Book cover of “Lower Floor“ by Virgi

Lower Floor

  • Genre: Romance
  • Age: 18+
  • Status: Completed
  • Language: English
  • Author: Virgi
"You can say it, you know? Your tongue won't fall down if you utter a simple word. Repeat after me: S-E-X," she pronounced, opening her mouth wide to emphasize each letter. Oh, God. Why did I even come? *** Amanda is a writer like so many others who wants to leave her mark on the world through her stories. However, she has realized that not ever... 

Chapter 1

Amanda

"The words flowed from her lips, illuminating her radiant gaze, showing him that there was no beauty more ethereal than that emanating from her pale face. Then he took her in his arms, their foreheads touching, thinking that if this was a sin, he would gladly burn in the flames of hell."

"Luminous gaze?"

I let out a scoff and tore the page from the notebook, crumpling it into a ball and leaving it on the floor, where a small mountain of paper was starting to accumulate. I searched for a new page and began writing again.

I was one of those people who needed to put their ideas on paper for them to take shape. If I tried to do it on the computer, I'd draw a blank. I hadn't even written three lines when a shrill sound startled me, causing me to draw a huge line across the page, ruining it completely.

I dropped the notebook onto the table, frustrated and angry.

"Again? This is the third time this week," I thought, exasperated.

Almost instinctively, I got up from the chair in front of the window in my apartment, the place where I usually worked during the week. I walked to the door and yanked it open.

The hallway was completely deserted, that annoying sound once again disrupting the peace of the building, this time followed by giggles. I wrinkled my nose; this was utterly ridiculous. I crossed the hallway quickly without bothering to close my door; by that point, I was seething with anger.

I bounded down the stairs two at a time until I reached the floor below. I arrived at the door of one of the apartments and read the number on the golden plaque, which had become as familiar to me as my own: 251. I knocked forcefully, not bothering to be polite or courteous.

A woman with purple hair, tall and with a carefree smile, opened the door for me; Emiliana Basile had already lived in that condominium when I moved in two years ago, and from the moment we first met, I knew she was the cross I had to bear for all my sins, which, to be honest, weren't as numerous as to deserve such punishment.

But back to Emiliana. She was 30 years old, with the typical tanned skin of Italians, and her family hailed from Palermo (I found out from a comment made by our landlord, not because I was investigating her). As far as I knew, she could have been selling met**********ne to ad***ts.

The Italian woman observed me with amusement that she didn't bother to hide. With a grace I envied, she brushed a short strand of hair from her forehead and tucked it behind her ear. She didn't say a word, but her sapphire-blue eyes were fixed on me, expectant.

Not for the first time, I thought it was a waste to see such beautiful eyes in a person like her. I cleared my throat, trying to make my voice sound confident.

"I'm really sorry to disturb you so early. I'm sure you have very important activities to do, so I'll be brief," I said with a hint of sarcasm. "But whatever you're doing can be heard in my apartment, and it's preventing me from working," I explained in a conciliatory tone.

For a moment, her face took on a slight rosy hue due to embarrassment. I felt satisfied, thinking I had achieved my goal. However, that expression disappeared, replaced by a mischievous smile and a mocking gaze. Instinctively, I squared my shoulders, preparing for a confrontation.

"Can you say it, you know? Your tongue won't be defiled by uttering a simple word," she inquired in a tone of false courtesy. "Repeat after me: S-E-X," she pronounced, opening her mouth wide to emphasize each letter.

Now, I was the one who was completely red, although I wasn't sure if it was from embarrassment or anger, perhaps a bit of both.

I shook my head, perhaps a bit too quickly to be convincing, and I knew Emiliana would notice that small slip. I just hoped she wouldn't mention it, or one of us would end up in jail for murder.

I could tell by the gleam in her eyes that she had indeed noticed, but she didn't say anything about it.

"Well done," I thought.

"I don't care what you were doing," I said, dragging out the words.

"Then why are you here? You know I was having sex; it's no secret," she asked, tilting her head.

I definitely needed to stop saying that word. She knew it annoyed me, and she said it on purpose. I wasn't a nun, but I also didn't lead a promiscuous life, and I wasn't going to discuss my sexuality in the middle of the hallway, especially not with her.

I glared at her, watching her from head to toe, where I noticed that Emiliana was only wearing a delicate, semi-transparent robe that revealed her lace underwear.

"Oh my goodness! That set must cost more than my entire wardrobe," I thought. If she weren't my sworn enemy, I would ask her where she bought it, if only to admire it, because I doubted my salary would allow me to buy something like that. Suddenly, the idea that she sold d***s didn't seem so far-fetched.

"The noises and giggles don't let me concentrate. You're too noisy," I said, and as soon as those words left my lips, I knew I shouldn't have said them, seeing Emiliana's smile widen even further, if that was possible.

"Forgive me; I'm good at what I do, and my lovers tend to make a lot of noise," she admitted shamelessly, leaning against the door. I wanted to strangle her right there, but I reminded myself that murder was a crime, and they wouldn't provide me with the notebooks I was used to using for writing in prison. The thought calmed me.

"I'll try to lower the volume so as not to disturb you," she conceded.

I sighed, relieved to be able to resolve the situation. I said goodbye with a nod of my head and turned on my heel to go back to my apartment. It wasn't until later, while taking a bath, that I realized I hadn't heard Emiliana close her door.

I had moved to Rome two years ago, after completing my university studies. I had a degree in literature, and shortly after, I was contacted by an Italian publishing house that was interested in publishing one of my manuscripts. So, I didn't think twice; I packed my bags, took my savings, and traveled from the USA to the capital of pizza, pasta, and fine wine.

My 25-year-old self wanted to become the next Jane Austen or J.K. Rowling, but I quickly learned that achieving that kind of fame required more than innate writing talent.

At first, my story sold well, although not as much as I had hoped, which brings me to remember that anyone expecting to get rich in this field can expect to wait a long time. The royalties from sales barely helped me make ends meet, so I ended up being one of those writers who needed a second income to survive. For the past two months, I had been working at the Sapienza University of Rome, one of the country's most prestigious institutions.

Don't get me wrong; I was proud to have found a position at a university where everyone was competing for the same roles. However, it had never been part of my dream. I wanted and aspired to more than just being a teacher.

I entered my apartment, and after locking the door, I collapsed onto it, sliding down to the floor. I buried my head between my knees.

"Heteros!" I said to myself.

Definitely, everyone was prone to promiscuity, and yet they claimed that LGBTQI people were the ones who jumped from one partner to another, in short, hypocrites.

I was going to continue ranting about those who were attracted to the opposite sex, but the sound of my phone's ringtone brought me back to reality. I picked up the device and glanced at the screen. I smiled automatically; it was Joshua, my best friend here in Italy.

"Where are you? I'm waiting for you at the café," I read in the message.

I slapped my forehead with my hand; I had completely forgotten that we were supposed to meet today because it was my last day off before classes started again.

"I'm on my way there," I quickly typed, and his response didn't take long.

"You forgot, didn't you?"

"Of course not!" I wrote back, trying to sound indignant.

"I knew it would happen; hurry up," Joshua replied, ending the conversation.

I got up, leaving the phone on the table. I wanted to take a quick shower before leaving. My apartment was small, with only one bedroom, a bathroom, and a common area that served as a kitchen-dining-living room, although the kitchen was separated from the rest by a gray countertop.

What I liked the most was the window that overlooked the street, which made me feel less confined. I went straight to the bathroom, where I got rid of my clothes and turned on the shower, letting a steamy rain fall on my back.

The hot water washed away the tension I had felt after my conversation with Emiliana. I lathered my body with soap delicately; I loved the pineapple scent it had. When I rinsed off, I turned off the tap and wrapped myself in a towel to step out. I noticed I had left my notebook in the living room and picked it up carefully so as not to get it wet.

My bedroom was the largest room in the apartment, but it was still small compared to others. I didn't complain; I was single, so everything was the perfect size for me. I had a double bed in the right corner of the room, a closet, a secondhand bookshelf, a nightstand, and, to my delight, another window with green curtains.

I tucked the notebook into one of the compartments of the nightstand and began getting dressed. I won't describe the underwear I put on; I'll just say that yes, it had patterns, and I wasn't ashamed to admit it. I liked feeling comfortable. I picked out a pair of beige yoga pants and paired them with a black crop top that exposed my midriff. I put on some sneakers that had once been white and grabbed a comb to untangle my red curly hair.

As I looked at myself in the mirror, I decided to leave my hair down, pulling back a few strands that fell over my forehead with white hairpins. I applied some lip gloss and was ready to go. I grabbed my phone and the fanny pack I usually used when going out, along with my keys.

Yes, it's a versatile accessory, and I don't mind looking like a little girl.

I closed the door behind me and called the elevator. I sent a quick message to Joshua, letting him know I was close to the café and that he should abandon any plans to murder me that his twisted mind had recommended, and I received a middle-finger emoji in response.

I laughed, attracting the attention of some neighbors who had gathered there, also waiting for the elevator.

I got on with the other people, and in a couple of minutes, I was in the lobby. I greeted our concierge, Signore Luciano, with a smile. He was sitting behind the reception desk, enjoying a sfogliatelle with a steaming cup of coffee.

"Buongiorno, Signorina Amanda," he greeted with a smile. He was about 60 years old, but that didn't diminish his joviality and charm as he greeted us every morning. I appreciated him a lot, even though every time he saw me, he wanted to show me pictures of his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Sometimes, I wondered why a man his age continued to work; it was time for him to retire. I once dared to ask him about it, and he simply replied that he enjoyed what he did, and as long as he had strength, he would continue doing it.

"No, just out for a little while with a friend. I'll be back before it gets dark," I replied. I didn't hear his response because I left immediately.

I lived at 56 Via Alberto Giussano, in the Pigneto neighborhood. In a four-story brick building, sandwiched between a bakery and a fruit stand; it definitely wasn't the most glamorous area in Italy, but it was comfortable and quiet enough for me. Plus, La Sapienza was only twenty-four minutes away by subway, and the nearest station was a four-minute walk.

The wind blew, causing my hair to stand on end. I regretted not grabbing a coat before leaving, but I remembered that at noon, the sun would warm up enough for me to do without it, and I'd just end up sweaty.

To my good fortune, the place where I was meeting Joshua wasn't far from my apartment at all. I only had to walk for five minutes, and I found myself at Piazza dei Condottieri. It was one of the most beautiful spots in the neighborhood, and at that time, it was quite crowded with people reading, having breakfast, feeding the birds, and more. Everything you wanted to do seemed to be covered by the charming structure of the square. I scanned the picnic tables for Joshua, and it didn't take me long to spot him, approaching me with two coffees and a lopsided smile.

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