The vain Contessa spent her days counting calories, studying Latin and having massages in her bedroom. She rather envied me my youthful radiance and I suspect she did not like me much.
The Conte and Contessa lived in a stately old house in Pedralbes, a smart suburb about 20 minutes' walk from the city centre. Our nearest neighbours were the monks in a 16th-century monastery. My room was large with French windows and pale yellow curtains, through which the early morning sun seeped like citrine gold.
After I'd finished my chores, mopping and polishing the red tiles in the nursery, I'd sunbathe naked on the balcony outside my room. The housekeeper, Rosa, fed me cold tortilla and tomato bread and nattered away at me in incomprehensible Catalan about the goings-on in the latest copy of Hola!.
The first Spanish word I mastered was triste. I was utterly miserable, missed my boyfriend and felt homesick. Until I met the Dentist in a cafe on Placa Catalunya.
Pia, my Swedish au pair buddy, and I didn't think twice about leaving with him and his friend for a 30-minute drive out of Barcelona back to his apartment in Sitges. We drank beer and jumped into the pool from his balcony and I felt flattered that these 33- year-old men wanted to be with me, a gauche 18-year-old. That's how innocent I was.
They did not make any advances that night. Though when the friend, by far the kinder of the two men, drove me home at about 4am, he tried to kiss me but I pushed him away.
I wanted the Dentist, despite the fact that he was engaged to a journalist who was a correspondent in China. I was no longer homesick, I was lovesick. This new pain was exquisite.
I saw him again and all was innocence, until he drove me home. We sat outside in his Seat, still and quiet, then, that familiar susurrant creak of a man leaning over the gear-stick to kiss a woman.
The Conte's daughters, twins of 11 with a weakness for romantic fairy- tales, were thrilled by the chaste sort of affair that followed. I would spend ages describing him to them, only for them to ask me to go over his soft, black, lazy curls again.
"What colour are his eyes?" Rich, dark brown, like the mahogany dining- room table, like treacle toffee, and so on. Their mother would regularly scold me in her cruel fancy Italian accent for coming in late. I'd return just before dawn and get up a couple of hours later to get the children ready for school.
On one of my rare full days off, he picked me up on a BMW cruising bike. I climbed up behind him, helmetless, in a tiny black skirt and a red cardigan. I wondered where we were going. When I realised only back to his place, I felt a pang of mild disappointment.
At some point in the afternoon I ended up naked on his bed, with him pressing rough, hard kisses on to my face. What followed was not especially tender or particularly loving; it was Mediterranean, with noisy, passionate declarations of love.
It was OK, but he lost me after a while, and I lay there thinking he didn't really care about me at all. Afterwards, in the perfect warmth of a late afternoon sun, we ate tinned asparagus and mayonnaise on his balcony, and I couldn't think of anything to say.Reuse content