I make my way down a cobbled street in Rome, nodding as I pass by local merchants, lifting a hand in silent refusal as a couple of them attempt to sell me their wares. This area is at least a little out of the way of the normal tourist haunts, but it’s still possible to be approached here. It’s the way of selling in Rome. I don’t particularly mind it, even though I’m not interested in anything today.
I cut a sharp enough figure in my tailored black suit that I must look like a man with money. I like that. When I do business, I want my partners to know that I’m powerful. That they’re dealing with someone who knows his industry well. Someone who’s seen success. It puts us on the right footing from the beginning.
The meeting this morning went well, and I’m in good spirits, even if I don’t show it on the outside. I made a lot of money in the deal, and with a long-term partnership on the cards, I stand to make a good deal more. That’s why I eventually stop, allowing an old woman to flag me down and gab rapidly about the freshness of her fruit and vegetables and press a Verona peach into my hand. I reach into my pocket and pull out a few jingling coins to pass to her, biting into the juicy, cool flesh of the peach as I continue to walk down the street.
I’m dusting my hands against one another, dislodging the faint lingering stickiness of a few errant drops of juice, when I look up and see another beautiful peach. Juicy, round, and pert just the kind of peach I like. Encased in white jeans, that cling to her shape and also happen to reveal that the owner of this peach is wearing white underwear. It moves and jiggles delightfully as she walks, sandaled feet taking a few more hesitant steps before she pauses.
I slow my own steps, admiring the view. After all, it’s a beautiful day why not? My eyes travel slowly up the rest of her body as she stops, her head swinging from side to side and taking with it a fine mane of blonde hair. She’s curvy in all of the right places, like a real woman who grew up on her mother’s lasagna, not one of those stick-thin insects that are always trying to get my attention.
I saunter to a stop a short distance from her, pretending to check my phone as I watch her through my sunglasses. She sparkles in the sun, playing off her pale skin – with coloring like that, she must be a tourist.
She turns then, a puzzled look on her face. She’s holding a phone in her hand, and even from here, I can see the map on the screen as she titles it down into my field of view. She’s lost. I let myself smirk a little, raising my eyes to her face.
And I stop. A jolt runs through me. She looks like someone I used to know, a long while ago. Something like the wife of an old friend, but not quite. Different. More beautiful, if anything. I keep staring at her until our eyes meet, and even though I don’t think she can see my eyes behind the dark sunglasses, it’s that connection that makes me realize it.
She IS someone I used to know. A long, long time ago. Because the last time I saw her, she was only a child – and now she’s a woman. A gorgeous woman, with childbearing hips and a wide chest, blue eyes that are the same shade as the surface of the lake where I grew up, blonde hair water-falling down her back that frames her face perfectly.
I know her. And even though I realize that at the same moment I want to make her mine.
I take a step towards her, trying to find my words. Where has my voice gone? I clear my throat and catch her attention again.
“Hannah?” I say. “Hannah Greene?”
She doesn’t know me. Her eyes go wide in surprise, and she even looks a little scared. She thinks I’m a stranger. Of course, it would be odd for me to know her name, to come across her on this little street. It must look as though I’ve been following her.
I pick my jaw up off the floor for long enough to regain my composure and reach up to pull off my sunglasses. And at that moment I pray that she will know who I am.