Love and Crime in Rome

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

Chapter 2 (v.1)

Submitted: September 10, 2014

Reads: 151

Comments: 1

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Submitted: September 10, 2014



The new customer stayed on her mind throughout that day and into the next as she worked on his order. Vitali’s confidence in her skills had grown substantially during her time as his apprentice, and he let her get on with the work herself, only checking in occasionally at the tricky parts.

When she saw the fabric the tall man had chosen she was curious. Not many people wanted to pay custom prices for casual shirts. Most men ordered dress shirts to look good and impress people with their expensive business suits, but he had ordered three in a casual fit, two-piece collars with long sleeves, one pocket on the breast and simple buttons, all in a neural shade of one hundred percent linen; the best quality linen they had ever carried.

She loved working with the fabric he’d chosen. It was soft but resilient and held a nice crease.  He had also requested silk thread throughout; more expensive but also the strongest and best wearing. “These shirts will last him years, just like I said”, she thought to herself.

When Evangeline stepped out of church the following Sunday, the wind snatched at her blue silk scarf and blew it down the cobblestone sidewalk.  She ran after it, holding the wide blue skirt of her cotton dress out of the way of her running feet, and scooped it up, just in time to see that a crowd of street children had taken advantage of her distraction and lifted her wallet from her bag. Again. She frowned at them as they ran off down the street, their small shoes kicking up dust on the ancient street and their ragged clothing flapping in the strong breeze. How could they be so young and so sneaky already? she wondered.

She gave up the idea of following them and turned towards home when suddenly a large hand fell on her narrow shoulder. Spinning around, she found herself face to face with the tall customer from the shop, dressed in what she recognized as a very nice summer weight business suit in a classic cut, though not one from a shop she recognized.

"What are you doing here? She asked, trying to put her long, fair hair back into its bun as the wind tossed it.

"Returning this to you," he held out her wallet with a proud grin that made his eyes crinkle at the corners. "Sorry. Those little shits already passed off the money in it by the time I caught up with them."

She smiled ruefully up at him, her dimples showing and her grey eyes filled with amusement. "Actually, there wasn't any money in it before, either," she laughed. "I'm a little poor right now. I just gave my last few Euros to the collection." She indicated back towards the old church behind them. "But thank you. I would have spent a lot of money and days of work trying to replace my bank card and ID. I think my metro pass is in there too, so you've saved me a lot of trouble. Thank you."

"No trouble." He stood looking down at her, his hands in his pockets. "Did you enjoy the show this morning?" He nodded to the wooden church door, still crowded with church-goers leaving the service.

"Oh, yes. That's one of the nicest things about living in Rome. You get to pick and choose from so many church options. Father Denis is a great speaker. His homilies are always short but to the point. Not a waste of time like so many others." She felt guilty and looked over her shoulder at the families nearby. "I shouldn't speak so uncharitably. It must be hard thinking of good homilies when they have to come up with them week after week."

"As a Catholic, I guess you've heard many. Do they ever repeat them?" he asked.

She hurried to correct him, "Oh, no. I'm not a Catholic. I just like their services. I'm a Christian," she assured him, "But Jesus and I just do our own thing. On the whole, I'm pretty anti organized religion" she stated plainly. "But I hope I haven't offended you. I have a lot of respect for those who do belong to one. I thought about converting to be a nun for a long time, but finally decided against it."

He smiled, squinting down at her in the bright sun, and looked into her grey eyes with interest. "No offense taken. Not religious myself," he assured her.

"Oh, I assumed that you were, but why-" she looked down at his hands quickly, then stopped talking and blushed. She'd noticed them the other day in the shop.

He saw where she was looking and spread his hands out towards her, exposing two small but intricately patterned tattooed crosses on each hand, along with several other tattoos with symbols and languages she couldn't read. "These are from something else," he said, as he looked down at them dispassionately.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry. It just goes to show, you should never make assumptions about people before you know them," she smiled. "I have a tattoo. I got it when I was 18. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now it seems kind of silly. But at least it's a good memory. I hope yours are too."

As she finished speaking, her face changed. She looked at him in concern. "I'm so sorry. I think that sounded like I thought that your tattoos are silly, or that all tattoos are silly. I didn't mean that at all. I think yours look very nice. They suit you. I hope I haven't offended you. I seem to be saying all the wrong things today," she looked earnestly at him but he smiled reassuringly at her. He had nice eyes, she thought.

He shrugged off her apology with a grin. "No problem. I'd like to hear more about why you decided against the whole nun thing and ended up in Rome anyway. Come to lunch with me? There's a great place around the corner," he nodded down the crowded street.

Her stomach growled and she thought of the limited meal she could expect at home. She didn't get paid for another two days and only had bread and jam in the cupboard.

"That would be very nice, thank you."

He walked beside her in silence for two blocks until they came to a little restaurant next to ---. She felt small beside his much larger frame as he slowed his pace to suit her shorter legs. They were seated quickly by a friendly Israeli teenager and soon had coffee and delicious bread in front of them. It was soaked in oil and probably full of calories but she had three pieces, it was so good.

"So, what brought you to the city?" he asked, after the waiter took their orders back to the kitchen.

"Well, let's see. I guess I have to say, my sense of adventure," she laughed, her eyes crinkling above her rounded cheeks. "No, actually it was the fear of poverty," she joked. "I was in university in London three years ago, but my student loan ran out. There isn't a lot of scholarship money for a BA in religious studies either, so I had to find a job."

She told him about finding work in the fabric store and meeting Vitali, and then about scrapping up enough money to travel to Rome, and about meeting her friends Pam and Erin in the hostel the first night.

"So there we were, in the middle of the night, locked out with no key. We didn't want to get into trouble with the manager so we decided to climb over the wall into the courtyard, but we slipped and fell into a heap of junk pilled at the bottom; and then a bunch of drunken footballers came out and started yelling at us. It turns out that we had landed on some of their equipment and damaged it, and then they challenged us to a drinking game to settle the argument, and I'd never had anything to drink before and we all got so sick, it was awful. I guess I'm not a person who's good with that much adventure. I'm not very daring, I'm afraid."

Feeling like she'd said too much, she paused. "I hope I'm not giving you the wrong impression. Pam and Erin are good girls, really.  We live a very quiet life here now and hardly ever get up to trouble."

He laughed at her over his plate of pasta with tomatoes and basil. "And then you thought ‘I’m really not a nun.’? He asked, as she took a big bit of her ravioli and swallowed.

"Oh, no. That was earlier. During my first year my professor said that when you study religion you often start wanting to join them each in turn. I guess I’m just a cliché because that's exactly what I did. I thought about converting to Judaism and Islam that year, but I was also going to weekly mass with my roommate in the dorm. She came from a big Catholic family and never missed a Sunday, even once during a blizzard.

"You see, my parents never took me to church when I was little, they’re not religious at all, but I was always curious about it. I felt drawn to it somehow, and the services I went to seemed to speak to me. But I was also active in political and feminist causes at school too. And most religions don’t have a good track record with that kind of thing. So it was a dilemma that greater minds than mine have tried to solve." She indicated their location in the holy city around them with her hands.

"I guess I felt that God wanted me to be a nun. Like I was called to have a special relationship with him," she said shyly. "So I started researching the different types of orders online. I was really impressed with what I found. So many women's religious communities are doing amazing things, especially in the developing world. Really living out Jesus' example. And I wanted to be a part of that."

"But," she shrugged sadly, "it didn't turn out that way. I have trouble with the obedience requirement, and just between you and me," she leaned closer to him across the table not to be overheard by the other diners, "I'd have trouble with the celibacy too." She sat back, smiling with red cheeks. He chuckled and took another sip of his coffee, watching her over the rim of the white cup.

"So, I just stayed here in the city, living out the poverty requirement and deciding what to do with my life," she laughed. "But truthfully, Vitali pays me pretty well, it's just that Europe is a pretty expensive place to live and I buy a lot of books and nice fabric, so it’s my own fault I’m poor. But look at all the free benefits of living here," she indicated the view out of the front window of the restaurant.

Evangeline looked discreetly at the plain sport’s watch on her wrist and was amazed at the time. They had been there two hours, and had long finished their meals. "Oh, my gosh. I've just talked and talked. You're such a good listener. I hope I haven't been boring you."

“No, it’s interesting, really.” He assured her when she looked at him in disbelief. “I’m going to order the cake. Share it with me?” He smiled in encouragement.

Finally she licked her fork and pushed her plate aside. She went to the bathroom, and when she returned he escorted her back to her apartment.

"This isn't the safest neighbourhood," he remarked as they walked past some very drunk students and a few old men loitering on the corners, eyeing her in her blue sundress. It wasn’t a revealing style but her chest was on the large side, and she refused to wear sweaters all the time in this heat just to avoid the view of creeps.

"We don’t usually have any trouble. People seem to know that we don't have anything to steal," she replied cheerfully. 

At her door she thanked him again for such a nice afternoon. He said again that it had been his pleasure and shook her hand gently in his much larger one.

When she went inside Erin, a petite punk from Germany with the spiked black hair cut, black skinny jeans and heavy leather boots, and Pam, a tall English redhead still dressed in her red business suit jacket and white pencil skirt, were sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea out of their least chipped cups.

"Who was that with you? That guy is something else. He looks like a mob guy from a movie. He should stop slicking his hair back with gel," Pam said, as she helped herself to a chocolate biscuit from the package in the middle of the flowered table cloth.

Evangeline took offense at the criticism. "He's actually super nice. He got my wallet back for me from some street kids and then treated me to lunch. I'm so stuffed!" She flopped into their third battered kitchen chair.

Erin narrowed her brown eyes and looked at her with suspicion. "Is he the same guy you met at work last week? Is he from Russia? What's he doing here? Where does he work?"

Evangeline admitted that she really didn't know anything about him at all and the girls were concerned for her. She promised not to go anywhere with him again without calling them on her cell phone first.

"But I'll probably never see him again anyway. I'm sure he was just being nice today. He seems much older than me, and I'm not looking to be anyone's business trip mistress."

"Well, don't count it out. That could be a real financial windfall if you play your cards right," Pam said with a straight face. The three girls laughed together.

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