CHAPTER 1 – Arrival
“_____________, I can’t believe that we’re back here.O dio mio, Feli, mi amore!” Claire said with a tone that you would have never expected to come out from her mouth almost a year and a half ago. Some of the passengers were staring at your friend as she drew circles on the window as you waited for the plane to come to a halt. Her eyes were sparkling with the energy that you had felt from her. Smiling at the passengers, you used your hand to pinch your good friend’s cheek hard. You knew that she hated that, especially when she was busy daydreaming and most especially when if it was unexpected. Claire yelped and rubbed her cheek as she stared at you with annoyance.
“Seriously, ___________? Just when I was finally going to meet the man of my dreams after a year and a half?”
“You’re awfully energetic and dreamy for someone who didn’t get a wink of sleep during our flight on the way here. Oh, and don’t forget checking out all of the photos from the last time you saw your boyfriend” you said teasingly. Claire’s cheeks started turning pink and you couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight of her. It was unlike her to act like that, as you knew that she was quiet and had usually kept to herself. But ever since she came back from Venice during her exchange student program, she was more energetic and giddy.
You remembered the time that you went to pick her up in the airport as she returned because her parents were busy with a company deal they were both working on. As soon as you caught a glimpse of her, you stood up and walked barely ten steps before you were knocked down by her. She hugged you tightly as she spoke in rapid-fire Italian which you assumed was how she was feeling at the moment. Confusion must have been apparent in your face, as she had suddenly stopped talking and grinned sheepishly, apologizing for not realizing that she was speaking in Italian.
“So, what happened in your exchange student program?” you had asked. She was still busy looking for something in her purse, so you repeated the question to her. She looked up at you and her smile widened as she held out a pendant of a winged lion. It looked so beautiful that you wondered how she managed to get something that beautiful, when there was an allocated budget during her stay.
“I have a boyfriend, ___________! And he’s just absolutely wonderful! ” She exclaimed. You wrapped her in a tight hug as you congratulated her. Both of you were starting to get weird looks, so you had decided to pull her towards the luggage carousels to get Claire’s luggage before heading to your car. Although both of you were best friends, international calls were very expensive so you couldn’t talk to one another in the course of Claire’s exchange student program, which explained your surprise upon your discovery.
Claire then described how he looked to you, then how both of them had met and what had happened that made both of them an official couple. But what had made it comical and strange was that she had the tendency to speak in Italian as she described their conversations. You were amused as she had seemed to be heavily influenced by the culture there. As soon as you retrieved her luggage, you asked if she wanted to come over to your house so that she could tell you more stories asides from this “Feliciano” guy. She burst out in laughter as she hugged you tightly.
“_____________, don’t worry. He’s not the ONLY thing that happened in Italy! There’s a lot more than just pasta and pizza there, that’s what I’m telling you.” She reassured you.
Claire came over to your house and told you about how she enjoyed going around in the streets of Italy, which she had personally preferred over the crowded and busy streets of your city. She told you about how she had a difficult time in learning Italian and had nearly hated it before meeting Feliciano, who had taught her most of the language. But of all that she had said, there was one topic she had opened: His brother Lovino, whom she said was a confusing person at first, but was a nice guy. Upon hearing this, you cocked an eyebrow as she smirked and excused herself to head to the bathroom. You hadn’t really cared about it, but you didn’t know why she suddenly made that face.
The months passed by, and most of life was the same, except for the fact that Claire had spent most of her evenings talking to her Italian boyfriend in Skype. During your sleepovers, you had gotten to see his face. In honesty, you were a bit sceptical towards the Italian when she called him, but as soon as Claire convinced you to talk to him while she prepared your midnight snacks (which you suspected she did on purpose just so you guys could bond with one another), you agreed with Claire’s opinion of him, although it was strange of her to fall for a man who had a tendency to space out. He was very enthusiastic and asked a lot of questions, which left no room for awkward silences. He wasn’t even done with explaining to you about the difference between pasta from Italy and pasta from everywhere else when Claire came into the room. Her eyes softened as you tried to debate with him about it having no difference because of the ingredients, which meant that she was very much glad that you were getting along well with him.
You didn’t expect to meet him in person a year after Claire’s return. As soon as Claire came knocking at your door, you knew something was up because she rarely knocked the door multiple times while calling for you in a very excited voice. You opened the door and she practically tackled you again to the floor while she talked rapidly. You didn’t realize until moments passed that she was talking in Italian again. You sat waiting for her before she realized what she was doing and took a deep breath. It was silent in the house before she squealed as she held out a plane ticket in your face. You tried to focus your eyes as the words came into place: To Marco Polo International Airport in Venice, Italy.
You were ecstatic for her, but you couldn’t help but feel wistful. After months of talking to Feliciano about Italy, you wanted to see how wonderful Venice was. Claire must have seen your face, as she suddenly pulled out another ticket from her pocket. Your eyes widened as you realized what this meant.
“Pack your bags, ___________! We’re flying to Italy in summer!”
As soon as the doors had opened, Claire dragged you to the airport towards the baggage claim. You could already feel the Italian spirit as you passed by the architecture and caught a glimpse of the paintings that were proudly displayed along the halls of the building. You definitely wanted to see more of this country if their airports were this lovely. You were so busy looking around that you bumped into someone wearing a long brown trench coat. He was wearing a fedora hat, but you could see that he had chocolate brown hair. You muttered an apology before walking towards your friend, who was near the luggage claim. The mysterious person had grabbed your hand before you made your hasty escape and looked into your eyes. You could feel your face becoming warmer by the second.
“My dear, it is I who must apologize for not giving way to such a wonderful lady like you.”
He kissed your hand and smiled. You looked around and saw Claire waiting for you with her arms crossed as she stared at you with a frown. Her eyes narrowed towards you and you couldn’t help but shiver at how she looked at that moment. You had tried to excuse yourself from this wonderful stranger, but he turned around and waved at Claire. This must have been unexpected, as your friend slightly jumped back and looked very confused at the gesture.
“Enough of this. Now, you were looking for your friend? I don’t think I can delay it any longer. She must be impatient. There are absolutely tons of wonderful things to see in Italy! ” he said cheerfully. You smiled and bid goodbye to him.
You were dumbfounded as you walked towards Claire, who had asked if you knew the mysterious man. You shook your head vigorously as you explained what brought about the encounter. She nodded and grabbed your hand.
“Just being the overprotective friend that I am! You’ve barely gotten out of the place and you’ve already been caught off guard by that charmer.” She explained.
“Says the person who fell in love with the Italian who bumped into her during her stay.”
“Touché, my good friend. But I promise you that we’ll have loads of fun while we’re here. Now let’s get out of this place and meet up with Feli! “ she said with great excitement. You thought she was joking with the last part until you saw her walking towards the exit. You sighed and pulled her back.
“Claire, we aren’t going to stay for long if we don’t get our luggage.”
You chuckled as she sheepishly made her way to the luggage claim. You couldn’t help but think that she and Feliciano were a great couple, but they both had to watch out for one another… especially when they got too excited.
“______________, let’s watch out for our luggage so we can view more of this place! I absolutely loved it the first time I came here, so I’ll bet that you do to. Especially when you get to see the Piazza San Marco! And of course, that was where Feli and I first had coffee together and actually had a talk. Too bad I was studying because he also mentioned a ton of other places we could have visited, but he’s awfully sweet when I told him about how I was still struggling with my studies. Just walking the streets of the city is a very wonderful experience, you know? “ Claire said.
You were half-listening to her as you waited for your suitcases to appear, but it seemed she was too excited to notice that your eyes searched the pile of bags. You nodded as she continued to tell you more about places both of you could visit now that there wasn’t anything to worry about like studies or such. Just as you spotted both of your suitcases, you stepped forward to retrieve them, only to be pushed back by the passengers who were also searching for their bags. Sighing, you got up, only to be surprised by a squeal from Claire. Curious to why she had suddenly made a sound, you turned around as you saw her being lifted by a man with brown hair, who you assumed was Feliciano. Cautiously, you walked towards them. From what you remembered from your webcam sessions with the Italian, he had brown eyes. His hair was parted at the center and there was a strange curl that protruded from his left side. He was wearing a yellow striped polo and black pants, which had accentuated his slim figure. In truth, you thought he looked better in person. Claire turned towards you and had grabbed your hand.
“______________! Don’t tell me you’re checking out my boyfriend!” she said jokingly.
“More of a security check! Claire, don’t think that I’m the type of person who would do that!” you said in your defense.
“Oh! Are you ____________? I wasn’t really sure if it was you.” Feliciano had said brightly. He approached you to give you a bear hug (which you admit was so tight that you couldn’t breathe) before wrapping his arms around Claire. She grinned at you before clearing her throat to try to hide her embarrassment.
“Have you gotten your suitcases already, _____________? “ Feliciano had asked. You looked down in embarrassment as you explained how you got pushed away and had gotten distracted by Claire’s squeal. You held your hand out before Claire was about to apologize for the moment, and you called out to them about going back in the war. Feliciano looked at Claire before walking off towards the exit. There was someone dressed in a brown sweater and was wearing a green and red scarf with light brown pants. He looked a bit like Feliciano, although you couldn’t really tell since you were a bit far from him. The man who Feliciano was talking to had looked like he was against whatever the Italian said, but had eventually given up and was making his way towards you. Feliciano shouted “Grazie mille, fratello!” before returning to Claire’s side. She was giggling at him about something Feliciano had said.
“You. Feliciano told me you needed help.” A gruff voice had said. You turned around and almost screamed because the person Feliciano had talked had looked almost identical to him.