8 Duty FreeMature

Chapter8 Duty Free

En route to the airport, the taxi traverses so many lanes, Felicity Calico feels genuinely grateful to be being dropped off there. Feeling like she might be sick, she tries to work out how much she had had the night before. Think it was three bottles of white, then there were shots and a memory of a few French Martinis comes to her. The night is hazy with big blanks. 

On her mind, is whether the news report really had lucy's Dad on it, or whether she was nuts. She tries to ring Johan back, voicemail clicks in. She tries to ring a few of the girls, no luck there. We usually text, so she texts and the person who replies has been in the Maldives and doesn't know. 

She had taken a walk around the Spanish Steps before, to go into all the famous shops like Gucci, where there were some real ostrich bags and gloves. This was a strange leather, an ostrich sprung to mind

‘ No its ok I don’t want to touch sorry'

A bloke is standing with a clipboard close to the trevi fountain, he is shouting about the catholic church having no influence, he is an agnostic. People move out of his way as they pass, one throws a coin, he spits at her.

He starts to quote form a list of statistics without quoting the source, Flick asks for a copy of whatever it is that has got him so excited'

I would like to tell you, he screams in Italian that Flick can only just make out to translate it is so rapid fire ‘ In Italy, the percentage of volunteers that call themselves Catholic drops from 40.4% in 1993 to 36.3% of 1997 25’ But as for the truthful ones, the atheists

In Italy atheists rose from 5.2% in 1987 6 to 18% in 2003 7.

In Italy, couples who use natural methods of contraception (the only ones allowed by the Catholic Church) down from 14% in 1980 to 5% in 1998 21.

 45 5 OF MARRIAGES IN Milan ARE IN FACT CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS, EVERYONE looks down proof of his misguided stance.

In Italy the number of diocesan priests fell from 41,666 in 1974 to 35,019 in 2000 32.

In Italy the number of ordained priests has dropped from 918 in 1966 to 384 in 1978 5.

People bustle past.

In Gucci, all the credit cards are maxed out. But Flick feels a bit hollow.

She offers a large tip and thanks god for her safety. The rigmarole of taking shoes on and off begins. People watching starts. A slender and blonde young woman is in floods of tears. She appears to be leaving her Italian father behind to go to the US. Her husband comforts her. Her father will not leave her side in the queue until he is made to. T’iamo. Her Father doe not look too well. Every time she looks over at him, the blonde girl, well she bursts into tears again. It’s a long way from Italy to America, must take a long time. The husband seems worried, then the blonde girl starts to talk quickly in English, she changes from a good girl to a demanding one. Glad to see her organizational zest return her husband puts his arm around her and pats her shoulder. Never has Flick felt so alone. The only one, alone in the queue. Trying to find a toilet. Wanting to eat more even greasier pizza and resisting. In duty free there are so many good things to be had, new perfumes for a start new to her anyway.She should have let Augo come with her. But there might be someone better round the corner. Isn't it always the way. 

Carolina Herrera the Spanish designer, that smelt good. Once her mother had given her a page from a magazine when she was very ill. It had a picture of Carolina Herrera perfume on it. It read ‘ When you go to New York, bring me back some Carolina Herrera perfume’, or something like that. That was in 1990 though. Most of the bottles had changed. Opium, is quite strong but brings back reminiscence after reminiscence. Her and her best friend out on the bus, off to any party they could crash, being teenagers, being sadder than their younger sisters.

There really aren’t too many to buy for now, we all live so far from each other. As another happy couple passes by arm in arm with a cute toddler dressed in a lovely velvet coat with a matching hat, Flick picks up her basket and heads for the make up section. I’m surprised they have benefit, VERY English looking. She buys some blusher and also a highlighting pen for around her eyes. Bad Gal kohl pencil and eye make up remover called ‘ Not on my Pillow, which amuses her.

Dolce Vita by Dior catches her eye. Like the film where they end up in the Trevi Fountain. It should be one of the seven wonders of the world. I probably shouldn’t have been drunkenly carving my name into it with Augustino’s pen knife. O r was that a dream. The hangover seems to last twice as long these days. Dolce Vita is in a bright yellow box, black polka dots too. It smells sweet but a little bitter sweet. It means the good life said the assistant.

Tacky souvenirs include a pink, sparkly Vatican city, complete with glitter. Another stunner is the pope calendar which has a cat on every page. They say each country has it’s own sense of humour. Grabbing a basket, Flick over hears two women talking in Italian, she will miss that. Not knowing what is being said can make for a softer ride in life, you can assume the best for a change. Can be difficult too , like the time she paid in advance for sunbed session, arrived a week later and was told to get lost, she had never paid. Except she had she couldn’t explain. The girls, what to get the girls. Either crazy pasta. Spaghetti with squid ink maybe or Just Lancôme Juicy tubes lip gloss? The perfume counter is something to look at. Three new Vivienne Westwood perfumes. Ralph Lauren Ibiza smells of lollipops and all those sweets, Bacci last seen by her in a lidls somewhere seem to be popular. Lindt, yes. All these things were making her salivate and even drool if she’d opened her mouth. On to the next shop and there are Gucci bags everywhere, asking to be taken home.

Once on board she surveys the blue sea below them, wondering where Augo lives exactly, she didn’t think to ask him why he lived at home, it is Just sad really she thinks.

As Flick laments her luck at only being able to afford cattle class, she can recall when she read that story when she read the paper; the whirling noise of the aircraft taking off bugs her a bit. Blessed are the poor, said the bible, but my legs are so cramped. The airhostess is grumpy and getting a bit flustered as a cute little girl with bangs pulls her red pencil shirt.

‘ Let me tell you about Lucy. Lucy is tall. She got a first in her languages degree.

Her family are Syrian Christians from India. But Lucy doesn’t associate too much with Asian people, all her friends are white. She is from an orthodox family, but she isn’t orthodox.

She attended the prestigious Lawrence School. Their educational standards are some say the best in the whole of India. Equally others equate their standards as being equivalent to only an ordinary American High School, nothing more.

She however is  British gril. Wendy  a qualified lawyer to us. She is not guilty. Wendy had to be shut up.

Lucy was never happy in India as she is a Brit.

Lucy remembers the European Breakfasts, oats or toast. And being taken away from her mother when she was only nine. Despite many letters, asking to be forgiven for breaking her sister’s best dolly the summer before and promising to tidy her room, no reply was received.’

Seemingly  in her spare time she was a member of a gang of hackers. It is said by the authorities that she tracked her victims using technology and then used this to gain revenge upon others she perceives as having slighted her. Others have said that this is unlikely as Lucy has been rumored also to be clinically unfit to give her lawyers instructions. Police insiders say that they are confident that the right person is now no longer at large.

Rumour also however has it that Lucy, once strong willed and very thin, has taken to crying in public. Her work with the translation firm had ended, she made too many errors. She had to work all over last Christmas, she started working in a shop stocktaking says her cousin Wendy, although her boyfriend Johan had written a letter to her employer hoping that she would not have to. Away from the brilliant heat of Kerala her effervescence stilled. She did not achieve the promise of those early years. Books on hacking were found in her home. Highlighted sections supported the view that she had learned to successfully hack and were involved in a game of cat a mouse with those she sought.

She is said in some press reports to have become obsessed with a young man from an accountancy firm or some reports have said he was in fact also a sculptor.’… She is said to have seen picture on a social networking site that depicted the object of her lust holding hands with another girl. The other girl was perfect in a sheer navy blue top. Her love interest was wearing a cardigan that he had once lent the accused to keep her warm. On seeing these pictures of young love, the Prosecution alleges that she snapped. She snapped and went mad. And now she has been arrested for double murder and will probably be convicted. Johan was said to be lovely and not a playboy or hacker, his family said in a statement released today.

Lucy is depicted in an old school photo in another glossy. Looking glam kid thinks Flick, shame about the circumstances. Here is the Defendant,  she lives in northern England. She is single and recently had her heart broken reports suggest. She still lives at home, her family are stifling sometimes. Says our source. Is this why she flipped? Or was it a case of mistaken identity. As reported elsewhere she was said to have  fallen in love with someone called Johan Ahmadi. Johan is said by Whitney a work colleague, former work colleague to be smart, rich and gorgeous. He has some dubious connections in the underworld. They were happy but split up and this affects Lucy badly. She has already had a broken engagement and her career isn’t going too well.


Flick remembers Lucy from the gym days too. She was not a hedonist. When she was younger she was more of a hedonist like Flick. Flick’s life is care free and she enjoys most days roaming around different cities and flying off here and then when she can.

Flick’s life is a sunny day. Flick marries Augo an Italian stallion and waiter. 

Two people are killed Alice and Johan

Lucy goes on trial for their murders, it is too much.

Duty Free Madam?                                                                                                                        A different attractive airhostess asked. She has a naturally beautiful complexion and shoulder length auburn hair. She smiles warmly at Flick. Flick feels so nervous. Lucy, Lucy, Lucy, Lucy. Someone somewhere is talking about Dolmas. She has to stop this drinking during the day, where did the dolmas come in.

Lucy Mathews went mad and has been arrested? Flick looks at the picture a little more closely. Lucy bastard Mathews, from the gym? from school?  At the gym every day, I remember her. She’s Violet’s friend. After she lost her job she would swim everyday and use the power plate’s machine and sit and have a g an t with me. Bloody hell.

When was this written, two days back? How strange, how could Johan's phone have texted her.She goes cold. 

Others bicker on the plane.

Switch it off Ali, switch it off, COME HERE!!!!!

Flick overhears another conversation whilst she watches the in flight screen two people are muttering passionately………………                                 

A child is kicking the back of her chair, methodically. Kick kick kick kick kick kick.

A teenager is being well, bollocked. 

Flick stops eavesdropping and waits for her luggage at the carousel. Every part of her body aches as she peers outside into the gray murky weather that defines the optimistic British Isles. Wonder what has been going on. It’s so cold here, I feel so broke and lonely. Everything’s better on your jols, Violet her sis would say that. It’s true even a salad tastes better on your Jols. Wish I was still on my Jols, how am I going to pay for that credit card and, as the phone beeps. What am I going to do with cornetto man? he might love me.

Back in the big northern city she inhabits, stepping off the train, the ice cold air nipping her,  Flick thinks ‘Fuck this I’m off to the hairdressers and I know exactly which one I want.’…She stalks in and catches his eye, he remembers her maybe. She hastily tries to put on her lip gloss without him noticing. The brash receptionist books her in and puts one of those genderless gowns on her, not much good for showing off curves.

He is so thin, the beholder muses. I have to say usually I like to look at bigger bodies but he is Just so adorably shy.  How can he be shy and confident at the same time? The music blares in the backgrounds, ‘ it’s probably coz you think you’re cooler than me, is playing yet again. He is. He must meet so many people every day, men and women, career birds, pilots, little kids. His eyes are big and round. His hair is funky and not too styled, Just nut brown and hanging down over one eye, a little curly. He has stubble, a big grin and the power to make you look how he wants. His Jeans are pale grey and skinny, he is so thin. I’m looking into eyes and imagine myself kissing him on the lips. Big eyes look at me softly. He looks hangover.

He is taller than me, is Stephen. He talks softly, asking me questions as every paid counselor does. He likes them too. I listen so intently to voice, that sexy Leeds accent, only on some words it goes a little camp could he be … I don’t ask, then he says it he isn’t gay, everyone assumes he is. I breathe out and wish. I look at the mole on my right hand. I feel his thigh pushing into my leg as he brushes against me hear and there. He is telling me about how his Mum was artistic and how he is good with his hands. He goes out loads to, he is from the sticks too. I should go out in Leeds more. He tells me about all of his best clubs, some of them I’ve heard of and others I haven’t. I wish I was younger. I tell him my real age and lap up the compliments he softly fires over. Why do I have to believe you I think? You have to be nice to me. He went to that festival too, yes the line up this year wasn’t too bad. Yeah I was Just with my mates at that too, my girlfriend dumped me ha-ha. He looks so forlorn I want to Jump up and kiss him again. Wish I’d put more make up on, had to rely on my charm. Find out everything I can. It isn’t enough. He politely asks me if I know many places to go on a weeknight but I say I’m Just a day-tripper. I would say that I need to stop living in a dream world, but when the dream is this magnetic how?

Heaven forbid a beautiful thin baby. Remind myself he is paid to be nice to me. Remind myself he is paid to be nice to me again. I resorted to bribery and gave him twenty quid. He is beaming, at my cheesy tip. I know I’ll probably come back and probably forget how much I fancied him today, when I’m caught up in a frenzy of bills and demands and tears for my old life. Goodbye, I say through my smiles. At least you exist even if you are too young for me, If I could write you a song to make you fall in love you’d already be up under my arm. You already have my desire and that is worth a bit. It’s worth a bit because I am invincible. Why do I always tell myself that. Why can’t I Just be me?  The reason I am invincible is because I will get up when I fall. When I get up I will keep going. No matter what, I won’t ever lie down and die. Not this time. As long as there is music, said Abba. As long as there is pleasure, channel lipsticks and pavements to walk on grinning thinking of you then maybe I won’t die. 

So it was a good haircut and maybe a little pompously after an afternoon or three spent with the ego boosting models and hairdressers, not forgetting the waiter Felicity decides she can’t be fecked to go home Just yet. So she walks around the city centre alone for a while. Trying to forget Lucy had never been this hard before. 

Her phone cheeps. Augy, oh god. ‘ Felicity, I miss you when will you return please. Mama Mia I miss you, I have many cornettos for you.'

Flick feels bad about fanying the gay hairdresser. She awakes from the trance like state she experiences when looking for a new pair of shoes, similar to the lost feeling she has when she gets into writing her diary. It is not chilling her out it is making me feel more energized than ever before. Maybe she shouldn’t have given him her number, the hairdresser; he probably does that with everyone. He’ll never text her, but at least these are good layers to remember him by until they grow out at least. Flick won’t wash her hair for a week, that’s how much she wanted Stephen the hairdresser.But he's only an escape. Time to get on with now. Can't hide form the fact she loves Augostino really, when he looks sad it makes her want to fix him up forever. To somehow make them both impervious to everything. To run off somewhere and not be a joke. 

Looking around the room at home now, Flick knows that there are so many pictures from the past in this room. Some of the people are dead. Others are no longer in touch with Felicity, of course that’s Just normal she tells herself. Flick doesn’t look at some of the photos ever; occasionally she does look at the photos of them together, when she was happy. But if she looked at them very often, maybe she’d never wake up. Or more accurately she’d cry, more than usual. It doesn’t seem to have happened to her. It seems so unrealistic now that she devoted everything to one person that they spent all their time together. Everyday he became more and more a part of her life. This is Just a passing thought.  Making spaghetti at home aint the same.

Receipts with slightly old fashioned typed numbers and letters fall out of her bag, the equivalent of sand in the shoes returning from he beach. Inside her bag under all the dresses that were not worn, nor destined to be worn on such a short trip she finds a pale violet box. Someone has taken the trouble to place slightly darker purple ribbon around the box and ther is a small white flower attached, a tiny flower. It’s a real flower

Rummaging further, there is a biggish card in there too.

Mio caro Felicity.

Non può essere ricco, ma io lavorerò duramente per mostrare come posso essere ambizioso.

Sei un fiume d'oro did metallo moulten che scorre attraverso il mio corpo e l'anima anche quando sono ormai lontani.

Si prega sarai mia moglie e sposarmi Felicity?

Ti amo

Il tuo uomo umile Cornetto

e il servo



After hours spent with her little Collins dictionary, bought the first time he had muttered puttana when stubbing his toe and wouldn’t say what it meant, she worked out it probably meant something far more wonderful than she first though.


My darling Felicity.


I may not be wealthy but I will work hard to show you how ambitious I can be.


You are a golden river of molten metal that flows through my body and soul even when you are long gone.


Please will you be my wife and marry me Felicity?


I love you


Your humble Cornetto man


and servant



She opens the box, there is a short thin gold chain, and it looks like white gold, its pale. There is a heart shaped locket. Pale gold with blue gold as well. Augo, how sweet are you. The card is opened and inside in poor handwriting is a note that read’ Ciao Bella, have a safe trip, your soldier Augustino Veritchi.

Oh Christ I’d better ring him, Flick calls but he doesn’t answer. He is out helping his granny get some shopping from the supermicado. Flick assumes he must have had a better offer.  Someone in a great film once said, when you see the heat around the corner you move. Words to that effect, Robert De Niro. Heat I think, given he quote. Heat.

Felicity and Augu sometimes argue when her eyes wander but other times they don't. 


The End

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