I first met Marisa in Agrigento in the 13th century. She was the youngest daughter of Count Simon del Vasto and a beauty, with cascading red hair and vivid emerald eyes. After two hundred years of solitude I craved nothing but her presence.
I knew what I was – I bore no false delusions about my predilections, my unnatural habits. So I had to approach her with caution, and above all, with delicacy.
As luck would have it Marisa played right into my hands. I was quite wealthy by that time, always having been prudent with my money, even before the change. Her father approached me in the hopes of arranging a marriage with Marisa. It was no secret that Count del Vasto had lost much of his assets after a fire destroyed five of his vineyards, and I was well aware that he sought to restore his original status. He needed a rich son-in-law for that and I fit the bill.
I was overjoyed of course. But one thing concerned me: at the time Marisa was only twelve. I insisted that the marriage be delayed for four years.
During those four years I got to know Marisa little by little. She was young but endlessly fascinating to me. She could speak about anything and was the rare girl who was not only literate but well versed in Latin and Greek. She wanted to learn Arabic but her father thought it was a waste of time.
She had lost her mother when she was still an infant, barely out of swaddling clothes. And so her three older sisters had raised her. Her father was never around much, but he made sure that each of his daughters receive tutoring in letters and arithmetic. Of the four girls, Marisa showed the most promise, being not only intelligent but resourceful. Having lacked a mother’s touch and watchful eye, there was a domineering, almost masculine quality to Marisa that I found intriguing.
I was enraptured with this woman-child, impatient for the four years to be over and done with. I often regretted my stipulation. Especially when I thought Marisa was starting to suspect that there was something not quite right about me.