Home > life, writing > A Time To Fly (2)

A Time To Fly (2)

Belinda was unsure about what to do when she emerged from the customs and immigration area at the Rome airport, pushing a cart loaded with her bags.  To her astonishment, a liveried man with silver hair stood with a sign that read ‘Ms Lyons’.  When she approached him, wondering what it was about, he removed his chauffeur’s hat and spoke English with a colourful Italian accent.

       “Senora Lyons?” he said, and bowed his head in a courteous gesture.

       “Yes?” she said.  “Is something wrong?”

       “No, no, no wrong,” he said.  He put the sign down and replaced his hat on his head.  “I am Lorenz, and I will drive you to your hotel.  It was arranged for you.  Please come this way to your car.”  Lorenz pushed the luggage cart and led the way to the limousine waiting area.  He ushered Belinda into the back seat before he placed her luggage in the trunk.  While he drove her to the Hotel Raphael, Lorenz kept up a flow of interesting conversation and pointed out highlights of the legendary.  He gave a brief commentary on the nature of the many celebrities who had sat where she was sitting as he drove them through Rome.

The hotel was small and exclusive, on a narrow cobblestone roadway very close to the Piazza Navona.  Her room was on the third floor of the small hotel; a large suite with a high, arched window that rose from the carpeted floor to near the ceiling.  When the bellhop left, she went to the window and looked down onto the street.  Directly across was a sidewalk café with only a few tables occupied.  Belinda plugged her laptop computer into the hotel’s Internet connection and sent a short e-mail to Maureen to tell her that she’d arrived safely, the car was wonderful, and the hotel was splendid.  Then she ran a bath and luxuriated in the mountains of foam until she was overcome with travel fatigue and went to sleep.  It was almost ten the next morning before she wakened.

After a quick shower, Belinda dressed in a light summer outfit of emerald green and hurried down to the lobby and out into the street.  The morning sun reflected off the pastel buildings and the sidewalk café across from the hotel glowed with a golden warmth that Belinda couldn’t resist.  All the tables were empty, and most had their umbrellas open leaving them in circles of cool shade.  She crossed the narrow street and chose a table that gave her a view of the Piazza at the end of the alley.  She was eager to see the famous church and fountain that were just out of her sight around the corner.  The waiter approached her table.  Belinda ordered coffee and breakfast rolls.  The waiter noted her American English.

       “American coffee?” he asked in a heavy Italian accent.

       “Yes… no,” she said.  “No, I’ll have Italian coffee.  If I’m here, I might as well do as the Romans do, eh?”

       “As you please,” he said, and went into the restaurant building.

Belinda sat and smiled to herself, and looked calmly up and down the street and alley, drinking in the rich look of antiquity in the broken plaster and faded window shutters.  Everything she looked at seemed to be something she’d seen in a painting somewhere.  A man entered the cafe and sat at a table not far from Belinda, straight in her line of vision.  The waiter approached him with familiarity, and Belinda assumed he was a ‘regular’ at this café.  The man ordered, and the waiter again retired to the interior restaurant.  The stranger looked over at Belinda and saw her looking at him.  His smile flashed straight, gleaming teeth in a deeply tanned face surrounded with tousled, coal-black hair.  Belinda realised she was staring at the man and quickly looked away down the alley.  The man was young, at least fifteen years younger than Belinda.  Belinda turned to look down the street past the young man, trying to look uninterested in him when she was surprised to see him approaching her table.

       “Good morning,” he said, in a deep, warm voice.  His Italian accent when he spoke his excellent English was blended with the flavour of a British accent.

Belinda looked up into the compelling dark eyes and projected as controlled an attitude as she could muster.

       “Good morning,” she said.  “You speak english.”

        “I went to school at Oxford,” he said. “In Rome, it is a sin for a beautiful woman to sit alone.  May I join you?”  Belinda hesitated only for a moment before she acquiesced.

       “Are all the young men in Italy as bold as you are?” she said.

       “I am Vincenzo Taglioni.” he smiled again, and Belinda felt her insides quiver. “I can only speak for this young man, and I don’t consider it bold to complement a woman who deserves it.  And you are?”  Belinda ignored his question.

       “Speaking of ‘young man’, young man, have you noticed that you’re about half my age?” she said, in as matronly a manner as she could muster.  She was worried that the butterflies in her stomach might start to show on her face.  She tried to dissuade him; her insecurity peaked by the tremulous feelings the gorgeous young man stimulated within her.

       “Of what importance is age?  If a person sees a person who draws his or her interest, why is it wrong to show that interest?” he said.  “If the person of interest rejects the interest, then the approach must be politely withdrawn.  Since you did not reject me when I asked if I might join you, I will not withdraw unless you ask me to.  It now remains only for you to give me your name.”  Belinda again withheld her name.

       “I suppose your interest in me is a combination of facts,” Belinda said.  “I am a foreigner, a woman alone, and much older than you are.”

       “It was not any of those facts that brought me to you,” he said.  “All though they are all true.  I hope you can accept that it is only because you are an attractive woman.  If you prove to be dull, or ignorant, or offensive, I will withdraw promptly and courteously… but I am quite certain that will not be the case.”

       “Perhaps it is that I am ‘forbidden fruit’,” she said.

       “Forbidden?” he asked.  “In what way are you forbidden?”

       “I’m sure you noticed that I’m black,” she said sarcastically.  Vincenzo sat back as if he was startled and looked her up and down.  He took one of her hands in his and looked at it intently, and turned it over to look at the palm.  He released her hand and looked at her.

       “You ARE black!  I hadn’t noticed,” he said.  “I saw only an extraordinarily beautiful woman, with the loveliness and energy of youth and the wisdom and knowledge of maturity.  In a woman with those attributes, the colour of her skin becomes inconsequential.”  Belinda’s chocolate cheeks blushed and she sought to avoid Vincenzo’s eyes.  She looked around at the outdoor tables with their red and white chequered tablecloths, shaded by their Martini & Rossi umbrellas but totally unoccupied.

       “Why is this café empty, except for you and I?” she said, looking around.

       “It is after lunch and before afternoon break,” he said.

       “Then why are you here?” she said with a teasing grin.

       “Because I am a rogue.  I do not work,” he said with a warm, open smile.

       “You shouldn’t be so proud of it,” she scowled.  “But that still doesn’t explain why you’re here in the café.”

       “I live nearby, and I like this café,” he said.  “Their coffee is excellent, as are their meals.”  The waiter brought their orders and she saw that he was having exactly what she was having.  He saw her observing that.

       “The waiter is an old friend.  He told me what you were having and that you speak English,” he said.

       “Well, that’s very nice for you, I suppose, but you should know that I feel invaded and spied upon, and I don’t appreciate it.”

       “I apologise,” he said.  “I misjudged you… and myself.”  He stood, made a courteous half-bow toward Belinda, and turned away.  He went to the waiter at the far end of the terrace and paid him before he left the café.

Immediately, Belinda regretted her behaviour.  She was in Italy for a break, for a chance to cut loose, and here she was rejecting a perfectly lovely young man with whom she might have had a nice time, and have company to show her around Rome.  It was too late now.  Vincenzo Taglioni was gone.  Belinda Lyons paid her bill and walked down the alley toward the Piazza Navona.  She strolled slowly, taking in the ancient stonework, the ornate balconies with girls and women sunning themselves and watching the pedestrian traffic in the narrow alley below.

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