Roman Rescue: Who Will Save The Hero?
I strolled further down until I found a pizza place and dove in for a slice of basil, mozzarella, and sausage. I ordered a Coke, but it came at room temperature, so I changed it to water instead. But, pizza and water weren’t the right combinations. Maybe I tasted the tomatoes more, or the sauce’s bright red color made it look too eerie. Again, I blamed it on Fear whispering warnings of stares from unsmiling eyes. Wasn’t Rome the city of romance? Then why did I see figures in the shadows, taxi drivers with guns, and blood in the pizza sauce?
The night air, fruity and moist, smelled unlike the air back home. I walked, taking deep breaths with my nose to the sky. Going through the park, a breeze whipped by, causing me to imagine the world before cars, a time when the Roman statues were real. I could see it. I could see me in it, wearing a long tunic. What did Dr. Francisco call it in English class? A stola, yes. I would look good in a stola, gold chains strapped around me. I imagined the horse dung in the streets and stopped romanticizing. I wouldn’t call it pessimism but realism. Life had taught me not to believe in the wonderful, magical, or romantic. Not that I hadn’t tried.
I pulled the key out of my bra and entered the apartment. I glanced around for a television and spotted the floating stairs. At the top of the stairs was Kayla’s and Luke’s bedroom, tidy and simple with a triple-tier shelving of masculine books: Shooter, Abraham Lincoln, and various spy novels. I also found a TV. I smiled and threw myself into a chair after emptying the clothes from it.
That is where Luke found me, asleep in his bedroom chair. His wide shoulders and his body blocked out the light. It alarmed me. Only a dark sketch of him stood there, looking down at me.
“According to this note, you must be Maggie.”
“Please, tell me your name is Luke, so I won’t have to kill you,” I managed to get out while stretching my arms and rubbing my eyes, barely awake—barely thinking—but not afraid.
“Yep, you’re Maggie. I’ve heard of your quipped tongue.”
I sighed. “Great, my reputation has preceded me all the way to Italy. At nineteen, I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”
“Nineteen, just a baby.”
That riled me. When I should have asked to stay on his couch, I couldn’t. I stood. “I’m not a baby.” I squinted at his dark silhouette and tried to look him straight in the eyes. I stood on my tippy-toes, but his eyes were still inches away, taller and higher, out of my reach. “Well, damn, are you six-four, or what?”
“Maybe six-three,” he said with pride.
I composed myself after a thick swallow. “Must be hard to be that tall.”
“Sometimes.” His insecurity showed. His voice wavered or his shoulders dropped; it was so subtle and so quick. I don’t know, I could just tell.
I took the clothes from the bed and put them back on the chair.
“You don’t have to mess with that.”
“I moved them; I’ll return them. What time is it?”
I took a deep breath, walked over to the top of the stairs, and looked back. That’s when I noticed Luke’s face: soft reddish-tan complexion and pool-water blue eyes. I paused, wordless for too long.
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