waking up in the Armani Hotel; back at the office with Timo.
Francesca collapsed back onto the pillows and sighed. All she wanted to do was stay in this perfect hotel room all day, but she knew any minute Timo would be calling to find out what had happened the night before and to give her the rundown on the work they needed to do today. She picked up the phone on the nightstand and the front desk answered immediately.
“Buongiorno signorina Jolie,” a polite woman said.
He had signed her on the register as Angelina Jolie. She had to laugh and could barely order her room service. Cappuccino, fruit, cheese, and bread. She was famished. Her next call was to Timo, preemptively, to tell him she was going to be a little late. By some incredible stroke of luck his phone rang four times and went to voice mail. Fantastic. She left a quick message and by that time, her breakfast had arrived. Francesca surveyed the cheese (pecorino romano, drizzled with honey), the bread (a crusty roll), and the fruit (figs and blood orange segments, with more honey) while she drained her cappuccino. She dove into the food with her hands, breaking the cheese into pieces and smearing the honey on the bread. The figs were exquisite, ripe and bursting their crimson insides through the dusky mauve of their skins, oozing sweetness. She was making a mess of the bed and licking the honey from her fingers but she didn’t care.
Thirty minutes later Francesca had showered and dressed, and she checked out of the hotel wearing her same clothes and with the staff still calling her “signorina Jolie”, though they could clearly tell she wasn’t. She drove the quick fifteen minutes to her studio, anxious to avoid Timo’s wrath at any further tardiness. But to her surprise, when she arrived at the studio, TImo wasn’t there yet. She found her jeans in the closet and pulled them on, along with her boots from the day before, carefully hanging the pleated Prada skirt and putting the Giuseppes back in their box. And then she set about to making another cup of coffee; Timo’s absence disoriented her and upset her morning routine, so she wandered aimlessly around the studio, trying to decide what to do first.
When Timo finally burst through the door Francesca was at her computer with her third cappuccino, clicking through sports news reports of the game the night before. Timo was wearing the same black and white striped sweater and white jeans he’d worn to the football game, and Francesca raised an eyebrow at him.
“I called you this morning,” she said.
“I must have been in the shower,” he answered.
“Doubtful,” she said. “You’re wearing your same clothes.”
“So are you,” he said, “but you smell like jasmine soap.”
“Ok, so you were in the shower,” Francesca conceded. “Whose shower?”
“You probably won’t remember, because you were so absorbed with secret messages and meeting places and stolen glances across the field–”
“–I was not!” she protested.
He waved her off. “You definitely were. Whatever. But if you had actually been paying attention, like I was, then you would have noticed the absolutely adorable boy sitting two rows up from us–”
“Not the one who was there with his parents?”
“Uh, no. He was six. Not my scene. The one beside them, who was there with his friends from university. I told you you didn’t notice. You were too busy being all ‘oh, look at me playing it cool and pretending like I’m not thinking about Paolo Romaldo’s big thick dick.'”
“Fine. Maybe I was trying to follow the game.”
“Anyway. Dario’s studying physics at the university. He’s from here. It was hilarious, he snuck me into his parents’ house and we fucked all night long and got the maid to bring us risotto in the middle of the night and in the morning I had to escape out the back door. So that’s why I’m late.”
“Dario,” Francesca mused. “Dario the physicist.”
“Dario the dreamfuck,” Timo rejoined. “But where are my manners–I haven’t asked what happened to you last night.”
Francesca sighed. “So we met at the Armani Hotel, but he wasn’t staying there, he just wanted to meet there for drinks because if we went to his hotel there would probably be photographers there–”
“And he didn’t already realize you are a photographer?”
“And he wanted to go someplace more private, so he picked the Armani Hotel, which was a good choice because it was very private. But I was worried, at that point, that this was a friendly drink, a since-I’m-in-town-I-popped-by-for-a-drink kind of drink, not a drink that was a precursor to going upstairs, because he didn’t have a room upstairs.”
“Nice girl that you are, you don’t want to give the wrong impression during a friendly drink.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “I introduced him to Fernet and Coke–”
“Your two best friends–”
“And we started making out right there in the lounge and I felt it.”
“God, Timo, you are on fire for having not gotten any sleep last night.”
“I’m sorry, please. Go on.”
“There’s not much else to say. He had to leave and take the bus back to Torino.”
“The bus? Ugh. Really?”
“Apparently it’s a thing. They ride the bus together. As a team.”
“It sounds kind of gay to me,” Timo fluttered his eyelids and got up to make himself another espresso. His phone buzzed and he ran to grab it, reading the text as he walked back to the couch.
“Dario?” Francesca asked.
Timo didn’t look up from typing on the screen. “Yes, finally. Sounds like he just woke up. He’s so cute. So where did we leave off? The bus. He’s taking the big gay bus of football players back to Torino.”
“Do you think he sits at the back of the bus? Between the drinks and the bus what happened? Other than feeling it?”
“Have you ever been to the Armani Hotel? The beds are amazing.”
“Wait, you said he didn’t have a room.”
“He got a room. And it was gorgeous.”
“You’re being very vague about this whole situation,” Timo said.
“I don’t know what else there is to say. You were right about the skirt, though.”
“Yeah,” Francesca answered. “Paolo liked the skirt.”
“Obviously you should listen to me more often.” Timo got up and walked towards his desk. “So what’s next? Do you have to wait for another treasure map to see him again?”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “I gave him my number–”
“Shit,” Timo interjected. “I completely forgot we have to book that trip to Capri for the Bazaar thing. Shit shit shit. That will teach me to sleep through my reminders.” And he started typing furiously at his computer. “We need the proofs from last week, too. Are they on the shared drive yet? We should have about a hundred.” He clipped his headset to his ear and she could hear him start talking to their travel agent.