Authors: Demelza Watts
ia gasped loudly
. The men on the other side immediately stopped talking and spun in the direction of the door. Tears filled her eyes and she slowly backed away. Catching Gino’s eye, she saw the look of panic and torment as he ran towards her.
“Mia! Please, stop!” He rushed out of the room, trying to catch up with her.
Mia blindly ran towards the lift. Her heart was pounding, everything feeling like it was happening in slow motion and just wanted to get the hell out of there. She jabbed the button on the lift repeatedly as she furiously wiped her eyes.
Sensing a commotion, Amber and Beth walked towards them.
“Mia, please. I need to explain.” She heard his voice, soft behind her and she spun around, her eyes flashing.
“There is nothing to talk about, Gino.” She tried to muster a smile for all the eyes that were watching her. “Please, I’m fine.”
Amber approached Mia, wide-awake.
“Mia, what’s going on? Are you okay, hun?” She looked at both of them, shocked at the outburst. Just then the lift signalled its arrival.
“I’m fine. We’ll speak tomorrow. Please.” She lowered her lashes, unable to look at anyone, willing her eyes to dry up.
Within moments, she was downstairs and out into the courtyard. She took a deep breath and stilled herself for a moment. He was
. Her Gino was getting married. Fresh tears spilled over and she covered her face in her hands, sobbing and sinking to her knees as physical pain ripped through her body.
“Mia, please, baby, don’t cry like this.” She heard the torture in his voice behind her and she slowly stood up. Turning around to face him, she saw the look of pain etched in his eyes too.
“You don’t get to call me, baby.” She shook her head, stepping backwards as he tried to reach out to her.
“Please, you don’t understand. It’s not what you think.” His voice was thick with emotion as he stood there, his arm still outstretched.
“Not what I think? For God’s sake Gino!” She raised her voice, uncaring if anyone else could hear her. “I’m sick of the mixed signals you constantly give me. You’re right, I no longer know what to think.” She turned around, walking to the gate. “So stay the hell away from me.”
“NO Gino! I don’t want to hear it.”
The gate opened and Mia, head held high, ran to the taxi.
n the distance
, she could hear the buzzer of her front door. After a restless night, she finally fell asleep in the early hours, her body spent and worn out from the amount of tears she had shed. She had no intention of answering the door to anyone and turned around, drawing the covers over her head and trying her best to ignore the incessant buzzing sound. Thankfully, after a few minutes, it stopped.
She was just closing her eyes again when she heard her phone vibrating on its silent setting. Groaning, she reached over to her bedside table, hoping to turn it off. Pulling open her heavy eyelids, she looked at the time. It was just past eleven o’clock and she sighed, as she never slept in this late. Once again her phone started going off and this time she picked it up to look at the caller display.
“Hi, Amber.” She spoke softly into the phone, her voice still heavy with sleep.
“Mia. Open up. I’m downstairs.”
“Amber, please. I just really want to be left alone.” She shut her eyes. Her head felt like someone had taken a bat to it.
“No, Mia. Open up. I’m not going away. Besides, I’m freezing out here so hurry.”
Mia sighed deeply. “Okay, fine. Give me a sec.”
She dragged herself out of bed and pulled on her silk dressing gown, shuffling her way to the door. She buzzed Amber in, smoothing her hair as she waited.
“Mia! Oh hun, what’s going on?” Amber came up the stairs and stopped as she looked at her, saddened to see her friend looking so disheveled.
“Come in.” Mia walked into the flat with Amber following closely behind. “Please, can you give me a minute, I’ll just quickly freshen up.”
Amber went into the kitchen and began filling the kettle. “Of course, take your time. I’ll make tea.”
Mia gave her a small smile and walked into the bathroom. Glancing at her reflection, she was dismayed to see her pale face and blood shot eyes. Taking a deep breath, she splashed her face with cold water. Within minutes, she was back with Amber, who was just walking to the sofa with their steaming mugs of tea.
Mia fell back onto the sofa, staring at the ceiling.
“Mia?” Amber spoke softly. “You’re worrying me. What’s going on? Nico’s really concerned too.”
Tears filled Mia’s eyes. “He’s getting married.”
“What? Gino’s getting married?” Amber sat up, shocked.
“Si. Seems that way from what I heard.”
“What did you hear?”
A few tears spilled over and Mia sat up, taking a tissue from the table to dab her eyes.
“Last night, when I was leaving. I couldn’t find Nico so I walked towards the spare bedroom where I heard voices. I overheard Nico and Gino talking.” Her voice cracked. “Nico was asking Gino what was going on and why was he getting married.” A sob escaped her and she buried her face in her hands. Amber moved over and wrapped her in her arms.
“I’m so dumb. All this time…I thought he loved me.”
“It’s okay, Mia. We’ll get to the bottom of this. I don’t understand it either. I mean, the chemistry between you two was so obvious last night.” Amber shook her head, heartbroken to see her friend in so much pain. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“It is what it is. I told you a few months ago.” She slowly pulled away from Amber, wiping her eyes. “I have to move on. Just like he has.”
“Okay, but couldn’t you just talk to him? Find out why?”
Mia looked at Amber, the pain evident in her green eyes. “What for? To find out that he has just really strung me along all this time? For me to admit to him that secretly I have been waiting for him for the past two years after he told me that he loved me? What’s the point?” She shook her head, defeated.
They sat in silence for a few moments, whilst they sipped their tea.
“Mia, do you mind if Beth comes over? I know she’s desperately waiting for my call to see if you’re okay?”
Mia shrugged. “Sure of course, she can. Anyway, I need to show her some dress designs so we can do that today.”
“I don’t think she’d be too bothered about that, hun.” Amber squeezed her hand. “We’re just worried about you and we want to be here.”
Mia smiled at her friend. She was thankful to have met such lovely girls and, in the three months she had known them, they had formed a tight friendship together.
short while later
, Beth arrived. She brought food and the girls sat at the table eating noodles whilst Mia merely picked at her plate.
After lunch was cleared away, Beth gently spoke to Mia. “From what I’ve heard, it doesn’t make sense. I really think you should speak with Gino to find out what’s going on.”
Mia sighed. She seemed to be doing a lot of that today. “Maybe. He did say he wanted to explain. Maybe I should hear him out… and then …and then, I can get closure and move on.”
Beth’s eyes filled with tears. “Mia, can you tell us more about Gino? How long have you known him?”
Mia sat back in her seat, reflecting on their past. “Well, I met him for the first time when I was about nine. Nico had brought home a lot of friends for a weekend at our villa in Lake Como. They were all loud and brash and I desperately wanted to join in the fun, but Nico kept telling me to go away.” She smiled. “I guess a nine year old tagging along would cramp their style, being the fourteen year old teenage boys that they were. Anyway, I remember the first time I saw Gino…he was coming out of the pool and I was hiding behind a bush, giggling whilst watching them play with the water guns. I had my swimming costume on, ready to go and join in, just in case Nico would let me.”
She looked away thoughtfully as the memories flooded through vividly. Both Amber and Beth were silent, nodding and waiting for her to continue. “So somehow, Gino spotted me and I froze because I was scared he would tell my brother and then they’d all make fun of me or something. I was about to run away when he called out to me and told me to stop hiding.” She smiled. “He was so kind, he let me join in, gave me his water gun. Nico grudgingly allowed me to play, whilst also teasing Gino for playing with a nine year old. He looked after me all afternoon and I was so proud to be included in the gang.”
She paused and took a sip of her water, a wistful look moving across her features. “That was the best summer because Gino frequently stayed over and he was always so nice to me. Even at age nine, I remember how drawn I was to him and his beautiful grey eyes, which pulled me in even back then. God, I must have been like a puppy.” Mia’s tone changed and she frowned. “Following that amazing summer, unfortunately something happened and Gino was never the same again. Sure, he was still nice to me, but he became very introverted.”
Amber exclaimed. “What? Why, what happened?”
Mia lowered her voice. “Very sadly, his mother died. Rumour had it that she was murdered.”
? Murdered?” Beth looked at Mia in shock, a deep frown crossing her delicate features as her hand flew to her mouth.
“Si, but like I said, it’s just rumours. Let me explain properly. Gino’s mother was English, his father is Italian and was and is still a very powerful and wealthy man. We don’t know the details, but when they were younger, Gino used to confide in Nico that his parents were always fighting. A couple of times, he even overheard his father threatening to kill his mother.”
“Oh no, how terrible!” Amber looked sadly at her friend. “So, what happened?”
“Well, we don’t really know the truth, or I guess for that matter, never will. The story was that she was coming back home late one night with his driver, who apparently lost control of the car. The strange part is that the driver walked away with only a few scratches, yet she died at the scene.” She shook her head, shrugging her shoulders.
“Oh my God.” Amber was stunned. “But why would they think he was responsible?”
“Well, like I said, we knew they weren’t getting on. From what I understand, and rumours once again, but people whisper that he’s connected with some underground thugs. Since her death, Gino withdrew away from his father, but I really don’t know all the details. Nico never told me if Gino confided in him — in fact, I don’t even know if he told Nico anything and I didn’t think it was my place to ask.”
“That’s awful. Poor, Gino.”
Mia nodded and took a sip of her water, whilst the girls considered the information. “Yes… so, that’s what I know of Gino.” Mia got up and walked to the window, looking down onto the street below. The November weather had the few people walking below bundled up in their coats and scarves, heads bent at the blustery wind as they went along their way.
Beth brought back her attention. “Mia, you know what? I don’t get why Gino says he can’t be with you?”
“I don’t know either, Beth. Well, any hope of that is ruined now that he’s getting married.”
“If he is
Mia spun around, looking back and forth at both the girls as Beth continued, “I mean, did he confirm it to you?”
Mia took a deep breath. The thought of Gino marrying someone else was physically hurting her chest. “He didn’t, Beth…but he didn’t deny it either.” She spoke softly.
“Okay, but I think Beth’s right. You need to hear him out.” Amber’s concern was etched across her pretty features.
Mia nodded slowly. “Okay. I’ll call him tomorrow.”
he girls spent
the remainder of the day relaxing and catching up on the events of the week. Mia tried her best to raise her spirits and to focus on Beth’s impending wedding. Locating her folder, she pulled out her sketchbook. Beth’s eyes lit up in anticipation as she watched her thumb through the pages.
“Oh wow — are those the sketches for my dress?”
“Yes, but bear in mind, these are just preliminary ideas. We can adjust or change anything you don’t like.”
“Fantastic, oh, thank you for doing this, Mia. I completely trust your judgement.” She grinned, clapping her hands gleefully. “Anyway, I’ve already had the pleasure of wearing one of your evening gowns, which fitted me like a glove. I’ve no doubt my wedding dress will be sublime.”
Mia smiled, remembering the collection she had sent over to Beth’s stylist in Barcelona, over the summer. “Yes, I remember the green dress well.” She laughed. “How could I not? It became one of my most requested designs after you wore it so well and the photos were released.”
Beth smiled, lowering her eyes and blushing at the compliment, thrilled to hear that she helped in some way with Mia’s new collection.
Mia pointed to a couple of designs, her eyes critically scanning the drawings. “So, I’m thinking that either this trumpet or mermaid style would be perfect for your slender, yet hourglass figure. What do you think of this one?”
The girls spent the next couple of hours deciding on the shape and fabric for the dress. In the end they all agreed on the trumpet style and then moved onto the Maid of Honour dress for Amber.
Amber was her single bridesmaid as their other best friend, Jess, was unfortunately going to be out of the country over the New Year. She had insisted that she would change her travel plans, but Beth had pleaded with her to carry on for she had booked her trip months in advance, before Beth had even met Theo. With the wedding taking place on New Year’s Eve, Amber was also pleased that she wouldn’t be showing too much on the big day.
towards early evening when Beth and Amber left Mia’s flat. They hugged each other goodbye at the door.
“Thank you so much for coming today. You both made me feel so much better. And stronger.”
“You’re welcome, Mia. Anything for you. Just promise us you’ll call him tomorrow?” Amber hugged her again, holding her tightly.
The last few hours had provided a welcome distraction, but the thought of calling Gino caused another lump to form in her throat. She nodded through her reply at Amber, smiling as she gently pulled away and blinked rapidly to stop the tears forming once again.
Once the girls had left, Mia flopped onto the sofa, flicking through the television channels. She was still tired from her restless night, so gave up on the TV and decided to take a long bath and then retire for bed.
As she passed her bedroom, she noticed her phone on the bed, realising she hadn’t checked it all day. It was obviously still on the vibrate function from this morning as she hadn’t heard any calls.
Retrieving her phone, she was shocked to see that she had over fifteen missed calls on the display. She quickly swiped the screen and saw that besides her brother, the remainder of the calls were from Gino.
Mia sank back onto her bed, clutching her phone. The little icon on the corner of screen was indicating a voicemail alert. She knew it would be him, but didn’t have the strength, nor the courage to listen to the message right now.
Tomorrow, she decided.
She would take her warm bubble bath and then deal with Gino tomorrow. Never in her life had she experienced such heartache and the thought of hearing his voice tonight would break her further. She tossed her phone onto the bed.
he woke early
the next morning. Yawning widely, Mia stretched but as soon as she opened her eyes, the feeling of dread settled all over her once again. She groaned and squeezed her eyes shut, hoping for another blissful moment where she could close her eyes and forget that Friday night ever happened. Failing miserably, she realised it was no use so she dragged herself out of bed.
Following a modest breakfast, she sat at her table, looking at her phone. With a deep breath, knowing she couldn’t prolong it any longer, she hit the voicemail button and listened to her messages. Three messages from Gino, getting increasingly more desperate with each one, pleading to speak with her. She sighed as she put down her phone and looked at the time. It was just past nine o’clock. Now or never. Mia felt her heart rate pick up as she located his number through her contacts and hit the dial button. After two rings, she heard his voice.
“Mia. Thank God, I was so worried about you.” His voice was filled with concern.
“Gino. I got your messages.” She tried her best to sound impersonal.
“Please, Mia. Can I come over? I would really like to speak with you.”
She was silent for a moment. Listening to the pleading and agony in his tone. As much as she wanted to scream and tell him to get lost, she couldn’t bear to hear him sound so obviously distressed.
“Mia? Are you there?”
“I’m here, Gino. Okay, fine, come over.”
“Thank you, Mia.” She could hear the relief in his voice. “I’ll be there shortly.”
“Bye, Gino.” She hung up.
was in a very trendy part of East London, so she knew it would take him just over half an hour to drive over on a Sunday morning, when the traffic would be light. She drained her coffee and took a quick shower to freshen up, wanting to look her casual best to unconsciously show him what he was missing. Flicking through her wardrobe, she found her favourite dark green wool dress, which emphasized her jade green eyes.
Holding it up against her as she looked in the mirror, she was satisfied with her reflection and quickly slipped it on. Then she ran a brush through her straight brown hair and applied some light make up. Thankfully, her face didn’t look blotchy like it did yesterday and with the help of some eye drops, her eyes no longer looked bloodshot either.
Just then, she heard her door buzzer. She froze, as her heart began to pound against her ribs. Could she really face him? He was here, right now, probably about to tell her that he was getting married. Once again the buzzer sounded, snapping her out of her paralysis. She forced herself to take a few deep breaths and then quickly released the lock.
Mia heard his footsteps pounding on the stairs — it was clear he was running. She stepped back slightly and then he came into view, his grey eyes blazing into hers.
He looked like he hadn’t slept as he had deep shadows under his eyes and his tanned face looked pale and drawn. She looked at his clothes - a crumpled white t-shirt under his worn leather jacket, finished off with dark jeans.
Mia felt her breath stuck in her throat as she drank in his muscular physique, involuntarily feeling the pull of her eyes being drawn to his lips. She couldn’t deny the attraction she felt for him and a sudden feeling of grief and despair tore through her at the thought of never having him in her arms. The air between them was thick with tension.
“Hi, Mia,” he said softly as he ran his hand through his short hair. “Please, may I come in?”
Mia sighed, a suffocating sensation tightening her throat. She willed herself to be strong. “Sure, come in.” Her voice sounded strong even though she was feeling anything but and she led the way to the sofa. “Can I get you a coffee?”
He smiled softly at her as he sat down. “Sure, that would be great. Thank you.”
The television was still on, so he absentmindedly picked up the remote control, seemingly engrossed in the buttons, whilst she busied herself in the kitchen. A heaviness had centered in her chest and she knew she was only moments away from finding out the truth. Wiping her clammy hands on her dress, she brought two mugs of coffee through and sat down opposite him, watching him closely.
His features carried a look of sadness as he picked up his mug. “Thank you.”
“Prego.” She took a gulp of her coffee and immediately winced, the hot liquid scalding her mouth. “Ouch!” She quickly slammed the mug back down.
“God, are you okay?” He immediately sat up, almost seeming like he was about to reach out for her but then decided against it. That lack of action, combined with her fast blistering tongue, was the final straw for Mia. She gulped hard, hot tears slipping down her cheeks and choking her voice. “Okay? Am I okay, Gino?
, I’m damn well
” She heard her voice rise and got up, fleeing to the kitchen for a cold glass of water to soothe her tongue.
She squeezed her eyes shut and placed her hands on the counter. Within a moment, Gino was beside her, wrapping his arms around her from behind and holding her tightly against him, as she furiously battled to get her emotions under control.