He arrived early, because he knew she detested lateness. New Rome was in the height of summer, but the evenings carried a chill in the air. Nico DiAngelo zipped up his jacket, and rang the doorbell for the second time. As the doorbell rang, he heard Argentum and Aurum bark excitedly inside. Nico stuck his hands inside his pockets as he waited. When he realised that Reyna was not going to come out any time soon, he pulled out the small metal key she had given him so long ago, and unlocked the door. The inside was perfectly neat; a tidy rack of umbrellas leaning against the wall; boots aligned in a straight line in front of him. It looked the sort of house that one could find in any city, but here and there were traces of demigod behaviour; a quiver of arrows hidden by a table, and dagger straps on all of the boots he had seen. As Nico strode into the kitchen, he called out;
“Y'know for someone who yells at people if they’re at least three minutes late, you’re being rather hypocritical tonight, RARA.”
“Don’t call me that!” Came the muffled reply; “And I’ll be down in a moment!”
Nico rolled his eyes, and bent down to pat Argentum and Aurum, who were pacing around his legs in anticipation. It was odd; most animal scared of Nico, but Reyna’s dogs adored him. He heard footsteps, and when he straightened up, she was standing there. Reyna was dressed in black demin jeans, and a dark green jacket.
“Ready?” she asked.
“Well, I guess I’ll be seeing you later,” said Reyna, adopting a sugary-sweet voice for her dogs. Together they locked the house up, and strode down to the porch, and on to the street. Nico felt ridiculously happy that she was wearing his jacket; the one that he had gotten her for her birthday ages ago. Truth be told, he only noticed the jacket because it was the exact same shade of green as Bianca’s floppy green hat was.
“So,” said Reyna, in way of conversation: “Where are we going?”
“That Italian place by down the road; the one run by that son of Apollo.”
Friday night in New Rome was date night; couples wandered the streets. Nico spotted Jason and Piper holding hands; Percy and Annabeth talking on a bench. Sometimes Nico wished he could share the evening with someone he loved. But Reyna was all he needed right now. He shuffled closer to her, and she wrapped her arm around him.
Soon they reached the restaurant, and it was fortunately not too full. The waiter seated them, and took their orders for drinks. When he had left, Nico placed his elbows on the table and looked at Reyna.
“So how’s your day been?”
“Hectic,” she admitted. “Frank’s been running around, trying to organise the next deathball game. He’s saved the world, and yet he seems to think that he can’t organise a simple game. He’s been praetor for eight months now, and he’s still as nervous as he was on the first day. I think he’s scared of me.”
“Yeah, small wonder.” Nico smirked.
“What’s that supposed to mean?!”
The waiter arrived with their drinks; wine for Reyna, even though she was only seventeen, and sparkling water for Nico.
“Can I have the spaghetti marinara, please?” asked Reyna, glancing at the waiter, and then at Nico.
“Veal ravioli, please.”
The waiter nodded, double-checked their orders and left for the second time. Reyna took a sip of her wine.
“Can I have some?” asked Nico, half-joking.
“Nah, you’re much too young,” replied Reyna, even though Nico was fifteen, and technically older than her.
Reyna yawned loudly, and stretched. “I swear tomorrow, I will sleep in until 10. I’m exhausted!”
“Oh yeah? How was your day?”
“Well, there was a demigod in Oklahoma, so I took him to Half-Blood. Had to shadow-travel the entire way, and then the kids threw up on me. When I got back here, I cleaned off, and hung around the house all afternoon.”
“Just sat around, did you?” asked Reyna, eyebrows raised.
“Yeah. Why?” asked Nico cautiously.
“Oh nothing. Just an interesting rumour about you and Connor Stoll.”
“What! Who told you this?!”
Nico gave out a sigh:
“Of course she did."He laid his head on the table.
"So”, said Reyna playfully: “Am I invited to the wedding?”
“Nothing happened between Connor and me!”
“That’s not what Gwen said; she said she saw something very interesting.”
Nico groaned, and sat up. He stabbed a ravioli piece, and brought to his mouth.
“So, what’s this I hear about you and Gabriel Rose?” He said, repeating her words, back at her.
“What about him?” said Reyna, defiantly.
“Hey, hey I’m cool,” said Nico, raising his hands. “But he better not come to our Mythomagic nights.”
“Ha, as if.”
They had finished their meals, and were waiting for the bill.
“You going to play deathball next week?”
“If I’m your team Bian-"Nico broke off, embarrassed.
Reyna, used to this, smiled and laced her fingers around his. The waiter arrived with the bill. As Nico paid him the due drachmas, the waiter asked them:
I’ve always enjoyed Rome. Note that ‘always’ here stands for a sum total of two business trips during which I saw scenes of Ancient Rome flash by fleetingly through taxi windows - faster and more discombobulated than Woody Allen’s movie, but just as charming. I also recall several emergency visits to the gelataria nearest to my business hotel.
This time is different.Slow paced. On foot, odd-shaped cobble-stones notwithstanding. Almost lethargic, in deference to summer. With attention to detail - both for art and life. Wandering, with the objective of getting lost.
Case in point: An atmospheric sunset photo walk starting from the Pantheon through Piazza Navona to Ponte Vittorio Emmanuel for views over to the Vatican. It has just rained, the streets are wet, and Piazza Navona is teeming with Romans doing la passeggiata, an evening ritual I wish we could reapply in other cities. Later, joining the locals in their celebration of Summer along River Tiber (Lungo il Tivera Roma) well into midnight, it is easy to forget all about work and settle more definitively into a vacation frame-of-mind. Afterwards, a stroll to Campidoglio for priceless views of the illuminated Roman Forum, seems like just the thing to do.
Text and Photos by VJ Singh | Far/Back | Rome, July 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Days passed since Lucas spent that wonderful day at Giuseppe’s place and the punk had spent the days in a half dreamlike state as he worked and gravitated around the bars, focusing more on his drink than on the guys and girls around, seemingly ignoring every time someone tried to hit on him.
He just couldn’t forget those beautiful brown eyes and that naked body on the sheets. That comforting warmth when he hugged him close. That sense of security.
Still he found himself not seeking Giuseppe, troubled by all those new feelings. Lucas didn’t quite know how to deal and he felt like staying around Giuseppe too long would eventually drag him into his chaotic life. He didn’t want that. He did not want to disturb a good man’s peace.
And so he found himself wandering the night along the less busy streets of Rome, trying to clear his thoughts.