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Me: People are always saying that inner strength shows when you’re admitting your vulnerability.

Dave: But you’re never admitting your vulnerability…Cari…i remember that day…when you said you’re considering getting a divorce…you were so hurt…so devastated…but your “mask” was intact. Perfect smile, perfect make up…the cutest dress, painted nails…And there’s nothing wrong with looking good…but…it was such an inconsistency…

Me: I remember that day…and there were so many other days…Every time when i tried to show my vulnerability to Ryan, i just pushed him away, instead of attracting him. He needs a strong woman…a lioness…

Dave: Because he’s a lion? Or a scared puppy wearing a lion shaped mask…?

“-Carissa, get out of there! Come on, sweetie, you cannot hide forever! I wanna see you in that dress!

-No! I’ll never get out of here!

-Yes, you will…or i’m getting in that dressing room right now! Hope you’re decent…

She wanted to stop him but it was too late. He stepped in and the look on his face was priceless…She was wearing the red dress and high heels. Clothes she never imagined to wear…she never afforded to buy or even to dream of having…Now she was looking in his eyes trying to guess if he likes it…

-Do you like it, Matteo? I cannot recognize myself in the mirror…

-Carissa…you’re stunning! You’re looking like a model…Come here…make a pirouette for me…And your hair…the make up is perfect…You’re a beauty!

-Noooo…You’re nice…thank you for taking me to a hair stylist and for arranging a professional make-up session for me…and for everything you bought for me…Now i’m gonna take off the dress…

-There’s no way you’re gonna take off this dress. This is what i want you to wear while we’re taking a walk trough Venice…I want every guy to turn his head and to envy me! You’re elegant, sexy, looking like a self confident woman…this is how i want you to look from now on! OK…we’re buying this one…and the white one and the casual one…

She started to feel dizzy. A voice inside her mind was telling her to stop. Stop this adventure that got too far…They were in Venice…the most romantic place…staying in an elegant hotel…in separate rooms. He brought her breakfast in bed…with an red rose. Then he said he has a surprise. Then the “transformation” begun…He was obvious much more enthusiastic than her…almost like he had an image in his mind and she was supposed to fit into that image…everything inside her was telling her to stop. But how to stop without hurting his feelings…

-Matteo…

She took his hand and looked in his eyes with a serious expression.

-I…I don’t know if i can do it…Please, don’t get me wrong…you’re an amazing friend, a wonderful man…but all these…is like you’re trying to change me…to make me something i’m not…

He smiled.

-Of course i’m trying to change you. I want you to forget about the child you used to be…and to become a woman. A beautiful, elegant, sexy young woman. That’s why we’re here…You left Palermo for good…That sweet little girl that you used to be…remained there…drowned in the sea. I wanna see you strong, decided, focused…

-I’m trying…i swear i am…but the high heels…this dress…I don’t even know if i can walk properly…

-Carissa…is all about attitude! You have to show self confidence! This is what people wanna see in you. Not a whining child, not a needy girl who’s crying out of the blue…A woman with self confidence, self respect…with expensive clothes made by famous designers…I can and i will make it true…you’ll be that woman.

She suddenly felt sad and lonely…Like wearing a mask.

-And…what will you do…when all this will be over? When we’ll return home? You’ll turn me into this…woman…and then…what?

She felt sorry for that question. It was too obvious…what she was really asking him. He took her hand and leaded her out of the boutique…

-Then…i’ll enjoy your company, Carissa. Like i’m doing right now. Only that…in time…i hope you’ll be more…how can i say this…more willing to please me. Cause now…everything i’m doing for you is like a struggle…You’re resisting, i’m fighting your insecurities…is not that funny, sweetie…

She realized she’s walking on thin ice…She just stopped and looked at him, trying to smile even if she felt like crying.

-I’m sorry, Matteo. You’re right…I’m very sorry, i’m not used to have someone taking care of me…like you do. And…i’m acting silly…I’m grateful to you. Thank you…

He took her in his arms and kissed her on the cheek. Then he arranged her hair and took her face in his hands, in a very protective attitude.

-That’s my girl…that’s how i wanna hear you talking. I realize you’re not used to be treated like this…And i also realize that your self confidence is bellow zero…Sweetie…you need to fake it…To wear it like it were a piece of clothes…Will you…for me?

-Yes…i will, for you. Because is important to you. I feel strange to be dressed in sexy dresses…to have guys looking at my body…is strange and scary…And faking…oh…that’s even harder…but i will, for you. But…Matteo…when is just the two of us…you want me to…to fake in front of you too…

-Sweetie…you’re being philosophical and melodramatic too. My God…don’t look! Put your arms around my neck and kiss me. Quickly…

She did what he said without understanding why. Closing her eyes…knowing is just a game and still…wishing to be a real kiss…Asking herself if he feels anything at all or he’s just faking…She opened her eyes at the sound of a familiar voice. Too familiar…too painful…

-Cari…Matteo…What a coincidence…to meet you here in Venice…Let me introduce you to…my…girlfriend…Jennifer…she’s visiting Italy for the first time…

She almost fainted. Matteo was holding her firmly and he did all the conversation. She only heard words…in her mind she refused to understand. But Matteo was playing the perfect role.

-Look, sweetie…who’s here…Alessio, nice to meet you…And Jennifer…what a lovely name. You’re from the US? See, honey? I told you is a small world…So, guys…you’re staying…oh, is the same hotel…Isn’t it romantic? Me and Carissa…well, i shouldn’t say it…but we recently started to date…so it’s like a honeymoon to us…You understand me, Alessio, don’t you? You know how it feels when everything seems magic and love is in the air…

Alession was studying her…for the first time she felt proud to wear high heels and that sexy red dress.

-Cari…you’re looking great…you changed so much. I can see you’re happy…

She almost burst into tears but she remembered. So she faked happiness and love.

-That’s because i’m in love…with this amazing man…Matteo. You’re happy too, right, Alessio? You and Jennifer…i guess you two know each other for months…Well, wish you all the happiness i’m feeling right now…Come on…my love…you promised me we’ll try the jacuzzi…together…

She and Matteo left, hand in hand. She was trembling. He looked at her a little worried.

-I’m proud of you, Carissa. Hope you don’t mind i invited them to dinner tonight…sweetie? Dinner? Heyyy…you’re not allowed to cry anymore…You’ll ruin the make up…Carissa…

She cuddled in his arms…searching for the warmth she was missing so much. He wiped away her tears.

-Alright…it looks like we have a long way to go…but i can be patient with you…Sweetie…go to your room and fresh up a little…we’ll talk when you’ll be calm.”

Me: It was always like this…and it got worse when we got engaged…till that terrible day when i decided i can’t take it anymore…

Dave: That terrible day…Cari…all the pain should count for something. There are lessons to be learned…other wise…i’m not saying that Ryan is like Matteo…i’m just saying that you could get hurt again…if you don’t use your past, your lessons…to change something in the present…

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