Same rating and warnings apply. Thanks all for the comments!
Chapter Eighteen~ Scarlet’s Insight
I am on a tour with a giant pack of sniveling babies. Oh, Madonna, I never heard such whining before in all of my life! The only thing I asked was for someone to climb to the top of the Cupola with me, but none are willing. Four hundred sixty three steps…that’s really not that many, considering the breathtaking view you get once you’re at the top of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral.
I started off by asking Rosalie, but she shot back a smart ass version of the Rent song, ‘Seasons of Love,’ by chanting that four hundred sixty three steps were too much for her legs. My next victim would usually be Brenna, but seeing as she just passed out I don’t believe walking up stairs would be a very good idea. My parents and Dom are out of the question, while Nyla has her hands full with flailing kids. My cousin, Sunny, would probably have to pause and make out with some ‘hot Italian guy’ half way up the staircase, so no point in asking her, either.
I think I’m shit out of luck.
With a shrug of indifference, I decide I shall take the journey on my own then rub it in everyone else’s faces how beautiful the city of Florence is from a bird’s eye view. Paying my three Euros, I start making my way up the steps moving at a steady pace to not tire myself out immediately. The lighting is rather dim, so I should keep my attention on my footing. Yet, my mind begins to wander aimlessly before at last focusing on the image of our scatterbrained little tour guide.
Even though I was dropped into the job of helping Orlando on this trip, it is really him who is helping me. I was sort of having withdrawals the first day because I hadn’t taken a vacation from my own job in so long…I was nervous, wanting to call back home and check up on things.
But, I find that since I found myself a new form of employment, i.e. making sure absent-minded Orlando doesn’t lose anything and everything, I am more at ease and also distracted from worrying over things beyond my control. I have issues with letting loose the reins and giving someone else authority, so I guess it’s nice not to worry about the way things are in my office so many miles away.
And, I’m also having a lot of fun on this trip. Sure, both my sisters are rather drama queenish and my brother is a total ass, but we are still all relatively getting along and enjoying ourselves. Also, I must admit, I like spending time with Orlando and am rather growing fond of his unorthodox ways. He is a bit too silly and a lot too disorganized for my normal taste, but I am finding that his differences are refreshing.
Grabbing the rubber band from around my wrist, I twist my heavy red hair up in a bun, relishing the cool air that can now reach my neck. Continuing my stomp up the stairs, I think about how lucky I am to be in such a beautiful country that I love so very much. Though I was reluctant to leave the States, at first, I did need this vacation more than I cared to admit.
Pausing when I arrive at an area that holds a good view of the frescoes of the Last Judgment, I catch my breath and let my eyes roam about the detailed artwork. Just when I’m wiping the sweat from my brow I hear someone call my name, causing me to turn in surprise. I thought no one wanted to climb the steps!
When my gaze finally finds a familiar face, I smile when I see it to be Orlando’s. He is huffing and puffing his way towards me, and I have to say that it is shocking to find that he came all this way when I am sure he must have seen the view from the Cupola many, many times.
“Hey, Captain,” I tease, shooting a toothy grin and a salute his way. Orlando only nods, bending over to place his hands upon his knees and catch his breath. Sweat is making his shirt stick to his chest, and I casually assess the muscles of his upper body and arms.
Licking my lips, I will any naughty thoughts away and being to taunt the man, “You need to start exercising more, lad. Those pretty eyes and curls will only get you so far…no need to be a lazy bum.”
“That’s a lot of stairs, Scarlet!” Orlando protests, his eyes wide and nearly black in the dark lighting of the cathedral.
With a grin, I lean my body forward on the edge of the staircase and wait until Orlando has sufficient breath again. He approaches and stands beside me, heat radiating from his form in wave after wave. The two of us are quiet for a few moments, content to only admire the frescoes. However, when Orlando finally opens his mouth to speak, I don’t really like what I hear.
“I think we need to talk, Scarlet,” Orlando says and I turn to look at him, noticing that he is nervously rubbing the back of his neck in an uneasy manner. I nod my head for him to continue and words fly forth at a record pace, “I appreciate that you have taken an interest in my job, but I really need you to back off, okay?”
“Excuse me?” I mutter quickly, blinking my gray eyes in surprise.
Orlando begins to pace back and forth on the step, oblivious to the other tourists who are trying to get around his solid figure. When his gaze meets my own, I can tell that he is dead serious, “I have a job to do and you need to let me do it. I know you’ve been to Italy before but, Jesus, your mother was born here and she doesn’t correct me and go on and on the way you do! I am quite capable of handling things on my own without you breathing down my neck.”
Shock courses through my body as I feel a red flame of embarrassment ignite over my skin. Turning away from Orlando’s irritated stance, I focus on a painted cherub holding a trumpet, its round, innocent eyes gazing back at me. I feel awkward and so ultimately stupid! I thought I was being helpful, that’s all I was trying to do for him. And, now to hear Orlando say I was really just a nuisance and a bother is humiliating.
“No, now…no,” Orlando calls out, touching my shoulder when I don’t place my attention on him, “Don’t get like that. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, Scarlet. You know how I feel about you.”
Freezing up every emotion I have inside, I acknowledge that this is the reason I never let myself get involved with men like Orlando…they are unpredictable, they will twist your feelings about as much as they possibly can. And, I don’t like that in the least; I must be in control of everything, even my heart.
“Yes,” I answer coldly, turning to face him with icy elegance, “I know exactly how you feel about me.”
“Good, so you’ll go back to being a tourist and I’ll be the guide,” Orlando smiles in a fashion that I deem insulting, “No hard feelings, right?”
“Of course not,” I shoot back angrily, “As a tourist, I’ll try not to be so bossy and rude and give you the space you need. I’d hate to breathe down your neck or cramp your space! But, you know what, next time you lose our tickets for somewhere, don’t come crying to me!”
Orlando blushes, his voice faltering as he takes a few steps towards me, “Scarlet, that’s not what I meant…I just…”
“That’s just how you feel about me, I get it quite clearly,” I snort, rolling my eyes.
Turning on my heel, I flee that enclosed area of the staircase, making my way up higher and higher until I am at the top of the Cupola. My steps lead me outside and I feel a rush of cool wind course over my flaming cheeks.
Sighing, I shudder in surprise when I feel tears stinging my eyes. I quickly blink them away and try to enjoy the gorgeous view of Florence the height is offering me. Yet, I can’t seem to get the picture of Orlando’s angry face out of my mind’s eye. Why was he so blunt and rude? Maybe I was overstepping my boundaries a bit, but did he really have to lay it all out like that? I saved that asshole’s life, for God’s sake! Doesn’t that count for something?
Wrapping my arms about myself, I take in the reddish-brown roofs of the many houses and buildings around me, the beauty of the expanded picture Florence makes with its quaint style and unique architecture. The people and cars look like tiny ants and the roads are infinitely small mazes outlined with the beige of businesses and the green of trees. I wish I could enjoy these beautiful sights, but Orlando has marred my day, maybe even my whole trip.
I feel like an idiot for investing my time in even a friendship with that jerk. The only person he cares about is himself, and the feelings of others are inconsequential. But, he doesn’t have to worry; I don’t make the same mistakes twice. From now on, Orlando is in complete control of this trip, there will be no input from my part. In fact, I do not even see myself talking to him for the remainder of my stay in Italy.
I hate that a man I barely know could make me feel so down.
Chapter Nineteen~ Rosalie’s Insight
Making my way through the exit of the cathedral we have just visited, I blink quickly as the bright sunshine flows down and sparkles before my eyes. I am getting sort of used to this whole ‘moving as a pack’ situation we are in, relatives shoulder to shoulder following Orlando as though he was the leader ant.
But, at times it seems Scarlet is volleying for this position, as she always appears to be at Orlando’s side, telling him certain things and organizing his notes and itinerary whenever she manages to get her hands on them. It is rather amusing because it seems Orlando does need the help, but outwardly he resists it.
"Everyone listen up!," Orlando calls out in a cross tone, as though he were not in the happiest of moods. The tour group turns towards him, and we all await his instructions like brain dead non-Italian speaking zombies.
“Alright,” Orlando begins, his smile a bit forced, “You all have the rest of the afternoon to look about as you wish, but remember we are going to meet in the square where the Santa Croce church is at five o’clock. Does everyone remember how to get there?”
Typically, neither of my parents have a clue, and I watch them hurry towards Orlando, my dad’s gums flapping at a mile a minute. He has a gift, that man does…well, two gifts, actually. The first is obviously the way he can mass mortify every one of his children in a three second time span. The second would have to be his strict obliviousness to the world around him; at least Mom speaks Italian, so she should be able to ask for directions if they get lost.
Happily, I paid attention to how to get back to the Santa Croce Square, thus I grab Johnny’s hand, lacing our fingers together while leading him away from the crazy mob that consists of our combined families. I guess I have been sort of missing him, as it seems we are never awarded more than a few minutes together before someone pops in to babble on and on, usually about the wedding. To be honest, I am already sick of discussing the big event and it hasn’t even happened yet!
“You’re in a hurry to be off, huh?” Johnny questions with an amused grin. I dare say it doesn’t go beyond his notice when I duck inside a leather shop to escape some scurrying aunts and uncles. Briefly smiling I let my fingers run over the smooth leather of a gorgeous pink coat before replying, “I just thought it would be nice for the two of us to explore Florence all on our own.”
Johnny laughs quietly, and the both of us look about the small shop while throwing quick glances outside the window. Once the coast is relatively clear, we move out to the stone sidewalk, leisurely making our way out of the Santa Croce square and towards the shopping district.
Strolling in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, we see the old spot where the statue of David once resided before environmental effects took their toll and he was moved to a more stable and not so out in the wilds location. Now, there is a replica of David there, as well as many other unique statues if you keep walking past it. There is a fountain with a grand Poseidon, as well as a sculpture depicting the rape of the Sabine women, and I even spot Perseus proudly holding up Medusa’s head.
“I think we really miss out back home without having any culture like this,” Johnny muses thoughtfully, and I smile at him.
This may be true, but there is something definitely amiss about Florence that I am quite glad we don’t have at home. Moving forward, I pick up a postcard from a little tourist shop and wave it before Johnny’s face.
“I am, however, very much glad that we can do without this bit of culture in the States,” I proclaim loudly, my lips twitching in a cheeky grin.
Tilting his head to the side, Johnny studies the glossy picture on the front of the card with a serious expression affixed to his face. The shot is none other than a close up of the statue of David’s penis, apparently a favorite in Florence because if you look around you can find David’s penis just about everywhere. Postcards, bookmarks, mouse pads, calendars, t-shirts, aprons, boxer shorts…you name the object, and I’ll bet you the city of Florence has printed a big penis on it.
“I mean, I guess you just get used to having penis in your face all the time if you live here,” I state thoughtfully, “only, I find it a bit shocking being an outsider and all.”
“Right,” Johnny answers solemnly, “You’re not used to having guy parts in your face every time you turn the corner.”
Giggling wildly, I become contagious and cause Johnny to join in, as the two of us laugh like maniacal fools over our crude male reproductive organ jokes. Snickering like two teenagers, we load up on penis paraphernalia and pay the shopkeeper with our Euros.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with all this stuff,” I state, flailing a David bookmark in the air, “It’s like I got a bag full of penises.”
“Bet you can’t say that five times fast,” Johnny challenges, jabbing me in the side.
“You’re right, penises is a difficult word to pronounce,” I state matter-of-factly, as though I had this sort of conversation all the time, “There should be a better plural form of the word.”
“Peni,” Johnny states ever so seriously, and I howl aloud with laughter.
Turning towards him, I enjoy the way his dark, electric eyes sparkle at me beneath the bright sunlight. The slight breeze ruffles through his shoulder-length brownish-black locks and I find myself thinking, yet again, how very dead sexy my man is.
“Love you,” he calls out lightly to me, and I stick out my tongue in a playful fashion, dashing forward so Johnny has to run after me and dodge his way around the crowd. Allowing him to drape his arm about my shoulders, the two of us wander around, browsing at all sorts of items until I spot some bracelets that I simply must have.
“I really want and/or need this,” I inform him excitedly, reaching out and touching a small cuff made out of leather. The shop has rows upon rows of them; most dyed cute girl colors…naturally very appealing to me. They have thick ones that would definitely show up on your wrist, but I find myself more drawn to the thin, delicate bracelets. They have a sort of similar air to the friendship bracelets my sisters and I wore when we were children.
“Wanna get matching ones?” Johnny suggests in a wickedly nerdy manner. I look to him and roll my eyes, before using my best posh voice, “I think not! A unique lady like me deserves a one of a kind bracelet!”
“Oh, Duchess,” Johnny teases, “I simply must insist on matching ones.”
Giggling, I reach out and squeeze his fingertips, enjoying the playful, goofball manner he can easily pick up. To me, having fun and being silly is worth more than a lifetime of cheesy romance garbage.
I adore that he is man enough to be a child.
“If you must be so adamant about it,” I continue in a girly tone, “This is the one I choose!”
Triumphantly, I pick up a hot pink bracelet that has silver and darker pinks etched about it in a curly, curvy fashion. Johnny raises one eyebrow every so slightly before a sly grin stretches out on his lips. Handing the man the required Euros, Johnny motions towards the pink cuffs, holding up his fingers to indicate he wants two.
“Best friends forever!” I quip like a nerd, hurriedly slipping my bracelet on and rushing to fasten Johnny’s across his wrist. We look like two supreme idiots with our matching flashes of hot pink. But, anyhow, at least we are two fools together.
“I’m quite glad you’re my boyfriend,” I state without thinking.
Johnny fidgets a bit at my side, “Rosa, its fiancée. You never remember to call me your fiancée. Are you going to still call me your boyfriend after the wedding?”
“Of course not,” I answer a bit shortly, suddenly feeling slightly annoyed.
Geez, it was a simple mistake, he doesn’t need to have such an obese cow about it.
“And, speaking of the wedding,” Johnny continues, not noticing the quick way I tense up, “I think you should probably talk to my mom. She still thinks you are wearing her old dress.”
“What?” I screech so loudly that everyone around us, and probably in a five mile radius, hears me, “You have got to be kidding me!”
Johnny frowns then, and any playful physical contact that had been occurring between us is suddenly dropped. Moving his fingers over his lips in a thoughtful manner, he seems to be searching for something in his brain before abruptly coming across it.
“I know you said you were going to discuss it with her,” he states rather gruffly, “And now, as always, you have put it off till the very last second!”
“You told me you were going to tell her!” I exclaim, totally mystified as to how he ever got the idea that I was going to inform a woman I barely know that, no indeed, I was not going to wear her vintage wedding gown.
Johnny had told me he would take care of this, that he would explain to her in a kind way that though I appreciated the offer, I did not think the dress was really my style. Jesus, I think she would understand better if she heard it from her son! If I said it she would think I was some sort of ungrateful little snot.
“Seriously, Rosalie, seriously!” Johnny rages, “You have got to learn some responsibility. I know you are the baby of your family and always used to having your way, but this is ridiculous!”
“Holy hell!” I interrupt angrily, “Where is all this coming from? You are going off the deep end here. The bottom line is, you said you would take care of it and you didn’t. Now, you better go straighten things out with your mother before her feelings really get hurt.”
With a scowl, Johnny turns on his heel and disappears in the crowded Florentine streets, presumably headed out to find his mother. Standing there, I feel a slight chill run through my body as I wrap my arms about myself. How is it that such a good day went straight to the crapper?
Somehow, it always seems that anytime we bring up the wedding in the slightest way, explosions of rage go off from both sides of this relationship. We cannot have a discussion about anything, from as small as details about the flowers, to as big as this whole dress fight.
The pressure I told Brenna about is increasing, and I feel like I’m about to burst from frustration. I am unsure if I can deal with this sort of stress, I don’t know if I’m feeling quite as lucky as I was before.
I am having bad feelings about this wedding…very bad feelings.
Chapters Two and Three
Chapters Four and Five
Chapters Six and Seven
Chapters Eight and Nine
Chapters Ten and Eleven
Chapters Twelve and Thirteen
Chapters Fourteen and Fifteen
Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen