the morning after.

by s.m.

After Francesca had dressed and towel-dried her hair, she walked into the kitchen to find Paolo, shirtless, barefoot and wet-haired in jeans, standing at his big, expensive espresso machine.

“I didn’t know if you wanted cappuccino or espresso so I made both,” he said, gesturing to the two white cups, one large and one small, at the marble counter.

“Thank you,” she said, pouring the single shot into the cappuccino and giving it a quick stir.

“I don’t have anything to eat,” he apologized. “I’m rarely here, and I just get takeout when I am.”

“This is what I usually have for breakfast,”  she smiled.  They stood at opposite ends of the marble island.

“You live in Milano?” Paolo asked, beaching the silence.

“Yes, but I travel a lot, too.”

“Are you from there?”

“Yes.”

“Family still there?”

“Mostly,” she answered.

Her phone rang, and she was grateful to see it was Timo.  She could have let it go to voice mail; he would text her anyway to say whatever he had to say, but she answered to avoid continuing the conversation about her family.

“Where a-h-h-re you?” Timo asked with his favorite adopted affectation, an English accent mimicking the queen’s.

“I’m on my way in,” she fibbed.  She was, technically.  Her shoes were on, she could see the door, she was almost leaving.

“Everything from yesterday is ok, all pretty straightforward,” Timo reported.  The reason Francesca hired TImo, and the reason she loved him, was his efficiency.  He was over-the-top in his appearance and his demeanor, but in the office he was all business.  “Elena passed me a call from one of those new Turkish magazines, they want to fly you to Istanbul for some shoot on a boat.”

Francesca could tell Timo was at optimal caffeine consumption and ready to power through the day’s work, and she couldn’t give him her full attention with Paolo standing in front of her, half-naked.

“I’ll call you in ten minutes,” she told Timo, and ended the call.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized to Romaldo, and he waved her off.

“You’re busy,” he said.  “I understand.  You’re a fancy fashion photographer, you’re probably off to Ibiza with Kate Moss.”

“I am,” she answered.  “We go every month for the Fuck Me I’m Famous party.”

“I knew I’d seen you somewhere before,” he grinned, and standing behind her, kissed her warmly on the back of her neck.

She sighed, and looked at her watch.  “I need to call a taxi.  My car is at the stadium.”

“You’re lucky–I’m going that way.  Let me grab a shirt.”

“Do you really have to?” she asked, smiling.  He turned her around and kissed her again.

They rode down in the elevator the same way they’d ridden up; silently, separately, eyes fixed on the floor.  In the car, he kept the stereo and they didn’t speak.  Francesca looked out the window, trying to recognize anything along the way, trying to remember the same ride just twelve hours earlier.  Paolo drummed his fingers on the steering wheel randomly.

“So, you’re going straight back to Milan,” he said as they pulled into the huge stadium lot.

“I am, I’m afraid.  Back to work.  But it was lovely meeting you.”

“It was a pleasure, principesa.  I think this is you,” he said, pulling alongside her little red Alfa.

They got out of the car and she pulled her keys from her Bottega hobo.

“Keep in touch,” he said, and kissed her gently on each cheek.

“Ciao, Paolo,” she said, getting into her car.