Paolo and Francesca…

a novel about beautiful people in Italy.

Tag: Giuseppe Zanotti

“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.”

lady in red.

Francesca sat at breakfast wearing sunglasses, drinking water and coffee in an attempt to will away her throbbing headache.  Timo tossed the newspaper on the breakfast table.  He had it open to a tabloid photo Francesca recognized from the night before, showing the Turk with his hand outstretched to block his face from the camera and her head turned, her hair obscuring most of her face.

“In case you’re wondering, it says ‘SELIM AND THE LADY IN RED’,”  Timo said, pointing at the headline in boldface Turkish.  “Now,” he continued, “it’s hard for me to tell because these people seem to be taking pains to hide from the camera, but it looks like that’s the man with the perfectly-tailored suit from the other night, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that woman looked a lot like you.”  He glanced under the table at her shoes.  “She even has the same Giuseppes,” he added.

“That,” Francesca whispered, “is an amazing coincidence.”

“Isn’t it,” Timo said smugly.  “Luckily, the bellhop was able to translate it for me.  Apparently these two had a beautiful and romantic evening–there was a boat ride on the Bosporus, then a dinner at a tiny little restaurant in the old city, and then they were out at some hot club in Nisantasi dancing until dawn.  Sound familiar?”

She sighed and waved over a waiter.  “I’d like to order something to eat, please.  I’d like some eggs and a pastry and some cheese and fruit.  And more coffee, please.”

“You’re not answering me,” Timo prodded.

“I have a splitting headache,” she said.  “What do you want me to say?  Yes, I went on a boat last night and then I had dinner and then I went to a club, and I did it all with that man.  Is that enough?”

“Not really,” he said.  “How do you like being called ‘The Lady in Red’?”

She rubbed her temples.  “I think it’s asinine,” she said.  “That dress is barely red.  It’s more like a Spanish red.  Oxblood.”

Timo laughed.  “I thought you said he was married.”

“He is married.  I expect that article had something to say about that.”

“Only how upset his wife must be, home with their sick daughter while he’s out painting the town…wait for it–red.”

Her breakfast arrived.  Timo filched a couple grapes from her plate while she dove into her eggs.

“He says he’s getting divorced,” she said.

Timo smiled.  “How many times have you heard that before?”

“Fair enough,” Francesca replied.

“It also refers to him,” Timo continued, folding the paper to read it more easily, “as the scion of a dual fortune, jewelry and textiles.  That must be why it’s news when he goes out with a woman who’s not his wife.”

“Honestly, I don’t know anything about that,” she said.  “It never came up in conversation.”

“I don’t imagine there was much conversation to be had,” Timo smiled cattily.  “Waste of time, really.”

She drained her coffee silently.  “It really is impressive that you picked up Turkish so quickly,” she finally said.

Game Time.

Despite her protests that her hair was fine, Timo had scheduled Tonio for 4pm on Wednesday.  The hairdresser set up in the alcove of the studio they reserved for models, with its makeup chair and mirror, and he set Francesca’s hair in juice can rollers and then dismissed her for the next hour, during which he trimmed, styled, and restyled Timo’s cropped cut.  Francesca sat at her computer and laughed.  When Timo was reasonably satisfied he popped a bottle of prosecco and the three of them drank while Tonio unrolled Francesca’s long dark tresses.  Tonio sprayed and teased, and when Francesca caught a glimpse in the mirror, she looked like an Italian film actress: volume at the crown, thick barrel waves over her shoulders, big sexy hair.

“Perfect!” Timo effused.

Francesca wasn’t convinced.  “I’m not going to Cannes,” she said.

“You might as well be.  Consider this your big break, missy.  You can’t show up looking like an indigent.”

“You sound like my mother.  And I’m hardly an indigent, I don’t think.”

Tonio chimed in.  “You two are like an old married couple.”

“Chop chop,” Timo hovered.  “Time to change.”

“I’m not changing,” Francesca retorted.  She was wearing long skinny jeans and a black cashmere sweater.  Her leather jacket hung over the back of her desk chair.

“That’s what you think,” Timo said.  “Tonio, she obviously needs to change.”

“Obviously,” Tonio replied.


“There’s nothing sexy about that sweater, and those jeans say I don’t care enough to do anything I wouldn’t normally do.”

“It’s a football game.  It’s outside.  It is a casual sporting event.”

“It is the most important night of your life,” Timo said, walking towards her with a garment bag.  “I took the liberty of styling an outfit for you.”

Francesca groaned audibly.

Timo unzipped the garment bag with a grand flourish and set a shopping bag with a shoebox on her desk.

“Oh no,” Francesca protested.  “No way.  I am not wearing a pleated skirt to a football game.  Absolutely not.”

“I wouldn’t have picked it as my first choice either,” Timo explained, “but then I thought of your legs, and I thought about the efficiency of a skirt versus a pair of pants or jeans, and the pleats are so chic, and you’ll look amazing.  Just try it on.”

“It’s going to be cold tonight.”

“Try it.”

“I do kind of like the blouse.”  The skirt was from Prada and the blouse was Moschino and while the whole look was a little cute compared to how Francesca normally dressed, Timo had balanced the sweetness with a brutal pair of Giuseppe Zanotti heels and overall, though she would look a little overdressed for a football game, she wouldn’t look entirely ridiculous.

She emerged from the studio’s dressing room and surveyed herself in the full-length mirror.

“Gorgeous!” Timo cried.  “You are so getting laid tonight.  Time to go before you change your mind.”

“I’ll drive,” Francesca offered, but Timo had a plan for that, too.

“We both drive.  I need to be able to get myself home.  Obviously.”

When they arrived at the stadium and presented their tickets at the gate, they were ushered up to a private reception area with food and drinks.  Francesca looked around at the businessmen in their suits and their wives in stylish dresses and felt less self-conscious, while Timo scurried around surveying the scene.  Ten minutes before kickoff, an usher came to each of the guests to escort them to their seats.

“Signorina Ghiberti?” The usher asked.

“Yes,” Francesca smiled.

“For you,” he said, and handed her an envelope.  She slipped it into her bag and corralled TImo, then followed the usher.

“Aren’t you going to open that envelope?” Timo hissed.

“Not now,” she whispered.

As they had thought, their seats were at midfield, three rows up.  Francesca glanced quickly at the fans to her left and right and determined there were probably no deranged stalkers, just football fans.  On the field, kids wearing uniforms were unfurling a banner and kicking a ball around in some sort of exhibition.  She reached in her bag and pulled out the envelope the usher had given her.

A page of notepaper.

Scribbly handwriting that started out trying to be neat and lapsed quickly into near-illegibility.

Meet me in the lounge at the Armani Hotel.  I’ll be there by 2230h.  Look straight ahead.

She looked up from the note and straight onto the field.  Standing on the midfield line, looking directly and exclusively at her, Paolo Romaldo, #4, smiled and waved.

She smiled back and lifted her hand.

“Madonna,” Timo said.

Several rows behind them, a bunch of girls waved and screamed in the general direction of center field and through their squealing, Francesca heard the bits of their conversation that included Romaldo’s name.

“Do you think he was really waving at us?” Timo asked her.

Francesca handed him the note.  “Guess so,” he said, scanning it.

The game itself was a blur, partly because Francesca had a limited understanding of the rules of the game, despite having grown up with two brothers playing, partly because Timo didn’t stop talking the entire time, even making friends with the people sitting around them, and partly, no, mostly because she couldn’t stop imagining what was going to happen later that night.  From what she could gather, the two teams were well-matched and the game was highly defensive; neither team scored in the first half and it resembled a chess match more than a football game.