Regina

As the wind turned and filled the sails, Regina looked up with relief, thankful for some speed at the end of a long, drawn out journey. She moored hastily dockside and made her way up past the fishmongers of Marina Piccola, busy alluring eager vacanzieri to their daily catch. 

Her old, tired Cinquecento, a hand-me-down rust-bucket she loved despite its considerable defects, was parked in one of the many man-made caves carved into the cliffside, wishfully perched under a precarious-looking rock. She got in, unceremoniously, and spritely made off towards town. Driving through the high street at this time of year was always problematic, particularly if you happened to be in a hurry: ensuring no wandering tourist is killed during trade hours is a social requirement in a town so reliant on seasonal trade. 

So, slowly through town, straight past the suburbs along the coastline and up the hillside, in a low-gear climb on the cobbled terrains of St. Agnello, away from straw hat wearing americani in cotton vests and hordes of youths paired up on summer night moped rides.

‘I hate Sorrento in the Summer. So infuriating!’ she thought as the car came to a halt, finally at destination. 

Up here there were no miniature Limoncello bottles or Pulcinella figurines, no overpriced buffalo mozzarella, and thankfully no melancholic crooners imploring you to come back! Even Ibsen’s ghoulish shadow didn’t dare to stretch this far up inland.

‘Casa dolce casa’. Up the stairs and into the apartment, at last.

Regina unscrewed the Bialetti and filled it with fragrant, dark-roasted Kimbo, the pride of Naples. As the coffee brewed in clouds of rich steam, the flat filled up with the strong,  chocolate-tinged scent of South American beans.

She sat at her desk and powered up her laptop, while producing an odd-looking white container from her duffle bag. It looked like a small yacht fender or an oversized capsule of some kind. Its bottom end slid open under her careful hands, revealing inside it a memory stick. She plugged it into the machine, hoping for the best.

‘Please, WORK!’. After a few uncomfortable moments of silence a sudden,  a joyous ping signalled the stick’s successful mounting, perfectly accessible. 

‘Yes!’. She logged into her VPN, selected the drive and dragged it to its intended destination, waiting for the files to crawl through the TOR network.

As the data transferred over byte-by-byte in painful, Morse-code like slow-mo, she jittered and paced around the room, stirred both by a sense of impatience and by that potent, little cup of Joe.  

Ten percent. ‘Come on!!’.

Twenty-five. Another minute, another rush of expectant adrenaline. 

Thirty-three. ‘Hurry up, man!!’. 

Fifty-two percent. She reached towards the desk’s bottom drawer. Swearing at the screen was no longer enough to placate her. she took out a brand new, sealed pack of red Marlboros, remnant of her smoky days. 

‘Everyone here smokes Marlboros, even the kids’, she used to joke. 

She lit the cigarette avidly, puffed it in a few greedy tokes, and stubbed it out fastidiously, loathing herself for the momentary relapse.

Seventy-five percent. As the nicotine-induced tremors made way through her body, she got up and rushed over to the marble-clad bathroom across the landing to run a lavender-scented bath. The hot-tap water raced down into the tub faster than the data raced up the network.

Eighty-six percent. Back at the keyboard, fretting, expectant.

Ninety-eight, Ninety-nine… Upload complete.

‘Finally!’ she retorted with relief. A few more frantic words typed, then into the tub, where the warm, lilac soak awaited her salsedinous skin.

***

She didn’t enjoy “getting town-ready” during high season. 

The ritual scrubbing-up locals were so fond of never resonated with her. She could see right through it. Plastic smiles, gravity-defying hairdos and poisonous clouds of Numero Cinq left her unfazed. Still, with little effort she would naturally achieve the intended result. A black top elegantly matched with a mid-length grey skirt, pendant earrings and a hint of red lipstick were enough to render her “presentable” to Sorrento’s high society, yet invisible to the swarms of permatanned guaglioni looking for some burning romance.

Like a Signorina Regina made her way into Tasso Square, past Saint Anthony and down to her usual seat at Bar Fauno, right by the large TV playing BBC for their Anglophone clientele. 

The broadcast was on BREAKING NEWS mode. In studio, a concerned-sounding host and a panel of distinguished guests discussed the global political fallout from the leak of secret government documents in a Middle Eastern nation.

 She smiled.