Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Monica had invited me to her house for a Christmas Eve dinner. She called it the "feast of seven fishes", an Italian tradition. I had heard of it, of course. I told her that I planned on spending that night with my Mom as we would be leaving early Christmas morning to visit with Denise and Michael. She told me that, of course ,my Mom would be more than welcome. So it was agreed. I asked what I could bring. She told me the menu was set and all I had to bring was my pretty little self. She also told me that Laura and Stephan(ie) would also be there. "Can I at least bring the wine", I asked. Monica let out a laugh at that. "Rita, you just couldn't afford it"! "What's that supposed to mean", I responded. She went on to explain that on Christmas Eve the tradition of her family was to honor the wines from Piedmont (pronounced Peed-mont-ay) in Italy where her family was from. I understood immediately. That meant Barolo, Barbaresco and Gavi. Pretty expensive juice! "If you really want to contribute something get here around two in the afternoon and help out with the cooking. Nona would really appreciate it". Nona? Oh, yes, Monica and Laura's grandmother. I had been dying to meet her. I decided to make my pumpkin-praline cheesecake. I wasn't showing up empty handed!
After a quick trip to the market I started the cake. My Mom pitched right in and handled all the mixing while I prepped a quick escarole and bean soup for dinner. After tucking the cake in a water bath in the oven we sat down to eat. I filled her in on current events. "You're really going to be a waitress at Cafe Roma", she asked. I smiled and nodded. She agreed it would be a step in the right direction for my career. She told me she wouldn't be getting off from work the next day until six. I told her it wouldn't be a problem. I'd just pick her up at home after she changed. After clean up I decided to make it an early night. I called Danny. He had to work until two the next day and then was spending Christmas with his parents and grandparents at his family's beach house. I told him he better drop by before he left. Even if it was just for five minutes.
I woke about 7AM the next day and ran a tub of hot water. Sitting in the bubbles I shaved my legs. My pedicure was still in top form as were my finger nails. Wrapping a towel around my head I headed naked into my bedroom. I paused and looked into my full length mirror. Looking at my reflection I pulled the towel from my hair letting my wet tresses fall over my shoulders. With a critical eye I inventoried my body from head to foot. Hair: below shoulder length, lightish brown with natural waves. I made a mental note not to get a trim until it was to the middle of my back and a pretty honey blond shade. Thin neck and narrow shoulders. Thin arms with no muscle mass but nicely toned. Delicate hands with long tapering red nails. Sadly, I remembered the nails would have to go next week but I enjoyed them while I had them. My breasts. Somewhere between an "A" and a "B" cup. More conical in shape than rounded. I thought about Monica and Laura's "girls". They looked so full and inviting. The hormones were doing their job but I think I wanted a little help. A full "C" cup would be nice. I'd have to ask Laura for advice on that one. Hips and butt nicely rounded. Again the work of a daily regimen of estrogen. Legs: not overly long but definitely shapely. Feet: size 6...need I say more? And lastly my focus turned to my clitty. Small and soft nesting under a nice trimmed inverted V of pubes. I would on occasion imagine myself with a vagina with soft pouty lips. It never really held my interest for to long. I didn't think my clitty looked out of place with the rest of the package. I looked at myself and smiled. My face...oh, yeah! Luckily it was a girl's face. At this point even without a lick of makeup I would never be taken for a boy anymore. Luckily no body at school hassled me. School. "Only five and a half more months", I thought. I realized I hadn't given thought on what to wear! What kind of girl was I!! I quickly called Monica. A man answered the phone. When I asked for Monica he told me she wasn't out of bed yet "Who's calling?, he asked. "It's Monica's friend, Rita", I responded. "Oh, yes, Merry Christmas, Rita! This is Joe, Monica's father. We're looking forward to sharing our table with you and your mother this evening"! I thanked him and told him I was also looking forward to meeting everyone. He said something in Italian to someone and told me to hold on. After about 5 minutes Monica came on the line. She still sounded half a sleep. "Sorry to wake you so early, Monica, but I didn't know what to wear tonight". With a sigh of exasperation she said, "I thought your sister tutored you on things like this"? I began to apologize when she cut me off. "Honey, I was just kidding. Wear something casual for the kitchen but bring something dressy for dinner, okay?" I asked who else would be there. She told me just the immediate family and maybe a few of her father's friends. Laura of course and Stephanie. "Stephanie?", I replied. Monica chuckled. "Not dressed as a sugar plum fairy, obviously, but we will be married, you know. She wants to do the right thing by me. You know, make it official by asking my father for my hand and all that". "But she's so..." Again she cut me off. "Stephanie's not like you and Laura. She's a transvestite. She can butch it up if she needs to. I am, if not anything else, a damn good teacher!" I certainly had to agree to that.
After hanging up I looked in my closet to consider my options. Long black Donna Karan dress? Nice, but not for Christmas. Something a bit festive. I had a pouffe red chiffon dress that I planned on wearing on Christmas day so that was out. I then remembered a green velvet dress that had belonged to Denise. After a little digging I found it in a garment bag with matching pumps! Perfecto! (Practicing my Italian!) I tried it on and it fit me well. I pulled out the appropriate lingerie and bagged up the makeup I would use. For casual I went with a pair of fitted flared jeans, a white peasant blouse and a pair of flats. Comfy kitchen wear.
With my ensemble in order I went down to the kitchen and fixed myself an omelet and a cup of tea. I spent the rest of the morning doing last minute wrapping and washing some delicates. As I was putting the last touches on my daytime makeup the doorbell rang. Danny!! With my heart beating like a hammer I flew down the stairs and opened the door. I grabbed him by the arms and pulled him in. Leaping on him with my legs wrapped around his waist I planted a deep kiss on his lips. "Wow", he laughed, "and a Merry Christmas to you too"! "We only have about fifteen minutes, darling", I told him. "That's okay, I just wanted to give you a couple of things." He handed me a box from our local florist. It contained a beautiful corsage of red roses. "Oh, honey, they're gorgeous", I moaned as I held them to my nose. "They'll look perfect with my dress tonight"! I gave him another big kiss. "There's just one more thing I want you to wear tonight", he said handing me a long, thin, beautifully wrapped package. I opened it and gasped at what I saw. It was a beautiful single pearl necklace. "It's Mikimoto", he told me. I was stunned. It was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. "Allow me", he said taking the box from my hand and removing the necklace. "Hold your hair up", he said. I closed my eyes and felt him place the necklace on my neck. I looked in the hall mirror to see that stunning pearl on my slender neck. My hand instinctively went to touch it. With my eyes filled with tears of happiness I turned to see him smiling at me. "Oh my God", I mumbled looking at him. He held his arms open and enveloped me. "Merry Christmas, Rita". "Oh, Danny, it's so beautiful. I love you so much." He held me tightly. "I know it's only a single pearl but...." No, no", it's perfect", I cried. "No, Rita, I want to add a pearl on every special occasion like holidays, anniversaries, birthdays. Things like that. So eventually you'll have a full strand and every pearl will have it's own significance." I looked at him. Who was this guy? "Honey", I asked, "that's the most romantic thing I've ever heard. I'm stunned"! He admitted that his father did the same thing for his mother when they first started dating. "I thought I'd just carry on the tradition with the girl I love", he smiled. I had no words for that just another long lingering kiss. "I have gifts for you too", I said. "After I get back. My parents are waiting for me. Besides just seeing you so happy if gift enough for me right now." "Well", I said cupping his balls in my hand, "when you get back expect the ride of your life"! "Oh, baby, don't", he laughed. "I have a long drive ahead of me and I don't want to do it with a boner". One last kiss and he was gone. I looked at my gift again in the mirror. Simply beautiful. I then looked at my eyes and realized i looked like a raccoon. "I better switch to a waterproof mascara", I said out loud.
I arrived at Monica's house at the appointed time. It was a beautiful Victorian home. I had only seen it from the outside. I showed Monica my gifts from Danny. "The pearl is stunning, Rita." I told her of his plan to add another on each special occasion. "You know what that means, don't you sweety"? "What"? She made a motion of knocking me on the head. "Commitment, Rita, commitment. You should have known that right away. I'm surprised at you"! "I was just caught up in the moment", I sheepishly replied. "Come on. We have work to do. I'll stash your corsage in the fridge to keep it fresh". With that we headed to the kitchen. In Italian Monica introduced me to her Nona. She was small, grey and lovely! She didn't speak that much English but Monica assured me I'd know just what she wanted. Her age didn't betray the amount of energy she exuded. I was hugged, pinched on the cheeks and then kissed on both. Her eyes were bright and alert. There seemed to be six pots on a very large eight burner stove and something going on in two ovens at the same time. "Wow", I said, "what a kitchen"! Nona then gave me an apron and Monica and I were put straight to work. Our first job was preparing a large tray of antipasti. As we worked Nona would occasionally inspect our work. "Bene, bene", she would say. Monica just gave me the thumbs up sign. "Where's Stephan"? "He's with my father in his den. They've been in there almost an hour. I'm beginning to get nervous", she replied. "Laura will be here around 4:30", she told me. As we worked on slicing peppers and artichoke the doorbell rang again. Monica went to answer it. I heard some excited greetings and Monica led a man into the kitchen. He looked to be in his early fifties. Handsome. He immediately went over to Nona who gave a squeal of delight upon seeing him. "Paolo, bene, bene!" "I saluti, Nona mia", he said taking both her hands and kissing them then both cheeks. "Molto rispetto". I looked at Monica and cocked an eyebrow. "Much respect", she whispered. Nona then brought him over to look at the work we had done so far. "Paolo", Monica said, "this is my girlfriend, Rita. I extended my hand. He took it and kissed my fingers. Smiling he said, "attraente". He then complimented us (in English, thank goodness!) on the antipasti. "Very nice, good presentation", he said. I smiled at the compliment. "Well", he said, "like you I am at Nona's beck and call so I will began preparing the fishes for our feast tonight". He then went off to scale and gut fish. "Better him than me", I thought. He's so charming", I whispered to Monica. She explained in a low voice that Paolo and her father were business partners and were boyhood friends from Alba. Watching him work I was amazed with his skills with a knife. I commented to Monica about that. "He should be good. He's only the executive chef at Cafe Roma", she casually said. I put down my knife. "I have to go to the bathroom", I said and headed out the door. As I was leaving I heard Monica chuckle. At first I was terror stricken. Then I calmed down. My future boss. Washing my hands I thought to myself that I had nothing to worry about. In fact it was sort of exciting to be working in the same kitchen as a seasoned chef. Something I'd have to get used to. Anyway, nothing was really expected of me, right. He did like the arrangement of the antipasti, after all. When I returned to the kitchen I saw Stephan whispering to Monica. "Meeting over", I thought. I then noticed Nona, Paolo and another man hunched over a pile of fish. Stephan greeted me with a little smile and wink. I returned the same. "Papa", Monica called out. It was Joe. He turned around and my first impression was, "my God he looks like Dom Deluise"! "Rita!", he called out running towards me, "we finally meet!" He grabbed me up and spun me around. "Holy cow!", I thought, "what a family!" "Carino!" I looked at Monica. "He likes your looks". She then turned to her father. "Papa, we have allot of work to do today. Don't give Rita a big head". He laughed and said he had things to do as well. Leaving the room he looked at Monica and said,"no rispetto"!
We worked for another hour preparing pasta, seasoning sauce and basically trying to keep things on schedule. We were always under the constant supervision of Nona and Paolo. They would sometimes speak Italian to each other. Monica didn't volunteer to translate so I didn't ask. Joe came back into the kitchen with three bottles of wine. We were each given a glass for what he called the first tasting. When about an ounce of wine was poured I looked at the color. Held it to my nose. Hmmmmm! Swirled the glass. Smelled it again. Wow! Took a sip and aerated. Devine!
"Joe?", I asked, what is the vintage. He held up the bottle. 1993. "What's your opinion, Rita", I heard Paolo ask. I noticed he was giving me a rather critical look. Unflinching I told him. "Soft tannin, lightly oaked...." And on the nose?", he asked. I thought a second bringing my glass up for another deep smell. "Very complex. There's allot going on here. Leather...uh..hint of mint...cinnamon...subtle vanilla...." "And on the finish", he pressed. "It lingers almost like a velvety chocolate", I told him. He paused for a second and said, "bene". Joe and Monica were smiling. Monica winked. "I think I just passed some sort of test", I thought. Paolo came over to me. "Monica tells me you make a very nice scampi". I just nodded. "I was wondering if you would do us the honor tonight and prepare that for our feast". Not batting an eye I told him it would be my pleasure. I wasn't even the least bit nervous. I've made it a thousand times. It was Danny's favorite. My Mom's too.
I began prep work on the scampi and noticed that this time neither Nona or Paolo would check up on me. I was on my own. Laura had arrived and was chatting with Stephan and Monica near the Christmas tree in the huge living room. I noted the time and said I'd have to run out and pick up my Mom. Laura told me she'd be happy to do it for me. "I'm not really good in the kitchen, honey, but I provide good taxi service"! I thanked her. She's such a sweety! By the time everything was ready for the broiler Laura had returned with my Mom. She looked so pretty in a mid length red print dress. Monica told me to go on up and get dressed for dinner. I was only too happy to comply. I quickly stripped and donned my nice lingerie and sat to do my face. As I was yet again admiring my lovely necklace I realized I forgot to bring along matching earrings. After slipping into my dress and pumps there was a knock on the door. It was Monica with my corsage. I told her about forgetting earrings as she pinned my roses above my right breast. "Don't fret, honey, I've got you covered". She left and soon returned with a little gift box. I noticed that Stephan was right behind her. She handed me the package. "Merry Christmas, honey!", she said giving me a kiss on the forehead. "Yes, Rita", Stephan said, "for all you've done." "What did I do?", I asked while opening the package. There in a little jewelry box were matching earrings for my necklace! Oh, Monica...I just can't..." "Yes you can, and you will! You don't want to insult my Stephanie, now do you? She finally found them in Boston". "Oh, ladies, I don't know what to say"! I saw a gleam come into Stephan's eyes when I said "ladies". "Thank you, thank you so much!", I gushed, on the verge of tears again. Thank goodness I remebered waterproof mascara this time. I inserted the earrings and they looked just lovely. The girls made a big fuss. Walking down to dinner I took Stephanie aside to thank her. "You look so pretty tonight, Rita", she said. I told her I felt bad for her having to wear a suit and all. She just brushed it off. "It's still a thrill to feel the nylon on my legs and my silky panties on my clitty." I smiled at that. "That's some clitty you got there, girlfriend", I whispered. Arm in arm we two sissies went down the stairs.
Dinner was wonderful. The wine was wonderful. The company and converstion were even better. Joe and Paolo told story after story of growing up in Alba working in restaurants or working in the vinyards. My Mom put her hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear, "such wonderful people, so full of life"! I smiled back at her. When the scampi course was served I held my breath. The talking continued and every once in a while I glanced at Paolo. He was only glancing at Nona. She was just eating. I knew it was good. Just the right amounts of garlic and lemon and the shrimp had been cooked to perfection. "Delicious, honey", my Mom said. Well I knew I had at least one fan. It was the feast of seven fishes and seven were served along with various pasta and of course the antipast. Bacala (salted cod), mussels, clams, shrimp (mine!), calamari (squid), baked sardines and red snapper all prepared to perfection. And the wines! Barolo and Barbaresco for reds and delicious Gavi for white. My Mom told me that Gavi was now her wine of choice. After dinner we sat just basking in the afterglow of the evening. I noticed Joe and Paolo excuse themselves and leave the room. I went to freshen up my face. Monica joined me. I went on about what a wonderful time we were having. When we went back to the company Nona came over to Monica and looking at me said something in rapid Italian. Monica told me that my presence was wanted in her father's den. I felt an icy twinge in my stomach. Upon entering I noticed Joe and Paolo seated in matching wing chairs. The familiar smell of cuban cigars in the air. "I hope you don't mind, Rita, but a brandy and a good cigar is welcomed after such a great meal. I assured them I didn't. I was asked to sit and Joe gave me a snifter of brandy. "Hennessy XO", he said, " don't suppose someone as young as you has ever had really fine cognac, before?" "Ah...no...thank you", I lied. I could sense he wasn't convinced. Both men turned rather serious and looked at me. Finaly Joe said,"Paolo?" and indicated me. Paolo cleared his throat. "Rita after observing you today in the kitchen and tasting your food I've come to the decision that there is just no way you are cut out to be a waitress in my restaurant". My bowels turned to water. What did I do so wrong. Joe indicated his glass in a gesture that told me to take a sip. I did. My throat felt constricted but the brandy helped. This wonderful day was rapidly turning into a nightmare for me. I felt a deep sadness. Then I felt a growing anger. "Alright, fine", I said in an even voice. Chokeing back tears I said, "at least I didn't poison anyone". I got up to leave. Rita, sit, please", I heard Joe say. "Don't torture the poor thing, Paolo, get to the point"! "Joe's right, Rita, forgive me. When I said I don't want you as a server I meant it. However....." Time stood still. "I want you in the kitchen. I think you have some great potential as a chef". Was I hearing this correctly. "Well? I don't often make this gesture". I took a deep breath and stood. "I'd scrub the floors and pots for five years to work in your kitchen, chef!" He laughed and said that wouldn't be neccessary. They both stood and raised there glasses. "Salute", Paolo said. "Chin, chin", Joe responded. "Chin, chin", I added. We clinked and drank. When we rejoined the guests Monica was looking at me with that grin on her face. I was in a daze. She came over to me. "So, how's your Christmas so far"? "Please, Monica, no more surprises. I don't think I can take any more. She laughed and said..."oh one more thing, tonight you will be visited by three spirits...." We both laughed. Just then we heard Joe calling for attention. Paolo, Nona and Laura were busy refilling glasses. "I just wanted to thank everyone for making our feast a most enjoyable occassion. To old and new friends and to mia famiglia, salute"! "Chin, chin", we all replyed. "Also", he continued, "it is my pleasure, and Palo's too, to annonce that the charming Rita will be joing the staff of Cafe Roma to begin formal training in our kitchen. Again a salute and a chin chin. I looked at Mom. I saw tears streaming down her face as she embraced me. Again there was a call for silenzio. Joe turned serious. "Monica, Stephano?", he said indicating that they stand by his side. "It is with great pleasure tonight that I announce the engagement of my lovely daughter, Monica, to Stephano. May they both live in love and peace for ever"! (And lace I wickedly thought!) We all spent a while in congratulating each other. "And...as we do every year...we honor Nona." We all raised our glasses. "Tu Nona"!
While getting the deserts ready (yes more food!) I cornered Monica. "Everyone has such fond respect for Nona. I can understand why". "Matriarch di famiglia, honey", she replied. "Oh"! "She taught Paolo everything he knows"! "Ooooooh"!
My cheesecake was served along with biscotti and lots of other things along with espresso. I watched Paolo eating my cheesecake. He looked at me, smiled and said bene! Later he came over to me and said, "Rita, that cheesecake, I'd like that on the menu velocemente". I understood. "Yes, chef!", I happily replied. He pinched my cheek. "Molto bene, you learn quickly, molto bene". I understood perfectly. He was no longer Paolo to me. He was "chef". My boss and teacher. After saying our goodbyes Mom and I headed home. We both needed a good night sleep as were going to spend Christmas day with Denise and Michael. Luckily that night I was only visited by one spirit instead of three. The spirit of utter happiness. Salute!