Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: Cristina

“you know what happens next.”

[before this: a knock on the door.]

“Well, then,” Cristina said.  “Let’s go to the shoes.”  They took the elevator to the fifth floor with a gaggle of Asian tourists.  Once they had arrived, Giulietta and the tourists made a bee line for the Louboutins.  Francesca started to say something and Cristina grabbed her arm to stop her.

“You have to try to be nice and try not to be drunk,” she whispered.

Francesca rolled her eyes.  “Arriviste,” she muttered under her breath.

Giulietta fingered a pair of 105mm lace and nude peep-toe pumps.  “These remind me a little of those Valentino shoes you have,” she said to Francesca.

Maybe Cristina was right; maybe Giulietta just needed a friend, a confidante, a shopping buddy, a drinking buddy.  “Absolutely,” she replied.  “I think they’re actually a bit higher, don’t you think?”

“Do you think Ricci would like them?”

“Oh, God, I don’t know.  I’ve never thought about anything like that.  Is he into shoes?”  Francesca was a little disturbed.

“Is Romaldo into shoes?” Giulietta asked her.

“He seems to enjoy them,” she grinned, turning her back on the Louboutins and heading towards Giuseppe Zanotti.  “I think he’d be pretty into these,” she said, picking up a pair of tall, strappy gladiators.

“Really?  Into them like how?  Like, you wear them and he says, ‘oh, those shoes are so hot’?”  Giulietta looked at her expectantly.

Francesca was mildly aware that she was treading on unstable ground, uncharted territory, something like that.  But she was also mildly inebriated, and more loquacious than she would have been otherwise.  “You know what I like to do?” she began, leaning in closer to Giulietta.  Out of the corner of her eye she saw Cristina looking at flat velvet slippers.  “I like to get a really ridiculous pair of shoes–really high, really sexy–and some nice black stockings, the ones with a back seam, and a pretty set of lingerie, a garter belt and all that, definitely lace.  And on a weekend when I’m seeing Paolo, I’ll wear that for him, under a trench coat or something, when I get to his place.”

Her sister-in-law’s mouth hung open.  “And then?”

“God, Giulietta, don’t be dense,” Francesca snapped.  Giulietta’s eyes narrowed and Francesca softened.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.  But you know what happens next.”

lunch with Cristina at Obika.



image via Passport Delicious

[before this: an evening cruise on the Bosporus; lady in red]

“Oh!  So this is the best part.  Well, sort of.  It’s also the worst part.  So he’s some sort of tabloid celebrity in Turkey.”

Cristina raised an eyebrow.  “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Like, the paparazzi follow him around.  He comes from a wealthy family and that’s like society over there, they take it all very seriously, so every time he gets married or divorced–”

“EVERY TIME HE GETS MARRIED OR DIVORCED?”  Cristina almost spit her Valpolicella across the table.

“That’s the other part.  He’s been married or divorced a couple of times.”

“Which one is he currently?” Cristina asked.

“Which what?”

“Married or divorced?”

“Married,” Francesca replied sheepishly.  “But getting divorced soon.”

“Oh, that’s a relief,” Cristina said, drinking more wine.  “Because I’m beginning to see where this is going.”

Francesca stayed quiet for a minute.

“Well?” Cristina asked, selecting a slice of bread from the basket.

“You’re going to be too hard on me,” Francesca said quietly.

Cristina ground some salt and pepper, then dragged her bread through a pool of grassy green olive oil on her side plate, mopping it back and forth several times.  She paused with the bread midway to her mouth as if she’d just thought of what to say.  “It sounds like you deserve it,” she replied.

Francesca drank more wine.  “After the club we went back to the hotel,” she began.


“And, well, you know,”

“That’s the way to make a story really compelling,” Cristina said.  “Right when you get to the good part, start glossing over the details with, ‘well, you know…'”

“God, Cristina, he was so, I don’t know–so present, so into everything, so powerful.  He just conquered me, in every possible way.  I was possessed.”


“Something like that, yeah.  And I loved it.”

“So, not to put this too bluntly, but since you seem to be having trouble elucidating this event fully, you did sleep with him, correct?”

“I did.”

“Ok,” Cristina replied.  “And it was good.”

“It was fantastic.”

“And let me remind you that on a regular basis, you sleep with a top football player, so when you’re making the comparison–” Cristina whispered.

“I wasn’t comparing.”

“If you were,” Cristina continued.

“It’s completely different.  I felt completely different with him than I feel with Paolo.  I’m used to Paolo, I know what he likes to do, I know how he likes to do it, and yes, you’ve got a point–” she lowered her voice, glancing around the restaurant.  “Paolo is extremely athletic, and the Turk wasn’t like that, no, but there were other things.”

“Other things like anal?”

Francesca furrowed her brow and shook her head.  “No, not other things like anal.  Other things like a different emotional connection.”

“I see,” Cristina said, pursing her lips.

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.