"Your face is like a melody."
Mariana looked around as a tourist — not as a tour guide — this time inside the museum as she waited for her friends. When their shifts were over, she mentioned what happened on her day off. Her friends got angry for not taking a risk and told her to get over her ex-boyfriend, for it already had been a year. She rolled her eyes and shrugged. Why would they know what she was afraid of, anyway? She never tells them everything.
"It wasn’t because of my ex," she mumbled.
"What was that?" Beth heard her mumbling and curled Mariana’s hair between her fingers because she always does that.
Mariana shook her head. ”Nothing, that’s just how my life is."
Beth disagreed and gave her a reassuring hug. ”Oh, Raine, I hope someday you’ll see how much of a catch you are."
When it was time for her morning shift on a Wednesday, Mariana noticed the museum setup was different as she stepped to the front desk. ”What’s going on?" she asked Beth as she wondered about the heavy lights and cameras. ”Why are there —?"
One of the staff wearing bulky headphones and holding a clipboard shushed Mariana. She held her hands up, and her eyes went wide as she whispered, ”Okay~! I’m sorry."
Beth giggled beside her, for showing her salty self. As the other tour guides ushered tourists to the other side of the museum, away from the filming crew, Mariana settled in and arranged timetables for incoming group tours with her friend.
Wrapped in her duty and work, she lost focus when Beth elbowed her sides.
"Raine, oh my god, look!" she whispered excitedly.
Mariana lifted her eyes away from the timetable she was organizing. She looked at where Beth was pointing and was shocked at what was happening in front of her.
"It’s one of D’s favourite up-and-coming actors!" giggled Beth.
Mariana quickly pulled her mobile out of her pocket and swiped through her contacts to find Diamond’s name. She sneakily took a photo of the ongoing shoot then typed a short message as fast as her thumbs would go. She quickly sent it to Diamond before their supervisor caught her.
"D!" she wrote. ”You will never believe who’s here!"
As she stood there, amazed by Fate’s funny ways, Mariana’s heart leapt and almost dropped her mobile when it started ringing. Violating the rule of no electronics allowed, she answered and lowered the volume.
"What the~!!!" D squealed; the New York City lights shone behind her.
Mariana and Beth tried to stifle their giggles as they wondered why she was still up at like three in the morning. But D was making it hard for them.
D was shaking the screen, screaming: ”It’s freaking Jace Richardson! How on Earth did you not recognize him?!"
Mariana lowered the volume again when people started to glance their way. She shook her head and thought, ”So that’s the reason why that guy looked familiar!"
But it wasn’t the real reason why he looked familiar to Mariana, for she had never seen any of his films or commercials, only glimpses of D’s saved pictures. His familiarity was something Mariana had seen when she was younger, rummaging in the attic of her childhood home in London.
The slight commotion caught Jace’s attention, and his eyes twinkled in delight to see again the woman who turned him down. To him, there was something about Mariana’s aura he’d like to figure out. He asked the director to take five, and he approached the front desk.
"What a small world?" chuckled Jace at the petrified Mariana.
On the small screen, Diamond was giddy and screamed at Beth, so she could see what was happening.
Beth held the mobile just a bit so D could see Mariana and Jace’s exchange.
Heart hammering inside her chest, Mariana tried to keep her composure and cleared her throat. ”I suppose it is, Mr Jace Richardson."
He shook his head, smiling. ”Please, there’s no need to be formal, miss."
"Her name is Raine!" butted D, screaming so they could hear her.
Jace glanced to where the tiny voice spoke. Beth shyly smiled as she held Mariana’s iPhone, filming them for Diamond to see.
"Her name is Lorraine Greene, but we call her Raine," said Beth.
"Beth~!" Mariana tugged Beth’s hand, clearly embarrassed.
Jace chuckled again, and D almost fainted in her flat. ”It’s nice to know your name, finally, Ms Lorraine Greene." He said, slurring her name as if devouring it. ”I would love to take a tour after this filming. Would it be okay, Raine?"
Beth upped the volume for Jace to hear when she noticed D speaking.
"Yes, she’d love to! Don’t mind her icy exterior. SHE WOULD LOVE TO GIVE YOU A PRIVATE TOUR!" answered D fast enough to stop Mariana from rejecting him, which made Beth burst out laughing.
"Would you?" Jace innocently pleaded. ”I promise to behave."
Mariana shook her head despite the overwhelming warmth radiating from her insides. ”What’s the worst that could happen? It’s just a tour." Her inner voice told her. ”Fine," she sighed.
"Seems forced, Ms Lorraine." Jace’s shoulders slumped, and he pouted charmingly at her.
Mariana rolled her eyes and couldn’t control her blissfulness as she giggled. ”Would you please drop the ‘ms’? I feel like a headmistress."
Jace chuckled at Mariana’s wit.
"Raine would suffice, Jace Richardson."
He winced and laughed. ”Then would you also drop my last name? I feel like I’m my father."
When Mariana and Jace laughed, the pair seemed to get sucked into their little world as they felt time stopping around them. Though having only a few in common, after a month of getting to know each other and going to places after work, Jace was starting to fall for the hard-shelled Mariana, for she was different from the girls he had dated before.
He was unsure why Mariana’s coldness was her defence mechanism and didn’t want to push her away by prying, but he could see her slowly opening her heart to him. She’s the sweetest underneath it all.
Mariana, though uncertain of his intentions because he’s an actor, was falling for him, as well. She often wondered why he fancied her; she never had a summer-ready body, her height of 165cm was never flattering next to her tall friends, and Mariana believed she’s a dull person.
On the last night they had together in Rome before Jace left for London, Mariana voiced out her confusion to her sweet boyfriend.
"Yes, my dear?"
"Out of all the girls out there; models, actresses, or anyone in your world, why me? I’m nobody."
Jace shook his head, gazing deeply into her eyes. ”Oh, my dear Raine," he chuckled, for he always fed her doubts and insecurities with praise and positivity. ”Why do you always doubt yourself? You’re a beautiful soul, and it’s unbelievable you don’t even know it."
Mariana shook her head internally and thought, ”If you only knew how rotten I was." But she playfully shoved him and giggled. ”Yeah, right, Mr big shot!"
"But it’s the truth," said Jace, seriousness returning in his voice. ”Your fire is the invisible force that keeps pulling me to you."
It was true that he would sometimes stop to stare at how Mariana passionately described to him an artwork or a statue they would pass by during their walks along the streets of Roma. Or when she shared with him about a book she had finished and how excited she got, Jace would always stop to stare at her bright eyes.
In the dim lights of candles, she felt his hand graze the side of her cheek and smelled the malt liquor in his breath. Though dreading the fuzzy feeling, Mariana let him get close.
"How about me, Raine?" he whispered, ”Why did you pick me?"
She gulped and felt the tears forming in her eyes at revealing a piece of her sincerity. Chills multiplied from her head to toe. ”You make me feel like I’m the only one you see," she whispered back; wit stepping out of the door. ”It’s new to me."
He looked straight into her eyes, and the ice was melting away. Mariana wanted to shift her head somewhere else, but his blue-green eyes were equally entrancing her emerald ones, staring into her soul. As Jace leaned closer, she closed her eyes and waited for his lips to touch hers.
It was light at first, but when she kissed him back, allowing him to taste her mouth, it became urgent and heated. Even though she doesn’t admit it, meeting Jace was the highlight of her European adventure.
And that warm summer night, reassured about their feelings, they bared their minds, bodies, and souls to one another. Under the inky, starlit skies, they made love for the first time.