By: Leslie Stark
Natalie didn’t know. She didn’t know that she would meet him in a bar, sending swirls of smoke up into the air, looking through it at her with grey, glittering eyes. She didn’t know he would make her look down shyly because her breathe caught or her stomach clinched. She didn’t even know that 2 days later they wouldn’t be able to leave each other and would pretend they both were grown up enough to not run back time and time again for the last huge, kiss or whisper as they said goodbye and went their separate ways.
How could she feel so lost without his nonsense, his laughter, his love? How could she but she did. She missed it all, his perfume, his beard, his self. She missed him.
Sitting at the club with her girlfriends telling herself 2 days didn’t mean anything and it was just a fun weekend with a random man. Just a silly fling. Right! She had to hear from him. He had whispered to her that he would be in Johannesburg for 2 weeks at the Sandton Crown before flying out to Italy. He would be so far if she didn’t do anything about it. She got up abruptly, “I have to go to to Joburg!”
Cathiness said in a bored singsong voice, “ What, Natalie excuse you job mean anything?” She turned to the other two girls, “She had a fling with a hot somebody in Vicfalls and now she thinks she’s in love.”
“Nats you only young once, I would go and why not?” Tessa always the sensible one saying this. They all looked at her showing shock. Tessa flicked her hair out of her face, her dark skin beautifully glowing in the faint overhead lights. “Go for it Natalie what if he makes you happy, forever and you sitting here!” Natalie collected her bag and scarf, downed her drink and flicked her red dyed hair out of her face. She blew air out of her red tinted mouth and opened her brown eyes wide. Her brown face showing a sheen of sweat. “I think I am going to do it, I want to do it, I want him, I do!” The girls whooped and while her tall elegant frame walked away, cat called advice about getting her man or other such nonsense.
Natalie on the flight suddenly thought what if he wasn’t alone. What if he wasn’t there. She only had the hotel name, no number and no nothing. She had to try, she just had to. She would arrive around 11am, catch the Gautrain to Sandton, have lunch or should she first find him then lunch with him. She held her head in her hands. This was so crazy, so so crazy. She mentally shook her head, she would get to the hotel and ask for him, thank goodness she knew his surname, Gallina, Maximo Gallina. Easy if he was there great, if he wasn’t she would give him her hotel details and her cell number- well once she bought a South African line. She took out her phone and began to make notes to keep her focussed on her crazy plan.
‘Good day madam how may I help you?’ Natalie asked for Maximo Gallina. The clerk opened a champagne coloured book and look in it briefly while Natalie’s stomach knotted in anxiety.
“Ah yes Mr Gallina is in the Flamboyant Room in a meeting”, the handsome clerk indicated with his hand, ‘its to the left at the end of the corridor”.
“Natalie!” Maximo’s smile said it all. His handsome olive skinned face lit up and his lifted his athletic body off his chair while sweeping his brown, thick hair off his face. He was truly handsome Natalie though and he was happy to see her. The other five gentlemen all stood up and broke out speaking in Italian, buttoning up the front of their suit jackets and then extending their hands in greeting. She shyly took their hands in hers as they complimented her on her beauty, talking to her then talking amongst themselves using words like *Bella Donna, gesturing as only Italian men could. She felt weak and very aware of Maximo. He had come and stood behind her and spoke to the men in Italian as he gently led her away. She could feel him shaking a little. As soon as they got outside the room Max kissed her long and hard. “I should never have left you Natalie, I have missed you like a teenage boy does his first love.”
“I have to go back to the meeting, we will have lunch, we will have dinner and definitely breakfast, wait in the lounge for me but please be there.”
They kissed and touched foreheads and hugged. Now Natalie knew, didn’t she? *Bella Donna – pretty woman