The Italian Job - Part 5

Our Heroine is in the middle of a very awkward phone call to Saffron.


To say I was stunned by Saffy’s confession was a great understatement.

“I… I don’t know what to say.”

There was no reply.

“Saffy? Are you there?”

There were some audible sounds from the other end of the line.

Eventually she replied.

“Don’t you love me?”

Now I was in a corner with no way out.

“Yes Saffy I love you but not in the way you think I do.”

So I’m just a cheap fuck then?” She said angrily.

“Now Saffy. I…”

I didn’t get a chance to say anything else.

“What am I to you after all this time?”

I didn’t know what to do. It was Saffy who suggested that I should stop working at the shop.
“Saffy, you are everything to me except the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. We are much too alike to be together romantically. You are my Sister in all but blood.”

There was silence from the other end.

Then the line went dead.

I sat still for several minutes before swallowing hard and going back in the house.

Claudia was in the kitchen preparing things for breakfast the next day. She took one look at my face and said,

“Am I correct in thinking that the call home didn’t go very well?”

“You are right. It didn’t go very well.”

“Did you find out anything about your passport?”

I’d clean forgot about asking Saffy about it.

“No. No news I’m afraid,” I said.

Then I added.

“I didn’t get around to asking about it actually.”

“I will be flying to London in the morning. Perhaps I can find out for you?”

I wasn’t sure if Saffy would be receptive to a visit from Claudia. However, I couldn’t think of anything else that could be done.

“If you could I would be very grateful.”

Luca left the house after dinner. He had to be at the Shipyard in Genoa for a meeting the following morning.

Claudia took me to the local station very early the following morning. Then she headed for the airport in Firenze.  She had tried to let her take me into Firenze to get the train. In the end, we agreed that it was more important for her to catch her flight to London than to take me into the city centre.

I caught the first train to Firenze where I changed trains for the first time. Two more changes at Milan and Turin enabled me to get to Paris just before 8:00pm that evening tired and in need of a bath.

My first port of call was nearest hotel. This was the ‘Gare De Lyon Hotel’. With a weariness that only comes from travelling I walked into its Lobby and up to the Reception desk.

As I walked up to the reception counter the male receptionist gave me the ‘once over’ and said,

“Comment est-ce que je peux vous aider?” {can I help you?}

I smiled at him

“Bonsoir. Je me demande s'il y a des salles libres pour le soir et probablement un couple plus de nuits.” {do you have a room for two nights?}

“Laissez-moi jeter un coup d'oeil au registre.” {let me consult the register}

He tapped a few keys on the computer. At first he shook his head. Finally, he looked at me.

“I’m sorry. We are fully booked tonight.

His sudden switch to English startled me.

Nevertheless, I carried on in French.

“Êtes-vous sûr là n'êtes-vous aucune salle?”

He gave me the typical Gallic ‘put me down’, a shrug of his shoulders.

“Very well, I will go to the Hotel de Paris instead”

I turned on my heels and walked towards the exit and a taxi.

The receptionist called after me.

“Madame. Please I am sure we can find a room somewhere.”

I ignored him.

I’d just left the hotel in search of a Taxi to take to someplace that had rooms free when my phone buzzed.

I looked at the display. It said ‘Number Withheld’.

I answered it hoping that it wasn’t Saffy calling to say sorry.

“Hello?” I said tentatively.

“Is that you Fran?”

Right away, I could tell that it was Claudia. I felt a little happier. I was not looking forward to speaking to Saffy.

“Buona sera Claudia. Sono a Parigi che cerca un hotel.”

She laughed. She sounded happy.

“The Hotel de Gare L’Est usually has rooms. It is part of the Ibis chain. If they don’t have a room, they will soon find you one. Why don’t you try there?”

“Thanks. I’ll get a taxi. I’m at the Gare de Lyon. The Hotel there claimed that they didn’t have any rooms but the place was dead.”

“Wherever you do end up, be sure to let me know where you are staying. I’m coming to Paris tomorrow after work. We can travel back to London the following morning."

“But what about my Passport?”

“That’s the reason for my call. The Investigator I used to check you out has it. He is sending it to me by messenger in the morning. He got it from Saffron.”

I was about to say something rude but stopped myself just in time. I’d wait until I had it in my possession before telling her just what I thought of her.

“Fran, are you there?” Asked Claudia.

“Yes. Yes, I am. Ok. I’ll let you know where I’m staying. See you tomorrow.”

I hung up before she could respond.

When I get tired I get irritable. That was evident from the phone call. I had to put that behind me for now. I had to find somewhere to sleep.

With the call over I went to the station rank and climbed into a Taxi.

“Hotel Ibis, Gare De L’Est si vous plait.”

I sat back and hung on for dear life as the driver attempted to emulate the Formula 1 drivers at Monaco the previous weekend.

We made it to the Hotel in almost no time at all.

“Vous avez conduit comme un idiot. Il n'était pas necesseary pour conduire comme Michael Schumaker.” {no translation needed…}

As I counted out the exact fare I said,

“J Vous n'avez pas presque dû nous tuer tous les deux à la La Place de la Concorde e ne te donne pas un bout.”

The driver gave me several profanities most directed at my parents and screeched away from the forecourt only to be stopped by the traffic lights at the junction with Rue de Fauborg.

I permitted myself a little smile as I entered the hotel lobby.

The place was pretty dead but I could hear the chink of plates in the Restaurant that seemed to be behind me. My stomach grumbled in sympathy.

To my eternal relief they had a room for two nights.

I spent the following day moping around Paris. When the weather is fine it is a truly beautiful city but in the wet, forget it. In the end, I found a public library and spent the afternoon reading books in French about childcare and educational theory. I wasn’t all together sure if it would prove useful or turn out to be a complete waste of time.

Claudia arrived on the last train from St Pancras brandishing my new passport as if she was Neville

Chamberlain returning from striking a deal with Hitler.

I burst out laughing when I saw her.

After I’d let her in on the joke, we shared a glass of Scotch in the bar before heading to our rooms. She did her best to cheer me up without prying too deep but it didn’t altogether work.

A little before 07:00 the following morning we were sitting on the train to London. Like the previous evening, I wasn’t feeling very talkative so I just sat looking out of the window of the Eurostar train for most of the journey home.

At over 150mph we soon passed through the battlefields of the Somme under leaden skies.

I looked around at the other people on the train. None of them seemed to be giving even a thought to the
millions of troops who fought tooth and nail for every inch during WW1. I had to stop myself from thinking such morbid thoughts but it was hard.

All too soon we slowed for Calais and the tunnel only to emerge half an hour later into bright Kent sunshine. My mood brightened considerably. It was either the weather or the fact that I’d soon be home again.

Claudia had tried had several times during the journey to engage me in conversation. Eventually, she gave up and let me be.
 
As the train ducked into the tunnel under the Thames I looked at Claudia and said,
“Claudia, I’m very sorry but I can’t accept the job offer. I have some things in my life I need to get sorted out before I even consider leaving Bath.”

Claudia look a long and hard at me for quite a while before she replied.

“I can’t say I’m surprised. Does it have something to do with that phone call you made at the house the other evening?”

I nodded my agreement.

“Very well. I know that Luca will agree with me when I say that we both wish you all the best whatever you decide to do in the future.”

I initially was surprised by the ‘calmness’ and ‘finality’ of what she said. As we neared St Pancras I realised that my whole persona since that phone call had telegraphed my whole state of mind.

I said goodbye to Claudia in the Underground ticket Hall.

The goodbye was a long hug. Even though we’d only known each other for a couple of days I already felt like she was a friend.

Just after lunchtime I walked down the street to the shop. It was a walk I’d done hundreds of times before but today, well it was different. I felt that I was walking into the unknown.

When I walked inside, I breathed a sigh of relief to find the shop empty of customers.

“Saffy?” I called out.

“Fran.  Is that you?”

“Yes it’s me.”

“I’m in back sorting some new stock,” came her reply.

I walked through the shop and into the stockroom at the rear.

As I entered I was immediately enveloped by a pair of arms and a pair of lips pressed against mine.
I gently pressed Saffy away from me.

“What’s the matter? Didn’t you miss me? Aren’t you glad to be back?”

“Saffy, we need to talk.”

She was strangely silent. For a confirmed chatterbox, this was unusual.

“We need to talk about what you said on the phone.”

I pressed my small advantage home.

“I’ve been thinking about what you said. About you, me and us. I had plenty of time on the train to Paris and again all day yesterday.”

I looked at her. She was still silent.

“Saffy, I do love you but not in the way you think.”

There I’d said it.

“What do you mean?”

I could see a tear starting to form in the corners of her eyes.

“I love you as a sister. You are my best friend. I can talk to you about anything but I don’t love you romantically.”

“What… what about all those times we went to bed together?”

I knew she’d bring that up.

“Those times were for both of us. Sometimes we both needed to be loved. Neither of us has been very successful with partners in recent times. Those times in bed made up for the someone special who is currently missing from each of our lives.”

“I don’t understand. What are you trying to tell me?”

I reached forward and took hold of her hands.

“Saffy, my little trip to Italy has made me finally accept something that I’ve not been willing to for years.”

She didn’t reply but looked at me with her soulful eyes.

“Saffy, I’m gay.”

She still didn’t say anything.

“Don’t you understand Saffy? The reason I can’t love you is because I’m gay. I got all gooey inside after I’d spent an hour walking around the garden with Luca in Italy. That experience made me finally accept my sexuality. I’m a gay and I’m a tranny.”

Saffy was sobbing gently.

“Are. Are you going to work for him? Be his governess?”

“No Saffy I’m not. I turned the job down. I’ll get a few things sorted out and then I might do some travelling.”
Saffy couldn’t look me in the eyes.

“This is all my fault. I should never have made you apply for that job.”

I gently squeezed her hands. This whole episode has made me realise that I was just marking time. I wouldn’t accept what I really am now, I have started to I feel a whole lot better.”

“But what about me? You can’t leave me?”

I smiled at her.

“You will be fine. I’m sure it won’t take you long to find my replacement once you put your mind to it. I’ll even help you if you want me to.”

I let her hands go.

“I’ll be back later. I have to go and see old man Hutchings.”

I said changing the subject.

“I am going to sell Hartley Grange.”

“Why?”

“So I can go travelling. Maybe get some boobs, a bit of work done on my face. I don’t know. I’ll have plenty of time to decide. It won’t sell overnight. I’ll be around for a bit longer, don’t worry. That place needs someone living in it. Buying it seemed a good idea at the time. I’m just not the person who should be owning it at the moment.”

I left her alone in the shop. On my way out, I turned the door sign to ‘Closed’ and walked down the street into the City Centre.

Ten minutes later I arrived at the offices of Hutchings, Laws and Symonds. They are a local firm of Accountants, Solicitors and Property Managers.  This was my second visit in a little over a week.
Hartley Grange is a late Georgian Country House that sits in a couple of hectares of land about 10 miles north of the city. I’d been meaning to sell it for some time. Now was as good a time as any.

I didn’t have long to wait for see William Hutchings. He looked after my portfolio as well as being my lawyer.

“Good morning Mr Hutchings. I take it that everything is in order?”

“Please take a seat Fran. I’ll have the documents ready for you to sign in a minute or two. Mrs Jenkins is sorting them out now.”

I sat down and waited.

Mr Hutchings smiled at me and said,

“You do realise that with the state of that part of the property market you probably won’t make any profit on the sale. We are a bit far out from London for the ‘Rich Foreigner’ market.”

“Yes. I fully understand that may well be the case. As you have said to me several times, it really does not fit in with the rest of my portfolio. At one time, I thought that I might actually live there myself, but it is not going to be possible so I’m going to sell it.”

“As long as you fully understand…”

I smiled back at him.

“I understand. I will sign a document stating that fact. You warned me more than once so any losses I might make on the place is totally down to me. All I need you to do is get the place ready for it to be sold and then get it placed with all the usual agents. You do understand that you are to accept the first reasonable offer as per the email I sent you earlier?”

“Yes. It was very clear.”

He smiled at me once more.

“I wish more of our clients were as clear with their instructions life would be a lot simpler.”

I laughed.

“But that would mean a lot less income for you, wouldn’t it?”

“It would but we would be able to handle more clients thus any effect on our income would be minimal.”

Any further discussion would have to wait.  His secretary, Mrs Jenkins entered the office.  She put a set of documents down in front of me.

I picked up the first document. It was titled ‘Limited Power of Attorney’ and began reading.

Some twenty minutes later I’d read all the documents and signed them. I took my copies and put them in my handbag.

“Thank you Mr Hutchings. Do you fully understand the instructions I have left you regarding communication with me over the sale?”

“Yes. Email for the address is in your instructions with paper copies sent to your home address.”
I smiled back at him.

“Then we are done for today. I’ll bid you goodbye.”

I didn’t leave Bath for another month. I kept working at the shop. Gradually, Saffy began to accept my decision and our relationship returned to something approaching normality.
But, she had a lot of trouble really accepting my confused sexuality.

The only way I could accept it was by saying,

“Physically I’m a man but my personality and desire is to be a woman. As such I’m a woman who is attracted to a man. But as I’m a man, ergo, I’m gay.”

Saffy, to her eternal credit did a lot of research on the Internet about my sexuality.

“You aren’t gay.”

She told me one day.

“What do you mean?”

“From what I have found Fran, you are just a normal tranny. It seems that most male to female transsexuals end up looking for a man as a partner.”

I knew this but I had to feign surprise. My whole ‘gay’ feint was designed to put a stop to this silliness about her loving me.

“So I’m not crazy then?”

“Not in the slightest. Well, not anymore than normal that is…”

We both laughed.

After that, things got back to almost normality. The thing that didn’t return was our sexual romps. That didn’t matter to me as we’d both moved on in our life.
 
After a few abortive attempts, we interviewed and subsequently hired my replacement. Her name was Vivienne. She was a 19-year-old failed drama student who loved dressing up. Saffy was pleased with my selection so five weeks after my ill-fated trip to Italy I formally resigned from the shop. This was my last week ‘on the job’.

 
A few days later I travelled to London to see a doctor about starting my formal transition to womanhood.

It didn’t take long for any hopes for some swift action to be totally dashed. However, once I fully
understood the rules about transitioning I reluctantly accepted the plan the doctor put to me. This plan did include starting hormone treatment. The doctor spent a lot of time explaining the changes I’d likely experience and how to deal with them.

Later that day I was sitting on the train at Paddington waiting for it to depart when my phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Oh hello Mr Hutchings. Have there been any developments?”

“They’ve made an offer? How much?” I replied trying not to be too eager.

I heard the amount. Not as much as I’d hoped but it was within the range I’d agreed with Mr Hutchings.

“Not as much as I’d hoped but acceptable. Have you indicated to the buyer that this is the case?”

“Very good. When do you think that contracts will be exchanged?”

“That’s fine. The end of August is fine by me.”

“I’ll leave everything to you. Thanks.”

I closed up my phone with a smile on my face. At least something was going well today.

I spent the next hour mentally planning my summer travels.  Naturally, I got nowhere. All the places that seemed to be at the top of my list were hot, sunny and would naturally involve swimwear, skimpy clothes and everything related to a beach holiday. My transition to womanhood was not at a point where I was comfortable with that at all. Call me prudish, modest or whatever but the lack of breasts and the appendage between my legs made going to the beach for some sun was not something I wanted to risk at this stage
 
I was just starting on yet another ‘plan B’ or should that be plan ‘Z’ when my train arrived at Bath Spa Station. My deliberations in that area would have to wait for another day.

My mind was still on the good news of the day because somehow I didn’t go straight home. When I realised where I was, I found myself in the street where the shop was located. My internal auto-pilot must have kicked in when I got off the train.

I knew right away that I didn’t feel like seeing Saffy. She would want to know all about my visit to the doctors so I turned up a side street that would eventually take me home without passing the front door to the shop. Besides, I told myself that this was my last week so I didn’t care. My last day was going to be hard enough as it was. The new me decided that I just going to get on with my life.

I’d hardly turned into the narrow side street when I bumped into someone.

I stepped back and looked at him. I got the shock of my life. It was Luca.

“Luca? What are you doing here?” I exclaimed.

“Well, hello to you Fran. This is a most unexpected pleasure to meet you again.”

I’d recovered my composure a little by now.

I gave him a little smile. More of ‘putting on a face’ than a genuine ‘I’m pleased to see you smiling’.

“What brings you to this neck of the woods? There can’t be many super rich people who want you buy luxury boats in Bath?”

Oh shit. I thought. I’ve really put my foot in it now.

He laughed.

“I’m pleased to see you Fran. I’m not here in business. I’m buying a house. As I told you when we last met my children are coming to school in England. I need a base for at least the next 6 years.”

My heart sank. It couldn’t be possible that this man was the buyer of my house.

“Where are you looking for a property?” I asked in the hope that he would either say, ‘I’m still looking’ or that it was a long way away from the city.

“I am buying a place to the north of the city.  It is called Hartley Grange”

I almost fainted on the spot.

“Are you all right? Is there something wrong?” Asked Luca urgently as he took hold of my arm.

I managed to recover a little.

“No. I’m fine. Just a little tired that’s all. I’ve been to London on business.”

Luca smiled.

“Can I buy you dinner? Perhaps tonight?”

This was the last thing I wanted.

“Thank you for the invitation. I am a little tired tonight.”

“How about tomorrow evening?”

“I have a lot to do. I’m going travelling for the summer?”

“Where are you going? Perhaps we will run into each other?”

I laughed.

“I hardly think so Luca. I’m going to Iceland, Alaska and a few more very out of the way places. I’m afraid we move in very different circles.”

He laughed.

I felt something stir inside me. There was no doubt about it; I was attracted to him after all.

“Well, the offer still stands for tomorrow night. The following day I’m off to the Barcelona Boat Show. I’m staying at the Royal Bath Hotel. I’ll book a table in the restaurant for say, 7pm tomorrow. If you care to join me than I’d be honoured.”

“Thank you Luca. I will certainly think about it.”

He turned to go. Then he turned back and said,

“If you come, why don’t you wear one of those beautiful period dresses that your shop sells?”

“Thank you Luca, as I said, I’ll think about it.”

He gave me that super smile and left me standing there alone.

 
I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. I was desperately trying to decide if I should go to dinner with Luca the following evening.

The other problem I was trying to get to grips with was the little matter of the house. I knew from reading the report that Claudia had let me read that there were a few pertinent facts missing from my case history.

One key item missing was the name of the company I used for my property portfolio. It was that company that was selling the house.

If it had been left to me I’d have purchased the properties in my own name but Saffy persuaded me to use a limited company instead.

It was true that I could hide behind the company but I wasn’t feeling exactly happy about it at the time. Now I realised that it did have its uses.

Eventually I fell asleep a little before dawn without making any decisions.

 
I was still dithering about the evening ahead when I walked into the shop late the following morning.  Vivienne was already there. She was dressed as a Victorian Maid complete with apron and cap. She really looked the part. I was suitable impressed.

“Hi Vivienne. Is Saffy around?”

“Not at the moment Fran. She’s gone to the Dentists.”

“Ok, I’ll go and make some tea.” I said not really wanting to strike up a conversation with her at the moment.

Saffy turned up just before 1pm. She saw almost right away that I had the whole world on my mind.

“Viv, why don’t you head off and get some Lunch?”

“Sure thing Boss,”

Once Viv was out of the way, Fran asked,

“Ok Fran. Out with it. What is the problem?”

I didn’t answer right away.

“Come on Fran. I’m not going to stop pestering you until you tell me what is wrong.”

I knew I’d have to tell her. I’d almost not come into work because of that inevitability.

“I’ve been asked out on a date. I don’t know if I should go or not.”

Saffy smiled back at me and put down the pile of clothes she was carrying.

“Who, why, when, where? Come on spill the goss!” She demanded.

“The who is a man I met yesterday. The why is because he asked me out, the when is tonight and the
where is the Royal Spa Hotel at 7:00pm. Satisfied?”

“Nope. Not in the slightest. I want the rest!”

“There really isn’t much to say.”

“Pull the other one Fran. I wasn’t born yesterday.”

She grinned at me.

“How did you meet?”

“On my trip to London.” I replied.

Yes, it wasn’t strictly true but I wasn’t going to split hairs.

“And he’s staying here in Bath? Wow. What a coincidence. What is his name? What does he do for a living?”

“Hold on a moment. Just slow down. I don’t know everything about him. All I know is that he has some business here in Bath and asked me out to dinner. Now are you satisfied?”

“I guess I will have to be. For now,”

I smiled back at her.

“What are you going to wear?”

I smiled back at her. I fluttered my lashes.

“Ok. Ok. I get the message. You want me work my magic on you for tonight?”

“I still haven’t decided if I’m going or not.” I protested.

“Yeah right and the Dali Lama is a Buddhist.”

We both laughed.

Just then Vivienne returned from her trip deli with her lunch.

Saffy called out to Vivienne,

“Viv, now that you are back can you look after the shop? I have someone to dress to kill.”

 
We spent the next hour or so rummaging through our, sorry the shops collection of ‘top notch outfits ideal for ‘knocking them dead’ on dates’. These were very different from the ‘top notch dresses for being seen in’ or ‘for getting laid in’. These were classic styles from the thirties, if you had a really tiny waist, skipping the very dull forties right up to the mid 1960’s. In the end we settled on a ‘Normal Hartnell’ number from his spring collection of 1959. It was mostly black with white trimmings and a full skirt. I’d be wearing three frilly petticoats to make it really full. We found some white elbow length gloves and a suitable ‘pill-box’ hat. I’d knock him dead.

Well I would if I dared put a foot inside the hotel.

Saffy was back to her good old self as she plucked, filed, painted and a dozen other things in her quest to get me all dolled up for my date. She even roped in Luigi Percaronso from the Hairdressers a few doors down the street. He certainly did weave his magic on my hair as he combed and brushed it into an incredible style.

By late afternoon I was ready to get dressed or, so I thought.

“Hold on right there. I’ll get rid of Viv first.” Said Saffy.

“I’d forgotten about her,” I replied. Viv didn’t know about my real sexuality.

“Yeah you did all right. Your mind is clearly on your hot date tonight”

I didn’t correct her. It was. I knew I could still chicken out at the last minute.

Saffy disappeared into the front of the shop.

She returned a couple of minutes later smiling.

“She’s gone for the day. I’ve locked the door so we can get going.”
“What do you mean?”

“For starters, that dress is not going to work with your corset. “

“Eh? I thought it would look great.”

“Yeah, and it would also tell the world that you are wearing a corset. The art of wearing this type of dress is to give you a waist without the appearance of it being unnatural. A different type of garment is required.”

I smiled back at Saffy. She was on top form.

“Strip off while I get your new underwear,” she commanded.

I stood my ground.

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“Very well. Just stand there while I get what you will be wearing. Perhaps then you will understand.”

Saffy went back into the shop. I heard her rummaging around in one of the drawers where we kept the Victorians called ‘unmentionables’.

“Here. This is what you will be wearing tonight.”

She tossed me the garment.

I gasped.

“It’s an all-in-one body shaper!”

“Exactly. It will hug you in all the right places to enhance the shape the dress is trying to present.”

“Are you saying that I’m not the right shape?”

“Well in certain places, yes.”

I had to laugh. Saffy was the only person who could talk to me like that. This was more like her old self.
I hugged her tight. She responded.
 
We spent the next twenty minutes getting the beast of a garment on my body. In one respect, not having the corset on was a relief but that dammed garment was worse in one crucial area, where my penis and testicles would sit or rather be squashed in.

Eventually, I got my bits sorted out and myself squeezed into the instrument of torture.

Once I pulled the straps up over my shoulder and Saffy adjusted them I took a good look at my new figure in the mirror.

“Well? What do you think? Do you like your new shape?”

“Yes. Yes, I do. But this is hardly practical for everyday wear is it?”

“Why not? Women wear them don’t they?”

I looked at her and said,

“How many women do you know would even contemplate wearing an instrument or torture as bad as this?”

“Point taken. Perhaps for special occasions only then?”

“Special occasions then.”

“Like your date with this mysterious man tonight?”

“Perhaps,” I answered a little coyly.

I had to admit that I looked pretty good once my outfit for the evening was complete.

Saffy had wanted me to wear seamed stockings but personally, I think they are vastly overrated unless you have legs like drainpipes. I didn’t have that good fortune so I was wearing some fairly small mesh fishnet holdups.

I was wearing my favourite pair of 4in heels. I’d had these for a couple of years and they were well worn in and thus very comfortable. I learned early on that comfortable heels are a godsend. There is nothing worse than shoes that hurt your feet even if the make you look good.

“God you look good enough to eat.” Pronounced Saffy as I paraded for her in the shop.

I looked at myself in the mirror. I had to admit that I did look pretty good. I gave myself a twirl. The full skirt flared out beautifully, amply assisted by the petticoats.

“Thank you Saffy. I appreciate that. And all the effort you have put in today.”

I went to kiss her on the lips.

She moved out of the way.

“No. I don’t want to have to apply all that lippy again.”

So we hugged each other.

“Thank you Saffy. You are one of a kind.”

We hugged for a few seconds before Saffy broke free and said,

“Now be off with you before I start crying.”

A minute or so later I was out of the shop and walking down the street towards my date.

It was five to the hour when I arrived at the Hotel. It was now or never. Do I go or do I chicken out and run home? Outwardly, I was still dithering but inside I knew that I could not back down.

With a new resolve, and at exactly two minutes past seven, I walked into the Hotel foyer. Luca was waiting patiently for me.

As he saw me his mouth dropped open slightly before he recovered his composure and walked towards me smiling broadly.

“Hello Fran. It is really nice to see you again. I am so glad you decided to come.”

He took my arm in his.

This was a pleasant and very unexpected surprise.

Instead of leading us towards the restaurant we went towards the side exit of the hotel.

“Where are we going?” I asked slightly puzzled.

“As it is a fine evening I thought we would go out for a picnic. I know the perfect spot.”

He led me to a black Jaguar XF.

Luca opened the door for me and helped me inside.

I slid onto the passenger seat and swung my legs in together in an attempt to appear ladylike.

He closed the door behind me and then got in on the driver’s side.

A few minutes later we were heading up the hill out of Bath.

As Luca turned onto the A46 and headed North my heart sank. I knew where we were going.

Sure enough he turned the big car off the A46 a few miles later.
 
I spent the rest of the journey trying to decide what to do when we reached our destination. Should I tell him or should I not? I couldn’t decide.

I was still frantically trying to decide one way or another when we arrived at our destination. The gravel drive crunched under the tyres of the Jaguar as we travelled up the drive and around the side of the house.

This side of the house faces southwest and offers views over the disused ‘Charmy Down’ airfield towards Bath and Bristol. This was the feature that had made me so reluctant to sell it over the past few years. I never really intended to live here but my plans to rent it out came to nothing. In the end common sense made me sell it. I’d make a small loss on the property but that was something I’d have to live with.

Luca stopped the car and helped me out like the perfect Gentleman he was.

“Why don’t you go and admire the view while I set up the picnic? I have everything I need in the back of the car.”

I pretended to be interested in the view. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Luca setting up a table, chairs and all the accessories. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to get all this ready all the time assuming that I would indeed turn up tonight.

By the time he’d finished and called me over I had decided not to tell him about my ownership of his future home.

Luca came over to where I was standing carrying two glasses of Champagne.

I graciously accepted one of the glasses from him.

“Cheers,” he said quietly.

“Cheers.”

We chinked glasses.

Luca led me back to the table and helped me sit down. He was being the perfect gentleman. I had to stop my thoughts wandering off in the direction of ‘I could get to like this’.

As we ate the delicious meal we talked. Talked about a lot of things but always skirting the subject of me and him and the job.

As the sun started setting I was glad that Saffy had insisted on me wearing a wrap for the evening.

Luca noticed my slight shiver.

“Are you getting cold? Perhaps we should go back to town?”

“I think that might be best.”

“Why don’t you go and sit in the car while I clear these things away?”

I made a sudden decision.

“No. Let me help. We will get it done quicker that way.”

A few minutes later we were on our way back to the City.

“Thank you for a very lovely evening,” I said as we turned onto the A46.

“It is my pleasure. It has been quite a while since I had the pleasure of the company of a beautiful woman.”

“Thank you for the compliment.”

“You didn’t sound very convincing.”

“You know my dirty little secret so how can I be convincing. Besides, you could have your pick of dozens of beautiful women.”

He laughed.

“All I see sitting beside me is a very pretty woman, a pretty intelligent woman. What more does a man need?”

“Well, if you put it like that then thank you. It was probably the best evening out I’ve had in years.”

He smiled back at me.

“Have you by any chance changed your mind about the job?”

I was expecting that question at some point during the evening.

“No, I’ve not changed my mind. As I said, I’m going to spend the summer travelling. I can’t think of anything beyond then. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. That is fine. Both Claudia and I respect your decision besides, will be sharing the children with their mother for the summer.”

He chuckled and added.

“She really does not want to look after them but she has to play her part in bringing them up.”

“I’m pleased for you that you can spend time with your children. So many fathers get shut out of the lives of their children after a divorce.”

I saw Luca smile out of the corner of my eye.

 

We’d just entered the city when Luca suddenly pulled off the road and stopped the car in a garage forecourt.

He turned to me and said,

“If you are the least bit interested in the job when you have finished travelling at the end of the summer, then….”

He was lost for words for a few seconds.

“Then, come and find me. I’ll email you my itinerary tomorrow. I am perfectly serious. I have to admit that when Claudia showed me your application it took me a long time before I agreed to her idea that you would be suitable for the job.”

I didn’t say anything. 

“The day you came to the house in Tuscany I knew almost right away that you were the right person for the job.”

“But I turned it down.”

“Yes you did. I respect you for that. I suppose that is one of the things that drew me to this part of the country. There was something…”

“Stop right there Luca. Don’t go there. You know all about me. I’m nothing but a fake, through and through.”

I didn’t get a chance to say anything else.

Luca leaned over and kissed me. Not a long kiss but just a little peck on the lips.

Then he sank back in his seat.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“Can you please take me home?”

“I’m sorry. Yes. I’ll take you home.”

I sat back in the seat and stared at the road ahead.

Fifteen minutes later Luca stopped the car outside my home. I got out and shut the car door without saying another word.

I went straight inside. I dared not look back at him.

Then I cried my heart out.

For not the first time since I’d got embroiled in this, sleep was hard to come by. Half of me had wanted to kiss him back. The other half was feeling dirty at the thought of me being attracted to another man.

~o~O~o~

 
What little sleep I got was very troubled. 

I can only say that I looked like shit when I eventually walked into the shop close on lunchtime the next day.

“Oh look what the cat dragged in.” Exclaimed Saffy when she saw me.

“Don’t say anything. Just don’t ok?”

I retreated into the rear of the shop and brewed some coffee.

Saffy joined me a little later.

“So he kissed you then?” Said Saffy as she poured herself a cup of coffee.

I didn’t answer one way or the other.

“He really did. How was it? Was that the first time a fella has snogged you?”

“It wasn’t a snog.”

“Oh my god. He really did it. Was it nice?”

I sat there looking at my coffee.

“He knows. He knows about me and he still kissed me.”

That was it. I didn’t need to say anything else.

“What! Before or after the kiss?”

“Before.”

“And still he kissed you. Wow. Girl you have transitioned.”

I shook my head at her.

“What’s wrong?”

“Before. He knew before the date.”

Saffy collapsed into a chair.

“Oh my god Fran. How? Did you know he knew?”

I nodded my head.

Saffy sat there silent just looking at me for a good ten minutes.

“You fancy him don’t you?”

“No. Well just a bit but I can’t.”

Saffy grinned.
“He’s married then. Does his wife know he’s sort of gay?”

“No Saffy. It is nothing like that.  Nothing at all.”

“Well what is it then?

“He could be my boss.”

Saffy sat still again. She was thinking hard.

“Was it the Italian… what’s his name?”

I nodded my head.

“Luca. Yes, it was him.”

“You don’t do things by halves do you my dear?”

I didn’t need to answer that.

“What happens next?”

I smiled back at her.

“I’m going away on holiday.”

“What! You can’t be serious!”

“I’m perfectly serious. I’m going away and not coming back until September at the earliest.”

There was no need to tell her about the house. It would just complicate matters even more.

Still, I felt a little better having told my best friend.

[To be continued]

[Authors note]
If you read Part 4 on the day it was posted then there is a chance that you may have spotted a continuity error at the end of Part 4 and the start of this one. I edited Part 4 to remove the error.



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