Home > Roman Crazy (The Broads Abroad #1)(9)

Roman Crazy (The Broads Abroad #1)(9)
Author: Alice Clayton, Nina Bocci

We took off again into the crowded streets, our arms still linked as we threaded through everyone else out and about on this gorgeous night.

We finally stopped when we came upon a gentleman sitting on a step in front of a café strumming a guitar. Daisy greeted him by name. It was such a quintessential European moment: random older man, guitar, café. I half expected Robert DeNiro to slide alongside of me and throw his arm over my shoulder. With a kiss on both cheeks, she said, “Ciao, Bruno, this is Avery, my friend from America I told you about.” She waved her hand for me to join her.

The café owner was older, tufts of white wispy hair sticking out from all over his head and kind eyes that sparkled gold in the streetlamp. His gray shirt was smattered with crumbs from the bread he had just bitten into. “Buona sera,” he said, pulling me in for a few kisses and an extralong hug.

“I bet everyone is here already,” Daisy said excitedly, walking through the street seating and into the restaurant.

Begging off from the owner, I joined her breezing through the inside, past the dining guests, clanking plates, and busy servers and out the back door to a courtyard that opened up to the star-filled sky, endless and breathtaking.

Maybe it was Daisy’s comments from earlier, or maybe it was that phantom limb feeling happening again, but my hand flexed and I wanted to drop into a chair and sketch right away. No landscape, hell, no anything had hit me with such urgency like that in years. Daisy was right, I needed to find a store for materials. I made a deal with myself then and there that I would find one and buy supplies. Even if it was just a handful of pastels and a notebook and I didn’t use them. I would at least have them.

Walking to the outer wall, I slid my fingers down the rough, peachy exterior. Smudges of chalky residue dusted over my fingertips.

Oh yeah, I would totally use them.

Ivy climbed the light colored brick walls and disappeared over the edge. Thick bunches of vibrant purple bougainvillea danced over the opposite wall. But it was the stars twinkling above that mixed with the fat, clear round bulbs of fairy lights that drew my eyes to the table full of people.

They were rowdy, so electric in their chattering that they didn’t even realize we approached. As a way to announce our presence, Daisy plucked a glass of red wine from someone’s hand. She drained it in a few gulps and laughed.

The table roared along with her. I hung back a bit while she was enveloped in hugs and pecks on the cheek from her friends. These were people she worked with every day and yet they cheered and loved up on her as if they hadn’t seen her in years. The last dinner that I went to at the club, we had air kisses and handshakes. I couldn’t remember the last time I hugged a friend in Boston.

“This is Tommaso,” she said, pulling me by the hand to a raven-haired man about my height, “and this is my friend Avery.”

“He’s a massive flirt,” Daisy explained, pinching his cheek. “He’ll be half in love with you by the end of dinner.”

He nodded in agreement.

“This is Sandeep, Iris, and Lewa. Architect, architect, engineer. Wicked smart, all of them.” I loved that her Boston accent still poked through even in the heart of Italy. “They’re working on a project with me since, gosh, what, January?”

She bounced through each person at the table with a cheeky anecdote for each. These two are horizontally involved, this one is dealing with a very long-distance relationship with an astrophysicist in Alaska. It was a veritable United Nations, each the top of the fields from all over the world. My mind was spinning trying to remember each person, where they were from originally, how long they’d be in Rome before winging off to another job site. An image flashed through me in that instant, an image of me sitting at this table, but not as a guest. As a part of whatever fabulous global life these people were living, full of excitement and opportunity and ability to go anywhere, do anything that they’d worked their asses off to get. If my life hadn’t veered off course, could I have a seat at this table? Or some other equally awesome table? Where would I be? Maybe London? Maybe Paris? Even if it was still Boston, I would have done something.

We circled the table and each person stood, introducing themselves and welcoming me to Rome. I listened intently, focusing on each of their names, their jobs, answering their questions as best I could about how long I’d be in town, what I planned to do while I was here. Head spinning, I let Daisy pull me toward the end of the table.

“Come on, we’re down here,” she said, gesturing to the empty seats near a couple at the end, wrapped around each other and totally oblivious to anything else.

I draped my purse on the back of my chair and Daisy sat next to the guy, poking him playfully in the ribs.

“Hey, mind coming up for air a sec?” She laughed, hitching a thumb at the couple.

Pulling out the chair, I began to sit when the man turned.

It was one of those slow-motion movie moments.

“Marcello,” I gasped, eyes locked with his, realization dawning on his face as I sank down onto the chair.

And totally missed.

MILESTONE EVENTS IN YOUR LIFE are linked with certain emotions. Some are so strong and powerful that you’re almost transported back to that particular period in time.

Glee: my first art lesson at four. Even at such a young age, I got a rush of giddy anticipation when I picked up that beautifully sharpened pencil.

Embarrassment: at my ballet recital when I was eight, I grand jeté’d right into the piano. I can’t hear the “Waltz of the Snowflakes” without breaking out in hives.

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