His Sicilian Cinderella(4)

By: Carol Marinelli

She would take them out and examine them later.

There was no time for that now.

And so, instead, Bella showered quickly and pulled on the tarty black dress that she had worn last night.

It smelt of the cheap perfume that Matteo had loathed so.

The lacy stockings and suspenders she had also worn Bella stuffed in her bag.

And, knowing how things must appear, she did what would surely be expected of her—Bella emptied the bar fridge of the tiny bottles of liquor and took the nuts and treats. She picked up the money that Matteo had left on the bed and peeled off a couple of notes and put them in her bag, some she stuffed in her bra and the rest...

Bella pulled the rubber stoppers off her ridiculously high sandals and rolled the rest of the cash into two tight tubes and squeezed them into her heels, then she replaced the stoppers and strapped on her sandals.

She allowed herself one last glance around the room before she closed the door—oh, she had been terrified on entering it. Her cheek had been smarting from his slap, there had been angry tears falling from her eyes but now she stood smiling as she saw the chairs they had pushed back so they could dance together and make up for all the nights they had not had.

Her first night of work had been a pleasure rather than the hell she had anticipated.

Bella took the elevator down and her nostrils tightened as she walked into the bar. It was filled with the stale scent of last night’s celebrations that had been held to mark Malvolio’s release from prison and his not-guilty verdict.

‘How was it?’ Gina asked, referring to her night with Matteo, and Bella simply didn’t know how to answer such a question so she said nothing. ‘I hope he paid you well...’ Gina said. ‘Given that he kept you all night.’

‘I thought this one was on Malvolio.’ Bella shrugged and went to walk off but Gina halted her.

‘Are you trying to say that Matteo didn’t give you a tip?’ Gina frowned, clearly disbelieving Bella, and she held out her hand.

‘I thought that we would get to keep the tips.’

‘Half is for Malvolio and the rest we divide amongst us.’ Gina snapped her fingers and Bella opened her bag and handed over the money that she had earlier separated from the pile.

‘And?’ Gina said.

Bella took out a few of the tiny bottles of liquor that she had taken. ‘There,’ Bella said, and again went to walk off but was abruptly halted. Her long black hair was caught and yanked by Gina and Bella found herself face against the wall.

‘Don’t bullshit me,’ Gina said, and her hands searched Bella’s breasts, easily locating the wad of cash that she had stuffed into her bra.

She took out the cash and then let go of Bella’s hair and Bella turned around.

‘Don’t ever try to get one up on me again, Gatti. I know tricks that you haven’t even thought of yet.’

How Bella hated the world she had almost entered.

‘Here,’ Gina said, as if nothing had just happened, and she peeled off a paltry number of notes and handed them to Bella. ‘I’ll see you tonight.’

No, you won’t, Bella thought, but she nodded.

She walked home when she wanted to run but she forced herself to walk as if she had plenty of time on her side.

Out of the Brezza Oceana hotel Bella took the path that ran alongside the beach. Some fishermen were bringing in the morning’s catch and she drew some lewd comments and whistles from them.

She ignored them.

Further along Bella walked, past a small wooded area and a path that led to a small cove. Oh, she would have loved to have gone down to the water to visit it one last time—to take the tiny secret path that only the locals knew about and drink in the view she loved before she left Bordo Del Cielo for good.

But there was no time to linger and, anyway, Bella thought, there would be no Sophie there to chat with.

Her best friend had left last night and Malvolio was back and nothing now could ever be the same. Bella knew, if she really wanted to get away, she must not draw attention to herself.

No one must guess that she and her mother would be fleeing today.

So instead of heading down the secret path she turned and took the hilly street towards home. A group of tourists was standing on the corner, clearly the worse for last night, and their responses to Bella were pretty much the same as the locals had been.

She did not blush.

Never had Bella admired her mother more—Maria had always walked with her head held high and now, on this early morning, Bella did the same.

She carried on up the hill, her ankle giving way on the high heels several times, yet she gave a smug smile to herself when she thought of the money in them.

Yes, Gina might know a few tricks but Bella’s mother had taught her daughter so many more.