Chapter 11: You

A friend is somebody that knows all about you and still loves you.

When did love become such an important word in the English language? At the same time, we realized we were wealthy enough to choose food, rather than be thankful for what we were given? We also get to choose our emotions rather than being stuck with the milkman’s son or Mr Darcy just because that was the best option according to everybody else. She found the word love offensive. The meaning ambiguous. Each giver or taker of the word has a different opinion and feeling of its meaning. So how can it ever be fair?

She sauntered into the bar and was hit immediately in the chest. Red wine dripped from her collar bone to her navel. Her shirt was soaked. Two times in one day? That must be lucky. She stood and looked down. Not angry, just genuinely shocked that he’d dropped a whole glass of wine all over her. He ran behind the bar and came back with a glass of white and threw it over her.

Now, she was annoyed.

An accident is an accident, but purposely throwing wine on a person is unacceptable. He continued to pat down her chest with a tea towel and muttered various versions of “Sorry”. Her anger had plateaued, she was so flabbergasted that she had no rage or surprise left. So she stood there. She just looked up at the ceiling while he patted her down. He stopped and she stormed off into the bathroom.

Her top was soaked but the white wine had counteracted the red and the stain was gone. There was a knock at the door.

“Ciao, Ciao” Awkward smile “Erika” Awkward handshake “Tieni Tesoro” Dry shirt.

She changed into the top and walked out into what she thought would be a walk of shame. Whereas, in fact, it was a small standing ovation. She couldn’t tell if the heat in her cheeks glowed from wine or embarrassment.

Osteria Ai Pugni

 The narrow bar was clad wall to wall with wine cases, wine here, wine there, wine everywhere. On the end of the bar hunched a huge Crudo, suspended in iron claws. There were two bartenders. One of them had thrown wine on her, the other was full of tattoos but dressed in a floral shirt, a bulldog gait, small smiling eyes with a cheeky grin. “Eh, Muso di Mona!” Tattoos yelled and called her towards him. He laughed a little with the other patrons and poured her a boisterous glass. He handed her the glass like a grenade and leant over the bar to grab her arm. A little bit too firm, he shook her arm, in the way one does a boxer after he loses a match.

She took the wine and sipped.

“Attenzione!” He laughed then winked and smiled.

Her embarrassment slipped away. The other bartender looked up beneath his eyelashes with a sorrowful half smile. Her heart sank. Oh boy.

In all the confusion she hadn’t noticed how pretty he was. Luckily she was already blushing so it wasn’t too apparent. He became her car crash. She couldn’t stop looking. Their eyes met and she knew she was screwed. He held the stare but didn’t smile. She knew.

Next to her, a tall blond was leaning at the bar with a shorter brunette. Her curly hair was tied up high and she wore a yellow jumpsuit with a leopard print cardigan. The brunette looked a bit more professional with a pearl necklace and heels.

“Hey!!! Good to see you” the blond cried as she hugged her. When the hell did they meet?

“Heather” she announced by holding her palm to her chest “You were a lil bit…. how should I say… plastered” Her direct conduct squished all qualms.

“Smoke?” She proposed as they walked outside.

They loitered in the doorway and watched a family trying to pull together a family picture on the bridge. After a few relaxed inhalations and sips of wine, Heather finally walked over and offered her photography skills. Canadian smile gleaming.
They took her up on the offer. They all watched while the family congregated and pulled out their fake smiles to match their corduroy shorts and chequered shirts. Make a great smile for the photo album, and for Grandma, and for my work friends.
Heather held the camera and started taking shots. She was walking and talking and edging backwards. The family were clenching their teeth so hard that they may have eroded a few molars. 

“Ok hold it… just one more… nearly got it…” She yelped as she fell.

The splash was not as dramatic as you would have imagined and lots of people ran out to see what was going on. The family ran over to help but actually just took the camera and started drying it. Heather was still gasping and trying to keep her head above water. The bartender jumped on the boat moored to the side and clasped her torso. Slowly they struggled out of the canal and on to the boat. The jumpsuit was now see through and it was now apparent that she also had a leopard print bra.
Another standing ovation. The bar cheered and she gracefully pulled herself up and took a bow in all of her soaked glory.

Admiration pounded her heart and she felt calm in her presence. As warriors do. She walked up to Tattoos and ordered another bottle of Prosecco. She handed a glass over the boat to a drenched Heather and gave her her other hand to help her back to dry land. She liked her already, exactly as she was.

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