I was sitting enjoying my morning espresso at an outside table at Starbucks in Honolulu. Actually it was a Venti Java Chip Frapachino. That is my favorite drink. The girls at the store start making me one as soon as I walk in the front door. I guess I'm a creature of habit. I do get a few dirty looks from people waiting in line when one of the girls walks down the line and hands me my drink with a pleasant, "Good Morning Mr. Mitchell. Of course the tip may help.
It was a typical Hawaiian day, not a cloud in the sky, the temperature was in the mid 70's, and the breeze was mild coming out of the west from the ocean. Actually that's a dumb statement; Hawaii is an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. No matter what the direction of the wind actually is from, it's always coming off the ocean.
I sat outside at my small table under a palm tree. The palm just provided enough shade that I was safe from a nasty sun burn. My driver (Keanu) and I enjoyed the peace and tranquility. I was trying to read the Wall Street Journal. He was checking his eyelids for light leaks. But today my mind kept wandering back over the last five years.
Yeap it's been five years since my wife divorced me and took off with her lover.
I was living in western New York State at the time, working as a computer nerd for a large manufacturing company. I wasn't the greatest tech employed there. In reality, I was a little lower than average, I didn't even try hard. I guess I wasn't the most ambitious rep they employed. Too be exact if I finished one job, I would just wait until the next job was assigned to me instead of looking for more work.
I tended to hide a lot.
As normal I was surfing the web after finishing my last assigned task, when my supervisor walked into my cubie. He said the Department Manager want to see me.
This was an unusual request and I was just a little apprehensive. We walked to the elevators together to visit him.
When my supervisor and I reached the big boss's office, Margaret (his secretary) asked us to take a seat. I believe she said, "Mr. Martin is on the phone and will see you shortly." Shortly turned out to be almost 30 minutes, the longest 30 minutes of my life. When we were finally escorted into his office, we weren't even offered a chair.
"Jim" (that's me), he started "you have been an employee of this company for "(he stopped to look at some paperwork on his desk) "15 years. I regret to inform you that your services are no longer required here. You will receive one year's severance, all your accrued vacation and personal time in your next paycheck." Well that was it. I was fired. What the hell was I going to do now? I was too old to start all over again.
"What the hell was I going to tell Shelia, my wife?" I thought as I packed my belongings in a box.
I'm not really sure what the next couple of hours contained, but I found myself sitting in a bar having a double, actually my third or fourth double, when the bartender suggested that I had had enough and it was time to go home.
I drove carefully home. "No use getting a DWI arrest," I thought. I pulled into my garage and promptly drove partially through the rear wall. I guess my wife had some work done today and it involved shortening the garage.
Well the noise should have brought her out to the garage. But it didn't.
When I finally got to my feet and tried the door to the house, I found it unlocked. I opened the door to a completely empty kitchen. The table and chairs were gone. But even worse, all the kitchen appliances were also missing.
The first though entering my foggy mind was, "We've been robbed"
I staggered into the living room and everything was gone. The room was as bare as it was when we first bought the house. My head was still a little slow and I never noticed the pile of my stuff in the middle of the living room floor.
I carefully climbed the stairs to the bedroom area. I found everything missing. Well not everything. All my clothes and stuff were thrown in a pile on the bedroom floor.
The pile stunk. After a while I realized that the smell was urine. As I got closer to the pile, the smell got stronger and stronger. In my drunken state, I vomited. To culminate my day, I hit my clothes.
I went down stairs and curled up on the carpet. I won't claim that I fell asleep. I think I just passed out.
When I awoke the next morning I had the world's biggest hangover. My head throbbed, my mouth tasted as if an army has marched through, and my body was stiffer than a board from sleeping on the floor. I stumbled out to the garage and noticed my wife's car was gone. I staggered back to the kitchen, planning on fixing the some coffee, if there was any left.
There wasn't. She took that too.
It took a few minutes for my brain to engage a little more, before I saw the note on the counter. I picked it up and started reading "Jim, We have been married almost 14 years. In that length of time you have turned out to be a loser. You are not a good husband, a good provider, or a good lover. You are selfish and think only of your wants and needs.
I have moved my stuff out and into my lover's house.
I will be contacting a lawyer to start divorce proceedings.
Sheila" Well I guess I knew where today was going. Sheila was a legal secretary for a large law firm. I suspected that she was planning to upgrade to one of the attorneys as well as use the firm to gut me. Thank God we didn't have children.
I was a little pissed. So I looked for the house phones. They were all gone. I still had my company cell phone (they forgot to ask me for it). So as a final act of defiance, I called the bank and I reported that I was mugged last night and my wallet was stolen. A very helpful young lady froze all my credit cards and my checking and savings accounts (Debit card was stolen to).
After I got off the phone, I was smiling. Boy was Sheila was going to be pissed when none of our joint cards worked. I packed my things into my car. The bitch took all the luggage. I couldn't even find any garbage bags.
The bitch took everything.
One of the reasons "Some Place Else" was my favorite watering hole was the fact that it was owned and operated by my best friend since childhood. The one person I trusted with my life.
So, I went to his bar for advice. Bartenders always give the best advice. And besides he had an ex-wife, and might know a good divorce attorney. There was also the problem of hiding my final check.
I didn't want Sheila to get it.
Martin poured me a double as I walked into the barroom. "After last night, I figure you could use one." he stated with great sympathy.
I downed the glass in one gulp. He looked at me in shock. I really didn't drink that way. So I told him my story from when I left his bar last night.
When I got done, I had the name of his divorce attorney, an apartment over the bar, and an IOU equaling the amount of my severance check. He was going to include the check in one of his banking deposits and just dole out the monies as I needed.
Time went on and so did my divorce.
It was a year later that I found myself a divorcee living in a small one bedroom apartment in a questionable neighborhood. My loving wife had hired a shark for a lawyer (hell, she worked for the firm) and I was cleaned out. She got the house, the 401K, the investment account, the checking and saving accounts.
However she almost got alimony payments.
But since I had no job or money, the judge took pity on me and forgave them.
Ha! I still had the severance check. No one on her legal team thought to ask about it.
It might sound as if my ex made out, but the house was upside down on the mortgage, the savings account had less than $1000 in it, the checking account was almost empty from paying the monthly bills with no deposits and the newly started 401 had less than $2,000.00 in it.
And best of all, in my opinion, was the fact that most of the joint credit cards were near their max. It seems Sheila went on a spending spree before the divorce was final. I guess she planned on sticking me with the bill.
Since I had no income at the time, the judge stuck her with them. I think it took a week to get the smile off my face.
Eventuality, I had to get a job. I wound up as a janitor in the school system. I worked the night shift. My days consisted of either sitting at my computer or sitting at my friend's local bar.
Guess what I did with my free time when at the bar? I was on my way to becoming an alcoholic.
One morning I found a Power Ball ticket in my pocket. I didn't remember buying it, but I did remember that the bar I favored sold them. I tossed the ticket on my desk and went to the bathroom. I did the three S's and started my morning coffee. I needed that wonderful elixir to feel human in the morning. Well actually it was 1:00pm but that was morning to me.
When I got out of the shower I noticed I had a "woody". So I felt a little internet porn might be the answer. As I waited for my PC to boot, I noticed the Powerball ticket beckoning me. So once the PC started I fired up Firefox and went to the Powerball site.
I checked the numbers on the ticket three times. They matched the winners. I reread the web page. There was only one winning ticket sold and it was worth $250,000,000 <that's Millions folks>. My "Woody" disappeared.
I grabbed a pen and quickly signed my name on the back of the ticket.
My next item of business was to call the lawyer that represented me in the divorce. I got his answering machine (it was a Sunday). I left a detailed message asking him to call me. Two hours later he called back.
I guess he didn't have anything going on this Sunday either.
Explained my winner, I made an appointment for Monday.
The next day we had a very long discussion about trusts, investments, tax avoidance, and most importantly, that my ex was not entitled to anything. It took almost a month to set up all the hidden bank accounts and take possession of the money.
Two weeks later I was looking at property in Hawaii. I wanted a fancy place on one of the hills near Hawaii Kai, a suburb of Honolulu.
It took almost a year before I had the new place set up to my liking. But now I was finished and enjoying the good life. My favorite memory of this period was when I got a call from my lawyer. It seems that my ex-wife wanted to talk.
She had heard about my winnings.
My lawyer shot her down.
I knew there was something I liked about him.
So there I was sipping my Frappe and enjoying my thoughts when I felt something. Did you ever have one of those funny feeling that you were being watched?
I started to alert my driver (he was also my bodyguard) when I looked around and spotted a little girl of about 5 or 6 standing there watching me. She had long dark hair and the prettiest blue eyes I had ever seen on a child. But they were very sad eyes. She had a small doll clutched to her chest and a small blanket under her nose.
She tore at my heart and I wanted to just hug her and make all her problems go away.
I looked at her and gave her my friendliest smile. There was no sense in frightening her with a dirty look. At the same time I looked for a hovering parent. No parent I knew would ever let their child wander around strangers. I widened my search, still nothing.
I got the attention of one of the counter girls and with some improvised sign language asked, "Who is she?" I watched as she asked the other counter girls and all I received in return for my efforts was a shrug of her shoulders.
By now I had attracted the attention of a couple of women sitting around the court yard. As I surveyed them, they all shook their heads "no." By now the little girl was scared. There were tears dripping from her eyes. I gave her my best smile and handed her my clean hanky. She took it and just stood there with it in her hand. I took her little hand and dried her eyes.
For my efforts I got a small smile and a dirty handkerchief.
A couple of the women walked over to me and started talking to her. All their efforts accomplished was to cause the little girl to scoot under the table, kneel between my legs, and wrap her arms around my one leg.
Let me tell you, she had damn strong arms for a little kid.
One of the women pulled out her cell phone and dialed 911. I heard her talk to the operator about a lost child. When she hung up, she turned to me and said, "five minutes." The little girl started making small noises. So I started running my fingers through her hair.
I gave her a soft little kiss on the top of her head.
She looked at me and said, "Grazie Popie." It had been 20 years, but I recognized the phrase. It was Italian for "thank you, Grandfather." You see in the late 1980's I was stationed in Italy courtesy of the US Army. I picked quite a lot of Italian while I was there. If a guy wanted to get close and personal with one of the bar girls speaking the language was necessary.
This little girl was speaking Italian.
"Bella Ciao il mio nome è Jim," (Hi Beautiful my name is Jim) I said. I saw her eyes light up and a great big smile crossed her face. She hugged me tighter.
"Qual è il tuo nome, Bella?" (What is your name, beautiful?) I asked next.
Well I tried a couple of more times, but got nothing different. So I decided to try another direction. "Acqua?"(Water?) I asked. I got a little smile. So I took her hand and into the Starbucks we went. While we were looking at the cold drink cooler one of the baristias whipped up a small Caramel Frapachino and gave it to Bella.
One sip and Bella was hooked.
She gave the girl a big smile and said, "Grazie." A polite child!
We walked back out to my table and Bella sat next to me and slowly drank her treat. I spotted the Honolulu Police Cruiser pull up at the curb and waved at the officers. They walked over to me and asked what was going on. I explained that Bella appeared to be either lost or abandoned. One of the officers started talking to Bella.He was nice and polite, but he was speaking english.
I could see the frustration building in his face, when his partner noticed the smile on my face. "OK, do you know why she won't talk to us?"he asked.
I nodded my head, "It appears that she only speaks Italian, My Italian is about 20 years old, so I can't get a lot out of her. Do you guys have anyone who speaks the language that you can call?" "Bagno?" (Bathroom) she asked.
I motioned to one of the women sitting around the patio, pointed at Bella and said, "Bathroom." One of them came to my rescue. But Bella wouldn't go with the woman, so the three of us made the trip.
I stayed out in the hall.
Bella called me a couple of times just to make sure I was still there.
When we got back to the table I was informed that the police could not find anyone to speak Italian so they called Child Protective Services and a case worker was coming.
Two hours later the two cops, Bella and I went to McDonalds for lunch. Bella knew exactly what she wanted and by pointing made her choices known. I bought lunch for the four of us.
When we got back to Starbucks a very angry case worker was waiting for us. She started right in on the police officers. She bitched at them about wasting her time by forcing her to wait for us.
Well they weren't about to take any shit from her, so a shouting match started.
Bella was getting scared, so I walked her away from all the noise. The case worker saw me and started yelling that I was kidnapping the child and I should be stopped. I pulled out my cell phone and started making calls. I had been a large contributor to the current Governor's campaign fund.
My thought process was if I gave all that money, I might as well start getting a little benefit from it.
I got one of the Governor's underlings on the phone, explained who I was and what my problem was.
The reply was, "I'll take of it." It took about 5 minutes when the case worker's cell phone rang. She answered it very rudely. She was starting to yell at who ever interrupted her when suddenly she got very quiet. All I heard was a lot of "Yes Sirs" from her end of the conversation.
While she was "listening" an unmarked police car pulled up. I recognized the man getting out of the car. It was the Chief of Police. He walked up to his officers and they went into conference. He then walked up to the case worker and said, "Hang up the phone. Get in your car. Leave! And that's an order. If you fail to obey, I'll have you arrested." The case worker left.
The chief walked over to my table with his two officers and introduced himself. "Did either of my officers act in anyway discourteous during their interactions with you?" "No Sir, they were very polite and helpful. They are working to find a translator so that we could help the girl." I said.
The two uniformed patrolmen smiled at me.
The Chief sat down at my table and we started discussing little Bella. The two officers returned to patrol duty. The chief and I tried to deceide what to do with my new found friend. We decided that Bella would stay in my house until they found her parents or other relatives, and they would try to find an Italian translator.
My driver had returned to my house. He wanted to do a little yard work so I called home and requested pickup.
We were going to be very busy this afternoon buying Bella a wardrobe of little girl clothes. So it was off to Ala Mona Mall for an afternoon of shopping. My driver's wife was also my housekeeper and cook. I asked if he'd bring her along to help pick out Bella's outfits.
Keanu (my driver) and his wife Aolani showed up about 15 minutes later.Aolani spent the whole trip to the mall quizzing me all about Bella.
When we got to the mall the "girls" visited all the childrens stores. Keanu and I just made trip after trip back to the car with packages. If I remember correctly, we visited The Disney Store, Gap Kids, Gymboree, Janie and Jack's, Pitter Patter, and The Children's Place. We didn't exactly buy something in every store but it wasn't for lack of trying.
My American Express got a real workout.
Bella and Aolani became the best of friends. They chattered back and for to each other, neither one understanding what the other was saying, but that didn't stop them. They shared the universal language of women, shopping. That's all they needed.
I don't remember which store was selling children's bedroom furniture, but both of them stopped and stared at all the little girls bedroom stuff.We didn't go in that store (Thank you –God) but I had a feeling we would be back another time.
By the time we got done buying out the mall it was too late to cook dinner so I was elected to buy everyone their meal. I had a brain storm and selected Auntie Pasto's on South Beretania Street in downtown Honolulu. I figured that I might find someone who spoke Italian there or at least find directions to someone who does.
I mean let's face it, it was an Italian Restaurent.
No one was around that spoke Italian but the owner promised to keep an ear open for a native speaker. He was 4th generation Italian and all his Italian speaking relatives had long since departed this earth. But the food was good and Bella had pizza (like all kids).
For a little kid, Bella ate almost the whole thing.
It was getting late when we left the restaurant. I think before we reached the Freeway (H-1) there were two sleeping people in the back seat, Bella and her new friend Aolani.
Shopping takes a lot out of you.
Keanu and I unloaded all the bags into one of the spare bedrooms. Aolani and I put Bella into the bedroom right next to mine and Aolani picked out a pair of Disney PJ's for Bella and helped her get cleaned up and dressed for bed.
After Keanu and Aolani left for home I decided to have a small drink before calling it a night. As I sat on my liane watching the stars, I heard a small voice calling, "Poppie." I walked into the house and found a little girl huddled in a corner softly crying.
It broke my heart. I picked her up and carried her out to my chair. She cuddled as she sat on my lap and soon was back to sleep.
We spent the night in the lounge chair. Boy was I stiff the next morning.
Aolani woke us up the next morning wondering what we wanted for breakfast.
I looked at Bella and said, "mangiare?" (eat).
She jumped up and grabbed Aolani's hand and the two of them headed for the kitchen. Soon I was served a cup of coffee by a very proud little girl. She chatted away to me as if I knew exactly what she was saying. I helped her set the coffee cup on the table so that we wouldn't get any spills.
She stood there and watched me with the coffee. It took a few seconds before all the grey cells in my head realized that she was waiting for me to sip my coffee. I did and with great exuberance said, "Perfetto." I was rewarded with an ear to ear grin.
I noticed that Aolani was standing in the doorway watching. She smiled at me and said, "Way to go Boss.Now go take a shower and get cleaned up while Bella and I prepare breakfast." One thing I learned at my mother's knee, OBEY ALL COMMANDS given by a female or you'll regret it. So I headed for my bathroom.
As I was finishing dressing a little voice said, "Popie, prima colazione (Breakfast)" When I opened my bedroom door there she was waiting for me. She took my hand and escorted me to the kitchen. There I found the table set in my finest china. On closer examination I noticed that the silverware was set in a very haphazard manner. I looked at the little one and gave her a big thumbs up.
This time along with my smile I also got a hug.
After breakfast I got on the phone and started calling in favors and other forms of blackmail. I was looking for a translator. As much as Bella was growing on me, I knew that somewhere someone was looking for her. She was just too precious a little girl.
I think I should stop for a second and tell you about my "estate ". When I bought the property there was a small inlaw house behind the main house. Since I didn't have any in laws, I rented the house out to vacationers in monthly periods.
My estate was in a gated compound with all the necessary security. So the rent was high.
Because of the security, location, and ridiculous rent I charged, I got people who were famous and wanted privacy. My current tenants were no exception. They arrived last night and I was yet to meet them. All I knew was they were a husband and wife with a small child. She was the main breadwinner, with a job on national news.
Bella and I were enjoying our breakfast when we heard "Excuse me, could I borrow some milk for coffee and our child's cereal?"
Now I knew that between renters, we tossed out any leftover food. With the humidity, nothing lasted very long.
I smiled at him and said, "No. But you guys must join us for breakfast. I know there is nothing to eat over there."
"Please join us. We have plenty of food and would love the company. "After a few false starts, he agreed.
He went back to the guest house for his wife and child. When they returned, we introduced our selves and sat down to one of Aolani's fabulous meals. Since I was ahead in the food department, I explained about Bella. My goal was to see if they knew any Italian speakers.
They didn't, but our news anchor paid very close attention to my tale.
We were even enjoying coffee from my Keurig coffee maker. Aolani had brought out a selection of coffees, teas, and some hot chocolates for the kids. My guests had a good time inspecting all the choices.
My house phone started ringing. Aolani answered it and after a short chat, handed me the phone.
"Good morning." I started.
And very formal voice asked, "Please hold for the Ambassador." Then put me on hold.
The next voice I heard was a very pleasant male with a slight Italian accent. "Mr. Douglas? I'm the ambassador to the United States for my government. I understand that you have found a child of one of our citizens."
"Yes, Sir and I need some help with her." I went on to explain Bella's discovery and everything we had done so far to help her. He listened politely until I was finished. He then asked if he could speak to her. I handed the phone to Bella.
"Pronto", she began.
For the next 30 minutes she listened and occasionally replied with a "Si" or some rapid Italian I couldn't quite translate. Finally she handed me back the phone.
The ambassador highlighted their talk. It seemed that Bella only knows of her life with her kidnappers. She did not know her mother or father, her real name, her age, or birth date. She was kept chained in small rooms as she grew from an infant.
Her food was put in metal bowls on the floor of what ever room she was being kept in. She was never allowed out of her "room". She was not allowed anything to wear but the shift I found her in.
She was only ever called, "Girl." That was the only name she ever knew.
The Ambassador indicated he was sending a representative of his government to delve into her history. He also indicated that his "people" had checked me out and it was decided that Bella would remain with me until her fate was determined.
The Ambassador's representative would be flying out in three days and would be staying with Bella at my home. "If that was agreeable." He said.
It was very agreeable with Bella and me.
I spent the next hour answering questions from everyone at the breakfast table. When they finally ran down, the Chief of Police showed up.
I went through the mornings events with him.
Somehow, it was decided that Bella needed a "little girls bed." Guess who was volunteered to buy one.
Keanu brought the car around while Aolani dressed Bella. Somehow my renters were invited along to see the mall. I knew the husband didn't relish spending one of his vacation days shopping. So, with very little effort, I talked him into spending the day at the golf course.
We all fit into my Bentley, with room to spare. I drove the car to the mall while Keanu dropped off the husband at the golf course.
Bella recognized the mall and when I explained that we were going buy her a bed of her own, she cried tears of joy. She dragged me to the store where she saw the "pink" bedroom set yesterday. Now Ala Moana mall is a big place. Bella navigated the mall to that store with out a single error.
When she grows up, she'll be one he'll of a shopper.
Bella did not understand all the in and outs of shopping, but she was learning fast All she knew was that she wanted the pink bed and the great big teddy bear in it. I handed Aolani my Gold Card any they left with the sales lady.
She and Bella left to pick out sheets and pillows and all the other stuff Bella need to establish her own room.
Everything we purchased was to be delivered and set up by 5:00 PM that day. Bella would sleep in a real bed tonight. Her own bed.
We were a happy group. So we stopped at the food court for junk food and ice cream. Bella was overwhelmed. She had never seen anything like the food court. She wanted to try everything. But Aolani put the kibosh to that idea.
I guess I didn't mention that Aolani was a health food addict. Junk food was not in her dictionary. But Bella still got some junk food. That kid could charm the socks off anyone.
It was 3:00 PM when we arrived home. And found a large furniture truck waiting for us. Bella's new bedroom had arrived. The movers had most of the items off the truck and they were sitting in front of the garage waiting for us.
Bella was so excited that I was surprised that she didn't have an accident in her panties.
She walked up to the biggest mover and started jabbering away in Italian. The two of them entered the house hand in hand, with Bella leading the way. She took him right to the bedroom next to mine and started pointing to the existing furniture. As she pointed to a piece, she would demonstrate carting it out to the hall and into the next empty room.
The movers loved it. Before long they were a perfectly coordinated team. The guys carting and Bella directing. It took until 6:00 PM, but the guys got everything set up. I walked the two men out to their truck. I gave each man $100 as a tip. At first they refused the money explaining that Bella was worth their time and I didn't need to tip them.
But I prevailed.
Bella, Aolani and my renter went to work putting Bella's stuff into the various drawers and storage things. When we purchased her clothing it looked like a lot of stuff. But when it was all put away, the drawers and things were painfully empty. I knew there were a lot of trips back to the mall in my near future.
I sent Keanu out for food and the golfer as Bella gave me a tour of her new room. The big teddy bear was in the middle of her bed. In his arms was her little doll. Bella walked over to the bed and pointed at the big bear, "Popie" she said. Then she touched the little doll, "Bella" was all she said.
I just stood there with tears running down my cheeks.
Bella reached into the pocket of her dress and came out with my handkerchief from yesterday. She pulled me down on my knees and started drying my cheeks.
That night I wore pajamas to bed in case I got a visitor. In the middle of the night, I got a little visitor. This time she wasn't scared. She was happy and wanted to cuddle.
Toward the end of the week I got an email from the Italian Embassy. It was the flight number and arrival time of Bella's tutor. Bella, Keanu and I were standing in the arrivals lounge when Ms Gina Castillo walked through the gate. She was stunning. Dark hair, olive skin, dark eyes, about 5' 6". I've never been good at guessing a woman's weight but the body was perfect. She was dressed in a business suit that heightened her attributes.
In my humble opinion, WOW!!!!!!
We went through the greeting routine between us adults. When everyone was introduced, Gina squatted down and introduced herself to Bella in Italian. The two of them must have chatted for at least 5 minutes. When Gina finally stood back up, Bella was holding her hand. I felt a twinge of jealousy. But Bella pulled Gina over to me and took my hand in her free one. We walked out of the airport with Bella between the two of us holding our hand.
We walked to the baggage claim area. Gina pointed out two small bags. "Not a lot of clothes", I thought. I hoped she was having the rest of her stuff shipped.
When we arrived home, KeanuKeanu put her luggage in one of the spare rooms. Bella gave Gina the grand tour of the house ending with Bella's bedroom. It was a busy afternoon. Bella and Gina spent until Bella's bedtime just talking even through dinner. The two of them disappeared into the rear of the house. About an hour later, the two of them reappeared. Bella had on pj's and Gina a long house coat. They both had that fresh scrubbed look.
Bella kissed me good night and said something to Gina. Gina laughed and said, "Bella wants to know if you are still going to tuck her in bed or will you be tucking me in instead."
I guess my jaw dropped open.
Bella said something to Gina. Gina started laughing. "Bella wants to know if it's still alright to climb into bed with you if she gets scared or will I get mad at her. I guess she thinks we'll be sleeping together."
I guess I couldn't believe my ears because I was mute.
Gina just smiled. "Out of the mouths of babe's." I thought.
I took Bella's hand and walked her into my bedroom. I took her over to my bed pointed at my side and said, "Popie". Pointing at the other pillow, I said, "Bella". I was rewarded with an ear to ear smile. I had a very happy little girl.
Bella looked at the bed and started pointing. "Popie, Bella, Gina?" indicating which pillow was for each of us.
I looked over at Gina who was just enjoying the shit out of this whole conversation, "OK, explain your ass out of this." I challenged.
Gina just looked at Bella and said, "Si'".
Now it was my time to shit.
After I got Bella all tucked in, I went looking for Gina. I found her on the lanai waiting for me. She was drinking a glass of wine. I fixed myself a Crown Royal on the Rocks. A strong one.
"We've got to talk. I learned a lot about Bella today."
"Damn right we do", I replied. I was pissed.
"I was just having fun with you. You really need to loosen up a little. First, and most important, is that Bella has never had any education or mother child bonding. She was left to raise herself. Her language skills are about equal to a 4 year old. She has never been taught any personal hygiene. She has never been shown any affection in her whole life."
"Well the language skills aren't that far off. I figured she's 5 or 6." I replied.
"Sorry, but as near as I can tell, she's around 10 or 11."
Gina went on to tell me her qualifications. She was a Child Philologist, educated in Rome and Switzerland. She said that Bella was a blank slate. We could mold her into a productive member of the human race, if I wanted to help.
Gina went on to tell me all about her afternoon with Bella. Gina looked around and said, "This is your home, but Bella refers to it as if it's both of yours. You need to be very careful how you refer to it around her."
Me? I was still stuck at her age.
"Next, I will start teaching her English," she continued. "As soon as her English improves, I want you to start reading to her at bedtime. It will not only help her English, but it will also help her learn affection. We need to replicate all the personal interactions a child would have during their early years."
"I can do that", I said proudly.
"The next thing we need to do is demonstrate affection between adults. By that I mean simple things, like hand holding, simple kissing, hugging, and affectionate touching. Now I'm not suggesting that we tear off our clothes and have sex on the floor in front of her."
"It sounds that you have a lot of work laid out for us. How long will you be staying and will your husband/boyfriend object?" I asked.
"I have no one in my life at present. And as for how long. We'll play that by ear."
"Get a good night's sleep. You should have your friend join you, when she gets lonely. "She continued.
I must have looked at her funny, because she said, "Not me. Bella"
Over the next couple of weeks our renter/news lady spent a lot of time with Bella and Gina. When Gina told her not to work on a story just yet, she was just being protective toward Bella.
The next few days were crazy around the house. First there was the arrival of Gina's stuff. The UPS guy made at least 5 trips with his hand cart. I knew women liked clothes but this was ridiculous. She with, Bella's help, managed to get everything unpacked and either stored in her closet or in the dresser.
I did get a laugh at some of what they sent. There were winter clothes and a set of ski's. In case you don't know, it very rarely gets below 65 degrees F. The tall volcanoes may get an occasional few inches of snow but there aren't ski lifts and there's not much call for cold weather outfits.
It seemed as if Bella and Gina were joined at the hip. It you saw one the other was right next to her. I began to see a method in Gina's madness. When Bella asked a question, Gina answered it in English first, then if Bella didn't get it. Gina went back and slowly answered it again. This time explaining the English words in Italian. I began to notice that Bella was accepting the English answers more often than not.
The next big surprise was when the UPS man arrived with boxes of school books. Bella was to start her adventure into home schooling. She took to it like a fish to water. She and Gina set up a small classroom in one of my spare bedrooms. They spent at least 4 hours in the morning, broke for lunch, did some girl things, and then if time permitted, the rest of the afternoon before dinner. If Gina wasn't handy, I was given the chance to answer Bella's "school" questions. Bella tried to talk to me in English when she asked a question. Under pain of death from Gina, I was required to answer in English. Bella had an Italian/English dictionary with her at these times. I could judge if my answer was over her head by the amount of page turning there was going on.
Two months had gone by and I was really impressed with Bella's progress and Gina's skills. One morning at breakfast, I was interrupted by a phone call from Washington, DC. It was the Italian Ambassador. It seems as if we were the darlings of the morning news shows.
My renter did a special on Bella, child kidnappings, and our success with saving Bella. There was Bella, smiling from ear to ear holding Gina's and my hand, Bella at the Starbucks, Bella at the mall.
We had a long conversation. The core of which was of course Bella and her safety.
The Italian government could find nothing about Bella. No parents, no siblings, no nothing. Unless someone would step forward and adopt her, she was headed for an Italian orphanage.
I didn't even have to stop and think, I just said, "Of course I will."
The Ambassador just laughed, "I knew you would. But I had to ask." he said he would make all the necessary arrangements.
His next statement floored me. "What about Gina?
"Her being available will cease when you adopt Bella." he stated. "She is attached to the Embassy." Bella would be heart broken if Gina left. "Can we get her a work visa? Then I could pay her as a tutor." I liked having Gina around. Eye candy and all that. And besides, I liked our chats after Bella went to bed. At first, the talks were all about Bella and her progress. But with time, they evolved into conversations about each other.
We found compatibility.
"Talk to her and let me know." was all he said.
That night Gina and I had what was to be the first of many talks. I told her about my decision to adopt Bella to prevent her from ending up in an orphanage.
Well I had always heard that Italian women had terrible tempers. Gina proved that to be a fact. She read me the riot act. I guess I struck a nerve.