Milan is Full of Italians is a friend’s short story. She wrote it many years ago in college. I think her stories rock.
Milan is Full of Italians
His head was bent over the cocktail list. She leaned across the table and peered at his green, watered silk tie.
“Pardon?” He looked up from the list.
His hair was longer, too, she marked. The full style flattered his features. She shifted uneasily in her seat. It had to be the light. “Don’t you think it’s a little long?”
“Your hair, silly.” She flicked her cigarette ash toward the crystal receptacle in the middle of the table and missed.
He stared at her, scratching the inside of his right nostril with a little finger.
She grimaced and brushed the ash casually from the white cloth.
“What about my hair?” He turned to beckon the waiter appraising them from an adjacent table.
“A little avant-garde, don’t you think? “ She scanned his profile for other inconsistencies.
He faced her again. “I like it.”
“You don’t have to be so defensive about it.” She leaned back in the plush chair and stretched her legs under the table. “I notice you got that disgusting grease mark off your tie finally.”
“Actually, it’s a new one.”
“It’s stupid buying a new one when all you had to do was have it cleaned.”
“It was a gift.” He smiled and looked somewhere past her shoulder.
“Really.” She drew her legs back under the chair.
“What do you want to drink?” he asked
She looked from him to the waiter who was holding his pen poised over the order pad. “My usual.”
His brow furrowed.
“Don’t pretend you forgot.” She glared at him.
“Clare.” He inclined his head toward the waiter who began paging rapidly through the orders.
“Cinzano and seven-up,” she said, narrowing her eyes.
She leaned toward him, one arm on the table. “You didn’t really forget did you?”
“It’s pretty hard to forget a combination like that.”
“But you did.” She reached up and tapped the waiter’s cuff. “You wouldn’t forget your wife’s favorite drink, would you?”
“I’m not married, ma’am,” he said, concentrating on the order book.
She squeezed a wedge of lemon into the tall glass of red liquid and watched him.
“Who’s the tie from?”
“A friend. And we agreed no questions. It was your idea.”
“I’ve changed my mind.” She rested her chin on her hand and dropped her eyes to the front of his shirt.
“Clare, I wanted to see you tonight because we have to talk.”
“About the tie?”
“About us.” He fingered his tie gently. “I can’t manage this way anymore.”
Her jaw tightened. “No kidding? You mean you can’t find your sockie wockies? Or maybe the can opener broke?”
“I’m being transferred, Clare.” He brushed the tie, smoothing invisible wrinkles.
She caught her breath. “Where?”
“Milan.” He smiled. “Just for two years, though.”
She straightened back in the chair and began playing with the napkin in her lap. “When?”
“As soon as I’ve sorted things out. That’s why we have to talk. But I thought we could do it after dinner.”
He had changed. She rolled up one corner of the napkin. Finally breaking the boring mold. She lowered her eyes and glanced at him through her lashes. “I’ve missed you.”
“Are you sure?”
She hated the diffidence in his voice . “You don’t believe me?” she asked, smiling sweetly.
“Well – you haven’t tried to do anything about it.”
“I miss chocolate parfait all the time. Doesn’t mean it’s good for me.” This was going to be too easy.
“Do you want a parfait? I’ll order one.”
“No thanks.” Christ.
“Well –“ he raised his glass and saluted her. “To our futures and all things good and not good for us.”
“Wait a minute.” She saw the worry cross his face and felt her power. “I haven’t made a decision yet.” She watched him smugly.
“That’s too bad, Clare. I don’t have time to play games.” He drew a brown cigarillo from a packet in his breast pocket and lit it.
“The hell! You think you’re gonna drag me to Milan by the hair?” She made a face as he blew the smoke carefully away from her.
“That wasn’t my plan. I realized months ago it wouldn’t work.”
“What wouldn’t work?” Her throat went dry.
“Forcing you to do anything.”
“Oh.” She widened her pale blue eyes at him. “But you don’t have to force me to do anything, Doug. I’ve become a regular little marshmallow.” She drew tiny circles on the table cloth with a long crimson nail.
“I’m glad. I thought you might resist.”
“Not a chance,” she said. “You look a lot younger without the beard, by the way.”
“Thank you.” He traced the rim of his squat glass. “We have to take care of everything immediately. I’m due in Milan on the twenty-fifth.”
“So soon? Hardly enough time to pack.”
He smiled wistfully. “I’m not worried about it.”
“You expect me to do it the last minute?”
He looked surprised. “I don’t expect you to do it at all.”
“Well. Wonders never cease. You have changed, darling.”
He stubbed out the brown stump. “Clare, I think we should get the divorce out of the way before I leave. You could file tomorrow–”
She stared across the table at him, her mind racing back over the entire conversation. No. She hadn’t given herself away.
“I could file, of course,” he continued, “but it wouldn’t be the gentlemanly thing to do. Don’t you agree?”
She lifted a thin brow and smiled. “The tie?”
He nodded. “I guess we should have waited?” He indicated the closed menus on their plates.
She noticed an ink mark on his cuff and that he was wearing a brown belt with a black suit. “Why?” She shrugged and opened her menu. He hadn’t changed, after all.
Milan was full of Italians, anyway.