Act XV, Scene I
"Fair is foul, and foul is fair." ~ Macbeth, Act I, Scene I
It was nearly five o'clock by the time Francesca returned from her nail appointment. This hardly surprised me, as I'd grown accustomed to adding an hour to anything that woman does.
Gino had worn himself out battling paper foes with a crayon shiv, and was currently sprawled out on the floor near his toy chest, sound asleep. His drool had soaked through the scattered papers beneath him. Francesca burst into my office without warning and launched into a half-English, half-Italian tirade over something frivolous. I shushed her and pointed to the corner of the room where her son was napping.
Francesca looked incensed, for she absolutely HATED being shushed, but when she saw Gino, her expression went from incensed to motherly, then straight back to incensed in a matter of milliseconds.
"You let-a him take-a his wig off?" she exclaimed before hurrying over to her son. I rolled my eyes as she knelt beside him, picking the wig up off the floor.
"I removed it after he fell asleep," I explained, not bothering to hide my own irritation. "He was sweating! Not to mention the fact that he's constantly scratching his head. That abominable wig is smothering his follicles. Do you want him to be bald by the time he starts school? For God's sake, woman, let him be! He just fell asleep not ten minutes ago!"
Francesca ceased trying to put the wig back on Gino's head and stood up, hackles raised. "Do not tell-a me how to raise-a my son!"
I set my book down and stood up, looking calm. "As his father, I believe I have as much say in his upbringing as you do."
"You are NOT-a his father!" she snapped.
I feigned an overdramatic gasp. "What?! I'm not? Ohhhh Francesca! My darling, beloved wife! How could you do this to me? Did you not vow on our wedding day – the greatest day of my life, mind you – that you would remain faithful to me 'til death do we part? And now you're telling me that my boy – my own flesh and blood, the apple of my eye, my very legacy – belongs to another man? Oh, the humanity!"
Francesca snorted. "You are a terrible actor."
"It's called sarcasm," I replied. "And while we're on the dual subjects of fatherhood and acting, might I remind you that those peasants out there made ME their mayor, not you. I fed them a good cock-and-bull story about marrying you and fathering your son, and they swallowed it whole! They believe me because I've earned their trust, and the only reason they believe Gino is mine is because of that infernal wig. They're all well aware of your reputation. And since you're so fond of reminding me that this entire arrangement is nothing but a sham, why don't we let our loyal citizens in on it, hm? We can make a public announcement this very moment if you wish."
I turned away from her and opened wide the double doors that led onto the balcony. At least a dozen people were already gathered in the town square down below, socializing with their neighbors on this idyllic spring afternoon.
Francesca was at once both pale and livid. "Don't-a you dare!"
Just to spite her further, I stepped out onto the balcony, flashing her the sort of smug grin that I knew irritated her. "Why not? The truth is very liberating, you know. And don't you want to know exactly who, among your many, MANY 'admirers,' gifted you with your son?" I turned away from her to survey the village, enjoying myself immensely. "I can see it now: men flocking in from far and wide to claim the boy, all more than eager to prove to you that theirs was the winning sperm. Yes, it's going to be a very different kind of Cinderella story, but if the, ahem, 'shoe' fits…"
I felt something sharp jab me in the center of my back and nearly jumped off the balcony in surprise. Then I laughed.
"I always knew you'd stab me in the back," I teased. Something metal clattered at my feet and I glanced down to see a foil lying on the floor.
I felt another sharp jab in the back. "Pick it up," Francesca growled. I did as she said, and turned around to face her, raising my foil defensively. Sure enough, she was holding its twin, aimed directly at my heart. I glanced at the wooden plaque on the wall where two crossed foils were normally mounted and noticed they were missing. I smirked. Despite being your stereotypically loud Italian, the woman had a penchant for fighting like a Frenchman. And, I admit, I took great pleasure in indulging her.
Francesca wasted no time attacking me once I was back inside the office. She lunged, I parried, and suddenly the air was filled with the chaotic yet melodic sounds of our blades clashing.
Here I must state that fencing with a woman is not nearly as simple as it sounds. The gentleman in me insisted I go easy on her, but the survivalist in me insisted on protecting my mortal body from certain harm. Francesca fought well, fought zealously, and sometimes she even fought dirty (in more ways than one). After having "accidentally" sliced me numerous times, she finally resorted to attacking me below the belt – literally.
I froze, feeling the tip of her foil against my groin. One wrong move and I could end up a eunuch.
"Touché," I said with a smirk. I was about to lower my weapon and admit defeat when I noticed that the tip of my foil was pointed at her chest. Like me, she was slightly winded, and her bosom heaved from the exertion. Her low-cut blouse made the image before me all the more enticing.
As Francesca had yet to remove her weapon from my nether region, I shamelessly slid my own blade down her blouse, into the luscious valley of her cleavage. My foil was blunted at the tip, allowing me to caress her tender flesh without leaving so much as a scratch. Somehow I always ended up with the blunt foil. Go figure.
The incredibly sharp and potentially lethal tip of Francesca's foil could just barely be felt through my slacks, and despite my fear of being emasculated, I was beginning to get aroused. Francesca gave me a sultry smile, and I wondered whether that smile was due to what I was doing to her, or what she was doing to me. Or both. I returned her smile and stepped closer, rather like a wolf closing in on its prey…
The doorbell chimed. Francesca drew back with a smirk. "My date is-a here," she said, brushing an ebony lock from her forehead. "And you have-a ruined my hair!" She went over to an antique mirror hanging on the wall to fuss over her reflection.
"Who is it this time?" I demanded. "Alanzo? Luca? Stefano? Please. They aren't as well-endowed as I am. You've said so yourself. Or was that another lie?" It may have sounded juvenile, but seeing how she'd deliberately gotten me worked up for nothing, I believe my vexation was justified.
"I am-a going out with Fabio," she said, tucking a wavy tress behind her ear.
"Not THE Fabio?" I queried, knowing full well that she had modeled with him on more than one occasion.
Francesca said nothing, her mirror image answering me with an arrogant smirk. The doorbell rang again. She continued to finger-comb her hair, seemingly in no hurry at all. I rolled my eyes. Women.
"Will you quit fiddling with your hair and answer the door already!" I snapped. "It looks perfectly fine and you know it!"
Francesca spun around, and suddenly I found myself going cross-eyed trying to focus on the foil tip pointed at my nose. "Do not-a talk to me about-a hair!" she growled.
With an upward flick, the foil caught a curl and twisted, yanking several strands out by the roots. Before I could even yelp she had yanked the foil back, tearing free a scarlet lock that was wound around the blade.
I grabbed my throbbing head. "AHHH! SON OF A –!"
"SSSHHH!" She shushed me and pointed at Gino, who was still asleep in the corner. Then, to add insult to injury, she purred, "Fabio's hair is-a far sexier than-a yours." She tossed her weapon (and my torn-out hair) aside and blew me a kiss as she sashayed out of the room.
Again, I'm not a man prone to stereotypical remarks, but with Francesca it was difficult to resist. I declare unashamedly that that woman is at turns both as spicy as an Italian sausage and as cold as an Italian ice. To anyone who may take offense at such bigotry, I think it would be best if you did not hear the sort of things SHE has said concerning MY nationality. One cannot help but wonder why she chose to learn English, being the borderline Anglophobe that she was (unless it was with the sole intent to butcher the language).
I walked out onto the balcony in time to see a pearl white Ferrari 458 Italia Spider cruising off down the street. The top was down, and I instantly recognized Francesca's raven hair billowing in the breeze. I'd know the back of that woman's head anywhere, and not for the reason you may think. Beside her in the driver's seat billowed equally long, lustrous, sandy blond hair. Yes, THE Fabio. Of course.
With a sigh I gathered up the foils and returned them to their proper place, mounted on a large wooden plaque over the mantle. From one of the blades I extracted the hairs Francesca had torn from my head, disposing of them in the wastepaper basket under my desk. I then checked my hair for damage in the same mirror she had used to fuss over her own hair. A tad frayed, but nothing a little L'Oréal and a trim couldn't mend. Perhaps a deep conditioning as well. I was definitely overdue for a salon appointment.
Call me vain if you must, but if a woman like Francesca can pride herself on her looks, surely a man like myself can do the same without judgment. Speaking of which, I can tell you one thing that my "wife" and my hairdresser have in common: they both know how to tease it until it stands up.
I returned to my desk, trying once again to lose myself between the pages of Paradise Lost, but to no avail. That damnable hussy had me all wound up, only to leave me high and dry for some pretty boy. I glanced over at Gino, still sound asleep in the corner. My right hand strayed toward my lap, then recoiled in disgust.
No, I told myself firmly. Not while you're babysitting. It wouldn't be right, even if the boy IS asleep.
I tried to picture the most disturbing, revolting image possible to stave off my lust: Homer Simpson… Homer Simpson naked… Homer Simpson naked and in bed with his wife… his wife with the awe-inspiring hair and a figure that… that… that isn't exactly helping!
I tried instead to imagine her sister, my ex-wife, Selma. Now there was an erection killer if ever there was one. Don't get me wrong; I am not so shallow as to be entirely turned off by a less-than-ideal female figure. Far from it. As a well-rounded man, I admire women of all shapes, sizes and colors. But until you get to know Selma Bouvier – I mean really KNOW her, in the biblical sense – well, you can't fully appreciate how the mere thought of her makes me shudder so.
But alas, not even a nude Selma parading across my frontal lobe could dampen my desires. Not when I knew full well that, had she been here at this very moment, she would not say no, and (I am loathe to admit) neither would I.
* * *
One cold shower later, I was refreshed and relaxed and my damaged hair was on the mend after a thorough conditioning. I returned to my office, only to find Gino absent from his sleeping space in the corner. I glanced down the staircase to make sure he hadn't taken a tumble while I was in the shower. It was then that I heard a rustling sound coming from somewhere down the hallway. The door to Francesca's bedroom stood ajar. I groaned, knowing this could mean only one thing, and it was not a good thing.
I approached the door, mentally bracing myself for what lay behind it, and pushed it open. Gino was jumping on the bed, wearing only his underwear and one of his mother's see-through negligees. Her expensive makeup was smeared all over his face, giving him an appearance that could give any version of Batman's Joker a run for his money. In all honesty, it reminded me of the time Krusty had fired his makeup artist minutes before show time, and in an act of sheer desperation, allowed his chimp, Mr. Teeny, to do the job. Not a wise career move.
To make matters worse, there were bright red lipstick kisses and tiny, powdery handprints on the vanity mirror. Cosmetic products were strewn across the dresser, bras, knickers and lingerie all over the floor, and the overpowering reek of several combined fragrances told me that Gino had made good use of his mother's fifty-euro-per-ounce perfume collection.
"Ciao, Papa Bob!" the boy greeted me cheerfully as he continued to bounce on the delicate satin bedspread.
I staggered backward in shock, steadying myself against the doorframe. "Your mother is going to kill me," I groaned. While it was by no means a prophetic statement, let us just say that after that incident, I began taking cold showers on a regular basis and leave it at that, shall we?
ACT XVI: nevuela.deviantart.com/art/Bei…