Isabella sat on the couch and watched tv to kill time. It was still an hour until Giovanni would pick her up to go shopping but she was already dressed up. Zoned out, she played with her braid while she waited.
Not much later, the loud knocking on the door made her jump up. Opening the door revealed Giovanni’s towering figure.
’’’Hi, Giovanni.’’ she smiled at him.
‘’You’re early. Do you want something to drink before we go?’’ Isabella shifted from one foot to the other.
‘’Coffee would be nice,’’ he said and entered the house.
While Giovanni seated himself on the couch in the living room, Isabella went to the kitchen to brew the coffee. When she was done, she placed the mug on the oak coffee table.
Giovanni thanked her and took a sip of his coffee.
‘’Are you alone at home?’’ he rested his arm on the armchair.
‘’My mom and dad are working in the store.’’ Isabella sat across him. ‘’And Sergio is also working now.’’
Giovanni’s frown vanished when realisation kicked in. ‘’Of course, he works on cars, right?’’
Isabella didn’t know what to make of his expression and only nodded at him. He was hiding something.
Giovanni put the empty mug back on the table and rose to his full length. ‘’Let’s go.’’
When Isabella saw his car parked outside she was in awe. She had a soft spot for cars just like her brother and father.
‘’You have a beautiful car.’’ Isabella complimented.
‘’I’m not giving it to you.’’ He teased and put his hand on her back.
Isabella giggled and playfully rolled her eyes. At the same time, her heart skipped a beat when she felt his hand against her flesh. She thanked him when he opened the door for her and sat in the passenger seat. On their way to the De Lima mansion, Isabella stole a few glances at him.
‘’Are you okay?’’ Giovanni asked and put his hand on her thigh.
Not trusting her voice, she moved her head to answer. After getting herself to relax, she focused her attention on the pedestrians they passed. Isabella never had someone touch her like this. She wasn’t used to it. Her experience in the romance department was very little. She had customers from the store come up to her and flirt with her but that was the extent of it and even then she thought they were just being nice to her. Her brother often mentioned her how naive she was.
Giovanni and Isabella reached the De Lima mansion and picked Luciana up. Luciana got in the back of the car and noticed her cousin’s hand on Isabella right away. She didn’t comment on it. Instead, a wide grin was plastered on her face.
‘’Hi, Bella!’’ Luciana put her arms around Isabella’s neck with the car seat in between them to hug her. ’’Hi, Cugino.’’
Giovanni gave a terse nod at her and Isabella greeted her back with the same level of enthusiasm.
’’You also look beautiful, Luciana.’’ Isabella winked at her through the rear-view mirror.
‘’You’re amazing! I meant Bella as a nickname,’’ Luciana said in between laughs. ‘’But thank you.’’ she flicked her brown hair.
While feeling slightly embarrassed, she laughed with Luciana. Isabella noticed Giovanni’s lips twitch which made her duck her head a little.
Soon enough, they got to the shopping mall and stepped right into the first dress shop they laid their eyes on. While the girls were choosing and fitting dresses, Giovanni sat back and stared daggers at guys trying to approach or even look at Isabella.
Hours later, Isabella finally found a dress to her liking. It was a long maroon dress with lace and an open back. She asked the store clerk the price and felt disappointment wash over her when she heard the price come out of his mouth. Isabella walked back to Luciana who was paying for her dress.
‘’What is it?’’ Giovanni asked Isabella.
Isabella shook her head. ‘’Nothing really.’’
Giovanni saw through her and repeated his question. ‘’What is it?’’
‘’The dress I liked was too expensive.’’ she sighed.
‘’Where is it?’’
Isabella answered him by pointing at the dress.
‘’I want that one,’’ Giovanni told the store clerk.
‘’No, Giovanni that’s too much. I have no way of repaying you.’’ Isabella shook her head in a frantic manner.
‘’You can see it as me paying you back for the red wine,’’ he said while paying for Isabella’s dress.
She looked at his back with wide eyes. The price of the red wine didn’t even come close to the price of the dress. Isabella instantly felt guilty.
‘’You worry too much, Bella. Besides, if he wants to buy it for you just accept the gift. Maybe he likes you.’’ Luciana whispered so only Isabella could hear her and winked at her.
‘’Luciana!’’ Isabella whisper-shouted as a blush started to creep on her cheeks.
When both girls had the dress they wanted, they got back in Giovanni’s car. Before going to back to the Donati house, they dropped Luciana off. Giovanni turned the engine off, stepped out and opened the door for Isabella.
‘’Thank you again for the dress.’’
Giovanni came a bit closer, trapping Isabella between him and the car. He put one hand on her waist and used the other one to lift her head by her chin. Now, she could look him in the eyes. He watched her gulp.
‘’Bella,’’ he mumbled in his deep voice.
Her eyelids fluttered at his nearness. She looked at him in wonder. Not entirely sure if he called her by the same nickname Luciana used earlier or if he was calling her beautiful. There was a spark of hope in her that it was the latter of the two.
He gave her a sweet lingering kiss on her forehead and let go of her. He held himself back. He wanted to kiss her on the lips but thought better of it. Giovanni grabbed her shopping bags out of the car and handed it over to her.
Isabella thanked him and turned to walk to the front door. She got inside and headed toward the stairs but stopped in her tracks when she heard her mother.
’’You have a lot to explain, Signorina.’’ Donatella crossed her arms and pointed her spatula at her daughter.
Donatella had the eyes of a hawk. She didn’t miss to see Giovanni with her daughter through the window of her kitchen.
‘’I-I can explain.’’
’’I’m kidding, Tesoro. And your little secret is safe with me.’’ her mother winked at her.
Isabella giggled at her mother’s playfulness. A wave of relief came over her whilst also feeling mortified because her mother witnessed everything.
’’’What are you two talking about?’’ Sergio came walking from the living room.
‘’Nothing,’’ Isabella said a little too fast.
Isabella went to her room and put her bags down. She changed into some comfortable clothes and went back downstairs to eat dinner with her family. Sergio and Isabella were seated next to each other with their parents sitting opposite to them.
‘’Pasta alla norma! My favourite!’’ her father rubbed his hands together.
‘’Are my other dishes not your favourite then?’’ Donatella said in a sassy tone.
‘’How can you have more than one favourite dish? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having a favourite dish?’’ Sergio said more to himself than anyone else.
Isabella knew what her mother was up to and giggled. Her mother always found it amusing to make her husband worry for nothing.
‘’Amore, you know that’s not what I meant. I love everything you make.’’
Donatella’s lips twitched a little. ‘’It’s fine. I forgive you.’’
Isabella and Sergio smiled and shook their heads at their parents’ antics.