The Balon was Turin’s antiques market, but it was more than just a flea market. In the tradition of great city markets–Barcelona and New York were two immediate comparisons, Francesca thought–it was a treasure trove. Everything from legitimate antiques priced at thousands of Euros to old junk for children to buy with their allowance money; she had done a shoot at the Balon and been in love with it ever since.
“So you’re really just going to look at everything?” Paolo asked, as she poked through a bin of vintage paperbacks.
“Probably. Except the furniture. I don’t think I need any more furniture.”
“But everything else?”
“Just look around,” she urged him. “You might find something you like. There’s all sorts of bar stuff over there.”
Paolo wore jeans and a t-shirt with a Moncler jacket and his aviator sunglasses. He had pulled a wool cap over his hair but he still looked undeniably like Paolo Romaldo. Francesca had turned up the collar of her coat against the cold and wore big Fendi sunglasses. What she didn’t tell Paolo she liked so much about the antiques market was that they wouldn’t be hounded by paparazzi there–it was too boring for anyone to imagine they would go. He said something about being chilly and going to get a coffee in the cafe across the square to warm up. She had bought a strange, spiny seashell from a table manned by hippies, a vintage hotel ashtray for her brother Michele, and was looking at a tray of jewelry when Paolo joined her.
“Anything there you like?” he asked her.
“My grandmother used to have earrings like this,” she said, picking up a pair of iridescent crystal clusters from the 1950s.
“You wouldn’t actually wear those,” he said, taken aback.
“Probably not,” she answered. “But they’re pretty, aren’t they?” She moved to a tray of charms. “This is the one I like the best,” she said, pointing at a small gold anchor.
“Let me get it for you,” he said, pulling out his wallet from his back pocket.
“No!” she protested. “I can get it myself.”
“I know you can,” he said, handing some bills to the old man behind the table. “But I want to get it for you. I want to give you something you’ll wear every day. To remind you of me.”
“I don’t need jewelry to remind me of you,” she said, but she accepted the small box and tucked it in her handbag. “Thank you,” she said, kissing him lightly.
“Signore,” the old man said. “You’re the football player, no?”
“Si, signore,” Paolo replied. “Thank you for your help.” He shook the old man’s hand before they walked away.
“That was sweet,” Francesca said.
“I told you, I wanted to give you something,” he answered.
“No, the old man,” she said. “You’re sweet, too–I love my anchor, and I will wear it every day. But that man was so cute.”
Paolo pulled her close to him and they walked with his arm around her waist. “I’m really hungry,” he said. “I’m really excited to be going to Eataly.”