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A Roman Holiday
Morning life buzzed early, dragging itself through the Monday dawn and bounding down the Roman streets. Sunlight filtered through the opened window, reflecting the golden tint of the rustic, yellow, apartment buildings and red sidewalks. Somewhere down the street, a boy could be heard shouting in vigorous Italian to a friend and roaring his rusty scooter to a start.
Nick opened his eyes, feeling the morning light filter into the room, and pulled at his face. He gazed at the choppy figures of his alarm clock and grunted, it was 7:00 AM. With heavy eyelids, he sat up and pulled himself off of his bed. The neighbor boy could be heard racing his scooter down the opposite side of the street now, his voice still robust with rough speech.
Veronica was still asleep, thank God, Nick thought, seeing her rosy face still loose and pink from heavy sleep. He stared at her with blank indifference and pulled on his Cambridge T-shirt, a relic from his carless undergrad years, during which, getting drunk every weekend and still acing the final exams was a triumph. Something Veronica still rolled her eyes at. With a heavy breath, Nick stumbled from the bedroom, his bare feet patting silently on the stained wood floors that led to the kitchen.
The kitchen was Nick’s favorite part of his home, though it’s modern appliances and smooth granite counters contrasted profusely with the vintage and time-stuck vibe of the apartment’s other three rooms, something Veronica hated. With a stiff stretch and shift of his shoulders, he reached for his espresso machine, allowing its earthy sent to pull him into the anticipation of awaiting for the pure and murky juice it would produce. He reached for the woven bag that contained his favorite bean and poured its contents into the espresso machine’s empty basin. Quietly, as not to wake his sleeping partner down the hall, he switched the machine on, allowing it to hum through the kitchen’s pure air.
While he waited, he opened the kitchen’s linen, curtained, window, allowing the warm summer breeze of the morning to filter through his apartment. Outside, cars, scooters, and casketed bikes now populated all the surrounding streets, carrying the yelps and laughs of their drivers. A woman’s hearty chortle could be heard, greeting the morning with a cheap cigarette, whose smoke eventually found its way to Nick’s nose.
The espresso machine clicked to a stop, alerting Nick and bringing him to its immediate attention. He opened the cupboard above its small top and reached for a cup. After draining the watery, bean-ground, substance of his espresso, he wrinkled his nose, for he had forgotten to retrieve Veronica’s cup as well, again. Nick reopened the cupboard and gripped Veronica’s cup, setting it down on the counter with slight annoyance.
“Beep, beep, beeeeep,” the espresso machine cried, its repetitive alert signal blinking with red alarm. Nick smiled and placed his white, ceramic, cups under the espresso’s drain. The espresso was thick and murky, just the way he liked it. He smiled with content, and padded to his laptop and pair of glasses that awaited him on his rustic, grey, kitchen table. With his espresso in hand and his square, black eyeglasses adjusted on the rim of his nose, he clicked Microsoft Word 2010 to an open and began to write.
“Morning,” Veronica yawned, running her hands through her thick red hair and catching her nightgown’s silky strap before it could fall and reveal her intimates.
Nick paused, his fingers lifting and floating over the black keys of his keyboard for a moment. He slurped some of his espresso and cracked his neck, taking note of Veronica as she dragged herself to the espresso machine. As she pressed the shot button, his shoulders sagged and he leaned his elbows on the table’s surface.
“Morning,” he sighed, cracking his neck again.
“You’ll get arthritis if you keep doing that,” she retorted, slightly twisting her own neck.
The calm and cheery warmth of the morning felt as if it had seeped through the curtains of the kitchen window and back into the rising horizon of the city. The happy chatter and smell of cigarette smoke suddenly felt overwhelming. A summery gush of air pushed through the kitchen’s window, sending Veronica to close it with a great huff of annoyance. Nick stiffened.
“Your shots are ready,” Nick announced, watching the espresso’s two fine layers begin to mush into one pool of blackness on the surface of his partner’s cup. He cringed.
“Oh, right thanks. Have you seen our new neighbors? I think they’re American too,” Veronica replied, removing herself from the window.
“Nope, I haven’t.”
A brief silence passed as Veronica pulled a bottled smoothie and orange from the fridge. She cut the orange with deliverance, slicing through its orange crust with a relaxed sigh, as if it were relieving her of some sort of held-in stress. Nick began to type again, causing the kitchen to take an anxious air with the sound of his keyboards pitter-patter and the stinging scent of Veronica’s orange.
“What are you going to do today?” Veronica inquired, taking a seat across from Nick.
“I was going to write, finish-up a project for work, and then go on a run. Might switch up the last two. You?” Nick said without glancing from his screen, and pretending that he was completely focused on what was on its glowing surface.
“Oh, well, I was wondering if you would like to stay in for the day. Spend some time together? Maybe walk to the Forum later this afternoon? Or maybe the Vatican square?”
Nick didn’t respond, his ears catching the sound of Veronica swallowing a mouthful of her orange and a sip of her smoothie. He looked to the counter, to see that her espresso had been abandoned. Veronica pursed her lips, beginning to feel suffocated from Nick’s purposeful lack of interest.
“Nick, Nicky,” she said gently in attempt to snag his attention.
Nick continued to type. That is, Nick continued to pretend type. His fingers clacking nonsense onto his document.
“Nick. Will you please stop typing so we can talk,” Veronica pleaded, her round, green, eyes fogging with desperation.
“Alright,” Nick responded tensely, exiting out of his document, closing his laptop, and swallowing the flaky remnants of his espresso.
“We haven’t done anything with each other for a long time Nick. It bothers me. You have seemed distracted lately and, well, uninterested.”
“I’m sorry V, there’s just been a lot on my mind.”
“Nick. I feel like our relationship is stuck. I think it’s time that we made a decision. We’ve been living together since grad school and I think it’s time that we either parted ways, or, or, plan a wedding.”
“V, we don’t have the money for a wedd-”
“Don’t use that as an excuse Nick. We could start planning.”
Nick looked at Veronica, seeing obvious strain in her expression. They had been together for nearly eight years, having lived with one another half of that time. He frowned and removed his glasses, cleaning them slowly and thoughtfully with the edge of his shirt. When they had first met, and until fairly recently, he had loved Veronica, adored her. They had met at a party, as most did in college, and had ended up clicking. That’s what had happened, they had met, clicked, and decided to move in together four years later. Even having to move to Rome for Nick’s journalism job hadn’t separated them. Only six months ago, had Veronica mentioned the idea of marriage, Nick would have jumped on it. But now, on that mid-July morning sitting in their kitchen, Nick could only clean his glasses in response.
“Nick?” Veronica called hotly, scooting her chair away from the table’s edge and her voice echoing a slight air of panic.
“I don’t know V,” Nick sighed, folding his glasses slowly and carefully.
“You don’t know? You don’t know Nick?” hurt could be heard in Veronica’s voice as she stood, her chin slightly shaking with anger, confusion.
“Veronica, let’s just think about it okay? Maybe we just need a little break?”
“What? Are you saying that you can’t live with me anymore? Relationships are about working together. A little break Nick? A little break? No. It’s black and white Nick. I have given-up so many of my dreams to live with you. I’m not saying that living in Rome with the guy I thought I loved wasn’t one of them, but I had so many more.
Nick! We haven’t slept together in months. We’ve already had a break from one another! How much more of a break could we have? Unless, unless you mean that you want to just break-up?”
Nick stared at Veronica blankly, taken aback by her apparent frustration and the panic clearly present in her strained voice. He felt a wad of guilt begin to settle in his throat, he pushed himself from the table and walked to her side. She froze, looking sideways at the floor. Shouting could be heard outside, the kid on his scooter roaring back home below their window.
“V,” Nick whispered apologetically.
“Don’t call me that Nick.”
Silently, they stared at one another, until the jingle of Veronica’s cell could be heard from the apartment’s bedroom. They continued to stare at one another as Veronica backed out of the kitchen, than she turned her back and sprinted to her phone’s call. Nick crouched onto the kitchen floor, studying its austere tiles.
An hour later, Veronica had left to meet a friend for brunch, without as much as a nod of farewell. Nick pulled on his running cloths and ran out into the streets of Rome. They were busy, as they always were, with beeping car horns and shouts of both merriment and anger. Feeling cluttered and broken from his disrupted morning, Nick took to the allies, wanting to avoid people.
“What dreams, what other dreams could she of had?” Nick said to himself, receiving a confused glance from a glassy-eyed girl pinning her laundry to the line hoisted from her balcony.
Nick began to wander, running in whatever direction his Nikes led him. Saying goodbye to Veronica was something he didn’t want to do, something that any long-loyal and loving boyfriend hated to do. It wasn’t that he didn’t love Veronica anymore; he felt that maybe the lack of commitment was what had made him begin to shy away. Though he hadn’t really been shying away and they had stayed committed, as far as he knew.
The afternoon sun started to beat down on Nick’s back and he began to sweat profusely as he found himself running outside of Rome and towards the airport on a country road. Dirt rose from the gravelly ground and the long, naked trees lining the road cast lengthy shadows across his face. His legs began to ache and he could feel his lungs starting to heave more then they usually did. Slowly and tiredly, he closed his eyes, feeling the rocky, paved, surface underneath his feet with satisfaction.
Suddenly, loud clanking and yelps of warning filled Nick’s ears. His eyelids fluttered open with panic as, before he knew it, he was flung backward and whirl of powder-blue, sunflowers, and aviator sunglasses filled his vision. He stumbled and tripped onto his back, his head hitting the trunk of a tree and causing his vision to go black. A loud crash and roar of fallen metal filled his ringing ears.
“Oh I am so sorry,” a voice gushed, it’s tone frantic and of a genre of dialect only found in the northern Italian countryside.
Nick blinked and blinked and blinked, his espresso making its way back up into his mouth. Before him, a narrow, heart-shaped face was bent over him, its sunglasses pushed upon its dark-haired head. He squinted, the sun momentarily blinding him.
“Are you okay? Oh! I am so sorry, if only you would have listened to my warning! Americans. Or, well I assume you are. Only an American would do something so stupid. Running with their eyes closed. Stupid, stupid. Here, let me help you,” the girl muttered to herself, saying American in a somewhat, romanticized voice.
Nick pushed himself up, using the tree as support and the girl’s helping hand as standing leverage. Sunflowers, as if sent by the heavens, were gracefully scattered along the road, their pungent aura wrapping around him. The girl’s baby-blue scooter lay in the midst of the round flowers, heavily dirtied and dented. It was clear by her lack of injury that she had jumped-off before it had fallen.
“Thanks,” Nick thanked, eyeing the girl and her small figure.
She couldn’t have been older then twenty-three, for her face was still bright and youthful and her complete demeanor seemed to scream of innocence. Nick rubbed his eyes and cracked his neck, consciousness slowly coming back to him. He blinked harder, and eyed the girl again as she dashed to her scooter and began to inspect it. A sudden impulse that he had just stepped into A Roman Holiday and Audrey Hepburn was staring right into his soul, consumed him.
“Oh God,” Nick said at last, his self-regained, “Oh my God. S***. I am so sorry.”
Nick hurried to the girl’s aid, picking-up the sunflowers sharp stems and bending next to her as to help bring the scooter up to a wimpy stand. She shook her head, and began to swear in Italian, roughly snatching the sunflowers from Nick and placing them back in her scooters wicker basket. Her hair, which she had had neatly rounded into a bowed, bun that morning, had begun to fall back into her face as it always did. She clapped her hands and pushed the dirt from her knee-length skirt.
“Thank you,” she sighed after a moment of quiet inspection.
“Yeah. Sorry. I ran too far and was getting tired. I closed my eyes because I was tired, you know.”
Another moment of quiet inspection passed, the girl leading it in rubbing the dirt off of her bike.
“Where are you from?” Nick inquired without thought, seeing Audrey Hepburn flicker across the girl’s complexion once again.
“Why does it matter to you?” she snapped, swearing under her breath, “What you should be asking is how you can fix my brother’s bike! Look at it! It’s ruined!”
Nick stared openly at the little Hepburn, admiring her haughty stance and distressed expression as she gestured at the scooter. She stared back at him, her eyebrow raised with inquiry. Swallowing hard, as to push down the taste of his morning espresso, he folded his arms and walked around the bike.
“How about this, I will help you take it into the city and pay for the repairs,” Nick offered.
Veronica won’t be happy about this, another s----- expense, Nick thought out of habit, causing a sour taste to replace that of the espresso in his mouth, with little subtleness.
“There’s a kid who lives be my who has one, maybe he’ll know of a good shop,” Nick continued, remembering the kid who had been riding his earlier that morning.
The girl sighed, mulling Nick’s suggestion over in her head, though not for long. With a nod of her head she jolted the bike as to roll it towards Rome, but it refused to move. A stubborn squeak of resistance sang from its wheels as she tried again.
“Well, I guess we will have to have someone come get it,” she snapped with disappointment.
“Here, let’s just lean it against this tree,” Nick suggested, picking it up easily and placing it discreetly at a tree’s trunk.
“It better not get stolen, if it does, then you owe me a new bike,” the girl declared crossing her arms for a second, then succeeded into swift movements as to pull her golden-rimmed aviators over her eyes and gather her sunflowers into her arms.
“It’s a deal,” Nick responded with a bitter nod of his head.
They walked towards Rome somewhat awkwardly, Nick commenting on the weather and how many tourists had flooded into Rome’s streets so far that summer. The girl responded in curt, but friendly, responses, fidgeting with her sunflowers. Midafternoon approached, releasing burning rays from the height of the cloudless sky.
“We must turn here,” the girl interrupted as Nick had begun to discuss the remodeling of a church down the street from his apartment.
“Oh, er, okay?” Nick stuttered, following the girl as she led them to a sweet, vine covered cottage, something he had briefly noted on his run.
“I have to deliver these to my grandmother’s friend. It will only take a moment. She is a very nice lady,” the girl said quickly with a surprisingly gentle smile.
A stout woman in her late sixties appeared from the cottage’s quaint door, a wide smile across her face. She welcomed the girl in a healthy hug, smothering the sunflowers and cooing loud endearments in Italian. Nick popped his knuckles, waiting as patiently as he could.
“Boyfriend? Is this boyfriend? He is handsome!” the woman cackled with delight, gesturing at Nick.
Nick found himself flushing and could feel warmth flood into his ears, a thing Veronica always teased him about. As if shaking his head would rid his ears of their apparent burn, he shook his head violently, sending a deep chortle to sound from the woman. The girl spoke in quickly and eagerly in her native accent, explaining what had happened. With another thick embrace and word of endearment, the woman released the girl and reentered her home with her sunflowers.
“What a sweet woman,” the girl said softly, leading them away from the woman’s small home.
“Yeah, why did you bring her sun flowers?” Nick asked, noticing that the girl’s haughty and aggravated mood was melting into something much calmer and sweeter.
“My grandmother always sends her sunflowers. A thank you for something. I don’t know what, but something. They’ve always exchanged goods; I think it’s just simply a thanks.”
“Oh. So,” Nick breathed, taking interest in the girls good English, “You speak very good English.”
“Ha, must Italians do, we just choose not to speak it. English is so boring. There is nothing like speaking in a romantic language. Italian is my favorite,” the girl said this with a sense of great admiration and excitement.
“Do you know others?”
“Why of course! French, Spanish, Latin and I know a little Greek. Greek is not romantic though of course. Not at all.”
“Where did you learn all of these?”
“Schooling, my grandparents sent me to a convent for the first eight years of my schooling.”
“Oh, wow,” Nick complemented, beginning to feel underdressed and dirty next to the young linguist, “Do you know who Audrey Hepburn is by chance?”
“Audrey Hepburn? Audrey Hepburn,” the girl pondered aloud, “That name sounds very familiar.”
“Oh, well, you look a lot like her. My girlfriend Veronica would freak-out. She loves Audrey,” Nick paused, feeling a rush of anxiety run down his spine at hearing himself voice Veronica’s name.
“Is she beautiful?”
“No, well, no. I meant this Audrey Hepburn.”
“Oh! Oh, yeah. She’s cute. I think you would like her. Watch A Roman Holiday. Veronica loves it. It takes place in Rome and everything.”
“I will, though I don’t watch movies very often. So what brings you to Rome?”
“My job. I was offered a job from a newspaper for Americans who live in Italy. It was kind of my dream job so I had to take it.”
“Oh. You write then? I’ve always wished I could write well. I love to read. Though I prefer reading in French.”
“Yeah, yeah, you could say I’m a writer. I’m writing a book now. I don’t think you would like it though. It’s in English and I don’t think it’s classy enough for you, especially if you prefer reading in French,” Nick laugh, instantly feeling embarrassed at his latter comment by the confused look on her face.
“Classy?” the girl asked, clearly unsure of what the word meant.
“Just a phrase. It’s a compliment.”
“Oh, well, thank you,” the girl smiled in reply, showing a nice row of small square teeth.
“So do you have a boyfriend? Your grandmother’s friend there-” Nick started, but was interrupted by a pleasant laugh.
“Oh no! No! No! Me? No. I do not have a boyfriend. My grandmother wants me to have one soon though. She has my wedding planned.”
“Oh, well trust me, you should wait,” Nick advised, revisiting his and Veronica’s conversation that morning.
“I want to. Or just find someone who is older and knows what he is doing. Someone who isn’t too attached either. I like my freedom. How long have you been with your girlfriend?”
“Too long, I guess,” Nick mumbled, looking up at the pearly blue sky.
“Ah I see,” the girl sighed with pity, “Well, you will find the right one.”
“Yeah, though I thought she had been the right one for a long time.”
“Then why didn’t you ask her to marry you?”
“It was too soon, I guess. Well,” Nick paused, “Actually, I just didn’t feel ready until a few months ago, but I never acted on it. Then by this morning when we talked about it, I, I just, I don’t know.”
“That happens. My brother recently broke-up with her girlfriend. They had been together for ten years. Love is sweet but is best short I think. When you drag relationships out for too long without getting serious, like married I mean, than I think it just decays. It’s just another relationship. Marriage promotes security I think, if you truly love one another.”
Nick looked over at the girl with a slight expression of awe, impressed by her thoughts and wanting to know more of them. He smiled, feeling that what she had said had perfectly described what he had slowly begun to feel. She smiled back, putting her hands in the pockets of her skirt.
“You know a lot for not having a boyfriend,” Nick chuckled, spotting the first buildings of Rome filtering before them.
“Yes. Well, I’ve learned a lot from stories and my brother. You know what most fascinates me about the city?”
“What?” Nick answered with good-humor, feeling amused and somewhat at peace by the stranger girl’s side.
“That from this view, Rome looks like just another collection of old buildings. Yet, when you enter it, it becomes a giant of time. A mass city brimming with life. It’s like these first few building are hosting an invisible wall. A wall that once passed through, leads to a new world, but yet an ancient world, dressed in the disguises of time.”
“I,” Nick began, but stopped, unsure of how to answer such an intelligent and elegant description of Rome, “Are you sure you are not a writer? Because you should be one.”
“Thank you,” the girl laughed girlishly, “but I prefer to see and store my thoughts in my mind. Speak and remember how I saw it, not from what I have reflected upon paper or for what people want to hear.”
The girl smiled again and they entered the city.
Afternoon light had replaced the morning, reflecting upon the city with a green hue. They wandered at first, Nick purposefully choosing the longer route and dodging places Veronica might be, just in case she suspected something that wasn’t there. He watched as the girl’s eyes lit up at the busy world around her and he admired the brightness that enveloped her cheeks at the smell of gelato and at the whiff of a vender’s roasted chestnut stand. The girl who had been clearly upset and frantic about the crashing of her brother’s scooter had disappeared.
“Have you never been in Rome before?” Nick asked, taking note of her amazement.
“Don’t laugh,” she laughed, “I haven’t. Except to see the Vatican, but I have never seen the actual inside. Figuratively speaking, I have never truly passed that invisible wall I was talking about.”
“What? Really?” Nick gawked, surprised that such a natural, young, and intellectual Italian girl hadn’t been inside one of the most historic and famous cities that the world had to offer.
A man, dressed in bushels of roses and colorful flowers appeared from his shop, rushing to the girl with great excitement. They spoke in rapid Italian to one another, his round cheeks as red and crisp as blooming apples. She laughed at something he said and was passed a little, red, bud.
“Because you are beautiful,” the man exclaimed in broken English, then taking his leave to offer a flower to another pretty girl.
“Here,” Nick offered, plucking the bud from her fingers and placing it behind her ear, she blushed,
“Now you look exactly like Audrey Hepburn. We just need to get you some gelato,” Nick gushed enthusiastically, taking her hand and dragging her to the gelato shop on that corner.
“Are you sure?” the girl said politely, flattered by Nick’s apparent enthusiasm.
They entered the gelato store, Nick digging euros anxiously from his running pant’s pockets and eyeing the area for Veronica. She would snap if she saw this, hell, what am I doing, Nick thought wanting nothing more but to take the girl around Rome and show her all his favorite spots. He pondered, wondering if he was suddenly interested in the girl because he didn’t want to go home and face a break-up or if he was truly interested in her.
“Now, I will show you Rome,” Nick declared once the girl had received a tall cone of strawberry and chocolate gelato.
“Are you sure? Your girlfriend won’t mind? Oh, how I wish to see everything!” the girl stated with an excitement that rushed into Nick’s stirring feelings.
“She’ll be fine,” Nick lied.
Veronica was soon forgotten. The strangers jumped from historic spot to historic spot, being viewed as a perfectly happy couple from the eyes of Roman natives. Nick, not only forgot Veronica, but forgot how much he differed the girl in looks; her clean and nineteen-fifties apparel versus his sweaty running clothes that now contained a thin layer of dirt from the crash.
The afternoon began to sing, the yellow glow and green hue of the city growing deeper and into a fine golden hue. Nick began to feel young; the young he felt in his early college days when the excitement of girls who had turned into woman had filled him with curiosity and when dancing had been his alcohol. The girls face only seemed to brighten more and more as they crossed Rome’s oldest streets and wove in and out of the historic monuments that lit the city into a world of old and new.
“Well, I think we’ve seen must of the exciting things,” Nick sighed, somewhat wearily, “What’s been your favorite so far?”
“I like this,” she sighed, bending her elbows on the surface of a silver railing and resting her face in the palm of her hands.
Nick watched as she stared into the setting sun. They stood atop the Coliseum, both of them staring blindly and tiredly into the small view of the city that the Coliseum provided. Rome, though the Coliseum wasn’t the tallest of the buildings, looked rather small. Suddenly, the vast and ancient city looked tangible, its buildings glowing with a sense of red, repetition. It was then, that Nick realized how fickle life was, how extensive, yet bipolar life seemed to be. How short life was.
“I feel powerful up here,” the girl whispered in a reverent voice, “not powerful like Hitler or Napoleon, but in control.”
“Funny, I was thinking something on the same line,” Nick responded, sharing a smile with her turned profile.
A gentle silence passed between them, the hum of parties beginning, shops closing, and tourists exhaling with awe, rippling from below them.
“Well,” the girl breathed heavily, “My grandmother is probably very worried. Ha, and the scooter’s probably been stolen by now.”
“Oh s***, sorry,” Nick apologized, immediately feeling remorseful.
“It’s alright. My brother can fix it. I better get home.”
Nick shuffled his eyebrows, somewhat confused. If her brother could fix, then why did she come with me? Nick thought for a moment, and then shook his head, deciding that it didn’t matter. The day had been a good one.
“Do you want to go dancing?” Nick inquired, clearly not wanting the night to end.
The girl smiled sweetly, tucking the rose bud more securely behind her ear. Nick’s eyes widened, their soft brown coloring, deepening with want. Yet, despite the clearance in his look, the girl shook her head.
“Maybe another time,” she responded warmly.
“I’ll pay for dinner. We can do the river, than I promise, I’ll get you home. I’ll pay for a cab to take you home. I can send you a check too, for the bike.”
The girl’s smile widened, showing her teeth. All of the daylight had disappeared, being replaced with the soft colors of dusk. She looked out into the sinking sun once then back at Nick, the coloring bouncing off of her complexion.
“Alright, I am hungry and I haven’t been dancing before. It could be fun,” the girl didn’t have to speak any further.
Nick guided her tenderly down the Coliseum’s crumbling steps and led her to his and Veronica’s go-to dancing spot. Creamy river lights greeted them, the guard of the Vatican a growing shadow of turning night. Couples moved, their steps in the lazy rhythm of the river’s water and the classic keening of la vie en rose in an Italian adaptation. The heavy scent of ravioli and roasted lamb hovered from the dancing club’s small grill, inviting Nick and the girl to a steal table. They ate in silence, admiring the turns and graceful dips of the couples and friends stepping to the music’s tune.
“Would you do me the honor?” Nick requested, having finished his plate of roasted lamb and cup of scarlet red wine.
“Why, I think I will,” the girl stated whimsically, allowing Nick to take her hand and lead her to the cobble-stoned dance square.
Slowly and easily they danced, their steps familiar and genuine. The dusk longed turned to night, encircled them, the reflections of the lanterns engaging them in calm movement. Suddenly, as if she had done it a million of times, the girl dipped her head onto his shoulder and he carelessly wrapped her arms around her little waist. She smelled like the sunflowers from earlier, a scent that briefly blended into a darker smell, the smell of perfectly burnt espresso beans.
The night came to an end as all good nights do. With his arm around her waist, Nick walked the girl to the nearest cab, realizing that he had run out of change. He bent into the driver’s window and argued in Italian, giving him his address so he could give him payment. The girl intervened in more comprehendible Italian, making an agreement with the cabby.
“Thank you,” the girl thanked, her sweet smile stretching genuinely across her face.
“No, thank you, it was a good night, a good day,” Nick stumbled over his words has he said this, suddenly looking down at his Nike’s orange laces.
“Yes,” she replied, opening the cab’s door to calm the cab driver, who had begun to pant with impatience.
“Where should I send the check?” Nick asked, preparing his mind to memorize her address.
“Don’t worry about it,” the girl’s accent was very distinct as she replied, as if she were reminding Nick that she belonged to Italy, that she was not a recreation of Audrey Hepburn.
“But,” Nick started.
“It is alright,” she interrupted.
“Alright,” Nick sighed smugly, assisting her into the cab’s blackened interior.
“Goodbye,” she bided, without the slightest sense of sadness or want to stay.
“Goodbye,” Nick smiled back, allowing her to close the door.
The cab driver roared his cab to a start and began to bumble away. Nick watched his heart beating rapidly against his chest. Something in him wanted to shout, to run after her, to ask her her name, but he didn’t. Instead, and for a very long, he stood and stared blankly down the road that the girl had disappeared down.
The moon rose into the sky, bringing a wispy gathering of clouds over the city. Nick wondered home, his hands stuffed in his pockets and his mouth craving espresso, ass to remind him of all that had passed that day. He passed his apartment three times before he finally entered.
His steps were heavy has he climbed the apartment’s stairwell, his fist tight as he opened the door to his humble home. Inside, as he entered, he could hear the voices of a vintage film radiating from his and Veronica’s TV. He cringed as he recognized the film, but then smiled, his afternoon with the Audrey Hepburn look alike, replaying in his mind. The sound of Veronica’s light snore entered the apartment’s entry way, as if to drag Nick back into reality. He cracked his neck and, with a stretch of his shoulders, moved towards his espresso machine.