Helen preferred the roundabout trip to her private villa; she flies to Rome, boards a train to Naples, takes a taxi to the port, and boards a ferry for the island. By the time her connections are made, all the stress and responsibility waiting for her at home seem miles away. When she arrived on Capri, she arranged to have her luggage delivered to her villa and rented a motorbike to make a quick tour of the island. She detoured through the lemon groves, finding narrow roads and exploring to see where they ended. The water was completely still, like a sheet of velvet stretched across the world and hooked off the rocky tips of the island.
After a bit of searching, she found a small grocery store off the main road and parked her bike outside. She removed her headscarf and glasses as she stepped inside, instantly transported back in time. She had discovered the store on her first trip to the island, and she made it a point to return as often as possible.
The older woman behind the counter smiled as Helen entered. "Buongiorno, Signora."
"Buongiorno," Helen said. She continued in Italian, "I hope you can help me. My grandmother visited the island when I was a little girl, and she told me wonderful stories about your ravioli capresi. I was told I could not visit Capri without having some."
The woman smiled, and Helen suddenly realized they knew each other. "Of course, it will be just a moment." She hid the recognition as the woman excused herself and went to get the food. Helen watched her go and flashed back fifty-six years.
The wind caught the tails of Signora Stefania Moretti's sundress and whipped them around her bronzed legs. She held back the wing of her hair with one hand as they watched the sun set. The waters of the sea turned scarlet, a spill of wine, and Helen felt they were on the very edge of the planet. When Helen looked at Stefania, she saw tears in her eyes. Helen cupped the storekeeper's cheek, and whispered, "Sarò di nuovo, un giorno" She leaned in, and Stefania parted her lips just before they met Helen's. The light faded as the sun sank, and Helen pulled Stefania closer in the darkness.
Stefania returned with the ravioli capresi, and Helen pushed away her reverie with a smile. Stefania hesitated when her aged hands touched Helen's, and she smiled sadly. "Your grandmother," she asked in Italian. "She is well?"
"She is," Helen replied. "She doesn't travel much anymore, but she told me that some of her best memories were of this island. And the people she met here."
Stefania smiled and dipped her chin. Helen had the gift, and the curse, to see others at various stages of their lives. There were times when she looked at Will and Henry and saw children. Or times like these, when an octogenarian looked like a laughing twenty-three year old girl, sprawled on a bed as Helen poured wine onto her stomach and bowed her head to drink.
"Stefania?" The old woman's eyes widened. Helen covered the woman's hand with her own. "You made her very happy."
The woman's eyes filled with tears, and she nodded. "She made me happy as well. Grazie."
Helen nodded and paid for her food, carrying it outside. The food went into the basket on the back, and Helen rode off before she could be tempted to remain and reveal her true identity to Stefania. The onslaught of memory was one of the things she most dreaded about returning to the island but, if she was honest, it was also one of the reasons she kept returning. It was a constant reminder that the world continued to move on. With the Sanctuary, the place she had called home for over a hundred years, remaining pretty much the same, it was easy to forget just how long-lived she was. Capri helped her remember.
The road to her villa was at the end of a curved road that hugged one of the sheer rock faces surrounding the town. When Helen arrived, she found the porter had just arrived ahead of her. She thanked him, paid him for his troubles, and accepted his offer to carry the bags inside. Once she had bid him goodbye, she walked through the house and opened all the curtains and several windows.
Her villa was built around the patio, with doors leading out from the bedroom, living room, and kitchen. When the house was open to the sun and sea, Helen walked out and breathed deeply. Her patio furniture had been uncovered by the people she paid to take care of the place when she was gone, but she ignored it and went to the railing.
She could see the faraglioni rocks in the distance, and the pleasure craft zipping around in the bay. She had left the Sanctuary after dinner on Wednesday, and it was now early Thursday afternoon in Rome. She rested her hands on the railing; she wasn't due back until Monday, so she had plenty of time to just soak in the view.
When the draw of the sea became too strong, Helen went back inside and changed out of her traveling clothes. She changed into a dark blue swimsuit, pulling her hair back into a ponytail before she put on a pair of shorts and a blouse for the ride down to the beach. She took a book and a towel, reaching for her laptop before she remembered that it was a vacation, and headed out.
On the ride down, she passed bushes full of bright yellow broom flowers and she smiled as she recalled Antonio. She had looked up as the flower was taken from the vase on her table. She looked and saw the thief walking away, dressed in a crisp white shirt and pants. Helen said, "Excuse me, sir..." He turned and held up the flower and said, "Pardon me, Signora. I am simply taking this flower where its beauty is truly needed. It was wasted with you."
Helen took Antonio to her villa and they made love on the patio, her legs pulled tight against his hips, her hands on his chest as she rode him. She could just barely make out his features in the moonlight, and he said some poetic nonsense about how she was framed by the moon and the stars and the universe as he came.
Helen split her time between the beach and the water, letting the sun bake her flesh before she finally dove into the crystal blue sea to cool herself off. She swam for hours and, when she tired, returned to her towel to let the sun dry her. She closed her eyes and dozed off, thinking back to another lifetime, to one of her first visits to Capri.
They didn't see her, and she was torn between letting them know she was there and waiting to see what developed. They stood just a few feet away from her looking out to see. One man stood behind the other, the man in front nearly obscured from view by the other. The taller man, his skin bronzed and glistening from the sun, dropped his hands from his companion's shoulders to his hips. As Helen watched, the tight blue swim trunks were lowered down and she tilted her head to the side to get a better view.
The men watched the sea, and Helen watched them. The morning was quiet enough that she heard the man in front gasp, and she brought her hand to her mouth to bite her finger as they began to move their hips in concert with each other, the taller man leading the way. It was as subtle as anything, Helen unfastened her own pants and let them drop, cupping a hand against herself as she watched the men move.
The only sounds that morning were the distant crashing of the waves, the increasing sound of the two men, and Helen's own ragged breathing. She climaxed before they did, as she was more intent upon her orgasm than trying to prolong the pleasure. She watched them until she finished, holding her pants up with one hand as she watched their movements grow more erratic, the man closer to her rolling his head back as his ass cheeks clenched and he came, pulling his companion tighter against him throughout the orgasm.
When he was finished, he put his arms around his lover and began to stroke. The smaller man groaned and came quickly, and then turned in his arms to kiss his lover. When they broke apart, the shorter man looked across the patio and rested his chin on the taller man's shoulder. "We have company."
"You mean that performance wasn't for my benefit?" Helen asked. She stepped out of the bedroom, leaving the door open behind her.
The curtains wafted around her in the wind, and one of the men held out his arms to frame her. "Venus, rising from the ocean."
"Venus was nude, Matthew."
Matthew and his partner, Sandro, closed the distance. "That can be arranged, my dear," Sandro said as he and Matthew reached her, and Helen allowed them to guide her back into the bedroom.
Helen blinked into the sun, aware that she'd become carried away in her dream. She sat up, pulled her hand away from her thigh, and quickly, guiltily, scanned the beach to see if anyone had spotted her. She saw a woman sitting not far away on a beach chair, her face shaded by a wide-brimmed hat. She wore a blue bathing suit with white stripes, her red hair resting on freckled shoulders. The woman turned to her novel when she realized she'd been spotted, but the knowing smile on her face was unmistakable.
Helen gathered her things, eager for a shower to wash the salt and sand from her skin, but she made a detour to walk past the woman's beach chair. She stopped at the woman's foot, blocking her sun, and the woman tilted her head up.
"I hope I didn't embarrass myself too badly."
"Not at all. More interesting than my book. I just kept wondering what you could possibly be dreaming about to cause such a... nice reaction."
Helen smiled and raised an eyebrow. "How much detail would you like?"
The woman's smile slowly faded, replaced by intrigue and uncertainty. Helen held out her hand. "My name is Helen."
Fingers slick with juice plucked an olive from the jar. Helen tilted her head back, parting her lips. Sophia traced Helen's lips with the tip of the olive, and Helen smiled and sought it with her tongue. She flicked her tongue against Sophia's fingers and finally captured the olive. "Perfect," she said, and she rested her fingers on Sophia's jaw to draw her in for a kiss. Her tongue slipped into Sophia's mouth, and Sophia returned it with a parry of her own. Helen reclined, accepting the submissive pose as Sophia climbed on top of her.
Helen rode her motorbike back to the villa, with Caroline following in her car. When they arrived, Helen waited at the door and escorted her new friend inside. She looked down the hall to the bedroom and then into the living room, her attention drawn by the sea through the windows. "Wow." She turned, and Helen surprised her with a kiss. Caroline made a surprised noise and kept her eyes open, but she put an arm around Helen's waist.
When the kiss broke, Caroline said, "I've never actually been with a woman before. I've wanted to. God, I've wanted to. And I thought, maybe on this trip, I mean..." She looked into Helen's eyes. "I'll disappoint you."
"No," Helen said. She walked Caroline toward the living room, her fingers hooked in the straps of Caroline's bathing suit. "I'll teach you what you need to know."
She guided Caroline to the couch and kissed down her throat, tasting the sea and sweat as she ran her tongue down. She put her hand on the outside of Caroline's thigh, pushing away the scarf Caroline had tied around her waist. Helen kissed the swell of Caroline's breasts and pulled the bathing suit away to expose her small breasts, tiny pink nipples standing at attention. Caroline's breath was coming in quick, rugged pants, and she whimpered as Helen closed her lips around one nipple and flicked it with her tongue.
Caroline parted her legs and Helen settled between them on her knees. She kissed both of Caroline's breasts, teasing the nipples with her tongue and teeth before she moved down.
Helen lifted Caroline's legs to rest them on her shoulders. She pushed aside Caroline's bathing suit and exposed her wet, swollen labia. Helen used her thumb on Caroline's clit, bowing down to gently stroke the sensitive flesh, alternating between using the flat and tip of her tongue. As Caroline convulsed at the first touch, Helen smiled. She lifted her head, circling with her thumb, and said, "Pay attention, dear. I'm going to want a turn."
Caroline gasped and pushed her hair out of her face. She dragged her hand down her throat and said, "I-I... I'll do my best."
"Not good enough, Caroline." She withdrew her hand. "You're going to have to give as good as you get."
"Don't stop," Caroline gasped. "Please. I'm almost there, and then, I swear, I'll make you come."
Helen grinned and returned her hand, extending her tongue to drag along the sensitive flesh. It only took a few seconds before Caroline was thrusting against her mouth, gasping under her breath. Helen slid up Caroline's body, kissing her through the bathing suit before taking the nipples into her mouth again. Caroline accepted Helen's kiss, wrapping her legs around Helen and hooking her ankles together.
"Now," Helen whispered. "I believe you made me a promise."
Caroline reached down and touched Helen through her bathing suit. Helen's eyelids fluttered closed, and Caroline said, "You said you would tell me a story."
"Indeed I did," Helen said. She guided Caroline down, spreading her legs as Caroline took position. Helen licked her lips and tried to think of an appropriate story.
He wanted it kept professional, despite how sure Helen had been that his line was a come-on. But she undressed in his studio, allowed him to smear her with honey, and stretched out as he posed her. Her head resting in her hand, her legs coyly crossed, her other hand resting on the thigh to block the view of her pubic hair. Her nipples grew erect as he posed her, arranging her body this way and that, but he took no notice.
When he was satisfied, he picked up his camera and began taking photographs. He took pictures of her hip, the curve of her shoulder, her breasts and stomach. He took near shots, far shots, and went around to take pictures of her back and rear. While he was taking the pictures, the door opened and a man stepped inside. She considered covering up, but decided not to at the last moment. He looked at her and she smiled, and his eyes trailed down her body. If the artist couldn't be bothered to notice, she was glad someone was.
"Hope I'm not intruding," he said. He put down a brown paper bag and slowly approached the platform Helen was posing on.
"Not at all," Helen and the artist said at the same time.
He ran a finger along the curve of Helen's breast to gather the honey, and looked at his finger. "What is this?"
"Honey," Helen said. Her eyes were sparkling. "It's some sort of fey thing, apparently."
"Well, Alejandro would know about fey..." He put the finger in his mouth and sucked it, keeping his eyes on Helen the entire time. "Mm," he said. "Delectable."
"Tomas..." Alejandro warned.
Tomas held his hands out, the picture of innocence. "I'm merely attempting to make sure your poor model doesn't end the day sticking to everything." He crouched in front of the platform and said, "Do you know he once covered a girl with glitter and then refused to allow her to use his shower? He claimed it would clog the drains."
"Just awful," Helen whispered, shaking her head.
"Has he already taken photographs of your front?" Helen nodded, and Tomas leaned forward. He kissed her belly, and Helen closed her eyes as his tongue swabbed the honey from her flesh.
"Honestly," Alejandro sighed.
Helen parted her legs as Tomas ran his hand along the inside of her thigh.
Helen feigned sleep as Caroline slipped from her bed. She listened to the furtive sounds of someone dressing in the darkness, waiting for the door to close before she dared move. She didn't expect Caroline to spend the night, didn't want her to. Letting her sneak out on her own terms was kinder than admitting she was fine with the woman leaving.
She was surprised by a gentle kiss on her lips, and the brush of a hand against her cheek. "Thank you so much," Caroline whispered. Then Helen heard footsteps down the hallway and the quiet opening and closing of the front door of her villa.
Helen rolled onto her back and stretched. She had another full day in Capri; plenty of time to sightsee. Perhaps she could find the sculpture Alejandro had made of her. It was called Morgan le Fay, and Helen had brought the real Morgan to see it. Morgan had insisted they christen it properly, and Helen blushed to think of what they had done atop the curves of her own body. Morgan insisted there was a veil, shielding them from view, but Helen couldn't help but feel everyone's eyes upon them as they had sex.
Of course, that was part of the turn-on.
Helen pushed back the blankets and climbed out of bed. She walked naked to the patio, leaving the curtains to billow behind her. She stood at the railing and looked down at Capri. The darkness spread across land and water evenly, and the lights from the boats were nearly indistinguishable from the houses. She rested her hands on the railing and let the wind dry the sweat from her body.
With her work at the Sanctuary, sometimes the entire world seemed mysterious and dark. Capri was her paradise. It was the one place where she could forget about the abnormals that were counting on her, at least for a while, and she could let her hair down. She could enjoy the benefits of her long life without guilt or worry.
She moved a hand between her legs, smiling as she recalled Caroline's valiant efforts earlier. She parted her labia with two fingers and stroked, closing her eyes as she thought back to all who had come before. The lovers she met on Capri, the pleasure she had found there... she felt as if the entire island was her lover. It was where she came to get perspective, to clear her head. She stroked with two fingers, slowly pushing herself to the edge. She rolled her shoulders, baring her breasts to the night, and opened her eyes.
Capri was her prize. Her once-a-decade reward for all of her hard work. It was true what she'd told Will; three days was about as long as she could stand to do nothing, but it was a perfect amount of time. She moved her hand faster, her free hand braced against the rail, as she thought of the possibilities for the following day. Another tourist, an adventurous couple who liked to share, a local who happened to cross her path with his shirt off. The possibilities were endless.
She came with a shudder and sagged against the railing. She looked out over the island, and she smiled.
It was Capri. It was hers.