The next morning brought rain, prompting Victoria to stay in bed a little while longer. She listened to the water tap on the window and the sound of bicycle wheels and sandals splashing through puddle dotted roads.
After a hot bath, Victoria stepped over to the window and peered outside. By this time the rain had stopped, but her mind seemed fixed on the memory of her encounter the day before.
She quickly shook off the feeling of curiosity, which she often referred to as childish. Besides Victoria was determined to keep the promise she made to herself the night before. So she threw on a light jacket in case the rain would later return and headed out into Pisa.
She boarded an excursion bus into Rome. She had always wanted to visit the majesty of God’s earthly post. After the bus ride, Victoria spent several hours walking through Rome, snapping pictures of precious landmarks. She stood in awe at the striking emotion cast by the size of the great Coliseum, where Julius Caesar and the Romans witnessed fierce battles. Victoria took a walk through the Imperial Forums, the historical center of the city where the Temple of Peace stood in ruins. She later marvelled at the proficient architecture of the Pantheon, built 1800 years earlier by the Emperor Hadrian. Italy, without a doubt, carried an engaging presentation of its exciting history.
The last and most personally important stop for Victoria was the Vatican. There she spent a long time wandering through St. Peter’s Square, admiring mankind’s manifestation of faith in Christ. The entire time in the Vatican, she felt connected to everything around her. It was soothing and peaceful.
Victoria thought about her family on the other side of the world. She remembered specific events growing up, most notably the laughter of playful family times. She remembered the day she left home to pursue her career and live on her own. Her parents cried for her. They loved and supported her. Their little girl had grown to become a beautiful, caring and respected woman. They had done well, for their daughter Victoria always kept in touch and always helped them at a moment’s notice.
Looking at the Basilica, Victoria said a short prayer and gave thanks for all the wonderful opportunities and successes in her life. The most inspiring thing about Victoria was that she had always been a person of sound mind, which was one of her most valuable qualities.
As the afternoon turned into evening, the pleased but tired tourist boarded the bus back to her hotel in Pisa. On the ride back, the Italian music played on the drive to Rome was replaced with an arrangement of more recognizable music at the request of one of the passengers. Looking through the window at the scrolling countryside, Victoria heard a familiar song over the speakers. She smiled and sang along in her head to one of her favorite songs.
I will take you by the hand, show you the way, for my heart believes in you…
Charles London was one of her favorite singers. The personality he injected into each song reflected his adaptability, a personal quality Victoria took pride in. The singer could be tranquil and emotional one minute, then hard hitting and passionate the next.
The bus finally arrived at the hotel and Victoria stepped off and headed up to her room. She was famished. On the way past the front desk, she stopped and asked the clerk if she could get a cab in twenty minutes to take her back to the promenade by the ocean to seek out another fantastic restaurant for dinner. The clerk nodded and told her that he would call her room once the cab had arrived.
After a quick shower, Victoria slipped into a comfortable and light sundress. She pinned part of her hair up, hoping to feel the breeze off the ocean during her walk that warm evening. On went a pair of comfortable sandals and she headed down to the waiting cab.
Victoria was in love with Italy. She had been to quite a few places on earth, but no vacation had immersed her as deeply in culture, history and intrigue.
Intrigue was, in fact, one of her fears. It was her double edged sword. Although it brought her excitement, she found it childish. Victoria considered intrigue to be a slightly open door, with an unclear picture of what lay beyond. By not being able to see what lay ahead, she often felt anxious and uncomfortable. She knew of friends who embraced intrigue, eager to find what lay ahead. But to Victoria uncertainty, or anything which she could not grasp by means of careful calculations and proven theories, often led to shaky outcomes. At times, this hindrance would keep Victoria from enjoying spontaneity in her life. It was one of the reasons for this trip.
Victoria knew that personal growth was necessary. Of course, a quick love affair in Italy was not what she had in mind. Victoria closed her eyes, willing herself to not think about him. What the hell is wrong with me, anyway? she angrily mused.
In minutes, the cab rolled swiftly down Via Tullio and Victoria could see the ocean once again. She travelled further down the road than the day before. This was far enough she thought and then signaled the driver to stop.
“Grazie,” she said tipping the cabby, and exited onto the promenade.
Although she didn’t want to take long to find a place to eat, Victoria couldn’t help but walk further and further along, inhaling the delicious scents emerging from each restaurant on the strip. Finally, she wandered into a pizzeria and consumed a generous amount of authentic Italian pizza from the establishment’s beautiful wood fired oven. She could not get over the flavor of Italian food, from sweet to spicy and completely delicious. Victoria was certainly eating like a queen during her vacation.
After dinner, she walked back along the promenade and window shopped. She entered the odd store and looked over trinkets and souvenirs. A few establishments later, she came upon an outdoor bar of sorts where she decided to give her feet a rest and enjoy a glass of wine.
Sitting at the bar, she ordered a white Trebbiano and returned her attention to the ocean. She spent the next half hour sipping and listening. The crash of the Tyrrhenian Sea against the breakwater became a slow rolling symphony to her ears. The evening was beautiful, and after another cup of wine, Victoria enjoyed a few more steps north on Via Tullio before calling a cab.
A few minutes later, Victoria neared the Ristorante Cliffe. She instantly remembered the palatial meal she enjoyed there. Perhaps she would decide to return there tomorrow for an equally satisfying lunch.
Victoria looked out at the water to behold the sunset. In her line of sight, she saw the cement bench where she had conversed with her first real acquaintance in Italy, and her eyes quickly focused on a man who now sat there.
It was Mateo! Victoria’s heart skipped a beat and without thinking, she turned away and resumed the intense struggle that gnawed at her mind the night before.
Victoria just walk away! she sternly told herself. She couldn’t move her feet which felt anchored to the road. Victoria was mystified by the fact that she didn’t want to leave, in fact she wanted to do exactly what her feelings desired and talk to Mateo.
What? This is crazy! I do not do things like this! Are you kidding, Victoria? It’s just talking, for heaven’s sake! I think I can just talk to the guy! She yelled at her inner self.
Victoria took a deep breath and attempted to muster up her skills of cold calculation. Ok, girl, so you like this guy. True, you’ve only known him for a few hours and yes, the feelings are ridiculously intense. But you’re only in Italy for another few days and you’ll be gone. It’s just talking.
All of a sudden, Victoria felt a firm hand on her shoulder, causing her to yell and swiftly turn around.
Victoria felt all of the air in her lungs leave her body and for the first time in her life, she didn’t know what to say.
“Hey, how are you?”
“I’m fine. It’s nice to see you again,” she replied, hoping he wouldn’t hear the slight tremor in her voice. All she could seem to focus on was the beautiful brown of his eyes. Did she notice that yesterday?
“Have a seat.” He gestured to the bench. “Where is your Vespa? Don’t tell me it’s flooded again,” he remarked.
“No no. I gave it back. I only rented it for the day.”
“Why would you... Oh! Are you not from here?”
“No,” Victoria replied. “I’m here on vacation. Just taking in Italy, It’s so beautiful. Actually, it’s amazing that I’ve seen you a second time. What a coincidence. Honestly, what’s the chance I’d see you in the exact same place twenty four hours later?” They both chuckled.
“Actually, I spend many evenings on this bench in the nice weather.” He looked out at the ocean and nodded to Victoria.
“To most people, it’s just the sky, but to me the sunsets are more beautiful than anything I care to look at. Each time I see the sun go down, I look for new detail in the sky, in the clouds.”
“Wow. I’ve never thought of that before,” replied Victoria. Her unease was quickly dissipating and she felt herself becoming engrossed in this interesting man’s words.
They both gazed out at the water for perhaps a minute in silence, but it felt far longer. As Mateo continued to look out into the blue, Victoria lost the struggle raging inside and turned her eyes to Mateo. She couldn’t believe he was more handsome than yesterday. The sun was reflected in his eyes and the setting sun cast a shadow on his face, defining its striking detail. This man wasn’t handsome, she thought, he was beautiful.
As the sun crept below the horizon, Mateo turned to Victoria and asked her a question.
“How are you getting home?”
“I’m going to grab a cab in a few minutes.”
“Don’t spend your money, Victoria. Let me drive you back.”
Victoria paused, accepting the fact that she didn’t want to say goodbye just yet, so she replied.
They boarded the Ducati once again and Mateo took Victoria back to her hotel in no time. After thanking him once again, Victoria started toward the hotel doors. She stopped in midstride when she heard Mateo’s voice behind her.
“Hey, tomorrow is my day off and I was wondering, would you like me to show you around a few places?”
Victoria paused once again. She was again unsure...but only once more, she would throw caution to the wind.
“Sure. I’ll be up at eight.”
“I’ll be here at nine. See you then.” His eyes crinkled in a smile before he whispered, “Good night Victoria.”
Waving him off, she suddenly noticed how very tired she was and did not waste time heading to bed. She pulled up the covers and snuggled in, but after a couple of minutes she realized she could not meet her slumber. Annoyed, she lay on her back trying to assess why she couldn’t sleep.
Quickly, she realized that it was the notion of how she felt about Mateo, the mysterious man who arrested her curiosity with the luminous depth of his brown eyes.
I can’t believe how much I keep thinking about this guy, she pondered, now staring out the window into the night.
Victoria hated the thought of analyzing the effects of emotion. It warped her judgment. It was unclear. At times it could yield impulsiveness, yet other times it could send any human through a hurricane of sentiments.
Victoria had a track record of impressive self control. She was professional and precise. Not, she thought, like this fellow who seemed rather too laid back, sitting on benches day in and day out with no apparent ambition.
Well, so he can make cannolis. Big deal! she joked.
Victoria accepted long ago that she may never fall in love, let alone with this good looking man! Yet after her evaluation of the matter, her mind lay uneasy with thought.
The problem was there was something about the sincerity in his voice, the brilliance in his gaze. The care he displayed as he helped her with the scooter. The sense of security she felt, clutching him as they sped through the streets on his motorcycle. This is as far as Victoria could interpret the feelings she had for Mateo. After a long pause, she finally found closure to her unease.
So what! I’m on Vacation in Italy! I’m going to enjoy myself for once in my life!
She turned over and fell asleep.