Chapter Thirteen-Two months later

"You have a visitor, Miranda."

I looked up from the dishes that I was scrubbing to see Evangeline, one of my fellow students, standing in the kitchen doorway. She looked nervous, but I didn't think much of it as I removed my rubber gloves, wiped my face on the edge of my apron, and stepped out into the hall. The smell of jasmine and cassis hit me an instant before her voice rang out with joy.

"Darling girl! Come, let me embrace you, poor thing!"

"Hello Signora," I laughed, dizzy from the overpowering presence, and perfume, of the singer. "Hello, Irma." I waved to the maid, who smiled and returned the gesture in kind.

The Signora stood back and looked me once over, tut-tutting at my unkempt appearance. "Child, what shall we do with you? Look at that dress!"

I shrugged. "I don't need a fancy dress, Signora. All I do is chores when I'm not studying. And my guitar doesn't care how my outfit looks, as long as I practice."

At the Signora's request, we retired to the dining room, and Irma brought some tea while we talked. She told me of her upcoming tour-to South America-and of the "theft" of her emerald. "I was so upset to hear that your Gypsy friends were blamed without cause," she said, dabbing her eyes with a pure white handkerchief. "But thanks to your young man, I have my precious jewel again! I still cannot believe that it was a silly magpie, after all!" She laughed, a trill that made my ears pop. "But surely you must know all that, darling? I would think that young lovers such as yourselves would write constantly."

I took a sip of tea, not bothering to correct her. Instead, I told her of my journey here, leaving out some of my less than proud moments of vagrancy, and she clapped her hands with an almost childish delight.

"My child, what a story you are! And to think, you came all the way here on your own...."

I shrugged again. "I'm just grateful that you told me about this place, Signora. I've learned so much already."

She gave me a sharp look. "It is hard, yes?" I nodded, and she sipped her tea, satisfied. "Good. Things in life that are worth having come at a price, you know." We sat in silence for a moment, listening to someone practicing Chopin. The signora put down her cup with a soft clink. "That reminds me, I was going to ask if you'd heard from dear Tintin after the accident."

My chest tightened, and my blood ran cold. "Accident?" I croaked.

"Nothing serious, dear," she said quickly, putting her hand over mine. "Tintin, Captain Harrock, and that charming little Professor-and some others, I suppose-were involved in a little airplane accident." She then preceded to tell me the fantastic story; and how none of them had any memory of the actual accident at all. "They are all unharmed though, and safely home," she said at last. "I was going to call the dear il povero capitano this evening when I returned home. Shall I pass on any message for you, my dear?"

I knew that she was baiting me, and so I kept my mouth shut, idly stirring my tea. "I'm glad to see you again, Signora. Now Roberto and I can settle a score."

The signora and Irma left about half an hour later, with promises to return many more times. I went back to the dishes, my mind reeling with questions. Was he truly injured? Did the amnesia affect his memories of our time together? Would I ever see him again? I was not sure if I wanted to; the memories of our stolen kisses were mixed with my painful separation from my home and family, and I was not sure if I could ever disassociate the two. I had made up my mind that I did not deserve happiness with Tintin if it meant leaving my family, just as I could not live happily with my kumpania if I was forced to be separate from him. Two opposing roads had been laid before me, and I had forsaken each of them for an uncertain, intangible path whose end I could not foresee.

As I have said, I am foolish, and stubborn, and neither of those traits make for a happy life.

***

Two days later, I was returning from a nearby grocer when I saw a glint of copper in the early morning light, as if someone had tossed a handful of coins into the sunlight. A good omen, I thought, before I could stop myself. I turned the corner, onto the street where the school was located, and promptly dropped everything that I was carrying.

He was here.

Tired-looking and rumpled, as though he had not slept in days, but nevertheless, he was here, with a bouquet of wildflowers and a hopeful expression. We stood facing each other for a moment as the tomatoes and bread loaves that I'd purchased rolled around our feet ridiculously. Finally, he spoke.

"Miranda, I....I wanted to see you." He looked frustrated, as I often do when simple language fails me. "I know that you came here for a reason, that you want to make a place for yourself, on your own, and I truly want you to as well, but I just....I just wanted you to know that I still love you, that nothing about how I feel about you has changed, and-"

He never finished his sentence, and the flowers fell to the cobbled street as I rushed into his arms, and kissed him mightily. It was better than I remembered. When we parted, my eyes were weeping though my heart was joyous, and he ran his thumbs over my cheeks, wiping the tears away.

"Miranda...are you okay?"

"Yes," I hiccuped, grinning at him like a fool as we kissed again, and again. "I am now."

The End

Epilogue

Tintin stayed with me in Milan the rest of the semester, renting a small apartment nearby so that he could accompany me as I attended the school, leaving only occasionally to spend time with the Captain at my request, for I didn't want him to lose the only family he had on my account. There was a brief trip to South America, I recall, to rescue the Signora, Irma, and several others from a dictator-a story recounted by better writers than I. Suffice it to say that this story was merely the beginning of our long journey, together.