d choose to get married. If I were to make the mistake of getting married again. Which, of course, I never will.

And I feel a sense of responsibility toward Mark to keep him from making the same mistake as well. Not because, despite what Jane Harris might think, that I believe Holly is another Valerie. And not even because his mother asked me to. But because the guy has never lived! He’s been in school for what, twenty years? And then he went straight from that to practicing full time…. the guy’s done NOTHING. Never backpacked in Nepal. Never trekked the Amazon. Never swallowed the worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle in Belize. Adventure, to Mark, is a Star Trekconvention.

And he thinks he’s ready to get married? He’s ready for a therapist’s couch, is what he’s ready for.

Holly’s a great girl—I have no doubts about that. But marriage? No. Not now. The guy needs to have a life first. Then, if he and Holly were meant to be, they can attach the old ball and chain.

Obviously, I’m going to have to be subtle about this. Ms. Harris will undoubtedly be watching for any signs of mutiny. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. She looks kind of cute with her chin thrust out in righteous indignation.

I can’t believe I just wrote that. First fetching. Now cute. I think I need out of this car. And a drink.

She does have the worst problems with her footwear of any woman I have ever met. First the stiletto between the cobblestones last night, and today, the heel twisting in the gravel. I don’t know how she manages to remain upright.

And she has this unnerving habit of staring at my crotch. Yes, she’s short, but certainly not so much that this is where her eye level might naturally rest.

Ah, we’ve reached the exit where Frau Schumacher is going to meet us. She says she drives a silver Mercedes. Her grasp of English seems to have been derived from watching too many subtitled episodes of Murder She Wrote.

This should be an exceedingly entertaining week.

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Oh my God, we’re HERE. Villa Beccacia!

And it’s GORGEOUS.

I will admit, at first I had my doubts. That Frau Schumacher— I think she might actually be as old as some of those castles we zoomed by. And, um, she’s just SLIGHTLY in love with Large Appendage. It’s sickening! Just because he speaks German! We got out of the car to meet her on the shoulder of the exit, and she was all, “Vich vun is Cal?” and when he raised his hand, you could practically see her melt onto the asphalt.

And she’s got to be a hundred if she’s a day! Who knew Large Appendage’s magic works on centenarians?

The next thing I knew, the two of them were totally chattering away in German, leaving the rest of us out of the conversation.

Fortunately she had her great-grandson with her, Peter, who’s fourteen and speaks English… well, pretty well anyway. Don’t ask me why Peter is living with great-granny in Italy and not attending school, either here or his native Germany. Possibly she’s home-schooling him? He does look a bit like he’d get the you know what knocked out of him in an American high school. I mean, he’s a little on the chubby side and very soft-spoken, with an X-Men T-shirt under his jean jacket. In any case, I didn’t think it would be polite to ask. About why he wasn’t in school, I mean.

Anyway, Peter asked us non-German speakers how the drive was, and if we were hungry, and said he and “Grandmuzzer” had stocked the fridge at the villa, so we should be all right until the “shops” opened again tomorrow, they’re all being closed today on account of it’s Sunday.

Mark asked him about liquor—you can tell sitting shotgun while Holly drove had worn away his last good nerve—and Peter said, looking confused, “Vell, I zink zere are many bottles in the house now.”

Mark looked visibly relieved.

Then Frau Schumacher said for us all to get back in the car and follow her. So we did. And we were driving along, me not being able to help notice that there was a big wall of clouds climbing over the nearby, castle-crested hill, and realizing I probably wasn’t going to be able to squeeze in an evening swim, when all of a sudden Holly went, “Look! The Adriatic!”

And there it was, this beautiful slice of sapphire blue, right there! There was no one on the beach, because being the middle of September, it’s off season, of course… even though it’s still in the 80s, temperature-wise (or the twenties, if you’re going Celsius, like the Italians).

But somebody had still put out all of these white-and-yellow-striped lounge chairs, just in case.

And we drove through this adorable little seaside town, Porto Recanati, filled with the sweetest shops— a gelateria, and an Italian Benetton—and something called the Crazy Bar and Sexy Tattoo Shop, which I’m not sure really qualifies as sweet—and then hung a left onto a road I’m not even sure, technically, really IS a road. I mean, it’s DIRT, and all of this dust was flying as we went down it, so that we had to close the windows.

Still, it was tree-lined, and through the spaces between the trees, we caught glimpses of the Centro Ippico—a horseriding center down the road from Villa Beccacia… although not far ENOUGH down the road, if you ask me, since even as I write this I can hear neighing.

And there’s a slightly horsy odor in the air when the wind shifts.

But whatever. We followed Frau Schumacher to this electric wooden gate, and waited while she hit a button and it slid slowly open….

And then we saw it. Villa Beccacia, Holly’s uncle’s house, which has been around for a really long time… hundreds of years, since it was built in the 1600s!

Of course, it’s been remodeled since then.

But not so you’d notice from the outside. As we drove down the long driveway, past fruit trees around which bees were humming and butterflies were flitting, past a deep green pond, its surface covered with lily pads, past rolling, grassy hills, the stone house, with vines creeping up all over it, came into view.

And it was just the way I’d pictured it!

Well, okay, there weren’t any turrets. But really, it’s LIKE a castle. I mean, it’s really old, and inside, there are these darkly beamed and vaulted ceilings. And there are tapestries hanging on the walls, and in the old-fashioned kitchen, there’s a brick oven.

You can’t USE it… they put in a modern stove to cook on. But the brick oven is still THERE.

The casement windows are sunk into these deep walls with sills you can sit on, and open out like shutters. There are no screens, because if there were, you wouldn’t be able to open the windows.

And out back, the pool is just steps away from the covered stone patio—the terrazza , according to Peter—with the ancient built-in grill/fireplace. This is apparently where Zio Matteo spends most of his time when he’s home, since there was wax all over the wrought-iron table from the many candles that had dripped onto it while he was enjoying what Frau Schumacher intimated was one of his many enormous meals (from the photos I’ve seen scattered around the house, Zio Matteo definitely enjoys his food). There was lots of firewood in the pile for the future, and a few sad-looking fly-strips hanging from the rafters.

The pool is gorgeous, 50 by 20 feet at least, with blue-and-white-striped lounge chairs all around, and palm trees at each end, the fronds swaying gently in the breeze (which is picking up, thanks to the approaching rain clouds). I am going to be so glued to the side of that pool as soon as the weather clears up.

Oh, and the whole wedding thing is taken care of.

Holly broke the news to Frau Schumacher as we were following the old lady around the house, listening to her rattle on in broken English about how there were plenty of clean towels but she’d just finished washing them and they were still drying on the line over at her cottage farther down the driveway.

“You vill need lots of tovels,” Frau Schumacher was saying, “for the svimming and the beach.”

“Well,” Holly said, glancing sweetly at Mark. “We aren’t really here for the water sports, Frau Schumacher. Mark and I plan on getting married this week, over in Castelfidardo.”

Frau Schumacher reacted the way a NORMAL—read, not Cal Langdon—person would react upon finding out a young and attractive couple like Mark and Holly were getting married: She clapped her hands for glee and wanted to know all the details, like what Holly would be wearing and did her uncle know and when were her parents coming.

To which Holly replied, her face getting red, “Well, I didn’t tell Zio Matteo or my parents. We’re eloping, actually—”

Which threw Frau Schumacher into a tizzy of excitement— once Cal translated, since neither Peter nor she was familiar with the wordelope . She exclaimed, in her broken English, that she knew the mayor of Castelfidardo very well, and that if any problems developed, she was to be consulted immediately. Where was the wedding breakfast going to be? What? We hadn’t planned for a wedding breakfast? Well, there had to be a wedding breakfast. She would supply it—

Then Frau Schumacher’s gaze fell on Cal (it never actually strays away from him long, I’ve noticed) and she glanced from him to me quickly and asked, no longer smiling, “And you two? You are having vedding, too?”

Both Cal and I hastened to assure the housekeeper that we were not—Cal a little more hastily than I think was actually polite, to tell you the truth. I mean, he may not know it, but he’d be LUCKY to be married to a girl like me. At least I can support myself without Daddy’s—or some investment banker’s— money, unlike SOME women he might know.

And I am at a completely normal body weight, and don’t have to stick my finger down my throat to maintain it.

Plus, I have two television sets. How many does Cal have? Oh, that’d be none. I asked. Yeah, Cal doesn’t “believe” in TV.

Right. You know what I don’t believe in? People who don’t believe in TV.

And then there’s The Dude. Any man would be lucky to get to share a domicile with The Dude.

But whatever. His loss.

Not like I WANT to marry him. Or anybody. I mean, I have a development deal. What do I need a husband for?

Anyway, Frau Schumacher insisted on making us some snacks while Peter helped us take our bags upstairs. Mark picked up Holly’s bag plus his own and Cal had his stupid backpack (Queen. That’s the only CD he travels with. QUEEN. Although come to think of it, I sort of like Queen. But I’ll never let HIM know that) so the only bag left was mine and when Peter went to pick it up he stiffened suddenly and said, “Vundercat?” in this astonished voice, staring at me.

Then Holly, halfway up the stairs, called down, laughingly, “Yeah, Peter, didn’t you know? Janie’s the creator of Wondercat.”

And Peter—to my everlasting gratification—cried, “You are Jane Harris, the artist of Vundercat? Vundercat is my favorite comic of all time! I have all of the Vundercat collection! I have Veb site dewoted to all things Vundercat !”

 “Oh, do you?” I couldn’t help stealing a look at Cal as he was following Holly and Mark up the stairs. Was it my imagination, or was he smiling a little ruefully? Yes, you BETTER feel full of rue, Mr. I Never Heard of Wondercat. Wondercat is INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED. Oh, yes. Even strange, apparently home-schooled German boys in Italy have heard of Wondercat! I may not know what carabinieri means, buddy, but at least I can draw something that has INTERNATIONAL appeal.

“Well, while I’m here,” I said, mostly to get Cal’s goat, “I’ll be happy to draw you some original Wondercats, Peter, for your Web site or whatever.”

A look of total joy suffused Peter’s round-cheeked face, and he raced up the stairs with my bag, chattering a mile a minute about his favorite Wondercat cartoons. I made sure to keep him talking too, so that Cal Langdon heard every word.

Villa Beccacia has seven bedrooms. Holly told Cal and I to pick whichever ones we liked best. Six of the bedrooms are huge, with ancient canopied beds with curtains around the sides, just like Scrooge’s bed in A Christmas Carol, and walls lined with dark panels and bookshelves, on which sit copies of everything from books on bird-watching to Valley of the Dolls in Italian.

The seventh bedroom is tucked away beneath a sloping roof, its single dormer window facing the pool. It’s clearly a boy’s room, with dark blue bedspreads on its twin beds, and matching dark blue tiles in the adjoining bathroom. All of the paintings on the walls are of ships. The oldest one has the words A sua eccellenza il sig Cav Francesco Seratti engraved beneath it. Whatever that means.

I knew at once this was the room for me.

Peter was horrified. He said, “No, you don’t vant this room. You vant the pretty pink room.”

But I said, “Cal can have that one.” (I know he heard me, too, because I heard a snort from the hallway.)

So Peter grudgingly put my bag down and went downstairs to see what his grandmother wanted, since she was bellowing for him (she has quite a set of lungs for such a tiny old lady).

And now I’m lying on one of the twin beds writing this, while everyone else is doing who knows what. All her life, Holly’s talked about Villa Beccacia, the money pit her eccentric uncle bought with his first million doing… well, whatever it is Holly’s uncle does. And now I’m finally IN it! And it feels as much like home as if Zio Matteo were MY uncle!

Oooh, Frau Schumacher is calling us. Authentic Italian (if German-made) snacks must be ready. Yum!

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Malcolm Weatherly <malcolmw@snowstyle.com>

Re: Ciao

Hey! Where are you? I haven’t heard from you. Hope things are going good.

Listen, do you remember if I left my green ESPN hat at your place? Because I can’t find it anywhere. I know I could just go buy a new one, but that was my lucky one. If you remember, could you let me know? And when you get back, send it to me, if you still have it?

Cool.

Rock out.

M

___________________________________________

To: Listserv <Wundercat@wundercatlives.com>

Fr: Peter Schumacher <webmaster@wundercatlives.com>

Re: JANE HARRIS

Listen up, kids! You are not believing what is happening! JANE HARRIS, creator of our beloved Wundercat, is here in Italy! Yes! IN THE HOUSE THAT IS NEXT DOOR TO THE ONE OF MY GRANDMOTHER!!! She is helping her friend to get the elopement in Castelfidardo!

And I have conversed with her! She says she will be drawing me some original sketches of our most favorite cat for this site! YES!!!!!

And JANE HARRIS is looking to be HOT! She has the dark brown hair (long, like we like it, boys!) and big brown eyes, and the very cute figure (sorry, girls!). She is looking very much like the beautiful vampire warrior Selene (played by the ravishing Kate Beck-insdale) in the finest film ever made of all time, Underworld !

And she has slain this mortal’s heart!

I will be reporting more of the news of JANE HARRIS as it is happening!

Until then,

 WUNDERCAT LIVES FOREVER!!!!

P. Schumacher

Webmaster, www.wundercatlives.com

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Okay, I know the Italians have contributed a lot to our society, what with da Vinci and Mike Piazza, not to mention cannoli.

But seriously, why couldn’t Holly and Mark have eloped to some country where they actually have electricity?

All right, all right, I KNOW Italy has electricity. In theory. In most areas. It just doesn’t, apparently, extend to her uncle’s house. When the stove is on, anyway.

Because the minute Mark turned the stove on to start boiling water for the pasta Frau Schumacher left us, all of the lights went out.

And when we called Frau Schumacher to ask her if her power was out, too, she was all, “No,” and then when we explained what we’d been doing when the light went off, she cackled, “Oh, you cannot turn the owen on vile the lights are on as vell!”

Seriously. She was laughing like a crazy person at the idea of the stupid Americans trying to use a stove AND have lights on at the same time.

So then we asked her where the fuse box was, so we could turn the power back on (and I guess just eat antipasto for dinner) and she went, “Oh, yes. Vell, you go down the road to the gate—”

And Holly was all, “The ELECTRONIC gate? To the driveway?”

And Frau Schumacher was like, “Yes,” as in, “What other gate would I be talking about, dorkus?” and then went on to say, “Go through the gate to the Wirgin Mary statue under the big tree—”

Seriously. THROUGH the gate. MILES from the house. Well, okay, but like two hundred yards. TO THE VIRGIN MARY STATUE. Under the big tree.

“—zen open her back and you will find the fuses.”

 Yeah. That’s how they turn the power back on when it goes out in Italy. They go DOWN the road, THROUGH the gate, UP TO the VIRGIN MARY statue, OPEN her back, and flick the switch.

Oh yeah. In the dark. And the pouring rain.

Since Holly thought she hadn’t understood Frau Schumacher correctly, she handed the phone to Cal and made him ask again, in German.

Same answer.

So Cal said he’d go do it.

Which I have to say is the first sign of generosity—well, except for paying for dinner last night—from him so far. Especially since Frau Schumacher said she could send Peter.

But Cal insisted. He ran outside, and Holly and Mark and I sat in the dark making jokes about all the escaped Italian convicts that might be lurking outside, just waiting for someone to turn their stove on so that their lights would go out and they could rob them.

After a little while we heard the front door slam and Cal came back, dripping wet and cursing like a sailor.

But the lights weren’t on.

“What happened?” Mark wanted to know.

Only Cal wouldn’t say. He stumbled around in the semi-darkness, found the bottle of Jack Daniel’s Holly’s uncle had in his liquor cabinet, poured himself a stiff one, and downed the whole thing in one gulp. Then he sat down—getting Zio Matteo’s white couch all wet—and buried his head in his hands.

“Oh,” Mark said suddenly, like he knew what was wrong. “Was it—?”

Cal just nodded, not looking up.

So Mark went, “Okay. Never mind. I’ll go.” And grabbed the crummy flashlight we’d found in Zio Matteo’s pantry.

Of course I couldn’t let him go after that. I mean, I totally had to see whatever it was that had so destroyed the Modelizer.

And all it turned out to be was a little snake! A tiny one, curled up at the bottom of the fuse box, which someone had cleverly bolted to the Virgin Mary’s back. Mark said Cal has been terrified of snakes his whole life.

Which is kind of sweet, in a way. You know, that he actually has a weakness? I mean, I can almost forgive him for the phenylethylamine thing.

Almost.

Except that now I’m soaking wet and one of my Steve Maddens got stuck in the mud in the road and came off and I had to pry it out with my fingers while Mark laughed his head off at me and now we can’t make any hot food unless we do it by candlelight (even though Cal, recovering from the snake sighting, is out on the terrazza or whatever it is, trying to stoke up a fire in the stone barbecue thingie, saying we could grill up the fish Frau Schumacher left us. As if somehow if he accomplishes this it’s going to make us forget the whole part about how he was scared of that tiny snake. Yeah, so not going to happen, Mr. Million Dollar Advance for My Big Boring Book But I’m Scared of Snakes).

And I miss The Dude—even waking me up at 4A .M. for a moonlit serenade.

And I can’t seem to stop thinking about how I missed this week’s ER because I was too busy packing to come here, and how it really is a shame that Holly asked me and not her brother Darrin to be her maid of honor. I’m sure DARRIN wouldn’t be sitting in his room trying to dry his hair with a damp towel (what is up with these tiny Italian towels? They are the size of those hot cloths they handed out on the airplane on our way here—not to me, of course, but in first class. I just happened to see them because the line to the bathroom was too long in coach, so I snuck in to use the facilities in the forward cabin) thinking about Dr. Kovac.

No, at a time like this, Darrin—and his boyfriend Bobby— would probably be brainstorming about what to get for Holly and Mark. You know, as a wedding present. Like Egyptian cotton sheets, or a hand-tinted Audubon print, or a George Foreman grill, or something really meaningful like that.

Not a stupid travel diary that, guess what, I can’t even give to them now because I’ve mentioned the best man’s alleged Large Appendage a few too many times—

Holly just tapped on the door to say that Cal got a fire started and that he and Mark are trying to grill the fish and that it’s hilarious and I should come down and by the way, do I like Cal better now that I know he has a phobia of snakes?

Trust Holly, at a time like this, when the elopement she’s been planning for a whole year is finally just days away, to be wondering if Cal might be The One for me.

I can so totally tell she’s hoping that Cal and I will fall in love and get married and buy a house next to the one you so know she and Mark are going to buy someday in Westchester (aka the Hellmouth) and send our kids to the same school and get together for barbecues on Saturday nights and sit around drinking Amstel Lights while spraying our progeny with Off to keep them from getting West Nile.

Yeah. Don’t think that’s going to be happening, Holl. The best man doesn’t BELIEVE in love. But don’t worry, I’m sure his toast will be VERY heartfelt….

Oh, wait, no, it won’t. Because he doesn’t HAVE a heart.

So now I’m wet and cold and sitting in my room with a too-small towel around my head, trying to scrape the mud off my Steve Madden, wondering what’s wrong with me. I should be having fun. This is my first trip abroad, after all. And I haven’t had a proper vacation in months, possibly years. I just spend all my time cooped up in my tiny studio apartment drawing stupid cats.

And I know that despite what the Customs guy said, Le Marche is supposed to be this magical place, even though since we’ve gotten here it’s been pouring rain and the drops make this weird hollow sound as they hit the red terra-cotta roof tiles above my window and I swear to God if Cal Langdon and I end up cooped up in this house together for a week because of rain, only one of us is going to emerge alive, and it will be me because I know his weakness now.

But oh my God! What’s with the mud and the everything being closed on Sunday and the power going out when you turn on the oven and the whole not-speaking-English thing? Not to mention, what is up with all the fish? I mean, I like fish, I guess, sort of, in small doses, and of course I am concerned about my Omega 3 fatty acid intake. Who isn’t?

But I can certainly rectify that by having H & H throw a little nova on my bagel three times a week. I do not need to eat fish morning, noon, and night, like these Italians apparently do.

Wait. Could this explain why they’re all so fit?

Oh, God, what is wrong with me? I am in an exotic foreign country, staying in a lovely house (except for the no-TV thing. And the Virgin Mary paintings everywhere—Holly’s uncle seems to collect them, the ones whose eyes watch you wherever you go, so creepily that I had to take the one in my room down and put it in the wardrobe; oh, and the fact that there are no bathtubs, only showers, in any of the bathrooms. Oh, and my best friend’s husband’s best man keeps using words likevicissitudes and apparently wants to find some time to be alone with me so we can “talk.” But other than that, the place is lovely) with my best friend, who is getting married, MARRIED, to the man she has loved forever. I should be happy for her.

It’s just that really, with this storm overhead, pouring down buckets, we are stuck in this house together, with nothing but the Virgin Mary statues and the fish Frau Schumacher left us, and all I can think about is how crappy the weather is and how mean Mark’s best man is and how much work I am going to have when I get back and how probably Julio is going to be resentful of The Dude’s biting him and consequently forget to tape all my shows and then I won’t know what’s happening on any of them and I’ll have to ask Dolly Vargas who will tell me all pityingly that a single woman who cares as much about television as I do has no life and why don’t I let her introduce me to someone.

Holly is calling me. She says dinner is ready.

I swear to God, if any of them finds the playing cards some previously rain-swamped guests left behind and suggests we play bridge or something equally chummy, I am definitely going out to the pool, rain or no rain, and drowning myself.

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Where is he?

Holly, is Mark with you?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where is he?

Oh my God, Jane. Where are you? Why are you e-ing me? I’m still awake. Why don’t you come talk to me in person? I’m in our room. It’s OK, Mark’s still downstairs.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Where is he?

Is Cal with him? Mark, I mean?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where is he?

How should I know? I told you, I’m in my room. I came up to bed because I’m exhausted. What is WRONG with you? Where ARE you? Why are you acting so weird all of a sudden?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Where is he?

Nothing’s wrong. I’m on my way to bed too. I’m in a downstairs closet. I just don’t want to run into Cal. Go back to sleep. Sorry if I woke you up.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where is he?

Right. Like I’ll be able to go back to sleep NOW. Janie, WHY are you in a downstairs closet? And WHY don’t you want to run into Cal? Tell me now, or I’m coming down there and ripping that closet door open.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Where is he?

It’s NOTHING, okay? After you went up to bed, and Mark went to see if he could find another bottle of scotch after we polished off the last one, Cal said he wanted to have a word with me alone before bed. That’s all. Now I am hiding in the closet because I don’t want to have a word with him. OK? Are you satisfied?

J

PS If you figure out where he is, let me know, and if he’s far from the stairs, I’ll make a run for my room. Then I can turn out all the lights and pretend to be asleep if he knocks.

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where is he?

Janie, don’t be such a freak! He LIKES you. He MUST. Why else would he want to see you alone? He probably wants to… you know.

And why not? You’re both on vacation, you’re both attractive, you’re both single… why WOULDN’T you hook up?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Where is he?

Um, why WOULD we? He is a modelizer, lest you forget.

And believe me, sex is NOT what he wants from me.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where is he?

Then what is it? What on earth do you think he wants to talk to you about?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What on earth I think he wants to talk to me about

Oh, you might be surprised.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What on earth I think he wants to talk to me about

Janie, you really have to get over this absurd prejudice you have about Cal. Mark and I were talking about it earlier, when you were doing the dishes, and Cal was cleaning the grill. You two actually have a lot in common. I mean, you both come from small towns. You both are extremely successful, and you both built up your careers from basically nothing. You’re both attractive and creative. And you’re both friends with us! You two would make an AWESOME couple. Just give him a chance. I know he’s not up to your usual standards—seeing as how he has a job and is over twenty-five—but he might surprise you.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What on earth I think he wants to talk to me about

Excuse me, but did you just use the word AWESOME?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What on earth I think he wants to talk to me about

Stop being so silly. Come out of the closet. See what he wants!

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What he wants

Believe me, I know. And it is so not going to happen. Trust me on this, H. It’s in your own best interest.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: What he wants

Well, I think you’re being completely ridiculous. And I’m not having this conversation anymore. I’m going to get some sleep. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow—you promised you’d go into Castelfidardo with us to petition for the marriage license and pick the day for the ceremony. I don’t know about you, but I want to look good for the mayor’s office. Good night.

 Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: What he wants

Fine, go to sleep. Traitor. I’m doing this for your own good, you know.

Well, no, I guess you don’t.

And believe me, I intend to keep it that way!

Buona sera.

J

PDA of Cal Langdon

 PDA of Cal Langdon

God bless Zio Matteo. The man may not care much about his home’s electrical wiring, but at least he keeps a well-stocked liquor cabinet. Mark and I finished off the better part of a bottle of twelve-year-old scotch, and though it’s a bit hard to type this, with my fingers feeling so numb, at least I got the picture of that snake out of my head at last.

The rain’s finally stopped, too. The stars have come out, and there’s a lovely warm breeze—slightly scented with horse manure—coming from the east. The pool and the wet stone surface around it are glistening in the moonlight, and somewhere in the distance—over the snoring of Mark, passed out face down at the table beside me—I hear the braying of a donkey. It reminds me of those nights in Baghdad with Barbara Bellerieve, before she finally gave up on getting a ring out of me and hooked up with Aaron Spender—poor bastard.

Something which I realize has begun to happen with alarming regularity. Women I’ve slept with settling down with someone else, I mean.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. God knows I’m not looking to register at Williams-Sonoma with any of them.

But it is a bit strange that all of my friends are pairing off. Mark, for instance. Well, not that I wouldn’t have expected it of Mark, seeing as how he never exactly blazed any trails for rugged individuality in his lifetime. He does grill a mean turbot though.

But even people I’d pegged as lifelong bachelors—John Trent, for instance, over at the Chronicle—and Spender are taking the plunge.

Will it be long before I am the only single male my age left in the world? And if so… why? Don’t these guys realize what they’re getting themselves into?

I will admit, in Mark’s case, the situation doesn’t seem as dire as I once thought, despite what Ruth Levine might claim. Holly appears to be a cheerful, caring companion, who doesn’t fall short in the looks department, either. She put together a wicked antipasto to go with the fish, an artfully arranged platter of marinated artichokes, mushroom, olives, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, and parmesan, all drizzled with olive oil and balsamic.

And when Mark mentioned something self-deprecating about his column, she chastised him, and proudly told me that his pieces are the Health section’s most popular.

And when we sat down at the table her friend Jane had set—somewhat whimsically, with, I believe, every candle from the house on it, since we were dining al fresco on the logia, as the rain beat down just beyond the stone arches around us—Holly insisted on taking a picture, to mark our first meal at Villa Beccacia.

Then Ms. Harris—rather pointedly—insisted on taking a picture of Mark and Holly together—“To remember one of your last meals as an unmarried couple”—and the two of them wrapped their arms around each other….

Well, I could see Jane’s point about the two of them being perfect for each other. They are a lovely couple. Holly doesn’t strike me—so far—as the type who’ll, as soon as she gets a ring on her finger, quit her job and divide her days between Neiman-Marcus and her Pilates classes at the gym—

Must remember to stop judging all women by Valerie.

If Valerie had been at our evening meal, for instance, instead of Holly, she’d have consumed two of Zio Matteo’s excellent bottles of montepolciano all on her own. And if Valerie had been here, she’d have made sure that the conversation, instead of flowing humorously from the troubles with the oven to the possible sex life of Frau Schumacher, would have revolved solely around her.

And afterward, of course, she’d have staggered to the toilet and heaved everything she’d just consumed into it.

Somehow, I can’t picture Holly Caputo doing any of these things.

Still, that doesn’t mean Mark is completely out of danger. A man can enter into a marriage thinking he’s getting one thing, when the reality is, he’s getting something very, very different. Mark’s Holly may seem like a perfect helpmate at this point in their relationship, but who’s to say once the blush is off the rose, so to speak, and they’re declared man and wife—or uomoand moglie, as the case may be—she isn’t going to turn into a stark raving bitch, demand that he make more money in order to buy her more expensive jewelry and spend all of her time obsessively weighing herself and recording every morsel that passes through her lips in a food journal?

I think Mark needs be made aware of this possibility.

And if he were conscious right now, I would make sure he knew.

As it is, however, I will have to wait until morning, and hope that we have another chance to talk privately before we make the trip to the marriage license office.

Speaking of hoping for a chance to talk, I mentioned to Ms. Harris that I was desirous of a private audience with her this evening, and she promptly disappeared into the house, never to return. I looked for her not long ago, and saw that she had retired to her room, the door of which was firmly closed. I have no doubt that, if there is a lock, she’d turned it.

For a woman who’s capable of sending such blatantly hostile emails, she is remarkably reticent about face-to-face confrontations. It’s always been my experience that women enjoy telling men what to do. Jane Harris, on the other hand, seems only willing to do this when it is her fingers, not her lips, doing the telling.

She strikes me as a very odd girl, overall.

But then, she is an artist… and a popular one, at least if the drooling half-wit boy from next door, who can’t seem to take his eyes off her whenever they happen to be in the same room together, is to be believed.

How well I recognize his pain. I believe I had the same sort of all-consuming crush on my tenth-grade science teacher, Miss Huff.

Although Miss Huff did not exactly share Jane Harris’s most impressive attributes… those slim ankles — the slenderness of the right one emphasized by that grinning cat’s head—and that insouciant smile.

Insouciant. God. How in hell did I get a book contract, anyway?

Speaking of which… what in hell am I going to write about for my next book?

Oh, well. Much too tired—and too late—to think about it now. Will put this away and get to bed. It must be past midnight, and I’m still on New York time. Thoughts on the follow-up to Sweeping Sands— and further speculation about Ms. Harris—will have to wait until tomorrow.

PDA of Cal Langdon

 PDA of Cal Langdon

One last thing before I go, though:

She still seems bizarrely fixated with the fly of my jeans. I am starting to wonder if Mark didn’t resuscitate that ridiculous rumor from our days at Ohio State, about my having a super-sized wang, and share it with Holly, who in turn shared it with Ms. Harris. How else to explain why I keep catching her staring in that general vicinity?

If this is true, I will be forced, simply, to kill Mark. You would think that, at his age, he’d be over such childish pranks.

But he does work in the sciences, and those gifted in that arena do occasionally seem not to have quite as evolved a sense of humor as the rest of us.

Remember to ask him tomorrow.

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Listserv <Wundercat@wundercatlives.com>

Fr: Peter Schumacher <webmaster@wundercatlives.com>

Re: JANE HARRIS

Good morning all of you fans of Wundercat! I go now to take my motorino into town to get the brotchen for JANE HARRIS! She is not yet awake. I can see that she has not yet opened the curtains of her bedroom window.

But when she does, she will find that there is fresh brotchen to enjoy with her coffee! Courtesy of me, #1 Wundercat Fan Of All Time!

Wundercat Lives—4eva!

Peter

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com >

Fr: Customer Service New York Journal Travel Privileges  <TravelPrivcustser@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Car Rental

Dear Sir,

Our great apologies for the misunderstanding concerning your vehicle. Our offices, as you discovered, are not open on Sundays. However, if you return the automobile you were assigned to the car rental agency in Ancona on Monday, we will happily allow you to exchange it for the four-door sedan you mentioned.

Sally Marx

New York Journal Travel Specialist

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

OK, everything I wrote in here last night about hating Italy and wishing I were home watching ER? Strike that.

I LOVE Italy. I LOVE it here.

Just now when I woke up, I pushed back the heavy curtains from my window, expecting to see more of the hard cold rain from yesterday….

Gone. No more rain.

Instead, there was a cloudless blue sky. And a distant, green, castle-topped hillside straight out of a fairy tale. And a crystal pool sparkling below me. And the scent of freshly cut hay. And the sun-washed stone walls of the terrazza dripping with the thick green leaves and fire pink blossoms of bougainvillea, and birds singing in the treetops—

Well, what else could I do but slap on my swimsuit and hit the water?

And it was so very, very…

COLD!!!!

OK? The water is REALLY cold. Like ice-cube-tray cold. I’m writing this half-shivering to death on one of the lounge chairs, completely draped in towels.

But even though it’s only like nine in the morning, or something, the sun is already beating down. Steam is coming up from the damp towels on my legs. Soon I should be toasty….

YES. Now THIS is how I’ve always pictured a European vacation. Just me, the water, clear blue sky, bright hot sun, and a bottle of acqua con gas (sparkling water, which I found in the fridge). It’s SO quiet here. No car alarms. No sirens. No neighbors squabbling over possession of the remote control next door. Just birds tweeting, and horses neighing, and the wind rustling through palm fronds and the leaves of the olive tree beside me, its branches heavy with little round balls deepening from a pretty pale green to a deep brown color… totally bitter and indigestible (yes, I tasted one. Who knew they had to be marinated or whatever? The pomegranates from the tree at the other end of the pool are MUCH better).

In the air is the crisp, clean smell of chlorine from the pool, the scent of freshly cut hay from the field beyond the hedge, and… OK, well, the smell of horse manure drifting over from the Centro Ippico, but it’s very faint.

And off in the distance, atop a deep green rise that seems to come from the middle of the hay field, sits another fortified city, topped by a castle… Castelfidardo, where we’re going to go today to apply for Mark and Holly’s marriage license. If they can pry me from this spot. Which I sincerely doubt. Because the only way I’m moving is if—

AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Listserv <Wundercat@wundercatlives.com>

Fr: Peter Schumacher <webmaster@wundercatlives.com>

Re: JANE HARRIS

Greetings! I have served breakfast to JANE HARRIS! I surprise her very much with the brotchen and hot coffee! She had just had her morning swimming when I come into yard with tray prepared by my grandmother! She scream very big!

But then she sees it is only me, and I put down tray beside her pool couch, and we have the coffee and brotchen. I bring also the Nutella, and JANE HARRIS likes this very much! We have nice chat, and I find out IMPORTANT NEWS FLASH:

JANE HARRIS HAS DEVELOPMENT DEAL WITH CARTOON NETWORK FOR WUNDERCAT ANIMATED SERIES!!!!!!!!!!

Yes!!! Perhaps we will be seeing Wundercat on television soon!

I am very interested as JANE HARRIS is telling this to me, but then one of the mans she is traveling with (don’t worry, boys, he is NOT her boyfriend. In the words of JANE HARRIS: “HIM? MY BOYFRIEND? NO WAY!”) Cal Longdon comes out of the house and says he wants to speak alone with JANE HARRIS.

So I start to go, but JANE HARRIS says “No, Peter, you stay.” And so I give Cal Longdon some brotchen and coffee too and we three sit and talk about politics for very long time before daughter of the sister of the man who owns the villa where JANE HARRIS is staying comes out and says they must go to Castelfidardo.

I am thinking I will ride on my motorino to Castelfidardo also today to see if JANE HARRIS needs anything more.

That is the report from WUNDERCAT CENTRAL! More news as it is received!

Over and out,

Peter, #1 Wundercat Fan Of All Time

___________________________________________

To: Peter Schumacher <webmaster@wundercatlives.com>

Fr: Martin Schneck < m.schneck@comixunderground.com>

Re: JANE HARRIS

How is JANE HARRIS looking in a bathing suit? You did not tell!

Martin Schneck

___________________________________________

To: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Hi!

Right now we’re in the car on the way to Castelfidardo to apply for Mark and Holly’s marriage license!

It’s so exciting!

It’s also sooooooooooo beautiful here. Even the BILLBOARDS seem more attractive than they do back home. They’re definitely more interesting… even though I can’t read them.

And the food! I just had the best breakfast of my LIFE… something called Nutella on this freshly baked— still warm from the oven— bread. Oh my God, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Anyway, hope you and Dad are well!

Ciao for now!

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

Since you seem so reticent to discuss this face-to-face, I see no alternative other than to continue our eversation. I believe you were saying something to the effect that I ought to mind my own business where matters of Mark’s heart were concerned, and I was busy maintaining that I felt it my duty as a loyal friend to warn him of the emotional and financial jeopardy in which he is placing himself. Have you given the matter more thought, or are you still blinded by the romance of the thing?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re e-ing me from the front seat AGAIN. CUT IT OUT!

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

What other choice do you leave me when you won’t speak to me in person? I haven’t budged from my position that these two are making an enormous mistake. Have you, perhaps, come around to my way of thinking? I notice you seemed reluctant to leave the pool today when your friend Holly was urging us to get ready for the trip to Castelfidardo….

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

Because I was having a nice time at the pool! At least until YOU showed up there.

And no, I haven’t changed my mind. Holly and Mark belong together, and I don’t understand why

anyone would think otherwise.

And I’m not “blinded by the romance of the thing,” as you put it. It’s sweet, that’s all. And if you do anything to try to ruin it, you’re a creep!

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

A creep?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

You heard me. Or read me. A CREEP. Only a creep would try to talk his best friend out of marrying the girl of his dreams. Don’t even tell me that isn’t what you were up all night doing down there on the terrazza.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

How do you know what I was up all night doing? You went to bed at ten.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

I just happened to get up to get a drink of water, and I saw you out there. You and Mark.

But it didn’t work, obviously. Or we wouldn’t be making this trip to Castelfidardo, now, would we?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

I didn’t get a chance to speak to Mark, due to the fact that the excessive amount of alcohol he put away at dinner rendered him comatose. Not, I would like to add, a good sign that he is looking forward to his impending nuptials with joy.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

Oh, please.I could drink Mark under the table. He’s always been a lightweight. He was probably just trying to keep up with you. That doesn’t mean ANYTHING.

Besides, every guy has the right to let off a little steam before he gets married.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

> every guy has the right to let off a little steam before he gets married.<

Proving my point that marriage is an unnatural and antiquated institution that ought to be abolished. The fact that it is traditional for men to get blind stinking drunk the night before their wedding just shows that it is a state into which they are entering against their better judgment.

WOMEN want marriage. Men do not. Mark’s behavior last evening proves deep down, he doesn’t want this. And you know it.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

You’re so weird. Seriously. Are you this way about EVERYTHING? I mean, do you have to overthink every little thing? Don’t you ever just DO stuff, without thinking about it first?

Or is it BECAUSE you did something once, without weighing the consequences, and got burned, that you are so anti-marriage?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

And I suppose you’re going to claim you haven’t been dreaming about your wedding day since you were seven? Dressing your Barbies up in bridal veils and walking them down the aisle with poor hapless Ken since you were nine? Sketching designs of your dream wedding gown since your teens, and viewing every male you met after the age of twenty as potential husband/father-of-your-children material, weighing his earning potential against his looks and assessing the chances of his remaining faithful to you?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

You didn’t answer my question.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

You didn’t answer mine.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

Fine. Yes, I had Barbie weddings. Yes, I’ve sketched bridal gowns.

And, yes, I’ve sized up potential boyfriends, wondering whether or not they were going to be faithful to me.

But I’ve never cared about their EARNING potential. Truly. You can ask Holly.

And as for being good father material, how can I worry about who’s going to be the father of my children when I’m not even sure I WANT children? My career is just starting out. I want to see how that goes before I attempt to bring another life form into this world.

Besides which, I already have a cat. That is quite enough responsibility right now.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

Are you seriously comparing owning a cat to raising a child?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

Um, you haven’t met The Dude.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

Who is The Dude?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

My cat. And you still haven’t answered MY question.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

I can’t remember what it was.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

Isn’t it true that the only reason you’re so anti-love-and-marriage is because your own didn’t work out?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

Absolutely not. The failure of my own marriage plays absolutely no part in my conviction that human beings are genetically incapable of monogamy. I believe we were meant to have seven or eight partners in a lifetime, not one. The idea that as a community we applaud those couples who manage to stay together forty or fifty years or longer is simply ridiculous. There’s something inherently wrong with celebrating couples like that. It simply isn’t natural to want to spend that much time with another human being.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

My parents will be celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary next year. Are you saying there’s something inherently wrong with them?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

No offense to your parents, but basically, yes. Are you going to tell me that in all of those forty years, they’ve never fought or cheated on each other?

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

Sure they’ve fought. They’re HUMAN. But cheated on each other? No way.

J

PS You’re an ass.

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Time to talk

I never said my theory was a very popular one. But it happens to be true.

Cal

PS Has anyone ever told you that you’re kind of cute when you’re mad?

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Time to talk

Are you FLIRTING with me?

It won’t work. I’m a little brighter than the women you’re so obviously used to.

Stop e-ing me, we’re here.

J

PS You’re still an ass.

___________________________________________

Marriage of an American Citizen in Italy

An American citizen planning to marry in Italy must obtain a declaration (called STATO LIBERO) sworn by four (4) witnesses before the Italian consulate, stating that according to the laws in which the citizen is subject in the United States there is no obstacle to his/her marriage. Therefore he/she must appear at this Consulate General with four unrelated friends not related to him/her nor to each other. Each of them has to bring a valid identification (Passport or Drivers License).

The citizen’s passport must also be presented and, if applicable, evidence of the termination of any previous marriage (final divorce decree or death certificate) translated into Italian and legalized by the competent Department of State with an “Apostille” (see page 2). The sworn statement has three months’ validity.

___________________________________________

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Cal Langdon is a stupid jerk.

He’s the KING of all jerks. He’s the undisputed CHAMPION of all-time jerks. How can Mark even be friends with him? Really? How?

I mean, I GUESS he can be interesting, and even witty, when he’s talking about some arcane topic such as the accordion-making industry. Which, considering that Castelfidardo is apparently the accordion making capital of the known universe, is at least kind of useful. Who knew Zio Matteo is a world renowned accordionist, and that’s why he bought a villa so close to the town that makes his chosen instrument?

There is even an accordion MUSEUM here, featuring— what else?—the world’s largest playable accordion. It’s as tall as Cal Langdon.

There’s also a statue on the village green of a large man playing the accordion. He is, oddly, in the buff. I’m not sure this would fly in America. I mean, a statue of a naked accordionist in the town square.

Still, topics unrelated to human relationships, such as Saudi Arabia’s declining oil reserves and the history of accordion-making? Those are the only subjects about which Cal Langdon ought to be allowed by law to converse. Because when it comes to people, he’s totally and completely in the dark.

No wonder his wife left him.

I honestly don’t even see how he lasted as long as he did on the foreign correspondence trail. I mean, Cal Langdon has been flying around the world—when he wasn’t apparently bouncing around it in the back of a jeep—interviewing dignitaries and world leaders and guerrillas alike.

And yet he seems to know less about people than ME, and I’ve barely left my apartment these past five years, I’ve been so busy drawing. How can someone who knows so many people know so little about them? That’s what I’d like to know.

Whatever. I’m not going to let him spoil this beautiful moment for me. We’re sitting outside the Office of the Secretary of Castelfidardo, which is where they give out the marriage license applications and schedule the town weddings. Mark and Holly are up at the desk, trying to make the clerk understand what they want. They already have all these forms they filled out back at the Italian consulate in New York. It turns out that if an American citizen wants to elope in a foreign country, they can’t just do it all willy-nilly. You have to fill out a bunch of paperwork first, back in the States. For one of the forms, Mark and Holly even had to drag four separate witnesses—unrelated to them, or to each other—to the Italian embassy to swear that they weren’t already married to anyone else (Holly and Mark, I mean).

I don’t know why this is taking so long. Or why Cal Langdon felt compelled to go up there too, and listen in. I’m keeping an eye on him to make sure he isn’t trying to sabotage the proceedings. Now the secretario himself has come out to join in the conversation.

Still, the secretario keeps going, “Non.”

This doesn’t sound good. Shouldn’t he be saying, “Si”?

Holly keeps gesturing to the paperwork from the Italian consulate and going, “But in New York they said—”

And the secretario keeps going, in his broken English, “Yessa, but, in New Yorka, thees is not how we do the engs here in Italia.”

Hmmm. Holly looks stressed. I sense trouble brewing.

Now the secretario is starting to look annoyed.

“I donna understand,” he’s saying. “Why you have to get married here in Castelfidardo? Why not Las Vegas, like normal Americans?”

Uh-oh. Holly’s mad now.

“Because we’re NOT normal Americans,” she says. “We want to get married here in Castelfidardo. We have the right forms. What’s the problem? Just open your calendar and tell us when the mayor has a time available to perform the ceremony, and we’ll be on our—”

Oh, my. Peter Schumacher just walked in. He must have followed us on his little motorino.

Poor boy. He must really not have anything else to do….

Oh, the secretario is handing something to Holly—

___________________________________________

HAGUE CONVENTION ABOLISHING THE REQUIREMENT OF CONSULAR LEGALISATION FOR FOREIGN PUBLIC DOCUMENTS

The United States of America and Italy and some other countries have signed a convention abolishing the requirements of diplomatic and consular acknowledgements or legalizations of public documents originating in one convention country and intended for use in another convention country signatory of the convention.

This consulate general, therefore, will not henceforth acknowledge or legalize public documents: notarial documents, deeds, certificates of vital statistics, wills, court decrees, etc.

To be valid in any other of the countries signatories of the convention, all documents must carry an APOSTILLE.

To obtain the “APOSTILLE” in any of the United States, a document is first notarized by a Notary Public in that state and then authenticated by the Country Clerk in the country in which the notary is qualified.

___________________________________________

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Listserv <Wundercat@wundercatlives.com>

Fr: Peter Schumacher <webmaster@wundercatlives.com>

Re: JANE HARRIS

NEWS FLASH! JANE HARRIS is here in Italy to be the witness for the wedding of her friends. Today they go to the Ufficio di Secretario of Castelfidardo for the license to marry, and the secretario said NON! He would not allow it, as the friends of Jane Harris did not get APOSTILLE from the US consulate in Roma!

I have driven my motorino straight from the Ufficio di Secretario myself to let you in on the news, and also to tell my grandmother, who says she will speak to the secretario herself after lunch, because she knows his mother! And she says his mother will be very angry when she learns her son would not let the American lovers marry! Grandmother says she will take this to Mayor Torelli himself, if she must!

At the Ufficio di Secretario, JANE HARRIS was wearing pink short-sleeved shirt, trousers in black cotton, and pink sandals! Her toenails are painted pink to match! JANE HARRIS is still looking very cute!

More later from #1 fan of Wundercat!

Wundercat Lives—4eva!

Peter

___________________________________________

To: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: You

Disaster! The city of Castelfidardo won’t allow Holly and Mark to get married here! Not without some stamp from the US consulate in Rome!

Which means we have to drive all the way there and back to get it. That’s another eight hours there and back in the car! And we only have the house until Friday, when Holly’s uncle comes back from his latest accordion tour. And the Secretario says the mayor’s calendar is totally booked, and only the mayor can perform wedding ceremonies!

Everybody is pretty bummed. Well, except for Cal, of course. He is totally against marriage on principle. He thinks there must be something inherently wrong with you and Dad for having been together for so long. He has absolutely no idea how normal human beings function. It’s possible he’s a robot.

Anyway, we’re going to grab lunch in town and reconnoiter back at the secretario’s office later. Holly’s uncle’s housekeeper might be able to do something, according to her great-grandson. Apparently, she knows everybody’s mother, and can shame them into doing whatever she wants.

Hope Dad’s back is feeling better! Good thing, those gloves.

Love,

Janie

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

Insisted on buying lunch, as everyone in our party was completely dejected (excepting myself, of course).

It seems that Italian bureaucracy is doing my job for me, insofar as keeping Mark and Holly from wedded bliss (or bust). It appears the young couple cannot be wed unless they get a specific stamp on a form that can only be secured at the American embassy back in Rome. Their choices are to skip the whole thing or pile back into the car and drive back to Rome tomorrow.

At this point, Mark seems to be leaning toward making the trip. Surprisingly, it’s his lady love whose resolve seems to be flagging. I wonder if Holly is quite as enthusiastic about the idea of marrying Mark as I—and her friend Jane—once presumed.

This, at least, explains why Ms. Harris insists upon carrying on our conversations via text. She must have known that her friend’s enthusiasm was not all it should be.

And I must say, if a small detail like a stamp on a form and an eight-hour drive are enough to drive Ms. Caputo into such dudgeon, perhaps Mark really is better off single.

The girls are in the ladies’ room, doing whatever it is women do when they enter such facilities together. Mark is on his cell with the car rental agency in Ancona. Apparently, the replacement vehicle New York Journal promised him earlier this morning is no longer available. Good thing he called before we made the trip.

Lunch was delicious, by the way. We found a small family-run establishment popular with the many accordion-factory workers in town. For twenty euros total we enjoyed an exquisitely prepared lemon pasta, grilled scallops, insalata caprese, and a carafe of bianco frizzante. We received a number of odd looks, to be sure, from the natives. This is clearly a restaurant that doesn’t see many Americans.

And clearly has never heard of a non-smoking section.

Still, a pleasant meal, in all.

Now, I presume, we shall be trekking back to town hall to argue some more with the presiding officials. With any luck, we’ll be joined by Inga Schumacher—taking this tragi-comedy to a whole new level of hilarity—and her great-grandson, who seems to have glued himself to our sides… not that his nearconstant presence seems to bother Ms. Harris. In fact, I’m starting to believe she actually likes having the kid around. Peter’s presence makes it very difficult for me to say all the things I’d like to say to the object of his devotion….

Perhaps this is just as well. I always seem to be thinking—and saying—the oddest things around that woman. Telling her I think she’s cute when she’s angry? What was I doing? I NEVER say that kind of thing, much less write it.

That’s right. She has it in writing, permanent proof of my idiocy.

I ought to be shot.

Especially since it’s more than clear that she thinks I’m—what was it? Oh, yes. An ass. That’s very nice. Being called an ass by a woman who makes her living drawing a cartoon of a cat. Excuse me, did I create something that people have forever since been forcing me to look at, dangling from suction cups on the back windshield of their car? No, I did not.

It’s all this damned fizzy wine. That’s what it is. I just need a beer. Maybe this afternoon, since it doesn’t look as if we’ll be changing cars in Ancona, I’ll talk Mark into going to a bar with me—there’s that Crazy Bar and Sexy Tattoo Shop in Porto Recanati—and we’ll talk this whole marriage thing out over a couple of cold ones….

Though I think I’ll keep my thoughts about Ms. Harris to myself. And the fact that today she’s got on a pair of shoes I haven’t seen before. Open-toe, of course, with these pink straps that criss-cross over the cat tattoo—

I need some air.

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Poor Holly. She’s crushed.

Stupid secretario . And stupid Italy. I hate it here again! How can they be so mean? Can’t they see they’re destroying one of the sweetest, gentlest girls in the world with their ridiculous bureaucratic red tape?

At least Frau Schumacher understands. She’s really letting that secretario have it. He looks kind of scared. He keeps saying something about the mayor. Apparently, he doesn’t have the authority to do… something.

But the mayor does.

I think Frau Schumacher told him to let us in to see the mayor, then.

Wow! For an old lady, Frau Schumacher sure can be intimidating!

Thank God for Peter running home to get her. Well, really, thank God for Wondercat. Because without Wondercat, Peter wouldn’t have even known about our problem and gone to get his greatgrandmother.

And of course, there’d be no Wondercat if it weren’t for The Dude. So really, none of this would be happening if it weren’t for my cat.

As usual. Just further proof that The Dude, as I’ve always suspected, really is God.

Now the secretario ’s left his own office. Frau Schumacher looks very pleased with herself. I asked Peter what’s going on, and he said, “The secretario is going to see if ze mayor vill change his schedule to let your friends get married on Vednesday. There is maybe an opening in ze calendar on zis day.”

When I commented that this seemed like a positive development, Peter nodded and said, “Yes. Zey are all very frightened of my grandmuzzer. She will go to the mayor’s muzzer, and zat zey do not want.”

Yes! Joy!

You would think Holly would be happier to hear that. But she’s just sitting next to me, holding her stomach and looking kind of queasy.

Well, I guess I can’t really blame her. She’s been looking forward to getting married for so long, and all of these delays have to be—

The secretario is back. Oh my gosh! We’re being summoned to the mayor’s office!

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com>

Re: You

Oh, sweetie, that’s horrible news about poor Holly! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, but Daddy dropped a picture frame on his big toe so we were just at Promptcare getting it X-rayed. Not broken, thank God, but a bad bruise. I sent him to bed with a bowl of Breyers.

I do hope you’re able to work something out for Holly. It would be such a shame for she and Mark— well, all of you, really—to have gone all that way and then not be able to have your little elopement. I feel just terrible.

But, even if they can’t get married, you can still have a nice vacation, can’t you? What is Holly’s uncle’s house like? Is it pretty? Do the windows lock? Because you know I just saw on the news that in a lot of those oceanside communities, people leave the windows open at night to let in the sea breezes, and it’s like an invitation to thieves and rapists! They just slip in on through the windows and take whatever they want! I hope you’re making sure all the windows are locked at night.

And I hope you’re not being too mean to that handsome Cal Langdon. You’re a very vibrant and pretty girl, Janie, and you know men can’t help falling in love with you. Remember how many of them asked you to the senior prom? Well, it’s true a lot of them were freshman boys who couldn’t have taken you anyway….

But the way they mooned around the house, asking Daddy if they could mow the lawn, when we knew perfectly well they just wanted a glimpse of you. Keep in mind that some of those boys you wouldn’t give the time of day to went on to have very good jobs at Pfizer.

And Helen Shipley told me her son Curt makes six figures in the cruise ship industry!

Why you keep insisting Curt is one of those bisexuals, I can’t imagine. Helen says it simply isn’t true. Curt’s not married yet because he just hasn’t met the right girl, according to Helen. Probably YOU were the right girl, and he’s just waiting for you to get in touch.

Also, according to Charlie Rose, Mr. Langdon got a VERY nice advance for that little book he wrote. That’s not something you ought to turn up your nose at, you know. Wondercat is darling, but it won’t always be as popular as it is now. You need to think about your future, you know, Janie.

Love,

Mom

PS Daddy says to tell you it looks as if that cartoon about the flying serving utensils has been canceled. That might open up a slot for the Wondercat animated series, don’t you think?

___________________________________________

To: Listserv <Wundercat@wundercatlives.com>

Fr: Peter Schumacher <webmaster@wundercatlives.com>

Re: JANE HARRIS

SUCCESS!!! My grandmother has arranged it all! The friends of JANE HARRIS will be married Wednesday morning at nine o’clock, before the mayor had to go and coach the American football game at the primary school, where he is also the athletic director when he is not being mayor.

But they must get the stamp from the consulate of the US before they can be married. So tomorrow they will go to Rome to receive it.

All is done, and by my grandmother! Everyone was much excited! Except for the secretario and the mayor.

But best of all—

JANE HARRIS KISSED ME!!!! YES!!!! To say thank you for making it so that her friends can have their marriage!!!

Never will I wash this face again.

That is all for now. I am Peter Schumacher, #1 fan of Wundercat, saying

TSCHUSS!

Wundercat Lives—4eva!

Peter

___________________________________________

GE. SP. AL. S.N.C

Viale Europa 44

Porto Recanati (MC)

GROCERY

EURO

PelliCola Co

0,50

6 Minibiscot

2,50

Olive Bella

2,50

Kinder Sorpr

1,80

Birra Peroni, 24

12,76

Insalata Rom

0,66

Tomato Ketch

2,23

Uva Italia P

1,95

The Twinings

1,90

Insalata Tro

0,41

Puro Succo

1,33

Naionese Cal

1,22

Latte Fr.A.Q.

1,37

Insalata Gen

0,38

Latte Fr. Int

1,30

Oro Duepic’c

2,34

637 Pom.Ross

1,90

Banco Taglio

1,01

Oro Piu’caca

1,53

Olive verdi

0,78

Bisc. Conad G

0,89

Pane Dolci I

0,55

Pomodori Pel

0,55

Doricream

0,65

Mais Pop Cor

0,60

Banco Taglio

27,21

Caffe Classi

2,09

Caffe Classi

2,09

Arance Taroc

2,55

TOTALE

77,55

Contanti

100,00

Resto

22,45

N.Pezzi 50

Oper: 10

Cassa 1 1

Regalo Bollini: 15

Codice: Bollini

Arrivederci e Grazie!

___________________________________________

___________________________________________

La Cantinetta

Enoteca

Ricrea di Morresi G. & C.

SNC Viale Europa 36

Porto Recanati

EURO

Vino 1 8,66

Vino 1 7,80

Vino 1 7,40

Vino 1 5,40

Vino 1 7,00

Vino 1 9,00

Vino 1 9,00

Vino 1 6,50

Vino 1 6,50

Vino 1 5,00

Vino 1 5,00

Vino 1 10,20

Vino 1 9,00

Vino 1 14,00

TOTALE 110,46

Grazie!

___________________________________________

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

The mayor said yes!!!!

It seemed touch and go there to me for a while, but Frau Schumacher totally came through for us! I couldn’t tell what she was saying to the big man behind the desk—a very intimidating desk, too, with lots of important looking documents all over it, for a very intimidating man, wearing a big green shiny sash over his track suit—but Cal later translated that basically, she said, “Marry these two delightful young people or I will make you sorry.”

Cal says he doesn’t know HOW Frau Schumacher was going to make him sorry, but the mayor apparently believed her enough to make a time in his schedule for Holly and Mark.

And OK, it’s super-early in the morning for a wedding— 9A .M.—but it’s better than nothing! Frau Schumacher was right about wedding breakfasts, I guess. That’s what they do here, instead of receptions.

Now all we have to do is drive to Rome tomorrow, get the form Holly and Mark need, and drive back.

At last, we can relax a little. We went grocery shopping for food for the rest of the week (and Cal and Mark hit the liquor store, this cute little shop called La Cantinetta in Porto Recanati. Frankly, I think 14 bottles of wine, champagne, J & B, and something called limoncello might be a bit much, but it IS a wedding, after all, even if it’s just four of us attending) and then came home and hit the pool right away. At least, Holly and Mark and Peter and I did. Cal got a call from his editor or somebody, so he’s sitting in the terrazza, yakking into his cell, saying things like, “But I said you’d have it next month. No, I never said that.”

___________________________________________

Sounds like somebody’s a little late on a project. Ha ha.

I got the skinny on Peter while we were in the mayor’s office, too. When we walked in, I was surprised to see a girl about Peter’s age sitting on the mayor’s desk, going “Papa” in the unmistakable wheedle of a teenaged daughter. She was a pretty little thing named Annika—all big blue eyes and blonde ringlets and knobby knees—and when she saw Peter, she completely forgot about whatever favor she was begging her father for. Her eyes narrowed in that mean way only teenaged girls’ eyes can, and she went, “What are you doing here?”

And Peter was all, “I am here on official business with the mayor.”

And the girl started laughing and said, “What business can you have with my fazzer?”

And everything was suddenly SO clear to me, just from those—let me see—OK, eight little words. You know, that Peter adores Annika with a passion that cannot be denied, and that she wants him, too, but Peter isn’t considered cool enough to date in their social set, and so she has to act scornful towards him.

It was all so obvious and sad.

Then the mayor hung up the phone and went, “Annika. Shush.”

Then he and Frau Schumacher started going at it in Italian, so I used the opportunity to ask Peter who the girl was, sotto voce (Italian for “in a soft voice.” I am really getting this language down, if I do say so myself).

 And he was like, his voice dripping with (obviously feigned) scorn, “Zat’s Annika. She is the mayor’s daughter. She zinks she is queen of all of Castelfidardo even zo she is not.”

And I asked Peter if he and Annika went to school together, and he told me he goes to “Internet school” because the schools in Castelfidardo aren’t “adwanced” enough for him, and that he can’t go to school back in Germany because there’s no one there for him to live with, his “fazzer” currently being “in the jail.”

In the jail! Peter’s dad—Frau Schumacher’s grandson—is in the jail!

For what, I don’t know. But now I understand why it is that Peter is able to hang around us all day. Annika, presumably, was on her (three-hour) lunch break from school. Can you imagine all the trouble American teens could get up to if we gave them a three-hour lunch break? And all of the malls were CLOSED during it? My God, civilization as we know it would break down completely.

Anyway, after the mayor and Frau S. negotiated their little compromise, there was a lot of cheering and relieved sighs (and, from Cal Langdon, a frown), so I took the opportunity to lean down and give Peter a peck on the cheek—to thank him, you know, since if he hadn’t gone and got his great-grandmother, none of this would have happened.

And, while Peter turned bright red, I had the pleasure of seeing Annika, who’d witnessed the kiss, scowl prettily.

Score one for Peter.

Poor Annika. One of these days she’s going to wake up and realize Peter was the one for her. Only by the time that happens, Peter will have his own software company and be making millions and be dating a starlet from some Fox sitcom… or whatever the Italian equivalent of Fox might be.

Cal Langdon just barked, “You’ll get it when you get it, Art,” into his phone.

God. He is so Type A. He really needs to learn to chill, like me, or he’s going to have a coronary before he’s forty.

And how dare he suggest that there’s something wrong with MY parents for staying together so long? I asked him while we were in the hallway outside the mayor’s office, out of earshot of Holly, how long HIS parents stayed together, and he said, “They were married twenty years, and are much happier people now that they’ve gone their separate ways.”

Which is all very well and good for them, but if Cal Langdon were MY kid, I’d want to get away from him, too. No wonder they split up. The North Pole and Antarctica aren’t far enough to get away from that voice: “I told you, Arthur, I will have the proposal for you when I get back. No, not the DAY I get back. But a few weeks later—yes, well, I still haven’t figured out exactly what I’m going to write about. No, not dirty diamonds. No, I’m not going to Angola—”

Some women, I suppose, might find Cal Langdon’s voice sexy. And IT is kind of deep and gravelly, in a Robert Redford kind of way.

But the stuff he SAYS with it! EW!

And OK, he’s hot. I mean, I’m not going to lie and say he’s not. All I have to do to KNOW that isn’t true is flip back to the beginning of this journal and read the part where I first saw him—God, was that really only four days ago? It seems like months—to know that initially, I thought Cal Langdon was hot.

And it’s true that even now, knowing what I do about him, he still has his moments. Like when he pried my foot out of that crevasse between the cobblestones, and his whole hand fit around my ankle.

And sometimes when he looks at me with those too-blue eyes, it seems like there’s a light shining from out of his head, like a jack-o’-lantern—a light only I can see, and which makes it very hard to maintain eye contact.

But still. In the car on the way back from Castelfidardo, I made a comment about how ludicrous it is that everything in this country closes from noon until four, sometimes five, every single day, and that really, it isn’t any wonder that America is a superpower and Italy isn’t, given that we only take half-hour lunches, for the most part.

And Mr. I Know Everything There Is To Know in the Entire Universe has the nerve to go, “Believe me, if the average temperature in America during the summer months was forty degrees Celsius, we’d be shutting down everything between noon and four as well.”

Whoa! I am sorry, but that is nothing but showing off. CELSIUS? What American knows how to tell the temperature in Celsius?

OK, enough ranting against Cal Langdon. Not while I’ve got all this delicious sun to bask in. It’s actually kind of hard to get worked up about anything, you know, with this sun beating down and the palm fronds overhead swaying gently in the breeze from the sea—carrying with it, as always, that slight hint of horse manure—and the only sounds those of bees buzzing and the crystal blue water in the pool gently rippling and Cal pecking at his Blackberry.

The sun is so hot, in fact, it seems to seep into your skin like thick heavy lotion. Really, it’s hard to tell whether it’s the bianco frizzante (SOOOOO good mixed with a little Orangina) or the sun, but I really feel, I don’t know, like nothing matters right now… not even what happens to Dr. Kovac on ER. I feel like I could just lie here forever….

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Arthur Pendergast <a.pendergast@rawlingspress.com>

Re: The Book

Would you cool it? I’m not trying to bust your chops. I know you’ve got a lot going on right now. Hell, if I’d moved back to the States after a ten-year absence, and had to find a place to live, furniture to put in it, buy a car, etc., I’d be going stark raving mad.

Well, not really, since I’d just leave all that to my wife. But you don’t have a wife. So don’t worry about it.

Just, you know. If you could give me a rough idea of what you’re thinking about doing for your second book. That would be nice.

Arthur Pendergast

Senior Editor

Rawlings Press

1418 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10019

212-555-8764

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Did you see that?

????????????????

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Did you see that?

Hello. Aren’t you getting married the day after tomorrow? What are you doing ogling other men’s naked chests?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Did you see that?

I’m getting married, but I’m not DEAD. My God, who knew that under that mild-mannered Oxford lurked a chest of such exquisite proportions? Did you notice the abs?

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Did you see that?

They were slightly hard to miss. Don’t you think he was showing them off just SLIGHTLY by ripping off his shirt and diving in like that? I mean, DIVING?

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Did you see that?

Well, he’s been working, while the rest of us were just out here lounging around. I think he just got frustrated and gave up, turned off the Blackberry, and went for it. I didn’t catch anything “stagey” about it.

 Wow, look at him go. That’s a lot of laps. He must really be annoyed about something—or somebody— to be swimming that fast.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Did you see that?

He’s ruining my afternoon of total relaxation. How can I relax when someone is exercising that hard in front of me? He’s making me feel guilty about all that pasta I had at lunch.

J

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Did you see that?

He’ll stop soon. Oh, see. There you go. Oh, look, how sweet. He’s coming to sit by YOU, Janie! Itold you he likes you. Maybe even as much as PETER does.

Holly

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Did you see that?

I hate you.

J

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Why are men—and boys—so weird?

I mean, they certainly LOOK nice enough, for the most part. Cal Langdon, in particular, though it GALLS me to admit it. I mean, look at him, sitting there in that lounge chair, with the sunlight winking off the drops of water still clinging to his golden body hair.

Oh my God, I can’t believe I wrote the words golden body hair .

Still, not like he’s got so much of it. Just enough, really.

Just enough to make me wonder how much more he’s got, you know, below the waistband of his shorts.

I can’t believe I wrote that EITHER!!!

Still. It doesn’t matter how good they look—and just how, I’d like to know, does a guy whose job entails sitting behind a desk, typing stuff, get such defined biceps?—men are still weird.

Seriously. Just look at what they’re doing now. The Modelizer, Mark, and Peter are having this totally in depth—and boring—conversation about the Hubble space telescope and dark energy—whatever that is—and they are WAY into it. I mean, as much into it as Holly and I get when we’re talking about ER .

They’re going on about how dark energy—whatever it is— fills up most of the universe, along with dark matter, and how no one knows what either of those things is (which is a bit of a relief, since, um, I was thinking I’d missed something), but they seem to think it’s responsible for the anti-gravitational force that is causing the universe to expand, rather than contract, the way everything else does, when gravity pulls on it.

Hello. Don’t they realize they’re in ITALY? Can’t they shut up for FIVE MINUTES and enjoy the way the light is trickling through the green leaves as the sun sinks down, dappling the pool and veranda in golden half-light? Or the way the setting sun seems almost to create a mist across the patch worked hills, making them seem blurry to the eye—except for where the outbuildings on them are silhouetted against those great big purple clouds built up behind them, the aftereffects of a fleeing storm?

THAT’s what they should be talking about. The miracles of nature right in front of them. Not some stupid dark energy, billions of miles away.

Oh, great. Those clouds, that I thought were fleeing? They’re headed this way. It’s going to rain in a second.

Aw, screw it. It’s time for dinner anyway.

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Joan Langdon < joan.langdon@artintucson.com joan.langdon@artintucson.com>

Re: Mary

Hi, Calvin! It’s me, Mom. I don’t know where you are right now—are you still in Riyadh? I know you were on Charlie Rose — one of my neighbors told me. But of course I missed it, because you know I don’t own a television—so you must have been back in the US for that.

I did buy your new book. It was very long.

But they have it in the window at Books-A-Million, so I’m sure you’ll sell lots of copies.

Anyway, I hope you’re well, and not working too hard… but knowing you, I’m sure that’s the case. You were always such a workaholic. Remember in high school, when you were so determined to get into Yale? Your dad and I couldn’t understand it. What’s so wrong with a state school? We went to one, and didn’t turn out so badly.

But you got your way, in the end. As always. Well, I mean, you got in. Too bad they wouldn’t give us enough financial aid to let you go. But hey, you turned out all right! Looks like Ohio State didn’t hurt you too much!

I myself am doing extremely nicely—I have a show at the Tucson Senior Center next month, featuring my latest series of “lint people.” I really think these latest pieces are going to put me on the map in the art world. I see myself as a sort of middle-aged, female Matthew Barnye. You know, the artist who made a name for himself with Vaseline sculptures?

I can’t tell you how good it feels, Cal, to finally be expressing my creative side. I felt so STIFLED all those years I ignored the artistic part of me. I really hope you’re finding a way to let your own creativity flow, Cal. I know some people call writing art, but what you write… well, I don’t think nonfiction counts. You’ve always looked down on your sister and me, I know, calling us “flakes.”

But there’s nothing “flakey” about creative expression, Cal. Nothing at all.

Speaking of your sister, I was wondering if you’d heard from her. I only ask because I had the oddest dream last night, in which you, your dad, and Mary and I were trapped on a frozen pond, and the ice had begun to crack. Oddly, you were the only one who managed to pull yourself to safety.

So I was just wondering if you knew if Mary was all right.

That’s all.

Mom

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Hank Langdon < hank.langdon@expat.net>

Re: Hey

Hey! Whaddaya think? I got myself online! Yeah! I know! It’s a miracle!

So when are you coming for a visit? I got an extra set of clubs. The courses here ain’t bad at all. Well, you know, except for the spics. But you can’t escape the spics in Mexico City, let me tell you!

Hey, I heard you landed some big book deal, or something. Think you can loan your old man ten grand or so? I got myself in a little deep with this guy over a horse—

Well, let me know. And if you talk to your mother or sister, tell ’em to lay off me. They’ve bled me dry. I don’t have two pesos left to rub together.

Manana.

Dad

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mary Langdon <m.langdon@internetcafenetwork.com>

Re: You

So I take it from your not emailing me back that you have no interest in me or my life. I guess the word FAMILY doesn’t mean anything to you.

Whatever. I can get along fine without you—which is why the judge granted me Emancipated Minor status in the first place.

I’m in Canada, now, in case you’re interested. Not that MY travels could be of any interest to such a jetsetter like yourself. Where are YOU now, anyway? Gstaad? Ougoudagou? Some place more fabulous than where I am, I’m sure.

Don’t worry (like youwould ), I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’s not that cold here yet. Well, except at night. But I’ve been sleeping in the van. Too bad Jeff can’t leave the heat on overnight, but it wears out the battery.

See you in the next life.

Mare

___________________________________________

To: Mary Langdon <m.langdon@internetcafenetwork.com>

Fr: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Re: You

What is wrong with you? Why are you sleeping in some guy’s van? I thought you’d have learned a lesson about that, given what happened last time.

And I DID reply to your last email. If you’d quit changing your email address every two days, you might actually hear from some of the people you’ve written to once in a while.

I can give you another thousand bucks if you let me know where I can wire it. But what happened to the grand I sent you last month? What are you doing with all of my money, anyway? If I find out you’re blowing all of my money on drugs, Mary, I’m cutting you off. Do you understand me? Because I don’t think you’re quite getting the Emancipated part of being an emancipated minor. Which, by the way, at 25, you’re not anymore.

Cal

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mary Langdon <m.langdon@internetcafenetwork.com>

Re: You

Oh my God, you are the best big brother any girl’s ever had EVER! Send the money to the Western Union here in Whistler, BC.

And we have to live in the van because all the cheap apartments and hotel rooms are taken by Winter X boarders right now, gearing up for the games. But it’s cool, because we’re selling TONS of tie-dyed shit. We can’t dye it fast enough, it seems.

And I need the cash for necessities, tampons, and food and stuff, until we start showing a profit. Jesus, Cal. I would never do drugs. I need my brain cells for my ART.

Thanks—U R the BEST!!

Much love,

Your little sis

___________________________________________

To: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Ruth Levine <r.levine@levinedentalgroup.com >

Re: Hello!

Sweetie, I’m sorry to bother you, I know you’re having fun on your little European jaunt, but I need to know ASAP: What size sweater are you wearing lately? I know usually you like a Large, but you joined that gym, didn’t you? So maybe you’ve bulked up a little, and need an Extra Large?

I only ask because it turns out Susie Schramm—you remember, I told you about her in my last email— she knits! Yes! On top of being a high-powered legal eagle AND a size four, she knits in her spare time (I mean, the time she spares from her work and volunteering for B’Nai Brith, of course).

And I’ve commissioned a sweater for you from her. Apparently, she isn’t afraid to use bold colors, either. I know how much you love yellow, so that’s what you’re getting….

Ooops, it was supposed to be a Hannukah surprise! Oh, well!

Write soon and let me know.

Love,

Mom

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com >

Fr: Darrin Caputo <darrin.caputo@caputographics.com >

Re: Hello, it is your mother

Holly, it is your mother again. Darrin says I’m not to use his email anymore to write to you, but you do not pick up your cell phone when I call. Either your cell phone doesn’t work in Europe, or you are using that Caller ID, and not picking up when you see it is me.

Which is fine. I understand that you do not want to speak to your mother. Even though I am the one who gave birth to you, and wept with joy when I heard the doctor say you were a girl, the little daughter I had almost given up hope of having after four boys in a row.

I am writing now because I saw Jane Harris’s mother at the Kroger Sav-On yesterday, and what she said to me there disturbs me very much. Your father says it is nothing, but I do not agree. I was telling Mrs. Harris how lucky she is to have a daughter like Jane, who sees only nice Christian boys, like that very pleasant British boy, Dave, and the investment banker, Malcolm.

And Mrs. Harris says to me, “But Mark Levine is very nice, too. Listen, Maria, you must stop thinking of it as losing a daughter, but instead, of gaining a son.”

What does Claire Harris mean by this? Why would she think I am gaining a son? I do not need any more sons, I already have four… five if you count Darrin’s Roberto. Holly, you are not thinking of doing something foolish when you are in Italy, are you?

I hope you know that if you marry this boy Mark, he will NOT be a son to me. Just as you will no longer be my daughter. Think on this, I beg you.

I will pray for you.

Your mother

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Somebody needs to take Cal Langdon aside and tell him that that shirt he is wearing, which I am sure he thinks is very cutting edge and SoHo, actually makes him look gay. How can a straight man not know this?

And I know Cal is straight. Not just because he was married before, or the skank I saw slinking from his hotel room, because you know, those don’t really prove anything anymore, in today’s day and age (just look at Curt). I know because of what happened just now at the restaurant we’re having dinner at since it was raining again (what is WRONG with this country?) and nobody felt like cooking outside, much less risking all the electricity going off again by turning the oven on inside.

Plus everybody seems to be in a really bad mood, although no one will tell me why.

It must be the rain.

Anyway, they only let us into this restaurant after we stood at the door for like ten minutes tapping at the glass, then begging the proprietors in broken Italian to please please serve us, as they, like every restaurant owner we have encountered in Porto Recanati (except of course the Crazy Bar and Sexy Tattoo Shop), are actually very reluctant to prepare food and sell it to people, though they haven’t bothered to put a closed sign in their window. Apparently in the off-season what Le Marche restauranteurs do is invite all of their aged friends to sit in their restaurant at night and watch Magnum PI —in Italian of course—and ignore any actual paying customer who might wander in.

Thank God Mark is incapable of taking no for an answer, or we would never get fed. He carries this Guide to Le Marche handbook around with him and insists we have to eat at all the places Holly’s uncle marked for us. He even showed the restaurant proprietors their ranking, and insisted they feed us.

Maybe it’s something to do with him being around sick patients all day, but Mark just exudes this “Be nice to me” vibe, which people totally seem to respond to.

I mean, except for Holly’s mom.

And it’s not really as sickening as it sounds. On him, it works, and doesn’t leave you feeling like you want to hit him over the head with a pool cue or anything.

Anyway, the way I know Cal is not gay, in spite of the shirt and the model ex-wife—and Holly’s assurances to the contrary, of course, but hey, the future wife of the best friend is not always the first to know—is that after Magnum , the movie Babe came on, the one about the little pig who can herd sheep, and all of the Marquesians or whatever they are sat there, enrapt, in their traditional Le Marche-wear of jeans and Bon Jovi T-shirts, but Cal never blinked an eye. He just went right on drinking his grappa like it was actually good and not something that should only be sold as a facial astringent.

No gay guy can resist the lure of Babe . Not that I think the restauranteur and all of his aged friends are gay. They’re just foreigners. They probably cried at the end of Magnum , only I missed it because I was in the men’s room, trying to smuggle out a roll of toilet paper, because of course there wasn’t one in the ladies’ room. Ditto a toilet seat.

Which, by the way, I have to say What’s up with that? about. Clearly, Italian women never go to the bathroom outside of their own homes. That is the only thing I can think of to explain the state of some of the ladies’ washrooms in Le Marche. What do all the Italian ladies do, anyway, when they have to go? Just squat? I can barely make it into a squat during Pilates, and that’s in drawstring pants. What are the chances of me squatting in control-top panties and a pair of tight capris around my knees? Seriously? Think about it. The restaurant owners obviously haven’t.

And yes, I know, it’s a summer community and we’re here on the off-season, but I highly doubt the owner of this place has all the toilet seats stored somewhere in the back until the beach starts getting crowded again. I mean, clearly this is a culture where toilet seats just aren’t that important.

To which I say, Um, again, this is why America is a superpower and you, Italy, are not. Because we care about our comfort in the john.

Anyway, now everyone is arguing about tomorrow. You know, who’s going back to Rome to visit the US consulate. At first I just figured Holly and Mark would go by themselves, and I could lounge by the pool drinking bianco frizzante and reading the latest Nora Roberts. Um, hello, this is my vacation, right?

But no. Cal had to be all, “I’ll come with you,” to Holly and Mark.

Hello? Gowith them? Why? Don’t you have a book you’re supposed to be writing, or something? They don’t need you, Cal Langdon. A translator, maybe. But not a modelizer. I know what he’s up to. He might think I don’t, because I am just a lowly cartoonist and he is the big Saudi Arabian oil crisis guru journalist. But I am ONTO his devious plan. He thinks he’s going to go with Holly and Mark and make subtle anti-marriage remarks that will feed into Holly’s insecurities and make her so freaked out about marrying against her parents’ wishes that she’s going to call the whole thing off!

Well, I am not going to let it happen. I just declared that if Cal’s going, I’m going, too!

Now he’s staring at me all squinty-eyed-Robert-Redfordy across the table, like I’m going to be so intimidated, I’m going to back down.

But it won’t work. I am staring squinty-eyed right back at him, while Holly and Mark argue over whether they should let either of us come with them. Mark says it will give us a chance to try one of the Roman restaurants Holly’s uncle recommended in the Guide to Roma book Mark found back at the villa.

But Holly says it’s our vacation too, and we shouldn’t have to spend it shuttling back and forth between Rome and Le Marche in a Toyota. Even though this time there won’t be a suitcase in the backseat, since it’s just a day trip.

I could see Cal wasn’t going to back down, so I said, “I happen to be extremely fond of Toyotas,” causing Holly to look at me and go, “Oh, God, what’s WRONG with you? And what are you writing in that book?”

I’ve been outed. More later.

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

The horror continues.

As soon as Cal got up to go use the facilities himself just now, I told Mark if he was any kind of friend he’d tell Cal to stay home at the villa with me (even though I don’t want him there, as it will mean spending the day alone with him while Holly and Mark are off US consulating tomorrow, but whatever). Also, that he should tell Cal his shirt looks gay. Mark pointed out that he had already encouraged Cal to stay home to no avail, and that the shirt is from Bangladesh and it’s the only clean thing left in Cal’s backpack. Apparently, he’s sweet-talked Frau Schumacher into doing his laundry while we eat.

I can’t believe he’d take advantage of that sweet old lady’s crush on him in such an obvious manner, even if he DID give her ten euros for her trouble, according to Mark.

Still.

At least the food is good. REALLY good. Even when it’s prepared by someone who won’t take their eyes off Babe. Although Cal and I both eschewed the raw oysters, Cal because he doesn’t like them, and me because I may be a travel neophyte, but I am not eating raw fish in a foreign country. Holly and Mark were both like, “Oh, well, more for us,” and slurped down like twenty each.

Whatever. It’s their funeral.

After this, since it’s stopped raining, we’re going to get gelati from the Gelateria and take a moonlit walk along the beach. Romantic! Well, for Holly and Mark.

Uh-oh, back to the Who’s Going To Rome Tomorrow argument….

Who buys their shirts in BANGLADESH??? What is wrong with the Gap, for God’s sake?

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com>

Re: Holly

Hi, honey! Don’t worry, everything’s fine. Well, I mean, your dad burst a blood vessel in his eye just now trying to move the stereo, but he says it doesn’t even hurt.

Anyway, I hope I didn’t mess anything up, but I saw Marie Caputo in the grocery store just now, and she was down in the mouth as usual about Holly (and telling me how lucky I was that you only date boys like Dave—whatever happened to him, anyway? He was so sweet) and I might have mentioned something about how she shouldn’t think of Holly’s marrying Mark as losing a daughter, but as gaining a son.

Then I remembered she’s not supposed to know anything about Holly marrying Mark this week.

I hope I didn’t let the cat out of the bag, or anything!

And as for that Cal, well, I agree, Saudi Arabia is a very boring subject for a book.

But still, he looked quite nice in that turtleneck he was wearing on Charlie Rose . I think it might have been cashmere. I’m just saying it wouldn’t hurt to give the boy a chance.

And what do you mean, I shouldn’t worry about him falling in love with you? I don’t want to hear that kind of negative talk from you, young lady. You know you’re irresistible. At least when you don’t have PMS and you wear your hair out of your eyes.

Love,

Mom

___________________________________________

To: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Holly

MOM! THIS IS REALLY REALLY BAD!!!! I TOLD YOU NOT TO SAY ANYTHING!!!

DO NOT SAY ANYTHING ELSE TO ANYONE UNTIL I TELL YOU IT’S OK!

AND DON’T GO TO THE KROGER SAV-ON OR ANYWHERE ELSE WHERE YOU MIGHT MEET HOLLY’S MOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

J

___________________________________________

To: Darrin Caputo <darrin.caputo@caputographics.com>

Fr: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Re: Your mother

Oh my God, Darrin, does your mother know? About Holly and Mark, I mean? Because I think my mother might have spilled something. YOU know, right? I mean about them—

Oh my God, what if you’re not supposed to know either? Holly will KILL me if she finds out I told. She really wanted to surprise you, on account of all those times you kidded her that she would settle on one guy.

But whatever, this is an emergency. Holly’s been acting all weird since this afternoon, kind of down, and I think it might be because she heard from your mother. Darrin, Holly and Mark are eloping this week! But everything is going wrong! The marriage license people here in Le Marche aren’t cooperating and your uncle’s oven doesn’t work and there’s this friend of Mark’s who keeps saying the meanest things and—

Well, never mind all that. Anyway, you have GOT to keep your mom from figuring out what’s going on, because I don’t think Holly can take much more. Can you do something to throw her off the scent? Pretend you and Bobby are adopting or something?

Oh, I know! Tell her you’re going to have a sex change operation!!! YES!!! Transgenderism will TOTALLY distract her!

Thanks, Darrin, you’re the best! I’ll write when I know more….

AND DON’T TELL HOLLY I TOLD!!!! WHEN YOU HEAR SHE’S MARRIED, ACT SURPRISED!!!!!!!!!!!

J

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

AAAARRRGH. MOTHERS. I mean, I love her and everything— how great is it to have someone in your life who, every time you complain about a guy, is all, “He must be secretly in love with you, that’s why he’s acting that way”?—but she has the BIGGEST MOUTH.

I mean, this is a CRISIS, her spilling the beans—well, sort of, anyway—to Mrs. Caputo.

And really, it’s my own fault, because I never should have said anything to her in the first place… to Mom, I mean. She hasn’t been able to hold a secret since… well, ever.

I just don’t know how to fix it. This new crisis, I mean. This is something Frau Schumacher’s not going to be able to shout at anybody about until it’s, you know, done.

As soon as I got that email I went to Holly and Mark’s room—Holly went to bed as soon as we got home from the restaurant, saying she had a headache… and no wonder, if she’d heard from her mother the way I suspected she had— and tapped on the door, since I knew Mark was down on the terrazza having a nightcap with Cal.

Anyway, Holly called “Come in” all weakly—she looked awful! Just AWFUL! I asked her if she’d heard from her mom and she said she had, and I said I was sorry and that it was all my fault.

Holly was just sweet as could be, and told me not to worry, that she didn’t blame me a bit….

But it’s all my fault. I just know it.

“I’m starting to think this wedding’s just not to be, anyway,” Holly said.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I told her that she HAS to marry Mark. That if she doesn’t, it will shake my faith in romantic love to its very core. That the two of them were made for each other. I mean, look at the way he has those really big feet, and hers are so little and dainty! And look how she hates tomatoes and he loves them, and he hates sauerkraut and she loves it…. They routinely finish each other’s plates.

And they BOTH love Seventh Heaven , not just Holly. Mark won’t admit it, but HE doesn’t answer the phone when I call on Monday nights, either. And Holly says HE always cries at the end, too.

I told all this to Holly and she just nodded weakly and said she guessed she was just tired. So I told her to go to sleep and that she’d feel better in the morning.

But of course this was not the most reassuring of conversations. So I went downstairs to find Mark— and ran smack into him coming up the stairs, since he said he wasn’t feeling so hot either, and had decided to go to bed early as well.

So I grabbed him by the arm and dragged him into one of the empty bedrooms—I guess Cal didn’t end up taking the pink one after all—and told him what happened with my mom and Holly’s mom.

All he said was, “Aw, Jane. I wouldn’t worry about that.”

“But Holly’s devastated!” I cried. I can’t believe he couldn’t see that! I mean, it’s true I’ve known Holly since the first grade when her family moved onto my street and I went over and rang the bell and asked if they had any little girls for me to play with.

But Mark’s been living with her for the past two years! You would think he’d know her at least as well as I do! I mean, they sleep in the same bed!

“Holly’s just tired,” Mark said. “She’s beat, same as me. It’s been kind of a long day.”

“Then…” I have to admit, I had tears in my own eyes, as if I had just watched the end of Babe or an episode of Seventh Heaven , “you’re not thinking of calling it off?”

“The wedding?” Mark looked down at me like I was crazy. “No way. Why would I do that?”

“Well, because—”

And then, before I could stop myself, it all came tumbling out. The truth. About his friend Cal.

I know it wasn’t very nice of me. To tattle, I mean. Especially to a groom about his best man. Especially just thirty-six hours before the wedding.

But still. Cal totally deserves it. Who does he think he is, anyway, with his phenylethylamine and his thinking he can sabotage my best friend’s wedding by planting doubts in her—or worse, her husband-tobe’s—head?

Mark listened to everything I had to say (I talked really sotto voce , so Cal, still down on the terrazza, wouldn’t overhear) and, when I was done, he did the weirdest thing.

He threw back his head, and laughed.

Yes! Actually laughed! Like it was the most hilarious thing he’d ever heard!

Frankly, I don’t see what was so funny. I mean, if I had been about to get married, and I found out one of my friends was planning on using whatever influence she had over me to talk me out of it—

Well, that’s just ridiculous, because if I were set on marrying someone, no one would be able to talk me out of it.

Which is exactly what Mark said to me.

Mark: “Janie, Cal’s one of the best friends I’ve ever had. But no one is going to talk me out of marrying Holly. Particularly not someone whose own marriage was such a spectacular disaster.”

This information dried my tears right up.

And I know it was really wrong of me, but I totally couldn’t help going, “You knew Valerie, Cal’s ex?”

Mark: “Knew her? Yeah, I knew her. About as well as he did, anyway. And for about as long. I was there the night they met.”

Me: (extremely interested in this) “Really? And was she really beautiful? She was a model, right?”

Mark just shrugged. I have to admit, he didn’t look so hot. But maybe it was the light from the harsh Italian bulb inside a pinky shade.

Mark: “She was all right. Not my type. Tall and blonde and skinny. You know. Typical model.”

Me: (nodding sympathetically) “And very, very dumb, right?”

Mark: “Well, not so dumb that she didn’t know she’d latched onto a guy flush with his first-ever paycheck. And the whole modeling thing wasn’t going as well as she’d have liked. Contrary to what she was apparently led to believe by the Barbizon School or wherever she trained, modeling is quite hard. You have to get up early. And she didn’t like that.”

Wow! Mark really hated Cal’s wife! He hardly EVER says anything bad about anyone, seeing as how he’s, you know, nice and all.

“So…” I still wasn’t sure it was safe to leave Mark alone with his friend. “If Cal DOES try to talk you out of marrying Holly…”

“He’s not going to try any such thing,” Mark said. But at my skeptically raised eyebrows, he added, “Fine, well, he can try, but it won’t work. I can’t believe you, of all people, would even think such a thing is possible, Janie. I love Holly, and no one’s going to talk me out of marrying her. Not Cal. Not my mother. Not even Holly’s mother. Nothing is going to stand in the way of our doing it. NOTHING.”

Sadly, the conclusion of this very inspiring speech was somewhat anti-climactic, since about the time he uttered the words ‘Holly’s mother,’ Mark got kind of green around the gills, and went, “Um. Excuse me. I don’t feel so hot all of a sudden” and ducked into the bathroom, from which some explosive sounds soon emanated.

So I wished him well and left him for my own room, happy in the knowledge that, should Cal try anything, Mark, at least, would stay strong.

As for Holly… well, we’ll have to see. I THINK she knows she’s doing the right thing.

I’ll work on her some more in the car tomorrow.

Now to let Cal Langdon know he won’t be able to talk Mark out of it….

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Oh my God, you’ll never guess what I just caught Cal Langdon doing!!!! Mr. Hardened News Journalist was down on the terrazza, holding out a plate of Zio Matteo’s tuna to all of these scrawny stray cats that had come slinking over to the villa from the stables.

He jumped like I’d shot him when I said his name, and the cats all ran, but I saw them.

Oh, I saw them, all right.

Between the being-afraid-of-snakes thing, and now a soft spot for cats, I guess Mr. No Heart might just have one after all.

Still, I didn’t let on that I knew. About his heart, I mean. Instead, I told him—because I couldn’t help myself—that I’d spoken to Mark, and that he (Cal) was living in a fantasy world if he thought he could talk him (Mark) out of marrying Holly on Wednesday.

To my surprise, Cal just totally ignored that. Instead— while staring at my Christian Louboutins, as usual—he asked me instead if I knew Indian women sometimes decorate their feet with henna.

????????????

There is something seriously wrong with this guy.

Me: “Um, no. But I do know if they show their ankles in public, they can be punished by having their feet cut off. Why don’t you write a book about how unfair that is, instead of what’s going to happen to the Saudis when the oil runs out?”

Cal: (finally looking away from my feet) “Do you think women’s lives there are going to get easier when their country is essentially shut off from contact with the outside world, due to their no longer having a product we want to exploit? Or do you think they’ll get harder?”

Me: “Harder, obviously. But what can I do about it? Use fewer water bottles?”

Cal: “Yes, overconsumption of petroleum-based products is a leading cause of global warming.”

Seriously, I can’t believe he ever got any woman to marry him. I mean, with a line like that. Even a model.

Hey, maybe that’s why he only dates foreigners now. Because they can’t tell what’s coming out of his mouth.

Me: “Well, then maybe we’d better just use it all up and get it over with so we run out already and can go back to how things were before.”

Cal: “You mean before they started bottling spring water and selling it for a buck fifty a pop and pretending it’s better for you than tap?”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me: “I don’t know. You’re the one who wrote a book about it. Why do you keep looking at my feet, anyway?”

Cal: “Why do you keep looking at my crotch?”

I SWEAR TO GOD!!! THAT IS WHAT HE ASKED ME!!!!

Then THANK GOD Peter showed up from out of nowhere and went, “Jane Harris, I am hearing your woice and knew you vere avake. Now will you be drawing me the sketches of Vundercat you promised for my Veb site?” and handed me a sketch pad and some markers.

So I said, “Of course, Peter,” in my most gracious voice— even though I was FREAKING OUT about the crotch thing— and drew him about fifty Wondercat sketches, while Cal sat there scowling in the candlelight and going, “Peter, shouldn’t you be in bed by now? Don’t you have school in the morning?”

But of course Peter explained that he goes to Internet school and doesn’t have to log on by any particular time.

 And all I could think was, what if Peter hadn’t shown up right then? I mean, Cal and I had basically been in each other’s face over that whole petroleum thing. Close enough that, you know, it occurred to me— just kind of randomly—that if we didn’t hate each other so much, we might have started, I don’t know.

Kissing or something.

I KNOW! I don’t even LIKE him. He’s a totally pompous know-it-all—a modelizer!

But still, he does kind of…exude something. I don’t know what it is. I mean, I was having a pretty good time hating his guts right up until I saw him with those cats. CATS!!!! HE LIKES CATS!!!!

And he so clearly didn’t WANT to be caught feeding them. He looked so GUILTY when he saw me.

And then, when we got close there, during our little argument…

BAM. There it was. I couldn’t stop noticing how handsome he looked in the candlelight, with those too blue eyes and his messy Brad Pitt-y hair and his shirt open a little at the neck so I saw a tiny bit of that chest he’d had out on display earlier by the pool and—

WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME??? I ALREADY HAVE A BOYFRIEND!!!!!!!!!

Well, okay, not really.

But I have one if I want one. All I have to do is go to British Columbia, and WHAM, there he is, the boyfriend. A boyfriend who BELIEVES in love. A boyfriend who would NEVER say love is a mere chemical reaction in the brain caused by surges of phenylethylamine (um, especially since Malcolm doesn’t know any words that big).

SO WHY AM I EVEN THINKING ABOUT CAL LANGDON IN THAT WAY????

It can’t just be the cat thing. It must be all this fresh air. It DOES things to a girl. As soon as I get back to the city and breathe in good old New York exhaust fumes, I’ll be all right again.

I hope.

In the meantime, I’ve just got to STAY AWAY from him and his pheromones or whatever it is that makes me keep thinking about what it would be like to sleep with Cal Langdon.

Tomorrow I’ll make sure to wear my Adidas, too. No guy looks at your feet when you’re in your Adidas.

God, how am I supposed to get to sleep NOW?

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

I have GOT to stay away from prosecco. It makes me do the most damnable things, things I’d never do were I in my right mind… feed perfectly fine tuna to a lot of stray cats, for example. Or admire the way the moonlight brings out the highlights in a certain cartoonist’s hair…

Who drank all the scotch?

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Darrin Caputo <darrin.caputo@caputographics.com>

Re: Your mother

ARE YOU SERIOUS???? HOLLY AND MARK ARE ELOPING???? In Castelfidardo?

Well, that’s kind of a weird place to do it (have you seen the whang on that naked accordionist statue in the town square? That dude is HUNG), but I couldn’t be happier for them. OF COURSE we’ll do something to throw Mom off the scent. I don’t know what, exactly…. Bobby’s going to think something up,he’s better at this kind of thing than I am.

Oh my God, that is just the BEST NEWS. NO ONE deserves a romantic wedding in Italy more than my sister Holly. Give her a big kiss from me, and don’t worry, I won’t tell a SOUL!!!!

Love,

D

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com>

Re: Holly’s mother

Really, Jane, you don’t have to SHOUT at me. That’s what they call it when you write an email in capital letters, you know. SHOUTING. And it’s very rude.

I didn’t mean to say anything to Marie. Obviously. It just slipped out. You should be a little more understanding, you know. I’m under a lot of stress these days over at the Salvation Army, where I’ve been volunteering. The past three Saturdays in the row I’ve signed up to work in the thrift shop, and each and every time they’ve put me in the back, ironing the donated baby clothes! I know I’m very good with an iron, but can’t they at least once let me work the cash register? Or help the poor people find the right clothes for their body type?

But no. “Oh, look, here comes Claire. Get out the ironing board.”

I am seriously considering quitting and going over to Good Will. Marcy Clark told me they don’t make anybody iron ANYTHING over there.

Plus your dad touched a mango yesterday, and you know how allergic he is. I WARNED him there was a mango in the fruit bowl. I was going to use it in the fruit salad I’m bringing to the gourmet potluck at Helen Fogarty’s this weekend.

But Dad had to go and cut it up, thinking it was a papaya, and now he’s got hives all over his hands and arms. I’ve been putting calamine lotion on them, but I think we’re going to have to take another trip over to the Promptcare for some prednisone….

So don’t be so snappy with me, young lady. I have a lot going on.

I don’t know what Marie’s problem is, anyway. At least her daughter’s got a man who wants to marry her. All MY daughter has is a development deal with the Cartoon Network. And while Daddy and I are very proud of you, sweetie, you can’t exactly honeymoon with a development deal, now, can you? Or gaze into a development deal’s sweet angelic eyes while you’re changing its diaper.

So cut your mother some slack.

Love,

Mom

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Okay. Okay. Everything is going to be all right. I can figure this out. I can totally figure this out—

No, I can’t. This is a disaster. A total and complete disaster.

What am I going to do????

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Listserv <Wundercat@wundercatlives.com>

Fr: Peter Schumacher <webmaster@wundercatlives.com>

Re: JANE HARRIS

Good morning fellow lovers of Wundercat! There is BIG NEWS today about JANE HARRIS! Her friends who will be getting the marriage both eat the bad oysters last night, and this morning are sick as dogs! YES! They cannot get up out of the beds!

And this is bad because they are supposed to get the form from the Consulate of the US today, so they can have the marriage tomorrow!

But when I drove by the villa this morning on my motorino, to bring JANE HARRIS fresh brotchen, she is very upset, and says, “Ask your grandmother what can be done.” So I get my grandmother, and she comes to the villa and says that nothing can be done from eating the bad oyster, they will have to wait until it has passed through.

Which, if it does not do soon, there will be no marriage tomorrow!

So this is BAD NEWS for JANE HARRIS.

I will keep you informed as news continues! This is Peter Schumacher, #1 Fan Of Wundercat!

Wundercat Lives—4eva!

Peter

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Oysters. They just HAD to have the oysters.

I warned them. They can’t say I didn’t warn them. Who eats raw shellfish in a foreign country, I ask you? Who? This isn’t Japan. Italy is not known for its raw seafood. What were they THINKING?

Poor Mark. I guess that’s what I heard him throwing up last night. And he’s STILL throwing it up. He can barely move from the bed.

And Holly… my God, when I knocked on their bedroom door to see why they weren’t up yet for our drive to Rome, and Holly answered, she looked like… well, the undead. She hasn’t looked this bad since that Fourth of July we invented the drink with the watermelon balls and vodka (Rockets’ Red Glare).

“I don’t think there’s going to be any wedding,” she said. And then had to run to the bathroom.

What could I do but follow her? It’s not like I haven’t held her hair for her while she barfed plenty of times before—Rockets’ Red Glare in particular.

“Holly,” I said, as gently as I could, when she’d sunk back down onto the bathroom tiles in exhaustion. “You guys HAVE to make it to Rome today. You know tomorrow’s the only day the mayor said he could fit your wedding into the schedule.”

Which turned out not to be the right thing to say, since Holly promptly started to cry.

“I know!” she wailed. “But what can we do? We wouldn’t last five minutes in the car. We’d have to pull over every thirty seconds to throw up. Oh, God, Janie. It’s over. We’re not getting married. Not now, anyway. Not in Italy. And the way everything seems to be going against us… maybe not ever. Maybe my mother is right. Maybe HIS mother is right. Maybe we should just forget it. Maybe it’s just not meant to be.”

I know! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Not meant to be? Holly, I know you don’t feel well, but are you NUTS? You can’t just forget it. You guys HAVE to get married. And you have to get married here, in Italy.”

She just looked at me through miserable, swollen eyes. “Why?”

“Because I already told Darrin!” was what I ALMOST said. I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to have told anyone, though, and at the last possible second changed it to, “Because it’s what you’ve always wanted to do. You’ve been planning this forever. And Mark wants it, too, I know it. More than anything. You can’t just give up because of a little food poisoning!”

To which she responded by barfing some more.

I got her back to bed, somehow. Then I found Peter outside with more of those breakfast rolls, and asked him to get his grandmother. Frau Schumacher came over, looking very concerned, and went in to see the stricken couple. Her expression, when she came out of the room again, was grave.

“No good,” she said to me. “Zey vill not make the drive to Roma and back today. Tomorrow, yes. But not today.”

“But it HAS to be today,” I cried. “There’s no other time! The mayor said Wednesday was the only day… and we leave Friday anyway.”

But I know Frau Schumacher is right. She’s downstairs making some hot broth for Mark and Holly to choke down—it doesn’t matter if the lights go out right now, since it’s daytime. A beautiful day, as a matter of fact. The sun is beaming down, and the pool is sparkling, and the breeze is causing the palm fronds to sway gently….

Damn it! Why did they eat those oysters?

And why does this country have to be so BACKWARD??? If a person wants to get married here, and has all the right forms from back in the US, why CAN’T she??? Why do they have to send her all over creation for MORE forms??? Is it some kind of test to see how dedicated they are to the idea of being married? I mean, it’s just a FORM,anybody can get a form—

Holy crap.

Anybodycan get a form.

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

Honest to God, I don’t know how this happened. Last thing I knew, I was sleeping blissfully.

Then, not five minutes ago, a small but very determined missile hit my bed, tearing off my very comfortably arranged sheets and shouting in my ear that it was time to get up and get in the car.

I vaguely recall that this missile seemed feminine in form—not an unpleasant way to be roused. Until I realized just which, precisely, female the form belonged to.

Then a cup of coffee was shoved in my hand, and I was urged to dress. Which I did. And then, when I wandered downstairs, wondering what was happening and why Frau Schumacher was at the stove, making what appeared to be soup of some kind, I was very rudely snatched, shoved outside, pushed into the passenger seat of the car, and driven off at considerable speed down the driveway by someone who is apparently not exactly familiar with a stick shift.

A someone who looks remarkably like Jane Harris.

On crystal meth.

Oh, that’s right. It’s all coming back to me now. We’re supposed to be escorting Mark and Holly to Rome so that they can apply for some sort of form at the US embassy.

Except that for some reason, Mark and Holly do not appear to be in the car with us.

“Um, Jane,” I ask, in what I hope is a soothing tone that won’t startle the young woman beside me, looking so wild-eyed behind the wheel. “Aren’t we forgetting something? Or should I say, someone? A pair of someones?”

She seems barely to register my presence in the car, she’s checking so frantically in the rear view mirror for a hole in the oncoming traffic so she can make the turn onto the strada principale.

“Mark and Holly have food poisoning,” is her surprising response. “They won’t be able to make it. We have to go without them.”

“I see.” I’m trying to sound as reasonable as I can, seeing as how she is clearly unaccustomed to driving and conversing at the same time. “And am I to understand that we’ll be applying for whatever form it is they’re lacking?”

“Yeah.” She tosses something into my lap. Looking down, I see that it’s a pair of passports. “Don’t worry, I got their passports. Their birth certificates, too.”

This strikes me as highly amusing.

“And do you really think that the US embassy is going to issue this form to us just because we’re holding our friends’ passports and birth certificates,” I ask, playing along, “simply because we ask them to, as a favor?”

“No,” comes Jane Harris’s somewhat startling reply. “They’re going to issue the form because we’re going to tell them we’re Mark Levine and Holly Caputo.”

This is definitely the funniest thing I’ve heard all morning.

“Isn’t that going to be a little difficult?” I ask. “Seeing as how Mark is dark-haired and wears glasses, and I’m fair-haired, and have twenty/twenty vision?”

Next thing I knew, Mark’s glasses were hurled into my lap.

“I filched them off his bedside table,” my kidnapper explained. “And you can’t tell his hair is that dark in the picture. It’s black and white. You could say it got bleached in the sun, or whatever, if anybody asks. Which they won’t.”

Sadly, I’m starting to wake up now. Even more sadly, this is all starting to seem less and less like a dream, and more and more like a real-life nightmare.

“Wait a minute. Are you serious?” Because she LOOKS totally serious. And we are hurtling down the strada principale—past signs that say ROMA—at a very serious speed. “We’re going to POSE as Mark and Holly?”

“Why not?” She is passing a large truck carrying—predictably— numerous live chickens, stacked high. They squawk at us hysterically. “All we have to do is show our IDs and sign some forms. What’s the big?”

“The BIG,” I say (since when did people start leaving off the word ‘deal’ when asking what the big deal is, anyway? Is this an artist thing? Mary does this, as well), “is that that is what I believe is called forgery. And probably perjury. And maybe a whole bunch of other things, as well.”

Jane Harris has not once turned her head in my direction. She is wearing sunglasses, which makes it extremely difficult to see her eyes, and thus whether or not she has gone absolutely and completely bonkers.

“Oh, please,” she’s saying. “Like we’ll get caught. Mark’s a doctor, remember? No one can read his signature anyway. And I’m an artist. I’ve been forging Holly’s mom’s name on report cards and tardy slips for ages. I think I can easily manage to do Holly’s. You can just scribble something for Mark’s.”

This has progressed from a pleasant game to an entirely unpleasant situation.

“Jane,” I try again. “Are you kidnapping me and forcing me to go to Rome with you to commit fraud against the US government?”

She refuses to see the gravity of the situation, replying merely, “Oh, shut up and drink your coffee and keep writing in your little machine there, if it makes you feel better. There’s some of Peter’s brotchen in the back if you want it. And I’m not kidnapping you. I’m not demanding a ransom from anybody for you. As if anybody’d pay it if I did.”

There must be some sort of Italian law that forbids this sort of thing… taking advantage of a man in a less than wakeful state, and forcing him to drive hundreds of kilometers to a city he only just came from a day or two before, where he will be forced to impersonate another man….

She’s wearing Adidas, but I can see still see the cat tattoo. Is it because it’s so early, or can it really be… well… winking at me?

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

This is going to work. This HAS to work.

I know Cal doesn’t think it’s going to (big surprise).

But what does HE know? He’s been against those two getting together since before any of this even started. Look at him now, asking for the key to the men’s room. He STILL looks as if he doesn’t know quite what hit him. His hair is sticking up in the back in the most peculiar—but strangely erotic—fashion.

EROTIC???? What am I THINKING???? I am on a MISSION here. I can’t be thinking about sex at a time like this!!!

This HAS to work. We’re halfway to Rome now, and it’s only a little after ten. We should get there before lunch… well, probably just as they’re closing for lunch.

But that’s okay. It’s the US embassy. They can’t POSSIBLY take a four-hour lunch at the US embassy. They’re AMERICAN, for God’s sake. They probably take an hour lunch, like all normal people. So we can fill out the form, get the APOSTILLE, and get back on the road by two or three o’clock, and be home before dark.

PLEASE let them only take an hour for lunch….

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Where are you?

Sorry if there’s typos in this, I can’t really see very well, my head is pounding so much. But where are you guys? Frau Schumacher— who is being so sweet to us—says she doesn’t know, that you just took off without a word to anyone….

Well, I’m glad, anyway. I mean, that you’re not here to see this. I hope you’re off having fun somewhere. I’m so sorry for spoiling your vacation. And the wedding. I know how much you were looking forward to it. Almost as much as me—02q9375)(*&@

Sorry, I couldn’t stop crying there for a minute, and lost sight of the keyboard.

Anyway, I’m glad you and Cal seem to be getting along now, and hope you’ve gone to Loredo or somewhere. There really is some lovely sightseeing in the area. The Madonna’s house, for instance. Apparently angels lifted it and brought it from the Holy Land and dropped it here in Le Marche….

I was just wondering, though, have you seen Mark’s glasses? He swears he left them on the nightstand, but now they’re gone.

Not that it matters, since the only place he’s going is the bathroom. Still, it’s strange.

Well, write when you get a chance. Oh, God, not again—I have to go—

Holly

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

We’re here!!!! The US embassy!!! We made it with minutes to spare!!!! Cal took over the driving after the Mobil station, and we practically FLEW the next few hundred kilometers.

Plus, he insisted on taking this different route, which didn’t go through the mountains. Which was good, since I forgot my Dramamine. We reached Rome at five minutes to twelve.

And now we’re here!!!!

I must say, this place isn’t at all like what I would have thought. I mean, inside, it’s kind of like my dentist’s office. There are all these chairs and people waiting and a glassed-in reception desk and you have to take a number (well, that’s more like at my butcher’s than at my dentist’s, but whatever). Our number is 92.

I have to say, the Modelizer is being much better about this than I’d thought he’d be, judging by his initial reaction in the car, when he finally woke up. I admit I kind of shanghaied him. I knew he wasn’t really awake when I made him get in the car.

Still, he’s taking it like a total sport. He hasn’t uttered a peep of anti-marriage propaganda all morning. Maybe the guy’s finally coming around after all.

Fat-bottomed girls/They make the rockin’ world go round—

Oh my God, I can’t BELIEVE that’s all we had to listen to the whole drive! We are heading STRAIGHT to a music store the minute we get out of here and buying another CD. I don’t care what. ANYTHING but Queen.

Although I have to admit, Freddy Mercury is totally growing on me.We are the champions, my friends

___________________________________________

Ooooooh, they’re calling a number. 92, 92, let it be 92!!!!!! 28?

28????

Cal just looked at me and went, “Looks like we’re going to be here awhile.”

Understatement of the year.

And all they’ve got to read is International Time magazine!International Time is like watered down real Time , which is already so watered down it’s like watching the local news, without the grisly power mower accidental decapitations.

I’m going to DIE.

But it’s worth it. It’s worth it for Holly. This is for her. And Mark. This is—

OH MY GOD, THIS IS MY WEDDING PRESENT TO THEM!!!!

YES!!! Why didn’t I think of it before??? Since I can’t give them this journal—um, especially not now that I’ve mentioned Cal’s pheromones—I’ll give them this… the form that will allow them to be married tomorrow.

Genius. Total genius. This is MUCH better than candlesticks or something dopey like that.

Oooooh, they’re calling another number… 92. COME ON!!! Maybe 29 through 91 left already.

Wait. That’s not a number. The guy’s putting a sign up on the glass. What’s it say?

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe this is what I’ve been reduced to. I’m in Rome, possibly one of the most gastronomically diverse cities in the world, renowned for its cuisine, the long and languid lunch hour…

And I’m having warmed over eggplant pizza at Amici Amore, a ubiquitous Italian fast-food joint.

There’s a VIDEO ARCADE in the back.

I should have put my foot down. I should have explained that when a Roman hangs a sign that says the office will be closed until a certain hour, he absolutely means it.

But no. She kept insisting. She’s convinced if we scarf down a quick meal and get back to the embassy, we will somehow move up further in the line. Even though there is no line, and she is, in fact, holding a number that will doubtlessly not be called until tomorrow, or possibly next week.

Why didn’t I insist? This trip didn’t have to be an entire waste. We could be having a leisurely, romantic lunch in some restaurant’s cozy back garden right now—listening to doves coo rather than the sound of asteroids being blasted by a computer-generated laser gun—enjoying the sunshine instead of the obscene purple neon of this place.

Why did I let her have her way? Especially when her way is so often so very, very wrong?

I don’t even like eggplant.

I have to take a stand. When she gets back from the ladies’ room, I will take a stand. I’ll tell her this whole scheme is destined for failure. I’m going to tell her that this is a ridiculous waste of time, and that we’re heading back to the villa to salvage what’s left of our vacation time. I’m going to tell her—

Here she comes.

Oh. She says we’re leaving.

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Stupid restaurant! Stupid Rome! Stupid Italy!

What is the DEAL with the bathrooms here???? Seriously. I had to go at that stupid Amici Amore, so I head on off to the ladies’, and first off, the whole place is lit by black light— why? Oh, because (Cal just told me) it’s to make it impossible for junkies to find a vein if they take it into their heads to shoot up in there.

But that’s not the worst of it. Oh, no!

THERE WAS NO TOILET. No. None. Where a toilet ought to be was a hole. A HOLE IN THE FLOOR. With two cut-out footprints on either side of it, and two bars to hold onto.

Okay, maybe ITALIAN WOMEN know what this is. But I’ve never seen anything like it, and I have NO IDEA what you’re supposed to do there. Obviously you put your feet on the cutouts. And clearly you’re supposed to hold onto the bars.

And then do what? Squat?

I DO NOT SQUAT.

Oh my God, what is WRONG with this country?

Cal says he knows of another restaurant we can go that isn’t far from here, and that he swears will actually have a toilet in the ladies’ room. I’m so traumatized, I’m actually letting him drive me there. A HOLE. A HOLE. What does Amici Amore even MEAN, anyway? BIG HOLE HERE?

Oh. Cal says it means Love Friends (amici= friends, amore = love).

Love Your Friends. Ha! Fuck Your Friends is more like it. By telling them to go there. TO SEE THE HOLE.

Where is he TAKING me, anyway? I told Cal we better not go too far from the consulate, since I’m SURE they won’t actually be taking a three-hour lunch. I mean, they’re AMERICAN, for crying out loud. That sign was probably just a scam to throw off the people with dumb, petty problems like lost passports or whatever. It won’t daunt ME. I’m in this for the long haul. I don’t care how long it takes. I’m going to sit there until I get—

Oooooh, what a beautiful building!

___________________________________________

Hotel Eden

Sesto piano, la nostra terrazza ristorante da dove si puo ammirare uno dei piu bei panorami sulla Citta Eterna.

Gli altri ce la invidiano, noi ve la offriamo. Oltre all'incantevole panorama, "La Terrazza dell'Eden" e da segnalare per i prestigiosi riconoscimenti tra cui uno Stella Michelin.

Hotel Eden

The Sixth Floor of Rome:

Our Restaurant which will delight you with the best Mediterranean cuisine accompanied by the unrivalled view over the Seven Hills of Rome.

“La Terrazza dell’Eden" is one of the most prestigious gourmet Restaurant in Rome and is proud to be awarded with one Michelin Star.

___________________________________________

___________________________________________

Degustazione

Carpaccio scottato di branzino e capesante con olio extra vergine al basilico

Mezzi rigatoni grezzi all'aragosta con crema di zucca

Ravioli di barbabietola con polenta e taleggio

Coda di rospo al forno con speck e lenticchie

Medaglioni di vitello in crosta di pecorino senese con zucchine croccanti

Crostata aromatizzata con mele e mandorle, semifreddo alle nocciole e Ferrari Maximum Demi-sec

Caffe

Delizie friabili

Gourmet Menu

Warm sea-bass and scallops carpaccio, extra virgin olive oil flavoured with basil

Rigatoni with lobster and pumpkin cream

Beetroot Ravioli filled with polenta and taleggio cheese

Oven-baked monkfish with smoked ham and lentils

Veal medallions in a Pecorino cheese crust, crispy courgettes and marjoram

Apples and almonds on pastry, hazelnuts semifreddo and Ferrari Maximum Demi-sec sauce

Coffee

Petits fours

___________________________________________

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

Now this is more like it. Sunshine. A nice prosecco. Panoramic views of the entire city. La Terrazza Dell- Eden at the Hotel Eden never fails in a pinch. Since 1889, it’s been pampering guests, battle-worn from Roman sightseeing and psychically scarred by the traffic. This is where we ought to have come from the start.

Let that be a lesson to us all: Never let an artist choose the restaurant.

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Oh my God, I totally know this place! This is where Britney Spears and Pink stayed when they were filming that Pepsi commercial in the Colosseum, the one they showed at the Superbowl! And the photographers got all these shots of Britney up on this very sun deck, hanging out with that married dancer.

Cool.

It’s just GORGEOUS here, all yellow and green, with this view to DIE for. You can see all the way to the Vatican. You can wave to the Pope. Hi, Pope! Holly’s mom sends her love! I’m sure Dan Brown didn’t mean it!

And prosecco… yum. The food is delicious, too.

But we better hurry up. The office opens again in 45 minutes. Cal wants to go to the Spanish Steps, which are down the street from here. Like we’ve got time for sightseeing.

Still, I don’t want to say no.

He’s being so NICE, all of a sudden. I mean, taking me here, and showing me this place, and buying lunch, and just being… well, like a nice guy, for a change.

And he looks so… well, hot too, sitting there in his jeans and chambray shirt. He finally got his air under control, I see—which is good, if he ever hopes to pass for Mark, who doesn’t have as much of it as he does—hair, I mean. The sun is really bringing out his golden highlights.

And he’s telling such funny stories, about things he and Mark did in school. You can hardly tell he’s the same person who just the other day was insisting that marriage is an outdated institution, and that love is nothing but a chemical reaction in the brain.

You know, between this and the cat thing last night, I’m almost starting to LIKE him.

Maybe that’s just the prosecco. God, this is so romantic , sitting up here on top of the city, looking down on all the treetops and ancient ruins, drinking sparkly wine and eating these luscious olives. I can’t believe Holly and Mark are missing it—

Holly and Mark! We’ve got to go!!!!

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Claire Harris <charris2004@freemail.com >

Re: You

I don’t know if you’re just ignoring me now, or if something’s happened to you. I hope it’s the former, of course. I was flipping through the channels last night and I happened to see that on the Travel Channel they were doing a show on the lesser-traveled regions of Italy, so I watched it, and sure enough, they did a story on Le Marche, and they said there are WOLVES there.

Yes. WOLVES. In the hills.

I hope there are no hills near Holly’s uncle’s villa, and that if so, there are no wolves in them. And that you’re keeping your window closed at night. Because wolves can jump very high. At least according to this documentary.

I suppose you aren’t writing back because you’re angry about my telling Holly’s mother that she is gaining a son, not losing a daughter. I still don’t see how Marie is going to extrapolate from this that Mark and Holly are eloping in Italy.

But I just thought I’d let you know that it looks like Marie is going to have a lot more important things to worry about soon: Daddy and I were just at the Promptcare for a splinter he got in his foot (I TOLD him the dining room floor needs sanding) and ran into Holly’s sister-in-law Brandy, who was there with little Heather because she’d stuck a Red Hot up her nose.

Heather, not Brandy.

Anyway, according to Brandy, the Caputos are fit to be tied because Darrin just announced that he’s getting married. To his boyfriend, Bobby. Apparently, they are having some sort of commitment ceremony on the steps of City Hall to rub the mayor’s nose in it.

And I already phoned her—I HAD to, to let her know Angela di Blasi has the flu and book club is going to have to be at my house this week—and she was STILL in hysterics over the fact that Darrin is inviting the paper to cover the event and Father Roberto will know Darrin is gay.

I hope you’re happy now.

Nancy Jansen wants to know if you’ll autograph a copy of Wondercat: The Early Years for her nephew Jeff. I told her you would. She’s sending it to you in New York with a self-addressed stamped envelope so you can just pop it in the mail back to her when you’re done.

Love,

Mom

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Those Spanish Steps weren’t anything so big. I mean, they were all smooth from being walked on so much, since they’re like three hundred years old. They are definitely a safety hazard. I nearly twisted my ankle a couple of times going down them.

And yeah, okay, so Shelley’s house was right next door. Shelley. Wasn’t he the one whose wife wrote Frankenstein?

I don’t know why Cal got so tight-lipped when I asked him this. How am I supposed to know stuff about literature? I was an art major. I bet he doesn’t know that Michelangelo got so sick of people complimenting him on his David statue’s hands that he cut them off.

So I asked him if he knew this, and he said he didn’t. Also that he didn’t understand why, if so many people liked the hands, Michelangelo would cut them off.

So I explained about how artists want people to view their work as a whole, not parts. If people were too busy concentrating on the hands, they wouldn’t see the rest of the statue. And that’s not what Michelangelo wanted… to make a great pair of hands. He wanted to make a great statue.

I could tell he was impressed by this. I think it made up for when I told him about the Britney thing back at the Hotel Eden. He’d looked kind of scared then.

Whatever! I can’t help it if he’s the Wall Street Journal and I’m Us Weekly . I obviously have to know SOMETHING or I wouldn’t have had to switch over to quarterly income tax returns this year, would I?

There were all these hippies sitting on the steps, playing guitars and singing about peace and stuff. Seeing them obviously reminded Cal of something, since he was like, “I have to go to Western Union.” I was all, “Why?” and he was like, “I’ve got to wire some money to my sister.”

So we went to Western Union—fortunately the Spanish Steps are in this totally high-tourist area, so we found one right away—and Cal wired a thousand dollars to someone named Mary Langdon. I know I shouldn’t have looked, but what else was I supposed to do?

Besides, I was curious.

Even though he didn’t seem to want to talk about it, I asked him how old his sister was, and he said she was 25. So he’s her big brother. It’s hard to imagine Cal having a little sister.

It’s hard to imagine Cal ever having been a kid. But I know he was one, once, because that’s how he and Mark came to be friends.

I wonder if Mary’s afraid of snakes too.

Also, what she needs a thousand bucks for. Who hits their brother up for a loan that big? That is just bound to get the two of them on the People’s Court , you just know it.

But when I asked, Cal was just like, “Mary’s an artist,” in this tone that suggested he didn’t think much of the profession. Um, MY profession.

But whatever. It’s sweet of Cal to help out his little sister. I really wouldn’t have pegged him as a soft touch for money, but you can tell that girl’s got him wrapped around her gold-digging finger….

Generous with his sister. Nice to cats. Scared of snakes.

Still. Modelizer. And anti-marriage. Hmmm.

We’re back at the consulate. Cal wanted to give up, but I wouldn’t let him.

And I’m glad I didn’t, because things are totally speeding up around here. They’re on number 67 now. Don’t even ask me how.

One annoying thing… there’s this woman here, about my age, who I guess is trying to get the same form we are. She’s marrying this Italian guy named Paolo. I know because she is telling anyone who will listen about it. Paolo is sitting there beside her, this hulk of a man, who doesn’t look very happy. She says he doesn’t speak any English. Also, that she can barely speak Italian. She says their relationship is based entirely on physical attraction.

Which, if it’s true, is kind of sad. For her. I mean, Paolo’s hot, don’t get me wrong. But she’s nothing to write home about. I wonder if Paolo even knows where they are, and that they’re getting married.

I just elbowed Cal, who was busy typing into his Blackberry (as usual) and asked him (sotto voce) if he thinks Paolo knows what he’s getting himself into. Before he had a chance to reply, the future Mrs. Paolo was all, “He’s a mechanic. My parents don’t approve. They think I can do better than marry an Italian mechanic who doesn’t even speak English. But the sexual energy between us is so strong, how can I deny it?”

This last question was directed solely at me. Unfortunately, I’ve made eye contact. Now she won’t go away.

“I’m Rhonda,” she says. “What are you writing in that book there?”

Me: “Nothing.”

Rhonda: “Oh, it’s a travel journal. I just love journaling. You know, I can’t sleep at night if I don’t journal about my day. Sometimes I’ll go for twenty, thirty pages.”

Me: “Wow.”

Rhonda: (batting her mouse brown eyelashes at Cal) “So is this your honey?”

Me: “Um. Yes. Yes, I guess it is. This is Mark. I’m Holly.” Rhonda: “Hi, Holly. Hi, Mark. Aren’t you handsome! What are you two doing here? Lose your passport? I’m here to pick up a form I need to get married.”

Me: “So I heard. We’re here to pick up a form we need to get married too.”

Rhonda: “Oh, you two are getting married? Here in Italy? Why, if you don’t mind my asking? I mean, what’s wrong with Vegas?”

Cal: “We just can’t wait, Rhonda. My love for this woman is so strong, I want to marry her right away, and not wait a minute more. I want to make her Mrs. Mark Levine as soon as is humanly possible.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He’s funny!!!!!

Who knew?????

Rhonda: “Oh, boy, do I ever understand that! It’s just like me and Paolo. Have you met my future husband, Paolo? He doesn’t speak any English. And I don’t speak any Italian. We met three days ago. My cruise ship stopped here, and I went to rent one of those little scooters, and there he was, and… well, I wouldn’t get back on the cruise ship. My parents are furious with me—it was a cruise to celebrate their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary—but what can I do? Our physical attraction is overwhelming. Paolo’s like an animal in bed.”

Me: (patting Cal on the knee) “So’s this guy.” Cal: (putting his arm around my shoulders) “Now, honey, don’t be modest. You’re no slouch in the sack, either.”

Me: (looking modest) “Well, we did make love—how many times was it yesterday, sweetie?”

Cal: “Seven, I believe.”

Me: (trying hard not to notice that Cal Langdon smells really, really good) “Well, yes, but that’s just because you had that sports-related injury.”

Cal: “Of course. Yesterday was kind of a slow day, actually.” Rhonda: (looking excited) “Paolo went nine once! In one day!”

We all looked at Paolo with respect. He blinked back at us, without the slightest glimmer of recognition of what we were talking about—or of intelligence.

Me: (Cal’s arm is still around me. It’s warm. And distracting.) “That is very impressive. No wonder you’re marrying him.”

Rhonda: “I know. If only my parents would try to understand! They called from Greece last night, and were furious with me when I told them what Paolo and I were doing today. I thought they’d be happy for me—happy that I’ve finally found the happiness they’ve been enjoying for thirty-five years! But no. They think I’m crazy, and that in a week we’ll be divorced. But of course Paolo’s Catholic, and doesn’t believe in divorce. I think. It’s hard to tell what he’s saying, exactly, but I think that’s the deal. Anyway, too many people get divorced these days. They don’t understand that a marriage takes work and that you can’t just move out because your husband’s cheating on you or whatever. You’ve got to stay and try to MAKE it work. You would think Mom and Dad would understand that.”

Cal: “Families can be so difficult sometimes.”

Rhonda: “Tell me about it. I was journaling about mine just the other night, when it occurred to me that—-” Consulate guy: “Ninety-two! Number 92!”

THAT’S US!!!!!!!!!!

___________________________________________

MARRIAGE OF U.S. CITIZENS IN ROME'S CONSULAR DISTRICT

U.S. citizens planning to marry in Italy must present certain documents and comply with specific requirements of Italian law in order to obtain a marriage license. Marriages cannot be performed by American Consuls, nor on the premises of the American Consulate. The documents required and the procedure to follow are described below.

1. Valid U.S. passport.

2. Birth certificate (original or certified copy).

3. Evidence of the termination of any previous marriage, if applicable (e.g., final divorce decree, annulment decree or death certificate of former spouse).

4. Affidavit, sworn to by the U.S. citizen before a U.S. Consul commissioned in Italy, stating that there is no legal impediment to the marriage, according to the laws of the State of which the citizen is a resident.

NOTE: Once issued, this affidavit must be stamped by the Legalization Office of any Prefettura in our Consular District (there is one in every province capital).

5. Atto Notorio: This is a declaration, in addition to the sworn statement described under point 4, stating that according to the laws to which the citizen is subject in the United States there is no obstacle to his/her marriage. This declaration is to be sworn to by two witnesses (a witness may be of any nationality, but must be over 18, with current photo ID), before an Italian Consul outside Italy or, in Italy, before an official at the Pretura (Lower Court) in the city where the marriage is to take place. U.S. citizens coming to Italy to be married must obtain this declaration from a Consul of Italy, before leaving the United States.

6. Declaration of Intention: Bride and groom should present all the above documents to the Ufficio Matrimoni (Marriage Office) of the Municipio (Town Hall) in the city where the marriage will be performed, and make a "Declaration of Intention to Marry" before an Ufficiale di Stato Civile (Civil Registrar).

NOTE: All documents originating out of Italy (birth certificate, divorce decree, etc.) MUST be translated into Italian. Both the original documents and the translations MUST be legalized for use in Italy, with the so-called "APOSTILLE" stamp, in accordance with The Hague Convention on the legalization of foreign public documents. In the U.S., the "APOSTILLE" stamp is placed by the Secretary of State in the state where the document was issued.

I swear the information contained in the documents submitted herewith is both true and valid.

Signature: Holly Ann Caputo Stato Civile

Signature: Mark Levine Stato Civile

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mark Levine <mark.levine@thenyjournal.com>

Re: Wheere adre you?

Hgey. II cvan;t find mt glasdes. Whiohe are yyi????

MKal

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

I am an international fugitive from justice. At any moment I expect our car to be overtaken by Interpol, and for Jane and me to be yanked out, slammed to the asphalt, and slapped into cuffs. I suspect Black Hawk helicopters are hovering over us at this very moment. Undoubtedly, we’ll be thrown into an Italian prison, and no one will ever hear from us again.

And Rhonda, ultimately, will have the last laugh.

We did it. We perjured ourselves. Committed fraud. Forged our friends’ names on government documents.

And they never suspected a thing.

Jane was right. It was a cinch. The guy behind the bulletproof glass barely even glanced at us or our passports. He just asked us where we were staying, made a laconic comment when he found out it was Le Marche, slid the form through the slot for us to sign, then gave us back our documents with the form stamped appropriately. All that waiting—we didn’t get back on the road until almost five-thirty—and we were done in five minutes.

I thought Jane was going to have an embolism, she was so delirious with joy. She kept clutching my shirt—not an unpleasant sensation, by the way—and hissing, “It worked! We did it! It worked!” as we rode down the elevator.

Then she seemed to sober up and asked, “What did that man say about Le Marche?”

So I told her he’d said, with a grunt, when he heard where we—I mean, Mark and Holly—were planning on being wed: “Better a corpse in the house than a man from Le Marche.”

This filled Jane with righteous anger—”What did he mean by that? What’s wrong with Le Marche? I think it’s beautiful. Just because it’s not overrun with American tourists like Rhonda, that means there’s something wrong with it? That pig,” etc.

This struck me as highly amusing, considering her sentiments on Le Marche after coming out of the bathroom at the restaurant where we dined just last evening.

Still, it’s true that Le Marche is beginning to have a certain charm. I’m actually eager to get back there.

I haven’t been eager to get anywhere since… well, ever. I wonder what that’s about. It seems as if places have always been just that to me… places. I can’t imagine what’s happened to make Le Marche seem less like a place and more like… well. Home.

___________________________________________

To: Jane Harris <jane@wondercat.com>

Fr: Malcolm Weatherly <malcolmw@snowstyle.com>

Re: Ciao!

Hey, babe! How’s it going? Haven’t heard from you in a while. What happened? You run off with some Italian stallion or what?

Drop me a line, will ya? I miss your face.

And I really need to know if you’ve seen my lucky hat.

M.

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Talk about weird.

I mean, that I’m stuck in a car with Cal Langdon, and I’m actually having a not-bad time.

What’s HAPPENING to me?

Why did he have to put his arm around me back at the consulate? Not that I didn’t like it—far from it, of course—but ever since then, I’ve been wishing it would happen again. Why do I even want to touch him, anyway? He’s a modelizer!

But he did come through for Mark and Holly. And against his will, even. I mean, he never wanted them to get married in the first place.

But I haven’t heard a peep of protest out of him all day. In fact, thanks to him, those two are going to have their dream wedding after all.

That’s gotta come as a blow to someone who is violently opposed to the institution of marriage. I wonder if he even realizes this.

Me: “Hey, so what happened to being all anti-marriage?”

Cal: “What?”

Me: (turning down Queen) “I thought you were totally against Holly and Mark getting married. So why’d you go along with this whole thing?”

Cal: “Are you recording this conversation in that book?”

Me: “Um. Sort of.”

Cal: “Great. What else did you say about me?”

Me: “That you drool in your sleep.”

Cal: “I do not.”

Me: “You do too. I saw it for myself this morning when I woke you up.”

Cal: (making a grab for this book) “Let me see that.”

Me: “Hey! Eyes on the road, mister. Seriously, what changed your mind?”

Cal: “About what?”

Me: “MARRIAGE!!! Why are you pro now, when you were anti before?”

Cal: “I’m still anti. Just not in the case of Mark and Holly. I changed my mind.”

Me: “Obviously. But why?”

Cal: “They just seem very… together. Like a couple should be. I guess.”

Me: “I told you.”

Cal: “That doesn’t make me pro-marriage, you know. It just makes me pro-Mark and Holly.”

Me: “That’s all I wanted. You remember. Back on the plane?”

Cal: “Well, I barely knew Holly then. I still think Mark would be better off seeing the world before he settles down. Don’t snort. It’s a big place, there’s a lot to see. A man shouldn’t let himself get tied down too young.”

Me: “Excuse me. Mark is thirty-five. That is middle-aged in many countries. And he TRIED exploring the world, remember? He got food poisoning for his efforts.”

Cal: “I realize all of that. That’s why I amended my opinion. About Mark and Holly.”

Me: “But not love and marriage in general.”

Cal: “I still believe marriage is an outdated institution. I also believe it robs people of their individual sense of self. I mean, just look at how women take their husbands’ names—”

Me: “Not ALL women.”

Cal: “The majority of them. Would you?”

Me: “Um. I’m the creator of Wondercat. YOU may never have heard of me, but lots of people have. If I changed my name, it would confuse my fans. And besides. I like my name the way it is. Even though, of course, it was handed down to me by a patriarchal society that subjugates women by robbing them of their birth identity upon marriage.”

Cal: “See? That’s what I’m talking about!”

Me: (snorting again) “Hello. I was kidding.”

Cal: “Oh. Well, that’s still what I’m talking about.”

Me: “No, it isn’t. That isn’t what you said before. You said you don’t believe in marriage because mammals are genetically incapable of monogamy, and I cited wolves and hawks as examples. Also that chemicals in the brain cause us to believe ourselves in love, when actually, we’re merely in lust. It’s right here in this book if you don’t believe me, I can look it up.”

Cal: “You put that conversation in there, too? Holly and Mark are going to read that!”

Me: “Er. Yeah. Maybe. Stop trying to change the subject. Do you really believe that? That human beings are incapable of monogamy? Because I can cite a lot of examples of marriages in which neither partner strayed—”

Cal: “How do you know?”

Me: “I think I’d know if my own parents were cheating on each other.”

Cal: “How? Unless they told you. You wouldn’t know. You’d have no idea.”

Me: “Well, what about Rhonda’s parents?”

Cal: “Who the hell is Rhonda?”

Me: “Rhonda. Of Rhonda and Paolo. Her parents were celebrating their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary.”

Cal: “You have no possible way of knowing whether or not Rhonda’s parents have been monogamous for those thirty-five years.”

Me: “True. Still. I’ll bet you twenty bucks they have been. Nobody goes on a cruise with a cheating spouse.”

Cal: “You are unbelievable.”

Me: “No, you are. Just because your ex-wife cheated on you, you think all women are incapable of being faithful. Admit it.”

Cal: “I never said any such thing.”

Me: “You didn’t have to. It’s totally obvious. When you say you think humans are incapable of monogamy, you mean women.”

Cal: “No, I don’t.”

Me: “Did you cheat on her?”

Cal: “Who?”

Me: “Valerie.”

Cal: “HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW HER NAME?”

Me: “Holly told me. Did you?”

Cal: “Of course not.”

Me: “See? I rest my case.”

Cal: “HOW? I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!”

Me: “You distrust all women because of what one of them did to you. And that’s made you take this anti-marriage stance. But it’s not marriage that’s the problem. It’s ditzes like your ex who don’t take it seriously or get hitched for the wrong reasons or whatever. Don’t blame the institution of marriage for Valerie cheating on you. It wasn’t marriage that made her cheat. She was just a ho.”

Cal: “Oh my God. You are unbelievable.”

Me: “Yes. But I’m right, too. There’s the exit. Don’t miss it.”

He’s acting like he’s all shocked now that I would bring up this very private thing from his past.

And I guess it IS kind of rude to call someone’s ex a ho. But really, that’s what she is. Just like Dave is a male ho. But I haven’t let Dave’s predilection for humping soul-sucking Human Resource reps behind my back sour me on the idea of matrimonial bliss, or of someday finding that perfect someone, now, have I?

And really, I know that, technically, there’s no such thing as matrimonial bliss… marriage is work, and there are no soul mates. You just have to find the person who annoys you the least (at least according to Dr. Phil), or rather, annoys you in ways you can stand.

Really, I bet there’d be a lot less divorce if people realized this. A lot less marriages, too. But that might not be such a bad thing.

Oooooh, I smell horse! The Centro Ippico! We’re almost home!

___________________________________________

To: Listserv <Wundercat@wundercatlives.com>

Fr: Peter Schumacher <webmaster@wundercatlives.com>

Re: JANE HARRIS

FANTASTIC NEWS, KIDS!!!! There is going to be a wedding after all!

This just in:

JANE HARRIS has driven all the way to Roma to get the APOSTILLE that her friends need to have the marriage! YES! She walked in at approximately 21:00 hours, while my grandmother and I were sitting at the banquet table in the villa, trying to get JANE HARRIS’s friends, who ate of the bad oysters but were finally starting to feel better, to drink some soup.

In walks JANE HARRIS holding up the APOSTILLE! The wedding will go on tomorrow morning as planned! The friends of JANE HARRIS, even though they are both still sickly, jump up and shout for joy! And JANE HARRIS says, “This is my wedding present to you!”

It is the best wedding present anyone has ever given to anyone, declares JANE HARRIS’s friend Holly.

My grandmother opens the bottle of champagne to celebrate.

So come one, come all, to the Ufficio of the Secretario of Castelfidardo tomorrow morning at 9:00!

This is Peter, #1 Fan of Wundercat, saying GOOD NIGHT!

Wundercat lives—4eva!

Peter

___________________________________________

To: Holly Caputo <holly.caputo@thenyjournal.com >

Fr: Darrin Caputo <darrin.caputo@caputographics.com >

Re: Hello, it is your mother

Holly, this is your mother. Something horrible has happened. Your brother Darrin is going to get married. To a man. On the steps of City Hall. Where everyone will see.

You must come home at once. You know your brother has never listened to me or anyone else in this family. You must stop him from doing this. I cannot allow a child of mine to disgrace himself in this way.

I am begging you to talk your brother out of this crazy scheme. Perhaps Mark can help, as well. He’s a doctor, surely he must know how wrong it is to flagrantly defy the law in this way.

Counting on you to come home and do the right thing by your poor, confused brother,  

Your mother

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

I was right from the beginning. From the moment I first laid eyes on her—holding all those water bottles in the duty free shop back at JFK— I thought to myself, “There’s a nut case.”

I called it.

And yet… she made some very miserable people very happy tonight. I never saw a bigger pair of sad sacks than Holly and Mark, slumped at that giant dining table, when we walked through the door tonight. Mark, of course, looked particularly lost, since he’s blind as a bat without his glasses. I walked in and handed them to him — I actually had to put them on his head, since he couldn’t even see me holding them out to him — and then Jane slapped that form onto the table with a big, “Here’s your wedding present.”

I actually thought Frau Schumacher might have a heart attack, she was so excited.

And to tell you the truth, it was a little upsetting, because I could picture myself, having to give her mouth-to-mouth to revive her, while Mark pounded on her chest. And I have the disturbing idea— maybe from the way the woman hangs on my every word (though surely this is because I’m the only one here who speaks German?)—that if she came to and found my lips on hers, even giving her the breath of life, she might actually… well, sort of enjoy it. Maybe even slip me the tongue.

Could it be that Jane is right? Could there possibly be something to her theory that marriage is all right for some people—that it didn’t work out for Valerie and me because Valerie was… well, a “ho”?

This seems an oversimplification of the problems Valerie and I had.

And yet…

Well, marriage certainly seems like it might be all right for Mark and Holly. They’re happy enough about it, jumping around as much as they can, considering their still queasy stomachs. I have to say, I can’t understand how anybody could be as delighted as they are at the prospect of being married by the socialist mayor of a town devoted to accordion construction, thousands of miles from their families.

But maybe there’s something romantic about it that I’m missing. Valerie always accused me of not being romantic enough. The sewing machine I got her for Valentine’s Day was always a bone of contention. She said she’d have preferred a diamond tennis bracelet.

But I thought a sewing machine was a much more practical gift, considering how much she was spending on clothes…

Now Holly’s grabbed Jane and the two of them—followed closely by Frau Schumacher, who seems fairly spry for her age and apparently doesn’t like to be left out of anything—have disappeared, apparently in a panicked quest to ease the wrinkles out of the wedding gown none of the rest of us is allowed to see.

With the girls otherwise occupied, Peter and I attempted to throw perhaps the lamest, most pathetic bachelor party in the history of time for Mark. Lame because of course the groom is so weak from food poisoning he can barely lift his glass to his lips. Pathetic because the only entertainment are the stray cats from last night, back for another helping of fish.

That’s right. No lap dances or kamikazes for Mark.

But perhaps this is fitting for a man who has chosen such a perverse—and yet strangely right—place to wed.

Now Mark’s staggered back upstairs to bed—interrupting the girls while Holly was trying on the wedding gown, judging from the indignant screams I just heard floating down from the window—leaving me alone with young Peter, who just asked me if I thought Jane Harris would be back down, or if I thought she’d go straight to bed.

How touching that this young man believes I am in any way privy to Ms. Harris’s private thoughts or intentions. As this is an entirely erroneous assumption, however, I was forced to inform him that I did not, in fact, know.

Then the little malcontent had the nerve to look in my eye and ask me just what, precisely, were my intentions toward the lady in question.

Not in so many words, of course. His exact phrasing, uttered in a highly disapproving tone, was, “Are you and Jane Harris lowers?” by which I am assuming he meant lovers. I can’t say I cared for the smug look that crept over the kid’s face when I told him that we most certainly were not.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so adamant?

At least he didn’t say anything. Instead, he calmly produced a deck of cards from the back pocket of his jeans and asked if I cared to play a game of War.

Reduced to spending a beautiful, starlit night along the Adriatic coast playing War with a German teenager.

I can’t help wondering if the man at the consulate’s office wasn’t right this afternoon when he expressed his belief that it’s better to have a corpse in the house than a man from Le Marche. Not that there happen to be any of those in the vicinity. Just that… well, this place seems to do things to otherwise normal people.…

___________________________________________

e-mails

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com>

Fr: Mary Langdon <m.langdon@internetcafenetwork.com>

Re: Thank You

Oh my God, Cal, thanks for the money. I really needed it. Jeff (the guy who owned the van) turned out to be a total psycho. He kicked me out just because he happened to catch me talking to another guy. I don’t know who he thinks he is, anyway—the freaking Taliban? God, I hate it when guys think they own me.

But it’s cool because I hooked up with this awesome group of ski-boarders. They’ve even got a spare room I can crash in. One of them, Malcolm, showed me how to ride the half pipe. He let me use one of his boards and everything. He says he thinks I might have a lot of natural talent. Who knows? Maybe boarding’s been my calling all along, and I just never knew it, because Mom and Dad always made us go on those stupid beach vacations, instead of taking us skiing, like normal parents.

Anyway, thanks again for the cash.

More later,

Mare

___________________________________________

To: Cal Langdon <cal.langdon@thenyjournal.com >

Fr: Ruth Levine <r.levine@levinedentalgroup.com >

Re: Hello!

Hi, Cal! I don’t mean to be a pest, but I was just wondering if you got my earlier email, and if you’d had a chance to consider what I said in it. About Mark and Holly. I know you’re with Mark right now, and I was hoping you’d had a chance to speak to him about it. For reasons I’d rather not go into just now, he and I aren’t really speaking at the moment. Or rather, I’m speaking to him, but he appears to be put out with me. I know it will blow over soon—you know Mark and his moods. But I just hope that, in the meantime, you’ll keep an eye on him, and keep him from doing anything… well, rash.

I certainly don’t mean I think he’s going to KILL himself because he got into an argument with his mother, of course. By rash I just mean… well, I don’t know—PROPOSE to her, or something. Holly, I mean. Not that I don’t like her or wouldn’t want her as a daughter-in-law. She’s a perfectly affable girl. It’s just that she’s not one of us .

Anyway, I don’t mean to spoil your nice vacation with my constant emails. I hope you’re having a good time. I just also hope that if, you know, you find yourself in a position to maybe give Mark a little dose of reality about how difficult it can be to make a marriage work—especially when two people come from such different cultures as he and Holly do—I’d really appreciate it.

Affectionately,

Ruth Levine

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

Holly looked happier tonight than I’ve ever seen her. Happier even than the day Brad Toller asked her to the senior prom after she’d spent the entire year just trying to get him to notice her. Seriously. She’s GLOWING. I mean, she’s still pale from having spent the entire day and most of last night throwing up— and her wedding dress is hanging off her, she’s lost so much weight—but tomorrow she’s going to make the most beautiful bride in the universe.

We so did the right thing, Cal and I, perjuring ourselves, etc., today at the consulate’s office.

Now Holly’s drifted off to bed in a dreamy haze, and I just heard Mark come in to join her, and Frau Schumacher seems to have left, and I realize I’m STARVING. I mean, we haven’t eaten since the Hotel Eden this afternoon, so I’m going to forage for food down in the kitchen, then go straight to bed myself, since we have to get up so early tomorrow for the ceremony.

I noticed Cal was pretty quiet tonight, while everybody else was celebrating. I can’t even begin to imagine what was going through his head. That ex-wife of his totally messed him up. I wouldn’t mind running into her in a dark alley someday. I bet I could show her a few things I’ve picked up since living in the East Village, stuff she probably doesn’t run into too much in her suburban kick-boxing class. Really, where do girls like that get off? They take perfectly adequate guys (well, OK, Cal needs work, but I imagine back then he probably wasn’t as much of a pompous ass) and ruin them for the rest of us. That’s just wrong.

Not, of course, that I would want Cal Langdon if he wasn’t damaged goods. Please! The last thing I need is a journalist for a boyfriend.

Although he does look awfully good in a bathing suit—

No! Stop it! I do NOT need to date a modelizer! That is just setting yourself up for heartbreak and many, many pints of macadamia brittle.

PDA of Cal Langdon

PDA of Cal Langdon

This is intolerable. I am in Italy, on a warm, moonlit night by a sparkling pool, with palm fronds blowing gently in the evening breeze, a platter of olives and crumbled chunks of Parmesan and a bottle of extremely excellent wine before me, and a woman radiating a very healthy sexuality across from me…

And I’m playing War with her.

What’s wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with ME? I shouldn’t want this woman. She’s everything I can’t stand… artistic, obsessed with popular culture, set in her ways, American…

And yet…

I want to kiss her.

Maybe it’s the moonlight. Maybe it’s this damned place.

Or maybe it’s because she made me laugh so many times today.

Damn. What’s happening to me? So she made me laugh. Mark makes me laugh, and I don’t want to kiss him. I don’t even like funny women. And I especially don’t like funny artistic women.

So why is it that I’m going to kill this kid if he doesn’t get the hell out of here in the next five minutes?

One.

Two.

Three.

He’s still not leaving. He’s telling some story about a comic he loves. Jane is apparently familiar with it, though it’s not her own. It appears to have elves and gnomes in it. Peter is gushing over the fact that the final installment is coming out in only two weeks. Jane, who knows the author, says she’s heard what’s going to happen, but flirtatiously refuses to tell the kid. He is delighted by this, and is begging her. She refuses to divulge what she knows, and lays down an eight. Peter’s just lain down an eight.

War.

She won.

The candlelight brings out the highlights in her dark hair, and makes her eyes shine. Her skin looks like butter…

What is wrong with me? I do NOT want to get involved with this woman. Or any woman, for that matter. I have a book to write. I have to find a place to live. I don’t even have a dry cleaner. I can’t get into a relationship….

OK, I’m giving the kid another five minutes to leave. It’s nearly midnight. Doesn’t he have some computer system he has to go hack into somewhere back home?

Now she’s asking him about Annika. Who the hell is Annika? Oh, the girl at the mayor’s office. The mayor’s daughter, apparently. Peter speaks scathingly of Annika, whom he’s clearly in love with, and who, judging by his insistence that he loathes her, obviously doesn’t return his feelings for her.

I slap down a two. So does Peter.

War.

Oh, it’s war, my boy. In more ways than you know.

Wait. What’s that?

Meowing. The cats are back.

She leaps up and heads into the kitchen to find something to feed them. Peter and I are alone at last.

By the time she returns with a bowl of what looks to be the contents of several cans of tuna, Peter is gone.

“Where’d Peter go?” she wants to know.

And I can’t help but believe that she genuinely doesn’t know.

This is a mystery I’m only too happy to clear up for her.

Travel Diary of Jane Harris

Travel Diary of Holly Caputo and Mark Levine

Jane Harris

IS HE INSANE? I mean, I know he thinks I’m silly, what with my “little cartoon” and my too-high heels that I’m always tripping over and the whole “carabinieri” thing.

But it never occurred to me that he might think I’m the STUPIDEST HUMAN BEING ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET.

Because that’s exactly who I’d have to be to fall for his whole “It’s just a kiss, it doesn’t have to mean anything” routine.

But you know what? I’m not going to let him. Ruin the wedding, I mean. He can sulk all he wants tonight, but if he comes downstairs tomorrow morning with anything but a great big happy smile on his face, I will personally give his arm hairs a twist he won’t forget.

Who does he think he is, anyway, Enrique Iglesias? “I just want to kiss you. You’re an an artist. I thought you people were used to living in the moment?”

Whatever!

Apparently he thinks just because I am an unmarried woman of a certain age who lives with a cat, I must be desperate. Or retarded.

Well, I’d HAVE to be pretty desperate—or retarded—to fall into bed with HIM. What, just because he did me (well, Holly and Mark, really) a favor today, I’m going to sleep with him? Because we had a nice lunch and some laughs, I’m easy? Please.

And okay, the guy is truly, almost unbelievably hot. I’ll admit I was checking out his hands as we played cards. They’re all big and sinewy, exactly the kind of hands a girl wouldn’t mind roaming all over her body.

And he can be charming when he puts his mind to it. Even kind of funny.

And he’s definitely intelligent. At least, about stuff other than women. And he can be funny, like today at the consulate, with Rhonda.

And he’s nice to cats—when he thinks no one is looking.

But I’m sorry, my days of sleeping with guys just because they happen to have nice hands and can tell a funny joke are OVER. Because you know what that gets you? Another night with a hot, funny guy who’s not going to be the least interested in going with you to your office Christmas party or splitting the Con Ed bill—much less actually have the money to pay half the rent, even though he’s totally moved in.

I’m over that. WAY over that.

You think that’d have been clear to him from the beginning of our relationship. I mean, I know I’m an artist, a word that to him is obviously synonomous with “wacky madcap.” But could I really have struck him as the one-night-stand type? Isn’t it obvious, from the way I keep bringing up Lady hawke and the fact that hawks and wolves mate for life, that I am interested in monogamy and commitment?

Apparently he didn’t get the message. I mean, I come out with food for the cats and Peter is gone—kind of suddenly, since we’d been in the middle of a card game when I got up.

So I’m all, “Where’s Peter?” and Cal’s like, “I gave him twenty euros and told him to make himself scarce.”

Me: “You WHAT?”

Cal: “You heard me. About time, too. He’s been keeping me from being able to do this all night.”

And then he took me by the shoulders, and before I had any idea what was happening (no, really, I NEVER suspected he was attracted to me, since he’s done nothing but grouse at me since the moment we first met. Well, except for putting his arm around me, back at the consulate. But that was just for show!), he pulled me to him and started kissing me.

Kissing me! Like we were in a romance novel, or something!

And OK, he’s no slouch in the kissing department. Clearly, he’s had some practice.

And OK, I didn’t exactly hate it. Far from it, actually. All the different parts of me that usually go all melty when someone hot kisses me in a purposeful way went all melty, right on schedule, when he did it.

And I will admit that for a split second, I was all, “Oh my gosh! He likes me! He REALLY likes me!” and I entertained a quick tiny fantasy of us strolling down Second Avenue hand-in-hand and going to Veselka’s for blintzes and me introducing him to The Dude. And I started to kiss him back….

But then I realized… that fantasy? It will never, ever come true. Because he doesn’t believe in love, much less marriage, and he will NEVER go to Veselka’s for blintzes with me, much less stick around to meet The Dude—at least not long enough to form a meaningful relationship with him. And how long can I keep introducing The Dude to men he isn’t ever going to see again? He’s very sensitive, and when he does bond, it’s forever. He wouldn’t finish his Friskies for days after Malcolm left.

And then Holly’s voice chimed into my head with You’ve got to start thinking about the future, and date people who will actually stick around for a change, and I remembered that bride we saw outside the church in Rome, and how happy she looked, and how her dad was beaming down at her—

And right then and there, I realized something that I don’t think I’ve been willing to admit to myself since college, or whenever it was that the idea of getting married no longer seemed as cool as it had back during those Barbie games in fifth grade:

And that’s that I WANT to get married someday. I do. I really do. I want the bouquet and the red carpet and the gown and the veil and the weepy dad and the flower girls and till death do us part.

So what was I doing kissing some guy who thinks marriage as an institution ought to be abolished?

So instead of wrapping my arms around his neck and kissing him back, as I’m sure he was expecting me to do, and as I have to admit I really did WANT to do—at least, my BODY wanted me to—I put my hands on his chest and shoved.

He staggered back into the metal lawn chair he’d been sitting in, and just sat there blinking up at me, like, “What gives?”

But before he had a chance to say anything, I went off.

Me: “What do you think I am? An idiot? I am NOT sleeping with you.”

Cal: “Um… it was just a kiss.” Me: “You don’t believe in love. You think it’s all a result of phenyl… phenyl… whatever it is.”

Cal: “Phenylethylamine. And, not to be pendantic… but it was just a kiss.”

Me: “But unlike you, I do happen to believe in love. And marriage. So what’s the point? One night, and then what? I become another name in your Blackberry. No, thank you.”

Cal: “Pardon me if my memory is the one at fault here, and, keeping in mind that it was, again, just a kiss, didn’t you e me not long ago that you were in no rush to get married or have children because you wanted to concentrate on your career?”

Me: “I might have. But I want to get married EVENTUALLY. So why in God’s name would I fall into bed with some guy who’s totally against the very idea of marriage? What’s going to happen tomorrow morning, when you can’t even make eye contact, and are avoiding me? And how about on the plane going back to New York, when we have to sit by each other again? And when we get back to Manhattan? Are you going to call? Am I ever even going to hear from you again?”

Cal: “Apparently, you’ve already decided that you aren’t. Even though it was, I’d like to point out for a third and hopefully final time, just a kiss.”

Me: “You know what? Holly’s right. I’ve got to grow up. I’m not sleeping with any more inappropriate men. No more ski boarders. No more musicians. And certainly no men who hate the very idea of marriage, and who have no intention of pursuing a long-term relationship with me.”

Cal: “You got all of that out of one kiss? I mean, about my not having any intention of pursuing a longterm relationship with you?”

Me: “Make fun of me all you want. But you know what? I’d rather go to bed with Paolo than with you.”

Cal: “Who’s Paolo?”

Me: “You remember. Of Paolo and Rhonda. Back at the consulate.”

Cal: “PAOLO? The half-wit mechanic?” Me: “Yeah, but at least he wasn’t going around bleating that there’s no such th