If the helicopter lands in the fields over there I’ll hop in the ‘Discovery’ and head over. No harm in having a chat with them Alberto thought to himself. Mirko in the bar said there were speculators in the area. Maybe, at last, at long last, his luck was changing. It suited him heading over towards Chiesanuova, he could pop in to see Shirley. Spontaneously, he turned right onto the unmade road leading to ‘La Shirley’s’ residence.
He’d become secretly obsessed with Shirley, a semi-permanent make-up artist from Birmingham. Alberto had assisted her in the purchase of yet another run down ruin and chivalrously assisted in it’s renovations. Shirley was delighted with the results. She lived alone which intrigued Alberto. He made the immediate assumption that his company would be welcome at almost any hour of the day. In fact ‘La Shirley’ was becoming a little weary of his frequent and unpredictable visits, which seemed to be almost daily and increasingly awkward. However, he could be useful, she did have a problem with the drain in the ‘en suite’ bathroom. Hesitantly she asked him to take a look. As soon as he started to climb the stairs she regretted her decision. When he walked through the Master Bedroom he noticed her underwear carelessly dumped on the bed, he took this as a clear indication that the lady reciprocated his emotions. She grabbed the offending items with a reddening face and shoved them into an open drawer. Her embarrassment was intense. He proceeded to inspect the bathroom.
Mercifully for both of them his phone rang, piercing the intense awkwardness of the moment. It was Stefania, his wife, could he pick up the kids from school, stop at his mother-in-law’s house to adjust her central heating system (again) and then empty the bins. His day dream was shattered. He grumpily disconnected the u-tube, cleared it out, reconnected it and trudged from the house. Shirley followed him trying to persuade him to take € 20– for his trouble. He assured her that he’d much rather pop round one evening for a couple of glasses of something stronger. She visibly grimaced and reluctantly nodded her agreement. Furious with herself she stomped back into the house. How had she managed to effectively invite that man back to her house for drinks. God knows how – but she’d done it…………………
Never one to dwell on the past Alberto climbed back into the Discovery and his mood suddenly brightened. His errands would take him towards the helicopter and a potentially life-changing conversation. He put his foot down and left Shirley’s drive in a cascade of gravel and mud-laced spray. Just a few fields down the road the helicopter had landed in the middle of a flat, luminously green field. A slightly dishevelled man with a mane of unruly dark hair was stood by the fence smoking. Probably the pilot. Alberto stopped the car abruptly and marched confidently towards the man. Introducing himself, as was his habit, as the Count. He asked where the occupants of the helicopter were and whether he, as a supremely well-connected local could be of assistance. He gestured towards the hills, announcing to the disinterested pilot that much of the land around them belonged to him. This was not, in fact, true. The pilot inhaled deeply and shook his head. He didn’t know where his passengers were and he didn’t seem to care. Alberto felt thwarted.
At that moment the sound of a car engine could be heard on the road, the noise became louder. A sparkling Mercedes swung through the gate and pulled up by the men. A driver jumped out to open the door to his, clearly very important, passenger. Alberto loitered, determined that his moment had come. An elegant woman in a tailored black suit emerged from the car and walked towards him. She asked who he was and if he knew the area well. Alberto could not believe his luck. A beautiful woman, engaging him in conversation. Mio Dio – what good fortune. A uniformed man hovered discreetly in the background, the lady was in charge. Alberto pulled himself up to his full height, he was still tall and impressive. He announced himself in a deep baritone as if he was a guest at a grand party. He explained that he was the local Count Alberto Chiara-Fontanelli, that his family had lived in this beautiful valley for generations and were the most influential and distinguished land owners in these parts. He offered his services to the enigmatic visitor.
It turned out that Alessandra Montanaro was from Florence, and was not familiar with the area. She was visiting to locate a potential site for a new hotel. She was the Commercial Director of a well known fashion brand. She explained that in the world of luxury fashion the brand and the back story are everything. The competition were all at it; developing hotels, country houses, creating life-style brands. Alessandra was here to ensure that her fashion house kept up with the others. Alberto smiled to himself. A beautiful woman needing his assistance, things couldn’t get any better.
Madam allow me to assist you, he requested, in a humble and yet assertive tone. He hoped she would appreciate his efforts……………
- To read a little more background to ‘Alberto’ check out The Disgruntled Count
- For more examples of Flash Fiction – take a look at La Custode
- Or perhaps A Chair with a View