It had been a difficult but also a very beautiful year. In January, their first son, Giorgio, was born, a beautiful, smiling, affectionate child who was always ready to invent a new game: just give him a saucepan or a spoon, a colander or a pen, and he was overjoyed and began to run around the room shouting and waving his new treasures in the air. No toys were needed to make him happy. Mara had realised that year that true joy is hidden in the simple things and that it is only by gliding lightly over things that one is able to experience them deeply. She felt wiser and more confident, but it had taken many months of crying and physical effort to arrive at this new balance. It had been a year of insomnia, backaches, colds, stress and nervousness for her, because changes are never easy. She had seen her body, so agile and slender before her pregnancy, transform, become stockier and more awkward, and looking in the mirror she could hardly recognise herself.
Dark circles pitilessly furrowed the contours of her eyes and her hair had a duller colour. She felt wiser, certainly, but also much older, and often turned her displeasure at what she saw and heard into nervousness and aggression. There was only one person who kept telling her, every day, how beautiful she was: her husband Michele. Michele was a carabinieri marshal who lived life with sincerity and transparency, always speaking his mind. Raised by sweet and strict parents, he supported her like a rock in the midst of the storm and forgave her all those intemperances and frailties that she herself struggled to accept. "You're lucky, your husband is a great man!" her friends told her in chorus, and she would respond by rolling her eyes and, jokingly, recalling how much time he spent in the bathroom and the condition in which he sometimes left the kitchen after making her something to eat. But in reality there was very little to complain about, Michael was a good man and she knew it. She would not have been able to cope with that demanding year without his extraordinary support, psychological but above all practical, because her husband was the kind of man who changed the baby, remembered the times when vitamins or milk enzymes had to be given, accompanied him to the paediatrician, played with him and when she was tired of breastfeeding, took him in her arms and rocked him to sleep.
Mara often forgot how much effort her husband put into being a father every day, and was foolishly influenced by the constant complaints her friends reserved for their mates, who were constantly accused of not doing enough and of shifting the burden of family management onto them. Sometimes she would latch on to a mistake, a weakness or an oversight on Michael's part to lash out at him and accuse him of the fatigue his body and mind felt, only to regret it shortly afterwards. When had she started to become so unempathetic towards the man she loved more than she could show? What had become of the girl who couldn't wait for the weekend to come so she could escape to the sea on holiday with her husband and fill her hair and eyes with the scent of the sea? In those 12 months she had realised that you can always be reborn and learn from your mistakes. Her body had put her to the test, life itself had put her to the test, asking her to face the greatest challenge of all, that of bringing another human being into the world and taking care of him by becoming his sole and main point of reference. She had performed the task well so far, perhaps paying a high price in terms of stress, but now she was determined to make up for it. Starting with her relationship with Michael, her rock in the middle of the stormy sea.
While she was thinking about these things, on a rainy December afternoon, just a few days before Christmas, her husband came into her room and asked her if she would like some herbal tea with lime honey, 'which is good for the throat and gets rid of colds. You look tired,' he said, putting his hand on her shoulder. Mara had turned and without answering had given him a kiss, throwing her arms around his neck as she had not done in a long time. He had been surprised and widening his eyes had responded with a smile, filling himself with new light. "You're so much prettier when you smile, you know?" he had said looking at her in disbelief. "I'll be back in a moment with the herbal tea." So Mara had taken out her mobile phone and, driven by a sudden desire to do something for him, something beautiful and romantic to repay at least in part all that he did for her every day, had ordered online from the Acqua dell'Elba website a bottle of Eau de Parfum Classica Uomo, with notes of mandarin, lemon and rosemary, created precisely to collect the scent of the sea in a few drops. Their fondest memories were of their weekends in the crystal-clear waters, surrounded by golden beaches and shades of aquamarine green.
The scents of the Mediterranean maquis and of the woods of the sea remained imprinted in her mind for days after each holiday and it was to those fragrances so simple and natural that she linked the deepest sense of her love for Michele, a pure and authentic feeling that went beyond words and mistakes and that lasted indestructible now for almost 10 years. "A small thought for a great man, the man of my life, the first and the last, the only one". She would have written this in the card and presented herself to him with the gift and her hair smelling of hair dressing, foundation, lipstick and above all the most beautiful and sensual accessory: her smile, the jewel he loved most. She couldn't wait for that package to arrive, she knew that the Tuscan company produced high quality products and she was sure he would be happy with that gift. Now it was time to drink her herbal tea, he was calling her. It was raining outside, but the feeling of having done something for him, of having given him something that could express his love better than she could with words, filled her with warmth. It had been a difficult but also a very beautiful year, the year in which she had realised that love is like the sea: an infinite space that requires commitment and respect, and that always offers a new horizon to look at, to reach together.