فصل 13

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فصل 13

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

An unwanted invitation

For Stephany and Max, the next two days were wonderful. They swam, ate good food and went for walks. Max visited more buildings and churches. Stephany was not interested in these so he often went on his own, while she sat at cafes with her book.

One day they went shopping in Genoa. Stephany bought some shoes and a new red dress. Max bought a new jacket.

‘Italy is a wonderful country,’ said Max. ‘Good food, beautiful architecture, and great clothes as well.’ He was enjoying this holiday more than he could have thought.

On their last afternoon Max said, ‘This flat almost feels like home. I feel as though we’ve always lived here.’ He didn’t tell Stephany directly that he was enjoying living with her, but he had begun to think they should move in together when they went back to England. He was waiting for the right moment to talk about it.

Stephany had begun to think the same thing. The more she got to know Max, the more intelligent and more handsome she thought he was. He might not be the greatest swimmer and he had never been on water-skis, but he knew so much about architecture and art.

The days of their holiday passed quickly. They hadn’t seen Carlo or Ruth again and Stephany began to relax; no-one would ever know about her evening with Carlo, she thought. In fact, she rather liked to remember the evening, and she thought of times in the future when she and Carlo would meet and make love. It was good to think she had a serious relationship with Max, a part-time lover in Carlo, and a beautiful flat to stay in, in Italy.

Max had never asked anything about the evening of the festival and Carlo had not phoned since then. She thought that Carlo understood it was best not to see each other at the moment.

On their last day in the village, Max decided he would take Stephany out that evening to an expensive restaurant he had seen near the beach. It would be the perfect place to ask her to move in with him when they got back to England.

Max felt sure that a beautiful sunset, a sea view and good food and wine would mean she couldn’t say no.

But early that evening there was a knock on the flat door. It was Carlo’s mother inviting them for a meal.

‘I saw you earlier, eating in the bar, and I decided it was time you had a real Italian home-cooked meal,’ she said.

Stephany thought for a moment. But she couldn’t say no. The old woman would be hurt.

‘Thank you,’ said Stephany, ‘that would be lovely’

When the old woman had gone, Max looked at Stephany.

‘What did she want?’ he asked, although he thought he knew already.

‘She’s invited us for dinner this evening,’ said Stephany, not looking at Max.

‘And you accepted?’

‘Well, I had to,’ said Stephany. ‘It wouldn’t be nice to say no. She thinks we haven’t been eating good food in the bars and restaurants.’

‘How does she know?’ asked Max, feeling angry.

‘She’s seen us,’ said Stephany

‘But I wanted to take you for a meal at a really good restaurant,’ said Max, feeling very angry.

‘We can’t say no,’ said Stephany. ‘She’s Carlo’s mother and we’re staying in his flat. She’d be very hurt if we didn’t want to go.’

Max knew Stephany was right. The trouble with being given something free, like a flat to stay in, was it meant you had to do things you didn’t want to do sometimes.

You never really got anything free in this world, he knew that. There was always something to pay. And a meal with an old couple was a small price.

‘Well, she’s a very good cook,’ said Stephany.

‘Oh well,’ said Max, ‘we’ll just have to try and enjoy it.’

They got ready for the evening. Stephany put on the red dress she had bought in town that week.

‘You look beautiful,’ said Max.

‘You don’t look too bad yourself,’ said Stephany. Max was brown from the sun and it went well with his dark hair. He had put on his new jacket which made him look very handsome. Stephany felt very pleased.

To her surprise, when they went to the old couple’s flat at seven o’clock, it was Carlo who opened the door.

‘Oh,’ said Stephany, her heart sounding so loud that she was afraid someone else might hear it. ‘We didn’t know you would be here.’

‘It’s my mother’s house,’ said Carlo. ‘Naturally, she asked us to come too.’

‘Hi!’ Max said, happy that Ruth was there. He had thought everyone would be speaking in Italian all evening and he wouldn’t understand a word of it.

‘Come in,’ said Carlo.

Ruth and the children were playing in the sitting room. Ruth was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. She looked very pretty tonight, Max thought.

Carlo stayed close to Ruth all evening. He put his arm round her and kissed her, and Ruth looked at him with her eyes full of love. It was as if Carlo was trying to show Stephany how well he and Ruth got on. He didn’t talk much to Stephany.

Stephany tried not to think about it, but she couldn’t help feeling bad - she knew she was looking attractive this evening and she wanted Carlo to say something. Max had said her dress made her look like a film star.

‘Here, Thomas,’ Carlo’s mother was saying to the little boy. ‘Have some chocolate!’

‘But he hasn’t had his dinner yet,’ said Ruth. She had gone red with anger. Carlo’s mother looked a little sad.

‘OK,’ Ruth said. ‘Look, Thomas, Norma wants to give you some chocolate.’

But Stephany could see Ruth didn’t like Thomas having chocolate before dinner. ‘How silly,’ she thought, ‘just a little chocolate. Poor old woman! She just wants to be kind to her grandson!’

‘What a lucky boy!’ Stephany said, and Carlo’s mother smiled at her. Ruth looked at Stephany angrily, but Stephany didn’t notice.

‘Let’s eat!’ said Carlo’s mother, and they sat down at the table.

‘You’re a good swimmer,’ Carlo’s father said to Stephany as they sat round the table eating fresh pasta. Stephany looked at him, surprised. She didn’t know he had seen her swimming.

‘And you are very good at diving,’ laughed Carlo’s father. ‘You’re like one of the Italian boys!’

‘Doesn’t Max like diving?’ asked Carlo’s mother.

Goodness, thought Stephany, they have seen everything we have done since we arrived here. They know how we spend our days, and where we eat. What else do they know? She suddenly thought.

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