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Friendship Romance

Do you remember that advert from the eighties? You know the one, advertising canned baked beans or maybe it was a toy kitchen? I can’t really remember the point of it or what they were selling. All I remember is the sweet little girl waking up early on what I suspect must have been Father’s Day. Creeping downstairs so that her unsuspecting parents didn’t realise what culinary delight she was preparing. She puts some cold beans on a plastic plate and adds what looks like a huge jam- sponge roll next to it. I honestly don’t know whose decision this was or what the advert producers were thinking but I hope someone got fired.

 

The little angel creeps back up the stairs with a face full of joy, places the plate on her Fisher- price kitchen and slowly wheels it across the landing and into her parents’ bedroom. She creeps up to her father’s side of the bed, gently places a tiny hand on his head and announces:

 

‘Wake up Daddy, breakfast ready.’

 

and her Daddy wakes up, places the plate on the bed and wraps his daughter up in a huge hug, so grateful for her and the thoughtfulness of the act.

 

I don’t know what made me think of that advert. It has always stuck with me as the little girl was seriously misguided on the pallet front, but this wasn’t about the food, it was moment filled with love and with the right intentions. The little girl loved her Daddy and wanted to surprise him with a treat.

 

As I sat at my dining table looking across the table at my friend Pietro feeling the warmth of the Sicilian Sea breeze on my face, this advert popped into my head. He has prepared this dish with such good intentions, and I really shouldn’t be so judgmental about the fact that it looks like something that my cat with a dodgy tummy had produced.

 

Looking down at my plate, I couldn’t really work out what the sauce was. The pasta was swimming in a sea of something brown with what I think must be a sprinkling of Parmesan. 

 

Grazie Mille. You must have been slaving for hours Pietro.’ My sarcastic comment was lost in translation. ‘It’s so kind of you to have cooked for me.’

 

Prodding my knife into a small tube of pasta, I had a quick sniff but struggled to detect a scent of anything fresh. 

 

‘Mmm the pasta is cooked well.’

 

‘Yes, that’s something I do know how to do. Al Dente

 

I didn’t have the heart to be honest and say it was the blandest thing I’d tasted since arriving in Sicily. Luckily Pietro had brought along lots of goodies to accompany the meal: calamaro fritti with sprinklings of pistachio, caponata and Sophie’s personal favourite, aranchini riso. She referred to them as little ‘bundles of happiness’.

 

‘When I saw Peppe earlier, he insisted on preparing the main course, but I said no Peppe, I am a Sicilian man and I need to show this special girl we know how to cook.’

 

Peppe was a fisherman who also ran the most amazing Trattoria with his wife Maria in the centre of Trapani. His antipasti selection was also amazing and when Sophie and Pietro ate there, most weeks, she had to remind herself not to fill up on antipasti as there was usually the meat dish, the fish dish, the pasta dish, and the desert to follow. She also laughed to herself when she remembered trying to practice her Italian with Peppe and was rather mortified when Pietro said, ‘I don’t think you meant to say that.’

 

‘What do you mean? I said ‘Mi Sono divertito molto.’ That’s right, isn’t it?

 

‘Yes, and I think you meant Mi Sono divertito’ which is you have been having a good time rather than you are the good time.’

 

When she had arrived in Sicily, hired by the British Institutes to teach at the language school and at the Liceo Classico, she had met one of her colleagues, Julian who immediately said ‘I’ll sign you up to the gym here. Great way to meet the locals and I assume you’ll want to keep that pert little derrière so you can enjoy all those tasty Sicilian treats…and I’m not talking about the gym instructor, Giovanni although he is delectable.’ Julian wasn’t wrong as Sophie fell head over heels for the Sicilian delicacies and admired from afar just how well- presented, oh let’s face it, completely hot the Sicilian men were so she started going to the gym every day just to justify her intake of food and keep her bottom firm.

 

Pietro had brought over a selection of music including Zingero, Sting and her current favourite which some of her students at the high school had introduced her to: ‘King of the bongos’ by Manu Chao.

 

‘Pietro, thank you so much for all of this. You are so kind. I’m so lucky to have you as a friend. ‘You’ll have to tell me how you prepared the pasta.’

 

‘Well, it was so easy. It all comes in one packet, and you just add hot water and a bit of butter.’

 

‘Ha ha’

 

‘No really. I’m serious.’ 

 

That explains why it’s so bland. I never thought I’d experience a ‘ready meal’ in Sicily.

 

‘Well, you are so thoughtful, and I want to say how lucky I am that you’re my friend.’

 

Pietro reached across the table to touch her hand; he then gave her a lingering stare. Standing up, he then came over to Sophie to give her a huge hug which seemed to last quite a while. She had noticed the increase in physical attention in the past week but brushed it off as his way and a sign of friendship. When he wouldn’t let go, Sophie said ‘oh I wonder if Kelly will be back any moment?’ 

 

‘I thought you said she was out with Davido?’

 

‘Yes, I’m sure they’ll be a while.’

 

Kelly was Sophie’s flat mate and also a teacher at the language school. Sophie wasn’t sure how she felt about Kelly. She was quite a brash Australian girl who had been in Sicily for six months longer than Sophie. She had a knack for picking things up well, first the language and second some of her students. According to Julian who seemed to thrive on gossip, Kelly and the manager of the school, Theresa had had a falling out almost immediately. Julian had also told Sophie ‘If Theresa knew Kelly was shagging one of their clients, Davido, she’d be out immediately.’

 

Maybe it was the wine, the yummy delicacies, and the sea air but Sophie’s mind turned to sex. Lucky Kelly probably having lots of sex right now with Davido. Davido was good looking and charming; he dressed incredibly well and ran his family business selling leather goods. I wonder if they use leather whips while they’re shagging? 

 

Realising she was getting distracted, Sophie stood up to start clearing away but Pietro touched her hand ‘Stare, sit sit. I shall go and get dessert and coffee.’

 

‘Well, if you insist.’

 

Sophie didn’t mind being waited on and although she sometimes found Pietro’s eagerness to spend a lot of time together a bit suffocating, it was nice to have the company far from family and friends. When she left England for Sicily, her boyfriend Matt had insisted they stay together while they both ‘do their own thing’ but she wasn’t sure it was realistic. Her best friend Fiona kept saying ‘I’ll never see you again. You’re going to be swept off by some Italian baron and the next time I see you you’ll be in the Ciao Italiano or whatever the Italian equivalent of Hello magazine is in Sicily.’

 

‘You’re so silly Fi. I’m not going anywhere and I’m not going to meet anyone. I’m still with Matt. This is only a six month contact and it’ll give me time to think about what I want to be if I grow up.’

 

‘Yea right’ Fi had continued ‘With that face and your lovely derrière, the Italian men will be falling at your feet.’ 

 

After lots of wine, Sophie was ready for a snooze but Pietro suggested they go for a passeggiata. 

 

‘Sounds great.’ After so much delicious food and wine, she should really walk it off. 

 

As they entered the old town, Pietro reached for her hand which she had to admit made her feel a little uncomfortable but the wine infusion made her less concerned. He was just doing it out of friendship. She noticed lots of stares from locals, parents she recognized from the high school and Pietro stopped to chat to so many people, proudly introducing Sophie. Although she was starting to understand more Italian by the day, she loved to hear Pietro speak as he seemed so commanding. He didn’t talk a lot about his work, but he had told her about all the death threats he had received while working as a journalist on several of the high-profile mafia cases including the trials for the murders of Falcone and Borsellino. Maybe it was because of Sophie’s age and her lack of worldliness but the stories Pietro had told her had certainly added to the danger and excitement of spending time with him.

 

Sophie loved this time on a Sunday when families would come together dripping in gold to take part in ‘the posers walk’ as she liked to call it or the passeggiata. Many of the mothers from her gym passed giving her a knowing smile ‘Buonasera Sophie and Pietro.’

 

Pietro suggested heading for a drink at a local bar which Sophie agreed to but then said she would have to head home soon to plan her week of teaching. 

 

As they stood at the bar, Pietro headed off to the bathroom, leaving Sophie on her own. Across the bar, an incredibly beautiful man caught her eye, thick curly dark hair, and a beautiful smile. It only took a reciprocation of his smile to entice him over.

 

Buonasera. Sono Ivo e tu?’

 

‘Buonasera. Sono Sophie. Sono inglese’

 

Pietro appeared behind Sophie and put his arm around her shoulders in a deliberate way.’

 

‘Ciao Pietro. Come va?’

 

‘Ivo, Molto Bene. Tu?’

 

Bene bene. Io lascio. Piacere. Pleased to meet you Sophie’ Ivo gave her a look which was so intense she thought her knickers were about to fall off. 

 

As they strolled back to Sophie’s apartment, Pietro was definitely angling for an invite upstairs. 

 

‘We could watch that Meg Ryan film you love, you’ve got Mail?’

 

‘Sorry Pietro, I had better prepare for my week. I’ll see you soon. Thank you for a wonderful lunch and afternoon.’

 

She kissed him on both cheeks and Pietro then lingered and she thought he was going to lean in to kiss her.

 

‘Ciao for now.’ As she headed inside. As she walked up the four floors and got into her apartment, a note and package had been slipped through the door.

 

‘Nice to meet you. I thought you may enjoy this. My favourite is Angie. Ivo xx’

 

She reached into the package to pull out Goats Head Soup album by the Rolling Stones.

 

Sophie made a cup of tea, placed the CD in her player and lay on her bed thinking it was going to be an interesting six month stay in Sicily.

December 13, 2023 09:18

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6 comments

Michał Przywara
21:36 Dec 20, 2023

Well, I think the last line sums it up - definitely an interesting time! Seems like her notion of staying with Matt is on shaky ground, at best. I like the intro, as it's a very roundabout and diplomatic way of saying the meal is crap :) And I suppose, instant is probably the last thing you'd expect in Sicily. But the story could also lean into horror. Sophie has a very firm belief of what's happening - that everyone is just friends, and that's all any of this is - but I don't think Pietro got the memo. Nor any of the other guys. Just me...

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Rebecca Detti
14:19 Jan 23, 2024

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and send such useful feedback. I like the idea of delving into horror as this really isn't a genre I'm familiar with at all. Thanks for the notes on voice, always looking to continuously improve so appreciate it!

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14:39 Dec 16, 2023

Nicely written Rebecca. If I was Sophie I'd probably be a little worried about the guy knowing where she lives already lol but that's just the paranoia in me! 😅

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Rebecca Detti
16:57 Dec 16, 2023

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and for the very kind comment Derrick. Now you mention it, that does seem creepy although when I lived in Sicily I had a similar experience with someone appearing at my door when I hadn’t mentioned my address. The ‘new intake’ of teachers at the language school was a topic of conversation in the town and word travelled fast when I lived there. Good point, incredibly creepy! Look forward to reading your stories! 😀

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Mary Bendickson
17:08 Dec 13, 2023

Yes, should be an interesting stay for Sophie. May make the suggestion to use capital letters for the first letter of a name? Easier to follow.

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Rebecca Detti
14:23 Dec 14, 2023

thanks so much Mary for reading and thank you for the feedback. have noted and corrected thank you so much!

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