HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt
“I sure hope that there’s a good explanation for this!” Tessa stormed in Alessandro’s office and tossed at him several papers.
“Good morning would’ve been a pleasant way to start our conversation or a knock on my door would’ve been even nicer. What can I do for you?” he leaned back in his chair and interlaced his fingers as his elbows rested on the chair’s arms.
“This is not funny, Mister Santinelli, but let’s see. I stopped this morning to get gas and tried to pay with my card and I can’t, because guess what? My account has been blocked. And then, I call my bank and they tell me that no withdrawal can be made until further notice. I’m thinking, it must be a mistake, so they pass my call to the supervisor and when she tells me the same story, I demand to talk to the director and he tells me he too is sorry for the inconvenience but they received a note requesting my bank activity for the past six months to look for illegal transactions. Do you have any idea what embarrassment you’ve caused me? How am I supposed to live without money?”
She paced his office, one hand on her hip, the other on her forehead. She didn’t see him closing the door and stopping in the middle of the room while she walked right by him.
Alessandro waited for her to stop pacing. He held her papers. Face to face, they stared at each other for a while.
She threw her hands in the air and then slapped her thighs. “Well?”
“Sorry you found out this way. I tried to move as fast as I could, unfortunately it got out of hand. I wish there was a different way to solve this problem, but I don’t have much I can use for the investigation.”
“And you decided it was okay to block my accounts? How many times do I have to say I. Did. Not. Take. The. Money? And what happened to the investigation being on hold?”
“Ms. Cosma . . . Tessa . . . As harsh as it sounds, we need to find out where the money went, because it didn’t end up in the farmers’ hands, that’s for sure.” He brushed a hand through his hair, caught his forehead between his thumb and his index finger and squeezed his eyes shut. Then he opened them as he rubbed the back of his neck. He seemed to be in pain.
“How do you know? How could you figure out they didn’t receive the money? I was there with them, in the notary’s office, handing them the money. It didn’t by some mysterious way end up in my purse, for God’s sake!” She took a step closer, snapped the papers from him and walked away.
“Wait, Tessa, wait, let’s talk.”
She stopped and came back to confront him. “There’s nothing you can say that would change this mess. This is Romania and you foreigners come here and think that you can operate the same way you do in your countries. But the truth is, if any of you would take the time to find out, we do so many things differently. You might think closing my accounts will clear once the investigation is over and I can use that bank happily ever after. But I won’t. Next to my name there’re red flags being drawn as we speak and I can never go back there. I’ll have to switch to another bank. Did you know that up until three years ago, no Romanian knew what a debit or a credit card was or how to use it?”
She saw his eyebrows drawn together and the astonishment in his eyes. She sighed and shook her head. “I thought so. I just wished you’d tell me what you plan to do. I would’ve brought you my bank statements. I’ve nothing to hide because I didn’t take the money.”
She felt defeated. She closed her eyes trying to fight back tears. When Alessandro’s palms clasped around her shoulders, she opened them.
“Tessa, listen to me. I had no idea this was going to happen. I’m so sorry, believe me. I thought it’d take me a few days top to verify your transactions, see the pattern of your expenses, see something that would put the accusations to rest.” He squeezed her shoulders and bowed closer to her face. “I’m not your enemy here, you must believe me.”
She peeled his hands off her shoulders, one by one then walked away. Before she left, she looked at him one more time. “But you’re not my friend either.”
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