Loving Roberto / by Laura Gene Alpern / extract

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When Roberto spoke at last, his story came out in bits and pieces.

“Bene. You know. It’s just that. I mean, that Giulietta,” he muttered. “Two weeks now. Since it’s over. Can’t eat, haven’t slept.”

Marcie gasped. “Giulietta, in Accounting?”

He lowered his eyes to study his coffee cup. “Thought you knew.”

The two coworkers were seated at a table in the carpeted Company coffee lounge, five floors above the street. In the pause that followed Roberto’s confession, a constant stream of cars honked and clattered through Milan’s pre-weekend getaway routine.

No, she hadn’t known.

His last sentence registered for a split-second in a positive way: Roberto thinks I know what is happening in his life without being told.

Then the meaning of his words hit her.

Roberto had been having an affair!

Sure she had seen him with the woman named Giulietta from the Accounting Department. What had she seen? Nothing more than a flash of shoulder-length hair and a miniskirt. Maybe Marcie was not quite as clairvoyant as Roberto thought—even after five years spent working together.

He stirred his coffee in silence while Marcie watched, stunned.

Roberto’s hands, a major Italian work of art in Marcie’s estimation, were lit by diffuse sunlight from the floor-to-ceiling window behind him.

What was she supposed to do now, console him?

“I saw that you looked unhappy,” she stammered.

Something seemed to be stuck in her throat, making it hard to get the words out.