lunch with Cristina.
She scheduled lunch with her best friend for Friday afternoon. Cristina was customarily late, so Francesca sat alone at a small table at Pane e Acqua, drinking sparkling water and wishing she had a glass of wine. It would make the conversation easier, she thought. Then again, it was barely noon, and Cristina was already going to be inclined to look at her judgmentally. Better not to start drinking before her friend arrived.
Cristina burst into the restaurant and waved excitedly at Francesca, bustling over to their little table and nearly upsetting two vases and a bottle of wine on her way. She wore a quilted Burberry jacket and carried a giant nylon Prada tote, which Francesca had once joked resembled a baby bag, a comment she had to retract when she learned Cristina and Giovanni had unsuccessfully been trying to get pregnant for months. Francesca smiled and waved back at her friend, standing as she approached the table to hug and kiss her.
“Ciao Cristina! You look great,” Francesca said.
“Shut up,” Cristina answered. “You’re ridiculous, I look like a mess and I know you hate this jacket. But it’s cold out and I can’t find anything in my closet.”
“You know I don’t think that. It just reminds me of the countryside.”
“False. Stop now before you say something else asinine.”
Francesca sighed. “That’s not going to happen. I have a story for you.”
“Hah! I knew it! I knew something was up when you called to have lunch after not doing anything for months. What happened with Bruno?” Cristina had a preternatural ability to remember names and other details of Francesca’s personal life.
“Let’s order first. It’s not Bruno. And I’m starving.”
After they placed their orders (Cristina for a salad, dressing on the side, Francesca for pasta), Francesca launched into the full narrative of Paolo Romaldo, beginning with the afternoon at Stadio dell’Alpi and ending with “I’m dating a beautiful woman named Francesca”. Cristina ate while Francesca spoke, first her entire salad, then, as Francesca kept talking, her untouched linguine, reaching across the table to twirl the pasta on her fork.
Cristina paused for a moment to swipe her iphone.
“This man? This is the man you’re dating?” Cristina had pulled up a photo of Paolo Romaldo from the game earlier that week. He was sweaty in his uniform, captured mid-run, the ball at his feet.
“That’s the one,” Francesca replied.
“You have got to be shitting me. Do you know what a big deal this is? You go from having all those boring boyfriends and non-boyfriends and now, all of a sudden, you get the most perfect man in the world? No way. No fucking way.”
Francesca laughed. “He’s hardly the most perfect man in the world,” she began.
“You’re just saying that. Give me an example of how he’s not perfect. He doesn’t have a job? Nope, that’s not it. He’s ugly? Uh, right. He can’t keep an erection? Highly doubtful, I’ve seen those photos on the blogs.”
“What photos on the blogs?”
“The ones of him popping a boner on the beach. Please.”
“Oh my God, Cristina. I can’t believe you.” Francesca was shaking with laughter.
“I’m telling you, I’ve seen it. It’s impressive. And it sounds like you’re pretty satisfied…” She waved at the waiter to come over. “We’d like some espresso, please, and a couple of those chocolate biscotti.”
“It’s pretty great, yeah,” Francesca answered. “I just wonder how long it can last. I’m always traveling, he’s always traveling, even when we’re not we don’t live in the same place. It’s not really a plan for stability.”
“It’s the best thing in the world,” Cristina said. “Every time you see him it’s exciting. You never have to do his laundry. How is this bad?”
“I suppose,” Francesca conceded.
“Do you like him? I can tell you like him. You’re blushing, now. You like him. Do you love him?”
Francesca paused. “I do like him. I don’t know if I love him. I don’t know how I would know.”
“I think you just decide,” Cristina said, reaching for a biscotti. “As a friend, I’m telling you I think it would be a wise decision.”
“You’re getting ahead of things,” Francesca replied.