A Legacy of Secrets(5)

By: Carol Marinelli

One good thing about working for Santo was her clothing allowance.

Actually, it was the only good thing.

And Ella wasn’t even particularly interested in clothes!

Hearing the taxi toot outside her small rented flat, Ella checked her appearance one more time and then grabbed her ‘Santo Bag’ as she called it, making sure that she had his spare set of car keys, before heading outside. She squinted at the morning sun and took in the vivid colours of a gorgeous Palermo in May. The ocean was glistening and the city still seemed to be sleeping. No doubt the whole of Sicily had had a late night, waiting for updates in the news.

‘Buongiorno.’ Ella gave the taxi driver the address of the smart hotel where Santo was staying and then sat back and listened to the morning news on the radio.

Of course the jilted Corretti groom was being talked about long after the headlines had been read.

And, of course, the taxi driver was more than delighted with the news. ‘Trouble!’ he told her. ‘As if a wedding would ever unite the Corretti and Battaglia families...’ and happily he chatted some more, unaware he was driving her to meet with Santo. Ella chose not to enlighten him. Santo didn’t exactly keep her informed about the goings-on in his family. If anything, his Italian picked up pace if he ever had to speak with one of them, just enough to make it almost impossible for her to work out what was being said.

‘They have always fought?’ Ella checked.

‘Always,’ the driver told her and then added that even the death of Salvatore Corretti a few weeks ago would not bring peace between the two families. ‘The Correttis even war with themselves.’

That much Ella knew. Even though Santo didn’t reveal much about his family, Ella was forever having to deal with the feuding Corretti cousins. The family was incredibly divided and they were all constantly trying to outdo the other, under the guise of the family empire. They were all trying to outmanoeuvre one another in the bid to become top dog, not just at work, but with cars, with women, with horses. Ella was sick of it. She was tired of the dark secrets and mind games they all played.

She’d have put up with it for a while longer though, if Santo would just give her a small step onto the ladder she wanted to climb. Over and over she had asked him if she could work on just one of his films as a junior assistant director.

‘Presto,’ Santo would say and then, as he did all too often when he spoke to her in Italian, he would annoyingly translate for her. ‘Soon.’

Well, soon, she’d be gone.

Ella asked the driver to stop while she bought some coffee and then climbed back in.

As they approached the hotel Ella told the driver that she wished to be dropped off in the underground car park. As they approached she saw that Santo was right—there were a lot of press around and security was tight. Ella was more than happy to show her ID before paying the taxi driver and telling the concerned valet that she wanted to personally take the car up to collect her boss.

Ella slipped into the front seat and smelt not the leather, but the familiar, expensive scent of Santo. Before she started the engine she texted him, letting him know she was in the basement and on her way to collect him.

The engine growled at the merest touch of her foot and she jerked her way through the car park, doing her best to ignore the flash of cameras as the paparazzi stirred at the new activity taking place.

Come on, Santo, she muttered as she sat with the engine idling, glad of the effort she’d made as cameras clicked away, worried, too, that he might have fallen back to sleep after he had called her. But then, still wearing last night’s suit, she saw him, walking just a little unsteadily towards the car. Ella’s lips pressed together when she saw the state he was in. The press were going to have a field day. His suit was torn and dirty and he was wearing several fresh bruises too. His deathly pale skin only accentuated the fact that he hadn’t shaved.

‘Buongiorno!’ Ella said loudly and brightly as he climbed in.

‘Good morning, Ella.’

It was a small game that they played, one that they had partaken in since her interview. Ella, determined to show him how wonderful her Italian was, attempting to prove that just because she was Australian it didn’t mean that she wasn’t up for the job, had introduced herself in her very best Italian.

Santo had promptly responded in English—pulling rank and basically saying that his English was better than her Italian, which was of course right. Though, as it turned out, Ella did speak enough Italian to land the job. But when it was just the two of them, they conversed mainly in English, except for this one mutual game.