“All my friends tell me I should move on.”
A lot of people say college was the best time of their lives. Ornery Mariana Lorraine Leighton-Greene doesn’t entirely agree with this statement since her perfect streak got tainted during her last year. Thanks to her contemptuous professor, it was awful, demeaning, and draining. If someone asks which one would be her favourite moment, though, certain memorable events will cross her mind that she will never admit to anyone except her journal.
Even though the last term of her fourth year was the worst she experienced in college, she liked the curriculum in her third year because she was one of the chosen students for the school exchange program, alongside Elizabeth, one of her college best friends. They went on a European tour and internship for the whole year, and it was an enlightening adventure.
"That is soooooo unfaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiir~!" whined Diamond at Mariana and Elizabeth when they showed the email announcing the good news. She grabbed Eleanor by the shoulders and shook her, ”Why didn’t they take us too, Lea?!"
The three giggled at their animated friend.
Mariana shrugged, ”Sorry, we didn’t know the school will only take two students, D." She wrapped an arm around the pouting Diamond. ”Beth and I will be one chat away, anyhow. Back me up, Lea."
"They’ll be back for vacations, anyway, D!" reassured Eleanor, patting Diamond’s back.
Beth nodded as she took her android back. ”Raine and I will buy souvenirs for you two, don’t worry!" She faced Mariana, ”Isn’t that right, Raine?"
Pushing her glasses back in place, Mariana smiled and nodded to reassure D.
True to their words, almost every time the quartet was free from classes and workloads, they conversed through Messenger and video calls.
That memory always puts a smile on Mariana’s pretty face.
Once they were in Europe, the hours of work they had to cover in museums were challenging, but she loved doing it. Mariana doesn’t show much of her real emotions, but she let herself go and even dyed her luscious dark brown hair to sandy blonde in Rome.
One Friday afternoon, Mariana was left wondering what to do next after finishing her schoolwork in their hotel room, for her newfound friends and Beth had shifts to cover. Itching to go out on an escapade, she went to the bathroom for a quick shower.
Taking note she was alone and free, where no one knew her there, she stepped out of her usual style of wearing black. Her excitement coursed through her veins as she looked at herself in the mirror. Her bright smile made her look affable as she smoothed the soft, mid-thigh skirt of her cerulean blue dress, highlighted with a cute washed-up brown leather belt at her waist and her trusty yellow ballet flats at her feet.
Quickly tying her wavy locks in a messy do, she winked in the mirror. ”I will marry myself if I can!"
Giggling, she grabbed her Valentino Rockstud Spike bag and headed out. She sent a selfie to April Matsumoto, her best friend since 7th grade.
Secret Bitch 😎😈
20 MAY 2017 4:37 PM
Daaaamn, looking gooooood!
What’s the occasion?
Nothing, just felt like going out 😏
How you doing biiiiish? Why up so early? 😂😂😂
Secret Bitch 😎😈
Oh, I have a class starting at 8 haha
Loooove your glasses, by the way!
Aw, thanks! 😘😘
They’re new 🤓
Secret Bitch 😎😈
Anyway, unfortunately, I have to prepare now Mari 😣
Okaaaaaaay! Good luck in claaaaass! 💖💖💖
As she walked into the foyer, the receptionist greeted her and reminded her to visit the local pastry shop Pasticceria Cinque Lune. With a smile, Mariana nodded and strolled in Piazza Navona. Her shoes clicked happily through the cobblestone pathway; each step was rich in history. As the spring air blew lightly on her skin, she gazed up at the buildings and was mesmerized by the architectural structures they had preserved for centuries.
Her mind wandered about Roman history as she imagined how the olden days must have looked like, and she felt excited to be there.
When she reached the central district of Sant’Eustachio, she saw the cute shop the receptionist was talking about before. She ordered Antichi Romani and her all-time favourite drink, caramel macchiato, to go. Knowing she was a tourist, for drinking coffee in the afternoon, the local patrons gave Mariana odd looks.
She shrugged, and her curiosity filled her mind instead, so she went to check out la Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, one of Rome’s famous extravagant fountains. She sat on one of the benches and set down the drink next to her. Sipping her coffee and eating her bread, Mariana watched the tourists take pictures and flocking around the fountain. Her feet lightly tapped danced as she enjoyed the sweet, sweet pastry and coffee engulfing her lips and taste buds.
Holding and playing with the pendant of her heirloom necklace with her hand, she took out her pocket notepad and pencil with the other, and then she sketched the gods. The water running, the chatters surrounding her, and the street performer, playing the accordion, entertaining locals and tourists alike, were pleasant to her ears.
Taking one last bite of the pastry and balling the wrapper, when she looked up, a man, so tall, stood in front with his back facing her. ”Well, he must be another tourist admiring the fountain." She ignored it and continued to sketch by memory.
But when she looked up to the fountain again, a thought crossed her mind. ”This person could be Italian, too.” So she took a deep breath and tapped his back using her pencil. ”Mi scusi, ma per favore, ti sposteresti? Mi stai bloccando la vista."
The man turned to face her, and the sun cast a shadow over him.
"I’m sorry," he looked down at Mariana and smiled sheepishly. ”But I did not understand any of the words you were saying, miss."
His accent was proper British like Mariana’s, and his voice was thick, fluid-like, deep-toned, and well-developed. She guessed that he was past his mid-20s. Still, the sunlight blazing behind him, Mariana had to squint to make out if he was kidding or being sincere.
The sunlight was behind him, so she gave up, not having the chance to look at him properly. Mariana repeated the words, this time in English. ”I said, ‘would you please move because you’re blocking my view.’"
He moved aside and apologized again. Mariana smiled and said thanks.
Now she could check him out, he wore a slick, cloud-grey suit, and details were precise, the folds pressed, and the cloth pampered. He gave her the impression that he was not a tourist but a model instead. As he resumed taking pictures, an act Mariana did not initially notice, she observed that he was using a camera resembling her Nana’s Polaroid SX-70. The camera let out satisfying music to her ears as the photograph slid through the exit slot when he took the shot.
Trying to control herself, she still couldn’t stop looking at his stance.
Her breath caught on her throat when he glanced back, and she could now see his face, and for some reason, he looked oddly familiar. He had a kind, gentle smile, and his hair was as golden as the afternoon sun on a sunny day, but what struck her most were his warm, blue-green eyes staring at her emerald ones.
Mariana’s heart leapt when he smiled again, for his dimples showed. ”Excuse me and my intrusion,” he said politely, “but it feels like we have met before."
Unsure why he would say something like that, Mariana shook her head and brushed it off, ”no, not at all." She raised an eyebrow and looked at him curiously. ”Sorry, mister, but this is the first time I met you,” because she knew she would remember him if they indeed.
"What a cheesy one-liner," thought sceptical Mariana.
"Pardon me,” the handsome stranger’s face fell. ”Perhaps, you just look a lot like someone I knew."
She hummed as she nodded dismissively. Burying her attraction to this fine specimen, she went back to sketching. Mariana felt like a total jerk, but having bad experiences with a shitty, kind-faced ex-lover, her guard is always up. Her curiosity and interest got the best of her, so she stole a glance and was embarrassed to see he was still staring at her.
"Oh no," she internally gulped.
She heard him chuckle, and she would die to see him smiling. She gasped inaudibly when the stranger initiated a conversation with her again.
"I was just wondering why a pretty girl like you would be alone in the City of Love."
"I thought Paris is the city of love," she scoffed, rolling her eyes and finishing her drink. Torn between whether she should flirt or not, half of her was thinking: ”This well-dressed man was aggressive, in my opinion."
Despite getting attention from a cute guy, her insecurity blinded her from what was going on.
He laughed again, and Mariana could swear she heard angels sighing. ”Do you mind if I sit beside you?"
She wanted him to sit when she looked at the space next to her. She secretly hoped that talking to him would lead them to have dinner together. But she knew she wasn’t ready to jump into the dating game; her heart is still healing from what happened in her past.
So when she looked back at his strange tantalizing eyes as she cleaned up, putting the empty disposable cup in the paper bag. ”I don’t mind,” she smiled sweetly at him.
He beamed and showed his perfect teeth and dimples on his cheeks when he sat down next to her. He held out his hand as he introduced himself, ”My name is Jace, and you are?"
She firmly shook Jace’s hand and felt electric bolts piercing up her body. His strong hand lingered, and she didn’t like his effect on her. Though she wanted to stay, her other hand was already shoving her pen and notepad back into her bag. She smiled at Jace and checked her wristwatch.
"Are you waiting for someone?" he asked as she stood up. He looked up at Mariana, and he seemed dispirited.
She couldn’t help but smirk, trying to hide her giggles. She beamed warmly; it was the least she could do. ”And I’m leaving. It’s nice to meet you, Jace. Ciao."
She had no idea how to respond properly when guys talk to her; her brain is like a machine overheating. So, Mariana left him dumbfounded. She shook her head and walked away from him and towards Palazzo Braschi, the museum they were working for their internship.
"Just because he is handsome did not mean he could graft on me. He could do that elsewhere to anyone, far from me," Mariana quietly breathed to herself.
Ever since the incident happened in 2013, Mariana kept to herself and not entirely allowed anyone to get too close to her life. Though she felt immense attraction towards Jace, she shut her feelings down.
Unbeknownst to Mariana’s consciousness, Fate always had bigger plans for her.