After noticing the man in the Loggia, I decided that toughening up was my only option. If I was going to make it here, I couldn’t look like the type of person one took advantage of. I could remain myself while making some improvements.
People littered the streets. Whereas I once would’ve grinned and stepped out of the way, I pushed past anyone in my path. I paid no mind to them, which is why I didn’t notice when I shoved Fred out of the way.
“Having a bad day?” he asked, eyebrows furled.
“Nice has no place here,” I retorted.
“Come, let’s cheer you up.”
“You just assume I’m free to hang out with you?”
“Well, you think you’re integrating into our culture so wonderfully. Prove it by being spontaneous with me. Ignore your responsibilities.”
I met his eyes. Last weekend, he’d waited for me to return from Paris. And when I returned, Florence finally felt like home. For some reason, I felt less afraid of him and more mystified. I knew nothing about him… his personality ranged from moody to cheery and I had yet to locate an in-between.
When he grabbed my hand, I let him lead me. The night approached and the carousel lit up the plaza as we grew nearer.
“Have you been?” he asked.
“Once, it was too short though.”
Fred paid four euros for us, said something to the man working, and chivalrously helped me onto a horse. He stood next to me, arm around the saddle of the horse.
“Saddle up,” I told him.
“I like being next to you.”
“It’s your lucky day, there’s a horse right next to me.”
He grinned and pulled my face down to kiss me. It was light, innocent, and unexpectedly perfect. When the ride started moving, I was in a daze. It took me a few minutes to realize how long the caurosal had been going. We were the only people on it.
“Crap, did I forget to get off?” I asked.
“No, the guy in the booth in a buddy of mine. He’s letting us stay on for the hour.”
I commanded my heart to calm down. I commanded myself to maintain calm as Fred dismounted his horse and came over to me. I tried to remind myself that I didn’t really know him.
In the end, none of it mattered. I hopped off my horse. Fred drew closer until my lower back was pushed against the base of the horse. His mouth found mine again. This time, nothing about it was short or sweet or innocent. His tongue probed mine and made it hard to stand. When we stopped, I couldn’t tell if the kiss or the ride made me dizzy.
I grinned like an idiot the entire way home and hated myself for it.