Verona to Venice
‘What light through yonder window breaks?’
Richard noticed a beautiful blonde haired girl looking out of the open window above the Gelato shop. This was one of the few Shakespeare quotes he remembered from school. She was watching the procession of tourists marveling at the exterior of the Coliseum across the road. Probably eighteen to twenty, her long straight hair cascaded over her shoulders. Wearing a low cut white t-shirt she seemed to have a permanent smile on her face.
‘Buongiorno, bambino,’ he shouted up to her, being almost the extent of his grasp of Italian. To his surprise she smiled even more and waved to him.
‘Ciao, signor’, she responded.
Taken by surprise Richard nudged Ian.
‘She fancies me.’
‘Momento, momento, signor,’ she called down to Richard.
Leaving her window seat she quickly disappeared from view. Richard and Ian were on a month long tour of Europe after graduating from University. Ten countries in thirty days, looking to score as many times as possible. Still waiting to open their accounts after the three weeks. Richard’s eyes bulged as she appeared out of the Gelato shop. A tight pair of very short denim shorts and her cleavage looking as though it would escape from her t-shirt.
‘This is it, brother,’ he called.
‘I’m not so sure.’
‘Hi babe,’ Richard replied.
‘Ah you English, yes?’
‘That’s right; what’s your name? I’m Richard, this is my brother Ian.’
‘Hi Gabriela,’ added Ian.
‘You boys like drink, yes?’
‘Well, yes great. Where can we go?’
‘Upstairs, I have Grappa. You like Grappa?’
Richard looked at Ian with a puzzled expression.
‘Not sure we’ve tried … Grappa.’
‘You love Grappa, is good Italian drink.’
Ian looked reluctant, he was a year older than Richard and marginally more sensible.
‘Steady on Rich, it might be rocket fuel.’
‘It’ll be fine bruv!’
Gabriela ushered them into the Gelato shop, past numerous different coloured tubs of ice cream through to a door at the back. This opened onto a narrow staircase, white washed walls with paint peeling off; brown cardboard boxes stacked at the top of the stairs. She led them into a bedroom, the one she’d been looking out of at the front. Bright yellow painted walls, a single bed with a faded pink quilt under the window, a small pine dressing table at one side. Numerous pictures of the Madonna hanging on the wall. She poured the translucent brown spirit from a large bottle into two small grubby glasses.
‘Are you having a drink?’ queried Ian.
‘I only drink water,’ she replied picking up a small bottle of mineral water, taking a sip.
‘Do you live here?’ Richard asked.
‘No, no, no. I work in Gelato shop.’
Approaching footsteps on the stairs. A small tanned man with dark curly hair looked round the partially open door.
‘Caio, Luigi. This is my brother Luigi.’
Luigi, said nothing but eyed up the brothers.
‘These friends of mine, Ricardo and Jan.’
Gabriela looked at her brother and nodded to him.
Luigi nodded back and went back downstairs. The boys finished their drinks.
‘Wow, that’s powerful stuff!’
‘It’s like firewater,’ added Ian.
Richard readily accepted, although his brother was unsure. Gabriela quickly refilled their glasses. She sat down on the bed and motioned for the boys to sit either side of her. Ian sat at the bottom end of the bed keeping his distance, but Richard shuffled close to her on the other side. Immediately she put her hand on his knee.
‘You on holiday, Ricardo?’
‘That’s right, only here until tomorrow, then we’re going to Lucerne.’
‘I love Lucerne, when you go back to England?’
‘After Lucerne we’re going to Munich for the beer festival and then home.’
She started stroking his leg and shuffled closer so they were sat side by side.
‘I would love to go London, and see your Big Ben.’
‘Oh, yes. That’s nice.’
Blushing, Richard downed the last of his Grappa and swallowed hard. He could feel his temperature rising. His eyes were fixed on Gabriela’s revealing t-shirt, beads of sweat were developing on his forehead.
I think it’s time we were going,’ Ian suggested.
‘No, no, no. I get you another drink. We having good time.’
‘Just one more,’ said Richard.’
Leaving his leg alone Gabriela sprang up and brought the bottle over to the bed. Richard held his glass out as she filled it to the brim.
‘Not for me thanks,’ said Ian covering his glass with his hand.
‘You no like grappa Jan?’
‘Very strong, I’ve had enough.’
Gabriela sat down the other side of Richard, leaving Ian isolated at the far end of the bed. She put her arm round Richard’s shoulders and pulled him towards her. He rested his head on her shoulder, staring down her cleavage as he sipped his drink.
‘I think you’ve had enough to drink, Rich,’ Ian warned.
‘Nonsense, I’m absolutely fine. Gabby is a good friend, aren’t you?’
He felt the room starting to spin, Gabriela’s cleavage came in and out of focus. One final gulp of grappa and he waved the glass in front of Gabriela. She took it off him just in time as he slumped against her, ending up across her lap.
‘Luigi, Luigi, veloce, veloce,’ she shouted.
‘Rich, Rich, what you doing bruv?’
Ian jumped up and pulled Richard off her lap, she stood up and he laid Richard onto the bed.
‘I knew he’d had too much to drink!’
Luigi ran upstairs and dashed into the room.
‘He’s passed out, we need to get him back to the hotel,’ Ian shouted.
‘Si, si, I help you. We go in my car,’ offered Luigi.
Luigi helped Ian to maneuver Richard into a sitting position. Taking an arm each they managed to get him stood up, while Gabriela looked on.
‘Poor Ricardo, he not very well.’
‘Rich, Rich, can you hear me?’
He opened his eyes and stared at his brother, slowly nodding his head.
‘We’re going back to the hotel, Gabriela’s brother is going to take us.’
They made their way slowly to the top of the stairs, and very slowly down them. Luigi’s car was parked round the back of the Gelato shop, a small dark red Fiat 500, with a broad white stripe over the bonnet and roof. It was only a short drive to their hotel, Luigi helped Ian to get Richard to their room. They struggled to get him on the bed, but once there he fell asleep straight away. Ian thanked Luigi and prepared to spend a long night looking after his brother.
Richard woke up early in the morning, still in his clothes from the day before.
‘What happened? Oh God, my head hurts.’
‘You had too much of that Grappa, bruv.’
‘I don’t know, we left her at the Gelato shop, her brother Luigi helped to bring you back here.’
Rolling on to his side he swung his legs round to sit on the edge of the bed. He stared at Ian trying to focus, then checked his back pocket.
‘What happened to my wallet? Where did you put it?’
‘Dunno, I never took it out of your pocket. It must have fallen out, is it on the bed?’
Richard looked behind on the bed and rummaged around the crumpled blanket and sheets.
‘It’s not here. It’s gone! That bloody Luigi has robbed me, he has. How did you let him?’
‘I don’t know, it was difficult getting you down the stairs and into his car. Then getting you onto the bed wasn’t easy.’
‘That was my money; it’s all gone! You should have looked after my wallet.’
‘You shouldn’t have drunk so much Grappa.’
‘It was that Gabriela, the cow; no wonder she was so friendly!’
‘Right we’re going to sort out that bitch and Luigi, come on bruv; we’ll show them not to mess with us.’
‘They won’t be there today, it would be too easy for us to get them,’ Ian surmised.
‘But what about my money, I’m skint now, what are we going to do?’
Ian sat on the edge of their bed, lost for words. After a short silence, he turned to Richard with a rueful expression.
‘If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?’