Lucrezia loved her brother Cesare. She really, truly loved him, and she knew he adored her right back. She had loved him her whole life, and as her older brother he had protected her and spoiled her for as long as she could remember.
When she was twelve, he and his best friend Mick, their cousin, had beaten up a mean boy who, she told them, had laughed about her stuffing her bra with Kleenex. Not only that, they had made him apologize when he returned to school after the cast on his arm was removed. She never told them that she had made the story up to see if they would do as she asked.
When she was thirteen, he had driven in his new car straight from the showroom to pick her up from school because she had had an accident and wet herself. She had cried down the phone and begged him to come and get her. She didn’t tell him that she had got a detention for failing to do her homework, so she had splashed water on herself and tied her sweater round her waist to fool him. She couldn’t wait to be the first to sit in his new Audi cabriolet, and he might have given someone else the inaugural ride if she’d stayed for detention.
When she was fourteen, she had persuaded him go to the store and buy her some sanitary products. Of course, she hadn’t really run out, nor was she in pain or crampy. She might look like a ditz, with her huge blue-grey eyes and her tumbling blonde curls and her pink pouty lips, but she was very organised in her own way, very controlled. She had really wanted to see if he would oblige. Of course he took Mick with him for moral support, but that was fine by her. That Cesare did what she wanted him to do was the most important thing, despite the embarrassment he had felt.
For brother and sister, they didn’t really look alike. He was very tall, and very dark with green eyes and a slender yet powerful physique. She was tiny, very fair with blue eyes and a curvy figure. But she had figured out how to make her eyes well up with tears, and her lip to tremble ever so slightly. If she concentrated really hard, she could make just one tear spill over and rest on her cheek. She saved that trick for when she really, really wanted something.
Now Cesare had met a girl and brought her home to meet the family. Charlotte was pleasant to her, charming to her mother and witty with her father. Cesare gazed at Charlotte as if she was one of the seven wonders, and Lucrezia knew what she had to do.
‘Mick,’ she beamed at Cesare’s friend and shadow as he got himself a drink of water in the kitchen.
‘Hey Lucrezia,’ Mick nodded at her, ‘what’s up?’
‘You know Charlotte,’ Lucrezia deliberately kept her voice light, but she watched Mick carefully and was sure she saw a shadow pass over his face, ‘Cesare’s girl?’
‘Does she have a job, do you know? I was so excited to meet her the other evening I forgot to ask what she does.’
‘A gallery and gift store over at the wharf. On Saturdays, when she’s not in college.’ Mick’s normally low tones became even harder and Lucrezia looked at him curiously.
‘Don’t you like her, Mick?’
He shrugged and ducked his head, drinking his water and turning away to rinse out his glass.
‘He likes her.’
Lucrezia beamed again at the tone she heard in Mick’s flat voice, and took a deep breath.
‘Well, Mick. As long as he likes her, that’s the main thing.’ Mick shrugged and went out of the back door to continue helping Cesare tune up his car.
Lucrezia decided she needed something to decorate her bedroom, and she might just find it at the gallery and gift shop on the wharf.