Matteo was filled with great happiness and pride because today was a very special day. He wore his new black linen suit, a light blue shirt, and on his feet ultra soft dark brown moccasins without socks. In his right hand, he carried a bouquet of wonderful dark red roses. He paused in front of the large house with four floors that had been built in the past century by a rich family. A particular aspect of the architecture was that there were fire ladders added to the front house wall that at the same time served as decor. While in the past the house was occupied by one family, after some renovation and transformation, now there were individual flats on each floor. Matteo looked up to the top flat on the left side on the fourth floor and smiled in great anticipation. Then he put his foot on the fire ladder, he clamped the bouquet of roses under his chin and then began slowly to climb up the fire ladder. This had been his idea for quite a while, and he wanted with this brave action to impress his girlfriend, and then surprise her with his proposal for marriage.
Matteo was studying philosophy in the 7th semester, and working as a night porter in a small hotel. He was living with his mother in an old house at the edge of the town that she had inherited from her parents. Often, his mother’s sister in law also came for longer visits to live in the house. Both women had lost their husbands in a traffic accident. Matteo’s plan was to become a university professor one day, but this was still a target in the clouds. For over three years he and his girlfriend maintained a stable relationship and he now thought that it was time to get married. They could then live in the nice flat on the top floor under the roof that had been prepared for his brother, and enlarged with toilet and bathroom. However, his brother was a trekking tour guide and was over eighty per cent per year underway somewhere out there in the world. When he came back for his very short visits, the smaller original room he used to have since childhood was absolutely enough for him.
Since Matteo’s mother was rather old fashioned and very religious on top of it, she had not been able to accept that Matteo and his girlfriend would live in the house without being married. Therefore, the two always and regularly met in the tiny apartment of his girlfriend in the already-mentioned big four-store house with the special fire ladders on the house wall. This tiny apartment was very expensive and moving in together into the old family house would really also help economically, apart from being a pleasant idea, thought Matteo. He had so far not discussed this idea with his girlfriend, but he was persuaded that she would like it the way he did.
In the meantime, he had reached the level of the first floor. Up to here, it was an easy project because one could even jump down from here. Getting to the second floor was also still easily makeable, however, after this, it began to be a real challenge. Looking down over the shoulder from the third floor requested a good portion of courage and no tendency for nausea. And finally moving on to the fourth floor was then a real special challenge and actually needed absolute concentration and the abilities of a Musketeer. Matteo was a friendly, well-balanced and generally good-natured person, who preferred peace as well as a certain touch of class, and he absolutely despised any kind of rudeness.
He was now just to reach the third floor and paused for a short moment. He took a deep breath and a large smile extended on his face when he thought about the big eyes full of surprise of his girlfriend when seeing him coming along this unusual but courageous way. And then he also figured out her endless joy about his marriage proposal. He smiled in the way that only someone could smile, who was about to come up with a great surprise and then slowly moved on. When he was at the exact level of the flat on the third floor, he leaned a bit over to briefly peep into the window. The room was muted, on the commode burnt three huge candles whose flickering light produced a romantic aura by sketching large, moving shadows on the wall. A very attractive woman just came through the door. She was barely dressed, only wearing a midnight blue, silken nightdress, that just covered her backside, and she looked extremely sexy with her long dark brown hair falling almost to her waist. She had a glass of champagne in her hand and was just about to take a sip, when a sun-tanned also half-naked man came in; he only wore briefs in leopard print and also held a glass of champagne in his hand. Matteo was amused and wanted to move on, but in this very moment the man discovered him through the window, pointed with the finger to him and screamed angrily, “What does this one want here?” He then turned half away toward the pretty woman who glanced with large eyes at Matteo and obviously seemed frightened about what she saw. Matteo was standing out there on the ladder in a rather uncomfortable position, still having the bouquet of roses clamped under the chin. The half-naked man in his leopard briefs made two steps toward the window to better see who was out there. Then he shook his head, rolled his eyes and moved back to the attractive woman who in the meantime had sat down on the huge bed with the mountain of cushions in all colours and sizes. With an extremely angry gesture, the man poured his champagne into her face, threw the glass to the floor and grasped her by the shoulder, shouting like a mad one, “You see, I knew it! I knew it exactly! You do not deserve me, you are fooling around with other males when I am on business trips. I always feared this naked truth, one cannot rely on women, never. It’s really too much that your gigolos now even come up via ladder to deliver their cheap flower bouquets!” He seemed to be totally blind through jealousy and reached out to beat her, but the pretty woman could escape to the other corner of the room.
Matteo quickly moved his head back, and paused for a small moment, shocked about what he just had to witness. Then he shook his head and thought by himself, “Well, this relation will anyway not last, she has to take the consequences - no use to keep up a relationship with such a monster!” Then he carefully climbed on to the fourth floor.
When he reached the level of the window, he again leaned over and looked into the room. His girlfriend was sitting on the sofa, holding her mobile phone to her ear, so she was obviously talking to someone. Then, she observed him, dropped the phone and came with a smiling face rushing to open the window to let him in. Matteo climbed into the room, sat for a moment on the windowsill, now holding the flowers in his right hand, to give the whole scene more importance. Then he fell on his right knee, looked at her with big dog eyes – which he had rehearsed at home in front of the mirror – presented his marriage proposal and held the bouquet of dark red roses under her face.
He was so pleased and released at the same time, that he finally managed to surprise her and that everything worked out well. For a moment, he closed his eyes, letting her find her speech. Before he could open his eyes again and hear her tender answer, as he expected, he felt a terrible pain in his face like a thousand thorns hurting him at once, then again and again. He kept his eyes closed, but he knew that his girlfriend was whipping him with the bouquet of long-stemmed roses full of sharp thorns. She must have lost her mind. And for a short moment, Matteo thought that this house must have been occupied by the devil on this night. He opened his eyes slowly to make sure that the attack was over and saw her smashing the damaged bouquet to his feet. Then she placed herself in front of him and yelled, “Who do you think I am? Just a stupid girl who does not have an idea about the world? A marriage proposal with just a bunch of flowers, no way acceptable! Where is my diamond ring, hey, where? Have you never read a romantic book or seen a modern movie? A marriage proposal without a diamond ring is not worth anything! I do not want a man who does not even know the basic ‘rules of marriage’, and anyway to live in that old house with your mother on the ground floor is also not my thing, to be frank now! Over, it’s over with us!” She made such an ugly face that Matteo thought, 'What the hell did I see in this woman?' and he just stood there, concentrating. He felt blood dripping down his face, and the wounds were burning. She began again to yell, “You’re not even able to defend yourself, you coward! You know what, get out of here, at once!” She rushed to the door in the corridor and opened the entrance door, standing there with both arms on her hips, and making an extremely snooty face.
Matteo let her stand there, turned around and climbed out of the still open window. He had to be very careful now when moving down, because it was more than a risky action under these circumstances where he was covered in pain. On one side the wounds in his face were troubling him, on the other side the heavy wound in his heart – as after a knife had been turned around there. He tried to be brave-hearted, saving the tears for later, and moved on towards the ground.
When he reached the level of the third floor, he could not hold back but lean over and glance through the window. He saw the unknown woman sitting on the floor in front of the bed. She was embracing her knees and her head was resting on them. Her long hair flowed over her legs almost to the ground, and she seemed to weep. Matteo knocked on the window to get her attention. Nothing happened. He knocked again, this time a bit harder. Now she slowly lifted her head and looked in direction of the window. She looked very sad, her make-up was smeared over her face and her nose was bleeding. When she saw his face, she opened her eyes wide and seemed to be shocked. She got on her feet and rushed to the window to open it and helped him into the room. Then she asked with a voice expressing real sorrow and compassion, “What happened to your face? It’s covered in blood! Who has done this?” She pushed him gently over to the mirror on the wall. When he saw his face in the mirror, he could not believe it: his face was the face of a horror puppet - full of wounds and blood traces everywhere. Now it was clear to him why he felt such pain.
“She was whipping me with the long-stemmed dark red roses that I wanted to present her while pronouncing my marriage proposal!” Matteo explained in a calm voice, while the unknown beauty very carefully tried to dab off his many wounds caused by the thorns of the roses. Then he wanted to know what was happening with her and her partner down here in this apartment. She went on dabbing his face, and after a pause, she explained, “Well, he freaked out completely and was possessed by the thought that you actually came up for me. He insinuated that I was having an affair with you and that he always knew that I was not true to him. He banged around in the flat and hit me several times, also in the face until my nose was bleeding. And finally, he announced that he anyway already had another girlfriend who would never do such things to him, who was very obeying and a real beauty. After wishing me to hell, he threw the key into the corridor and left. It was more than clear to me, that he was actually feeling very guilty because of having cheated me, but now wanted to push everything into my shoes!”
She paused a moment, looked at him, and said with a firm voice, “Well, I’m glad that all this happened and that he is gone. I do not want such a brutal womanizer!” Then she reached out with her right hand, and said, lightly smiling, “Hello, my name is Lara!” Matteo presented himself and thanked her for dabbing his face. Lara suggested having a nice cup of tea and chatting a bit about their two lives.
Matteo sat down at the round table in the salon that led directly into the kitchen and observed her moving around and preparing the tea as well as some light snack. She was an absolute beauty and he thought, that a man behaving as the one from before behaved, must be a total idiot. He could not hold back and to his full astonishment, he heard himself expressing his thoughts clearly in loud words. Lara glanced at him with a very light smile and meant, “Well, he said that I am a bloody witch, maybe it is true! Be careful!” Matteo felt great and countered, “Maybe I am also an idiot, but I do not believe at all that you are a bloody witch! I think, that we have maintained partnerships with the wrong partners and tonight the gods let us find it out, a bit too cruel, but in the end what matters is that the misappointments have gone!”
Lara and Matteo enjoyed several cups of tea, and chatted extensively. Later they changed to red wine as a good night cup and made plans for the next day together. At three o’clock in the morning, Matteo dribbled down the stairs, after waving again to her, and all the way home he was warbling full of joy.
On the following day, they went on an extensive stroll along the river. And yet before finishing his philosophy studies, he on one Saturday in the summer climbed up the fire ladder to the third floor this time. Between his teeth was a tiny bag of glossy paper from an exquisite jewellery shop. And, yes, of course, Lara stood there radiating with joy. When she finally saw the ring that he presented to her, she did not even wait for his marriage proposal, but fell around his neck and screamed again and again, ‘”Yes, of course!”