Home > A Place in the Sun(3)

A Place in the Sun(3)
R.S. Grey

“Oh, I don’t think you’re allow—”

A baritone voice boomed overhead. “SILENCIO! SIIIILLLEEENNNCE.”

I’d jumped a mile in the air, assuming it was the voice of God himself.

My final stop of the day was the Trevi Fountain. I chucked a euro over the crowds, but my aim was crap, and it ended up striking a woman in the forehead as she stood for a photo-op in front of the fountain. I shrugged—my wish had been to make the crowds disappear, and as the woman hurried off angrily, I counted it as a win.

Confident that I’d consumed the best bits of Rome and also anxious to flee the area in case the woman with the coin-shaped bruise on her forehead came back looking for vengeance, I turned back for my hotel. The sun was setting and my feet were aching.

In the morning, I would head to Vernazza and see what fate had in store for me.

In true Georgie Archibald form, I slept right through my alarm the following morning. It BEEPED BEEPED BEEPED over and over again and my brain—still exhausted from traveling—had assumed it was some annoying Italian songbird outside my window. Eventually, my subconscious brain realized that birds don’t even sound remotely like alarm clocks, and I shot out of bed.

I looked at the time. “Arse! Bugger! SHITE!”

If I missed my first train of the day, I’d have a hell of a time making my connections. I tossed anything and everything into my suitcase, nearly taking half the hotel room with me. The train station was only a few minutes away, so I didn’t bother with a cab. I shot across streets without looking both ways, nearly collided with a few cars, and made it past security with ten minutes to spare before the train departed.

It was an 11:20 AM departure for Pisa, packed with families on holiday. I took a deep breath, telling myself, I made it. I stowed my luggage then wandered down the aisle, glancing at the numbers posted above each seat. I was assigned to 11A and when my eyes landed on my backward-facing seat, I groaned. It wouldn’t do; I had to face the direction the train was moving or I’d get sick.

I glanced around for an opening, but my late arrival had ensured that every last seat on the train was full except for mine.

“Sir,” I said, turning to the distinguished-looking man sitting in 11C. His seat was opposite mine, facing the right direction. It was a small move, but it would ensure I didn’t spew up the granola bar I’d stuffed down my throat on the way over from my hotel.

He tilted his head up, a bit annoyed to be pulled out of his crossword.

I offered him a massive, pleading smile. “Is there any way I could convince you to swap seats with me? I get motion sickness on trains and I—”

He shook his head before I’d even finished.

“This is my assigned seat.”

“Of course, and I’m assigned to 11A.”

I pointed between the two seats as if trying to convince him of how small the distance was. He’d just have to pop up, rotate that impressively large bottom of his, and plop back down across the gap. Easy peasy.

“Then 11A is where I suggest you sit.”

On that note, he held up his crossword to cover his face.

I moved on to my next target: the woman sitting in 11D, but unfortunately, she was snoozing against the window, a bit of drool already rolling down her chin. I could have forced her awake and asked her to swap seats, but it seemed like bad form.

I tried one last glance around the train, displaying the most desperately tragic face I could muster, but everyone turned away, avoided eye contact, or offered up a blatant shake of their head.

Fine.

I sat down in 11A, dropped my backpack between my feet, and yanked out the supplies I carried with me whenever I traveled: chewing gum, ginger candy, peppermints, and Dramamine. I began to fortify myself for my impending doom, but it was no use.

By the time we’d chugged away from the station in Rome, dizziness had taken hold of my head and wouldn’t let go. I squeezed my eyes closed, willing the sensation to pass, but it only grew worse. I managed to make it to the toilet before throwing up the first time, but the second time, I made sure to look right in 11C’s eyes as I hurled into the paper bag. See? See what you’ve done to me?

Fortunately for me—and everyone else assigned to my car—I had a forward-facing seat for the next leg of the journey, from Pisa to La Spezia, but it didn’t matter. By that point, my head was swimming and my stomach was rejecting everything I put in it. I considered stopping in La Spezia for the night, but it was still early afternoon and I’d intended on making it all the way to Vernazza before calling it quits for the day. I wanted to crash, but a bigger part of me just wanted to get the journey over with. I wanted a hotel room. I wanted a proper shower and a bed to collapse into.

Unfortunately, I’d underestimated how difficult the final leg of my journey would be. It was a short train journey between La Spezia and Vernazza, but the regional train was small and all the seats were full by the time I lugged my suitcases onboard. I was forced to stand, packed like a sardine, in the small compartment between two cars. My body was crushed against the side door, facing out. I desperately willed my nausea to pass; I’d used my last sick bag on the train to La Spezia and I really didn’t want to traumatize the family of five laughing behind me.

The small train sped along the coast of Italy, through long, dark tunnels cut through rock. I caught my own reflection in the door’s window and cringed. My brown eyes, usually bright and lively, had heavy circles beneath them. Strands of my long chestnut brown hair were coated with sweat and stuck to my cheeks. All color had faded from my face and the bit of throw-up crusted below my bottom lip served as the pièce de résistance to my entire haggard appearance.

I nearly caved then. It would have been so easy to call Freddie and beg him to come collect me, but in the blink of an eye the tunnel broke open and my vision was filled with an expanse of turquoise water.

It was blue in every direction, different hues painted across the landscape as far as my eyes could see. A cloudless sky met crystal clear waters. Angry waves crashed against the shore, spilling white sea foam over massive granite rocks that had tumbled down from the mountains over the centuries. I pressed my hands to the glass, leaned forward, and gasped, nearly lost in the beauty of it, right before another bout of motion sickness overtook me.

Oh bloody hell.

“Mom! The crazy lady just threw up on me!”

I PULLED MY baseball cap off my head and wiped my forehead on my shirtsleeve. It was dirty, just like my forehead was dirty, but it seemed better than nothing. I’d been out on the water all morning and had a boat full of fish to deliver to Massimo. He’d smile when he saw the sea bass; it was the biggest one I’d caught in weeks. He’d coat it in olive oil, bury it in a mound of sea salt, and bake it for some lucky tourist in his restaurant. I’d have envied them if I didn’t have half a dozen fish to keep for myself.

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