“Please come inside. We have been expecting you.”
I was speechless. What on earth was going on?
Nevertheless, I went inside the house.
With a thud, she shut the heavy door behind me.
“Let me introduce myself properly this time, I’m Claudia. Shall we go into the Kitchen? I am sure that you must have a million questions?”
Still speechless, I nodded my understanding. I followed her into the huge kitchen. As I entered I was aroused by the smell of fresh coffee and even better, fresh bread.
“Please, take a seat for a moment, I have to get some bread out of the oven,” said Claudia.
Two minutes later, three fresh loaves of Ciabatta bread were cooling a wire tray.
“Sorry about that,” she said as she wiped her hands on her apron.
I found my voice at last.
“Yes please. I’m sorry, I’m a bit of a heathen, I take it with milk.”
“Don’t tell anyone, but I do too. Well, since I started working in London that is.”
I thought to myself, ‘that explains the almost perfect English’.
She went to pour the coffee. I’d recovered enough to take my first really good look at her.
Claudia appeared to be in her late 20’s with long black hair that appeared to be straight out of a fashion magazine. She was wearing tight jeans. Very tight jeans indeed and a cropped white top with some ruffles.
Her beauty was accentuated by the fact that she wore almost no makeup. Just a hint of lippy and that was it.
All sorts of adjectives describing her flashed through my mind. She was frankly stunning.
Claudia put two mugs of white coffee down on the table and sat down opposite me.
“I’m very glad you came. So many of the people who have expressed interest in this position have grumbled and even complained about having to travel for an interview without being recompensed for their troubles.”
Claudia smiled at me.
“How much was your airfare by the way. I’ll give you the money before you leave.”
“But you just said…”
“Yes. Those who get on with it and turn up for the interview are definitely more serious about the position. So, I refund them the money they have shelled out to get here. It does seem to sort out most of the time wasters and believe me, there are a lot of them around. The sort of position open here attracts them like flies.”
Again, I thought, ‘she’s lived in England for more than a few years’. Her English is almost accent less, well a trace of Home Counties but only a trace.
I drank some of the excellent coffee. This frankly gorgeous woman was also very intelligent. I could see no trace of a ring on her left hand. I wondered how on earth someone as frankly fantastic as her could have not gotten hitched by now.
“Penny for them?”
Claudia’s question brought me back to reality.
“I… I was just working out how much I’d spent to get here. I didn’t fly by the way.”
“Don’t you like flying?”
“No. Sorry, yes I do but I have a little problem at the moment. ‘Sono senza un passaporto’. It sounds a lot better in Italian does it not?”
I smiled at her.
“How did you...? Don’t answer that.”
She put her hand up.
“You have shown great resourcefulness to get here today. How you did it is irrelevant. You are here and that is all I need to know.”
Then she smiled.
I felt relieved and decided to tell her anyway.
“I stowed away in the back of a van that took me to Paris. Then I took the sleeper from Paris to Firenze last night. Then the local train and taxi.”
She smiled back at me.
“Forgive me for prying but how will you get home? I know from experience that getting back into the UK will be a darn sight harder than getting out?”
“I hope to have my little passport problem resolved by then. Well if the Passport Office or whoever they are called this week get their finger out that is.”
“Good. Shall we get down to the interview?” Asked Claudia in a matter of fact way.
“I thought we already had?”
“That was just getting you to relax after your trip.”
“Ok. Fire away.”
Claudia got up. I made to do the same.
“Please stay here. I’m just going to get your file.”
I sat put but slightly worried about the tone she used for that last sentence.
Claudia returned a minute or so later carrying a file that was at least an inch thick.
“Right, Fran lets get down to business,” said Claudia as she sat down and opened the file. Then she closed it again.
“I have to say Fran, you have led an interesting life. A very interesting life indeed. You and Saffron that is. Why are you leaving her? Are you getting a divorce?”
Her bluntness shocked me. Her reference to us as a couple stunned me. I’d never thought of us as one. I thought we were more like a brother and sister.
Before I got a chance to answer she continued.
“When I got this report on you I couldn’t believe my eyes at first.”
“What report?” I said desperately.
“The one I commissioned on you when I received your CV from the agency.”
She saw the concerned look in her eyes.
“Don’t worry. It is standard procedure for everyone who applies for the position. I felt we had to adopt this policy after the last two people we employed had only one thing on their mind and that was most certainly not on the job.”
“I really don’t understand what you are going on about. I think I’d better go,” I said feeling rather uncomfortable.
I stood up and walked out of the kitchen into the hallway. Then I realised that I needed a taxi to get back to the station.
I turned around and returned to the kitchen.
“Could you possibly ring for a taxi to take me to the station please? I believe that the number in Poggibonsi is 0577 937098,” I said remembering the number that was displayed in the Taxi that had brought me to her house.
“You really are a one of a kind. My PI more or less told me so in this report but I couldn’t really believe it. He was as usual absolutely correct. Actually, he underestimated you in many ways".
I stood there defiant.
Then the smiled disappeared from her face.
“The job is yours if you want it?”
That stunned me to the core.
“What job? All I’ve heard is a few snippets about what was not right with others who have had the job. If it exists that is.”
“Oh it exists all right and I think you are perfect for it.”
I still didn’t believe her.
“So persuade me that there is one and that you are not having a laugh at my expense,” I demanded.
Claudia was very serious now.
“Why don’t you sit down and I’ll tell you all about it?”
I sat down at the kitchen table unhappy but unable to leave without finding out more about this job and this strange woman who I was finding it difficult to say no too.
“The job is for my brother Luca. He is my twin brother. The governess part is for his two children also twins, Benito and Gina.”
She paused briefly.
“The last two people he employed had but one thing on their minds. That was getting him into bed, getting pregnant and living off his money. Perhaps now you might understand why when I read the report on you I knew you would be perfect. In the very short time you have been here, I knew that my instincts were right.”
“But? You know all about me and it does not matter?”
“Matter? Not in the slightest.”
Then she chuckled.
“Actually you are probably the ideal candidate for the position.”
“But I fail the ‘ness part don’t I?”
“Well, I see sitting before me a very attractive woman. What else is there to say?”
“Rather a lot actually. Besides, I’m not a woman and I’m not attractive.” I replied slightly angrily.
Claudia sat silently.
“For one, why would your brother want to employ a tranny to look after his children and his affairs?”
“A good point. Why don’t you ask him for yourself?”
Quite startled by this, I looked around.
“Is he here?”
“Yes he is. He has been listening in to our conversation all along.”
I heard some steps coming down the hallway.
A man entered the kitchen. A tall slim elegant man. A man with the sort of natural style that only Italians of both sexes can display. Why is it that it does not matter if Italian men shave or not, if they are sexy, they are sexy. Luca was SEXY with big flashing lights and sirens.
“Luca, meet Fran,” said Sophia trying not to giggle at the similarities in the names.
Luca gave a slight bow and offered his hand. I took it. To my total surprise, he bent down and kissed it.
“I am honoured to meet you Fran.”
I was stunned.
“You… You are nothing like I imagined,” I stuttered.
They both laughed.
“What did you imagine then?” Asked Luca.
“I don’t know but whatever it was you are not it,” I replied desperately trying not to dig the hole I was in an awful lot deeper.
We all laughed at my ineptitude.
Luca poured himself some coffee and tore off a chunk of bread before sitting down at the huge heavy table with us.
“This is excellent bread Claudia. Some day you will make someone a very good wife.”
Claudia gave him a look of daggers and then laughed.
Luca reached over to the counter and grabbed hold of one of the three loaves and tossed it onto the table.
“This is very good but hot,” he added.
“Please take some before I eat it all and Claudia will not be very happy if I do.”
Luca patted his flat stomach to emphasise what he’d just said.
Claudia forced a little smile.
Luca turned to me and said,
“Claudia told me all about you. After she gave me your file to read, I had to agree with her assessment. I am as they say a very eligible bachelor and she’s told you about the little problems with the last two Governesses so I have every confidence that you will be different. I’ve been listening to you and my dear sister. I have to say you did defend your corner very well. She can be a little tigress at times.”
I was perplexed by their sudden confidence that I would accept the position.
“I’m flattered that you have confidence in me. I know very little about being a Governess. I’m sure my CV and your report will tell you that in abundance. To be honest with you I applied for the job on a whim and I really didn’t expect to even get a first interview let alone be sitting here in this lovely kitchen nibbling some of the most delicious bread I’ve ever tasted.”
It was Claudia who to my surprise answered.
“Why don’t you two go out for a walk in the garden and get to know each other and I’m sure he will tell you more about the job while I rustle us up some lunch.”
Luca stood up from the table and held his hand out for me. To my eternal surprise I took it and together we walked out of the kitchen, onto the large terrace and into the huge garden.
As we walked into the garden I really wanted to ask him if he really minded being with a man in drag.
However, I bit my lip hard. I was determined not to be the one to bring it up. He was going out of his way to treat me like a lady. As such, I felt duty bound not to make a scene.
We spent the next half hour walking around the garden. Luca told me all about his two children and about their mother who was noticeable by her absence.
He told me that she’d left Luca a couple of years before for an Italian Racing Driver who worked for Ferrari. He sounded quite sad at his loss. I guessed that the whole sorry episode had affected him a lot.
He went on to tell me that the children were away at private school in Switzerland and that next September they’d move to being schooled in England, one at Winchester and the other at Cheltenham. He was also looking for a base in England while Benito and Gina were at school.
I found out that Luca’s family were owners of a shipyard. They built those mega yachts you see at places like Monte Carlo when the Grand Prix is in town.
He travelled the world sealing the deals. A lot of the money sloshing around these days is Russian hence the need for someone reasonably fluent in that most elegant of languages to travel with him on business and to be at his side.
He also expressed a desire to appear as a married man. This was to keep the bevy of ‘blonde haired babes’ who would be present when he visited some of his clients.
“Think of ‘Playboy Bunnies’ who don’t are just dumb and blonde and you won’t go far wrong,” suggested Luca when I told him I couldn’t understand why he would need such a companion.
“I get the idea. They want to get you into bed and that‘s all?”
I smiled at him.
“Well, you are a very attractive man if you don’t mind me saying so.”
My forthrightness must have stunned him or he was gobsmacked by my crassness. Either way, I felt I’d really put my foot in it. This being a woman was so hard at times.
To my total surprise his reaction was quite different.
“Thank you for the nice compliment Madame.”
Then he turned, took hold of my hand and gently kissed it.
I must have gone a deep shade of red.
He just smiled back at me as we continued our walk.
After a while, I started to warm to the idea of being his consort. A consort with a dirty little secret between its legs. That did worry me a lot though.
We arrived back in the kitchen just in time for Claudia to dish up a delicious plate of pasta with roast artichokes for lunch.
“This is a local delicacy. Everything is grown within twenty kilometres from here,” said Claudia proudly.
I had to admit that it was mouth-watering. The local red wine was just as delicious.
Once we’d finished eating I asked Claudia,
“You hinted that you worked in London. Was that how you were able to surprise me on Friday?”
She grinned back.
“Yes. I work at a Graphics Art Company in Greys Inn Road. I commute into the city by bike. Did you like my bike?”
“It seemed very powerful,” I replied knowing very well that she had been riding a late 1970’s Moto Guzzi ‘Le Mans’. It was a real collectors item.
She smiled back at me.
“My Sister is very talented. She rebuilt that bike herself. It was the love of her life for nearly a year,” said a very proud Luca.
“My Brother really does over exaggerate,” said Claudia.
“Oh yeah. And how many times did you turn up for dinner with grease under your pretty nails?”
“Minor details. Minor details.”
I could sense an intense yet friendly rivalry between these two siblings. It didn’t take me long to realise that their relationship was much like the one that Saffy and I had.
Things were going very well but I still had this nagging doubt at the back of my mind.
As the meal finished, I asked Luca,
“Claudia’s investigation into me was very thorough.”
My words dried up.
To my surprise, Luca read my thoughts.
“Are you worrying about the fact that you are not who you seem to be?”
“Yes. To be perfectly honest I am. It could prove very embarrassing for all of us if the wrong people were to get hold of the wrong end of the stick? Your Investigator found out pretty well everything there is to know about me in just a few days. What is to stop a competitor from doing the same? Blackmail is not unknown in big business after all. The media would have a field day with it especially in more conservative countries such as this one.”
It was Claudia who answered for her brother.
“Fran, I think you have enough at stake to not want that to happen. My brother here needs someone he can trust and not have getting him into bed as their prime objective. When I first read the report into you I was rather surprised. Well actually horrified. I knew next to nothing about transgendered people. I did some research and talked to a City Lawyer who is a female to male transsexual. After a while, it dawned on me that you might be the solution to the governess problem.”
I looked at them both before saying,
“And what was your dear Brothers reaction to your grand plan?”
As soon as I said those words, it dawned upon me that the wine was having an effect. It seemed to have loosened my tongue. I hoped that I hadn’t put my foot into it and quashed my chances with the job.
Claudia looked at her brother.
“Are you wondering about your real self and…” said Claudia.
“Yes, yes I am.”
I thought for a few seconds.
“Look. I’ll be honest with you both. You have been that way with me.”
The jovial atmosphere disappeared in a trice.
“If either of you have the slightest worry about living in the same house and working with a male to female transsexual then I’d like to know now.”
This obviously put both of them on edge.
It was Luca who replied.
“How about we give it a trial? How would three month’s sound? That would give you time with the children and a chance for all of us to get to know each other a bit better.”
I felt relieved.
“Yes. That will do. Provided I can read the report your PI did on me. I’d like to know what juicy bits he didn’t find out.”
They both laughed.
“That won’t be a problem,” replied Claudia as she passed the folder over to me.
It was nearly 8pm when I called Saffy, to report on the day. I’d sat for nearly half an hour before making the call trying to get my mind straight. Here were two people willing to take a huge risk in employing a tranny in a role that I still didn’t fully understand. It appeared that my streak of luck that began with my lottery win was still going strong.
I took a deep breath and dialled her mobile number. I was just about to hang up when she answered.
“Hi Fran. How did the Italian inquisition go?”
I paused for maybe half a second before replying.
“I got the job. Well it is mine if I want it.”
“That’s great. When are you coming home?”
I paused before replying. There was something not quite right about her. She was clearly not her usual self.
“Err. Don’t you need to bring my passport to me somewhere first?”
“Yes I do.”
There had been quite a delay before she answered.
“Saffy. What’s wrong?”
It felt that every word she said was a struggle.
There was no answer.
There was a long silence before a voice was heard on the line.
“Fran, please don’t go. Don’t take the job. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you to leave,” said Saffy with audible sobbing.
Then she said something that made me very uncomfortable.
“I’m scared Fran. I don’t want to lose you. I love you. I really didn’t realise it until last night. I didn’t realise how much I missed you.”
I was left totally speechless.
A tear ran down my cheek. I felt… strange, alone and a million other things that I could not describe.
[To be continued]
Edited to remove a small continuity error between this and the next part.
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