I vow to never do this again, but I made some changes while rereading this chapter, including a name change of the main character. Sorry... I just wasn't convinced. Hope you enjoy it regardless!
"I'm here, yes I arrived safely…the flight was long but I slept most of it…I will call you later if not tomorrow…we went over this…okay…love you too, bye."
I had just gotten off the phone with my mother; the poor woman was a worried mess. I guess she had every reason to be; I don't know how I'd feel if my daughter traveled to Europe by herself. But this was the chance of a lifetime. In my hand, I held a 6 day travel pass of a train ride throughout Europe. I had just turned 21 and this was the ultimate gift I could ever give myself.
My love of photography inspired me to make this trip. Ever since I was a young teenager, I had collected innumerable clippings of pictures taken in France, Italy, London and other places in Europe. Now years later I had 2 binders full of all these images, and there was no other possession I treasured most.
Today I stood in the most mesmerizing train station I had ever seen, in Italy. Everything looked so foreign and majestic; from the columns to the people and the signs. My only regret was that my best friend wasn't able to come with me; however that wouldn't hinder me from my adventure.
I rolled my small suitcase, as I searched for the right terminal. Because I had only a certain amount of time before boarding, I couldn't set off to explore just yet, otherwise there would have been so much to see here in Rome. Then again, I could always do it on the way back.
The tour included: 1 night in Venice, then a full day's travel through the scenic Italian Dolomites and into Austria; 2 nights in Paris, followed by one whole day in London and on the way back I had free range to stop wherever I pleased. But first I had a 6 hour ride to get to Venice; I didn't mind it since it was almost 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Leaving me plenty of time to take a nap and search through my magazines to find where to dine tonight.
I reached this burgundy monstrous train; I don't think I've ever seen one that big. They sure didn't have them like that back in South Carolina. I settled in my seat, with my ticket damp from my sweaty hands. Not able to brush off this notion that I was about to take off in this rocket ship-like locomotive. I was determined to not even blink; fearing that I would miss but one second.
In my mind I ran through the checklist of my belongings, making sure I hadn't forgotten anything, not that it would make a difference now. At least I knew I had the most important articles, like my passport, the right currency and vital toiletries. I made an effort to pack light, which being a young woman, is considered unheard of.
Since I have an obsession with summer dresses, I rolled a couple into my bag. I love the way I feel when I wear them; they're light and fresh, flattering and super easy to pack. I also brought a few tank tops, a pair of shorts and wore my only set of comfortable black sandals.
I was looking forward to the beautiful weather, hot days and cool nights; one of the main reasons why I booked this trip in April. Still I brought my gray jacket just in case, due to my recent short haircut, my shoulders shivered to the faintest draft. Not that I regret cutting my blonde locks, because the change was that much sweeter.
The speaker's warned of the last call; I stared out of my window seat to see if there were any potential passengers. Then there appeared this one fellow who ran in just in a nick of time, who so happened to sit in my same row by the other window, facing the opposite direction. Incognito with his black cap pushed all the way down and his wide sunglasses, I wondered how he could even see where he was going.
I continued to gaze outside, doe-eyed and anxious. I wished it all to begin, but it already had; I was just set on seeing something else besides chunks of heavy metal and endless signs to the destinations that I wanted to be at this present time. Which reminded me, I needed to take out my camera and have it ready.
Suddenly I felt the tug of the brakes release, the clacking sounds against the rails went from a subtle whisper to a stampede of clangs and clashes. Yet it didn't bother me; like music to my ears, as my heart pounded steady with the increasing speed of the train. I was giddy, biting on my thumb nail. Worried if the conductor didn't collect my ticket soon, the ink would leave an imprint in my palms.
Finally, as if I had called him with my thoughts, the conductor came to collect my voucher.
"Thank you Miss. Phillips, enjoy your trip." He smiled.
"Oh I will!" I uttered.
"Thank you Mr. Renzullo, enjoy your trip." He then said to the mysterious passenger.
It started off with the simplest view of the trees and houses; still I was so fascinated by it all. Just to be in another country in a different continent; those trees looked like gold to me.
After several minutes, I reclined in my chair, just soaking it all in. My dream was now a reality; I wished everyone could experience this at some point in their lives. The soothing motion of the train rocked me right in to a peaceful deep sleep.
Awoken later by the cries of a toddler claiming the need to go potty, I smiled and began to stretch in my seat. I felt like a princess staring out of my whimsical castle window. As I glanced around the train cart, to my surprise it wasn't very full. A few people were scattered all around, not wanting to be disturbed. This kind of ride didn't call for that; everyone seemed to be enjoying the privacy of their own little bubble.
Including the mysterious gentleman to my far left, who no longer wore his disguise. He now appeared to be engaged in his thick brown paperback. If I had to take a guess I'd say it looked like one of those compact history books. Amused by my little game, I continued to guess other things about this intellectual traveler.
I figured he was around his mid-to late twenties, he didn't look American, so maybe he was a student, no a teacher. And perhaps he was on his way to visit his beautiful French girlfriend, where by the end of the day, they'd dine on a candlelit balcony that over saw La Tour Eiffel. Sigh…I almost got too carried away.
While I was stuck on the balcony dinner scenario, I hadn't noticed that my glossy eyes remained glued to my protagonist, and he had just looked up from his book. He gave me a curious stare while a tiny curve arose from the side of his mouth. I felt as though he had just read my thoughts, as I shifted to face the window instead.
I still studied him from the corner of my eye, but was too embarrassed for some reason to make eye contact. Great, just what I needed awkwardness for the remaining 4 hours of my ride. I took out my tourism magazines to distract myself. But now that I was aware of his presence, and that he was peeking at me over his book, there was no way that my mind could ignore it.
I hated feeling nervous of what I was doing. Knowing that my every move was being watched; where I put my hands and how I crossed my legs. I felt so foolish, convinced this was all in my head. I resulted to simply looking out the window for now.
"Miss, excuse me Miss."
I turned my head not knowing that the gentleman was speaking to me. I answered with a half-smile.
"I couldn't help wonder if this was your first time here … in Europe?" He asked politely.
Hmm … I wouldn't have guessed that he spoke English so well. His voice was deep but kind. I shook my head yes, not that I didn't want to speak, but I was still recovering from what happened earlier. I could tell that he sensed my bashfulness, as he persisted to make conversation.
"I'm Servantes, and you…"
Decisions, decisions; I was put on the spot not knowing if I wanted to share my name with this stranger. He seemed friendly enough and I thought a few hours of harmless chit-chat couldn't hurt.
His eyes opened at the sound of my name.
"That's a lovely name."
I let out a short and quiet half- hearted chuckle.
"Are you from here?" I asked.
"Your English is perfect though."
"I did spend a couple of years in New York."
"Oh, that explains it."
Slowly I readjusted in my chair, turning now towards him. I double and triple checked that the bottom half of my beige collard dress was spread out evenly over my knees; I didn't need a humiliating moment like that to ruin my day.
I knew he felt the approachable vibe that I was now giving off, as I watched him stand up, with his book and small tan leather back pack, and make his way over. Before getting too close, he pointed at the empty seat across from me, as if to ask for permission to join me. Good thing I did, since he already had gone 90% of the way.
The rows on the train consisted of 8 seats, 4 on both sides of the isle. He played it safe by sitting next to the isle instead of by the window directly in front of me; which I greatly appreciated. My eyes than fell on his book cover, I smiled as I had guessed right.
"Are you a teacher?"
"Me? No, just brushing up on my history for pleasure."
Well that was strike number one, and I seriously doubted he was a student. So what else could he be? Now that I had a better view of him, I noticed he was devastatingly handsome. His skin was tanned like he had spent many days on the beach, which would lead me to see why he had such vibrant sandy blonde hair. And what was even more alluring was the contrast of his aqua colored eyes against his golden face.
"What brings you here?" He finished.
Clearly changing the subject, otherwise he would have explained why he wasn't a teacher and what he really did. But I wasn't going to pry.
"I've actually been planning this trip for as long as I can remember. It's sort of my birthday present to myself." I grinned nervously.
"Oh wow, Happy Birthday then. I'd say this would be a hard present to top for the upcoming years. You look young though…"
"Yeah, I get that a lot. But I've officially turned 21." I said proudly.
"That is a monumental turning point. Are you a photographer?" He asked glancing over at my camera.
"I hope to be a good one someday. I love photography."
"You strike me as an artist. And you've certainly come to the right place. You have miles and miles of wonderful sites to capture at your fingertips. I'm sure you'll love it." He assured me.
"Oh yes, my little heart is about to explode from all the excitement! I don't even know where to begin once I get to Venice."
"I recommend you do a little exploring away from your regular tourist trap, you get a better feel of the culture that way. But do it in the morning, for your safety of course."
"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind."
For the following half hour, Servantes shared some interesting facts about Venice and its history. I only wished my history teacher gave class as stimulating as he did. It was such a rare sight, a man that good looking with so much knowledge. I soon grew restless in wanting to know his age; maybe he just looked way younger than he really was.
"Seeing as how we are only half way there, would you like to visit the snack cart with me?"
I nodded as we stood up.