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The Rose He Carried This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Her hair was done up last night. This morning it lies strewn about her head in disheveled tufts that I try to run my hand through. The tugging hurts her. I am in a youth hostel three blocks east of the Duomo in Florence. The paint in the corner of the room is cracking off.

She runs her right hand along the floor by the bed, searching for the red robe that had slid from her shoulders and dropped in a puddle around her ankles. Her fingers feel the robe; she sits up, flings it around her shoulders, and walks to the bathroom with the same European elegance which made me give her the rose in the first place. I lie still on the bed just watching her. She comes back to the bed, touches my face with the back of her hand, and her eyes tell me what we both already know. It is the last time.

Church bells are ringing and I am shaken from the moment. I have to get ready, my flight leaves in three hours. The entire group is waiting, and Ms. Dover is having a fit, I know it. My pants are on the floor and I quickly pull them up and slide my feet into my well-worn flip-flops. Yesterday’s rumpled T-shirt with all the Nike swooshes is lying atop the single chair in the room, and so it will be worn again today. In no time, I am ready. The door slams behind me and I rush out of the hostel with the smell of her hair still on my hands. I might brag about it to the others.

***

It’s been three years, and something as simple as a smell brings me back there. My homeroom teacher uses the same shampoo - it’s some sort of botanical shampoo with a soft rose scent. I’ve known this all year, but when my teacher walked in and slammed the door behind her, the strong scent washed over me and I was startlingly brought back to that moment.

***

“Italian girls walk differently, don’t you think?” I looked over to Nick, who answered with an automatic nod. He was too busy staring at the same girl. Or was it the girl next to her? We were sitting on the steps of the Duomo, sun burning, tourists everywhere. My entire class, 38 boys, were there on a school trip meant to give us a firsthand experience of the artwork we had studied the previous semester. Nick and I had different plans. I continued to stare as the girl sat down by a fountain, crossed her legs, and began reading a dog-eared paperback. Her wavy brown hair was held back by oversized sunglasses perched on her forehead, and her white blouse was unbuttoned just enough to reveal her cleavage, which I noticed from across the square.

I’m sure Nick had dared me to go talk to her. I wasn’t afraid because I was 5,000 miles from home with nothing to lose. Every public square in Italy comes with a rose vender specifically for occasions like this. He usually paces around with his head on a swivel, looking for fools like me. This square was no exception. The swiveling head had spotted me and the vendor offered me a rose. I nodded, pressed two euros in his hand, and gripped the thornless stem tightly in my sweaty palm. Standing with resolve, I focused my eyes on the rose, taking care not to damage the white petals. I was aware of the comedy in the situation. A 15-year-old American boy travels to the romantic capital of the world, spots attractive older female, and marches across square, rose in outstretched arm. She noticed me approaching just before I shoved the rose in her face.

“I noticed you reading from across the square,” I belted nervously.

Her head rose with a look of shock as if to say, “How can I help you?”

I paused with the stiffness of inexperience. “I’m from America,” I said, expecting those words would suffice to woo any curious Italian girl. I was wearing jeans and had more than one Nike swoosh visible. Her interest was piqued; it was totally in the bag. I looked back at Nick for approval, but he wasn’t there.

I whipped out my Frommer’s Guide to Florence, found the page describing the Uffizi Museum, and pointed to the picture, then to her, and then to myself. My confidence stunned her, and she looked at me with an appropriate Gioconda smile. She had no choice but to shake her head yes. After all, I was a younger American male, offering to escort her around her city.

“You are ... ahhh ... very courageous,” she attempted.

She was not like the girls at home. She walked with her shoulders straight, her head held with confidence. No slouching here. On the walk to the museum, the sound of her high heels on the cobblestone street reminded me how far I was from New York. She held the rose in her hand; it matched her blouse perfectly.

I had studied many of the exhibits at the Uffizi, but she did not know this. I let her have the pleasure of translating the descriptions from Italian to English for me, and besides, I liked the sound of her voice.

The quiet of the museum and the brilliant colors of the Da Vinci’s and FraAngelico’s left us both silent and transfixed. The silence was not unpleasant, but rather a shared quiet moment. Gently, she took my hand and rushed me down the hall to her favorite painting by Giotto, “The Holy Trinity.”

“Who is this girl,” I asked myself.

“Where are you from? Are you in school or do you have a job?” She answered none of my questions. Perhaps she hadn’t even understood me. Everything about her was a mystery, but my attraction to her was certain.

“Andiamo a bere un espresso?”

I got the message, and I knew it involved spending more time with her, so I agreed. Never mind that I had never had an espresso. I couldn’t reveal this to my new friend, who surely would have been turned off by my lack of sophistication. I could not act my age. I took her hand as if to say, “Let’s go,” and we walked back out into the brilliant sunshine. The café was a short stroll down an alleyway, which opened up onto a small piazza.

“Due espresso, per favore,” she stated more than asked of the young girl behind the counter.

The caffeine rushed through my system. The jet lag disappeared, and with it my shyness. The conversation took on the character of an interrogation. I spat a series of questions: “Do you have a boyfriend? How old are you? Where do you live? Why are you putting up with me?”

Had I asked that last one out loud? I wondered. My secret escape from the class field trip could not have been going any better.

From the café window, I could see the square. Nick was walking across it, and I yelled out to him, but received no response. Lifting the tiny espresso cup with two fingers, I drained what was left. I dropped 10 euros on the table, took her hand, and led her out of the café.

“Where do we go this time?” she asked with a smile. Her eyes caught mine as I said, “It’s a surprise.” Suddenly her perplexed look turned into a playful smile.

“Andiamo!” She said with a laugh, as I continued to lead her across the cobblestone square toward the hostel.

The bells jingled as I opened the door to the hostel was greeted by the owner’s daughter, Sarah.

“Buon giorno. Come siete?” she said, suppressing a smile as she slid my key across the front desk. Her glance turned from me to my new Italian friend, and she continued to smile knowingly. I acknowledged her with a big, 15-year-old’s grin. I held the key in one hand and her small graceful hand in the other as we walked up the stairs to my room.

Unlocking the door, I pushed it open and held my arm above her head for her to walk under. As I followed her into the room, Sarah called my name from downstairs.

“Telefono for you,” yelled Sarah from below.

I turned to my friend and she looked at me questioningly. Shrugging my shoulders, I spun around to go back out. The door slammed behind me.

***

My flight leaves in three hours. The entire group is waiting, and Ms. Dover is having a fit, I know it. The door slams behind me. The bus will be leaving from in front of the Duomo in 15 minutes. There is no one left in the hostel save Sarah and her dog, Bingo. I begin sprinting toward the Duomo. Stopping by the fountain to catch my breath, my eyes catch sight of something lying on the lip of the fountain. As I move toward it, the object comes into focus, it is a white rose.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 7 comments. Post your own!

Mickey17 said...
Sept. 30, 2013 at 3:06 pm:
I was so curious to know what happened! please do a sequal or something. i love it
 
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In_Love_with_WritingThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm:
This sounds like most guy's dreams which is very . . . steamy I guess (I don't have another word to describe it). But check out some of my stories! Please rate them, subscribe, or comment if you can. It really means a lot and brings a smile to my face each time. Thank you so much!
 
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a.m.f said...
Jun. 17, 2010 at 11:27 pm:
Nicely constructed. Check out my work if it you can. Thank you!
 
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Jana H. said...
Apr. 10, 2009 at 3:29 pm:
This is beautiful!
Its written very well.
 
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Zero_Kiryu This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 6, 2009 at 10:02 pm:
ummm. . .very permiscuous, but very well written. I liked it.
 
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melinda13 said...
Jan. 21, 2009 at 3:13 am:
nice job, christain! this is so wonderful! i just finished reading a book about a girl that wins a trip to italy. it was cool. keep writing, you're awesome!
 
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LittleMissSunshine78 said...
Aug. 9, 2008 at 9:51 pm:
This story is beautiful, I love it. Great job! I hope you submit more work to the site.
 
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