This is a one-shot for A Drop Of Romeo challenge. Please review and vote, would be greatly appreciated.
"We are going to Verona," the girls chattered by my ear, while I was trying to enjoy the free breakfast included with my stay. "I wanted to see the Juliet's balcony where Romeo professed his love to her." I heard their excited squeals. "Should I wear a skirt or shorts? My legs look better in a skirt." I strangled a groan of annoyance. You are seventeen for god's sake. You look great in anything. "Shorts. It's the thing."
I finally could not take it anymore. "When are you guys leaving?"
"After breakfast. We are catching a train. Do you want to come with us? It will be so much fun."
"No, thank you. I still have a lot to see in Venice."
"Well then, it was nice to meet you." They got up quickly and their constant stream of nonsensical babble moved toward reception where they accosted a young man behind the counter. I scowled.
I should feel pity for him, but he is as rude and as unhelpful at the rest of the lot. I don't know why they all act so superior toward the guests, as if doing us a favor. They get paid for the stay and it's not cheap. Nothing is cheap in Venice. I give a sideways look at the guy, who is keeping his lips taut and gaze fixed above the talking bubbleheads. I smirk. Like I said, he is not working here for free. For some reason, I feel entertained now, when my nosy acquaintances are not so close by.
I ran into them last night in the lobby. I had just arrived and was tired like hell and frustrated to no end, especially when met with an unfriendly "welcome" that sounded more like "could not you come in any later and bother me?" from the man behind the desk. They were from Russia. I was dumb enough to say hi to them because for a second there in my delirious state I thought it would be a good idea to speak with somebody in my native tongue, maybe, make some friends to see the sights together. Regret came quickly and I was thankful that I had a legitimate excuse of needing to sleep.
The guy behind the counter must have noticed my shameless stare and switched his attention to me, his eyes not very clear behind the lenses of his glasses.
Well, I'm wearing glasses myself, sometimes it helps to keep the strangers out of you soul, especially the nosy ones who like to stare into your eyes. Those Italians sure love to flirt! I'm used to it by now. The remarks, the whistles, the eyes trying to look into mine too intimate for my taste. By I am not above a challenge. A stare contest can be won, if I just look through him and imagine something that is of actual interest to me.
The guy does not seem to realize he met his match. He speaks to the girls in a lazy low rumble, with a distinct accent, even thicker than their Russian one. Their English is mediocre at best, but he has good command of grammar. I smile, unconscious of my reaction.
I continue with our eye lock, my eyes begin to water and vision gets blurry. Am I allowed to blink? What are the rules of this staredown? I decide that I need to endure and don't blink, instead I watch pretty amorphous shapes and color circles that start flashing; I just keep my gaze set in the same direction, although at this point, I see nothing of what is actually in front of me, only the colorful mosaic of my imagination...
"You are not leaving with your friends?" I almost jump from surprise and jerk my head to the side. I screw my eyes and blink away the tears that burn my poor abused eyesockets. I let out a soft groan and take my glasses off, rubbing my eyes for a second; then I put them back on and decipher the image in front of me.
He is smiling. He has a mischievous smile and dark eyes. I guess he is what you would call a typical Italian: olive skin, dark thick hair with a slight wave, sexy one- day stubble and a flirtatious grin that all of the men have probably from birth, since I've never seen one without it.
"They are not my friends." I retort and smile back, not to be rude.
"Good," he exhales and I see now a genuine smile with more warmth in it. The smirk is wiped off his face and he pulls the chair and sits across from me. "How long are you staying?" He asks as if it is normal just to start a conversation with a complete stranger, while invading their breakfast table without invitation.
Again, not to be rude, I reply, "I check out tomorrow. Today is a full day of sightseeing."
He nods and leans back making himself more comfortable. I stare at him, incredulous.
"I'm sorry, but can I help with you something?" I decide to finally address what is obviously a big elephant in the room between us.
"I don't work here." He clarifies, as if it is something that changes anything. "I'm just helping out my uncle. I am a student at the university, architecture, actually. Do you know that one nearby?"
I shake my head negatively.
"I can show you Venice, if you'd like. Italians are not very friendly, do they?" He lets out a soft laugh and my eyes widen against my best judgment.
"Why?" I blurt out.
"I have time and you only have one day," he explains calmly and then grins at me with a flirtatious note, the one I thought was already extinguished from his face.
I harden my expression and try to be as neutral as possible. "Thank you, but I already made plans." I don't have time to flirt with a sexy stranger when I have a whole beautiful city to cover by feet, which will hurt by the end of the day as it is. I can't be worrying about how to look or what I do or say, I am a tourist on a sightseeing mission. Then I wonder why not?
"OK then," he shrugs and gets up. Only now I realize that the annoying girls are gone and it's just the two of us in the little breakfast area.
He is good looking. Not very tall, but at least around six feet one, which is perfect, actually. He has a nice figure and I'm really starting to reconsider. "Wait," I call out and he stops, as if expecting me to change my mind. "It is so sudden. I feel uncomfortable to just do it out of the blue. I don't have money to pay for a private guide, but I could maybe, show you around Los Angeles, if you ever in US?"
Surprisingly, he does not laugh at my suggestion and nods. "OK. Well, I'll be around, when you are ready."
I dash upstairs with a different kind of excitement that I had before. It's always fun to make new friends on travels, especially hot Italian architecture students.
I've been doing this for a while. It gets lonely and in each city there is always somebody I buddy up with. Not often, but sometimes, it is fun and adds to the experience.
I look over the clothes I picked for today. Since I don't have anything better, I slid into my jeans and the t-shirt I picked up in Alhambra. It is my favorite travel companion. I arrange all of my daily travel essentials in the backpack and stuff my phone into the pocket. Now I think I'm ready. Before exiting, I check my hair one more time – my curls got frizzy, so I smooth out the sticking out strays with water and some precious curl conditioner. If he does not appreciate my hair, it is his loss.
He is not there. In fact, there is noone at the front desk waiting for me or for anyone for that matter. I visibly deflate. I think I had just fallen a victim to the lamest prank ever, but I've got no time to sulk. Venice awaits!
"Hey," I hear his voice from the back, when I'm already one foot out the door. "I said I'd take you. Have you changed your mind already?"
"You weren't there." I shrug nonchalantly. He could not possibly have imagined that I was actually excited about him?
. . .
Have you ever met a boy that was smooth and sucked you in with bitter-sweetness into his dense and intense aroma of being a boy? Like a well-prepared cup of hot fresh chocolate, made from the scratch at the boardwalk café in Venice.
Well, I have. Don't ask me about the city. You can read about it in guidebooks and find plenty of pictures and videos on the internet.
Don't even ask me about the boy. I can't really tell you anything about him besides the fact that he enchanted me. He had the quality to him akin to the city where I spent one of the most unforgettable days of my life: the labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys, the web of channels cutting the small piece of land into tiny patchworks of neighborhoods. Every corner had a story to tell. Every house had a secret to reveal. The food smelled delicious. Everything was expensive, but you had no choice, but to spend the money. Like I had no choice but spend myself on him. Spend my thoughts and sudden desires on him.
We wandered holding hands. I don't even remember how we started doing that. And then we sat on a small bridge watching gondolas pass underneath, and he hugged me. He bought me dinner, scraping his wallet empty to pay for the wine and the fish and refused to listen about me paying for my share. I insisted, knowing well, that it was just a courtesy on my part, that he was a man and he was treating a woman to a meal.
And when the stars began to dot the darkened sky, he moved to be closer to me and whispered in my ear, "Do you like Venice?"
I turned, our faces - outlines against the horizon, our lips - the point of connection; we kissed. That's how I learned about his sweet taste. "I love Venice. What's not to like?" I answered breathlessly.
And then he took my hand and led me along the long and winding system of canals to a house, opened the creaky door and invited me in without actually asking if I wanted to. And I did. I came in. I came into his house, where everything smelled of old age and history and narrow corridor was lined with floor to ceiling bookshelves and a purry shadow of a cat rubbed against my leg, passing me before disappearing into the door crack into the kitchen. "Where are you taking me?"
He was going to seal the deal, I thought. That was his method of seduction. And I fell a willing a prey. I had to go, I had to leave before one day of sightseeing turned into a night of possible regrets in the following morning.
"I am not that kind of person." That was all he said to me. Making it my choice.
We kissed on his bed, surrounded by books and photographs and old lithographs of the city on the water. The stale stench of the canal was drifting through the window, reminding me that all of this was just a mirage, a masquerade of Venice.
We talked. We talked about him and why he chose architecture, and about me and why I loved to travel so much. Then he made me tea and we drank, sitting cross-legged on his bed.
"I have to go back to the hotel."
"Because I paid for it and I have to check out tomorrow. I am yet to pack."
"Stay with me. Don't go. I think I'm falling in love with you."
I stared at him. Then I kissed him.
I never left.