Title: Roman Holiday
Rating: Meh. Probably PG-13, but I'm putting R just to be safe.
Disclaimer: The Gilmore Girls belong to ASP and the WB. The film owns its own title.
Author's Note: Gilmore Girls Improv #9, and also #12. Two for the price of one, or one for the price of two? You tell me. Have never been to Italy. Feel free to tell me how I screwed up.
They meet in the centre of a piazza. She walks out of the gloomy dimness and blinks in the sudden glare of sunlight. When her vision returns, he's standing directly in front of her.
He hasn't seen her, and she's tempted to turn and run, hiding in the shadows, without knowing why. He's talking to an Italian man, the quick, irregular sounds familiar to her, now. She doesn't speak Italian.
Shifting from foot to foot, she bites on her lip. She can't seem to make a decision, can't get past the fact of his presence. She thinks she'll approach if his friend leaves. She thinks she's standing too close.
And then his friend has left, and he's taken a step away, and she hasn't moved. The tide of pedestrians that had been parting around her fails to do so. She stumbles into him. He catches her. A woman hurries onward with a muttered apology.
She sees the recognition seep into his eyes. They haven't seen each other for four years.
He says her name, makes it a question. She nods, shakily, and he smiles.
She's surprised by how little he's changed. Four years isn't a long time, but she'd expected more. Or less. Military school had had its effect; he'd been more serene, more capable, when he'd returned. She hadn't expected it to last.
They don't have much to say. He intends to do post-graduate, but has arranged to postpone it a year. He has friends scattered throughout the country, and thinks he'll spend the time hopping from place to place, or maybe head over to Spain.
She has a job lined up in New York. She'll be moving out of her mother's house in September.
They stop for ice cream, and Tristan takes her to the Trevi Fountain to eat it. She stares at Neptune's beard, and scrapes the drops from the bottom of her container. They throw coins before they leave. She doesn't wish. She doesn't know what she wants.
They wander the city for the rest of the afternoon. She likes walking. Romans are friendly, and the city feels more peaceful than it is. They arrange to meet the next morning.
They always arrange to meet the next morning.
It's comfortable. It shouldn't be, she thinks, but it is. He takes her everywhere, showing her everything she'd wanted to see, and things she hadn't known about and can't imagine why.
Everything's beautiful here. The churches, the river, the fountains, the women, and him.
They sit on the Spanish Steps, surrounded by noisy teenagers shouting into cell-phones, and she watches him. His hair's lighter than she's ever seen it, and the sun has edged his eyes with gold. She thinks his skin looks like it's glowing. It's not. He's happy.
He notices her looking, but he doesn't call her on it.
She meets his friends. One of them, Tonio, is the man she'd seen the first day. Tristan is staying with him.
They have dinner, and a little too much wine, and after the rest of the group has left and the waiter is putting the chairs on the tables, they go back to Tonio's apartment for coffee. Tonio soon disappears into his bedroom with his date.
Tristan makes her espresso, and then walks her home. She wants him to kiss her goodnight, but he doesn't.
They sit in tiny cafes when the sun is at its hottest. She sees the appeal of Spain and the siestas that she doesn't quite believe are real.
She tells him about the trip the summer after high school, and how they had run out of money before making it this far. She tells him about Jess, and how much she'd hated him when they'd first broken up. She tells him about her sister.
His father is dead. It doesn't upset him. It didn't at the time. He had to live in Italy for a year to attain his degree. He never wants to leave. He's thinking of buying an apartment on the shores of the river.
He speaks to her in Italian. She can't understand a word, but she knows what it sounds like. She has a sudden desire to learn the language.
They sleep together on the twelfth day.
They'd been walking, as usual, and she'd felt a strange jump in her stomach. She'd known, and the knowledge must have shown on her face. She had realised that this was what he'd been waiting for. He'd suggested that they go home for lunch, and she had agreed.
She enjoys it more than she had expected. She likes feeling his skin against hers, likes knowing that he's within her. She likes the expression on his face; she likes to see him happy.
And when she comes, she feels like she's falling, feels like she's crashing and fragmenting, shards of herself shattered and gone in the break. She reforms under his hands. They're sinking into each other, or she's sinking into nothingness. She thinks the sun that's streaming across the bed, across their bodies, is melting them both. If they stay much longer, they'll never be able to move again.
She watches the light tracking across the room until it fades, and the sky darkens.
They don't get dressed until Tonio comes home, at midnight.
Tristan is lazy. She's not sure why this surprises her. Maybe because he has such incredible spurts of energy, too. And he can cook, and he does, for her. She doesn't know what half the food is, but she eats it all anyway.
She regrets sleeping with him.
It's not a moral issue; he wasn't her first. It's pure fear. She doesn't know what's happening to her, and she doesn't know how to stop it. It feels less casual than she knows it is.
She keeps doing it.
He tells her that when he's working, he plans to observe the Sabbath, even though he's not Christian. He'll convert. He tells her that his mother is getting married again, to a man only three years older than he is. He hasn't seen her since last summer. He doesn't want to go home.
She tells him the date she's leaving. She wonders if she'll ever see him again afterwards.
Sometimes, she doesn't want to leave. She thinks she'd be perfectly happy working as a waitress for the rest of her life. Tristan is rich; if she lived with him, she could survive. At those times, she wants it. Those times, the only thing stopping her from voicing her thoughts is the memory of the job in New York. She knows she has to honour the commitment she's made, but she hates it.
Those moments are short, but they're frequent. Afterwards, she always thinks she's going insane.
Tristan keeps saying he'll be back next year, for college, but she's not sure that she believes him.
She doesn't know when she fell in love with him, but she knows that it hurt.
She hasn't talked to her mother since June, and she moved in with Tristan after three weeks. She can't bring herself to phone home.
She sends an email instead. She doesn't mention anything important.
Tristan takes her to a travel agent, and they leave with an armful of brochures. They're all for places in Italy.
He wants to take her to Venice. There are other places too, like Naples, and Florence, and the Vatican City, but he's obsessed with Venice.
She wants to go to Tuscany, to trail over the hills, and see the olive trees and the vineyards, and lie on a bed of wildflowers. She wants to know what cypress trees look like, and if anything can be as beautiful as she imagines things to be. She had intended to leave Italy after a month, and dreamwalk her way through the rest of Europe.
But Tristan waxes poetic about Venice, sometimes for whole nights. He's been before, of course, and knows somewhere they can stay. He talks about the colour of the place, the precise quality of the light, and the textures and the tones. He breathes out the sheer weight of the city, how overwhelming it is, and whispers of the phantasms in the water, and the shifting reality in the labyrinths that magically appear around every corner. He wants to go in winter.
They lie on his bed, and pour over the brochures for as long as they can manage. They usually loose track of themselves when the darkness begins to lighten. Then they slide across the sheets until the distance vanishes; they twine and tangle, and the glossy card slips around them as they overcome each other, and the pictures of their imaginings tumble to the ground in a river of glowing light.
They never make it out of Rome.
Sometimes she wakes in the night. Then, she watches him sleep and wonders if he does the same. It troubles her to think that he wouldn't.
When he's sleeping, he looks ridiculously young. She can't tell that any time has passed since she knew him before.
When that happens, she has to fold herself around him, clinging to his body until she loses consciousness again.
At first, she's uncomfortable around Tonio without Tristan, but nothing seems to bother him. He speaks perfect English, and makes it clear to her that although he may not like Americans, he likes her.
She thinks Tonio is the happiest person she's ever met. He loves his work, and he loves his family, and he loves Tristan, and he loves her. He loves life. He even likes the tourists.
He begins to teach her Italian. She's not very good at it, but she can understand some simple things: 'One return ticket to Milan,' 'Where is there a good restaurant,' 'You have beautiful eyes,' 'I love you.' Almost half a guidebook, she thinks.
She loves August, when all the shops close. A lot of the Italians go on holiday, and she can see more clearly.
Tonio goes to Germany, and it feels weird to be alone. They sit out on the balcony, and look down on the narrow street. The neighbours are loud, and have violent tempers. They chase each other out on the street sometimes, shouting. Tristan translates some of the arguments, and they always make her laugh.
Tonio has to work, and says goodbye before he sets out. He gives her his parents' address, just in case he trades up, and she idly wonders if everybody Tristan knows is as rich as he is.
He comes to see her off.
She doesn't pass through the checkpoint until the last minute. He keeps touching her, and kissing her in a way that she thinks shouldn't be allowed in public. She has the presence of mind to glance around, once, but nobody's looking. They'd be staring in Connecticut. She thinks she'll miss his mouth most of all, even though she hasn't known it for all that long. It hurts when she pulls back, so she doesn't.
He does. He cradles her head, and kisses her lips one last time, and tells her that he loves her, and she believes him. He tells her he'll see her soon, and she doesn't.
She has to go, and she does. She passes through the doors, and walks on, and she can feel him looking after her through the thick glass.
She turns back before she rounds the corner. They wave.
Her mother is waiting for her in JFK. She can tell that Lorelai wants to be all bouncy and excited, but her happiness is tempered by the lack of contact over the past months. She hadn't expected this meeting to help matters, but it does.
Lorelai knows. Not who it was, but that it happened. She doesn't press, and when she kisses Rory, she's very gentle.
Alexia is huge, and her father is old. She knows that neither of these things is true, but the pictures in her mind are different from the reality, and she needs time to adjust.
Alexia has boundless energy. Being around her is exhausting, and Rory knows she'll never be able to keep up, but she keeps trying.
She tells her mother the day she moves out. Lorelai alternates between wailing in horror and threatening to hop on the next plane and beat him senseless until he gets some sense.
She had wanted to tell, but it doesn't help.
She loves New York as much as she had Italy. There are even more tourists, if that's possible, but she's learned to tolerate them. She loves Grand Central, and the swirling people, and the buildings, and the strange little pockets where people live, metaphorically, if not always literally. She loves the manicurist's she finds above a butcher's, and the wonderful restaurant in what looks like an empty store, and the park stranded in the middle of all the concrete. She loves that there's a bookstore around every corner, and that everyone speaks Chinese in Chinatown, and the strangely musical cacophony of the accents that surround her.
She doesn't visit Little Italy, and she wishes that she weren't here.
Her roommate has handmade glasses. They aren't meant for drinking. They're decorated with lead shaped into flowers, and the glass is painted opaquely. They remind her of the stained glass windows in the churches she and Tristan visited.
She moves out after a month.
She regrets sleeping with him. She keeps telling herself that that's all she has to regret.
She writes to Tonio on All Saints' Day, and she thinks about Tristan, even though he won't be celebrating it. Tonio writes back, but she doesn't reply.
Tristan doesn't call or write. Neither does she.
The days are dull, and she hates the coldness. Everything is grey. This city is boring, and the traffic is offensive. She walks the streets, ungloved hands twisting in the material of her coat, fiddling with the buttons. She still feels a faint, spreading pain under everything, like shattered ice, or frozen bones.
She loves her job. She thinks she'd do anything for this job; she'd kill for this job. She had never really expected to enjoy working. People don't, usually. It makes her think of Tonio, and she smiles.
Tonio makes her think of Tristan, and the smile vanishes.
She returns to Stars Hollow to spend Christmas with her mother. She hopes it will take her mind off things.
It begins to. It's snowing, Lorelai is happy, and she thinks it will be contagious.
Lights twinkle like stars, the world is shiny and pretty, and she can't see through the flurries of snow. She lets a snowflake melt on her tongue, and it makes her mouth go numb.
There's a party at her Grandparents' house on Christmas Eve. She doesn't want to go, but she will.
She doesn't know it yet, but he'll be waiting for her there.