photo via Sferra
“I like your bedroom,” he said afterwards, looking around approvingly.
“You haven’t explained why you couldn’t go out to a restaurant,” she said.
He smiled. “Because we couldn’t do what we just did in a restaurant. Certainly not now, with your broken arm.”
She smacked him with a pillow. “Seriously.”
“Seriously?” He turned and kissed her breast. “I was meeting with Inter.”
“It’s a football team here.”
“I know that,” she said. “But I thought you were under contract to Juventus.”
“I am,” he answered. “And the contract is shitty and I signed it when I was twenty so I really didn’t know any better, but Inter seem to think I can fight my way out of it if I’m willing to move.”
“You mean they’ll help you break the contract as long as you sign on with them.”
“You understand completely.” He kissed her skin again.
“Do you want to play for Inter?” she asked.
“They’re making me an offer that’s hard to refuse. And I wouldn’t mind living in Milano rather than Torino.” Her heart soared. “I could get used to your cooking.”
“How long has this been going on?” she asked him.
“Honestly? Juve knows I’m underpaid–” she looked at him incredulously “–comparatively. So they’ve been throwing me a bonus every year to keep me happy. They got me cheap. And they’ve got the upper hand because I signed the contract. I know I could do better somewhere else–financially, at least. And Inter’s a winning team. The only time they ever lose is to us.”
She stroked his head. “I need to be able to play Serie A and Champions League and national team games, so I need to sign to a team that will allow me all those things. And I need to make my money now–I’m not going to be able to play like this forever.”
“So what are your options?”
“In Italy? Really only a handful of teams–Juve, Inter, Milan, sometimes Fiorentina, sometimes Lazio–play at that level and have the kind of payroll to bring me on. Outside of Italy, there are more options but it’s harder to begin the conversation.” He sighed.
“Poor baby,” Francesca laughed. “So many millions of Euros, so many decisions.”
“You don’t know what it’s like,” he said, propping himself up on his elbows. “We had no money. We lived in an apartment above the barbershop and I shared a bedroom with my sister. I started playing football because I had no other choice–I would have been paving roads or mopping floors.”
“But you’re not,” she said.
“Not now, no. You’ve got your safety net–you’ve got Mario and your brothers. I am that safety net for my family. My kid sister, she’s going to university now because of me.”
Francesca bent down to kiss him, long and full. “You’re a good man, Paolo Romaldo. Don’t let anyone say you aren’t.”