Gia struggled to maintain a neutral expression as she packed the lasagna for Carlo’s lunch. It was difficult when she really wanted to burst into laughter, sing as loudly as her voice would go, and dance in the driving Pasadena rain. But years of experience had taught her that overt emotions would only irritate Carlo, and lead to an argument. He was quicker with his tongue, and Gia would be left in the kitchen, dozens of potential retorts uselessly whirling through her mind.
“What are your plans today?” he asked, holding out his glass for more of the fresh-squeezed orange juice he insisted on every morning. That wouldn’t leave any for her, but it wasn’t Carlo’s way to be concerned with mundane matters.
Why was he asking, she bit her lip. Did he know something?
“I’m volunteering at the Norton Simon”, she replied, keeping her voice steady. “I told you yesterday.”
“I was wondering if you could pull together a dinner for my colleagues tonight,” he went on, as if she hadn’t spoken. “It would be good networking for the partnership.”
No, no, screamed a voice in her head. Today is the only chance. You can’t let him trap you.
“I already signed up, Carlo,” she responded. “They’re counting on me to show up.”
He threw an irritated glance at her as he pushed back his chair. “Fine,” he ground out. “I’ll take them out. Don’t expect a present when I get promoted,” he added.
She rushed to get ready the minute he left, and was knocking on the door of the room at the Pasadena Hilton even before Carlo got to work. It opened so quickly, she knew Nick had been waiting on the other side. He pulled her into his arms, and an hour passed before they exchanged a coherent sentence.
It had been six months since a chance meeting with the attractive Army sergeant from Fort Irwin had turned personal. Gia’s only regret in that time had been her marriage to Carlo. She would have divorced him in an instant, but the thought of her parents’ shock—and the fact that Nick’s military obligations made meeting difficult—held her back. Perhaps in another life, she sighed. Right now, Nick was giving her the love and sex that she had been craving from Carlo in their three years of marriage, and she intended to hold on to it as long as she could.
She gradually became conscious of Nick’s gentle voice. “…transferred. Not sure when I will be back…”
“What?” she started. “When?”
“I leave in the morning,” he murmured. “I am so sorry, sweetheart. Army’s orders.”
Back at home, Gia nervously fingered the antique diamond pendant Nick had insisted on gifting her. Carlo had a sharp memory and no respect for his wife’s privacy. Even if she never wore the necklace, there was no guarantee that Carlo wouldn’t go through her jewelry some day just because he felt like it. And if he did, it would be difficult to explain the presence of an expensive necklace.
Carlo had never allowed her any income or assets of her own, and gave her a monthly allowance that just covered household necessities. But she wouldn’t give this up, she decided. Carlo already had her life; she was entitled to this one symbol of what could have been.
• • •
Leaving her friend Pam’s apartment, Gia was elated. Pam ran a small marketing promotions firm, and would ensure that Gia won the diamond necklace in a contest from a magazine Carlo knew she subscribed to. Pam’s professional ties would even ensure that the “prize” came in an package stamped with the magazine’s logo. To top it off, she would send the package to Carlo’s work address, a masterful finishing stroke that Gia herself had suggested. Get the pendant while giving Carlo no reason for doubt, she thought excitedly. She couldn’t have planned it better.
A few days later, Carlo handed her a packet with the magazine insignia. They were having a party, and as always, Carlo had arrived well after the first guest. Pam was standing by her side, and Gia sent her friend a small secret smile of gratitude. Pam acknowledged it with a smile of her own. As she started to rip open the package, the doorbell rang again.
Carlo firmly believed that work around the house was Gia’s responsibility, and didn’t even take a cup to the sink when he was home. But tonight, even as Gia stiffened from years of habit and prepared to tear herself from the package to answer the door, Carlo gestured at her to stay seated. Still intent on her package, Gia didn’t look at the new arrival until she was enveloped in her sister Maria’s hug and signature Chanel No. 5 scent.
As Gia slowly disengaged herself, the diamond pendant glinting at Maria’s throat caught her eye. Gia’s expression turned to shock as her package revealed a plain silver chain.
“Beautiful necklace, Maria,” said Carlo, breaking into Gia’s dizzy thoughts. “Is it new?” he asked, a suggestive smile on his face.
© Copyright 2009 Khyati Soparkar. All rights reserved.
Khyati Soparkar started writing as a teenager, and has published in the US and abroad. She has a MBA in Marketing with experience in financial services. She loves writing on marketing and business school, and is developing a portfolio in creative writing. Currently, she is writing a novel, working on a PMP Certificate, and growing her business in MBA admissions consulting. She invites readers to email her to say hello or to get help with admission essays!