Monica is sad. She thinks, ’Here I am, in one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world - Venice. Standing on one of the most famous squares in the world. Among the happy and delighted tourists and kissing couples. Feeling lost, betrayed, and hopeless. Nice trip, huh.’
She takes out the phone and reads the messages once again. They are from her fiance Mike. Now, probably, ex-fiance.
Mike, ’Monica, I’m breaking up with you. I’m in love with another woman. I’ll pack my belongings. And when you come back, send the ring via mail. Have a nice trip!
Monica thinks angrily, ’Not even a single ‘sorry’. Scumbag and parasite! What a low act to make. He waited till the last moment…’.
She recalls the last year of her life with Mike and can’t remember even a single time she even objected to him.
She thinks with anger, ‘What a low act to make. He waited till the last moment…’
Monica closes her eyes to recall the events of this morning.
She had this early flight and felt nervous and sleepy. She immediately passed out when she took her seat in the airplane.
Mike let her board first and comfort herself. He said he wanted to quickly go to the food machine to buy her some water.
Unless, he lied and never boarded himself. She found it out when the plane went off the ground, along with the disturbing messages on her phone.
Monica is angry. ’Damn bastard! I knew he was cheating on me! Should have made a scandal…
It all started a few weeks ago when she found out a sweet message which was clearly sent not to her.
Mike told it was his friend who took his phone to text to his girlfriend. He said it was just a mistake. Then he started to come from work later than usual, work on weekends, set a password on the phone and so on.
Now Monica realizes how foolish it was to organize this trip for them both, hoping to glue things together!
Her phone beeps with another message incoming. It’s from her BFF.
Ann asks, ‘So how is the trip going? Did the plan work? Have you already burned the sheets in your hotel with passion?’.
Monica answers camply, ‘I’m here alone. We broke up’.
Ann, ‘Whaaaaaat? How did it happen!’
Monica, ‘Well… He left a message on my phone.I was already in the air. Alone’.
Ann, ‘OOF. What a dork! Curses on him! Hold on, girl! And enjoy your trip anyway!’.
Monica, ‘Yeah, I gotta...’.
Before Monica finishes typing the message, a sudden push almost kicks the phone out of her hands.
‘Hey!’ - she shouts surprisingly.
An angry tourist answers, ‘What do you think you’re doing? Portraying a column? Get off my way!’.
Monica is trying to answer being a little shocked, ‘I was… I…’.
She tries to find the right words, but a lump in the throat prevents the words from coming out. Her eyes fill with hot tears. She managed to hold them while being high in the air, while leaving her luggage at the hotel...She didn’t want to spoil anyone’s vacation with her problems and bad condition. But now her patience seems to come to an end.
The tourist continues nervously, ‘Didn’t you hear me? Read by my lips! M-O-V-E!’.
Monica stands still with her hand raised for a slap, when strong male arms hug her shoulders.
The stranger suddenly says, ‘Here you are, sweetheart!’.
Monica freezes in her tracks, but he speaks again.
Stranger, ‘What’s going on, bella? Who is this stronzo?’.
His voice is low and mellow, a music to the ears. Though it clearly has some Italian accent.
Monica is trying to guess, ’Eeeh… ‘Bella’? Like ‘beautiful’? And ‘stronzo’… Means ‘stranger’?’.
The angry tourist asks the stranger impassionately, ‘Is this your woman? Tell the bitch to not stand like a statue where the normal people walk!’.
Monica finally speaks with anger, ‘I’m standing right here! I wasn’t…’.
But the stranger interrupts her, ‘Calm down, my love’.
‘Love?’, - she wonders with surprise.
The stranger lets Monica go and moves forward, hiding her from the aggressive tourist with his wide back. For Monica it feels so safe and charming. The stranger is taller than her and dressed in an expensive dark suit.
Stranger tells the tourist, ‘If you don’t get lost in three seconds, you’ll regret you were ever born’.
Tourist is surprised, ‘What? Who are…’.
Tourist, ‘I wasn’t… She! Ugh!’
The tourist starts to move away from Monica and the stranger.
Stranger returns to Monica with a charming smile and says, ‘Huh, coward, as I suspected. Bellissimo’. He wears a beautiful venetian mask, which makes him look more mysterious.
‘You okay, my lady?’ - he asks.
Monica hesitates, ‘I don’t know… Am I?’.
‘You look… stressed’ - he answers.
Monica, ‘It was quite a day. Thank you, anyway’.
Stranger, ‘No problem. It’s my pleasure to help such a beautiful girl’.
Monica, ‘Ugh… Thanks again. I…’.
The stranger suddenly steps forward and takes her under the arm, pulling closer to himself.
Then he tells her, ‘Great. Now I need YOU to help me’.
Monica answers surprisingly, ‘Wasn’t it an act of generosity?’.
Stranger, ‘Partly, it was. I need you to walk with me for a while, like we’re a couple’.
Monica looks at him expecting to see a camera and filming crew behind, but it doesn’t look like a prank show.
‘Why?’- she wonders.
Stranger, ‘I’m being followed. Cover me’.
She doesn’t have time to finish her sentences. The stranger puts a finger across her lips, making her stay silent. The unvoiced yawl stocks in Monica’s throat.
She realizes how suspicious and even dangerous the situation is... but agrees on the strange offer.
‘Lead me, then, Mr. Mystique!’ - she tells the stranger.
But she still has doubts in her soul, ‘I hope I won’t get into any trouble… But he saved me. I should return the favor’.
Stranger, ‘I knew I could count on you once I saw you! Follow my lead, bella’.
He starts walking through the gallery and Monica has nothing else to do than follow him.
Then she suddenly asks him, ‘By the way, can I know the name of my angel savior?’.
Stranger is surprised, ‘Oh, scuza! Pardon my manners! My name is Alessandro. Alessandro Fiore’.
‘I’m Monica. Nice to meet you’.
Alessandro, ‘So, what are you doing here, in Venice? Working? Tourism?’.
A painful thought makes Monica hang in folds.
She answers, ‘Kind of… Should have been a romantic trip with my fiance’.
Alessandro, ‘Ouch, what happened?’.
Monica, ‘He left me today’s morning’.
A joy appears on Alessandro’s face. ‘What a nice guy!’ - he says.
Monica, ‘Excuse me?!’.
Alessandro, ‘Well, if he didn’t leave you, we wouldn’t have met. Now I am the luckiest man on earth!’.
Monica stops angrily and exclaims, ‘Am I a joke to you?’. She looks at him, but his guilty charming smile soothes her passion.
Alessandro reacts with sadness on his face, ‘Sorry. I’m not good at making compliments. Forgive me, principessa!’.
‘Hmmm… I don’t know!’, - she answers.
Alessandro, ‘Oh, I’m the most unfortunate person… I will never be happy again!’.
Monica, ‘Okay, okay! You’re forgiven!’.
Alessandro’s face becomes lighter, ‘Great. Let’s go then’.
They proceed further through the gallery. And Monica asks, ‘So and why are you here?’.
Alessandro, ‘Ugh. Lots of reasons. Mostly business. Boring. Did you arrive today?’.
Monica, ‘Yes, I just threw my luggage at the hotel and went here, when… You know’.
Alessandro, ‘It’s your first time here, I guess. And how do you find Venice?’.
Monica, ‘Well, I haven’t seen much yet. But it seems… Nice’.
Alessandro, ‘Nice? It’s beautiful! La Serenissima they call it… You should see it at night too. All the lights in stained-glass windows and the lights on the water in the canals. And all the carnival events, and costumes!’.
Monica notices his passionate speech makes him look incredibly charming.
Alessandro proceeds with joy, ‘It amazes me every time I come here. By the way, are you planning to go to any masquerade parties?’.
Monica, ‘Well, I’ve heard of them, but I didn’t plan to visit any. I don’t even have a costume’.
Talking about the city and it’s beauties, they both finally reach the end of the long gallery in the square. Monica remembers what Alessandro said about his friend and twirls her head around, trying to spot if anyone is watching them. Then she turns her head to Alessandro, and finds him observing her with a charming smirk. She licks her lips nervously, fighting the sudden urge to plant hers onto his. The weather is a bit chill but Monica feels heat rising inside her body.
Monica speaks shyly, ‘This is not good. I feel like I am falling under some dangerous spell’.
Alessandro, ‘Oh my, you’re the worst spy ever’.
Monica, ‘Hey! So where is your friend?’.
For a while he doesn’t answer, and she crosses her arms when a sudden guess hits her.
She turns to Alessandro and tells him with anger, ‘There wasn’t any friend, wasn’t it?’.
Alessandro laughs and raises his hands as a sign of capitulation. He speaks with joy on his face, ‘Busted! The true reason is I really liked you and wanted to spend some time with you. Monica, will you make an honor and have dinner with me? I know a nice restaurant near the Grand canal’.
He looks quite serious when he says it. Monica’s cheeks blush.
For her it all looks like a dream. A sudden appearance of a masked stranger that saves her day… She asks him, ‘Seriously, who are you?’.
Alessandro answers with a smile on his face, ‘Mr. Mystique, did you forget? I’m here to show you the magic of this city! So will you? Please’.
A thought appeared in her head, ‘ Why not. I’m a free woman after all now and still have two more days to somehow spend here…’.
She says, ‘I’m in! But I have one request’.
Monica, ‘Please, take off your mask. It’s a bit unfair that I haven’t seen your face yet. At least, most of it’.
He laughs and takes it off. Monica’s heart stops for a moment when she sees his face, so perfect it could have been cut in marble by the hand of Michelangelo.
Alessandro, ‘Here you are’.
His eyes are to die for.
Monica thinks, ‘Gosh. Handsome man with nice manners - that’s what I need right now!’.
Alessandro, ‘So, do you like it?’.
Monica, ‘Put it back. I don’t want the girls to start fighting for you’.
Alessandro smiles and says, ‘Over this old face? You’re flattering me but thanks’.
Monica, ‘So, are we going?’.
Alessandro, ‘Sure, but I have a suggestion, bella. I can show you around a bit while we proceed. It will take longer, but I swear it’s worth it. Or we simply take a shortcut’.
Monica enjoys the idea and thinks, ‘Alessandro sure knows more than me about the city. A free tour after all! C’mon girl!’. A joyful smile appears on her face, ‘Seems like a nice idea!’ - she tells him.
Alessandro, I won’t disappoint you’.
He offers his hand and she takes it. He leads her near the tall brick tower.
Alessandro, ‘So basically we are standing at St. Mark’s square. It’s like the heart of the city. And this tall building is St. Mark’s Campanilla - the bell tower. Climb it up if you want to experience the view of Venice from almost a bird’s sight’.
Monica sees a huge tourist line. And says, ‘Maybe some other time!’.
Alessandro, ‘True. To the right is the Doge’s palace’.
Alessandro, ‘Doge were called the rulers of Italian crown republics during the Renaissance. To the left is the St. Mark’s Basilica. There is also a museum inside with the relics. And…’.
He points his hand to the huge beautiful clock on one of the buildings.
‘St. Mark’s clock tower. See the archway? That’s where we need to go’.
They dive into the tourist flood and follow them down the beautiful street with lots of shops. Alessandro leads her with a state of insisting conviction of a person who knows what he is doing and where he is going.
Monica thinks, ‘If he didn’t hold my hand that close, I would have got lost for sure. So many people!’.
Alessandro looks at her and smiles, like he understood what she was thinking about. He gently squeezes her hand and she quickly turns away, hiding her blushing cheeks. He shows her a nice small shop selling authentic carnival masks. She stays a while breathless, stunned by the beauty of local creations.
Alessandro, ‘If you want to buy a real Venice mask, always look at the materials. If it’s plastic - that’s probably not a real one’.
Then Monica follows her nice guide to look at the gorgeous theatre La Fenice and San Fantin Church, which is across. When she was walking down the stairs some harsh tourists brushed shoulders with her. She would have fell if not for the help of Alessandro.
Monica, ‘Saved again. Seriously, are you my angel?’.
Alessandro answers with a smile, ‘Probably’.
They visit a few more noticeable palazzo’s before they reach the Grand canal. The view of this wide river, covered with boats and gondolas stuns Monica.
Alessandro, ‘See that big white structure across the river? It’s Rialto bridge. A popular place’.
Monica, ‘I can tell it’s remarkable by the amount of tourists shoving on it. How doesn’t it fall?’.
Alessandro, ‘Haha. It’s always like that during the carnival. We’re almost there, here is the restaurant’.
They both walk down the river front, and finally stop near the small and cozy restaurant.
Monica, ‘You didn’t lie when you said it’s a nice place’.
Alessandro, ‘It is. But actually the food here is even better than the view’.
Monica studies the menu cards for a while, silently. She is a bit lost, trying to pick a dish.
Alessandro, ‘Allow me to help you’.
Monica, ‘Sure do’.
Alessandro, Are you allergic?’.
Monica, ‘I guess not’.
Alessandro, ‘Then I recommend you one of these: bigoli in salsa, fegato alla veneziana or risotto al nero di seppia’.
Monica, ’Hmmm… Tough choice. I’ll go with…“Risotto al nero di seppia”.
Alessandro, ‘Excellent choice. It’s rice with black squad ink and seafood’.
They also order a bottle of wine. Alessandro excuses himself and pulls out his phone, digging into some texting. Monica sits in silence for a few minutes, enjoying the view of the canal and keeping an eye on the people buzzing around. The waiter brings wine and pours it into two glasses. Alessandro raises his and Monica does the same.
Alessandro, ‘Here’s to our meeting, Monica!’.
They clink glasses and take a sip of the cool beverage.
Alessandro, ’So, what do you do for a living?
Monica, ‘I am a biology teacher’.
Alessandro, ‘That involves a lot of teaching?’.
Monica, ‘Wow, you’re so smart!’.
He snorts but says nothing. The waiter serves the food and they both concentrate on eating. The food is delicious and Monica enjoys it. When they finish, she notices that Alessandro is observing her with a strange expression.
Alessandro, ‘Your eyes. They are beautiful’.
Monica, ‘“Thank you for the compliment’.
He continues with a sad expression, ‘And yet, they are sad’.
Monica, ‘Well… There is a reason for that’.
Alessandro, ‘I know, you mentioned it’.
Another awkward silence falls down until Alessandro breaks it with slapping his hand on the table.
Alessandro, ‘Okay, I just can’t. You need to tell me everything’.
Monica is surprised. She asks, ‘Tell you what?’.
Alessandro, ‘The story, how a nice person like you ended up being in the most romantic place on earth all alone’.
She laughs nervously, and continues shily, ‘I’m not sure you really want to hear the girl you just met bragging about her ex’.
Alessandro, ‘What if I do want? I know what you feel. I’ve been abandoned once by my almost bride-to-be right after I proposed’.
Alessandro, ‘Uh-huh. Do you wanna hear this stupid story? I swear it’s the same awful as yours’.
Monica realizes she’s interested. She also remembers she can’t call her friends, cause roaming is too expensive. She asks herself, ‘Maybe it will be nice to talk to someone who understands?’.
Monica, ‘Okay. You first’.
Alessandro, ’So… What can I say? We dated for quite a long time. I was working too much back then, and she wanted someone to be next to her when she needed it. It was a huge family gathering. Christmas, actually. Everyone was watching. I blurted out my speech, stood on my knee… She told me ‘No’. Eleven times in a row. And left’.
Monica, ‘That’s really fucked up, Alessandro’.
Alessandro, ‘Yeah. It was a hard pill to swallow, and I know how important it is to let your pain go. Your turn’.
Monica starts saying, ‘Don’t complain if the story is boring’.
Alessandro reaches out his hand across the table and covers hers. This small and sweet gesture along with the honest warm smile melts Monica’s heart.
Alessandro, ‘Never. How did you meet your ex?’.
Monica, ‘It was… About two years ago. At a local bar. I went there with my friends to celebrate Valentine’s day…’.
Alessandro, ‘So romantic!’.
Monica, ‘Oh, stop it, being alone on this day is not that romantic. Anyway I was taking shot after shot… I mean having a great time at a bar counter, when Mike approached with a bunch of friends. One of them made a rude compliment and Mike… Well, he stood up for me’.
Alessandro, ‘That’s a nice act of him’.
Monica, ‘I know, right? Of course we went on a date, then soon after we started dating seriously and half a year ago he proposed to me. That’s when everything started to fall apart. Long shifts. Secret calls.I just don’t know… It wasn’t big news to me. I suspected earlier that he was… cheating. Just didn’t want to believe it. And I didn’t cause any drama about that. I was scared… I wanted to believe. Silly’.
Alessandro, ‘How did you find out?’.
Monica shows him messages on her phone.
Alessandro, ‘Oh. That’s a douche move. And a very cowardly one. Not what a real man would do’.
Monica answers sadly, ‘Yes, considering how our relationship started. I never made any drama, never even fought with him, and agreed to any of his crazy ideas…I guess he just found me too boring. My fault’.
Alessandro, ‘Listen, I can spot a good person. And there is nothing here to blame yourself. I guess you two were just not meant to be with each other. That’s all. Things like these happen… I think it’s for the best. At least you found it now, not after the wedding’.
He gently strokes the skin on her wrist, sending an army of goosebumps down Monica’s body. Her eyes lock with his for a moment lasting an eternity. It’s like they have this sudden connection happen between them two.
Alessandro, ‘Your life doesn’t end with a bad guy leaving you. It’s just a new start for something better. Please, enjoy every day of it’.
A smile appears on Monica’s face, ‘Thank you. I will. At least, this particular trip for sure!’.
Alessandro, ‘You know, bella, I have an idea’.
Monica, ‘Huh? Better than this one which is happening already?’.
Alessandro, ‘Haha, much better. You said you were here alone and have two more days to enjoy the trip anyway. I want to help you experience the best of this city and it’s beauties’.
He takes a sip of his wine. Monica can’t help but feels intrigued about what he is going to propose.
Alessandro, ‘There is a Doge’s ball at the Moretta Palazzo palace tomorrow. And I desperately need a plus one’.
Monica, ‘Is it obligatory to come in couples?’.
Alessandro, ‘No, but… It’s complicated. I’m not just enjoying the carnival. I’m on a business trip. And the outcome of it depends on the impression I make during the ball’.
Monica, ‘I see. But what does it have to do with the plus one?’.
Alessandro sighs and crosses arms.
Alessandro, ‘I want to open a hotel in Venice. And already have my eye on a wonderful palazzo in perfect condition, not far from this place. And it’s owner, Lorenzo Marchesi, is a stubborn man who is clinging to old traditions. He thinks that a reputable man is the only one who has a full family…’.
Monica, ‘Ah, let me guess! A one-woman man!’.
Alessandro, ‘Kind of. Once being rejected by my fiancee I took my time to not rush into the new relationship. So I made up a plan. I told Lorenzo that I have a fiancee and he finally changed his mind. He invited me here to talk about the deal at tomorrow’s ball’.
Monica, ‘But you don’t have a fiancee!’.
Alessandro, ‘Exactly! I asked my managing director to find some nice girl to play the role. And guess what?’.
Monica, ‘He failed?’.
Alessandro, ‘Worse! The girl was arrested yesterday for illegal escorting. She didn’t even make it to the airport. I found it this morning via call from my manager’.
Monica snorts and asks, ‘You sure know how to employ nice people, do you?’.
Alessandro, ‘Yeah, mock me as much as you want. But if I don’t find anyone, Lorenzo will find out the truth and would never sell me this building’.
His sad face expression makes Monica feel ashamed for the fun moment they had. The next words fly out of her mouth before she even realises.
Monica, ‘Maybe I can be your plus one?’. And thinks immediately, ‘Oh shoot! Why did I say it?!’.
Alessandro smiles happily, ‘Excellent. I was going to shed some tears before asking you, to make my speech more convincing… So thank you for proposing it yourself. Now I don’t even need to force you into it or seduce you with a nice ring!’.
A shocked expression appears on Monica’s face, ‘What? Wait! I…’.
Before she can object to anything, he throws the money on the table - much more than needed - grabs her hand and pulls her into the labyrinth of streets.
Alessandro, We’re going to rent the best carnival costume for you!’.Start writing here…
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