Home > A Place in the Sun(8)

A Place in the Sun(8)
R.S. Grey

“He’s the kind of handsome you don’t see all that often,” her friend chimed in. “You’re safer staying away from Italian men like that, Georgie.”

Maybe she was right.

Maybe I should have kept my distance.

But I didn’t.

THE NEXT MORNING, I woke up to the sound of the heavy church bells. They clanged merrily in the square as I lazed about in bed, in no hurry to leave my warm cocoon. I’d left the shutters open through the night and the sea air swelled into my room, fluttering the thin cream drape up and away from the window. I’d only been there for a day and a half and I’d already learned that the scents of Vernazza changed based on the hour. In the early morning, when the restaurants were closed, the air was fresh, crisp. By the afternoon, as the sun blazed overhead, rich Italian aromas wafted up from the restaurants, luring me down to their doorsteps.

I rolled onto my side, stared out at the mountains past my window, and thought back on my first full day in Vernazza. I’d mostly kept to myself, dipping in and out of shops, sampling two gelatarias, and eating lunch outside a small pizza shop, inhaling two slices like a greedy chipmunk. I’d hoped to run into Gianluca again, but by late morning the square was crowded with tourists. The chances of finding anyone in particular were slim to none.

In the afternoon, I’d propped the wicker chair in my room right in front of the open window and sat down to read. My paperback mostly went untouched as I people-watched through the window. I had a perfect vantage point. My window faced the square and if I dipped my head out just a bit, I could watch the kids splashing in the water.

In the late afternoon, I’d watched a group of older Italian men convene in a corner of the square under crisp, white umbrellas. They pulled out a few decks of cards, and for the next two hours, their conversations and card-playing drifted up to my window like a soft hum.

It was all so different than England. The smallness of it, the lack of pretension. I wanted more.

I flung off my sheets, showered, and hurried to get dressed in jean shorts and a white tank top. I took a few extra minutes to apply a thin layer of makeup, just in case I ran into Gianluca outside The Blue Marlin. This time, I would call out to him and strike up a witty conversation. I’d thank him for helping me and I’d offer up a drink or dinner as repayment.

I was positively humming with the idea of seeing him as I locked up and skipped down the stairs of the hotel.

The front desk was empty and I nearly breezed past it before I heard my name behind me. I spun around and saw Chiara pop out of a broom cupboard in the back of the building.

“You’re in a hurry,” she said with a little smile.

I laughed. “Oh, yeah, just off to have breakfast.”

She smiled and drummed her fingers on the doorframe, clearly wanting to chat. I tilted my head. “How are you?”

Her smile widened at my question. “I’m good. Just…wishing I didn’t have to work today.”

Her English was easy to understand, though she spoke slowly, thinking over each word before she spoke.

“It’s supposed to be a beautiful day,” she continued.

I nodded. “I might test the water, try to tan my pale English arse a bit.”

She giggled and stepped closer, rounding behind the front desk and propping her elbows up on top of it. “I mean to ask you…” She glanced out the door and then back to me, working up the courage to continue. “The first day, you were with the two guys…”

“Massimo and Gianluca?”

Her eyes lit up. “Yes! I was wondering, um, how you became to know them?”

“How I met them?” I asked, making sure I’d understood her.

She nodded.

I explained to her how they’d helped me when I’d passed out in the square, how they’d carried me into the abandoned bed and breakfast across the square and then suggested I get a room here.

“I didn’t know them or anything, but they were very nice to help me out.”

“And Gianluca? He helped too?”

I frowned, a bit confused. “Yes. Why?”

She smiled. “Many girls in the village…lo amano.”

The way she spoke about him, the slight glow on her cheeks proved that Chiara was likely one of these girls.

“Love,” she continued, as if I hadn’t understood her point already.

“Does he date any of them?” I asked before I could stop myself.

She shook her head vehemently. “He’s, umm…” Her cheeks went red as cherries. “He sometimes goes just for one night or so. Nothing serious.”

Interesting.

Footsteps sounded on the stairs behind us and Chiara straightened up to greet the guests trickling down. I offered her a wave and promised to chat soon, enticed by the possibility of her continuing to spill info about Gianluca.

Like the day before, the square was quiet in the early morning hours. Shutters were locked tight, restaurants were closed, umbrellas and chairs were stacked out of the way. I scratched the sleepy cat on the boat cover again (lazy bugger) and reminded myself to bring him back a bit of meat from my breakfast.

Small trucks and carts were driving up and down the road for their early morning deliveries and midway to The Blue Marlin, I glimpsed the beginnings of an open-air market. Trucks and stalls, small tables, and umbrellas were popping up. None of them were ready for customers yet, but I surveyed their goods as I passed. A few of them were selling fresh produce from around the region, fruits and vegetables in every color. There was salami and cheese, pesto and olive oil, lemons the size of my head! A woman at a flower stand rearranged buckets of fresh blooms and I longed to buy some, but I had nothing to store them in back in my small room.

Vendors smiled and nodded at me as I strolled by, and I promised to return after breakfast. I could watch them setting up from my perch on the patio at The Blue Marlin. My American friends weren’t there, so I ate alone, treating myself to eggs and bacon and a second cup of milky tea. I told myself I wasn’t in a rush to leave; I was enjoying the morning, but really I was lingering there, hoping to catch another glimpse of Gianluca.

He was nowhere to be found, but in the middle of my breakfast I’d locked onto a woman across the street. She stood out among the crowd of vendors with her long blonde hair and pale skin. Bright red lipstick stained her lips and her forehead was covered by a bit of fringe. She was wearing this amazing blue dress, all tight up top and flowing around her legs. Gold bangles clinked on her wrists as she worked to unload racks of clothes. She wasn’t the only vendor selling clothing, but hers were the most stylish. She had loose linen shirts and bright sundresses. I already had my eye on a few of them when she stood back, wiped her brow, and turned her sights on The Blue Marlin.

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