I sipped the pastel green liquid, allowing the sweet taste of lime to line my throat. The taste of the salt from the rim of my glass sprinkled my lips lightly and I licked them hungrily. I was currently sitting on the veranda to my Nona’s villa, while the blistering sun shone over the vast expanse of greenery. I admired the beauty of this place. The way the flowers adorned the grass verges and worn cobbled paths was breathtaking.
I had been visiting my Nona over the summer, the one place I felt truly at home. The villa was situated a few miles from Lago di Como (Lake Como) and over an hour's drive away from Milan. I had the brilliant views of the waters, as well as the scenic hills and mountains that border Switzerland. The views relaxed me and I could be myself here. That and the fantastic architecture and art that adorned Italy.
My normally fast paced life in the US was nothing compared to the peace I found in our homeland, Italy. I needed this clean air to inhale the calmness and exhale the chaos.
It was no secret that my family had a lot of money. The family business began with my Nono, who came over to the US for a better life after the war. Setting up a small tailoring business, it superseded the current fashion trends that adorned the streets of New York in the fifties. Soon after, the business took off and my father in turn was groomed to take over when it was time. Now it was my turn.
He had been grooming me since I started college, to take over the family business. Magnone Manufacturer’s, the leading retail manufacturers for Fashion Design. While I wasn’t opposed to wearing Gucci or Versace, I wasn’t even remotely interested in working in a stuffy office.
I took another sip of my margarita. My Nona’s kitchen staff could make a mean cocktail. The crushed ice and the zesty lime touch were refreshing on these warm days. I would miss coming to my nona's in my summer breaks. At home, reality awaited me in the Garment District. In the form of a room on the executives floor, with my name on the door and CEO engraved below.
“Mimmo, Perché sembri così triste?” (why do you look so sad?) The petite grey-haired lady known as Nona shuffled outside to join me, pinching my cheeks with a smile. Mimmo was a term of endearment she always used for me, it just so happened to be a nickname, a shortened version of my name.
“I’m just thinking, Nona.” I smiled back at her. She dropped herself heavily onto the sun lounger beside me, a coffee in her hand while she took heavy sips.
“A che fare con tuo padre?” (Is this to do with your father?) She quizzed, raising an eyebrow in my direction. I continued gazing out at the well pruned yard, not a single blade of grass was out of place. If I believed in god, this is where I would declare paradise. My high praises to the gardener, for keeping this garden so breathtakingly beautiful since my youth.
I finally nodded at my Nona’s question, shifting my oversized beach hat over my face. While she couldn’t see beyond my large hat and thick black sunglasses, a scowl had formed across my face.
I had come to Italy to escape the confrontation of my father. After graduating college, I had wanted to travel Europe, to take a year out and discover myself and other cultures. My true passions lay in Art and Music but my father had other plans. My sabbatical year had been plucked away from me and in their place I was holding a designer briefcase.
“Vuole il meglio per te.” (He wants the best for you.) Nona spoke into her cup. She was right, I knew deep down my father cared, but it wasn’t enough. He didn’t care what I wanted. I was twenty one and still being treated as a child. Maybe it had something to do with not having any brothers or sisters, but regardless, my voice wasn’t being heard.
“I don’t want to work for him.” I replied, feeling her unwavering gaze slice into me when I didn’t respond sooner.
“Non lavorerai per lui, lavorerai al suo fianco. Non c'è nessun altro di cui si fidi, Mimmo.” (You won’t be working for him, you will be working alongside him. There is no one else he trusts.)
I huffed in response before finishing the tequila infused drink in one gulp.
“Dagli un anno, sei ancora giovane. Se ancora non è quello che vuoi, allora te ne vai.” (Give him a year, you’re still young. If it still isn’t what you want, then you leave.) Nona was always the voice of reason.
“One year?” I raised my eyebrow suspiciously. She nodded, taking the glass out of my hand.
“Un Alfaro?” (Another?) She gestured with her full hands.
“No, Nona. I think I might head into the city.” I said, lost in my thoughts. I needed space.
“Chiamerò Carlos per portare la macchina.” (I will call Carlos to bring the car round.) Nona kissed my cheek softly, her sweet powdery scent filled my nostrils. The flowery essence floated around me as I followed her inside to get changed.
My thoughts consumed me as I changed my outfit. My dad didn’t have anyone to pass the family business onto and I almost felt guilty for that. But I had always yearned for adventure, to meet some handsome European on a beach somewhere far away. It was a little far fetched and an immature dream of mine that had manifested itself. No matter what I wanted to do, it would always come second. My fathers decisions were final.
“Signorina, Carlos is waiting outside.” My Nona’s house staff mumbled from behind my closed door.
“I’m coming!” I called back as I shifted into a white floaty summer dress. I slipped on my sandals and swung my bag over my shoulder as if I was on a mission. With my hat and sunglasses firmly in place, I exited my bedroom and descended the staircase to the courtyard.
The sun was brighter and higher in the sky, casting scorching buttery rays over my skin. I was grateful for my Mediterranean heritage, meaning I turned a deep golden glow rather than burn.
The drive to the fashion capital was peaceful, the windy roads rocked me side to side as we descended into the city. I welcomed the soft breeze that drifted from my car window, longing to travel as I gazed over the vineyards that spanned the horizon.
“I wait here, miss.” Carlos spoke firmly as I exited the black vehicle.
“Grazie, Carlos.” I smiled back at his poor English. He readjusted his dark sunglasses and even darker suit before holding his fists together in front of his legs. Carlos looked like a mobster handyman, the way he stood suspiciously and clothes he wore - all black. The funny thing was that he didn’t look out of place in the city. If you drove your own car, you were the odd one.
I stepped out onto the paved streets, I was in the centre of Milan. Either side of the streets were lined with designer shops and cozy Instagrammable cafes. I was in my element.
After an hour of shopping, I felt a little better about my situation. I could negotiate my terms with my father, offer him a year. One complete year of my time, to work for the business and in return he would let me decide my future. It seemed only fair. I would do my best to learn the business, maybe digitalize the accountancy department and add some modern touches to the workplace. I had learned the basic business structure at college and I would place my interest with the family empire and then make my decision.
I stepped out onto the high street, the scent of coffee wafted around me and in no time I found myself stepping into a cafe. Ordering a cappuccino, I took it outside and sat amongst the discarded tables and chairs, admiring the passers-by.
I watched as couples clutched each other’s hands lovingly; old and young, everyone was in love. I longed to have that companionship; to have someone I could rely on and tell my deepest thoughts to. While the men in Milan were fascinating to look at, none ever captivated me. I inwardly sulked at myself, would I even find love if I ended up working for my father?
I downed the remaining brown liquid, relishing in the silkiness as it fell down my throat gently. The coffee I drank in the states had nothing on the real italian blend, another thing I would miss. Picking up my bags from the chair opposite, I made my way back to the car.
Carlos was in his usual position, I was almost certain he hadn’t moved since I left. He took my bags from my hands, his strong ones effortlessly placed them in the trunk.
“Grazie, Carlos.” I drawled politely as he opened my door for me. I slid across the seat, pulling my phone out of my bag to check my emails.
“We go back?” Carlos asked gruffly,
“Sì, per favore.” I glanced up to see he was sitting in the passenger seat. Why was he in the passenger seat? Who was driving? I glanced into the mirror, piercing green eyes glistened back at me. “Carlos?”
“Who is driving?”