Danielle F. White shares an extract from Coco Chanel Saved My Life.
The story of the little black dress that mended a broken heart. Rebecca is thirty-three years old, has a wardrobe full of tweed trouser suits and a boundless passion for the splendid Coco Chanel.
She is romantic, dreamy, and madly in love with Niccolò, whom she is about to join in Milan. On arrival, Niccolò confesses to have fallen in love with another woman.
After spending several days confined in her flat, Rebecca plunges herself into the intense Milanese social life with the stylishness of her heroine.
Will Rebecca remain an eternal Mademoiselle, like the ageless Coco? Or does destiny have an unexpected surprise in store for her?
The passengers on the hot and crowded subway car, who saw me rushing in on my five inch heels just as the doors closed behind me, couldn’t imagine that they were looking at the happiest woman in the world.
My move to Milan had been approved by my company, I had just signed a lease for a charming apartment and I was going to announce to the man I loved that I would be living in the same town as him.
I had met Niccolò the year before, at the birthday party of my best friend Emma. I was a guest at her apartment in the big city, having a few days away from Venice and from my very recent ex-fiancé.
Pietro and I were together for five years. He worked at a computer company, but his passion was photography. He conquered me with a beautiful black and white portrait he took of me the first afternoon we met. A month later we were living together, happy and in love. We had beautiful moments. We had fun: we travelled together, we spent Sunday afternoons on the couch watching TV, and we had big plans for the future.
Then the misunderstandings began – the lies, the loan to buy a house, our first arguments about tile colour – we started to accuse each other, ‘you are exactly like your mother’ – ‘you are worse than your father’, until the day I found him in bed with another woman. She was his colleague, blonde and chubby, and I kicked him out of the house. I felt outraged. He betrayed me with a chubby woman!
The evening I met Niccolò I wore a short tweed jacket with a camellia in my lapel and tight jeans that made me look at least six pounds lighter. I had on a long pearl necklace that was knotted over my breast. I was trying not to stuff myself with peanuts, while I was being bitchy about the woman I had found in bed with the man I shared my mortgage with. “Can you believe it? He betrayed me with a chubby woman.” I kept repeating this, upset and disgusted, drinking prosecco and chewing on carrots and fennel. “I can’t believe that the man, who listened to me for 4 years about how to keep myself skinny or losing weight, was cruel enough to betray me for a woman with hips like a whale! Evidently he prefers fat women and I – like an idiot – starved myself for years.”
Emma, sick and tired of my constant whining, kept saying: “You’re nuts! What do you care about weight? He betrayed you, do you understand? That is what counts!”
“I know, but I can’t help it, Emma. I close my eyes and all I can see are petite size dresses, flat stomachs, fasting, compulsive binge-eating, purifying herbal teas, diets with carbohydrate, without carbohydrate, with protein, without protein, miraculous drinks, giant scales…” I said to her, biting into another carrot.
“Aren’t you tired of talking about your looks? You are beautiful, intelligent and funny. What the hell more do you want from life?”
I was thirty-two and considered myself pretty enough, but just enough. I was wearing a small size in clothes, sometimes a medium. But I didn’t want to admit it, so I squeezed uncomfortably into them. I had firm bottom, small but pretty breasts – two big brown doe eyes and full sensual lips. I’ve never been beautiful enough for the cover of a fashion magazine or a woman who turns a man’s head. And I was not the kind of girl who broke hearts and only gave herself to the chosen few. Yet, having overcome my damned adolescence, I understood I could have some success. My sense of irony and humour, as a kid condemned me to always be the nice friend, the back-up girl – you know – for the snobby blonde girl-friends that everybody wanted to seduce.
Growing up I became a type, impertinent and charming. When Mother Nature does not give one perfect beauty, one must rely on personality.
“You are right,” I admitted to Emma, “but I can’t think of anything else.”
“Do you really think good looks are so important?” she asked, pouring herself a glass of wine.
“Coco Chanel used to say, we should be beautiful so that men love us and we should be stupid to love men.” I answered.
“Well, it may be a great truth!” Emma said, raising her glass in a toast to my health.
While I kept munching on vegetables and cursing my ex-fiancé, the downstairs bell rang. A few minutes later, a very handsome man made a triumphal entry. He had very dark eyes, mussed up hair and two days growth of beard. He wore a charcoal grey tailored suit, without a tie. His big, warm smile made all the other smiles around look pathetic. Immediately I understood that Niccolò was a self-confident man – charismatic, funny and undoubtedly sexy. All the women at the party seemed to know him very well. After saying hello to some friends, shaking hands and kissing cheeks, he took off his jacket, threw it on the sofa and came straight into the kitchen.
Walking towards us, he began to roll up his white shirt sleeves, slowly and carefully, showing his fantastic forearms. I must confess, I have a great passion, which is perhaps slightly strange, for men in shirt sleeves. When the sleeves stop just below the elbow showing muscular arms, I lose control. While Niccolò approached the kitchen island, probably looking for a drink, I was hypnotized by his arms.
He looked at me for a moment. “Are you interested in watches?” he asked, waking me up in the middle of an erotic dream.
“Sorry?” I answered, staring at him, like a trout stares at a fisherman before being thrown on the bottom of the boat.
“I thought you were looking at my watch, so I assumed you were an expert…”
“Right! Your watch.” I said, almost choking my carrot in front of this gorgeous hunk. “Yes, I have a passion for watches. Yours is really a beautiful one. It enhances your wrist.”
“Funny! I never thought of watches as something ’wrist enhancing’. Obviously you like them, so why don’t you wear one?”
I hate watches. Just the idea of wearing a symbol of time passing seems ridiculous and scary.
As if life were not enough to remind us every twenty-four hours that another day went by and we are older.
“Oh, I love watches! I don’t wear one because… um, because I’m allergic.” I answered like an idiot.
“Allergic to watches?” Listening to him repeat my sentence seemed even more stupid. Thank god, at that moment Emma returned to the kitchen, interrupting this embarrassing and surreal conversation. I wanted to kiss her for saving me.
“Hey, have you two already met?” She asked grabbing a bottle of rum from a shelf.
“Actually, no,” he answered, smiling at me.
“Rebecca or Coco to my friends.”
“As in the grand Chanel,” added Emma, sneering. “Rebecca is a big fan of Coco Chanel.”
“Yes, I am a great admirer,” I smiled shyly, while extending my hand.
“Niccolò.” He answered, shaking it warmly. Even his hand was sexy, I thought.
“Rebecca is my childhood friend. We went to school together. She lives in Venice and is here for a few days.”
“Welcome to Milan, Rebecca,” he smiled again. “What do you do?”
One of the things I hate most is when people ask you, as soon as they meet you, what you do for a living. Your job. As if it should of course be great! Nobody asks if you listen to Lucio Battisti or to Lou Reed, or if you prefer Hogan shoes to All Stars, if you love holiday resorts or prefer camping in the wild, if you laugh at Vanzina films or at the Coen brothers – they only ask about your damn job!
“I organize events.” I answered vaguely. Actually I worked at a big company that organized events and meetings around Europe. To a layman it could sound exciting: parties, elegant dinners, evening gowns and centre pieces with flowers and exotic fruit. In reality I was organizing mostly boring medical and scientific meetings. The most exciting thing that could happen to me were conferences about proctology or seminars about prostate problems.
“Beautiful! I could ask you for some advice about the opening party I’m organizing for my new studio. I am an architect.” He said, raising his arm to drink, emphasizing the beauty of his bicep.
I was already his love slave.
We spent all evening talking. Besides being beautiful, Niccolò was also well-read, intelligent, funny and gentle. He was filling my glass as soon as it was empty and kept asking me if I enjoyed being there. I was drunk with wine and with him. I didn’t give one more thought about my ex and his whale of a girlfriend.
At the end of the evening, Niccolò kissed me on the cheek and gave me his business card.
Then he put on his jacket and disappeared into the Milanese night.
“Don’t you hate this new trend, when men leave you with their telephone number?” I asked Emma, staring the business card.
“Are you upset because you’re not used to making the first move?”
“I just can’t accept how times have changed, that men have stopped being the pursuers, that they simply give out their cell phone number and then wait to be called.” I said, drinking my last glass of prosecco.
“You sound very old fashioned!”
“Old fashioned? I completely believe in the equality of sexes, but I’m still convinced that the man should call first. It’s a question of DNA. It’s like paying for dinner, hanging shelves, opening car doors and carrying your luggage.”
“This is really emancipation!” Emma laughed.
Before going to sleep with my head spinning while trying to count the calories I must have consumed that evening, I thought that maybe for Niccolò I was ready to make an exception. My DNA theory could go to hell!
Next day I awoke with all the known hangover symptoms. Emma and I talked about the best strategy. Then I took a deep breath and called his damn number.
It was much easier I expected.
That same evening, I saw Niccolò. I think I made an impression on him. It had to be my tight jeans!
He came to pick me up. He opened the car door for me and then selected the perfect music. At the restaurant he ordered an incredible wine. I felt like his goddess. I wore a little black dress that was loose enough to hide some of my curves. He noticed my fantastic Sergio Rossi sandals and complimented me on my slender ankles.
“I’m crazy about shoes,” I confessed during dinner. “I have more than a hundred pairs.”
“Congratulations! A big collection,” he answered, slightly puzzled.
“I know, I could look like the typical woman who spends all her salary on high heels and sophisticated boots and goes to crazy parties every night wearing a different pair. Actually, I buy them and keep them in a stockpile because I never know when to wear them. Some are still brand new, never worn. Yet I like the idea they are there, waiting for me. I even think that some of them love me!” I laughed.
Being with Niccolò made me high.
“You’re funny, Coco,” he said, letting me go on about shoes, even showing a certain interest. I felt comfortable and at the same time I felt as if I was in a dream. We talked all evening as if we’d known each other for years. I told him about my ex-fiancé, our misunderstandings and disagreements, how we feel vulnerable when we are betrayed. We discussed the ending of a love affair. He spoke of a relationship of his that ended the year before, the planned wedding that went up in smoke, of the returned gifts and the dog he left with her and how much he missed that puppy. He told me about his life as a single thirty-five-year-old in Milan.
He talked with a relaxed, warm voice. He looked at me, smiling from time to time. Listening to his past love life, his suffering, discovering his romantic side, made him even seem more sensual.
He was the perfect man for me. We discovered that we shared a similar taste and, not wanting to disappoint him, I lied in good faith. He liked rock music, electronic music and punk.
Meanwhile I had grown up listening to Italian singers and song writers who spoke of romantic love. My friends and I used to play guitar and sing those songs. I used to watch all the Sanremo Music Festival finales on TV, betting with friends on the winner.
“Don’t you like the Tools? And the Incubus?” He asked me.
“Of course!” I answered, although I didn’t even catch their names. I hoped he wouldn’t ask me which were my favourite CDs.
He loved American writers. I love Russian writers. But why should I have had disappointed him, when he was telling me the boring plot of Don Winslow’s last novel in detail and with such enthusiasm?
I was ready to turn myself inside out for this man. If he had asked me to, I would had eaten only carbohydrates for dinner and worn plain beige underwear! I couldn’t believe that Niccolò had dropped out of the sky to take care of my broken heart. I was so happy he found me attractive!
We ended our evening at Niccolò’s apartment. The furniture had been selected with great taste. Every detail seemed ready to be photographed for a design magazine. I sat on the sofa and he put some music on. He looked into my eyes and said I was beautiful. I came closer and kissed him. This was heaven and I had conquered it. We made love for hours, naturally, without any embarrassment, as if we had known each other for a long time. Except for an irrelevant episode of quick sex with a drunk colleague during a meeting for gynaecologists, I had never betrayed Pietro. I was used to his body and his moves. With Niccolò everything was new, but he was able to make me feel comfortable immediately. He knew how to touch me, kiss me and what to say.
We were perfectly in tune with each other.
Around 4 a.m. when I asked him to call a taxi, (Emma had warned me about the new singles trend of never spending the night at a partner’s apartment, especially the first night) he asked me to stay. “I would love to make coffee for you later this morning.” I almost cried.
And now here I am. Niccolò and I will finally live in the same city. At Piazza Duomo I got out of the train to take the red line toward Porta Venezia. I walked slowly. My shoes were new and not really comfortable. I was wearing sexy tight white pants that made it hard to walk. I had on a white and blue striped t-shirt and wore the panama hat that usually brings me good luck.
Our rendezvous was at 5 p.m. at Jack. I had made a reservation, to avoid any risk of having to stand at the counter, squeezed in amongst the happy hour crowd. I thought to order champagne and enjoy the happiness in Niccolò’s eyes when he heard my great news.
We had been seeing each other for one year. A year of romantic dining, a lot of wine, films, concerts and great sex.
Every two weeks I happily caught a train to Milan to join my ideal man for the weekend. A few times he came to Venice, and we walked among the canals, kissing on every bridge like two adolescents. I felt we were going to become a real couple. During the week – when we didn’t see each other, we spent hours on Skype, talking about music and films, telling each other about our days and talking dreamily about the sex we’d had and imagining together the sex we would have in the future.
He introduced me to some of his friends and he met the closest friends of mine who had moved to Milan. Sometime we all had drinks together. He hugged me, kissed me and said to them with enthusiasm: “Aren’t we great together?”
One day we met his father by chance and Niccolò introduced me as ‘my friend Rebecca.’ At first I felt a little bit hurt. Then I understood this was a delicate matter. Parents are always sensitive about their children’s love life, and actually we were very good friends. I didn’t say anything. I just smiled and – although I had always hated the idea of marriage – for a moment I dreamed that his father would become my father-in-law.
It had been an intense year. We had arguments, misunderstandings, and even a brief estrangement. Niccolò was a passionate man, but also secretive, sensitive and very solitary. I had learned to give him space, to trust him. Rarely did I ask him what he did on the weekends we weren’t together. I didn’t want to seem controlling, insecure or jealous.
He thought I was a strong woman, self-confident and with a great sense of irony. I seldom let him see my many fragilities. I wanted appear the successful woman he expected and deserved.
I remember when one time after making love he told me: “I like your voluptuous body. You have the beauty of a Renaissance woman.” I felt paralyzed by that sentence. He touched my most vulnerable spot. My looks and my body were still my weakness, although he kept telling me I was fantastic. After hearing this, I forced a smile, but I was frozen. I locked myself in the bathroom to cry. Really, at that moment I couldn’t stand him. I wished that his penis would shrivel up. Then I rinsed my face and returned to the bedroom looking imperturbable. I was repeating to myself like a mantra, I am a strong woman, I am a strong woman, I am strong woman… no silly comment about my looks can defeat me…
I was in love and forgave him everything, also the fact he didn’t see my fragilities. Actually, I protected him from my faults, because this is what love does.
Sometimes, when we had dinner out, we played a game – we rated women in the restaurant on a scale from one to five. I gave the rating and Niccolò decided if he could seduce them or not.
“I have a great talent to make desperate women fall in love,” he confessed one evening when we were especially drunk.
“Congratulations!” I laughed, but somehow I was affected by his words. I never told him my true feelings. I wasn’t a loser. I didn’t want to scare him, to rush him. I was waiting for him to make the first move. I was waiting for him to be ready, to feel sure, to understand that he really wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.
Yet in the meantime I applied to my company for a transfer to the agency in Milan. As soon as it was approved, I began to look for a small apartment to rent.
I hid all my plans from Niccolò. I wanted to surprise him. I thought he would be extremely happy.
The red line of the subway smelled horrible, like a cattle car. Standing, trying to keep my balance and not lean on anything so I could keep my white pants immaculate, I looked at my reflection in the window. I was making sure that my perfection didn’t fade away in that stinking mess.
I got out at Porta Venezia. I stood a few minutes on the station platform looking for a mirror in my handbag. I checked my make-up – impeccable. I fixed my hat and my hair and walked toward the escalator.
My new shoes really started to hurt. Because of the heat, my feet had begun to swell. My stride was anything but sexy. I looked more like a constipated dinosaur than a pretty woman.
Just out of the subway station, I was assaulted by a blast of extremely hot air. I walked towards the bar with slow and unsure steps, smiling in order to hide the pain – almost like gangrene in my poor feet! Once inside, I collapsed on a chair exhausted and slowly, trying not to attract attention, I removed my shoes.
Niccolò arrived fifteen minutes late. He was beautiful, tanned, relaxed. He wore one of his elegant tailored shirts with the monogram initials that were one of the things that made me fall in love with him.
He came to the table, smiled at my bare feet and kissed me on the cheek. He joked, “Beautiful shoes!”
“Thank you. They’re new and really hurt!”
“But it’s worth it!”
“I think so.” I replied, not completely convinced.
“So, what’s the reason for a sudden visit during the week? Did you miss Milan so much?”
“I missed you!” I gave him a smile of complicity and called the waiter to order our drinks.
In the past few weeks I had been very busy organizing my new life, so we saw each other much less. To obtain my transfer to Milan, I had to finish all my pending files and work at weekends.
“I have big news!” I said.
“Me too.” He replied.
“Good. Let’s order two glasses of champagne.”
Niccolò stared into my eyes and suddenly seemed serious and curious.
“So, what’s your big news?”
“I am moving to Milan!”
“How? When? What about your job?”
“I’ve been moved to a position in the agency here in Milan.”
“Wow, it is big news. Where will you stay?”
“I found a pretty, small apartment in Porta Romana neighbourhood. I’ll move this weekend.”
“I would have wanted to find something closer to you, but the real estate market in the area didn’t offer much. What was available is out of my budget! To see you I’ll have to take the subway.”
“Well, once in a while you can make the effort…” He smiled.
“Once in a while? I’m afraid I’ll have to do it every day!” I laughed and took his hand.
He pulled it away.
At that precise moment my stomach tied up in knots, almost as if I sensed danger
approaching. Something was going wrong.
Niccolò stared at the corner of the table. “We must talk… about this.”
Here it was, the damn Code. The man I loved to death began to use the Code.
The Code is a series of words, sentences, ways to say things, gestures, looks, that couples use, sometime unconsciously, when things begin to go badly.
I can’t give you what… It’s not you, it’s me. It’s better for both of us. I can’t see you this way any more. I can’t do better. I keep disappointing you. These are the timeless basics of the Code.
Niccolò chose a very banal, “we must talk…”
After those words an endless silence followed.
The waiter put our drinks on the table and I just stared at mine like it was a meteorite fallen from the sky. I couldn’t raise my eyes. I took all the courage I had, swallowed, tried to remember I was a strong woman, a goddess, all that bullshit and looked up at Niccolò.“What do you want to talk to me about?”
He stared at me for a little too long, concentrating on my forehead and hair, then he had a sip of champagne and said:
“Anna. Your friend Anna.”
What the fuck did Anna had to do with me? Niccolò, the champagne, the reserved table, the unbearable heat, my new sandals that hurt, my running make-up, and my move to Milan?
“Anna?” I asked looking into his eyes.
“Do you know Anna?”
“Yes, you introduced her to me a couple of months ago. We were at that boring book reading you dragged me to. She was there too. Don’t you remember?”
Yes, I remembered.
Some friends organized a reading of short stories in a very nice small pub. We spent the evening drinking wine and trying not to laugh too hard. It was embarrassing, they were very bad.
Anna came later and sat at the table next to us. I had known her for a few years. She was a friend of a dear cousin of mine with whom I spent many summers at a beach in the Marche region.
Anna was a few years younger than me, tall, blonde, skinny, with a very sweet smile. Her features were so perfect that a touch of mascara was enough to make her look wonderful, while we common mortals need hours in front of the mirror. We cover our faces with layers of foundation, then powder and eyeshadow, blush, lipstick, to present the best possible version of ourselves.
That cursed evening I introduced her to Niccolò. They exchanged a few words, then talked a little more at the bar and eventually she left. And now I found her in the middle of a conversation that was taking a turn for the worse, while my champagne grew warm and I began to feel sick to my stomach.
“Ok, I introduced Anna to you two months ago, sure,” I said, trying to control the trembling of my voice. “But what does she have to do with us, right now?”
“Well… I don’t know how to tell you this. We have always been a great team. You’re a strong woman and I adore you for that. You are able to control your emotions, you’re self-confident.
You are not shy and not afraid of aging. I have been single for a long time, you know, I have become a curmudgeon. I am already thirty-six, not a kid any more…”
“Yes, I think I know you pretty well…” (For sure more than he knew me.)
“Look, it’s mainly thanks to you and to our long talks and beautiful moments together that I finally realized something – I have missed someone to love.”
My legs started to shake.
“And I believe I found the right person for me… Anna.”
Let me see if I get this. I need a moment to take stock of the situation: I meet an incredible man. I fall madly in love with him. We are getting along perfectly. Sex is fantastic. I leave my city and my job for him and finally he decides to love, seriously… another woman! He fell in love with another woman! He fell in love with Anna.
I grabbed my glass of warm champagne with my shaking hand and felt a terrible sense of vertigo. I tried to take a sip. Then I put the glass back on the table, almost spilling it. I felt a cold shiver through my spine, in spite of the Milanese heat.
“Are you ok?” He asked, looking at me, perplexed.
It was at that moment that this strong woman stopped worrying about perfect make-up, white pants, her hair, or what people think, and began to sob just like a little girl.
“Coco, my god, what’s happening?”
“What’s happening?” I tried to mumble through my tears and sobs. “Really? You are telling me you didn’t get it?”
I looked at him. Was it possible that my ideal man was in reality an idiot and now he was here killing me with words! Was it possible that for this whole year he didn’t realize what he meant to me?
“I didn’t want to hurt you. I know how much you care about me, but things happen. Love comes and we can’t choose when and whom to fall in love with. Do you understand?”
It was official. He was an idiot.
“How can you expect me to understand? What about me? What about us?”
“Rebecca, sex between us was fantastic and we were perfectly in tune, but you are a free spirit. You are fun loving, independent and strong. You like living on your own. You’ll always be number one, even without the romance. I had a great time with you, but then I fell in love with
someone else. I couldn’t help it. That’s all.”
At that precise moment I realized I didn’t understand anything! While I loved him from the first moment we met, he was just looking for company and waiting for the woman of his life.
While I spent months thinking we were building something important together, he used me as a protection against loneliness, waiting for true love. I really didn’t understand anything. Maybe I was the real idiot, not him.
Niccolò, unable to stop my river of tears, said the most stupid thing a man can say after having broken a woman’s heart into pieces. “Don’t worry. I don’t want to lose you. We’ll remain good friends. You are important to me.”
I turned slowly towards him. I looked horrible with mascara running down my face. I stared at him for a long time, trying to stop sobbing. In a weak voice I finally admitted: “I love you.”
Niccolò backed away, suddenly stony faced. He looked at me and shook his head.
“No. It’s not possible! You’re wrong.”
“Wrong? I loved you from the first moment I saw you. I loved you for this whole fucking year!”
“No… no. You’re upset now because you’re losing me as lover… You don’t love me, you’re confused. You would have told me. You always affirmed to be independent. You told me you didn’t need protection and sweet talk.”
“Yes, I told you that because I didn’t want to pressure you, scare you, rush you. You seemed independent too, and I didn’t want to force myself on you. I simply wanted you to come naturally to the realization that you loved me.”
“But this is crazy! It’s silly…”
I burst into tears again. He wasn’t only breaking my heart; he was telling me that I was stupid.”
“But I… I… ” Exhausted, I began to stammer.
“Rebecca, why didn’t you tell me about your feelings? I don’t think it would have eventually changed anything. I believe that ‘spark’ in order to fall in love was missing in our relationship.
But if I had known you loved me, I would have acted differently. If I had known I was more than a special friend, a confidante for you, I would have broken off our relationship long before today.
Anna has nothing to do with our friendship. Please, try to understand me. I didn’t decide to fall in love with her. It just happened. If it happened to you, I would have accepted it. Love doesn’t allow alternatives. I hope one day you will be my friend again. I hope one day soon we can be friends again – we make such a great team.”
A great team. Now I began to understand the meaning of a great team for him. You were a great team when you went to bed with a man without feeling anything, without involvement, without making things complicated. When you allowed the man who stole your heart to fall in love with a friend you barely remembered. A skinny friend at that!
I stood up, barefoot, grabbing my sandals in my hand. I couldn’t wear those torture tools for another minute! I looked at Niccolò with an empty and desperate gaze.
“Where are you going?” he whispered, with the same warm voice I loved so much.
“You broke my heart, Niccolò.”
“I didn’t want to. You know it. But don’t exaggerate now.” Yes, he was an idiot. A cruel idiot.
“In a few days it will pass, Rebecca, and you’ll understand that you never really loved me. We had fun – that’s all. You will come back to me and we’ll be wonderful friends again.”
I stared at him as if it were the first time I saw him. I didn’t recognize the man whom I had adored until an hour ago. I turned and started walking. Niccolò didn’t move, but kept calling in a loud voice, “Rebecca, where are you going? Come back here.”
I didn’t know what to do, where to go. Considering that the street asphalt was scorching and I was bare foot. I couldn’t go far. I just turned the corner and sat on the kerb, careless of my white pants. I took off my hat, crushing it in my hands. I hoped he would re-think all of this. I hoped he would realize it was impossible to live without me and he would run to me to hug me tight and keep me with him forever.
He didn’t come. He didn’t run after me.
After half an hour that seemed like an eternity, I stood up with great effort and slowly began to limp toward the subway station. Young people outside bars, with aperitif glasses in hand, stared at me as if I were a ghost. I went down into the subway to wait for the train. Then I got on in my filthy dirty pants and collapsed into a grungy seat.
The few passengers in the empty smelly car, who stared at me with tears running down my face, couldn’t imagine they were looking at the unhappiest woman in the world.
NEW CITY, NEW LIFE
I had been living in Milan for a week. A week that seemed like a whole year.
I didn’t hear from Niccolò. In some moments of weakness, I thought of calling him or sending him an e-mail, but I didn’t do it. I was too wounded and fragile to risk another humiliation.
Immediately after our last surreal conversation, I returned to Venice. There I was on the train, leaning against the window, tears streaming down my face – tears that not even the icy air conditioning could dry.
I reached home on foot, completely oblivious of what was going on around me. I barely knew where I was and didn’t know what was happening to me. I couldn’t stop shamelessly sobbing. I didn’t care about people staring as I walked along the canals. The wet mascara had turned my face into a bizarre carnival mask.
When I got to my house, I climbed the stairs slowly and at my apartment door I let myself slide down onto the floor. I couldn’t stop crying. I never thought I could produce so many tears.
You would think that by now my tears would have drained every ounce of water from my poor tired body. Maybe it’s because I religiously consume two litres of water every day as an alleged guard against cellulite.
My apartment was silent and messy. I was renting a small place on the Cannareggio neighbourhood, since my ex-fiancé and I had put the place we bought together up for sale. At the moment the apartment seemed the perfect hide-out. An empty space where there were no memories of men who had wounded me.
I undressed, removed my make-up and slipped into bed. I spent two entire days in bed, getting out only to go to the bathroom or to eat some butter cookies that I kept hidden in my kitchen. I always hid sweets, so I wasn’t tempted. But it was an emergency now. A tornado had wrecked my insides. I had to cure my broken heart. My self-esteem was completely destroyed. I needed sweets!
When our hearts are shattered, we lose any sense of time. It doesn’t matter what time it is or what day of the week. The only thing we care about is what we’re feeling inside. Small splinters seem to pierce the heart. There is an acute feeling of loss, of absence – a longing for the return of love, of something whole – but it rarely happens. We feel our throats closing, we are sleepless, unable to breathe.
Time has stopped and we keep going back to the past to analyze what happened. We search for answers in small details. We try to understand if things could have gone another way, if we had acted differently. If we had said something different. When we suffer for love, we are like animals in a cage, animals that have known freedom and lost it. We feel empty, hopeless. All that appeared important now seems lost.
Love is wonderful when overwhelms us. It empowers us – we feel cheerful, attractive, carefree, happy – in one word it makes us feel immortal. Yet when it ends, we are left alone to endure the pain of still loving that person who maybe never loved us. It’s like a sudden and violent death. The euphoric mood becomes desperation. The enchantment becomes a nightmare.
I checked my telephone continuously hoping for a message. Maybe Niccolò had changed his mind, telling me he regretted his decision, that he realized I was the woman to love, not a skinny Anna with a pretty face. But nothing. Total silence.
At one point I started to fantasize that a meteorite would crash into his beautiful Milanese house, destroying all of his sophisticated designer furniture!
On the third day, when I began to recover a bit of my strength, I got out of bed and found the courage to look at myself in the mirror. I looked terrible. I got into the shower. I stayed under the steaming water for a long time, hoping it would wash away all my sadness, my unhappy thoughts, my disappointment and deep pain. When I got out of the shower I glanced at the scales near the sink: my scales, always my great enemy! I decided to hurt myself even more with an act of masochism. I stepped up onto them, as if I were someone on death row… but surprise! I had lost two pounds. I couldn’t help but smile. Finally, good news. Two days of tears and fasting – except for a few tiny butter cookies – had been enough to lose two pounds. That was an aspect of suffering for love that I hadn’t considered.
I looked at myself in the mirror again. I had dark circles and bags under my eyes and my skin was ashen grey. My gaze looked dead. It wouldn’t be easy to forget and start over, but I could do it. I had pretended to be a strong woman for so long, now I had to be it for real.
I ran to the bedroom in my bathrobe and looked at the empty boxes for the move, piled up in a corner. I began to fill them furiously, without any plan, cramming in everything within reach.
I had decided to move to the big city for a man. Now that this man no longer existed (perhaps killed by a meteorite in his elegant apartment!), it was time to think of myself. I would move to Milan to begin a new life, by myself.
Two days later all my stuff was loaded into a van to transport everything to my new home.
Although my stomach was still in knots and I had lost my appetite, at least I had stopped checking my telephone every two minutes in the hope that he would come back – just like the perfect endings that happen only in the movies.
I kept telling myself that I could make it. So I arrived in Milan.
“You must go on with your life, Coco. You must get out and meet people.” Emma repeated, hoping I would move past my ‘post-broken-heart’ depression.
The first week in Milan I had millions of things to do, including some bureaucracy stuff. Then I emptied my boxes, filled bookshelves, cleaned the apartment and made many trips to the supermarket to buy dish soap, laundry soap, sponges, etc. I also had to run to Ikea to get some essential décor items I couldn’t live without: vanilla candles, a small PC desk, a painting of a cow, and some wine glasses. I spent all my evenings with Emma, sitting on my new couch and whining late into the night.
I still had some vacation days before starting my job at the new agency and I spent that time working at my apartment to make it a cozy safe haven. Above the bathroom shelf where I kept my box of pearl necklaces, I hung up copies of vintage Coco Chanel photographs. Once in a while I looked at those pictures, hoping she could give me some answers. But Chanel remained silent, staring at me in her wonderful and inseparable small black hat.
The biggest task had been to make a huge pile of all my shoes in their boxes. They took up half of my bedroom; they were like a great wall protecting me from the dangers of the world.
I kept myself busy trying not to think about him. I didn’t want to go out in the evenings because I was afraid to see him together with the woman he had chosen to love.
“Don’t be silly Coco,” Emma told me one day. “This city is huge. You live in different neighbourhoods. You don’t even hang out with same crowd – except for the few friends in common – and we’ve made them swear never mention his name!”
“And if by coincidence he should decide to take a walk near my house?”
“So will you die locked in this apartment just so as not to run into him?”
“That’s an idea!”
“You can’t keep living this way.”
“I’m afraid I’ll see him around every corner,” I admitted. “I can imagine seeing him in the subway and in every café where I order a cappuccino. It’s like walking in a minefield.”
“I would really like to help you. This has become an obsession,” Emma seemed worried.
“Before my heart was broken, I got along really well. I used to know exactly where I was heading and the quickest, easiest way to get there. I never got lost. Now I am zig-zagging all over the place with no self-confidence and uneasy steps. I walk along hugging the walls, ready to duck into a doorway, or hide behind a pole.”
“I hate seeing you like this!”
“The only thing that consoles me is the hope that he will lose all his hair, get a big gut and not be able to have children.”
“Well, hope is always a beginning,” Emma smiled.
“I want to find the strength to escape this nightmare.”
“Coco, you’ve got to take control of your life again.”
Emma was right. I was consumed with pain, thinking of what I had lost. I felt unable to get over this. I was still suffering a lot.
Beyond that, I didn’t know that many people in Milan and when you change cities to try to start over, you really need affection and human warmth around you. You are desperate to find real friends, nice colleagues, a loyal bar tender, an honest plumber… You feel happy just because the tobacconist around the corner says ‘hello’, or because the lady at the bakery has kept a warm
baguette for you. You look for human beings among estheticians and hair dressers. There was a world out there that I needed and hadn’t met yet.
“Do you know what I miss most?” I told Emma.
“Hugs. I want to embrace someone and be embraced. I need human contact. I need someone who gives me a sense of protection, telling me that everything will be all right.”
“I know, hugs can be more important than sex and money, more beautiful than a sunny day, even better than chocolate cream puffs! Come here. Let me give you a big hug.”
I leaned my head on Emma’s breast whispering: “Nothing is better than chocolate cream puffs.”
“Finally! That’s the right spirit, sweetie,” she said laughing and hugging me.
At the end of my first week in Milan, which felt like an eternity, I was standing on my tiny balcony watching people in the street, when suddenly I felt a large mass of hair brush against my legs. Terrified, I jumped. Then I looked down at my white terry slippers (stolen from a luxury hotel where I stayed on a business trip) and looked into the big yellow friendly eyes of a huge black cat! After recovering from the shock, I looked around trying to understand how it had got into my apartment.
I consider myself a rational person, but I have to admit that part of me can’t help being superstitious. I avoid anything new on a Tuesday or Friday. If I spill some salt on the table, I always throw a pinch of it over my shoulder. I never leave hats on the bed and, most of all, I don’t cross a street if I see a black cat. I am perfectly aware of the futility of all these little gestures, like reading your horoscope without believing in it. But I’ve always thought there is nothing to lose when you show some respect for bad luck.
Seeing a black cat on my balcony had agitated me. Before even trying to understand where it came from, I wanted to know if its appearance was a sign of luck or misfortune. They say black cats are bad luck on the street, but in the house they protect you from misfortune. I was deep in these thoughts, when that fat ball of fur jumped nimbly on the edge of my balcony, then after two soft steps, jumped on the balcony next to mine and disappeared behind the French door. It wasn’t a ghost that had arrived to destroy or to save me. It was simply my neighbour’s cat that had come to visit my apartment. I felt relieved. I decided that the feline’s visit gave me a good opportunity to finally introduce myself to the neighbour with whom I shared the hallway. I put on a pair of flats, (if Niccolò could see me! He used to say that a woman wearing flats is sexy like a horse with lipstick…) and I rang my neighbour’s door bell. I immediately heard a loud noise coming from inside, then a curse and a voice saying, “I’m coming, I’m coming!” A few moments later a guy, kind of short and chubby with a big dark beard and slightly bald, opened the door smiling.
“Hi! I am your new neighbour.”
“Hi, sorry for the mess. I was frying some peppers and I had to run to turn off the stove. I didn’t want the building to catch fire.”
“Well… so sorry, I didn’t want to disturb you. It’s just that your cat came to visit me.”
“Yes, I know. He is terribly curious. Hope he cause any disasters… Did you hear that, Caaaat!” he yelled, addressing the animal that I’d seen, now curled up on a sofa.
“Is that the name of your cat, Cat?”
“Well, sure, he’s a cat. I couldn’t call him Koala or Dog. Don’t you agree? Actually, all the fault is in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You know it, right?”
“Of course! Who could forget Audrey’s little black dress! But sorry, I didn’t introduce myself.
My name is Rebecca. Rebecca Bruni.”
“Nice to meet you. Claudio. Claudio Mastroianni.”
“Ah, Mastroianni, like the actor.”
“Yes! But unfortunately we are not relatives… and, as you can see, we don’t look alike.” He had a contagious laugh that immediately put me in a good mood.
“Please, come in. Can I at least offer you a coffee?”
“Sure. Thank you!”
“Please, don’t look at the mess. I didn’t expect visitors this afternoon.”
He invited me to sit in a pleasant little parlour, where everything seemed to be in perfect order, with many photographs on the walls and light curtains at the window.
“On the contrary it looks all perfect to me.” I said.
“My wise grandmother used to say, when you are messy inside, the outside world always seems too perfect!”
I liked this guy. Then I followed him to the kitchen, where we sat at the table talking about several things – my move to Milan from Venice, the job I hated, his passion for cooking and about his life as a free-lance journalist.
By this time I had repeated the story of the end of my relationship with Niccolò so many times and to so many friends that I was able to tell him it in only seventeen minutes.
Claudio listened to me with interest, while preparing the moka and placing little cups on the table.
“I adore people who prepare espresso with a stove-top coffee maker.” I said, watching him fill the filter with coffee. “There is something that moves me in the ritual of rinsing, filling it with water, pressing the coffee powder… and then that unmistakable sound of the liquid bubbling out.
“Oh, I love it too,” he said putting the moka on the burner. “I like waiting for the coffee to bubble. The sudden strong scent surprises me every time.”
Claudio poured the coffee, opened a window, and lit up a cigarette.
“I rarely smoke, but I want to dedicate this special cigarette to you Rebecca, to your broken heart and to your arrival in Milan.”
I smiled and felt relaxed in a way I hadn’t felt for long time. I asked him for a cigarette.
I am an avid non-smoker. I’ve never smoked. I have always considered it to be a really bad expensive habit. I hate the smell of cigarettes on hands, clothes and hair. But that moment seemed right to try something new. I lit up my cigarette and inhaled. Then I started to cough frantically. It was disgusting! All the solemnity and elegance that I tried to put into that cathartic gesture of my first cigarette was nullified by my convulsive coughing and my disgust.
Chaudio began laughing out loud. “You are really sexy,” he said, tears coming out of his eyes.
His laugh was infectious, so I put out my cigarette and started laughing too. I kept laughing, at myself, my desperation, my flight from Venice, the Cat, at the strange new situation I found myself in Milan and at everything I was experiencing.
As soon as we were able to stop laughing, Claudio told me: “Rebecca, don’t despair. You’ll see, Milan will give you beautiful surprises. This is the city filled with opportunities, new encounters and fun! You are a beautiful woman, intelligent, with a great sense of humour. I’m sure it won’t take long for you to forget the past and head into the future.”
Although these words were a little bit of a cliché, they made me feel better. That spontaneous compliment made me regain some of my lost self-confidence. After coffee, I kept talking about my story – all my stories – without stopping until dinner time. I felt as though a weight had been lifted from me.
I thanked him for the beautiful afternoon and returned to my nest. Claudio had an appointment that evening – a lucky visitor – she would be tasting his famous fried peppers.
In the following days I met Claudio several times. He had become my personal guide. He recommended the best supermarkets, interesting stores, nice little restaurants for dinner and the best bars for an aperitif.
A few days were left before I had to go back to work. My new friend had decided that I should learn everything about Milan as soon as possible. He had time for me, since he worked at home and could manage his time any way he wanted. I liked spending time with him. He made me feel cheerful and carefree. One evening I almost felt tempted to hug him, but then thought he might misinterpret my gesture.
Claudio had been dating one of his colleagues for a few months, but he felt that she wasn’t his soulmate. He was a hopeles romantic and wasn’t seduced by the promise of easy sex. In spite of his many disappointments in love, he kept hoping for a stroke of luck. “Mom always said that miracles happen every day!” he quoted Forrest Gump. In courtship we were similar; we both wanted to be admired and desired. We didn’t totally dislike occasional sex (honestly, one never dislikes it, if it happens with someone decent) yet we wanted sex with some spark of love and good chemistry.
“Perhaps our expectations are too high for two single thirty-somethings,” he said one evening at dinner.
Claudio was a year younger than me. He had lived in Milan for seven years and had experienced a number of brief relationships that ended badly.
“Maybe we just have bad luck.” I replied.
“I think there are a great number of ideal women in the world. I wonder why none of them want to be with me.”
I still often thought of Niccolò. Especially at night, before going to sleep, I couldn’t breathe and would burst into tears. I usually called Emma. Sometimes she was too busy with work to stop by and see me. We talked over the phone.
“How are you, Coco?”
“Still in pieces. I can’t stop thinking of Niccolò: our weekends together, his empty promises…”
“Please stop torturing yourself!”
“I can’t help it. I repeat by heart all our conversations, the texts he sent me. I wonder what would have happened if I had told him I was in love. Would it have changed anything?”
“I don’t think so, although this isn’t what you want to hear. People choose who they want to be with, Rebecca – they overcome fears, doubts and difficulties. If Niccolò had really wanted you, he would have chosen you. You were there for him. All he had to do was let you know.”
“True. He was looking for a different kind of woman than me – a sweet, naïve, pretty young thing who would make him feel stronger and more manly than I made him feel. And I hope that one day soon Anna’s butt will grow huge with cellulite!”
“You should hate him for his behaviour. Instead you seem to justify his actions, as if it were your fault, as if you weren’t good enough.”
“Yes, it’s horrible. Instead of being angry at him – which would make me feel much better – I’m angry with myself, because I couldn’t be the ideal woman for him, because I wasn’t able to give him what he was searching for, because I wasn’t good enough for him.”
“Stop it! You’re perfect the way you are. When we suffer for love, anger is a good sign of recovery – a first step towards being healed. Anger is healthy and human, like the wish for revenge. As soon as we can start to feel anger and resentment toward that person who’s broken our hearts, the sooner we can start to feel better and less desperate. We can stop beating ourselves up, and stop feeling guilty.”
“I can’t hate Niccolò. Not yet. I keep thinking that I could have changed things, that I should have tried to be different…”
“This is simply masochism Coco.”
“I know; I am in a self-deprecation phase. But I can’t wait for the day when I’ll feel good enough to cut up all his fine tailored shirts!”
Emma laughed. How would I survive without her?
In the meantime, I began to like Milan. I was used to the beauty and poetry of Venice. At first in Milan, it felt strange to not see the same architectural wonders, the many little corners that seemed created to be part of a painting, and the beautiful, breath taking sunsets on the Grand Canal. Yet Milan made me feel at home.
“You seldom feel out of place here, foreign and lost.” Claudio was saying, while we drank coffee in a little downtown bar. “Milan is a city that welcomes everybody, that gives everybody a chance. It has a democratic attitude. It’s not beautiful like Paris, doesn’t have the charm of Rome, it’s not even close to the energy of New York, but it’s a city that takes care of you. It doesn’t reject you and you always can find a little corner where you feel protected.”
“It’s true,” I admitted, stirring brown sugar in my coffee, “I noticed that Milan is a city of details. Perhaps you don’t see its beauty as a whole, but it has corners, streets, gardens, sometime just a wall, that has a special charm. At times it’s messy and chaotic, but always practical and inviting.”
“It’s a city to discover,” my new friend said, drinking his coffee in just one swallow, “like a secretive woman, you need time to understand and learn how to love her.”
I explored my neighbourhood of Porta Romana for a few days and began to feel at home. I found my favourite supermarket, the café that made the best cappuccino and delicious pastries, the newspaper stand where I bought my fashion magazines, and a flower shop where I bought cheerful yellow daisies.
On Friday, I visited the weekly neighbourhood open-air market. I bought fresh fruit and vegetables, also a couple of inexpensive pretty dresses – a little too small for me, but I still hoped to lose weight. I had lost another four pounds and – if I was to continue to wallow in my suffering, I could reach my ideal weight.
It’s funny how we spend our life struggling with weight, fighting the scales, and then when a simple little love gone wrong happens, it does the trick in a few weeks. The symbol for love should be the stomach, not the heart! I had also stopped counting calories every time I ordered a drink and – since Milan is known for its happy hour – I had many. At the end of a day drinking two glasses of white wine and eating some focaccia filled me with euphoria. I finally felt happy.
A few days before starting my new job, I stopped by the office to get my contract. The agency’s headquarters were in an imposing building in Viale Zara. After signing a lot of papers, I walked back to the elevator, looking down at my contract. It wasn’t a brilliant idea: after a few steps I stumbled into a small table, lost my balance, and ended up falling into the arms of someone coming down the hall. I looked up to see who had saved me from crashing to the floor.
He was a tall, blond guy with the bluest of blue eyes, blue like the colour of the sea. (Sorry, but I can’t help the cliché!)
“Are you ok?” he asked, helping me to regain my balance.
“Yes, I’m fine… So sorry… Thank you!” I felt my cheeks going red.
“It was a pleasure. It doesn’t happen every day that women fall into my arms!”
I felt ashamed. I was such a clumsy fool. He stared at me with a gorgeous smile and I just wanted to disappear at that very moment.
“Thanks again for your help…” I picked my hat up off the floor and quickly pushed the elevator button.
“If you need to stumble again in the future, I hope to be around to catch you…” He had a very charming foreign accent.
I gave him a quick embarrassed smile, before rushing into the elevator.
My last weekend of freedom – I had to go back to work on Monday – I decided to make myself beautiful: I needed a lot of work!
I was going to start a new life; I wanted to be a gorgeous babe. Men would stop dead in their tracks to check me out. Men… I was deluding myself again. In reality I knew that the only man that I wanted to impress was Niccolò. I dreamed of taking his breath away – my beauty would devastate him!
First stop: Hair Salon
“You must do something with your hair,” Emma had told me, recommending a prestigious, elegant and expensive salon in the centre of Milan.
“I have always worn it this way, long, down to my shoulders. I like it. Also, long hair makes us look like submissive saints – Mary Magdalene! Men seem to be attracted to that.”
“It’s like a mating call from the Stone Age. To get her to obey, the caveman clubs his woman over the head and drags her easily by her long hair into his cave. Don’t you think it’s time for a change? New life, new haircut.”
I listened to Emma and had my hair cut. My boring, long brunette mane was transformed into a sassy bob.”
“Here you are! You look great!” Emma was enthusiastic.
“Are you sure?”
“Stop being insecure… You look gorgeous. Finally!”
“What was wrong with the old Rebecca?”
“Hum… She spent a lot of time weeping over an idiot, for example.”
“Touché!” I laughed.
Emma was a straightforward person, and she was right, I felt reborn with my new haircut.
Second Stop: Beauty Salon
They made me a new woman! It’s been ages since I’ve had such smooth and luminous skin.
And I almost had forgotten how it felt to have no hair on my legs.
“You look so much better, Madame…” the young esthetician told me looking at me with great pride.
“Rebecca is back!” I said to her smiling, as I left the salon.
Saturday evening, I was ready to deal with Milan by night. Claudio had promised to take me to the Navigli neighbourhood to have drinks. I wanted to have a relaxed, fun night, and empty my mind.
I chose my shoes carefully: a pair of jewelled sandals that I matched with an elegant, short, dark brown dress. I love sheath dresses; I couldn’t live without them: so feminine and transgressive at the same time. Everyone remembers the indispensable little black dress, thanks to Audrey Hepburn and her character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But what most don’t know is the story behind it. Coco Chanel created it many years before the film. She was a revolutionary in
fashion as well as being a strong, courageous woman. Imagine being raised in an orphanage and going on to become the most stylish and elegant fashion icon of all time! She freed women from their tortuous girdles and gave them elegant trousers. For this I owe her my gratitude! Although she became a powerful and successful woman, she did have a very troubled love life. I felt like her – an eternal Mademoiselle. Damn love!
When Claudio knocked on my door to pick me up, he was surprised, “Coco, if you continue like this, you’ll make me lose my head!” We laughed and began to walk towards the Navigli in the sunset. I really loved Milan.
When we arrived on the bank of the canal, we sat at a table in an old tavern and ordered a bottle of Gewurztraminer. We wanted to enjoy the evening, to celebrate our friendship, the freedom of being young and single, and the luck to have met each other.
Relaxed and cheerful, we were toasting to life with our third glass, when I noticed someone familiar on the other side of the canal. I stared and for a moment I couldn’t breathe.
Standing there in front of a pub was Niccolò: his tailored shirt with rolled up sleeves, relaxed, charming and smiling like usual.
Claudio noticed I was distracted and asked me about it.
“There is Niccolò!” I whispered, as if he could hear me from across the canal. I tried to hide behind my handbag on the table.
“What?” Claudio asked.
“There is Niccolò!!” I repeated, in the middle of a panic attack.
He looked toward the other side. “Not too bad…” he added.
“Don’t stare at him! And thank you! You don’t need to remind me how beautiful he is.”
“Sorry. I was just trying to tell you that you have good taste…”
“What should I do now? I don’t know what to do!”
“Well, go over and say hello. You look beautiful tonight. You’ll make him die.”
“Do you think so? Oh my god! I really don’t know what to do. It’s a nightmare beyond my imagination. But maybe you’re right. I should go over there, tell him how badly he behaved and show that I’m perfectly fine without him. Because I look good, right?”
Claudio smiled at me and I felt brave. After all I had spent 400 euros on my re-styling and couldn’t miss this chance to show Niccolò how beautiful I was. I wanted to impress him – actually I wanted to make him die!
I stood up unsteadily, then recovered my balance and, thanks to the wine I had drunk, I felt like the most beautiful woman on the canal bank. I slowly climbed the steps and began to walk across the bridge. When I was half way there, I saw a figure approaching Niccolò.
It was Anna! She wore an off-white dress that made her look slender and feminine. The wind blew through her long hair. Niccolò placed his hand gently on her neck, pulled her closer and kissed her passionately.
Seeing them together for the first time unleashed my fury. It was an emotion that had taken a long time to come, but now here it was: I was crazed with anger. Suddenly I realized how much of my precious time I wasted, crying over this asshole. In only two weeks he had made an idyllic life for himself! This man had replaced me with another woman without suffering one bit! He had used me to feel more manly. I hated him. I detested him. Shaking with fury and unsteady on my feet, I thought I might throw up.
I decided to turn back and return to the table. I didn’t want to waste any more time on that shallow idiot. I tried to walk back across the bridge as fast as I could, but one of my heels broke and I fell to the ground with a crash The tumble was so violent and the thud so loud that people turned to look at me. A clumsy version of myself. Well, for sure I was noticed that evening, even though not exactly for my brilliant looks!
I prayed to god that Niccolò hadn’t seen me and that embarrassing scene, but when I turned to look in his direction, I saw that he had stepped away from Anna and was walking towards me.
I just wanted to run as far away from him as possible. Limping on my broken jewelled sandals I ran across the bridge, down the stairs, and fled through the crowd hoping to hide. Poor Claudio followed me, yelling: “Slow down Rebecca! I’m risking a heart attack!”
The day of my comeback had ended in disaster. In addition, I had destroyed my favourite sandals. It was all fault of that bastard of Niccolò!
Not sure I loved Milan any more.
Danielle F. White was born in Naples and lives in Milan and Padua. An events organizer, she works with communications agencies, cultural organizations, magazines, radio and TV.