“the maestro of the midfield”
When she went upstairs, the first thing she did was turn on the television to see if Paolo’s game was still on. It was over, so she watched RAI Sports to get the recap. It was a channel she’d never even known existed, but as she watched, she started to hear names and phrases familiar to her from listening to Paolo. There had been several games that evening, and she had to watch reports from Rome and Naples before getting to the Juventus match. They had played Udinese and the sportscasters insisted on making their report as suspenseful as possible when recounting the highlights. Juventus had scored first but Udinese was quick to return attack, and the game was tied at the half. At the start of the second half Juventus subbed in Arancetti, their powerful young striker, and waited anxiously to see if the 20-year old could score a goal and justify his incredible salary. Arancetti did score, and his goal came off a set piece from none other than (and here the sportscaster paused for effect) Paolo Romaldo, the maestro of the midfield, sailing a gorgeous free kick into the box for Arancetti to head past the goalkeeper. Francesca cheered as she watched it on the television. She reached for her phone and sent him a message.
Congratulations, baby! Looks like you saved the day! xxxxxx.
Two minutes later, her phone rang.
“Is this the maestro of the midfield?” she answered.
He laughed. She could hear all sorts of background noise–music, talking. “I’ll be the maestro of your midfield,” he replied.
She groaned. “Where are you?”
“Some bar in Udine. We’re staying here tonight and flying back tomorrow morning. What were you doing tonight?”
“I had dinner with my brother and his wife.” She conveniently neglected to mention Bruno. “They started talking about football and I was so tempted to tell them about you.”
“Why wouldn’t you?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Why wouldn’t you tell them about me?”
“It didn’t seem appropriate. What could I have said? ‘Oh, football. I have sex occasionally with a football player.'”
“That’s not how you would really describe it, is it?” he asked.
“Why, what would you say?” She realized she wanted very badly to know his answer.
“I’d say I’m dating a beautiful woman named Francesca.”
“Say it,” she said. “Say it to your teammates and everyone in the bar.”
“I’M DATING A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN NAMED FRANCESCA,” she heard him yell over the noise of the bar. “Did you hear that?” he asked her.
“Yes,” she laughed. “Yes. All right, the next time it comes up, I’m going to tell my brother I’m dating a brilliant football player named Paolo Romaldo.”
“Just your brother?”
“Anyone who asks. Anyone at all,” she answered.
“Good,” he said. “I’ve got to go. I’ll be thinking about you, Cesca.”
“Ciao, Paolo. Sleep well.”
She ended the call and stared at her phone for a moment, trying to make sure she had understood what he’d said. “I’m dating a beautiful woman named Francesca” rang in her ears. He cared. He really cared. Right? Now she really needed Timo. She picked up her phone to dial him, then thought better of it. Timo had made it abundantly clear he was tired of hearing about Paolo. Maybe it was time to come clean to Cristina.