The uncompromising italian(60)

By: Cathy Williams

All his cards were on the table and he felt good. Whatever the outcome. He carried on before she could interrupt with a pity statement about him not really being the one for her.

‘And I may not cry at girlie movies or bake bread but you can take me on. I’m a good bet. I’m here for you; you know that. I’ll always be here for you because I’m nothing without you. If you still don’t want to marry me, or if you want to put me on probation, then I’m willing to go along because I feel I can prove to you that I can be the sort of man you want me to be.’

‘Probation?’ The concept was barely comprehensible.

‘A period of time during which you can try me out for size.’ He had never thought he would ever in a million years utter such words to any woman. But he just had and he didn’t regret any of them.

‘I know what the word means.’ The thoughts were rushing round in her head, a mad jumble that filled every space. She wanted to fling her arms around him, kiss him on the mouth, pull him right into her, jump up and down, shout from the rooftops—all of those things at the same time.

Instead, she said in a barely audible voice, ‘Why didn’t you say sooner? I wish you had. I’ve been so miserable, because I love you so much and I thought that the last thing you needed was to be trapped into marriage to someone you never wanted to see out your days with.’ She lay back and smiled with such pure joy that it took her breath away. Then she looked at him and carried on smiling, and smiling, and smiling. ‘I knew I was falling for you but I knew you weren’t into committed relationships.’

‘I never was.’

‘That should have stopped me but I just didn’t see it coming. You really weren’t the sort of guy I ever thought I could have fallen in love with, but who said love obeys rules? By the time I realised that I loved you, I was in so deep that the only way out for me was to run as fast as I could in the opposite direction. It was the hardest thing I ever did in my entire life but I thought that, if I stayed, my heart would be so broken that I would never recover.’

‘My darling... My beautiful, unique, special darling.’ He kissed her gently on the lips and had the wonderful feeling of being exactly where he was meant to be.

‘Then I found out that I was pregnant, and after the shock had worn off a bit, I felt sick at the thought of telling you—sick at the thought of knowing that you would be horrified, your worst nightmare turned into reality.’

‘And here we are. So I’m asking you again, my dearest—will you marry me?’

* * *

They were married in Ireland a month before their baby was born, with all her family in attendance. Her father, her brothers and her brothers’ partners all filled the small local church. And, when they retired to the hotel which they had booked into, the party was still carrying on, as he was told, in typical Irish style. And just as soon as the baby was born, he was informed, they would throw a proper bash—the alcohol wouldn’t stop flowing for at least two days. Alessio had grinned and told them that he couldn’t wait but that, before the baby discovered the wonders of an Irish bash, she or he would first have to discover the wonders of going on honeymoon, because they had both agreed that wherever they went their baby would come as well.

And their baby, Rose Alexandra, a little girl with his dark hair and big, dark eyes, was born without fuss, a healthy eight pounds four ounces. Rachel, who was over the moon at the prospect of having a sibling she could thoroughly spoil, could barely contain her excitement when she paid her first visit to the hospital and peered into the little tilted cot at the side of Lesley’s bed.

The perfect family unit, was the thought that ran through Alessio’s mind as he looked at the snapshot picture in front of him. His beautiful wife, radiant but tired after giving birth, smiling down at the baby in her arms while Rachel, the daughter he had once thought lost to him but now found, stood over them both, her dark hair falling in a curtain as she gently touched her sister’s small, plump, pink cheek.

If he could have bottled this moment in time, he would have. Instead, still on cloud nine, he leaned into the little group and knew that this, finally, was what life should be all about.