Ficlet from Migration ‘verse: An Italian Afternoon

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I belong to a few writing communities, one of which is called “Get Your Words Out,” that is hosted on Livejournal.  I’ve pledged to write at least 150,000 words this year, which includes finishing the second book in the Migration series, as well as a short novella that is set before the series begins, just to get people acquainted with Rhys and Jason.

One of the prompts in the community is a picture prompt of two women who are sitting on a windowsill (you can see the picture here), and honestly it didn’t speak to me at all.  I’m usually very good with writing for random prompts.  However, I was stumped.

And then as I sat down this morning, the scene painted itself clearly to me.  Though the image is of two women, the story of Rhys and Jason from Migration: Beginnings and how they are vacationing in Europe, and happen upon the two women sitting in the window.

I call the story, “An Italian Afternoon”, and you can read it here:

It was Rhys and Jason’s first trip to Europe; first honest to goodness trip they’d taken together if you didn’t count the weeks that they’d spent in Klamath Falls when Rhys was on assignment for the State of Oregon and Jason had filled in as an intern.  And while Rhys had wanted to keep the trip as low-key and uneventful as possible, Jason had other ideas.  That’s why they had visited three cities so far and were strolling through the back alleys of Rome on day seven.

Even though the heat was sweltering, the sunshine radiating heat up off the ancient bricks that made up the sidewalk, Rhys was quite happy when Jason reached out his warm hands and enveloped Rhys’ with a gentle squeeze.  They continued to stroll through the winding walkways, getting a few hundred extra steps in an effort to exercise off the enormous authentic Italian pizza that they’d noshed on at a sidewalk café.  They were surrounded by colors and textures, from the old brick facades to the bright fabrics of sheets and clothing that adorned ancient clothes lines strung between buildings.  Rhys wished that he’d brought his camera along, but Jason’s smile was more than enough to create the lasting memories of the trip.

As they walked past an old row of buildings, Rhys noticed the contrast of old red brick as it turned to painted white that served at least the visual end of one building and the beginning of another.  His eyes drew upward, and he saw two women partially hanging out of a window, the brunette passing a cigarette to the blonde woman that shared the windowsill.

“What is it?” Jason asked as he raised his gaze from the sidewalk.  Rhys watched as Jason realized their audience, and smiled when his husband lifted his free hand to wave at the women.

“I wonder what their story is,” Rhys asked as they continued their slow stroll.  “That can’t be all that comfortable.”

They continued to walk along the old walkway, Jason stopping Rhys as he lifted his nose, taking in the aromas that surrounded them.  “Smell that?” he asked.

Rhys concentrated, closing his eyes and breathing in deep through his nose.  The scent was overwhelmingly one that he associated with nearly every Italian city that they’d visited so far; flour, olive oil, freshly torn basil leaves, and the musk of workers toiling in the heat of mid-September.  He didn’t realize that he’d had his eyes closed for that long until Jason squeezed his hand.  Opening his eyes, he took in the surroundings and started walking again, regaining the momentum they’d lost as Rhys grounded himself in their environment.  “Bakery?” he asked.

“That’s the back side of the little bistro we had breakfast at,” Jason replied as he bobbed his head back towards the two women who were chatting quietly in Italian.

Rhys took a second to glance back, smiling at the blonde woman as he watched the brunette slip back inside.  While the temperatures remained in the mid 90s – whatever that was in Celsius – he remembered the heat of the café from earlier that morning.  Baking bread and pouring espresso must have bathed the workers with warmth, so he imagined that the heat inside was far worse than what they were experiencing at that moment.  And suddenly the idea of a respite from the heat by sitting on a windowsill and dangling his long, naked legs out in the warm breeze cooled him as much as an iced coffee ever would.

Suddenly nothing sounded better right then than a sweet, chilled drink.  “Come on,” Rhys said as he took the lead, directing them around a corner.  He remembered a street vendor selling cold Italian sodas from the night before setting up somewhere nearby, so gripped Jason’s hand tightly as they went in search of a cooling refreshment.

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