Enzo’s appraiser was one Gualberto Pesaro and to Gina’s surprise, he greeted Franco like an old friend—because that was just what they were. It immediately shot a hole in her theory that the rich man had hired a fraud who worked with the forgers.
Adding further holes to the theory was his reaction to seeing the painting. He looked at Franco, then Gina, then Enzo, his eyes wide with confusion.
“Is this a joke?”
“Afraid not,” she said.
“This is not the painting I appraised,” he told her with emphasis, looking over at Enzo with a look that radiated professional pride. “The painting I saw was the genuine article, no doubt about it. I wouldn’t have written out the certificate otherwise.”
Enzo stood to the side, next to Lorenzo who had insisted on being there. He sat on the bed, and his eyes shifted from Gina to Enzo. Lorenzo kept sending her warning glances as well. It were as if he was afraid that she would suddenly get out a gun and start shooting up the place.
Then, there was the sister…
If they hadn’t told Gina that Rosalia Cavalcante was a relative of Enzo’s, she could have guessed. She had black hair and that cool, noble attitude, not to mention the startling blue eyes and high cheekbones. The smile on her face was as fake as the van der Ast her brother had bought.
Gina took deep breaths and focused her attention on the painting. The oddly popular painting. She placed a hand on her hip and said:
“So if I get this right. Ms. Antonini owned this originally and it was stolen from her by a friend.”
“That would be Mr. Amoretti,” Enzo said.
She rolled her eyes. It would be a bad business move to chew him out in front of the appraiser. She did think it was typical, though, that one asshole rich guy would know another asshole rich guy.
“Right, but then she told us that it was stolen from Amoretti by…” she glanced over at Enzo. “You, I assume.”
“Um…” he pressed his lips together and said: “I bought the painting from a merchant. I wouldn’t know where he acquired it.”
Gina did another eyeroll. If she had to spend much more time around the man, they would get stuck permanently. Franco smiled at her and continued for them:
“Then, at some point after you bought the painting, it was stolen and replaced with a forgery.”
Gina nodded and looked over at Enzo.
“We need the name of your ‘merchant’, Cavalcante.”
She immediately turned to Franco to see his eyes light up in recognition. Unsurprisingly, he knew the man. Good old Franco knew everyone. Confusion, though, soon took the place of recognition.
“Leoni isn’t a scam artist,” he said.
He explained the gist of what had happened here: Sometimes, a dishonest merchant would come across a real painting and sell it. After selling it, he would steal it back, replacing it with a fake. It was a way to make money on a painting for a long time, but without raising the suspicion of buyers. Leoni didn’t do that kind of thing, Franco said. At least, not normally.
“Whatever the case may be, we need to meet him.”
Franco sighed. “He won’t meet with us—he’s paranoid. There’s a silent agreement that he doesn’t infringe on our business and vice versa.”
She got a sinking feeling as she looked over and locked eyes with Enzo.
“I can’t believe I’m fucking saying this,” she said, glowering, “but in that case I’m going to need you to set up a meeting. We’ll be there.”
She could tell from the challenge in his eyes that he would be, too.
Coming back to the house, Gina was surprised to see Gabriele, her nephew, bound towards her down the path. His hair was as vividly red as his mother’s, and it danced around his face. She hadn’t been aware that he was going to be over. The same could be said for her brother Giuliano and his girlfriend Flora. Marta as well. A spontaneous visit, she wondered?
Her dad came to greet her, though, and Gina realised what was going on. She gave Gabriele a big hug before looking up at her dad.
“I told you I’m fine, dad. It’s nice of you to want to cheer me up, but…”
“It wasn’t me,” he said, holding up his hands. “They invited themselves—I just made lunch. I swear on your mother.”
Gabriele grabbed her hand and pulled her down into a crouch.
“I completed the mission, auntie Gina. I did just like you said, and it worked.”
He pointed over his shoulder at his parents. At first, she didn’t understand what he meant, but then she remembered and caught him by the shoulder.
“Oh my god, he finally did it?”
Her nephew nodded and grinned and Gina pulled him into another big hug.
It had taken ages for her brother to find the courage to propose to Flora, but it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Gina fawned over the ring he had bought, and only teased him a little.
“We could have helped you… acquire a ring,” she said sweetly.
Her dad grinned and added: “The place where I got your mother’s ring is…”
“Thanks, I’m happy with my legally purchased ring!” Flora said loudly and more back and forth followed. Love and laughter and life filled the air. Once the latest news were exhausted, they sat down for lunch.
Seeing them all washed away the events of the past few days. Pain, anger, and frustration vanished in the clinking of glasses and the laughter of her family. She could feel her heart practically burst looking at Gabriele’s eager eyes. Her little accomplice was overjoyed that their little scheme had worked, and he wouldn’t stop talking about it over and over.
“I didn’t propose because of your scheme, Gina,” Giuliano protested at the other side of the table.
“No of course not,” she said, but to Gabriele, she mouthed: He totally did.
“I did just as you told me,” her nephew said in a conspiratorial whisper—or in as conspiratorial a whisper as a seven-year-old could muster. “I left those magazines everywhere.”
“I was so confused when I started finding bridal magazines in the kitchen drawers,” Flora said from across the table. “At least they’ll come in handy now.”
Gina could hardly contain the squeals. She looked over at Flora eagerly.
“Where are you going to have the ceremony? And the party? Oh, are you going dress shopping soon and do you need…?”
Flora assured her that she wanted to bring her dress shopping. Same for Marta. The rest of lunch became a storm of questions for her brother and Flora. They were planning to have the ceremony and the party in Collesena, so that their mother could be there. Her dad nearly cried when Flora said it. He had been the one most in doubt about telling Flora and her son about Vittoria’s hiding out; but Flora could be trusted.
Regina felt cleansed when they walked from the table. Her dad and Marta lounged in the grass talking, while Giuliano pushed Gabriele in the swing. Meanwhile, she dragged off Flora to talk, fully intending to quiz her on wedding dresses. However, her future sister-in-law had other ideas.
“I was sorry to hear about the break-up,” she said. “You and Rico seemed so good together.”
Gina’s stomach sank and she wished she’d had a little more wine to dull the ache. She kept her face as neutral as she could.
“It just didn’t work out, you know.”
“I just really thought you two would…”
“Well we didn’t,” she snapped.
She could have kicked herself. Gina bit her lip and said: “I’m sorry, Flora. We have this client…”
“It’s okay,” Flora assured her. “Your dad told me about that. Do you need to talk?”
Gina had already turned down her dad and Carlotta’s offers of a heart-to-heart, so she wasn’t about to say yes to Flora. Even if she was the nicest person in the world, and almost a licensed therapist.
“It’s nothing. I was bound to bump into an ex at some point,” she said. “It’s just unfortunate that it had to be him of all. At least it could have been Manuel or something—we ended on good terms.”
Well, they sort of did. She had managed to keep her temper in check when he dumped her, and the one time she had bumped into him since, he’d waved. And he only looked a little panicked. She was still proud of that.
Flora smiled, but then her face grew sombre. Gina placed a hand on her shoulder, urging her on with a careful smile. Her sister-in-law heaved a sigh and said, shakily:
“This… this ex… Is he worse or better than Doriano Montanari?”
“Better. Pretty much everyone is. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to dredge up memories of that…”
“No, don’t worry,” Flora said. “Look at those two. With those two, how can I complain about anything? You’ll see, Gina, it’ll all turn out well for you, too, and then it won’t matter. It’s all as it should be.”
Gina did look at her brother and her nephew. Gabriele cried out for his daddy—for he was the only daddy the boy had ever known—to push higher, higher, higher… She smiled. Maybe, she thought, Flora was right. Someday, hopefully, it would all turn out well for her, too.
EDIT 13/8 2018: I changed the wording on this chapter a bit near the end to clarify when Flora is talking and when Gina is. I also changed one of the pictures because I noticed that I had left the walls down. For shame.
Author’s note: Hi guys! Welcome back to Monte Vista. This was probably a pretty short chapter and not a very significant one in the grand scheme of things. The lovely ladies of the Facebook writing group will know that I struggle with filler lately – to filler or not to filler, that is the question. I added a bit here, because I wouldn’t want to throw the next one at you right away. I was afraid this was a boring addition, though boyfriend said it was nice.
Now, I’ve been making poses lately and some of them aren’t even that shitty! Might share some in the next couple of days. Don’t get me wrong, I regularly make poses, but in the case of, for example, the ones used for the lunch scene here, they’re of so poor quality, I won’t bother the world with them. Another creation of mine I’d like to draw your attention to is the pattern on Flora’s dress. Not the dress itself (though it is a nice one) – just the pattern. That’s my first recolourable pattern that I made a while back, and looking at it now it’s… actually not entirely bad (see how it looks per default down below). So there’s that 🙂 Not sure if I’m going to share patterns; though if I make more, it’s a possibility.
Anywayyyy, enough about all of that. I’d like to thank you guys for reading along this far, and I’ll be seeing you in my next post 🙂