“Now may I open my present?” he asked, grinning.
“I suppose so,” she said, sipping her champagne.
He untied the red satin ribbon, letting it drop to the floor, and slid his finger under the glossy black paper, opening the package methodically at the seams. She had never seen anyone open a present so neatly. Under the wrapping he revealed a black and pink box with the letters “A P” embossed in gold script.
“Are you sure this is intended for me?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m sure,” she said.
He lifted the lid of the box and unfolded the black tissue paper. Inside he found a black French leavers lace demi-bra, waspie, and high-waisted panties, spangled with miniature crystals and tiny copper threads. “I don’t think it’s my size…” he began.
“This piece,” Francesca said, taking the panties from him, “is called an ‘ouvert.'”
“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“I think you’ll catch on once you see it on.”
“I don’t mean to be rude,” he said, “but what are you waiting for?”
He handed her the box and its contents and she ran into her bedroom. She heard him walk into the bathroom, whistling a little bit of The Barber of Seville, splashing water on his face and brushing his teeth. She stood in front of her mirror and adjusted her Agent Provocateur ensemble. The waspie, in particular, seemed somewhat pointless–a combination garter belt and corset, it was just something extra to put on and take off. But, she supposed, that was the whole point. The lace, for all its structure and adornment, was soft, without all the boning and underwires, the outfit would probably be relatively comfortable. She smoothed her black stockings and stepped into a pair of vertiginously tall Dior black satin d’Orsay heels. Merry Christmas, Paolo.
She walked out of the bedroom and down the hall towards the living room. She could still hear him whistling Rossini in the bathroom as she picked up the red satin ribbon from the oriental rug and coiled it in her hand. As she passed the bathroom again she knocked on the door.
“Come on,” she said. “I’m waiting.”
He opened the door a fraction and stuck his head out. “Sorry, just a minute,” he said, but she was already back behind the closed bedroom door.
Francesca set the ribbon on her bedside table and looked in the mirror again. Pretty good. The sheer black stockings emphasized the contours of her long legs, the waspie drew attention to her slim waist, and her breasts were creamy and full above the demi-cup of her bra. Admittedly, she thought holiday knickers were a little ridiculous, and she couldn’t remember ever having worn lingerie embellished with crystals, but in the low candlelight of her bedroom it looked amazing. And she hoped, at least, it would make up for the lack of decor in the rest of her apartment.
She heard Paolo’s footsteps outside the door. “Ready or not,” he said, turning the knob.
He stopped short when he saw her.
“Wow,” he said quietly. “Wow.”
She walked towards him, slowly and deliberately. “Buon Natale, baby,” she whispered.