Love and Crime in Rome

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Evangeline is working as a tailor's apprentice in Rome. One day she meets a mysterious Russian with a past he's trying to escape.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Love and Crime in Rome

Submitted: September 10, 2014

Reads: 406

Comments: 1

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Submitted: September 10, 2014

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The morning dawned bright and hot over the holy city; just the way Evangeline liked it. She stretched out in her narrow single bed in her cluttered little bedroom at the back of the apartment she shared with her two best friends Pam and Erin, also single girls in their twenties.

The bed was old and narrow but very comfortable, piled with two feather pillows and a thick white goose down duvet embroidered with bright multicoloured butterflies in silk thread which she had bought during a last minute trip to Spain she had taken with her friends the previous year. On her night stand, next to the small reading lamp, was stacked a tower of books on sewing, medieval history, Italian cooking, and a copy of Gardening with Mediterranean Houseplants.

Across the tile floor covered with a blue and purple rug, and next to an open closet bulging with clothes, stood a battered old wooden student’s desk, topped with more books, sewing patterns, and letters to friends back home. Drawn up under the desk was an old wooden chair cushioned with a pillow covered in a remnant of purple silk brocade. On the cork board above the desk, photos of friends and family shared display space with pictures of gardens, Renaissance art postcards (bought at the nearby Vatican Museum gift shop), and her wooden rosary hanging by a blue push pin.  

The sole occupant in the bed stretched her lean arms above her head and breathed deeply in the fresh morning air coming in through the open white-curtained window above the bed. The hanging plant next to the window frame glowed bright green where the early sunlight struck its long spiked leaves.

Evangeline flipped back the covers and jumped out of bed, stretching out her small frame in her blue pyjamas and wondering if she should do some yoga today. Her back was often stiff in the morning when she had slept too long, but she found stretching boring and avoided it. The shower will get rid of the knot, she decided, and grabbed her robe to head to the small, shared bathroom down the hall.

 She smiled at the blue sky and the tops of the churches she could see outside the bathroom window after her shower. Her fine blond hair was drying already in the heat, and poured down her back like honey from a pitcher. She tied it up out of the way. She didn’t like it lying on her neck when she was working.

Back in her room again, she dressed quickly in her favourite sundress with the red poppies on the skirt. She always felt like red was her lucky colour, but it was hard to find it in just the right shade that she loved. She slipped on her sandals as well. The best part of living in Rome during the spring, she thought, was being able to wear sandals all the time. She hated the feeling of socks on her feet and enjoyed being able to look at her prettily painted bright blue toenails. She was secretly vain about her small, nicely shaped feet.

After a quiet breakfast of toast and marmalade at the small, round table in the kitchen while her room mates slept, she grabbed her bag and walked through the busy streets to the tailor’s shop on --- Avenue; stopping briefly at her favourite church to say a prayer and drop a coin in the street kid’s cup near the stairs as she had found that the more she tipped them the less her wallet was stolen.

When she arrived at the tailor’s shop where she worked, her boss Vitali was already talking in the front room to a very tall, heavily muscled man, with dirty blond hair slicked firmly back against his head with gel and a serious expression in his blue eyes. The stranger followed her movements as she entered the door. She blushed with mild social anxiety under his gaze. “Good morning,” she said politely as she went to put her bag away in the back room. She was reminded of the thought Harry had when meeting Professor McGonigal for the first time. “Now that is a man I would not want to cross,” she thought.  She returned to the cluttered front room when Vitali called her.

“Evangeline, our new customer would like to be measured for three shirts to be made up in a hurry. I have to go to the bank now. Please take his measurements. He’s already selected the fabrics,” the rotund, kindly man directed her as he set the order sheet onto the cutting table.

He turned back to their new customer. “Please excuse me. If I don’t get to the bank now they will close the door in my face. Whatever is the matter with them these days? I have lived here all my life and never have they treated customers so poorly. I beg your apologies, but my assistant is fully capable, I assure you,” he shuffled briskly to the door as the stranger nodded.

“I’m sure I’m in good hands,” he spoke in strongly accented English. A Russian accent, she thought. Like an eighties cold war movie.

“You certainly are. Evangeline is a good girl, and very talented,” he smiled and walked out of the shop as she turned to their new customer and tried to look confident and professional.

“Please remove your jacket and stand here,” she gestured to the three-sided mirror past the crowded shelves full of fabric and notions towards the back of the shop.

He moved to the place she indicated and hung his jacket on a chair. “What, no dinner first?”  The corner of his mouth twisted into a good looking smile as he looked down at her. In his fine boned face his blue eyes appeared shadowed by his prominent cheek bones. He’s handsome but conceited, she thought.

Evangeline frowned at the battered cutting table and picked up her yellow measuring tape briskly. She resented the mild sexual harassment that came with the job. Why did every guy think he was the first to make up that stupid joke? It was hard striking the right note of politeness and discouragement of attention that was necessary for a woman in the tailoring trade, but at least she wasn’t measuring him for pants.

“I’m sorry. That wasn’t funny,” he apologised, looking at her with a serious expression.

She was surprised, and accepted his apology with a small nod. She hopped onto her step stool at his back to bring her up to his level. There was more than a foot’s difference between her own five feet four inches and his height. He grinned over his shoulder at her.

“Would it be easier if I got on my knees?” he smiled at her in a friendly way.

“No, don’t worry,” she smiled as she stretched the measuring tape across his broad shoulders. “Just stand comfortably. I need you to stand in your usual posture so I can get the right measurements.”

When she was sure he was in a neutral position she measured his neck, shoulders, upper and middle back, waist, and chest; and then spent several minutes measuring his arms at various points and in different positions. He stood patiently throughout.

“I’ve never been measured that well before. You’re like Maat,” he saw her confused look in the mirror. “You know? The Egyptian goddess who weighs and measures the dead.”

She laughed. “I’ve never been called that before. It’s just, you’re an odd shape so I want to be sure,” she replied without thinking.

He chuckled deprecatingly. “Oddly shaped? Nice.”

“No, no, I didn’t mean it like that,” she was embarrassed at her tactlessness. “It’s just that, it’s hard to get good tailoring on someone with arms as big as yours,” she carried on like an idiot. She thought she should just stop talking. He held his chest as he laughed harder.

“It’s alright,” he reassured her. “I know I’m muscular. It’s useful in my line of work.”

“What work do you do?” She asked him. It was always a good idea to network. If he worked with other men with a taste for nice clothes it could be a good connection for Vitali, but he ignored her question to ask his own.

“Why would it be harder to measure someone built like me?” he asked. “Don’t you just need more cloth to make a bigger shirt?”

“No, it’s more complicated than that. It’s like origami. You’re taking a flat plane and changing it to wrap around a three dimensional object.  When the object is uneven; like an pear, say, rather than a smooth sphere like an apple, it’s more challenging; a lot of geometry and math calculation. You need to get a close fit to ensure a comfortable range of motion in the shoulders and arms, but you don’t want it to be constricting either. That’s what I like about sewing. It’s like science but also working with your hands. And there’s always something new to learn, a new pattern or construction method; and you get the satisfaction of seeing what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day.

“You’re really good at your job. It’s nice to be in the hands of a professional,” he teased her gently. “I can’t wait until my shirts are finished.”

“Well, I hope you like them.  Not many people seem to value handcrafted garments these days but in my opinion, there’s no comparison. All of our garments are fine quality and should last a long time. Vitali’s suits last a lifetime”. He nodded in agreement as she checked over his order on the thin carbon paper sheet; making sure she hadn’t forgotten anything.

“I see that Vitali has put a rush on your order. It will be ready for pick up in few days. We'll call you”, she checked the calendar beside the till.

“Thanks. Until then,” he nodded to her and left the shop. She turned to select the pattern she needed and began her work.


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