The Italian Job - Part 3

With a bit of trepidation, I sent off the application for my new passport the following day after a quick trip to my lawyers.

When I’d come into all that money, I invested some of it in the shop and also just under £10M in a number of properties in and around the city. Property in Bath is really expensive. I employed a Solicitor to manage the properties on my behalf through a company I set up called ‘Safnis Properties Ltd’.

My impromptu visit to my Lawyers that day was to formally change my name to Fran from Francis.

When I returned to the shop, Saffy hardly let me in the door before she asked,

“Well? Did you send it? Has it gone?”

“Hold on a moment. Let me get in the door first.”

She grinned back at me.

“I take it that it’s gone then?”

By now I’d taken my coat off. Out of impulse, I threw it at her.

“Ok. Ok. You have sent it off,” cried Saffy from underneath my light raincoat.

“Yes I have. Now can we get down to work?”

“What’s up? I thought you would be happy?”

“Yeah I know.”

I replied grumpily.

“I just think it will all be for nothing that’s all. There is no way in my right mind I should expect to even get an interview let alone a job offer from my first attempt.”

“Oh I see,” retorted Saffy in that way of hers that said, ‘don’t be so bloody pathetic’.

Life at the shop and between us carried on as normal for the rest of the week. I pushed the events over the job to the back of my mind.

As we were locking up on Friday Saffy said,

“Come on girl we are going shopping.”

“Shopping? Why? What for?”

With a huge grin on her face she replied,

“To get you all those little things a girl needs. Besides there is an awful big hole in your Wardrobe that needs filling.”

“Eh? What do you mean?”

Another huge grin.

“Well there will be a big hole when we throw out all of your old clothes. You know the ones more suited to Francis rather than Fran.”

I started to cotton on to her plan.

“Well….”

Saffy glared at me.

She had this stock glare that said loud and clear that she was not going to be messed with. Over the years, I’ve found that it is far better all round to go along with her rather than fight her in situations like this. So, I let out a sigh and gave in as I usually did. I felt like a wimp but the self-preservation genes kicked in. If I stood up to her I’d certainly feel those shoes of hers on my shins.

A few minutes later we stepped out of the shop onto the street. The normally quiet street was suddenly full of noise.

I looked up the street towards the source of the noise.

A Motorcycle was coming down the street. I thought to myself that it must be after 6pm as the street was pedestrianized during the day. It stopped right outside the shop.

I took hold of Saffy’s arm and we turned away from the shop.

We’d only taken a couple of steps then Saffy felt a tug on her arm.

“Is one of you Fran Clarkson?”

The voice came from behind a very dark visor. It was the rider of the bike.

Before either of us could answer the rider flipped up the visor. I was surprised to see that underneath all that clobber was a woman.

“I’m Fran,” I said calmly.

“This is for you,” said the rider as she hauled a large padded bag from the satchel that was slung over her shoulder.

I took the bag. My mouth must have been wide open with surprise.

The rider shoved a clipboard in my face.

“Sign here,” she said brusquely.

Still in a something of a daze, I took the offered pen and scrawled something resembling my signature on the paper.

The rider shoved the clipboard back in the satchel, climbed back on her bike and roared off down the street leaving Saffy and myself standing open mouthed in the middle of the street.

A good thirty seconds had gone by before Saffy broke the silence.

“Well, don’t just stand there, open the package,” she almost demanded.

“I… I wasn’t expecting anything,” I mumbled.

“Then it’s your lucky day then.”

I looked at her and said,

“I’ve already had more than enough luck for my lifetime,” I mumbled.

Saffy made a move to take the package.

I reacted by holding it tighter.

“Open it then. The suspense is killing me.”

I gave her the best smile I could manage at the time and then began to open the envelope.

I ripped one end open and peered inside. It contained a number of sheets of paper.

I pulled them out. The top one was a letter of some sort.

“What does it say?” Asked Saffy impatiently.

“Patience grasshopper,” I replied as I tried to read the letter.

As I did so, a smile gradually spread over my face.

“I’ve got an interview.”

I exclaimed as I got to the bottom.

Saffy tore the page from me and read it herself eagerly.

As she did, a smile grew on her face. When she’d finished she hugged me.

“You did it,” she exclaimed.

“No I didn’t,” I replied grumpily.

“I’ve got an interview that’s all.”

“An interview in Italy.”

“Yeah. So?”
Then she saw the look of dissapointment on my face.
"Hey, why the grumpy old fart look?”

“You seem to have forgotten that I am currently without a passport. The date for my Interview is the end of next week.”

“So?”

“No passport means no foreign travel. End of story.”

Saffy looked at me at first with a straight face and then with a grin.

“What is going on in your devious mind?”

“Do you remember my cousin Simbu?”

“Yeah. A slimebag. Tries to grope anything in skirts including you if I recall correctly, you included.”

“That very one.”

“So?”

Then it dawned on me.

“No Saffy. I’m not getting in some van with him.”

“You don’t have to. I’ll drive the Van. He owes me big time. He’ll let me borrow his van for a little trip to Paris. We could do with some nice bits of Haute Couture for the shop?“

“And what happens when the Her Majesties Customs and Excise stop the van and ask to see inside?”

“We both end up in jail,” replied Saffy in a matter of fact manner.

“No Saffy. As much as I appreciate it, the answer is no. I can’t ask you to break the law like doing this for me.”

“But….”

I held my hand up.

“No buts Saffy. I’m not going”

[06:30 Thursday Morning, at a service station on the M20 in Kent]
“Are you all settled down in the back?”

“For the umpteenth time Saffy. Yes I am.”

“Good. Now I’m heading for the Tunnel.”

“Well get on with it then. These blankets are rather smelly.”

I replied from my hiding place in the back of the van.

Saffy put the engine into gear and stalled it again.

I sighed to myself. She would insist in driving in her heels.

She restarted the engine and this time we moved off.

Some twenty minutes later we arrived at the Channel Tunnel. For some reason I held my breath. It was illogical. This was only the check-in, not the passport control or customs.

A couple of minutes later Saffy pulled away from the check-in.

As she drove away, she called out,

“I’m going to the Terminal. I need to use the loo. They haven’t announced our ‘shuttle’ yet.”

Almost half an hour later, Saffy pulled the van up to Passport Control. The van slowed down and Saffy must have flashed her passport as a few seconds later it speeded up slightly.

Then the van came to a halt.

I heard Saffy wind the window down.

Then I heard a deep male voice,

“Is there anything of interest in the back of the van Miss?”

“No. Those cases are all empty. I hope they will be full when I return. I’m going to an auction of clothes in Paris.”

“Have a good trip Miss.”

“Thank you.”

A couple of minutes later Saffy parked the van once more.

She updated me on the situation.

“We are through customs. We are in the car park waiting to board. Now we wait for a few minutes until we are called.”

[Fifty-Five Minutes later]

Saffy put the Van into gear once more and slowly drove off the shuttle train.

“Nearly there Fran. Not long now,” called out Saffy from the driving seat.

I remained in the back of the van for another ten minutes.

Saffy drove the van into the huge car park of the huge shopping centre that lies close to the Channel Tunnel site in Calais.

She stopped the car and called out.

“You can come out now. We are in La Belle France.”

She opened the rear doors, moved some of the cases and let me out of the van. I was a bit stiff even though I’d only been in there for a couple of hours.

“Oh God!” I exclaimed, “I don’t want to do that again. I lost count of the times my heart stopped.”

“Well my dear Fran, going home will be easier. You will have your passport with you then.”

“I really hope so Saffy, I really hope so,” I replied as I got into the van on the drivers side.

“I thought I was driving?”

“Later. I need to do something for a while.”

“Meh,” grumbled Saffy and got into the passenger seat.

At a little after 10:00 local we stopped for a late breakfast at an Autoroute Service Area. The fresh coffee and croissants were most welcome.

With both of us fully refreshed Saffy drove us into Paris where we checked into our Hotel in time for a late lunch in the Terrace Restaurant that overlooked the River Seine.

Saffy sipped a nice glass of red wine.

“Well we got here.”

“We did. We did indeed,” I replied as we chinked glasses.

“Now we can relax for a while,” added Saffy.

Lunch over we adjourned to our room.

“It is time for Francis to disappear,” I stated calmly as the door closed.

“I’ll get your case ready.”

[Paris Bercy Station, that evening]

“Well Saffy, thanks for everything. This next bit I must do on my own.”

“Yeah. I know. It feels like the end to …”

I leaned over and kissed her long and hard.

I watched Saffy standing there on the platform waving me goodbye as my train left.

I found it hard to stop the tears from welling up in my eye. The realisation that one very happy part of my life was probably over. Apart from an 18month period, Saffy and I have been together for nigh on 20 years. Most marriages these days don’t last that long.

I retired to my sleeping compartment rather sad about the past yet elated about a possible big change in my future.

Sleep didn’t come easily that night despite a liberal dose of my favourite sleep aid, a nice glass of Claret. Eventually I dropped off. It seemed to be only a moment before the sleeping car attendant was nocking on my compartment door announcing that Breakfast was being served and there was and hour before my stop in Florence.

I didn’t make Breakfast as I had to spend almost all the available time getting dressed and generally making myself presentable for my interview.

A little over 10 minutes late, the Paris-Rome Sleeper arrived in Florence. I was relieved to find that I was the only passenger from my coach to alight. The attendant helped me down onto the low platform and then passed my suitcase down to me. He even smiled at me so I must have not looked too bad even though it was still very early in the morning.

I pulled out the handle on the case and walked off the platform. The large concourse area was busy with commuters arriving in the city to work.

I looked at the large departure board for my train to Siena. The train was due to leave just after 08:00. This meant that I had time for a coffee at one of the several outlets in the station.

I walked up to one establishment and said in my rusty Italian,
“Scusilo per favore, una tazza del coffe della prima colazione”.

“Certamente signora, grande o piccolo?”

“Grande per favore.”

Two minutes later I was sitting down enjoying the delicious coffee thinking to myself why do the Italians make the best coffee in the world.

Just after 09:15 my train pulled into the strangely named town of Poggibonsi. I climbed down onto the platform cursing myself for tying my corset so tight when I got dressed on the sleeper. I should have chosen my wardrobe with a lot more care. I wanted to impress but at that moment, I was regretting my decision to wear a dress with a very restrictive pencil skirt. I needed a corset to give me at least a few curves in the right places.

I made my way out of the station and looked for a Taxi.

A solitary very ancient and battered Fiat Punto Taxi was sitting in the Station Forecourt. Its driver was sitting in his cab dozing gently.

I walked over to the cab and gently tapped on the roof.

The driver almost jumped out of his skin.

“Scusilo signora che stavo riposando appena i miei vista”

Yeah right. I thought. Resting your eyes indeed. I distinctly recalled hearing some light snoring.
“Potete prenderli a Talicona?”

“Si signora”

I climbed into the rear of the Fiat and dragged my small suitcase inside with me. The idle sod of a
driver had made no attempt to get out and help me.

As we drove out of the town and up into the hills, I allowed myself a little chuckle. There I was for the first time since I’d decided to live full time as a woman actually thinking like a woman.

All too soon that moment passed. My thoughts returned to the interview that lay ahead.

The Taxi pulled into the address I’d given the driver on the way to the village. I got my first glimpse of the house. It was beautiful. The view to the west from its position on the hillside was magnificent.

The driver pulled up outside the huge black front door.

“Quindici Euro per favore.”

I paid the driver and got out of the cab.

As the driver sped away, the front door of the house opened and a woman stepped out.

“Ah Fran, welcome to Italy. I am glad you made it,” said the woman smiling.

My mouth must have dropped open.

There was no mistaking the woman’s eyes.

They belonged to the woman on the motorcycle.

[To be continued]
[Edit 27-Mar-2017 to fix two typos]



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