The next morning, Avila woke up with a hell of a headache. She had fallen into fretful sleep and kept dreaming about Gabriele turning up at her door. Fortunately, it was Saturday. She didn\’t have to worry about working and her kids\’ online learning. She got out of bed slowly and dragged her feet to the bathroom.
\”Mom! There\’s a delivery for you,\” Avila\’s oldest kid yelled.
Avila froze at the door of the bathroom.
\”Here.\” Her son ran in with a big plastic cup of cold smoothie and a note. \”Who were you talking to last night?\”
\”No one you know.\” She snatched the note from him and read it.
I couldn\’t sleep well last night from the way our conversation ended. Please call me. 9XXXXXXXX. Hope you like the smoothie I made.
Her eyes widened as she stared at the cup. Did Gabriele deliver it personally?
\”How did the man who delivered this look like?\” Avila went into the study and asked her son.
He shrugged and continued playing his computer game.
She believed he would be able to recognize Gabriele if she showed him Gabriele\’s photo. She rushed to her mobile phone to try to look for her app to install it, but to her frustration, she couldn\’t find it. She tried very hard to recall the app\’s foreign-sounding name to search for it, but she couldn\’t.
Avila regretted not paying more attention to the app\’s name. She tried to look through her email for confirmation of payment but since it was the trial month, there were no payment confirmation as yet. She also couldn\’t recall seeing emails that confirmed her registration to the app. She tried to google \”Gabriele DiMatteo\”, but in the long list of images, she could find the \”Gabriele\” she wanted.
Avila stared at the phone number, wondering if she should call to end it once and for all. However, she felt too guilt-ridden to do it. She should have stopped him after the first gift, letting him know that she had no intention of continuing with the subscription. He had been so sweet and attentive. Even if he was just doing his job, he had done it well. She was the one who led him on.
She decided to take the coward\’s way out, thinking if she ignored him long enough, he would get the hint and give up.
Walking to the bin, she dumped the smoothie and card inside, hoping that her son would not bring this up during lunch later.
Throughout the day, there were calls from unknown and private numbers. Avila resisted picking them up and switched her phone to silent. She took her work to the living room and stayed there for most of the day, in case Gabriele turned up with another delivery. Much to her relief, there were none for the rest of the day.
Thinking that all delivery services had stopped after 10pm, she felt that it would be safe enough for her to finally head out of the house for groceries. She let her husband know that she was heading out, put her mask on, and drove to the nearest 24hr supermarket.
She was browsing the bread aisle when suddenly, she felt someone standing next to her. Adrenaline coursed through her veins as she snapped her head around to see who it was.
Her sudden action startled the man next to her as he took a few steps back and raised his hands. Although he was wearing a mask, Avila could see that it was not Gabriele.
She mumbled an apology and quickly moved away, face burning in embarrassment. Just as she moved to the next aisle, her phone rang again. Another unknown number.
Feeling irritated this time, she picked up the phone, ready to confront Gabriele.
\”This is DHL services. You have a parcel-\” She hung up her phone. Maybe those unknown numbers were really scam calls, and not Gabriele. She was being extra jumpy because of her guilt towards him.
Chocolates. She\’s going to need lots of chocolates to cope with this.
She headed to the confectionery aisle and looked for her favourite dark chocolate, when her phone rang again. Thinking it\’s the scam call again, she picked it up.
\”Avila. Finally,\” came Gabriele\’s voice over the phone.
Avila almost threw her phone away. She stared at the Caller ID and realised it was a private number.
\”Gabriele, I told you I\’m sorry I can\’t continue with the subscription. It\’s too expensive for me.\”
\”I\’ve been trying to tell you that you don\’t need to subscribe to the app to continue with me. There is a loophole. The company is not able to track if we continue to service our clients without the app. I think we\’ve had a good relationship, don\’t you agree?\”
Avila paused for a moment. She couldn\’t deny she was tempted, but this entire episode had taught her that she shouldn\’t continue with this anymore. Even if she didn\’t think she was cheating, her husband wouldn\’t agree if he had known what was going on.
\”I\’m sorry, Gabriele. I don\’t think I\’ll have time for this. I\’m so sorry.\”
\”I can\’t say I\’m not disappointed, Avila. In case you change your mind, you have my number. Take care of yourself, Avila, even when I\’m not there to remind you.\”
Tears welling in her eyes, Avila bidded him farewell and hung up. This was exactly why she didn\’t want to pick up his call. At least she got it over and done with now. She didn\’t have to live in fear anymore.
Taking a few deep breaths to calm herself down, she wiped the stray tear on her cheek quickly. She dropped a few bars of chocolate into her trolley and headed for the checkout. After paying for her groceries, she struggled with the loaded trolley to the carpark.
\”Let me help you.\”
She jumped and gave a small shout. She turned around and saw that it was the man she scared at the bread aisle earlier. He sounded so much like Gabriele!
The man shook his head. \”You really shouldn\’t come out alone so late at night, especially if you are this jumpy.\”
She thanked him for his help sheepishly and led him to the car. He even helped her load up the groceries.
\”Go, I\’ll return your trolley for you.\”
She thanked him profusely again and got into her car.
\”Take care of yourself, Avila.\”
She waved to him, started the car, and drove off.
Wait. Did he just call her name? How did he… did she tell him just now?
She stopped the car and looked into her back view mirror, but the man was already gone.