Her heart was racing. She hoped she looked presentable in her V-neck floral knee length summer dress and the pair of wedges which she thought looked better than the pumps she had considered wearing. To complete the look, she wore the lovely olive leaf pendant which Paolo had given her for her birthday.
“Mama, incontrare Roxane, il mio fidanzato,” Paolo announced as he presented Roxane before his mother who was sitting on an expensive looking sofa backing an antique grandfather clock with two small tables on either side on which sat figurines and decorative vases with flowers in them and oil paintings above them. It was a beautiful room but she didn’t have time to admire it. She was standing in front of the woman who was soon to be her mother-in-law and a mighty sense of foreboding came over her. It was as if her happiness depended upon this meeting.
A pair of dark brown eyes stared up at her. There was no warmth or welcome in her expression. She just looked Roxane over and then she turned to Paolo and said, “Voglio parlare con te solo.”
Paolo’s expression was grim when he turned to Roxane. “Would you excuse us, darling? My mother wishes to have a word with me.”
She nodded and after glancing at his mother whose eyes were still on Paolo, she turned and quickly left the room. There was an accent chair where she sat down. It faced the door of the room she had just left.
She sat there on edge, her heart racing as she heard the voices in the next room. She knew that they were talking about her. She was the reason why they were in Milan where his mother and sister lived. They were there to meet them. Paolo’s sister Annabella had driven them over to the house. Annabella was very warm and friendly. Roxane felt better after having met her, however, when they were alone, Annabella used that as an opportunity to warn her not to get her hopes up about her mother accepting her.
“I’m not sure if Paolo told you this but when he was in his twenties, he was engaged to a girl named Gianna. He brought her here to meet Mama but Mama refused to approve the match and the engagement was broken off.”
Alarmed, she asked, “Why didn’t your mother approve of her?”
“She was Sicilian. Mama thinks all Sicilians are involved with the Mafia. I know it sounds foolish but that was her reason.”
“What if she doesn’t approve of me, will Paolo break off our engagement too?”
Annabella shook her head. “I don’t think so. He loves you.”
“But didn’t he love Gianna too?”
“It was more of an infatuation. It would have fizzled out even if Mama had approved of her.”
“Annabella, I’m so nervous and afraid.”
Annabella smiled and squeezed her hand. “No matter what happens, Paolo loves you and he will marry you.”
At the time Roxane was grateful for the warning but now she was filled with trepidation. She loved Paolo and was afraid of losing him. It was clear from their encounter just now that his mother didn’t approve of her. She had looked her over and didn’t like what she saw. There was no smile or greeting–nothing but a critical look. This was the second time his mother disapproved of the woman he wanted to marry. Will the outcome be the same?
“è troppo scura!” his mother sounded angry.
Paolo said something which she couldn’t make out.
“Aspettare e sposare una ragazza italiana che non è siciliana,” his mother retorted.
“Mama, Io vado a sposare Roxane perché l’amo e non importa quello che dici.”
Shortly afterwards, the door was flung open and Paolo strode out of the room, his expression thunderous. He strode over to Roxane and muttered, “Let’s go. Our business here is over.”
Roxane got to her feet and grabbing her hand he hurried from the room. He looked so angry that she daren’t say anything at the moment. Annabella was in the courtyard when they came out of the house. From the expression on her brother’s face, she could tell that things had not gone well. Like Roxane, she didn’t ask any questions. Instead, she said, “I’ll drive you back to the hotel.”
Paolo got into the back of the car with Roxane and he held her hand as they sat there not saying anything. Annabella turned on the radio breaking the silence with news and music.
When they arrived at the hotel, she got out of the car and hugged them both. “Roxane, it was really nice meeting you. I hope to see you again very soon. Paolo, I’m sorry things didn’t go as you hoped but I hope that it wouldn’t spoil the rest of your trip. Call me if you need anything.”
He nodded with a smile and then she was gone. He put his arm around Roxane’s shoulders as they walked through the lobby and headed upstairs to their suite. Once they were alone, he took her over the sofa and they sat down. “You must know by now that my mother doesn’t approve of you,” he said. “Her reason was that you are too dark.”
Roxane lowered her eyes so that he wouldn’t see the hurt in them. All her life she had been conscious of her dark color even among her own relatives. They were surprised that a man like Paolo would be attracted to her let alone want to marry her. “What did you say to that?”
“I told her that when I look at you, I don’t see a woman who is too dark but a beautiful woman with lovely dark skin. The first time I saw you I couldn’t get over how exquisite you were.” He bent his head then and kissed her on the side of her neck.
“What else did she say?” she asked, breathless, her skin tingling from where his lips had been. She looked at him then.
“She said that I should wait and marry an Italian girl who is not Sicilian.”
“Annabella told me about Gianna. Did you love her?”
He shook his head. “I was infatuated with her but no, I wasn’t in love with her.”
“So, what did you tell your mother after she told you to wait and marry someone else?”
“I told her that I am going to marry you because I love you and it doesn’t matter what she says.”
“So, you are going against her wishes?”
“Yes. My mother’s wishes are irrelevant. I’m a grown man, Roxane. I know what I want and I want you. I want to marry you.
Putting her arms around his neck, she kissed him and he responded passionately. A moment later, he raised his head to gaze at her, his eyes dark and smoldering. “I love you so much,” he murmured huskily.
“I love you too.”
“Let’s get married here in Milan,” he said.
She drew back slightly to look at him, her eyes wide. “Get married here in Milan?” she exclaimed.
He nodded. “Yes. We’ll invite just Annabella and a few friends.”
The thought of getting married here in Milan never once occurred to her but she liked it. “Yes, let’s do it.”
“I’ll call Annabella later and ask her to make the arrangements. I’m sure she will be thrilled.”
“Not as thrilled as I am at the moment,” she said before she kissed him.
Three days later their wedding day arrived bright and sunny and without any hitch. They got married in the same church where Paolo was christened. Afterwards, they were whisked off to a friend’s villa where the reception was held. Everything was wonderful—the decorations, the food, the music. Everyone had a great time. Noticeably missing was Paolo’s mother but that didn’t dampen his spirits. He didn’t expect her to come even though he had invited her at Roxane’s suggestion. In spite of how his mother felt about her, she still felt that she should at least be invited to the wedding and it was up to her to accept or refuse the invitation.
“You look absolutely beautiful,” he told Roxane as he took in his arms for their first dance.
She was wearing an elegant off the shoulder wedding gown which she was fortunate to find and purchase at such short notice. Annabella had gone to the bridal shop with her one morning and the moment she saw the dress, she knew it was the one. She tried it on and it was a perfect fit.
She smiled now at Paolo who looked very handsome in his tuxedo. “You don’t look so bad yourself,” she teased. She turned her head and looked at her hand resting on his chest so that he wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes. She was so happy. They had a perfect day for their wedding and tonight was simply magical. His mother’s absence hadn’t spoiled it for her. She wished, though, her parents could have been there.
He rested his forehead against hers. “I’m sorry that your parents couldn’t be here,” he said as if reading her thoughts.
“Me too,” she said. “But, I’m not sorry that we got married here instead of in London as we had planned. I loved the church and this villa is amazing. And we get to have our honeymoon here too. I couldn’t be happier.”
He smiled. “I’m relieved to hear that. I want to make you as happy as you have made me.”
She looked at him then, her eyes shining with tears. “You have made me extremely happy, Paolo, more than you can ever imagine.”
He lowered his head and kissed her as they swayed to the music.