On a marble bench in Villa Borghese, Rome glowing in its June glory, the boy tells the girl this is not the right time, his school year abroad is only about to start. She knows, of course, but it’s only now she’s found the courage. Now, after 9 months of sharing books, and records, and big teen thoughts. A rose-seller walks up and insists the boy buys one: Compra, he says, buy a rose for your girlfriend. Look how pretty she is. The boy points out she’s not his girlfriend, and it stings like the thorns the man carefully removed. But the boy buys two roses anyway: one he gives to the girl, the other he leaves on the bench for a luckier couple. Four words, her mantra for months to come.
Come, the man says, taking the woman’s hand. They’ve only met hours before, at a conference in Via Veneto, and this is the first time he takes her by the hand. It’s softer than he thought, and he can imagine her fingers through his hair. She follows him, and laughs nervously. I’ve never done this, she says. They walk on the crunchy pebbles till they reach a marble bench. There’s a pink rose forgotten by someone. For you, my dear, he says. In his pocket, he can feel his phone vibrating – home. They talk about fortunate meetings, and lucky escapes. Later he books a restaurant close enough to his hotel. The woman leaves the rose there, because she knows it was never meant for her.
Her energy is dwindling these days. She knows she should see the doctor, but she just blames her sleepless nights. Still, she’s finding her solitary walk across the park refreshing: the sound of the children laughing, riding horses on the roundabout, the late afternoon sun painting the Casina Valadier in gold. She stops to look at Piazza del Popolo, and remembers when she was small, and her dad would park his old Fiat 1500 right there, opening the door to release her, and then four more children and two more adults. She looks at Saint Peter’s, and at the other domes, how close they seem from here. She wonders how this town can surprise her even now. When she walks past a marble bench, she sees a rose. She holds it, looks around. Nobody seems to be looking for it. When she’ll get home, she’ll tell her husband it’s from her lover. They will laugh. Tonight, she will sleep fast.
Slawka G. Scarso has published several books on wine and works as a copywriter and translator. Her short fiction has appeared in Mslexia, Ellipsis Zine, Entropy, Bending Genres, Necessary Fiction and elsewhere. She lives between Rome and Milan with her husband and her dog, Tessa. More of her words on www.nanopausa.com or on Twitter as @nanopausa.