by sarAdora ~~~~~~~~~~
"How was dinner with Don Batali?" Angelina asked Francesca the next morning.
"Fine? How fine?" Angelina wanted to know everything.
"Very fine," Francesca murmured as she sat at the breakfast table. Angelina always insisted she start the day with a solid meal and more so, since she came back to live with her adopted mother after graduating from college.
"What did you wear? Where did he take you to eat? He was a gentleman, si?" Angelina bombarded her for details as she put a large platter of scrambled eggs on the table along with another of warm bread, sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
"I wore... I wore a simple black dress," Francesca answered, not about to tell Angelina she had opened the door wearing slacks and that Giancarlo had been displeased and directed his driver to the small elegant shop where he had bought that black dress for her.
"Buon ragazza Good girl!" Angelina smiled. "Giancarlo Batali is more Old World Italian than we are. He expects women to look like women and to dress like them. I'm glad you had sense enough to wear a dress. Young girls, today," she shook her head as she poured the coffee. "They think they have to do everything a man does, wear pants. I knew you had good sense, bella."
"You don't like my jeans?" Francesca teased, knowing full well that Angelina liked to wear jeans around the house. Not only did the older woman look good in jeans, they were a magnet for her lovers who loved swatting her ample bottom when she wore them.
"Jeans have their place," Angelina laughed, "but not out to dinner with the Godfather."
"Godfather? Francesca mused. "Giancarlo doesn't seem old enough to be Godfather, does he?"
"He's 30 years old this month," Angelina replied. "And we're both invited to his birthday party. Paolo and Leonardo will take us. There will be lots of food and dancing," she said as she warmed to the subject. "And Madre Batali will be there, of course. You'll like her. She's a good mother to her son. Of course, she wants Giancarlo to marry and give her grandbabies." The thought made her look at Francesca closely. Hmmm, she thought. Maybe...
"So? Tell me about your dinner with la bella, Francesca Minucci," Giancarlo's mother demanded as they sat down for breakfast.
"It was fine," her son replied, his nose in the morning newspaper as he drank his coffee.
"Fine?" Mama Batali asked. "Tell me what was fine about it."
"Very pretty ragazza girl," he added, turning a page.
"And?" his mother waited for him to continue.
"And nothing," he murmured, putting the paper down to butter a hot roll.
"It was fine; she is a pretty girl and nothing?" She drummed her fingers on the linen tablecloth, counting slowly to ten as she waited for her son to tell her more. His driver had already informed her that the girl had worn men's pants and that Gianni was displeased and had to buy her a dress to wear. And he also told her that the waiter at the restaurant said that the girl had poured good vino wine over gelato alla vaniglia vanilla ice cream. "Tsk," she clucked her tongue, secretly delighted that the girl had spirit.
"I understand this Francesca is an independent girl," she said softly.
Giancarlo didn't reply, concentrating on his food.
"Very independent is what I hear," his mother continued. "Probably too independent for you," she added. "You need a tame woman, someone who will say yes to everything you say, warm your bed, give you bambinos and when she has a few, you can ignore her and spend your nights with the harlots in those houses you own."
"What?" Giancarlo coughed, choking on his coffee.
"I said you need a tame woman, a woman who won't have a thought in her head that doesn't mirror yours. Better that she doesn't have *any* thoughts at all," she corrected herself. "Who wants passion in this day and age? Who wants to come home eager to bed the woman that makes you crazy, the woman that makes you want to rip her clothes off and..."
"Basta! Enough!" Giancarlo shouted, standing so quickly, his chair flipped onto its side. "My mother should *not* be saying such things! Not to her son!"
"Your father is turning in his grave," his mother demurred with a shake of her head and a lace handkerchief dabbing at her eyes. "He would want you to marry a *real* woman, not some... some... doormat."
Giancarlo stared at his mother as she regally rose from her chair and walked out of the room. He was stunned at her words and more so when he saw her shoulders shake a bit as she left. Fortunately for his mother, he didn't know her shoulders were shaking because she was trying not to laugh at her tall, handsome son. Like father, like son. Baiting Gianni was just as easy as it had been to bait his father. She was confident Francesca would give her Gianni a run for his money and she couldn't wait to watch.
Francesca wore a dress to Giancarlo's birthday party because Angelina chose the one she wanted the girl to wear. They had argued over the choice. Francesca said if she was wearing a dress, she wanted to wear the gray one that hung from her shoulders with no waistline.
"And look like a sack of laundry?" Angelina had snorted, grabbing the dress and ripping it to end the discussion.
"Angelina!" Francesca stared. She had never seen the woman shred a piece of clothing. "What...? Why...?"
"Perdonilo Forgive me, bella. You are too beautiful to hide yourself like that. You must wear clothes that are flattering."
"I don't want to draw attention to myself," Francesca murmured, unsure of why she wanted to remain in the background.
"You will wear this," Angelina said as she pulled a garment from the closet. "I bought this for you while you were away at school. The Godfather's birthday party is a perfect time to wear it. Now try it on. Let me see it on you."
Francesca thought the color was acceptable - a deep plum - and the fabric was silk. But when she put it on, the neckline seemed just a little too deep. She was well endowed but cleavage wasn't something she liked to show. The dress fitted her like a glove - a tight glove and she took a few steps to see if it was possible to move. The slit in the side - from ankle to mid-thigh - solved that concern.
"I look like a whore," she said softly.
"You look like a voluptuous and very sexy woman," Angelina corrected her. "And Don Giancarlo Batali will not see any other woman when he sees you."
Exactly! Francesca thought. And he's... But the thought eluded her. She wasn't sure what she thought he was and why she was worried that he would find her attractive.
"Madre del Dio! Mother of God! What the hell is she wearing?" he muttered when Francesca and Angelina arrived at the party. It was bad enough that Paolo and Leonardo, who had known the girl most of her life and who were both madly in love with Angelina, couldn't take their eyes off of Francesca. Adding insult to injury, every other man in the room also had his eyes glued to the girl.
The crowd hastily parted as Giancarlo stormed his way through them to reach Francesca. "You!" he roared as he grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the room.
Angelina smiled with satisfaction. The dress had made Giancarlo furious as she knew it would. She wondered what he was saying to Francesca.
Mama Batali caught Angelina's eye and smiled at the woman she had known for years. It looked like their plan to unite her son and Francesca was working. Mama Batali didn't wonder what Gianni was saying or doing to Francesca. If he was anything like his father...