Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: friends

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.


Tuesday morning she came into the studio and Timo was aflutter the minute she walked through the door.

“You got a mystery letter,” he said, waving a FedEx envelope in her face.  “I figured it was business so I opened it.  Two tickets to the Inter game tomorrow night!  You are a sly fox.”

“Wait, let me see,” she told him.

“Third row center field!”

“Let me see it.  I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  Reluctantly, TImo handed her the envelope.  She reached in and sure enough, there were two tickets, third row center field, to the Inter-Juventus game the next evening.  Nothing else.  The FedEx label said it had been sent from a shipping shop in Turin.

“Well?” Timo asked.

“Well what?  You’ve seen it–no note, no return address, no name.  Your guess is as good as mine.”

“Let’s see, I’m just curious.  We were in Turin last week ago shooting at the stadium where Juventus plays.  You yelled at a bunch of football players to get off the field during your shoot.  You showed up in Milan at noon the next day.  And now you get tickets to go see the best game of the season in the best seats in the arena.”

“How would you know they’re the best seats in the arena?”  TImo was notoriously ignorant of all sport except when the players undressed.

Ugh, I bought tickets for my brother for Christmas last year, they were like 500 Euros.  Each.”  He raised one eyebrow at her and paused for effect.  “But you’re stalling.  Trying to change the subject.”  He walked over to her computer.  “Let’s think of who could have wanted to send Francie tickets to the game,” he said, opening up her web browser.  “Oh look,” he said.  “The Juventus roster is in your history.  That makes it easy.”

“Timo!  Stop!”

“And you only looked at one player…Paolo Romaldo.  Nice choice.”

“Timo.”  She was furious.

“I’m hurt, you didn’t tell me anything.  I thought we were close,” he pouted.

“There’s nothing to tell,” she began.

“There’s always something to tell,” he wheedled.  “Anyway, I knew you liked him.”

“You did not,” she said indignantly.

“Did too,” he answered.  “You took a picture of him and it was on the card with the rest of the shoot.”  He flipped through some files and pulled it up on the screen.  “See?”

There it was, the shot she’d snapped while he was walking away across the field, shiny hair and tan legs and a hint of that magnificent ass under his shorts.

“Can you blame me?” she smiled.

Timo sat down on the couch and crossed his legs.  “So?  Dish.”

“I think I’d like a coffee first.”

“So go get one!” he said, gesticulating towards the espresso machine.  “I’ll have one, too.  No foam.  Although, maybe this is a story that needs foam…”


“Fine, no foam.  You don’t like foam anyway.”

She stood at the Jura waiting for their coffees.  “You could give me the preamble,” Timo said.

“It was like you said.  I yelled at them for being on the field and interrupting us, the one guy started talking to me–”

“–Paolo,” Timo interjected, purring the name.

“Yes, Paolo,” Francesca continued.  “He asked me to meet him for a drink after they were done and we went to a little cafe and had a drink–”

“What did you get?”

“A spritz.  We both had spritzes.”

“That’s so cute.  A spritz.  That’s what I used to get when I would go out on dates in high school.”

“Do you want to hear the rest of the story?”

“I can only imagine what’s going to happen next.  Maybe you’ll watch Titanic and share popcorn.”

“As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what we did.”

“I hope you two wait until you get married,” Timo squealed.

“You’ll notice I refrained from asking you about your dates in high school.”

“All older men.  They thought I was worldly beyond my years for Urbe.  Anyway.”


“So you had your spritz, and he had his spritz, and then you had his spritz, and then he had your spritz…”

“God, you are insufferable.”

“Oh, I”m sorry, did he spritz on you?  Could he not make you spritz?  Is that what happened?  Please, carry on.”

Francesca was laughing so hard she was shaking.  “I can’t decide if spritz is a good thing or a bad thing,” she said.

“I think it’s kind of a personal preference.”

“I’m trying to remember if we even finished our spritz,” she said vaguely.  “I think we may have sped off to his apartment and left the spritz on the table.”

“What kind of a place did he take you where they let you leave spritz on the table!”  They were both howling.

“The waiter knew him.  I think he’d spritzed there before,” Francesca said, deadpan.

“And then he took you to his apartment.”


“Did he drive?” Timo asked.


“What kind of car?”


“Oooh, what color?”

“Dark blue.”

“I bet he has a big penis,” Timo said.  “Two door or four?”


“None, just curious.”

“Two,” Francesca answered.

“Fine.  Good.  Where does he live?”

“Somewhere in Turin?” Francesca answered.  “I don’t know.  I don’t really know the city.”

“Apartment or house?”

“Apartment.  Loft.”

“Loft!  I love a loft.  So much light in a loft.  Did you tell him you work in a loft?”

“No.  It’s not really a loft.”

“I tell people we work in a loft,” Timo said.  “Look around.  It’s a loft.  Light, airy, exposed columns.  Loft.”

“His apartment was a real loft.”

“What was it like?”

“Light, airy, exposed columns,” Francesca answered.  “No, really.  White.  Contemporary art.  Extremely tidy.”

“Could you imagine yourself living there?”

“Stop it,” she said.  “You’re getting way ahead of yourself.”

“I’m just trying to piece together the series of events that culminated in these ridiculous tickets being delivered to our office today.”

There was a quiet moment.  “It was amazing,” Francesca said wistfully.  “He knew just what I wanted.  Or he wanted what I wanted.  We both wanted the same thing.  We just fit together, like–”

“Like a plug and an electric socket,” Timo finished.

Francesca groaned audibly.

“I’m happy for you,” Timo said.

“I didn’t think I’d hear from him again,” Francesca said.

“Well, you didn’t, not exactly.  The tickets could be from his secret deranged stalker wife.  She could be sitting one seat over waiting to stab you.”

“True.  I suppose there’s several possibilities.”

“And we haven’t even touched on the most important question,” Timo added.

“Which is?”

“Who’s going to go with you to the game.”

“I suppose I should ask Cristiana,” Francesca said.  “She loves football.  And Giovanni hates it so they never go.”

“Sure, she loves football.  But then you’d have to explain the whole story of how you came into possession of two amazing seats at a football game and it would be awkward for you to have to tell her a week later that you never heard from him again.”

“Hey!”  Francesca glared at him.

“However, I already know the whole story so you wouldn’t have to explain anything.  I would just sit next to you and wave a little flag and go home when the game was over.”

“I should probably ask my brother,” Francesca mused.  “I bet he would love to go to an Inter match.”

“Your brother?  He’ll never get out of the house.  You know what his wife is like, if he goes anywhere she has to go with him and if she can’t go with him she has to get a babysitter so she can go out, too, so he’s not having more fun without her, and it’s too late to get a babysitter for tomorrow night.  It’s too late for anything for tomorrow night,”  TImo sighed.  “And you’re forgetting that he might tell your mother.”

“Good point.  You’re probably busy tomorrow anyway, though.”

“Nothing I couldn’t cancel,” Timo replied.  “Come on, we can get Tonio to come here and do our hair together.  I promise I won’t say a word.”

At least she could be sure of that.  When they were together in the studio, Timo was out of control, but with anyone else, outside the studio, he was a vault.

“Be happy, Francie!  This is exciting!  It’s not every day the best fuck of your life turns out to be a millionaire celebrity.  This is like better than Jude Law!”

Francesca raised an eyebrow.  Jude Law was Timo’s ideal.  “Better than Jude Law?”

“Better for you,” Timo edited.