• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 09


Roberto shivered, wound his scarf more securely round his neck, and trudged on through the wet streets of Manchester, while the grey skies poured more rain than he had known existed onto his bent head.

His thick curls, designed by nature to protect him from the Italian sun, absorbed the rain like a sponge, only to release it in miserable trickles down his face and into his ears. He shook his head to dislodge some of the water, and when he looked up a vision appeared.

At first he thought it was only a dream of home – scrubbed wooden tables bearing bottles of olive oil and pepper mills, a rack of wine bottles, and a waitress with a smile as wide as the sky. And the smell! Real pasta, tomatoes, herbs. His mouth suddenly ached with the need to taste that smell, and he pushed the door open.

The café embraced him like a long lost auntie. He shed his misery along with his wet coat, and ten minutes later he was inhaling the steam from a bowl of fragrant pasta. Rosa leaned against the counter watching him sprinkle a liberal spoonful of parmesan, and some strange urge sent her hurrying over with a towel.

“For your hair,” she explained. “It was dripping into your food.”

Roberto dried his hair. “You are from Tuscany.” It was a statement rather than a question – one native to another.

Rosa’s smile was as warm as the Tuscan sunshine, her body generous. “You are from home also. It is too long since I heard the accent.”

They gazed at each other, instantly in love.

“What time do you finish work?” Roberto asked.



Rosa’s smile seemed full of promise. “Eat your pasta,” she said, filling his glass from the carafe.

Roberto ate the pasta and drank the wine, ordered a meat dish, then a gelato. He was imagining an afternoon in a museum looking at pictures of sunshine, followed by dinner somewhere intimate, and then – who knew what might happen?

Rosa served other customers, washed dishes and chopped tomatoes, all the while conscious of Roberto’s dark curls, olive skin and warm smile at the corner table. She was imagining an afternoon talking Italian, reminiscing about home.

When Roberto had drunk his third coffee he could wait no longer. Raising his hand discreetly to ask for his bill, he held his breath as Rosa approached – would she or wouldn’t she?

Then the door burst open and two children ran to fling their arms around Rosa.

“Mama!” She smiled over their heads at Roberto, her black eyes rueful.

Roberto paid his bill and returned to the wet street, his belly full of Tuscan food and his heart aching with regret.