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Martina lives in Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. She's 32She often walks barefoot, she does it to feel free and lighthearted.She lives a full life and has no particular dream.Until one day destiny presents her to Thomas Bailey, Prince Charming for most or maybe all women.. The two fall madly in love and neither his dark and shocking past, nor her uncertainty can divide them. Until dthey are divided by distance. Yes, because Thomas lives in New York and after his father's death he will have to manage the small family empire.This novel is suitable to a young audience, intended to live love in a freespirited and lighthearted way.
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Bare Foot Towards You
Translated by Nadia Marini
“Bare Foot Towards You”
Written By Elena Cecconi
Copyright © 2014 Elena Cecconi
All rights reserved
Distributed by Babelcube, Inc.
Translated by Nadia Marini
“Babelcube Books” and “Babelcube” are trademarks of Babelcube Inc.
Bare Foot Towards You
I'm coming for you
“... Cause I need you | yeah, yeah, but I need you | oooh I need you | whoa I need you | oooh all this timee...”
BARE FOOT TOWARDS YOU
I’m walking barefoot around the house, last night I didn’t sleep much due to the heat.
I can’t stand the first heat in June. I have a shower and slip on my denim shorts and a t shirt to go to work.
I hop in my Smart and put on the usual CD with the complete discography of Guns n’ Roses, who haven’t made any records in ages, but to me, they’ve always stood for light heartedness. I remember my teens, when my cousin and I would take the bus to take us from the suburbs to the city. We would take some lipsticks stolen from mum’s drawer and we’d roll up our skirts under our jumpers and they would go way up above the knee, showing our skinny legs, but at the same time quite toned thanks to my young age and to the fact that I used to play volleyball as a pro in the city team. It’s actually something I still do, only now I’m on the other side of the court seen I train 10 year old girls who’d like to become professional players.
I didn’t have time to study, I was too busy with volleyball and my family couldn’t afford my university fees, so at 19 I finished high school, some tech that didn’t give any particular qualification. That worked out perfect for me; not much studying, plenty of time for volleyball and after five years I would have a certificate.
Immediately after that I would have gotten a job in the company where my father was working, he would retire a few years after I started. He was a store man in a company that produced fabrics for clothes, and sat on the forklift all day. I, instead, would have to make samples of fabric to send all around the world to the company’s faithful clients.
That’s what I still do, since finishing high school. I cut and pin all day, and at the end of the day, after having made all the little packages with the different dispatches and destination addresses, I drop them off at the courier because I never manage to finish them by 4:00 pm, when they come to our area with their smashed van. It’s also on my way home, I even made friends with the receptionist, Silvia, who is my age, married and mother of two little ones. When I found out, awareness hit me for the umpteenth time. At 32, I still had never been in a relationship, at least not one worth mentioning, and honestly, I don’t care. There have been some guys, only for a few months, seen I didn’t have enough time to dedicate them, they ran away after a short time, or was it me, that made them run away? I think a bit of both, let’s say that when things start to get serious, I start getting less serious.
In the previous years, there was only volleyball, my team mates, with whom I still have a great relationship, one in particular, Elisa who is still my best friend. When at 26 a bad injury to my left shoulder destroyed my “promising career” I gave in, not being able to play any longer, I began to teach. They were looking for a volleyball trainer for a group of young girls in a nearby town, I accepted with great enthusiasm, I would have had extra cash and I would have helped some little Mimi Ayuara become big.
I work a full day, I have a sandwich in my half hour lunch break, to be able to rush off to the gym when I finish, that luckily is only ten minutes from work.
I start at 8:30 am and this morning I’m early. As usual I want to enjoy my breakfast at the bar, which will give me energy until my lunch sandwich. I‘ve been driving along the same road for the past fourteen years, the car could probably have gone on its own.
Suddenly in this hot June morning, a bee enters the window, seized by an inexplicable attack of terror, I’m in the middle of the road and I hit the breaks, all of a sudden I feel a bump at the back, sharp, but not too forceful.
“No! It can’t be!” I look in the review mirror and a black car is glued to the bum of my Smart. “OK it really did happen!” I move to the right side of my lane, where there’s a type of lane for short stops, and I get ready to get out of the car. I look in the review mirror and...
“Oh...!” a guy with short hair and a pair of Ray-Bans is getting out of the black sports BMW in an almost menacing way. He slams the door shut with a sharp movement while cursing to himself. I make myself real small, and get out too.
As soon as he sees me, his language softens a little, he probably hadn’t realised I was a girl.
“What the fuck got into you!” he says.
“Sorry, but a bee got in the car and I was afraid of being stung.” I lower my gaze as if in need of justifying myself. Isn’t there a rule regarding safety distance? I think to myself.
“Are you OK?” Now he looks worried.
“Yes, thank you. I’m really sorry!”
I look at my Smart, it’s not damaged at all, his BMW probably only just touched it.
“OK I’ll get an accident report form from my car.” He says. God he’s so gorgeous. I can’t take my eyes off him. He’s tall and toned. I can tell from his arms and his chest which is barely contained in his tight polo. He’s got a three day growth, he probably always has it, I must say it really suits him. It contours a beautiful mouth, whose lips invite you to bite hard. He bends over in his car to get something, even his backside is something wonderful, Michelangelo’s David should have been sculptured with him as a model.
A car goes by and toots the horn, I wake up from my daydream.
“Wait, I don’t think I want to report this, my car isn’t even scratched,...And yours too, It looks as if the plate is slightly bent.” My voice is a little shaky from my nerves. He gets up to look at the car, as if beforehand he hadn’t even noticed it.
“You’re right” and after another meticulous check to both cars he says: ”OK I’ll give you my business card anyway, if you have second thoughts we can report it. Maybe you should have it checked out by someone then you can decide.”
His Italian isn’t like mine, he speaks correctly, with no accent and no dialect, as if he’s studied in a private school.
He hands me his business card and gets close, just enough for me to smell his perfume.
Oh god, now I really am dizzy.
“Sorry, but I really have to run, I’ve got a meeting and I have to prepare a bit before” he says all of a sudden.
“Of course, g-go.” OK, I’m not very convincing.
“Are you sure you’re OK?” he asks. I have to get myself sorted.
“Yes, yes really. I’m late too, I think I’ll have to skip my precious breakfast at the bar.” I’m so nervous, I smile with shaking lips, I’ve never seen such a gorgeous guy in my life.
“OK...bye then.” He raises his hand and gets into his car.
I stand there stiff, he leaves before me, and driving past, he smiles at me. I have to lean on the door to get the necessary footing to go and sit in the car, my knees have turned to jelly.
I park at the bar and grab a quick brioche.
“Matte I’m running late, really late, can you make me a macchiato?”
“Of course, Marty, I’ll do it right away.”
I eat my brioche in record time and I thank Matteo, the guy who works at the café of the petrol station where I stop every morning before going to work. Lucky he made my coffee at the right temperature, so I wouldn’t burn my tongue drinking it.
I get in the car and I only have five minutes to get to work. Good, I’ll have to fly, but I’ll make it, the company I work for is only three hundred metres from Matteo’s bar.
I park my car again and clock in. The clock says 8:29. For a chinch, otherwise I would’ve had to make up for my fifteen minutes and then I would really have to fly to get to my girls at the gym on time.
I sit at my work station, I turn on the computer and I get ready. I open my drawer, I take my precious mp3 player out and I let my patchwork bag fall into the last drawer. I lock the drawers again and I start cutting.
The mass of fabric on the cutting table next to my desk makes me smile. I’ve got my work cut today. I rev up by tuning in my mp3 player my favourite morning radio programme, so while I’m listening to good music, I get a chance to laugh too.
I get my stapler, scissors and cardboard and turn my stool towards the table. I feel something piercing in my jeans’ pocket. What the hell...I put a hand in my pocket and I feel the business card, the paper is rough and thick. Oh God, that business card. I couldn’t remember putting it in the front pocket of my jeans, I would never have put it there, I would have ruined it. At that moment I wasn’t sure where I was with my thoughts.
I take it out of my pocket, I still hadn’t looked at it and once again I can smell that perfume.
Oh God. I immediately blush. Why? Why was I clumsy and awkward? I wonder what he thought of me.
I look at the business card again, it’s simple with a logo and an acronym NST “New System Technology” on the top right and in the centre his name and surname “Thomas Bailey” and below it his mobile number. Just strike me pink! Bailey is my idol Axl Rose’s surname. That’s why he speaks a different Italian to me. He probably did study it in some school abroad, or maybe one of his parents is Italian while he was born elsewhere.
I start to imagine his background to give myself an idea, while the memory of that beautiful and mysterious guy just won’t budge.
I look carefully at the business card, I don’t know that logo, he must be a representative of something. I don’t have time to look it up on the internet, I’ve got heaps of stuff that awaits me to be cut and stapled, but I promise myself that that same evening, after training and a shower, I would’ve googled that acronym and that logo and probably that name too. I wonder if something interesting would come up. Maybe he’s on Facebook or Twitter and I can find out something more. I can’t wait to go home and turn on my tablet.
I throw myself into the samples, with music full blast in my ears. As I continue to package, I print the address stickers and hand write the bills for the courier.
A girl from admin comes down to the store room mid morning to tell us that the computers won’t be working for the next two hours as they were installing some new software. With that excuse, she lights a cigarette. Seen that in the store room smoking is allowed, the employees from the offices often come down with whatever excuse to smoke some poison. I don’t smoke, I never have, volleyball didn’t contemplate smoking, I needed my lungs to breathe.
“About time!”, my colleague Alberto and I replied together. He is another of my best friends, even because he’s Elisa’s fiancé, my best friend since high school. They’re getting married in a month. The house they bought, which will actually be theirs only after 30 years of mortgage, has been ready for two months and they can’t wait to renovate it. I spent many Saturdays and Sundays at Ikea with them to furnish it, and I too feel very excited for them. The arrangements for the wedding are also well under way, everything is running smooth, including the hen’s night, that we’re organising with the girls from the team for the week before the wedding.
The clandestine meetings, as we call them, are held in my house. I bought a small one bedroom house with a garden five years ago, when my mother passed away due to a bad illness, meeting up with my father, who died a few years earlier due to a heart attack.
My sister Serena and I are strong, we’ve got big backs, and we’ve always faced life head on, especially when it tried to turn its back on us!
So we decided to sell the house we had grown up in, we had some wonderful memories in that house, but also some extremely sad ones that hurt. It was too big to live in it alone. She’s five years older than me, she’s got a semi-detached with a garden and a wonderful husband, Emanuele, with whom I have a great relationship, well I also have a little nephew, his name’s Francesco
And he’s four years old. With the money from selling the house, my sister opened a bank account for Francesco, saying that that money would be for his future, while I bought myself a house, to be all mine.
So Alberto and I decide to get ahead with some manual jobs and after lunch we’ll print the various labels. We are careful in putting all the post-it notes on the closed packages, otherwise we’ll end up sending the fur to Brazil and the cotton muslin to Alaska.
Another employee from admin comes down, Filippo and tells us that at 1:30pm there’ll be a short course in the conference room to explain how the new programme works. Naturally, only what pertains to our department, the store room. It will last about half an hour, then the technician who came specifically from Milan would show the functions to the accounting, administration and the rest of the company departments for the rest of the day.
“We’ll never make it in one afternoon...” Filippo says. “...I think he’ll have to come back tomorrow”
“Too bad for you..” Alberto replies, “...We’ll be done in half an hour, I don’t think this guy will take longer to explain how to print labels!” He is perfectly right, in fact we all burst out laughing.
I’m happy not to have great responsibilities at work, I’m happy with what I’m doing. I don’t have any ambitions, at least not since I was twenty six
We get back to work and it’s time for lunch. Alberto and I sit on the same bench under a tree in the company’s yard and we wait for the others that are coming out. As soon as Teresa sees me, she sits next to me. She is the gossiper, as I call her. She’s the girl that tells me the gossip from the offices, the various intrigues, the office romances that take place. I’m a bit of a tom boy , as well as being the only girl in the store room and I always go to work in jeans and a t-shirt. I definitely don’t attract attention like the office workers that wear short skirts very tight jeans and high heels. I really don’t know how they can wear them all day, and how can they breathe in those jeans? And all that stuff on their faces? Don’t their eyes ever get itchy? I’m constantly scratching mine. They certainly don’t lift tons of dust like I do each time I cut a piece of fabric.
“Shoot!” I say, while I bite into my tuna salad roll.
“How do you know I have to tell you something?” she says biting into her energy bar that represents her lunch.
“Because your eyes are glowing and you can’t keep still, relax.” I say
“O.K. I’ll shoot. Have you heard about the new programme they’re installing?” and she cleans the corners of her mouth to remove the chocolate with every bite. I wonder why I always wait to finish my roll before cleaning my mouth!
“ah ha “ moving my hand to make her go on.
“You’ve got to see the technician Marty! He’s a nine and a half!”
“Wow!” I comment. “You’ve never given anyone a nine and a half Teresa.” It’s our way to rate guys, we give them a mark, like at school, from zero to ten. I had never given over an eight before this morning. The image of that guy with the dark sunglasses returns overbearingly to me.
“Because I had never seen a nine and a half, you’ll tell me in exactly ten minutes, your course is about to start and he’s already in the conference room!” she says, flirting.
“OK we’ll see. I’ll let you know later Teresa, I’m going to brush my teeth.”
I go back into the store room, while she begins to chat with her office colleagues. They have a one lunch break, just in time to go back for their course.
I take my bag from the drawer and I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth and while I’m at it I rinse my face and redo my ponytail after having messed up my curly hair to get rid of the fluff from the cut up fabric.
“Let’s go Marty, It’s late!” Alberto yells from outside the bathroom.
“I’m coming!” I come out of the bathroom. I put my bag back into the drawer and grab my note book and a pen in case I have to take notes. You never know.
While we are walking towards the offices and go up the imposing glass staircase, I notice a black series 1 BMW from the big windows that look into the car park. What a coincidence! My favourite car bumped me this morning and now I can see an identical one parked here. Today is coincidence day. I have to remember to buy a scratch and win when I go home tonight, you never know.
We go in to the conference room laughing as I tell Alberto about this morning’s accident and I can smell that perfume. Boom, another bump from behind, it’s Alberto who hit me as I stopped , motionless, at the threshold .
And he’s there. Thomas Bailey in person! Or at least he looks exactly like him. Yes, it’s him. He’s not wearing his sunglasses anymore. His eyes are dark, his thick eye lashes give him an extremely sweet look. He’s busy trying to plug in the cable of what seems like a projector to his laptop. He’s wearing that white polo top, a pair of jeans and a white pair of Converse. I hadn’t noticed this morning. What the hell was I thinking about? Maybe it was the post accident shock. The thing is that now I’m enjoying the vision to the full.
“What’s with you?” Alberto says.
“S-sorry, I forgot to tell Teresa something. I say, not taking my eyes off him, I notice that in the meantime Thomas raises his eyes towards us. I immediately blush, but not embarrassed red, fire engine red. I can feel my cheeks burning, my forehead, my hair, what the hell is happening to me? I hardly ever blush. I go out of the room and go towards the windows in the corridor that look onto the yard. Teresa and the others are chatting away in the cool air on the benches.
I open a window slightly and call “Teresa!” she raises her head, confused, she can’t understand who’s calling her. When she sees me she smiles brazenly because my hands are spread out on the glass to form a ten. Enthusiastic, she gets up and raises her fists and gets to a dance similar to the YMCA one , she loves being right, and this time she hit it spot on! After having cooled off the embarrassment I have to go back in . I take a deep breath and walk through the threshold of the conference room.
Alberto and Thomas are talking about the weather, about how much Alberto and I hate air conditioning, that we obviously don’t have in the store room, and how that afternoon we would’ve gone out with a cold, seen the North pole temperature at which the air conditioning was set in the room.
I get closer and Thomas gives me a big smile. Goodness! That’s perfect too!!
“Hi, so it’s you. I wasn’t sure before, but now...wow, what a coincidence!” he says without stopping to smile.
“ In fact, that’s exactly what I thought. I’ll introduce myself properly this time, you know this morning with the shock, I was a bit intimidated. I’m Martina and I work here in the store room” I reply, now I’m calm and self confident. I hold out my hand and he immediately gives me a strong and decided handshake, exactly like mine. The contact with his skin gives me a shiver that starts from my neck and runs all the way down my back.
“I’m Thomas, I’m here to teach you the new programme, I think we’ll be in touch often in the next few days.” He smiles. I think...I hope so
“Oh, do you think we are that incapable? I say smiling to Alberto, who in the meantime has understood everything.
“No, it’s just that I hope you’ll need me in the next few days... uh...” And he turns on the projector. I’m sure I got it right, does he want to hear from me in the next few days?
The next half hour flies, I actually understood very little of what he said, I was too busy watching his mouth move and his tongue which sometimes came out to wet those wonderful lips. Anyhow, it can’t be too difficult can it? I’m quite good at computers and software in general, so I don’t think it will be too difficult.
The workers from the offices start to arrive and crowd the corridor in front of the room we’re in. The girls look at Thomas ad talk amongst themselves, laughing and moving their hands in front of their faces as to cool them off. How stupid can women be at times!
Thomas says goodbye, telling us that we would have the programme the next day. He would stay in the storeroom after we’d left to install the programme in our two computers, and that we would have a programme called “Skype” with which we could communicate with him at any time, for whatever, seen he had it installed on his mobile.
“Obviously, don’t try to call me after 7:00pm because I won’t be available after work. I usually turn off the company phone and only keep my personal phone on. He says professionally
“Of course” replies Alberto.
“Obviously” I reply.
“Good, this is all guys...” he leaves shaking our hands, “...if you need me, you know where to find me!”. Again that shiver.
We say goodbye to Thomas and I go back to our store room, with a 10° temperature change. I’ll have a nice cold tomorrow.
From the head office, we were told it wasn’t necessary to send the packages, seen we’ll be with no computers until tomorrow. They’ll let the clients know, that due to technical problems the fabric samples will be sent tomorrow instead. So Alberto and I get ahead for the next day.
My mp3 plays rock music full blast, I have to recover somehow from that afternoon.
From the entryway to the store room I can see the BMW parked and my mind goes back to that half hour. To those long and manicured hands, maybe better than mine, and those broad shoulders, those jeans, that perfume, that voice so low and masculine, that mouth, God, that mouth!! Whew! What’s happening to me? That’s enough! Its almost time to go and I have to get ready to get out of here and run to the girls.
I put the mp3 player away in the first drawer and take my bag from the last. I go to the bathroom and just like before, I mess up my hair, lots of fine dust gets stuck inside my brown curls and I redo my ponytail. I go out of the bathroom, say goodbye to my store room colleagues, I clock out and get in the car.
From the car I’ve got a perfect view of the conference room, so I play for time, seen I don’t have to stop at the courier today, I decide to wait for Alberto who parked his car right next to mine. In the meantime I open the boot and take out my gym bag. I notice that in the conference room Thomas is lively speaking to my office colleagues and I smile, thinking that two hours ago I was in their shoes and that for the first time in my life I would’ve liked to have been an office worker.
The glare from the sunlight on the window probably distracted him from his explanation and he turns towards me. He stops to stare while he continues to talk. I shyly smile and wave my hand before getting in the car and going ablaze like two hours ago. He continues to talk and bends his lips in a wonderful smile.
“Oh god I’ve got a crush!” I say aloud leaning on the headrest.
“A crush on who?’” says Alberto who has in the meantime arrived next to me. I didn’t even hear him. He follows my gaze, doesn’t make any comment and smiles.
“So, tonight dinner at our house. Pizza in a box, you know it’s the most we can do in our new house. Elisa wants to finish those bombonnieres.” He says tiredly.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. I’ll be there at about seven. First I have to go home after the training, otherwise I’ll have to renovate your shower. See you later ciccio.” I poke my tongue at him and I leave.
I get to the gym with the feeling that someone else drove instead of me. How the hell did I get here? I can’t even remember which road I took. I have to take measures for this thing.
I go to my locker room, that during the week it’s actually the referee’s, because the one for the team is taken up by the girls. I change quickly and go down to the gym to arrive before them. I have to be a responsible adult with them and impose myself to give them some discipline, but at the same time convey them my love for volleyball. And in that, I’m very successful indeed.
When the girls come down they always run towards me. Today it’s the eleven year olds’ turn. They all hug me and greet me warmly. I adore them!
“Come on girls, lets warm up doing a fifteen minute run, but before that a bit of stretching, you know it!” and with my whistle I start the fifteen minutes. Today I run with them too, I usually skip that boring part, but today I need it, I have to give vent to the energy I feel inside otherwise I’ll risk exploding. After fifteen minutes we lie down for the crunches. The first half hour has flown. I think half an hour goes by too quickly.
Then it’s time for the specific exercises. Serves, bounces, high shots etc... and for another half hour my whistle gives the girls timings. Then it’s the part the girls love most, the match. I divide the girls in two teams and I make them play for another thirty minutes. The loosing team will have to do ten rounds of the court as usual, so as well as keeping them fit, I also give them reason to apply themselves, while the other team can go to the locker rooms. The team’s locker room is not that great, and in any case I prefer to shower at home, seen I only live five minutes from the gym. I dry the sweat off my face and leave to go home.
I park my Smart in the reserved parking lot and enter my garden. Since the sun has just set, I water the plants and the lawn, I’m proud of my garden and of my little house which is perfect for me. I don’t need anything else. In the garden there’s also a small wooden shed which I turned into a laundry, bike parking and pantry. I put there everything I can’t fit into the house.
I go inside and feed my goldfish, the only pet I can have seen the life I lead. It doesn’t dirty, doesn’t lick, doesn’t bite, doesn’t scratch and doesn’t moult. I actually have the feeling that when I come home it’s happy to see me! I didn’t give it a name, because I don’t want to get close. Already three or four have died in the last five years, it’s torture each time I have to throw it in the bin and buy a new one. I’m sure that if it had a name, I’d want to bury it in the garden and make a small wooden cross. No name. I know myself too well.
I undress, I throw everything on the bathroom floor and I go into my wonderful shower. Wonderful because it’s really big, made of bricks with blue and green mosaic tiles, two big glass doors to enter and a steam room system, spa and thousands of different shower sprays. It was a small luxury I conceded myself when I bought the house. I would’ve kept my smartina as my friends celled it to emphasise the similarity to my name, until it died, but the shower was one of my obsessions, having had a 60’s bathtub in the house I grew up in. One of those tubs that if you had a shower standing up you would’ve flooded the entire bathroom, my mum bought one of those shower curtains that clung to you, in the end, my sister and I preferred to wash sitting down.
I turn on the taps, untie my hair and finish undressing. The steam starts to come out almost immediately and I jump inside. How beautiful! I’ve dreamed about this moment since this morning. Or at least every evening I say to myself that I’ve been dreaming it since the morning.
Today it’s different, my thoughts go to those hands, those shoulders those jeans, that perfume, that voice, that mouth, God that mouth!!
“Oh Marty!!! Stop!!” I yell in the shower.
I dry off quickly and look at the time.
“Shit it’s eight o’clock!” I put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, flip flops and I tie up my wet hair. I have to go to dinner at Alberto and Elisa’s.
I only have to turn the corner of the block where I live, on foot, to get to my best friends’ house.
They were very enthusiastic when I told them they were selling the house behind mine, quite a bit bigger, seen it has five rooms and a garden that looks like a park compared to mine. They had done some interior work even if it had only been built five years ago, and it became the house of their dreams. I am thrilled, I have my friends so close, it feels like I have a family again. My sister lives about ten kilometres from my house and I only see her at weekends.
I go in and dive on the new sofa, still wrapped in cellophane. I’m exhausted and an evening of bombonniere and chit chat awaits me. I can handle it, I repeat to myself.
“What is it?” asks Elisa. She’s my best friend, nothing goes past her unnoticed, she probably noticed that strange dazzle in my green eyes, the same one I saw in the mirror after my shower.
“Ely, I’m really tired! Lucky tomorrow’s Friday!” I need two days of relaxing, the garden, sun and a good book!” I reply yawning.
“Of course, tomorrow’s Friday, so you and the one coming with the pizza boxes in his hand won’t be able to keep your eyes open until a certain time, seen you have all the major packages to send right?” she says laughing.
“Right!” God. I hate Fridays looked at from that perspective.
Alberto arrives with the pizzas and we start eating. I’m starving. The tuna roll from lunchtime is a distant memory and plus today I also got tired training with the girls.
Lucky Elisa, who knows me better than my mother, made a chocolate cake. I gulp down two pieces in no time. We clear up and Elisa places on the table tulle, almond sweets, ribbons, boxes etc... and begins to chat.
In the meantime, Alberto is on the cellophaned sofa trying to figure out how to set the channels on the new TV they were given. In between cursing he says: “Elisa, did Marty tell you she met the man of her dreams? She said she’s got a crush!”
“You’re exaggerating!” I say and I can’t help blushing thinking about Thomas.
“ You won’t be my maid of honour if you don’t tell me who this guy is immediately. Where did you meet him, what’s he like and above all...mark?” here she goes, here she goes with the twenty questions.
“Ten!” I reply. I see her mouth drop, I have to do something.
“His name is Thomas, he’s the technician who’s installing the new software in the company...” I say, in an adolescent way. “and I don’t have a crush, of course, no one can feel indifferent to a ten, can they? And then he could be engaged, married or gay!! I don’t even know him!”
All of a sudden the truth of what I said hits me, who is Thomas really?
“He told me he’s from Milan, but he’s always travelling around Italy with his company car, he’s an IT consultant in the various companies the one he works for does business with.” Says Alberto.” So he’s probably not engaged, a fiancée couldn’t stand never having her man at home, right Ely?”
“Well of course!” says Elisa, to me, blowing up her cheeks to the full.
“Does he have Facebook?” she asks.
“How should I know?” I reply
“Oh right, you’re the one who doesn’t want internet on her mobile” and pulls out her.
“I don’t need internet on my mobile. I can look up anything I want at home, in the evening” I answer convinced.
“Thomas?” she asks, already logged on to Facebook waiting for the surname to look for.
“Bailey” I reply “Thomas Bailey”
“How do you spell it?”
“Wait, I’ll write it. I know how to spell it, it’s Axl’s surname” I say laughing.
“Are you joking? This is really something!” and she laughs too.
I write his name and surname and give her her mobile back.
“Bingo!” she yells. “Oh well, not bad this guy here, I’ll give him an eight just looking at him in a photo!”
“You have to see his hands, his shoulders, his jeans, you should smell his perfume, hear his voice, see his mouth... God that mouth!” At that moment my eyes are probably in the shape of love hearts.
“OK you’ve got a crush!” Elisa tells me. “Let’s look at the information, see if there’s something useful... Lives in Milan, he’s single, he’s 35, speaks three languages, he was born in New York and works for a certain NST. I think that’s quite a bit of information, based on which I can give you the green light to throw yourself head first in this romance!” she says with her protective and reassuring way. She’s always got a solution to everything, she’s an optimist.
“Oh go on Ely, can you see me with someone who lives in Milan and travels around Italy for work? I would stay home and wait for him in vain, wrapped up in the duvet wearing flannel pyjamas. You know me. This romance wouldn’t go anywhere. Believe me.” I get back to work and drop the subject. Elisa saw me in that condition many times after my parents died. Tossing and turning in a blanket, wearing flannel pyjamas and watching Pretty Woman or Dirty Dancing on DVD on the sofa, it’s a clear sign of despair for me. And I don’t want to fall into it for a man, I’ve suffered too much.
My mobile rings. It’s the company number. It’s nine o’clock in the evening. Who the hell wants me at this time? There shouldn’t be anyone in the company.
“Hello?” I answer with a questioning voice.
“Yes, hello Martina, it’s Thomas, sorry to bother you at this time but I have a problem with your computer” he says dejected “can I just ask you a quick question? They told me I could disturb you with no problems.”
“But of c-course! Tell me Thomas” I can see Elisa and Alberto turning towards me as soon as I say his name, they’ve understood who I’m speaking to on the phone. This makes me blush again.
“I need the password to your user id, it must be different to the others, I’m sorry but your computer is the only one to have a different one, and to be honest, it would take me too long to find it, and seen the time and the fact that tomorrow morning I have to be at the head office in Milan by eleven, I thought about calling you.”
“There’s no need to justify yourself! It’s OK you’re not bothering me at all.”
“Martina?” he says.
“Yes?” I reply
“Your password please.”
“Oh, yes I’m sorry, the password is Shiro” I say, embarrassed just thinking that he knows...
“Oh that cartoon about volleyball. My sister used to love it too.” He says laughing.
“ Well yes, of course, who didn’t? I reply
“Good, thanks Martina, I’ll finish your computer and then I can go to sleep. Sorry again to have bothered you!”
“No problem, have a good trip back then.” How I would love to continue this phone call.
“Thank you. Take care. Bye bye!”
And I shyly and simply say “bye.”
“Guys don’t say anything.” I say to my friends who are looking at me dumbfounded.
“No, no” says Elisa “it’s just another coincidence, right?”
“Exactly! And then I’m tired, I need to sleep. Tomorrow is Friday Alberto. I get up and head towards the door.
We say goodnight and goodbye.
I go around the block and go home. I can only think about my bed.
But I have to do a washing load, to be able to hang it the following morning.
I throw myself onto the bed and immediately fall asleep. I dream about hands, jeans, perfumes, voices and mouths.
The alarm goes off at seven in the morning, I stretch in bed and smile like a teenager. I dreamed about the guy I’ve had a crush on for less than twenty-four hours. This hasn’t happened since the first year of senior high, when I had a crush on a schoolmate. And even then I was disappointed with the behaviour of boys. So there’s not much to be happy about. It would’ve been useless torture. For me, and for whoever stays close.
I get up and go to the bathroom. I wash my face and fix my hair as best I can then I go to the kitchen and make myself a coffee. I smile thinking about yesterday. Nothing can compete with those feelings. The cold I caught the day before confirms it.
I hang the washing in the garden still wearing my pyjama shorts and vest with which I went to bed last night. I go to get dressed and my routine takes the upper hand.
I find myself in the store room with a pair of scissors in my hand in no time. And it’s precisely what I need. Working. Working without thinking.
In the evening I’ve got training with the thirteen year olds, the hardest ones to manage in the whole world and then finally my week will begin.
I still haven’t turned my computer on and when I go to do just that, I find a computer to me unknown, or actually, the screen is the same one, but on it I see something completely different.
On my desk there’s a post-it note:
“This is your info to access Skype:
user name: Martina.021
021 is your work station, while Shiro...well you can change that whenever you want to.
Bye, take care, Thomas”
God, he used Shiro for my Skype password too. Is he making fun of me? Bah? Meanwhile I put the post-it under my nose. I can smell that perfume, or I think I can, I’m not sure. I raise my gaze to the computer and...
“What’s this?” I say aloud.
“It’s so cool Marty” replies Alberto, who has appeared behind me.
“Didn’t you say it was really easy?” I’d bang my head on my desk at the frustration I’m feeling. I didn’t listen to one word Thomas said during that bloody half hour and now I don’t know where to start.
“It’s all right, I’ll show you a few things.” Alberto has understood everything as usual. He knows he has to show me everything from the start, so we take a twenty minute break to explore the new programme.
It really is cool, we’ve got a sort of contact page, with all the addresses of our clients inside. Marking them and clicking them it prints once, at the bottom of the screen, the programme would’ve printed the adhesive labels to stick on the packages and the bills for the courier at the same time. Everything is automatic. We’ll save so much time this way. It really is a useful programme and perhaps by next Monday I’ll be able to hand everything in to the courier.
We get to work and Alberto reminds me to access Skype, the whole company is now connected to this message programme, so now the office workers to communicate whatever, can write on the chat and vice versa.
“The smokers won’t be happy” commented Alberto.
I access Skype. I put in name and password and it slowly connects.
A small window opens with lots of little faces with names next to them. They’re all my colleagues. I go down the list smiling.
“I’ll have a lot of fun with Teresa, the gossiper with this thing!”
All the people on-line appear below, there’s another short list of off-line, amongst these I immediately notice the name Thomas-Assistance. Here he is, he’s not on-line, but wasn’t he always supposed to be available? Well it’s obvious, he must have a lot to do.
I get back to work with my music on full blast and the eight hours of work go by with no major worry. I worry more about the thirteen year olds’ training tonight. Some of them are spoiled and snobbish and I can barely stand them. They always expect to be first even if as players they are washouts!
I get ready to leave, I remove the screensaver from the computer and I see an orange button blinking at the bottom of the toolbar with Thomas-Ass. Written on it. My heart skips a beat. I open the window and I find a message:
Thom-Ass: Hi, I hope your first day with the programme went well. If you need anything, you know where to find me.
My heart stops beating. Did he send this message to everyone? Of course, I can’t hope to have a different treatment from the others. What for?
Marty: thank-you, today was less busy than usual, thanks to your programme. From Monday I’ll be needing you because I’ll start using it.
He replies almost immediately.
Thom-Ass: whenever you like. Have a good weekend Martina.
I melt. No-one calls me Martina
Marty: thanks, you too Thomas.
Very well! I think I’ll have a lot of fun with this new programme.
Now I have to rush off, with the smile of a thirteen year old, I go to train those girls that seem to be my same age at the moment.
Like the day before, I train with them and I think I’m less sharp than usual, since they all do what I say and they don’t speak in a low voice behind my back as they often do. I notice everything, but I was the same at their age too and today I want to go back to those days, I want the light heartedness of that period. The training flies.
I say goodbye to my girls and I head towards home to start my weekend. The usual goldfish is waiting for me, who gets excited waiting for his little balls of feed and no-one else. I don’t depend on anyone and no-one depends on me. I always walk bare foot and this means freedom, I am free!
After a shower, I decide I need a bit of proteins, so I take some meat out of the freezer and I cook a juicy steak, with a salad and fries.
I always eat on the table in the living room, in front of the TV, while I watch my beloved TV series,which are thrillers, or on police, homicides, monsters and love. Well I watch them all! Every time a new series comes out I promise myself not to start watching it, but then after the first two episodes I fall in love. What can I do? I love stories. So wearing my pyjamas, I wash the skillet and the plate, I don’t even need the dishwasher, and I hit the sofa to enjoy my relaxed evening. I turn on the tablet and I read the usual stuff on Facebook, even if they are nonsense, I can’t help it.
Then I think, what if I asked for Thomas’ friendship? No I can’t do that. We’re not really on friendly terms. And then I know I shouldn’t and I can’t see him again. Panic hits me like a train. I go on his page obviously his profile is hidden but the photo is there and I can see it every time I want to. He's in his car, he is driving, his left arm is stretched out on the steering wheel the seatbelt stands out on his white T-shirt and so does his golden tan. He’s wearing the same sunglasses he was wearing yesterday and he's looking straight into the camera. He's smiling, just, and that smile is damn sexy. God how I love that photo. It must’ve been taken by his partner, who was sitting next to him. It’s not possible to smile like that to another man. Or maybe it is, maybe he’s gay. There’s only one problem, I don’t know him at all! But how I’d love to!
I go to bed with that thought and I fall asleep immediately. It had been a really hard day.
The next day I wake up really early. Dam it, I toss and turn in bed but I can’t go back to sleep, so I decide to get up. My garden needs a lot of work. I get through the morning mowing the lawn, watering the flowers, replacing the pebbles in the flowerbeds and without noticing it’s lunchtime.
The advantage of being free is also being able to eat what you want when you want. If you feel like eating at noon because you’re hungry fine while if you’ve got things to do and you have lunch in the afternoon there’ s nobody there to complain about being hungry. It’s great!
I decide to have a plate of pasta. The basil from my herb garden has such an inviting smell, so I cook spaghetti with basil and tomatoes. I cook, eat and tidy everything up.
Since I got up so early, I lie on the sofa for a nap even because at this time of day I really wouldn't know what to do, or better in the house right behind mine, there are hundreds of bombonnieres to make, but today there are other girls so I leave them the privilege. While I’m there staring at the ceiling I noticed the tablet on the coffee table in front of the sofa. It reminds me of the photo of Thomas. I feel like looking at it again. Oh God!! I feel like printing it and putting it on my bed side table, not just looking at it! The temptation is too much, so I decide to turn the tablet on and look at that photo again. I logon to Facebook and there’s a friendship request. My heart skips a beat. I open and I find a friendship request of a stranger who doesn’t even have a friend in common with me and who is certainly not Thomas. I refuse and I feel disappointed, really disappointed, as if I expected something from him, or this business with no sense.
The afternoon goes by between a nap, a look at that photo, another nap and the TV. At six o’clock I decide to get up from the sofa. Tonight I’m going out for dinner with my friends and then we’ll go clubbing. Let the restoration phase begin. I have a shower, I put on a simple green satin dress with a coordinated shrug and very high heeled sandals. I tie up my hair so that it’s a scruffy look in contrast with the dress and I wear heavy makeup. I have a very muscular body, almost masculine, with the arm and leg muscles well defined thanks to volleyball and all the hard training sessions I did for a long time. I like my body, but I don’t like that scar on my right shoulder that always reminds me of the injury and the suffering that followed. It’s part of me, but I always try to hide it.
The evening goes by in a pleasant way, the dinner at the restaurant, white wine, loud music, my head spinning, my friends’ laughter. I‘m a lucky woman. I go back home at dawn and I jump in bed with my clothes and makeup still on, another advantage of being alone and free.
I had set the alarm at eleven for the next day. I’m having lunch at my sister’s, just like every Sunday and then I‘ll have fun with my boyfriend, Francesco, my nephew aged four who’s convinced that one day I will marry him. I get up and when I look at myself in the mirror like every Sunday morning I burst out laughing. My mascara has run on most of my face and the lipstick has smudged almost up to my ears, my hair looks like a bird nest. Any man would run away finding such a monster in front of him in the morning. But I’m alone and free.
I have an energising shower, I jump in the car and go to my “boyfriend”. When I arrive he jumps on me and with his arms around my neck he kisses me telling me how much he has missed me and scolds me because I never go to pick him up at kindergarten. He’d like me to meet his friends and introduce them his girlfriend.
How I love this little man. It’s indescribable. He’s the man of my life, and probably always will be.
In the afternoon we take Francesco to the park, my sister and my brother in law are expecting a baby girl, due in September, so I’m happy to take Francesco around to all the rides. Running after him while he’s riding his bike, playing football, pushing him on the swings, teaching him to play volleyball. Sundays with them is important for me. They’re my family and I love them more than anything in the world, perhaps even more than my beloved freedom.
Before dinner I go back home. I have to prepare everything for the next day at work. I iron, prepare the gym bag and do another load of washing.
Before going to bed, however, I take another look at the photo. It has become a drug.
The next day at work is a mess, we have to send Friday’s samples too, but we have a new ally. I mark all the addresses and press print. The printer starts to spit out all the labels with the addresses and then the bills for the courier. I remain looking speechless, it seems impossible. All the samples are ready before the deadline. I decide to thank Thomas, who’s been online all day but never contacted me. Of course, idiot, he’s working, as if he’s thinking of you.
Marty: Hi, a quick note to thank you. The programme is so cool. You’ve made my life easier, at least at work.
I wait. “Thom-Ass is writing...” My heart skips a beat.
Thom-Ass: Martina, I’m really glad to have made your work life easier, as far as your personal life, lucky whoever has the privilege!:-)
What?? OK, he’s not gay. But is he chatting me up? No, come on... it doesn’t mean he’s chatting me up...right? I decide to reply.
Marty: at the moment there’s nobody privileged. I only have a goldfish at home.
Thom-Ass: It’s hard to admit that a goldfish has more privileges than you, but I must admit, I’d love to be him!
OK He’s chatting me up. I decide to go along with him but not too much.
Marty: Thank you, that’s very kind of you.
Thom-Ass: it almost seems like a way to say “thanks, but...”
Marty: No buts! Thank you and that’s it!;-)
Thom-Ass:I’ve got a meeting I have to go. I’m sorry, I really like talking to you.
Marty: So do I. Whenever you like. bye bye
Thom-Ass: wait a minute, what’s your surname? I’d like to add you to my Facebook friends but I don’t know your surname. You are on Facebook aren’t you?
Of course, how could he have asked for my friendship if he didn’t know my surname?
Marty:yes, My name’s Martina Rossi.
Thom-Ass: I don’t like talking here even if I’m the one who checks everything. But I’d like to get to know you. If you like.
Marty: Of course I’d like to.
Thom-Ass: OK so tonight I’ll ask for your friendship. Speak later, bye Martina.
Marty: Bye Thomas.
I almost fell off my stool. He wants to get to know me! HE wants to get to know ME! I can’t talk to anyone about this. The rest of the afternoon continues as if I was walking on cloud nine. I’m not walking, I’m flying.
I go back home, throw my bag on the floor and run to turn my tablet on. In the meantime I feed the goldfish and turn on the shower.
I get undressed and have a quick shower. Perhaps later I’d have another one.
I get out of the shower, I dry off quickly and run to the sofa. The tablet is on, I logon to Facebook but I can’t find any friendship requests.
Maybe I should ask him? No, never! He said he would do it, I certainly don’t want to rush him.
Thirty minutes, one hour, nothing! It’s almost nine when I decide to eat. I only have to heat a few leftovers from yesterday’s lunch my sister had given me, as she normally does every Sunday, she cooks for a regiment. But I’m convinced she does it on purpose to make sure that at least I eat on Mondays too.
At half past nine I am the sofa watching a TV series on vampires when I get a notification.
Friendship request by Thomas Bailey, Accept or Ignore.
“Goodness! Here we go! And now? If I accept immediately it looks as if I was here waiting for him.
“It’s better to wait a bit, isn’t it?” I’m talking to myself.
No, I can’t wait! I made myself wait at least ten minutes.
So to pass the time, I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and then I go to bed with my tablet, as I put it on my lap, I accept the friendship request.
I didn’t know that that would’ve changed my life. Of course I would’ve met him in my company even if he had’t hit me with his car. So fate has nothing to do with it. I got infatuated with a beautiful American; elusive and very dangerous. And he wants to get to know me. Well, I really don’t understand why. Not that I’m not pretty, I have a pretty good body, quite tall, dark curly hair and green eyes. But my hair is tied up, I don’t wear makeup, my body isn’t flattered by denim shorts and a t-shirt. So, what did he see? Well, I’ll soon find out, I hope.
My Facebook chat is always offline, I don’t want to be annoyed and I don’t want others to know when I’m available or not. While I wait for a sign, I look at his profile. I start from the photos. There are about a hundred. Thomas with his friends after what looks like a five a side match, in New York leaning on a taxi in what looks like the most trafficked road in America, with his arms around lots of girls, but never the same one in other photos. He must be a casanova, I’m sure. The profile photo remains my favourite. As I’m staring with eyes that I think have become love hearts, I hear the sound of a notification. It’s a private message.
Hi, are you there?
Hi, yeah yeah, I’m here.
I reply immediately, you never know.
-How are you? I never even asked you about your car. Did you end up taking it to a panel beater to take a look? For my car I just had to get the plate fixed. In any case, I’m bad-mannered, really!
Mm...which panel beater? Oh yes! The accident. I never even thought about taking it to a panel beater. That little scratch will stay there, at least It’ll remind me of that day.
-Oh go on, don’t worry. Yes I did take it, but there were no damages. It’s fine the way it is.
I shamelessly lie.
-Well that’s good. Anyhow, the BMW is a company car, so I’d have no problems in reporting the accident, so make sure you tell me if it’s otherwise.
-OK thanks, where are you?
-In Milan, but tomorrow morning early I’m going to Bologna. A client has some serious problems that require my presence.
Where are you?
-I’m on my bed reading a book with my tablet.
-Oh great, so I’m disturbing you?
No don’t worry it wasn’t that interesting.
I’m...writing... to... you...from...my... mobile, I’m also on my bed at the moment.
Do you live alone?
What bloody questions are you asking him?? Stupid!
-Yes I’m renting a one room flat here in Milan. I’ve been here a year, I’m from New York.
Yes, I know. I’d like to tell him that I know the information on Facebook by heart.
-Oh really? How lovely, I’ve always dreamed of going to New York. It’s one of the cities on my bucket list.
- Oh yes, it’s beautiful. Now it’s very easy to get there from Italy. One of these days I’ll take you there for a weekend.
-Ha ha ha, sorry but you’re making me laugh!
_Because I can’t go away for a weekend to New York with someone I don’t even know, don’t you agree?
-Well then, let’s get to know each other...
He’s always got an answer in less than two seconds.
-We are getting to know each other. But I need a bit more time, that’s the way I am.
-all the time you need...
-Can I ask you a question Thomas?
I blush, as if he were in front of me instead of the tablet.
Well let’s see, you’re my type. You don’t wear makeup, you’re not pretentious, you dress the way you want to dress, you’re shy but determinate, you’ve got beautiful hair, beautiful eyes, a beautiful mouth. You are beautiful.
Wow! Is he trying to pick me up, or what?
Thank you, I’m flattered. You’re not too bad yourself. I was impressed by you immediately, even if your car hit me first. :-p
Ha ha ha , you’re right. I’ll make sure not to make the same mistake again when we see each other next time.
Oh really? Why are we going to see each other again? Oh God! This time I’ll give him a go.
-The day after tomorrow I’ll be in your company again. We have to modify the admin programme. And seen tomorrow I’ll be in Bologna and I won’t finish before 5:00pm I thought I could find a hotel in Florence at my company’s expense and get things going. This way I avoid going back to Milan and leaving the next day. I don’t particularly love travelling by car.
OK, I read everything twice. Tomorrow night HE will be alone in a hotel in Florence, and the day after he’ll be in my company for work.
-How wonderful, I’ll be happy to see you again.
-I’d be happy for you to show me around Florence, but this time I can’t, I have to leave in the evening. Next time I’ll try to add a day off. Will you be my guide?
Me a guide? I barely know who built the Dome of Florence. I absolutely have to revise a bit of the city’s history. It’s never a bad idea.
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