The Italian Job - Part 7

The gentle knocking of the maid on the door eventually roused me from my slumbers.

I didn’t want to move so I shouted out,

“Please. Come back later.”

The knocking stopped and all was quiet once more apart from the muted traffic noise coming from the world outside the Hotel.

I relaxed back onto the bed and closed my eyes once more.

Eventually the call of nature demanded that I get out of bed. Once up and on my feet, I took my time taking a shower, applying my makeup and getting dressed. In reality, for much of the time I was thinking about the events in the lift the night before. I resolved to not let a drunk American get me down.

With renewed determination, I headed downstairs to the lobby. The desk clerk saw me coming out of the lift and immediately disappeared into the office behind the reception area. By the time I’d walked across the marbled floor of the lobby he’d returned with the manager.

“Madame. I want to say that we are so sorry for the events that happened last night.”

I waved him away.

“It is all right. Men like that are in these troubles times, unfortunately everywhere.  Do I need to go and make a statement to the Police?”

He shook his head.

“No Madame. We gave the Police the CCTV tapes from the lift. They say that they contain all the evidence they need. He will be charged later today and probably deported. He will not be staying at any of our hotels anywhere in the world ever again. That is not the sort of incident we want. He is not the sort of guest we want in our establishments.”

“Thank you for your kindness. Have you seen Mr Luca today?”

He smiled back at me.

“Yes. He has left a note for you.”

He retrieved an envelope from the rack behind the desk and handed it to me.

“Will there be anything else?”

“Not at the moment thank you.”

I wandered over to a couple of leather chairs that were for the use of guests and sat down to read the letter.

Fran,
    I’ve gone with the children to the airport. Their mother is flying back to Europe via Miami. We will be back in the late afternoon. Please join us for dinner. We have a table booked for 7pm.
 I have rebooked your flight home (the manager told me you were leaving). I hope you don’t mind. I need to talk to you. We are all flying to London tomorrow night subject to your approval.
   Luca.

I read it again. My head was buzzing with questions. Was that woman I saw with him yesterday his ex-wife?

Then I sat back and smiled to myself.

I was jealous. I couldn’t believe it but there was no other explanation for what I was feeling. A bit of me was happy but another part, deep inside was disturbed. Why was I starting to? No I don’t want to go there.

After a while, it hit me right between the eyes, yes I did fancy him. Why else would I have travelled this far? After all, who in their right mind comes to Rio out of season?

After a late breakfast, I went back to my room and dozed for a while. Perhaps the emotions from the episode in the lift was catching up on me. Well, that was my excuse anyway.

Eventually I stirred myself out of my stupor and went out for a walk. The afternoon breeze was up. There were very few people on either the Copacabana or Ipanema beaches. A few hardy souls playing beach volleyball on Ipanema and a few kite surfers were thoroughly enjoying themselves just offshore. I got a few whistles as I walked past the volleyball court. That alone did a huge amount towards restoring my confidence. Rio out of the season in so many ways is really no different to Blackpool or any of a dozen summer resorts all over the world out of season.

~o~O~o~

I took my time getting ready for the evening. I was very nervous at the prospect of meeting his children for the first time.

I was so nervous that it took me almost half an hour to put my hair up properly. I made a mental note to get it cut when I returned to the UK.

Just before 7pm I took the lift downstairs. I was wearing another LBD tonight. The ‘L’ meaning ‘Long’ and a lot fuller in the skirt. Two petticoats helped give it volume which was the effect I wanted.

As I stepped out of the lift into the lobby my eyes darted around looking for him. As I did so, I wondered if I looked all right. Not too flirty I hoped.

None of them were in the Lobby so I started to walk up the curved stairs to the Restaurant.

As I approached the entrance the Maitre ‘D saw me and smiled.

“Welcome back. I hope Madam is feeling better after last night?”

“Thank you. Yes, I’m fine, actually I’m very well.”

The reason I was so ‘fine’ was that I’d spotted Luca.

“Would you please follow me your party is already seated.”

He led me to a quiet corner of the restaurant. Luca was there with a boy and a girl. The girl was fidgeting.

The boy didn’t look very happy. Both were obviously wearing their ‘Sunday best’ or something close to it.

Luca saw me as I approached. A beaming smile appeared on his face.

He got up from the table to welcome me.

“Good evening Fran. I hope you are well?”

“Very well Luca. Very well indeed.”

He beamed a smile back.

“Allow me to introduce my children.”

He turned towards them.

“This if Fran. If all goes well, she may become your Governess.”

“Fran, this is Sophia.”

The little girl smiled back.

“The unruly wretch in the corner is Benito,” added Luca.

I smiled to myself. He was dressed up in a suit but the image was of ‘Just William’. He was obviously the sort of boy who could never look smart no matter how he tried. This was so unlike his father who was most certainly ‘hot’ in that classic understated simple Italian way. I afforded myself a little internal sigh.

“Hello Sophia. I’m pleased to meet you at last.”

I made sure than Benito was not left out.

“Hello Benito. I’m very pleased to meet you too.”

Neither of the children said anything. Their eyes were sizing me up.

Luca helped me into my seat and then sat himself down.

Out of nowhere a waiter appeared with two menus. He gave one to Luca and one to myself.

“Hey!” cried Benito.

“What about mine?”

The waiter looked at Luca. He nodded his head.

A few seconds later, the waiter returned with another menu. He smiled graciously and gave it to Benito.

I pretended to read my menu but in reality I was watching the two children. They were very alike but naturally they should be.

Sophia kept pulling faces at Benito. He tried to ignore her by burying his head in the menu.  Every so often, and when he thought that there was no one looking he’d respond by sticking his tongue out at her.

At that instant, I knew I could look after this pair.

I folded my menu and put it down on the table.

Luca looked at me.

“Have you decided already?”

I smiled across the table at him.

“No. No, I haven’t decided. I thought that it might be nice to let Benito choose what we would all eat tonight.”

Sophia started sniggering.

“Sophia!”

She tried to stop but couldn’t.

I looked at Benito.

“Well Benito? What should we all eat tonight?”

He looked at his sister for support. She just sat there as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

“Grandmamma made something for us last week. She called it Ensoado De Lagosta. I liked it.”

Luca smiled and called the waiter over.

“Are you ready to order Sir?”

“Yes. Can you ask the chef if he can prepare some ‘Ensado De Lagosta’?”

The waiter smiled.

“Very good Sir. I will ask the chef.”

He took the menus from us and left us alone.

Luca had thoughtfully ordered a bottle of wine. It was sitting in a cooler by the side of the table.  He poured me a glass.

“It’s not Italian I’m afraid, but Chile does produce some nice wines.”

I almost came out and called him a wine snob but this was neither the time nor the place for that.

“Thank you.”

I said as he handed it to me.

I sipped it gently. The wine was pretty good.

“This is a good wine.” I commented hoping I was not out of order.

Luca smiled back.

“Yes is it pretty good. I happen to know that the Vintner is of Italian descent. He has to be with a name like Agostini.”

Just then the waiter returned and announced,

“The chef will be happy to make the dish you have requested.  It will take him about half an hour to prepare if you do not mind waiting?”

Luca and I looked at Benito.

“Benito? You are in charge. What do you say?” Asked his father.

Benito smiled.

“Yes. We can wait.”

I smiled at Luca. He winked back.

~o~O~o~

The meal was delicious. Towards the end of it, the Chef came personally to our table and thanked us for ordering proper Brazilian Food instead of the more common ‘Steak and Fries’ that many of the ‘foreign’ diners requested.

At the end of the evening, Luca said,

“Fran, would you care to wait down here while I put these two to bed.”

Then I had an idea.

“If I am to be their Governess why don’t I do it instead? It will be good practice.”

After what seemed an eternity, but was probably no more than half a second he replied.

“Does this mean…”

“Yes.”

I didn’t say anything else. Instead I took hold of the children’s hands and led them out of the Restaurant.

Once we were all in the lift I asked the children,

“Ok, out with it?”

“What do you mean?” replied Sophia.

“You two have been very quiet all evening. That is unnatural. Remember, I was your age once. So why were you as good as gold all night?”

Benito looked a Sophia. Then he said,

“Father told us to be on our best behaviour otherwise you wouldn’t take the job.”

“What do you think? Do you want me to take the job? How do I rate when compared to the other Governesses you have had?”

They looked at each other but didn’t say anything.

Then the lift arrived at the 5th floor.

“Come on. Time for bed.”
 
Ten minutes later they were in bed.

“I hope you two aren’t looking for a bedtime story?”

Sophia looked at Benito. Then she said.

“Miss Fran. Why do you want to be our Governess? You are nice, and not like the other ones.”

Before I could answer, she added.

“We are going to school in England. You will only be with us for the holidays.”

“Sophia, you are very smart for an eight year old.”

She gave me a toothy grin back at me.

“When you two lovely children are at school I shall be helping your father with his business. I can speak a few languages he can’t such as Russian.”

“Miss Fran, do you want his money? The other governesses wanted nothing more than to get my fathers money.”

I laughed.

“No Sophia I do not want your father’s money. I have enough to last me for the rest of my life. If fact, we have not even discussed payment for my services. Does this satisfy your curiosity?”

“Yes Miss Fran,” both of them said in unison.

“Good.”

I smiled.

“I want what we just said to be between us. Our little secret? Ok?”

The looked at each other and nodded their heads.

“Now off to sleep with the both of you.”

I switched off the lights as I left their room.

As I turned around from shutting their bedroom door, I bumped right into Luca.

He put his arms around me and we kissed. Not the fleeting kiss from the night of the picnic but a full on snog.

When we broke free I started to say.

“But…”

That was as far as I got. He put a finger over my lips and he led me into his room.

I tried again,

“But.. We shouldn’t be doing this.”

“I know but it feels nice doesn’t it?”

I couldn’t argue with that.

I sat down on a chair and tried to get my thoughts together. This was not the first time my mind had been in this sort of tizzy since I’d met Luca and his sister.

I couldn’t get my mind straight. In the end it came straight out.

“Luca, are you gay?”

He looked at his feet. That was answer enough.

What he said next would have knocked me down if I hadn’t already been sitting.

“I don’t know.”

His eyes were still looking at the floor.

Then I replied without thinking once more.

“So a little tranny comes along and suddenly click, a solution. I become your trophy wife. Image problem solved. Is that it?”

“Yes. Yes it was. At the start. Then…”

“Then what?”

“We met you in person and it all went wrong. That first day in Tuscany”

He paused,

“Then I realised that it was very wrong. I couldn’t do it.”

“What about the picnic. What about that kiss?”

“I am so sorry. That evening was beautiful. I saw the real you. I felt totally attracted to you. You were so natural and comfortable as a woman. For a moment, I forgot that you weren’t. That was why I kissed you that night.”

“And now?”

“Isn’t it obvious that I fancy you?”

He added, changing the subject slightly,

“They like you. I could tell.”

 “Yes they do.

He paused before asking…

 “Are you willing to give this a try? Give us a try?”

This was the question I’d been dreading.

“I don’t know. Can we see how things go for the next few weeks?”

He looked at me and I think he realised that was all he was going to get out of me for now.

“I’m going to bed. We all have a long day tomorrow besides I want to go up to Corcovado tomorrow if it isn’t covered in cloud again. I can hardly say I’ve been to Rio without going to see it up close now can I.”

“But you will …”

He started to say something along the lines of, ‘you will get plenty of opportunity when you come here to take the children to their grandmothers’. I’m glad he stopped.

For the second night running, I spent god knows how long tossing and turning in bed before sleep would come. All I could think of was ‘that bloody man has been messing with my mind again’.  It was true, he had and I couldn’t quite understand the feelings I was having about him.

~o~O~o~

Luckily for me, the weather had cleared considerably the following morning. All of us went up to see the statue that so dominates the Rio skyline. Whilst the view down over the city was magnificent, a chilly wind coming up from Antarctica soon drove us down to sea level once more.

The taxi we’d hired for the day then took us all to a small restaurant right on the beach about 35km south of the city. There we had a simple dish of grilled fish and rice.

After lunch, the children played in the edge of the sea while Luca and I watched on from the terrace of the Restaurant. Not a lot was said between us. Each of us was for the moment content to just be there and relaxing.

Well, he might have been. I was trying to decide if I should come clean about the house.

After about an hour of deliberation, I broached the question of it.

“Luca, the children are going off to school next week but there is the little matter of an empty house to sort out as well as you looking after your business interests.”

He smiled back at me.

“It is all in hand. Claudia has been enjoying herself for the past month getting the house ready to live in. She emailed me yesterday saying that it was ready to live in. I thought we might go there in a couple of days. Benito starts school a day before Sophia. We can use it as a base besides, I know you will want to see your friend Saffy again.”

That last bit was true, very true. I needed someone to talk to.

“Then what?”

“Oh you mean my schedule for the next week or so?”

I nodded.

“We are supposed to go to Singapore for the Grand Prix at the end of the month. Then it is back to Italy. There are three big contracts coming to an end. I need to be on hand in Genoa for delivery. One is going to be delivered to Corfu. Perhaps we can travel with the boat and enjoy a few days rest and sun?”

“Perhaps. But what do you really want me to do? You know, when the children are away at school?”

He looked a bit uneasy.

“The original idea cooked up by my sister was that you would indeed be the ‘trophy wife’ as you put it. I can’t ask you to do that anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Because you are a real person. Before we met you Claudia and I had this caricature of what you would be like in our minds. Neither of us had ever knowingly met a Transsexual before. As I said, meeting you in person has changed all that.”

“I’ll do it.”

He looked at me strangely.

“I’ll be your trophy wife. Well at least until we decide to stay together or not. I will need to get a few things sorted out though.”

Luca mouth dropped open.

“What do you mean sorted out?”

I smiled back at him.

“Oh this and that. Things a woman has to attend to. Claudia would know what I mean.”

Then I changed the subject.

“Do you know who you bought the house in England from?”

Luca was a bit taken aback by the sudden change of tack.

“What do you mean?”

“Did you ever find out who was actually selling the house? I remember you telling me that it was some faceless company.”

He grinned back.

“I don’t have a clue. Do you know anything?”

At the last moment, I got cold feet.

“No. I don’t know anything.”

I looked at him hoping I sounded convincing.

To avoid any more possible foopah’s, I changed the subject.

“Are the children good travellers?”

Luca looked at me strangely.

“What I mean, is do they act like spoilt brats on the plane and if they do, how do you suggest I keep them under control?”

To my eternal relief, he smiled back.

“If they did act like that I’d soon make sure they were under control. Unfortunately, their Mother often let them run riot. As a result, I won’t let them travel with her anymore.”

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Brazil and take the long flight back to Europe. I made sure that I’d never ever forget that afternoon on a beach south of Rio.

We arrived at Luca’s apartment in Genoa late the next afternoon.

It was a real shock to be in the middle of a city once more after the relative quiet of the bits of Rio I’d visited during my short stay.

The audible assault you experience in an Italian city has to be experienced to be believed. Thankfully once the heavy oak door to the apartment was closed behind us the noise became nothing more than a distant hum.

Our plan was to say in Genoa just long enough for Sophia and Benito to pack all the things they would need for the next three months at their new schools.  This actually meant two nights in the city. This extra time would allow Luca to visit the shipyard and catch up on some business. Plus, it would allow me to test the limits of how well I could control the children.

What I hadn’t expected was the unannounced arrival of their Mother during lunch on the second day.

I knew as soon as she waltzed through the door that this was the long legged beauty I’d seen with Luca that first day in Rio. The incident where I’d had my first pangs of jealousy.

“Ed appena chi è questo?” (And just who is this) she said as she walked in on us as we were eating.

She was referring to me naturally.

“Ciò è sig.na Fran. È la nostra nuova governante” (This is Miss Fran. She’s our new governess) said Benito.

I could see her blood start to boil.

“Che cosa è lei gli che fa il cibo con tutto? Dovrebbe essere nella cucina in cui il personale domestico appartiene.„ “(What is she doing eating with you all? She should be in the kitchen where domestic staff belong).

It was Luca’s turn to come to my rescue.

“Fran is also my personal secretary,” he calmly stated in English for my benefit. My Italian was good enough to understand the venom of her words.

This was 100% the wrong thing to say. She glared at me.

“Have you been in his bed yet?”

This time she ranted at me in English. I was shocked. Shocked that she’d say that in front of her children.
I stood up and said.

“If you will excuse me. There is obviously some family business that you need attend to. I will be in my room.”

I walked out of the dining room. I had to. If I’d stayed any longer I would have more than likely punched her smack on the nose.

I closed the door to my room and sat on the edge of my bed.

~o~O~o~

Although Luca had told me about his ex-wife Gina it had been no preparation for her personal onslaught with no thought for the children at all. Perhaps this was how it was done in Italy. I didn’t know.

I could hear raised voices from the other end of the apartment. In the end I decided to listen to some music on my mp3 player in order to tune it out.

I must have dozed off as when I came too, I removed the ear buds from my ears and listened. The apartment was quiet once more.

I got up from my bed and after checking my hair I went out into the main part of the apartment.

There was no one there. I went into the kitchen to get myself a drink. To my surprise I found a note from Luca.

‘Fran,
    Gina has gone out to the beach with the children. I’ve gone to the shipyard to calm down. We will be back late afternoon. Why don’t you go out and explore the city?
 Luca.’

By the side of the note was a set of keys. I guessed they were to let myself back into the apartment.

There was nothing in the note to say if Gina was going to be around for the evening. There and then I made the decision that if she was going to stay then I’d go. I wasn’t going to stay around to be insulted in with every word she said to me.

In the end I took Luca’s advice and went out for a walk.  It seemed that everyway I turned, I ended up at the water. There seemed to be docks everywhere.

Then I realised it. I was lost. Totally lost.

I backtracked until I found the water. That was no use. All the roads leading away from it seemed to be the same.

No matter where I went, nothing seemed remotely familiar. In the end, I found a small café and went inside.

As I waited for the assistant to attend to me I rehearsed what I was going to say in my mind. ‘Excuse me. I am lost. Can you please direct me to the Via Bianchi?’.

Eventually, it was my turn.

“Si?”

“Scusilo. Sono perso. Potete dirigerli prego verso via Bianchi?”

The young man smiled back at me and then proceeded to unleash a stream of direction amply punctuated with a lot of arm waving that all went right over my head.

I smiled sweetly.

“Per favore lentamente. iI mio Italiano non è così buono.”

“Siete Inglese?”

“Si. Yes I am English.”

“Your Italian is very good,” said the rather dishy young man.

“Hardly. I couldn’t understand a word you said.”

He laughed.

“You accent is from Napoli. Was your teacher from Napoli? They always have problems understanding us Genovese?”

“I don’t know.  It was a long time ago.”

“Non molto tempo fa mancanza.”

I blushed when I heard his comment.

“Grazie per il complimento. I sensi soddisfanno?”

“Lascilo annotarlo per voi.”

“Grazi”

“Come back anytime you are passing the café.”

I laughed.

“I would have to find the place first.”

He laughed back at me.

His directions were very good. I soon found the street where the apartment was. After the encounter in the Café, I felt a lot better with things and importantly myself. The young man didn’t know it but the compliments he’d given me really worked a treat.

No one was in the apartment when I returned. It was a bit early for them to return from the beach.  I was still at a loose end.

Then I had an idea. I’d make dinner for the family. At the very least it would give me something to do.
I spent the next 10 minutes going through the store cupboards and the freezer. I soon realised that there were no fresh ingredients in the place but from my walk, I knew that there were a couple of small stores just down the street. They would have everything I needed so I went back out and did a bit of shopping.

I was in full swing in the small but functional kitchen of the apartment when Luca returned from his office.

“Hello. I see you can cook?”

He said as he stuck his around the kitchen door.

“Have a good day at the Office?”

I said jokingly.

“Very good. Very good indeed.”

“Then why don’t you relax and choose some wine for dinner. What time is Gina bringing the children back?”

“One thing at a time. Let me open a bottle of wine and pour us both a glass.”

I smiled sweetly back at him.

~o~O~o~

Gina returned with the children just before 7pm. They didn’t look very happy. I was in the kitchen preparing the salad to go with the ‘Collo di Pollo’.

“La madre non li lascerebbe andare nel mare,” complained Benito to his father.

“L'acqua era troppo sporco lontano affinchè i miei bambini vada nuotare,” remarked Gina.

“So the water was not pristine. Were other people swimming?”

“Perché siete parlare inglese? Oh ora capisco, la cosiddetta governante qui.”

“Yes Fran is here. She is in the kitchen preparing dinner for the four of us.”

“Oh good. I’m famished,” replied Gina.

“No Gina. For the four of us. You make five.”

“State arrestandolo a partire da tempo di spese con i miei bambini?”

“No Gina. I’m not stopping you from spending time with our children. You turn up unannounced and want to take over. Just like you always did. The terms of our divorce gave you custody for half the school
holidays. Well, you have had them for almost two thirds of the holidays this time. Oh silly me. You left them with your mother in Petropolis while you went off god knows where with your current boyfriend. They are going to school in England tomorrow and it is time you left.”

I had kept well out of the way during this exchange.

I almost gave away my presence as I sniggered when she said loudly,

“Bastardo”.

Then I heard the front door slam.

“Can I come out now?” I called from the kitchen.

“Yes it is safe.”

I walked into the living area of the apartment. Luca handed me a glass of wine.

“She wants you back. She’s still in love with you.” I said calmly.

He didn’t answer straight away.

“Yes I know she is. Well, today at least she thinks she is. Tomorrow? Who can tell?” he said a few seconds later.

“But she’s not coming back. The Ferrari driver that caused our marriage to fall apart was not the first lover she’d taken in the 8 years we were married. She only pretends to want to come back. My guess is that she’s broke. I can tell that from a mile away. Why else did she fly back from Rio via Miami and in economy as well? Money. That’s why. It is a whole lot cheaper to fly that way.”

Wow! I thought to myself. He really does not like her. That was a new experience for me. Why on earth did they get married in the first place?

My deliberations were cut short by the arrival of the children. They’d gone and changed their clothes without anyone asking. They were really very good children.

They both went and sat at the table, dropping a real hint that they were hungry.

“I’d better go and serve up dinner then.”

Dinner was a big success. My efforts at an Italian classic dish were much appreciated.

When everyone had finished eating I stood up and began to clear the dishes away.

“Leave them Fran. I’ll do them when these two are in bed.”

“Fanno noi devono? Complained Sophia.

I had to laugh.

“Yes you have to go to bed. We have an early start tomorrow.”

Reluctantly they left the table and got themselves ready for bed. I held back to allow Luca to say goodnight to them himself.

He came back to the table and sat next to me.

“Thank you. That was really good. You are really something special you know.”

“Thank you kind sir.”

We chinked glasses.

When I’d finished my wine I too went to bed leaving Luca to clear up. It had been a hell of a day.

~o~O~o~

We arrived in Bath in mid-afternoon the following day. The journey west along the M4 with two inquisitive children was certainly a new experience for me. By the time we reached Bath, I was feeling like a mother hen who’d been reaching her chicks about what to eat and what not to eat. When he drove the rental car up the gravel drive to the house I felt strangely nervous.

Claudia was there to greet us. She seemed very pleased to see me.

“Fran! I wondered if you would eventually accept the job.”

“There were times when I wondered that as well. I only decided a few days ago. Anyway, I’m pleased to see you again Claudia,”

We went inside. The place had changed considerably.

“You have done a good job in here Claudia. A really good job. The improvements are very much in keeping with the style of the property.”

I commented on the new yet very tasteful décor.

“Have you been here before?”

My heart stopped for a moment. Did she know? Nah, she couldn’t. Saffy didn’t know so how could she?

“Only for a picnic with Luca in June. The view to the Southwest is magnificent.”

She looked puzzled if not confused at the change in the group dynamics.

Claudia changed the subject.

“Come on kids. Let me show you your rooms.”

“Do we have separate bedrooms?” Asked Benito.

“Yes. Beni, you do. There are four bedrooms for you two to choose from. Let me show you?”

The three of them disappeared upstairs.

When they’d gone Luca came over to me.

“My sister is going to feel a little left out of things.”

“Why. She has her own career in London. So why should she?”

Luca smiled at me.

“It was the same when I got involved with Gina. If I didn’t know her, I’d think that she deliberately introduced my wife to Giacomo. That’s who she went off with, you know, the racing driver.”

I thought for several seconds.

“Are you trying to tell me that Claudia is jealous of me?”

He nodded his head.

“Yes she is. I could tell it as soon as we arrived.”

“But she… She wanted me for the job.”

“Yes. Yes she did. But she never thought in her wildest dreams I’d fall for someone like you.”

“I’ll bet she did.”

Then I thought some more.

“Is that why you are splitting up Benito and Sophia? So they don’t turn out like you two?  Where one twin can’t live their own life without interference from the other?”

He looked at his toes. I’d come to recognise this trait in him.

“I’ll take it as a yes then?”

“Yes.” He mumbled.

I took hold of his hand.

“You are a very good father. I wish mine had been even a bit like you.”

As soon as I said that bit about my father, I regretted it.

Luca to my eternal gratitude didn’t pursue the matter any further. The less I thought about my family the better.

~o~O~o~

Claudia treated us all to a meal in a local pub that night.  The kids loved it. They’d never been to an English pub before. They tucked into fish finger and chips as if it came with three Michelin stars. Everyone had a good time that sadly ended all too soon.

The following day Luca took me into Bath then he drove Sophia up to Cheltenham then he’d take Benito down to Winchester, his old school. He’d arranged for his son to be in the same house as he was and for him to arrive a day early. I wanted to go with him but in the end I agreed that it was better for him to say goodbye to his children on his own.

With them gone, I took the opportunity go home and pack all my clothes.

That was easier said than done. My mind wasn’t really on the job. I ended up sitting on the edge of my bed sobbing. At first I wasn’t sure why but I seemed to need a good sob. Then I realised that once again, it was the hormones messing me up.

After a while I got myself together and after repairing my makeup, I went to the shop.

“HI Saffy,” I called out as I walked in.

“She’s not here at the moment.”

Came a voice from the back.

It was Vivienne.

I walked through to the rear in search of the voice.

“Hello Viv. Where is she?”

“Hello Fran. She’s at home getting ready to go on a date.”

“A date? Who with?”

“A hot chick from Italy.”

My heart sank.

“Would she be called Claudia by any chance?”

“Yes! How do you know? Do you know her?”

“Yes. I’m afraid I do know her. I work for her brother.”

Vivienne was a lovely girl but sometimes a little slow on the uptake. I could almost hear the cogs turning inside her head.

“Did you two have a thing going? You and Saffy?”

I laughed. She was obviously a bit sharper than I’d thought.

“Not really anything serious. She’s more like my sister.”

I thought for a second.

“Will she be in tomorrow?”

“She should be. Shall I tell her that you are back?”

“Oh, I think she knows already or will know by the morning. Thanks.”

I left her alone and went home.

I spent the rest of the day packing up anything else I would need in my new role. I managed to put a bit more effort into it this time. It was just as well that I did as I’d just about done when Luca called to say that he’d be outside in fifteen minutes.

I lugged as much as I could downstairs and audibly cursing the fact that I was wearing heels. Francis would have done this easily in the time available.

I’d managed two round trips before the rental car pulled up outside. While Luca was loading up the car I ran upstairs grabbed the final bag, locked up and headed back downstairs a little out of breath.

Luca, as ever was the perfect gentleman. He’d loaded the cases into the back of the car and was standing patiently holding the passenger door open for me.  I gave him a little peck on his cheek as I got in. He gently closed the door behind me. What a man!

As we headed out of the city, I got my breath back and asked him about the day.

“How were the goodbyes?”

“Sad and a little tearful. This is the first time they will have been apart except for the week that Benito spent in Hospital when he broke his leg a few years ago.”

Then I dropped my little bit of news.

“Claudia is out on a date tonight so we should be alone.”

Luca looked at me slightly surprised.

“Did she tell you?”

“No. The date is with my friend Saffy.”

“Oh. I see.”

I could tell from the tone of his voice that he did all right.

That night, Luca had some time to alone. Strangely enough we didn’t talk very much. We were both pretty shattered. We sat in the Conservatory holding hands drinking a bottle of wine and watching a beautiful autumn sunset.

It was totally dark when we finally stirred.

“I think we should go to bed. We have a busy day tomorrow.”

“Yes. Yes we do. What time is the flight?”

“A little after ten.”

“Then we should aim to leave by five thirty.”

Luca laughed.

“What’s so funny?” I asked a bit puzzled by his reaction.

“I was just wondering if Claudia would be home before we left in the morning.”

I saw the funny side.

“If I know Saffy then the answer is most certainly a ‘no’.”

[To be continued]



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