'Fighting To Be Warm'

  Photo courtesy of Cristina Cianci

Photo courtesy of Cristina Cianci

By Dave Pezza

A metallic shriek echoed in the Tuscan morning. Anna threw off her covers and scanned the room for threats. The guest room door shot open. Scott Brunelli barreled in with a two-gallon bucket of water weighing down one hand and a stack of ceramic tile under his arm. Once past the door’s threshold, Scott caught Anna in her white tank, the top band of her pink underwear just visible above the fallen covers. He glanced down at the pink scrap and returned to meet Anna’s green eyes, wide with surprise. He stood while she sat, mirror images of shock. Neither had expected that something like this could have happened in the part of the world they had hidden themselves.

Scott became aware that he was standing in a woman’s bedroom, staring at her in bed. He felt the heat of embarrassment and averted his eyes.

“I’m so sorry…I mean mi scusa,” he said.

Scott felt for the bucket he had dropped, losing his balance a little as he bent down.  Anna sat in bed, not reaching for the covers. The heat from the morning sun had warmed the rained soaked coals of her will.

“Mi scusa,” Scott repeated, backing out of the room on his knees, still feeling for the bucket.

“It’s okay.”

At the sound of her New York accent, Scott stopped and looked at her again.

“Hey!” Anna exclaimed. She had been sizing Scott up while his eyes were closed.

“Sorry, but you’re American?”

“Yea, a half-naked American wondering why you’re in her bedroom?”

“Sorry, sorry,” Scott continued, bucket finally in hand, “I thought this was…someplace else.”

“What?”

“I have the wrong room.”

“You think?”

“Sorry, I didn’t…“

“Dude, I don’t have pants on!”

“Sorry!” He said again, his voice cracking.

Scott ran out the door, slamming it shut, spilling water the whole time. Scott took a moment outside of Anna’s room to catch his breath, replaying the misunderstanding. The Old Man had just come in from working the wet saw. He had cut a small piece of tile into an “L” shape and shuffled down the hall toward Scott, checking the edges of the freshly cut tile.

“Finite?” He asked, kneeling down and near the threshold of the second floor bathroom.

“No, wrong room.”

“Ah so,” the Old Man hummed. He nodded to the water dripping onto the floor from Scott’s bucket.

Scott looked down and sighed. The Old Man smirked and bent down on his kneepads and placed the cut tile into the bathroom floor. It fit perfectly. Scott peered at the white tile grid the Old Man had just finished, reminding him of the work still to be done.

Anna took a deep breath after Scott exited in a rush of air and noise. She let herself collapse back into bed, happy to be alone with the sun.

“Cute,” she heard herself say quietly.

Cheeks still flush, she covered more of herself with the comforter and woke an hour later to a knocking on the door.

“Hold on! Gimmie a sec!” She said as she hopped across the floor to the two-drawer bureau to grab a pair of jeans, nearly knocking over a lamp.

The handle turned, and the door opened.

“Wait!” She said, hopping with one leg in, one out.

“Buon giorno,” Anna’s great aunt said as she walked through the door. Anna stopped dead on the other end of the small room, wearing only one leg.

“Anna! Sei nudo,” her great aunt said sternly, quickly shutting the bedroom door.

Anna collapsed into the chair, crushing the white nightgown her aunt had lent her, and jimmied her bare leg into the jeans.

On the other side of the Tuscan villa, Scott sat on his knees surveying the bare floor before him, sweating from the brim of his backwards cap. He mixed grey sludge called thin set with a wood-handled trowel. Most of his tools were second- or third-hand. Scott scooped up some of the loose grey matter on the edge of the trowel and slapped it onto the bare floor with a splat. He began working the thin set with the trowel in broad half circles, spreading it in uniform lines from the trowel’s blocked teeth in a broad arch. Scott held one of the tiles like a record, fingers touching the sides, thumb under the tile’s center. Slowly, he lined up the tile with the floor’s far corner and prepared to drop it in. The corner piece, if crooked, could ruin the whole layout of the floor. He dropped the tile in place, wiggling it into the thin set. He exhaled audibly.

Anna ducked from room to room, knowing Scott would be in one of the villa’s bathrooms. She held her coffee with both hands, letting the cream mug warm her fingers. Her long hair swayed cheerfully to and fro as she tiptoed barefoot up the stairs, her slender figure making little noise. At the top, she looked both ways, turning left to follow the wisp of Italian pop music surfing down the hallway. She came upon the full bath, the Old Man sponging the tile floor with water, bobbing to the small portable radio echoing out of the white cast iron tub. He would break after making a few passes with the sponge and take a quick gulp of coffee from the black mug resting on the tub’s wide lip. Anna crept past the door and continued down the hall.

Finally, she stuck her head into the half bath, nearly spilling her coffee at the sight of Scott’s ass in the air.

Please don’t fart, she thought. She backed away and propped herself up against the wall, watching him go about his work, sipping her coffee.

Scott moved the level across the partly tiled floor, hoping the bubble inside the venomous green liquid would line up balanced. At the very corner, where he laid the first tile, the bubble sat still in the center. But as Scott moved it across the rest of the newly laid tile, the bubble teetered left of center. He had bent low while on his knees to get a better look at the reading, seesawing his butt into the air. He continued to move the level, but there was no way around it. He had botched it, wasting time and thin set in the process.        

“Piece of shit,” Scott fumed in a whisper. “Fuck this,” he said louder.

He grabbed the putty knife and stabbed the gap between the tile and the floor. With a wet pop, the tile separated from the floor. Scott grabbed the tile with his other hand and cocked his arm, ready to bash the tile onto the floor. He stopped, hand in midair. Instead, he dropped the tile with a splash into the bucket of water and dropped his head and shoulders in defeat. Anna felt Scott’s tired frustration through her body. She recognized the tone of his curses, a timbre of dejection from much more than an uneven floor.

“So you’re just going to sit there and pout?” Anna asked from the hallway.

Scott, startled, lost his balance, and caught himself before falling on his back.

“Holy shit,” he gasped, craning his neck around to see Anna’s bare feet and skinny jeaned legs, leading to a familiar white tank. Scott could see the outline of a bright pink bra underneath.

“Now we’re even,” she said with a smile.

“I guess so. Sorry about that earlier, I really had no idea where I was.”

“Clearly,” Anna said, feigning offense. “On second thought, you aren’t in your underwear behind a closed door. You might still owe me.”

“Fair enough,” Scott said awkwardly.

“Run into a problem?” Anna asked, looking at the bare square of floor.

“I’ll have to start all over again.”

“What happened?”

“I’m guessing I didn’t spread the thin set evenly, and now the tile is uneven.”

“That doesn’t sound good.”

“Nope.”

“Well, can you fix it or did you ruin my aunt’s floor?” Anna asked matter-of-factly, void of sarcasm or judgment.

Scott noticed she had a bare, stripped down tone, as if she had grown tired of playing coy, an old trick for a defunct game.

“No. Nothing like that. I just have to pry off all the tile, wash off the thin set, and level off the floor, all before it starts to harden.”

“That sucks.”

“It really does.”

Their eyes met and a mutual feeling of empathy stumbled across their stare. Anna broke it by taking a sip of coffee from her emptying mug. Scott turned back to the putty knife and the crooked floor.

“I guess I’ll leave you to it then, sounds like you got some work ahead of you.”

Anna pushed herself off the wall and stopped before walking away. Scott pried another tile off the floor, trying to sense if she was still behind him. Anna looked down at her empty mug and then Scott’s back.

Screw it, she thought.

“Hey, I’m going to grab another cup of coffee; would you like one?”

Scott turned around on his knees with a look of surprise and thankfulness.

“I would love one.”

“How do you take it?”

“Milk and sugar if it’s not too much of a hassle?”

“Be right back,” she said and twirled off down the hallway.

“Thanks,” Scott called out after her.

Anna bounded down the hallway, still on her toes, ponytail swinging wildly from side to side. She passed the Old Man kneeling outside the bathroom, sponging the tile just in front of the threshold. Anna briskly made her way down the stairs, stopping abruptly after she jumped the last two steps. She landed with a muffled thud on the carpet.

Scott pried off the final tile, and tossed down more thin set. He enjoyed making the sound. It reminded him of playing with wet sand on the beach as a kid. He thought of its immaturity and subsequently his age. Three years ago, he had graduated from college, now he was tiling this damn half bath. But money had become tight as he trekked across Europe, burning any savings he had managed to accumulate after school. His thoughts switched back to Anna, the leggy brunette he was already fond of. She emanated a stark detachment in her tone that drew him to her. 

Anna moved the sludge at the bottom of her mug with centrifugal force, the remaining fluid failing to dissolve the coffee grounds, permanently separated. Could it have been circumstance that landed this guy, an American working a blue-collar job in Italy, to her Aunt’s villa? She tapped her feet on the carpet. More of the same had begun to pervade her sojourn. She hadn’t slept well the last few nights. Her new settings had begun to wear off. All she meant to leave had begun to creep back into her life.

“Why” crowded their minds, weighed their tongues. Why was he here in Tuscany tiling bathroom floors? Was he Italian, born to American expatriates? Was he educated? Coffee brewed in the background, her mind churning and gargling with possible answers to questions she might never know. Scott pried and washed tile, wondering how long she was in country, if she had a boyfriend, if she would grab a drink with him.

Anna tiptoed up the stairs again, vying for balance. She watched the tide of coffee in the mugs she held. When she reached Scott, he had just placed the first tile of his newly leveled floor. Anna opened her mouth to announce a freshly brewed cup when she noticed him moving carefully and slowly, dropping in the tile and reaching for another in a stack by his knees. She stood for a few minutes unwilling to break his concentration. After his display of genuine frustration and disappointment earlier, she thought of dropping off the coffee silently. A much changed person sat before her: effective, smooth, and terse in a modest way. Eventually Scott felt her eyes, her hesitation itching at his back. Without turning, he said,

“Admiring the view?”

It took her a few seconds to reconstruct her demeanor.

“Just the work,” she replied, handing Scott the steaming mug.

Scott grasped it carefully with two hands like a child.

“Thank you, so much,” he said, bringing the mug to his lips slowly, feeling the steam in his face. It lifted the sensation of exhaustion from so many early mornings this new transitional life had wrought in his eyes. They shared a moment of caffeinated respite. Anna broke the silence.

“Well I’ll let you get back to it, I wouldn’t want to be in your way.”

“No, not at all,” Scott lied.

He liked having her there.

“Are you sure?”

“Yea, you can help me out.  If that’s cool with you?”

Anna’s face lit up.

She helped Scott, handing him tile and tools as he lay the tile in a grid. They kept each other company, talking continuously. Scott listened thankfully to her American accent. The sound of her voice soothed him. Much that typically crowded and nagged his mind relented while she spoke. The more they talked, the further they led each other through the past. Working his arm in broad strokes with the tile, Scott listened to Anna, talking now about her first trip to Italy as a kid. He felt a release from his own problems, problems built in his head and stored in the aches and pains of his present. Before long, Anna knelt in the hallway handing Scott the last piece of full tile, posing her newest question, digging a little deeper.

“So after Holy Cross, how’d you end up here?”

The silence following her question made her nervous. Maybe she had dug too far.

“Well, I worked here and there, and after a while I really needed to get out of the States. I had always wanted to see Europe. So I started in England for a few months and branched out into the continent, but I ran out of money. I ended up in Italy, where I could get by with the Italian I learned in high school.”

“How’d you come by this?” Anna asked pointing to the nearly finished floor.

“I used to tile with my grandfather in the summer as a teenager and found this job in the Italian paper,” Scott said with a hint of serendipity in his voice.

“Wow,” Anna said. “I didn’t know things still happened that way.”

She handed him the final tile, looking at his eyes. Scott took the tile, laying it in the last square spot on the floor.

Scott was about to ask Anna why she was here when Anna’s aunt came, asking her to lunch in the city. Anna walked to her room to change, watching Scott walk the other way to make cuts on tiles that would fit around the bathroom’s threshold. She heard the shriek of the wet saw as she drove down the driveway in the passenger’s seat of her aunt’s car. Anna didn’t know if she would see Scott again.  A familiar part of her wished she wouldn’t. It would be easier that way.

The next morning, Scott kneeled on the newly tiled floor, his bucket in Anna’s spot. He began to grout the floor, filling in the cracks between the tiles with the beige colored mush. He looked over his shoulder after finishing a few rows, hoping to see Anna’s slender figure in the doorway, holding a pair of steaming mugs. After he was done, Scott replaced the grout with a bucket of water and a sponge. He would ring out the sponge and lightly wipe the floor, cleaning the remaining film of grout off the face of the tiles. Scott focused on finishing the job, determined to make every pass swift and smooth. Before noon, he stood at the threshold, the floor a pattern of white ceramic accented by near perfect beige lines. Scott took a deep breath and collected his tools. After rinsing them off and storing them in the back of the Old Man’s yellow Fiat hatchback. Scott walked to the villa’s kitchen and found the Old Man finishing up the grout on a few broken tiles.

“Finite,” he reported.

“Bravo.  Carica la macchina.”

“Si,” Scott replied taking the Old Man’s tools out to the hose.

Outside Scott turned on the hose and began washing off the tools, the water ran down the driveway to a patch of grass reaching around toward the back of the villa, connecting on the other side. The gravel driveway cut through like a stain running down from the front door. Anna turned into the driveway, hooded in sweatshirt. She walked past the puddle forming at the driveway’s mouth, and followed it to the villa. Scott saw her walking up as he loaded the last of the tools and buckets into the hatchback.

“All finished?” Anna asked.

“Yep, thanks to all your help.”

“I was happy to. Thanks for keeping me company yesterday.”

“My pleasure, really. Have a nice walk?”

“Yea, just needed some fresh air. It’s gorgeous just walking along the road.”

“I know. You go to Florence and Rome and see all these beautiful buildings and works of art, but nothing is as gorgeous as the Tuscan countryside.”

Anna smiled and continued to walk up toward the house.

“Hey, I still owe you one,” Scott called after her. “Right?”

Anna half turned, her hands in her sweatshirt front pouch and hair falling out of the right side of the hood.

“What did you have in mind?”

*          *          *

Scott sat at the long bar. Behind him, the pub’s booths were occupied by Italian couples, enjoying their Thursday night dinner and wine. All but one pair sat beside each other. The last couple sat facing each other, legs entwined underneath. Scott asked for two fingers of bourbon, forgetting how expensive it could be overseas, exchange and import rates lending an exotic quality to his native spirit. Finally, glass in hand, Scott hunched over the bar, figuring he had some time before Anna would arrive. Soccer played on the bar’s flat screen television. Always soccer, all the time here. Soccer and odd reality shows, not that he could make out more than a few sentences at a time. They spoke it so fast, faster than he had anticipated. He was good at getting by now, but not with the Italian.

Outside, Anna stepped out of a taxi. The bar’s exterior read “Pappagallo del Azzuro” in ornate African block letters, a painted blue parrot perched on a ring next to it. Once through the French doors, Anna saw the place dark and large. Booths lined both walls, separated by a bar that stretched from the back wall to the second row of booths. Glasses of every shape and size blanketed the space above the bar proper. A black and white photo of a man in a white tuxedo playing chess by himself was framed above the bar. Just beneath it, Anna recognized Scott’s overladen shoulders. Her heels clacked on the way over, turning heads as she walked.

Scott heard the clacking grow nearer, turning to see Anna already beside him, waving the bartender over.

“Martini sporchi, grazie.”

“Mi comprero` che,” Scott called out after the bartender.

“You know, it’ll take more than a martini to see me in my underwear again,” Anna said, looking him square in the face.

Scott was hit bluntly. She wore a billowy blouse that hovered over her tight blue jeans, riding low on her waist. Scott couldn’t see her heels under her boot cut jeans. The result was a defibrillator to his soul, a spark on which to lay kindling. She wore a shade of red lipstick between promiscuous and elegant. Anna caught his eyes on their way back up, confirming that, indeed, she looked good.

“But it’s a start, right?”  Scott asked.

Anna raised an eyebrow as if to consider it.

The bartender returned before they could begin a proper conversation. 

“Grazie,” Anna said.

Taking a sip of her dirty martini, Anna asked, “How’d you find this place?”

“My first night in Florence I was walking through the streets, getting a feel for the city. I came upon this place and knew I had to check it out. ‘Casablanca’ is one of my favorite movies.”

“I had no idea…was this the bar in the movie?”

“No, just themed after the movie,” Scott pointed up towards the picture of Humphry Bogart in white.

“Ohhh. Cool. That makes a lot more sense. I’ve never seen it.”

“Really? You’ve never seen ‘Casablanca?’ It’s a classic.”

“Nope. I mean I’ve heard of it, of course, but I’ve never seen it.”

“You should check it out. It’s one of the best movies of all time.”

“What’s it about?” Anna humored him.

“Well it’s basically a love triangle set in French Morocco during World War II.”

“Is it a war film? I can never seem to get into those.”

Scott felt embarrassed by his enthusiasm.

“But keep going…love triangle in Africa, World War II…” She encouraged him.

“Yea and there is this American named Rick who owns a bar in Casablanca, and a lot of black market stuff goes down there. See, Casablanca is the last city for thousands of refugees trying to flee Europe from the Nazis.”

“So Rick’s a bad guy?”

“No, definitely a good guy, but really jaded and hard. He lets all these deals go down in the bar so people can escape to America.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Yea, but his whole world gets turned upside down when the woman he loved who ditched him in Paris years ago shows up with her husband, a big time Czech freedom fighter who just busted out of a concentration camp.”

“That’s got to hurt.”

“Yea, and the plot of the movie is them trying to get Rick to help them get to America.”

“Does he?”

“You’ll have to watch it,” Scott said, smiling.

He took a draught of his bourbon and waited for Anna’s reaction.

“I guess I will.”

“I can lend it to you if you want.”

“Yea, thanks.”

Anna tried excitement in earnest.

“So the Papagallo de Azzuro is the name of Rick’s place then?”

“Umm, well, no. The Blue Parrot is the name of the rival bar in Casablanca”

“Well that’s confusing.”

“Yea, Rick’s place is just named ‘Rick’s.’”

“That’s not very original.”

“No, I guess not.”

Anna could tell she wasn’t holding up her end of the conversation and finished her martini, hoping something would pop into her head by the time she placed the glass back down on the bar.

Nothing.

Scott hadn’t talked a whole lot the first day they met, and Anna had nothing else to go on.  So she kept with ‘Casablanca.’

“So why is it your favorite movie?” Anna asked as if reading from a teleprompter.

“I guess because I find Rick’s struggle to forgive or forget the girl so difficult, especially since there is so much riding on it. That type of internal struggle played out so well is really refreshing to me.”

“Like whether to be a jerk or not about it?”

“No, it’s more than that. Rick has to decide whether or not all that jadedness and anger is worth putting aside, if it’s worth really loving someone even if it means letting them go.”

“That’s really deep.”

“Yea,” Scott said, much removed.

They sat for a long minute only drinking. They ordered another round, and Anna ventured further.

“Do you think you could do it?”

“Do what?”

“Let someone go like that, without all that bitterness, all that spite.”

Scott was surprised. He had been given a brief glimpse behind her subtle guise.

“I honestly don’t know.”

“Is that why you’re here in Italy, tiling bathroom floors?”

The question put Scott off, but she was right. She might have pegged him the moment he crashed into her room. Those who had lived with some darkness could sense the hidden scars, like soldiers who left the line with their bodies unscathed.

“Because I’ve let someone go?”

“Because you can’t decide.”

Scott downed the rest of his drink and looked directly into Anna’s green eyes.

“Yes.”  Scott took a moment to try and hide the effects of the bourbon on his face.

Anna felt he was annoyed. She had yet to earn this level of intimacy. She would have to offer up something herself. Something she had tried to atone for by crossing seas and changing lives.

“I guess I’m here for the same reason.”

“Really?” Scott asked, his guard back down.

“Yea, I ended a serious thing, and then spent months wondering if I had ruined something people spend their whole lives trying to find.”

Sitting next to her at the bar, Scott tried to ignore his sympathy for her. After all, it was a strong woman like her that had tossed the first stone of the avalanche that had become his life. Maybe now was his time to find answers. Answers to questions he should have asked. Answers that could have saved him.

“Then why didn’t you try to fix things? Why didn’t you go back?”

“I wasn’t sure he would have me. And even if he did, there would have been this unevenness, this score that might never be settled.”

Anna finished her drink and stared at the empty glass, feeling her words lingering in the air. She looked straight ahead now at the past. Scott could tell he was losing her.

Scott ordered another round, hoping to save the night. Once the drinks arrived they talked honestly about their last few months. By the time Scott asked for the check, some semblance of a first date had been scavenged. Their energy finally matched their mutual attraction.

“Sure you don’t want another?” He asked.

“No…I think I should be heading out if I’m going to get a taxi back.”

“All right, I’ll close us out.”

“How much do I owe you?”

“No worries, I got this one,” he said.

“Can I at least pick up the tip?”

“It’s fine, really,” Scott said.

 “I’ll get the next one.”

Scott looked up from calculating the twenty percent tip in his head, something he’d been told he didn’t have to do in Italy, bars and restaurants added extra charges to make up the difference. But Scott did so anyway.

“They’ll be a next one?”

“We’ll see,” Anna said, some of her coyness had returned after that last martini.

Once outside, Scott walked her to the intersection where the taxi had dropped her off. A warmth in Anna’s face felt bold against the brisk night air. She walked closer to Scott as they neared the corner, watching their breath mingle in the night. The alcohol had her wanting to sing.  The song left her head and entered her throat, flowing out of her mouth warm and jovial.

“I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form,” she sung.

Scott looked over at Anna, her eyes closed and head tilted upwards. He would never have taken her for a Bob Dylan fan. It bolstered something inside of him. He chimed in for the chorus,

“‘Come in’ she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm!’”

They stood on the corner stumbling through lyrics and belting the chorus, standing close now for warmth and harmony.

Up the street, two college kids walked toward them, Oxford button down arms jammed deep into their jeans, shoulders hunched. Scott spied them as they crossed the intersection diagonally, craning their necks as they passed Scott and Anna. The shorter of the two turned and yelled back,

“Ciao bella, how about a private show?”

“How about you keep on walking, pal,” Scott responded.

“Maybe you should shut the fuck up, I was talking to the lady,” the kid shot back, emphasizing “fuck” like he had just learned the word.

“And the lady says keep on walking,” Anna replied, stepping away from Scott, shoulders back, her feminine sense of propriety enflamed.

The taller of the two turned back to stand with his buddy, who faced Scott and Anna squarely.

“And what if we don’t?”

“Kick your ass is what we’ll do,” Anna said steaming and tipsy.

Scott had never been in a real fight before, but he had seen enough of them to know that this is how they started. Scott walked quickly in front of Anna and headed them off.

“Fellas, why don’t you keep on walking to wherever it is your—”

Crack.

Scott felt a warm numbness on the side of his face. His vision went black for a second as he tried to fight off the pain. Disoriented, Scott lunged forward feeling flesh beneath him. On the ground, Scott found himself, fists clenched and falling heavy on the kid’s stomach and kidneys. 

Crack.

Scott fell backward this time. He had forgotten about the tall one. The two positioned themselves on either side of Scott now, swinging their legs backward and landing their shoes into Scott’s ribcage and spine. Each of them got a couple of hard kicks before Anna appeared brandishing a small plastic tube that hissed liquid in a wide spread over Scott. The kids began choking and gagging on the pepper spray as Anna got closer, emptying the tube. The kids bolted down the street holding their faces.

Scott sat up holding his sides and felt an immediate burning in his eyes. He choked,

“Are you okay?”

“Yea,” Anna said tearing, “but I caught some of the mace.”

Scott fell back down fighting for air from the spray in his throat and the pain in his chest from the fractured rib. Anna helped Scott up, and he led them to his apartment. They washed out their eyes and mouths, and Anna filled Scott’s bathtub with cold water and what little ice he had in the freezer. She helped him out of shirt before he shut the door and eased into the tub, curbing the swelling in his chest and back. When he could take it no longer, Scott carefully dried himself off and emerged from the bathroom in a towel to find Anna passed out on the bed. Scott threw on sweat pants and collapsed onto the couch, his feet hanging off the end.

Anna woke in the middle of the night, mouth dry and eyes aching. She took a drink from the kitchen faucet and noticed Scott, feet off the couch, holding his side while he slept. She recalled the evenings events and felt a wave of embarrassment and guilt rush over her. She had helped egg those kids on, and now Scott was in rough shape sleeping on his own couch. And she had maced him on top of it. Anna gently put her hand on the swollen side of his face and rubbed her thumb on his cheek until he woke. Scott looked up, his left eye almost swollen shut and asked,

“You like Bob Dylan?”

Anna couldn’t help but laugh. Scott laughed too, but stopped as an acute pain shot through his chest and back.

“Yea, my grandfather was a bigtime Dylan fan, so I grew up listening to him.”

“Your grandfather had some pretty good taste in music.”

“I think so too.”

Anna removed her hand now, feeling awkward.

“I feel so bad I passed out on your bed.”

“Please, don’t.”

“No, I do, you must be in so much pain, let me help you to the bed.”

“I’m fine here, really.”

“Scott, please...”

Hearing his name in her voice for the first time caught his breath. He nodded. She helped him to the bed and tucked him in. She settled herself under a blanket on the couch and Scott drifted back to sleep. He woke later, twisting his head to see red digital numbers reading 5:30 a.m. He moved his legs, the only part of him that didn’t hurt, hitting something dense and soft. He turned his head slightly to see Anna, calm and serene, a foot away. She had brought over the blanket from the couch and occupied a small part of Scott’s pillow. Scott smiled and inched his way over, afraid of the pain and waking her. He put his foot under hers and fell back to sleep.

They woke at noon, Anna snuggled up to Scott’s side, her arm draped carefully across his chest.

“So thanks for letting me crash here,” she said with a smile, nudging closer to him.

“It was the least I could do,” Scott joked, trying not to move.

They laid for a few minutes before Scott broke the apartment’s hearty silence.

“You know, that was the first fight I’d ever been in.”

“Really?”

“Yea, besides playing around with my brothers and stuff.”

“I would have guessed you had taken a few punches before.”

“Thanks.”

“Why did you do it then?”

“What do you mean?”

“If you had never been in a fight before, why did you fight those guys last night?”

Scott had yet to consider that. Why had he? He liked Anna, but he certainly didn’t feel close enough to her to throw punches to defend her honor. And Scott didn’t believe in chivalry; it always seemed just another form of flirting to him.

“I guess it’s time I started fighting.”

“Fighting for what?”

“Fighting to be warm, I suppose,” he said with a smile.

Anna gently moved her head onto Scott’s chest. Neither one would be in Italy in a month’s time, but that didn’t matter. 

Dave Pezza spends his time trying to justify printing "writer" under "Occupation" on his passport application. Pezza has never been to a concert and not screamed "Freebird" at the top of his lungs. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Pezza.

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