The Italian Job - Part 10

Luca’s father, Marco turned out to be a real sweetie. Over the next few days I got to know him quite well. As for his wife of 31 years, Niamah was nowhere to be seen. She’d seen Marco embracing me at the station and hadn’t been seen since.

We found out a few days later that she was staying with Gina. That little bit of news made me feel a whole lot better. Marco seemed to agree with my statement of ‘She’s lost it’.

When I felt up to it, I headed back to Tuscany to supervise repairs and other things on the house. I spent more than a month there. It helped me get my mind off my experience in Milan.

Luca would drive down every Friday afternoon to review progress on the refurbishment of the house. Progress was steady but he was very impressed at my improving command of Italian swear words. I was giving as good as I was getting from the Builders. It did earn me more than a little respect.

We sort of fell into a pattern spending a very lazy Sunday morning in bed together and then going out for a late lunch at one of the many great restaurants in the area. We did however find time to discuss what I planned to do once my year of living as a woman was up. I was now certain that if I was to marry Luca, it had to be as a fully legal woman. Luca to his credit hadn’t pushed me into this decision. I dare not tell him that the episode in the lift in Rio had made my mind up for me.

When the builders started on the kitchen I got them to dismantle the table and ship it to Genoa. I didn’t want it damaged during the renovations. It just about fitted into the dining room of the Apartment. The movers commented more than once ‘they don’t make them like this anymore’. It made me pleased that I was not the only one to recognise quality in the workmanship. They estimated that it was at least one hundred and fifty years old.

By the beginning of March, the house was starting to look half decent so with a good heart, I flew back to London for one of my regular appointments with my Doctor.

After my sessions with Dr Emily Penrose, I did a little shopping in Knightsbridge before taking the train to Bath to say hello to Saffy and Claudia.

I’d hardly walked in the door when two pairs or arms rapped themselves around my body.

“Hello girls. I take it you are glad to see me.”

One pair of lips after another was planted on mine.

“Ok. I get it.”

Eventually they stopped their embraces.

“What was that for?”

“Because it has been a long time since we have seen you. And after what happened with my Mother we have been worried about you,” said an impassioned Claudia.

“Thank you for being concerned about me but I think I gave her as good as I got.”

Claudia didn’t answer but she did look a bit worried.

“You do know that she’s working with Gina to get custody of the twins.”

I sat down shaking.

“No I didn’t know. When did you find out about this?”

Claudia looked aghast.

“Hasn’t my brother told you?”

I shook my head.

“The rat. Wait till I see him…”

“Don’t be angry with him. I expect he was trying to protect me. He knows how I would react.”

She nodded her head in agreement.

Saffy tried to change the subject.

“How long are you staying for?”

I smiled back at her.

“I’m going back to Italy the day after tomorrow. I have some things to sort out in my flat and a little business to attend to tomorrow morning but I’ll be free to take the pair of you out to dinner tomorrow night.”

~o~O~o~

In the end, my business took a little longer than I’d anticipated so it was three days later when I flew back to Italy. I was starting to think of it as sort of home. The previous night Claudia had brought me up to speed what she thought her Mother and former Sister in Law were planning. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. I resolved to give darling Luca a big piece of my mind when I returned to Genoa.

My best laid plans and all that went right out the door as soon as I saw him waiting for me at the Airport.
As he kissed me passionately I said,

“I was going to be a bit pissed off with you but since you welcomed me so nicely, how can I be angry with you for more than a few seconds.”

He didn’t answer but placed another kiss on my lips. That was his answer.

That night we talked and talked. It was well into the early hours before we fell into bed exhausted. I didn’t get to sleep for some time but by the time I turned over I felt satisfied that we had a plan. There was only one possible problem and hopefully that would be resolved the following day.

~o~O~o~

We met Marco for lunch at a small restaurant about 20km from Genoa. It had been chosen just because it was small and quiet and more importantly well away from prying eyes of both a Russian and family sort.

Once we’d ordered, Luca said to his Father.

“We would like you take over the yard. This would allow us to move to England. It will be harder for Gina and my mother to legally get custody of the children.”

Marco was ever the Gentleman. He just smiled back at us.

“Of course I will. I am only sad it took you this long to ask me. After… After my so rather silly wife started messing things up for you. I know that the pair of you will give my grandchildren the right sort of upbringing, something that their mother has proved rather inept at doing so to date.”

I thought to myself, ‘if you were only 25 years younger and I was a proper woman I’d ask him to marry me in an instant.

We spent a long afternoon discussing everything about us, the children and the business. Eventually, we got thrown out of the restaurant so, the three of us returned to the apartment where I made us something more to eat and we carried on talking well into the night.

With that all organised Luca and I flew to London a couple of days later. Once we’d settled into the house once more, we went up to London to seek some legal advice regarding the domicile and guardianship of the children.

The news was not good and not bad.

The good news was that Gina had given written permission for them to be educated in England. Any move to take them out of school without Luca’s permission would more than likely be viewed as kidnap.
The bad news was that if my true sexuality came out then the press would have a field day and the court of public opinion would ensure that Luca would lose that ever so important custody of his children.

We also discussed the financial implications. As Gina, hadn’t married anyone else she was still being paid the €200,000 a year maintenance. If she managed to get custody of the children that sum would probably go up considerably. I gasped when the lawyer mentioned as sum close to €500,000 a year.

~o~O~o~

Two days later I literally dragged Luca into a meeting with my Doctor.

“Doctor, this is my fiancée, Luca.”

“I’m pleased to see you but why the urgency for a meeting? You were not due for another six weeks.”
I swallowed hard.

“We have a little problem. Luca’s ex-wife is apparently going to try to obtain sole custody of their children. This is all being instigated by his mother. She does not like me one little bit. She is from West Belfast and thinks ‘Bloody Sunday’ happened yesterday.”

“I think I get the picture. What do you want me to do?”

I gripped Luca’s hand tightly.

“If it is possible, I’d like to complete my transition a little bit sooner than planned. Then we can get my documents changed so we can get married.”

The doctor just nodded her understanding.

“Then if the custody case comes to court we can present a stable family and it will be harder for the other side to attack me for not being really who I appear to be.”

There was an ominous silence in the Doctors Office.

She spent a few seconds finishing writing some notes. Then she looked up at us.

“I appreciate the problems but the rules are the rules. You have to complete one whole year living as a woman.”

I started to say something but she put her hand up to stop me.

“You are making wonderful progress. Every time I see you there is less of Francis in your character and personality. There are many other Transgendered people with less of a feminine character than you have had from your very first time you came here. However, I’d more than likely be out of a job if I let you break the rules in this area.”

I guess my look of total disappointment showed.

She gave me a little smiled.

“However, I am prepared to put the paperwork in motion that will expedite the official change in your sex once the twelve months have elapsed and you have transitioned.”

I could have hugged her there and then but she wasn’t the sort of person you hugged on the spur of the moment.

We left her office with both of us in a happier mood.

~o~O~o~

One downside of me being back in the UK was that any work on the house came to an abrupt halt. We discussed how we should proceed with the restoration for many hours without coming to any satisfactory conclusion.

In the end, Luca had to go back to Italy for a while. He’d be back in a little over a week when the schools broke up for Easter.

Two days after he left I was dozing gently in the early morning when a gem of an idea started to form in my mind.

“I wonder?” I said to myself several times before I got out of bed and spent most of the morning working the Internet hard.

The pangs of hunger eventually drove me away from the computer and into the kitchen.

As I ate lunch a smile started to form on my face. By the end, it was a big grin. I returned to the computer and carried on with my work with a renewed vigour.

After another hour or so, I was done. I finished writing a very long email and sent it to Luca. With that done, I didn’t sit on my laurels, I went straight into the next phase of my plan. I picked up my phone and dialled a number in Cardiff.

After three rings, the phone was answered.

“Mr Sidoli?”

“I wonder if your company can be of assistance to me. I have a partially renovated house in Tuscany that needs finishing. I understand that you undertake this sort of work?”

His answer caused me to let out the breath that I’d been holding ever since the phone was answered.

“That is very good news. I have a number of photographs and other things I can show you if that is possible. When would be a good time for us to meet? I don’t mind coming to Cardiff.”

After a second or so, I heard the answer.

“That is great. Why time is best for you?”

“Ok, Thursday at 11:00. I’ll see you then.”

As I hung up the phone I saw my reflection in the mirror. I was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat.

~o~O~o~

Luckily for me, Luca agreed with my plan. Well I didn’t actually give him much choice especially when I showed him the figures relating to the restoration. Therefore, with his slightly grudging approval, I took the 10:07 train from Bristol Parkway to Cardiff.

Mr Sidoli’s offices were only a few minutes walk from the Station. This was just as well as a strong westerly wind was driving some light rain right into the faces of those who ventured out onto the Cardiff streets. Cardiff can be a beautiful and vibrant city but not on days like this.

I soon found the office and frankly I was glad to get inside out of the strengthening wind.

As I entered the offices I got the impression that this was a place of work and not style over function. I could see a couple of the obligatory models in glass cases but that was all. I could see people hard at work in a couple of offices.

I waited a few more seconds before deciding to announce myself.

I walked over to the door of one offices and went inside. The door was slightly open so I took it as an invitation to enter.

The sound of my heels on the polished wooden floor made the forty something man who was examining some plans in great detail pause what he was doing and look up at me.

I smiled sweetly and said,

“I have an appointment at eleven.”

He smiled back. It was a nice friendly smile.

“Ah, you must be Ms Clarkson. The boss is expecting you. If you’d just wait here a moment, I’ll get him. Things are a bit manic here at the moment. We are moving offices in a week so… Well its is sort of disorganised chaos.”

I smiled once more.

“Thank you.”

He put down the pair of glasses that he’d taken off to look at me and stepped by me into the doorway and through it.

Less than 30 seconds later he returned with what could only be Mr Sidoli. He looked Italian yet we were in an office in the middle of the Welsh Capital. Still, I told myself I shouldn’t be surprised as there is a lot of people in this city that are of Italian origin. Well, that was what Wikipedia had told me anyway.

“Ms Clarkson. Welcome. Won’t you please come with me. I’m sure my son has told you about our office move so why don’t we go and find somewhere a little more comfortable.”

He let me walk out of the office first. It felt strange to see someone who should have been in Italy talking with a heavy Welsh lilt. It was quite musical.

We soon found an office that was empty apart from a table and a few chairs.

“Please take a seat. Guiseppe will be joining us in a minute. He’ll bring us some tea and some of his wife’s cakes. They are really very good.”

I sat down and proceeded to remove the documents and photos I’d brought with me from my briefcase while we waited for Guiseppe to arrive.

Timing, they say is all about luck. Today, it was perfect. I’d just finished arranging my documents when Guiseppe arrived carrying a pot of tea, three cups with saucers and what looked like date and walnut cake.

As first impressions go, this lot are up there with the best.

Guiseppe even poured the tea properly! Milk first then the tea through a strainer. Perfect.

He handed us each a cup and then sat down himself.

“Ms Clarkson, what sort of job do you want us to do?”

“Please call me Fran. Ms Clarkson sounds so formal.”

The both nodded back at me.

“I have recently bought this house,” I said telling them a little fib.

I pushed over a photo of the house towards the two men.

“It is as you can see, a typical Tuscan Country House dating from the middle of the 19th Century. It has eight bedrooms and six receptions rooms. It sits in 9 hectares of somewhat overgrown gardens. Oh, and there are a number of outbuildings including a three-box stable block.”

“As you can see from the picture, it had a new roof put on a few months ago. The original plan was that I’d be on site most of the time to supervise but a change in circumstances had made that impossible.”

“Excuse me”, asked Guiseppe.

“You said that you are in the process of buying the house yet you said that you’ve already had a new roof put on. I’m a little confused.”

I smiled at him.

“I’ve bought the house from my fiancée. I know it sound strange but it is the easiest way to… Apparently is a fairly common way to avoid paying some taxes in the future.”

Mr Sidoli smiled back at me. I think he understood.

“What do you want from us Fran?” Asked Mr Sidoli.

“Mr Sidoli,..”

“Victor please,” he said interrupting me.

“Victor,” I smiled.

“I’d like your company to complete the job I’ve started. The work that has been done is more than likely not up to your standards. I’ll have to put that down to my amateurish attempts at project management. I’ll give you a free hand to do the work. I want it done to the highest quality because we are going to live there once it’s done.”

“Then money’s no object?” asked Victor.

“I didn’t say that. You can have a free hand but I will keep a close eye on the costs. I want a proper job done. I’ll also be expecting at least a one year guarantee on the works. No doubt you will factor that in to your prices.”

I looked at them earnestly.

“What I’m saying is that I will pay a reasonable and fair price for the work but in return it has to be top quality.”

I paused for half a second. Then I added.

“Non lo voglio tagliare gli angoli. Nessun bodging.”

They both laughed at my Italian. I think I overdid the ‘amateurish’ part of the translation.

We spent the next hour going over the finer details using my photos and sketches. Gusieppe made copious notes on just about everything. At the end, I asked,

“What do you think?”

Victor looked at his son who gave a little nod of his head.

“I think we can do the job. As it happens, we are just finishing a job about 30km from this house. We should be done there in a week or two. What I’d like to do is visit the site next week and do a more formal survey. That will take two or three days. Then I’ll draw up a schedule with a load of costs and other details. Then we can sit down and work on a contract.”

I smiled back at them both.

“Thank you. Now about a retainer? Would this do?”

I pulled a cheque from my handbag.

“That should cover your initial expenses,” I said as I passed it to Victor.

He looked at the amount.

“You seemed rather certain that we would be able to help you?”

I smiled back at him.

“If I didn’t have any confidence then I’d probably sill be pulling pints at my local pub.”

He chuckled at my response.

I added,

“I did do quite a bit research before calling you. It wasn’t hard to find out about your other project being close to completion and that the customer is very happy with the work done so far.”

Victor laughed and stuck his hand out.

I shook it.

“I think Ms Clarkson, that we are going to get along just fine.”

~o~O~o~

With the restoration of the house under control, Luca and I were able to turn our attention to the possible custody battle with Gina. Our British lawyers had made some suggestions regarding a possible course of action on our part. They were unclear of some of the implications of those plans under Italian law.

As a result, we flew to Rome the following Monday for a meeting with Marco and a team of lawyers who had experience in this sort of thing.

The meeting served to confirm much of what we’d been told in England. The so- called divorce that Luca and Gina had gone through was not final. This was due to some weirdness of the Italian Divorce Laws.

As a result, Luca signed the deeds of trust putting the money from the sale of the Tuscan house to me aside for the education of the children. The conditions of the trust were such that their mother could not touch any of the money even the interest. If tried to change this through the law, the trust would be dissolved and the money given to a charity.

The down side of all this was that in the short term there was no way we could get married even after I’d transitioned.

Until Gina formally gave up any aims of getting custody we couldn’t get married because under Italian law, I could be made to divulge my complete financial status. Any asset I owned could be included in the monies from my estate could be used in the amount that Luca would have to pay in maintenance.

I felt rather sad at this prospect. When we’d met with the lawyers and they explained the situation, I’d tried to change Luca’s mind but for once he was rock solid in his determination to keep my finances out of something I’d had no part in. Marco sat quietly through our first argument.

When we’d run out of steam, I went outside for a walk to cool down. He joined me and asked.

“You really love my son, don’t you?”

“Yes I do.”

He smiled back at me. Then he took hold of my hand.

“Then you will wait until these annoyances are properly sorted out.”

It was a question. It was a statement. He was telling me to wait.

The image of Marco being a bit of a softie went right out the window. Here and now he was showing a degree of toughness I’d not seen in him before. It was a side of Marco that I liked.

I smiled back at him.

“I can wait Marco. I’ve waited long enough. A little longer won’t matter very much.”

He smiled at me.

“But time is ticking by, if you and my son want to start a family.”

My face must have changed colour in an instant.

“Oh my dear. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

I took a few seconds to reply.

“No Marco. You had every right to wonder about our plans.”

I grinned back at him.

“I’m not really the mothering sort of woman. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ll be the best mother I can be to Benito and Sophia. But changing nappies is not really my thing. Besides, we both think that two children, is more than enough for any family.”

He looked very relieved.

I squeezed his hand and smiled.

“Shall we go back inside?”

~o~O~o~

There remained the not so little matter of Marco’s wife Naimah. That night at dinner Marco explained to me that it was his wife’s idea that Luca would get married to Gina. She’d been the matchmaker that had bought them together in the first place.

“Mama was very persistent. If I looked at another woman she’d do her utmost to destroy her before my very eyes.”

He sighed. It was a very deep sigh indeed.

“In the end I gave in to both Mothers. We got married and then the hints about bambino’s started. At first Gina was an excellent mother. Then she seemed to miss the playgirl lifestyle she’d been enjoying before our marriage.”

He looked very sad.

“Don’t feel sorry Luca. You have found a wonderful woman in Fran,” said his father.

Luca took my hand and squeezed it hard.

~o~O~o~

Two days later I was sitting in the back of a taxi on my way to the Airport to fly back to London when my phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Oh yes Mr Sidoli. Is there a problem with the house?”

I listened to him speak.

A smile broke out on my face when he got to the reason for his call.
“You found what?”

I listened again. The smile got broader.
“I must see that. I’ll be there as quick as I can.”

I finished the call still smiling.

“Driver. Prendalo alla stazione ferroviaria. Devo interferire il treno seguente a Firenze.” { Driver. Take me to the railway station. I need to catch the next train to Florence.}
As the bemused driver turned the car around, I burst out laughing.
[to be continued]



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