Stella was unlucky in love, bouncing from one fruitless relationship to the next. Each one she thought was different, each one could potentially be ’the one’, but they never were. Mike turned out to be gay, his parents weren’t accepting of his sexuality so he thought bringing a nice girl home would please them. Then there was Steve, the devilishly handsome Accountant. One day Stella bumped into him at Westfields... with his wife and kids. While drowning her sorrows she met Jay, a young, buff bartender, who still lived with his parents and slept in a single bed. Then there was Graeme, who loved his car more than he loved her. She briefly dated a carpenter, who coincidentally was also named Steve, but he went back to his ex-girlfriend. Then Stella met Guy. Guy was new in her office; tall, not thin but healthy, and he had gorgeous brown eyes that smiled with the rest of his face.
Stella was instantly taken by Guy’s charm. Before long they were inseparable, this was no secret office romance, this was the real deal. By day they worked around each other, stealing quick kisses in between meetings and paperwork. By night they usually stayed at his place, he had a Labrador who didn’t like to be left alone and Stella had no pets so it was easier that way. After six months, they discussed Stella giving up her lease. It was pointless paying rent on two places, so Stella packed her things and said goodbye to the villa she’d called home for 3 years.
Soon after, Stella started to wonder if moving in was a bad idea. When she still had her villa, she could always retreat if she needed to. Living together and working together was the closest she’d ever been to anyone, and she started to feel claustrophobic. Guy was feeling the pressure as well; she could tell by the way he snapped at her, by the fact that he was drinking 3-4 glasses of scotch every night. They started arguing over the most mundane things, too many ice cubes in the scotch, not enough salt in the pasta sauce, what movie to watch. Then it happened. Two weeks ago, Stella and Guy had the biggest argument they’d ever had.
Suffering from a migraine, Stella had left work early to go home and lie down. She took a long hot bath and fell asleep. Guy went out to have a few after work drinks and stumbled home at dinner time, hoping to find a nice meal waiting. He shouted from the kitchen, annoyed that there was no evidence of dinner being prepared. Stella climbed out of bed and headed for the kitchen. Her migraine had resulted in a foul mood, and she wasn’t going to put up with chauvinist behaviour just because Guy was drunk. An argument ensued, and just like all couples, one argument led to another.
Stella yelled at Guy, calling him an arrogant pig. Without warning, his large, tanned fist connected with her right cheekbone. She fell to the floor, in shock, in pain. Her ears were ringing, her eyes were watering and her chin was quivering. Stella was speechless, staring up at the man she adored in utter disbelief. Guy fell to his knees and apologised, trying to cradle Stella in his arms. She was too shaken to push him away, so she sank into his embrace. He was sobbing, her cheekbone was burning, and the smell of scotch invaded her nostrils.The next morning she booked the flight to Naples. Pizza was her favourite food and since it originated from there she decided Naples was to be her salvation. Now she wandered aimlessly, not saddened by the assault or the decision to leave Guy, but mourning the loss of yet another relationship, and wondering if life as a single woman was her destiny. The sun was setting and the streets grew dark. Stella found herself in a narrow laneway lined by tall buildings, the imperfectly paved road made all the more beautiful by its faults. Realising she was rather famished, Stella looked ahead to see a light above a doorway on her right with a small sign out the front. Nunzio’s Pizzeria, it read.
As Stella walked through the doorway into the dimly lit room, the aroma of garlic, tomato and dough was heavenly.
“Benvenuto! Come stai?” Called a beautiful, voluptuous woman with greyed hair and a friendly smile. Stella, who didn’t speak Italian at all, had no idea what the woman had said.“Ah... um... table for one?” She replied, rather embarrassed that she hadn’t considered buying a phrase book.
“Si, si. Vieni, siediti.” The woman smiled and gestured to a small table to her left. Stella smiled coyly and sat, comforted by the warmth radiating from the woman’s glowing face.
“Vino?” The woman asked.
“Yes, please” Stella nodded, hoping that vino meant wine.
Stella heard footsteps followed by a smooth, deep voice coming from the doorway behind her.
“Ciao Mamma!”“Francesco! Entrare e mangiare il mio Tesoro!” The woman managed to sound both affectionate and commanding at the same time in her reply. “Sedersi con questa donna Australiana, lei è qui da solo”. She nodded in Stella’s direction as she spoke.
“Ah, mi scusi, ah... may I join you?” He spoke in a thick Italian accent. Stella looked up and realised the man was talking to her. Her heart started beating loud and fast, the blood was rushing to her face, and she felt as though a dozen Irishmen were doing the River dance in her stomach. She could only manage a nod as she gazed into his hazel eyes. He had beautifully long, thick eyelashes; his olive skin was flawless, and his perfectly trimmed goatee framed his luscious lips like they were a work of art. He took her hand in his, it was warm but rough...
“My name is Alessandro, ah, it is nice to meet you!”
The readers voted and Stella lives on, read part two here!
*Note, as per the game, this photo was the inspiration behind the story.