Sarah strongly believes in the power of her mind, while Jack puts his heart first. Meeting him reveals her constant struggle between the two opposing elements inside of her. Will she be able to take her guards down – or will she lose everything?
«One of the hardest battles in life
is to decide between
your heart and your mind.»
Based on true stories
The Book Project
After coming back from my holiday break in the Caribbean, I have taken several decisions in my life: I needed to change my job, I needed to improve my health and I wanted to write a book. It was the year when I had already changed my job and had moved to a new location where I was working as a Human Resource Manager in a manufacturing company. I had been reluctant to accept the job for many reasons: I loved what I was doing as a Talent Manager, but since my job had been part of a headcount reduction, I didn’t have a choice other than to accept the role that I had now. The job market was less than promising. Becoming unemployed was not an option for me. After six months in my new role, I felt that I was in the wrong place, doing the wrong job, working with people I didn’t feel very connected to. The setup of the job was less than perfect. I was struggling with my manager, internal processes and with myself. My health had dramatically decreased since the job took too much of my energy. I have always worked in a dynamic, busy environment, but stress has always been positive, not negative: up to now. Working as an HR Professional for more than eight years, witnessing top executives suffering from mental burnouts, it was clear that I didn’t want to go there myself. I had to step on the brake to save myself from getting seriously damaged through my job.
During my second sick leave in the same year, I had started to investigate fiction writing. Having a master’s degree in English and American Literature and Sociology, I felt confident that I had the right tools in my pocket that would help me with my project. On the Internet I found a publishing house in Zürich that offered online support and coached young, inexperienced writers on how to write a book. There is a tremendous amount of information out there. You could get easily lost with 1’456’766 hits when entering “fiction writing” on a search engine. Since I considered myself to be a pragmatic person, I stopped further investigation and focused on the main criteria: What is the book about? Where does it play out? What genre? Fiction? Educational? Short stories? Setting? Main characters? Themes? Story line? Key message? There were tons of questions I needed to answer. Slowly but surely the ideas formed in my mind. In preparation of what was to come, I started to re-design my spare room into an inspiring, comfortable creative space, a boudoir of mine, a place where I could give space to my yet unknown creativity. Six months ago, I ordered a new notebook, powerful, state-of-the-art and efficient to work with. I didn’t want to suffer from unreliable tools and equipment. I was determined to make things work whatever may come. It seemed that I got ready for the adventure of my life and finally everything was falling into place.
Then I met Jack. Jack was a person from my past who re-entered my life after ten years. He had radically changed what I had expected my life to be: a life on my own with my friends in Switzerland and my family in Germany. Not too close, but close enough to be supported and supportive when they were in need. Emotionally not prepared for any of this and looking forward to sharing a bright future with Jack, I decided to take a time out and realize my book project in the coming year. The timing was perfect since I was between jobs. My health was back on track and I had many ideas about what my book should be about. Finally, I had found a place where I could find peace, silence, privacy. The location was in Northern Italy with an amazing view from the top of a hill onto the Lake Maggiore. This was the place where I wanted to write my first novel. I was ready for my personal quest.
The Book Project: Day 1
“What a day!” This is what I shared with Jack, the man I was in love with.
But let’s start from the beginning: I got up at six o’clock in the morning, had breakfast and packed my luggage, books, computer, printer, chisel and canvas, acrylic colours to take along with me on my planned book retreat. I stuffed my car with things that I thought I needed during my four weeks in Italy like towels, bed linen, yoga mat, clothes, diaries, a French Press coffee maker, candles and things that I didn’t need, like usually too many shoes and bags. I even took the flowers, which I received from my farewell party last night at the office. It was all over now. I left my company. I left a chapter in my life behind: a chapter full of inspiration, changes, personal development, beautiful people, disappointing and intense experiences; lessons learnt. A chapter filled with loves, losses, gains, pains … I was ready to explore a new life with new ventures. The next episode of something I should never forget.
My Mom called me at nine o’clock. She wished me well, crying on the phone because she knew what I was about to do. She knew I was going to a godforsaken place in Italy to find peace of heart and mind. She knew I needed to cure myself from what my heart had to endure during the past years and months. Writing had always been a way to relieve what was causing me pain. She knew I was on my way to the place where I would go through the process of therapy, facing the dark and painful shadows of my past, to accept and fight them if needed and be ready for a new and bright future. She knew that her girl deserved to be loved, but she simply has not been able to find a good man so far. A good man? What did that mean after all? Is it the “rogue puritan” Jack or is it someone else? And she knew that her girl was determined to succeed. She had always been confident that whatever I wanted to achieve, that I would succeed.
After getting everything into my car, I left my place at eleven o’clock. It was a foggy day beginning of September. I stopped by the bank to get a bigger amount of cash, which was the rent I needed for the place in Pino. Pino sulla Sponda del Lago Maggiore is the town that is second place to San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore , the longest name of a city in Italy. It has thirty characters. The little village located on the ledge of the Sasso di Pino, counted two hundred and thirteen inhabitants in 2013. It’s prominent for its impressive Roman Catholic church Santi Quirico e Giulietta and the Torre di Pino, a historic tower built in the thirteenth century. I turned on the music and hit the highway. Coldplay played one of the most beautiful songs ever: The Scientist . The song was telling Jack’s story and somehow the story has become part of my life, too.
Come up to meet you, tell you I’m sorry
You don’t know how lovely you are
I had to find you
Tell you I need you
Tell you I set you apart
Tell me your secrets
And ask me your questions
Oh, let’s go back to the start
Running in circles
Coming up tails
Heads on a science apart
Nobody said it was easy
It’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh, take me back to the start
I was just guessing
At numbers and figures
Pulling the puzzles apart
Questions of science
Science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart
Tell me you love me
Come back and haunt me
Oh, and I rush to the start
Running in circles
Chasing our tails
Coming back as we are
Nobody said it was easy
Oh, it’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
I’m going back to the start
At twelve thirty in the afternoon traffic ran slowly before the Gotthard Tunnel, the longest tunnel in Europe and number three in the world, with a length of almost seventeen kilometres. I felt slightly nervous driving through it, since I did not like to be trapped in a dark place with only a few emergency exits close by. I usually liked the open wide spaces, the sea and viewing far ahead. I needed to have the space to breathe and breathing was what I needed a lot of today. It was hard, but I was getting there.
At one thirty that afternoon I arrived safely at Locarno where I had lunch at one of the local cafés. I had my first freshly made Piadina there, an Italian wrap stuffed with fresh arugula, prosciutto and mozzarella di Bufala di Campagna. Delicious! I was now ready for the final part of my trip, which was only a half an hour’s drive from Locarno.
At three that afternoon I arrived in Pino. As per the instructions that I received from the travel agency, I was supposed to meet the landlord at the Bellavista Restaurant. But there was no one around. I knocked at the door as I heard someone talking in Italian. I did not understand a single word. For a foreign person it sounded like two people who were fighting. For an Italian person it must have been normal conversation. When the woman opened the door, I said hello and asked her in German if she had the key for the apartment. She looked at me and I could see from the expression on her face that she neither spoke German nor was she expecting a German tourist today. I switched to Spanish which worked much better. I showed her the address where I was supposed to meet the landlord, whose name was Roberto Lancelotti, to pick up the keys for my apartment. She knew who he was, and she suggested that I call him by phone. I dialled the number; no response. Her husband said something to her. She turned around, and shouted back at him (for whatever reason, I will never know), then she turned back to me, smiling and saying in a sweet voice to try to call the number again. She was sure that Mr. Lancelotti would pick up the phone.
“Good afternoon Mr Lancelotti. My name is Gabrielle Mayfield. I am here to pick up the keys for apartment number
“Ello Mrs. Mayfield. Can you come up to the apartment? I am worrking in the garrden.”
“But, here it says I have to meet you at Bellavista?”
Italians! Great! Why should they stick to their own instructions? Roberto explained in his humble German how to get to the place. I did not understand half of what he was trying to tell me. I asked him for the address to put in my GPS.
He just laughed and said, “Sorry Signora (With a strong Italian accent), diss place cannot be found by any GPS. You must find it by yourself. It’s easy: you just turn left when you exit Bellavista, then kross the railways, then the cemetery and follo the sign to Campo Sportivo. You drive up the hill and it will be the last house on the right-hand-side before the forest.”
“Okay, thanks. I will try to find it.” I was upset and tired as I simply wanted to arrive, unpack and rest.
Of course, I missed the right exit. I had to take the next possible turn on the left which was taking me up to the tiny village. Tiger (this is what I called my car) was a moderate size four-wheel-drive and way too big to drive in Pino. The first challenge was the railway viaduct where I could hardly pass without going back and forth to be able to pass through. I could see myself getting more and more nervous. Plus, I was wondering how two cars could possibly pass by one another if they were crossing at the same time. I had the answer to my question twenty seconds later. It was impossible. The smaller Italian made car had to reverse for both cars to pass through the narrow roads. I thanked the driver for his courtesy and he looked at me visibly annoyed; probably thinking: ‘Turista!’ I didn’t care much about his reaction. I was simply glad to have reached the top of the ledge without further oncoming traffic. I parked my car in the public parking, stepped out of my car where I had my first view over the lake. It was beautiful! The blue skies, mountain scenery in the back, the reflection of the water, the deep blue colour of the lake. I finally found the street where I was supposed to meet Mr Lancelotti. I took the stairs up and stood in front of a closed garden gate. There was a big garden, but there was no Mr Lancelotti in sight. I had to call him again, this time I was more upset than ten minutes ago when I had hung up the phone. He was upset now, too.
“I told ya to take da first roada to the left! Where arre you now?”
“Sorry, but I am not from here. And it is quite complicated if you can’t use the GPS. I am standing right at the garden gate where it says Via Giuseppe Mazzini No. 5.”
“Nooo, this iss wrong … Madonna!”
Fantastic – I made my first friend in Pino. Mr Lancelotti explained to me just like before how to get to the place. I was just as puzzled as before. Anyhow, I got back into my car and drove through the village. Some old ladies, all dressed in black, probably widows, looked suspiciously at me with my big, black car as if I was an alien. I drove into a one-way road which was not indicated as one, and had to reverse again to get out of there. I was really upset about Mr Lancelotti’s poor driving instructions now.
Finally, I found my way through Pino and parked my car in front of the apartment buildings which hosted four apartments. There was a man cutting grass in front of the building. This had to be Lancelotti. Now wait! I was about to complain to him, but he stopped me.
He looked at me when I stepped out of the car and said, “Oh! If I had known such a beautiful lady was coming today, I would have worn my best suit!” With this he smiled at me and I could no longer be angry with him.
“Hello, Mr Lancelotti. This is quite a remote place and not easy to find. I took the other road up to Pino as I missed the first one after Bellavista.”
“Don’t worry, Bellissima. Ere is your key. I will show you your apartment.”
I followed Mr Lancelotti and was amazed by the beauty of the location I had chosen to write my first novel.
I stepped out onto the balcony and had my first view of the lake. It was warm and sunny, twenty-four degrees Celsius, unlike the foggy village I left this morning. I could see a few sailboats on the lake and the ferry going back to Ascona. Opposite Pino you could see the town of Brissago, as well as the island located in front of it, called “Isole di Brissago”. I had been here three years before with my friend Nicole where I spent half a day on the island that I looked at now. Back then I promised to come back and here I was …
I carried my luggage, computer, printer, chisel, canvas, shoes, linen, kitchen equipment and flowers into the apartment and started to make myself comfortable in my new temporary home. I was about to put on the bed linen when Mr Lancelotti knocked at my door.
“Can I come in?”
“Yes, please.” Roberto had a look at all the stuff that I brought with me.
“Wot arre you going to do here for so long, in the middle of nowherre?”
“I am going to write a book.”
“Yes, a book!”
“Arre you into culture and all that stuff?”
“I am. I studied English and American literature after finishing high school. I think I should be able to write a book.”
“Que bello! I am also into culture. I sing.”
“I can sing Verdi’s IL Trovatore for you. In mezzo-soprano and tenor.”
“Really? How nice.”
A split second later, Mr Lancelotti was singing an aria from La Traviata to me at four o’clock in the afternoon in the little apartment number nineteen in Pino. I had just arrived there, glad to stay away from trouble, especially men, and what happened? After spending less than half an hour in Pino, a middle-aged gardener or landlord was singing an aria of one of the greatest operas ever to me. I thought: ‘How much better can it get?’ and ‘If there is a destiny, it was mocking me right now’. I just sat there, and listened to his beautiful voice and wondered if my life was real or a real soap opera. Can someone please turn off the studio lights and say: “Cut!” No studio lights though. No cut. When Roberto finished, I clapped and thanked him: “Bravissimo!” What else could I do?
Right after he finished singing, I asked him to take a seat to complete the paperwork and the due payment. After the perfect romantic moment, it was back to business. Afterwards Mr Lancelotti gave me all kinds of personal information that I was not interested in. He had been married twice and was divorced. He was separated from his second wife. He had three boys: Felipe, Ernesto and Raffaele who were fifteen, twelve and ten years old. His ex-wife had left him for another man. His children were living with him now. Both he and his wife were taking care of them in turns. It sounded like they had sorted themselves out, but the children were suffering because of the situation, as I found out later. Whatever Mr Lancelotti’s story might be, at least he had two talents, which I appreciated: he could sing, and he could make me laugh. His sense of humour was brilliant. He explained to me almost mockingly that after speaking to me on the phone, he expected me to be a tough, ugly German woman. He was then positively surprised when he saw that I was such a nice lady as I stepped out of my car. He sincerely apologized for being rude. I said that I can be a tough ugly German woman if I had to. I said it with a smile.
He smiled back at me and said that if I needed anything, I could always call him. “And call me Roberto, per favore,” he said saying goodbye.