Home > A Place in the Sun(16)

A Place in the Sun(16)
R.S. Grey

I turned round to find every table was full. I turned back to him with an arched brow and he chuckled before walking away.

I was sweaty, but nothing more than normal. The arsehole could have thanked me for helping him get out of a bind after one of his employees had called in sick, but Massimo wasn’t the appreciative type.

“More wine?”

I glanced at my untouched glass and then up to the new waitress Massimo had hired last month. I couldn’t remember her name.

“I’m good, thanks.”

“You do smell,” she spoke in Italian with a flirtatious smile. When I didn’t reply, she went on. “But I think it smells good. Manly. If anything, you’re attracting more customers.”

I wasn’t good at this.

Banter.

Flirting.

I’d had sex since Allie’s death. People were always curious about that. Massimo nearly chewed my head off about the risk of “losing it” if I didn’t “use it”, and well, I had, though not nearly enough, and never with a woman I felt anything for. I’d take the train into the La Spezia with him or Paolo, or another hand from the farm. We’d go to one of the usual spots and sometimes the night ended with sex, and sometimes I rode the train back home with Massimo, him going on about how I’d lost the magic touch.

I hated it.

When I married Allie, I thought I’d moved past the dating part of my life. I still knew all the things I was supposed to do, supposed to say, but it felt forced and unnatural, like I was in a bad dream.

“What are your plans for tonight?” she asked, eyeing me as she wiped down the bar with a rag.

Truthfully, I needed to continue working on the wall outside my house, and I needed to clear away a bit of the foliage that had grown nearly out of control. I could hardly see my front door past the bougainvillea. I could spend the rest of the day working on chores, but she didn’t want to know that.

“Work,” I replied with a committed tone. There was no room for change and when she caught on to my meaning, her smile faded a little.

“Well, if you ever want to go for a drink, let me know.”

With that, she pushed off the bar and past the door into the restaurant’s kitchen.

I finished the last of my pasta, threw a few euro onto the bar, and waved to Massimo on my way out of the restaurant. The waitress was pretty, but I preferred to meet women in La Spezia. The short train ride put enough distance between me and them that I didn’t feel so guilty about it in the morning.

It was dusk, and I breathed in the fresh air as I made my way back home. Massimo’s restaurant was in the section of Vernazza most tourists never ventured into. It was past the train station, up at the top of the hill. There was no view of the sea, but the food was better than anything you could find down below. Most of the time tourists didn’t realize that. They’d accept the frozen fish and stale bread if it meant they could look at the sunset.

I walked past the train station, nodding at the locals I passed along the way. The Blue Marlin had transitioned into a bar now that dinner service was ending, and there were people spilling out onto the patios, enjoying the weather and ice-cold beer.

The road was dense with tourists, and I weaved my way through them, catching bits of laughter and conversation. A small boy ran across my path, nearly colliding into me on his way to get to a shop window. He’d spotted a row of cakes and pastries and made a break for them, ignoring his mother’s calls. She ran after him, throwing me an apology over her shoulder, but I didn’t mind. For someone who preferred to be alone, Vernazza was the ideal setting. For fleeting moments, I could participate in strangers’ lives and enjoy the moments without getting overly invested.

To get back to my villa, I had to walk straight through the main square, curve around the church, and start the steep climb up the hill. There was a faster way through the back alleys, but I liked the view along the cliffs.

I turned past the church and caught sight of a woman sitting on the breaker. It was a common place to sit and watch the sunset, but most of the time, tourists stayed to the concrete section, the dry, safe area with an even path and built-in benches.

The other half of the breaker was made up of hundreds of granite boulders, tossed down one on top of each other so that the surface was rocky and uneven. They were there to break the waves before they reached the concrete landing, but the woman sitting there was perched right on the edge, at the mercy of the sea. I stayed there, watching her and waiting for one of the waves to crash up and carry her away, but they never quite reached her, and she didn’t seem preoccupied with the idea of getting wet. She was licking her gelato, turning the cone round and round to keep it from dripping down onto her hand. Her legs kicked against the granite boulders and for those first few seconds, she seemed almost childlike to me—until I realized who she was.

I didn’t know her name. She’d told me and I’d forgotten, and now I regretted not committing it to memory. She was the woman who’d passed out in the square, the brunette Katerina had invited to dinner.

I wasn’t so shocked to see her sitting precariously on the boulders as I was by the unnerving notion that I should join her. I didn’t like the idea of her sitting there alone.

It was stupid. I knew I wouldn’t do it. I hardly knew her, and though she was beautiful, I had no business befriending her. She’d be moving on to the next village in Cinque Terre soon and I’d go back to my villa, back to the memories of Allie.

PERHAPS I’VE GONE full lesbian.

I hadn’t previously considered it, but it was starting to look like a viable option. Rather than admitting I was hung up on one unattainable guy, I needed to start considering the possibility that my brain was just trying to persuade me that all men were undesirable. I mean, in the two weeks since I’d arrived, I’d gone on three blind dates with truly lovely Italian men, and I’d left each one of them without so much as a kiss. I should have let them cart me off to their apartments and have their wicked way with me. I’d have had at least three proper (read: not self-induced) orgasms, and maybe I could have been on my way to planning an Italian marriage. Hear that? Gothic church bells ringing.

Instead, I’d found some arbitrary fault with each of them (as I did with every man) and I’d latched onto it. Ridiculous. Would it really be so bad to marry a man with a few flaws? God knows I had some—too many, really. My brother Freddie had told me on the phone just yesterday that I was flighty and irresponsible. A bit selfish too, he’d added when I’d told him I hadn’t been paying attention and to please repeat the last ten minutes of his ramblings.

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