Chapter 17: Home

There’s no place like home.
There’s no place like home.
There’s no place like home.

That’s what Dorothy pleaded after she was done with running away. A new world, new friends, new meaning of life and then back again. To Kansas. Where nobody would care or even try to empathize with the experiences she’d had. Her stories would probably just clarify all of their suspicions that she was just a little bit weird. She wasn’t sure if she liked where she was from but she knew it had helped create who she was, whatever that may be. Now she was getting to see the start of his storybook.

Michele immediately bumped into his cousin. His cousin had a telepathic GPS on him as whenever he came home he was there, just there. They had an awkward conversation and the cousin was eager to see him yet had nothing to say. Odd. She got thrown under the bus as a buffer and introduced as a ‘friend’.
The cousin couldn’t speak much English and seemed like he didn’t leave town much.

“You like Bassano?!” he yelled over-enthusiastically.
She nodded, blushing. He turned on his heels and started walking with the assumption that they were following. They winded down the streets as the crowds thickened with feathered hats. She heard running water and they approached a human blockade.

“English tourists” the cousin sighed, completely oblivious to the fact that she was also English.
Twenty or so sandal-wearing, pale, yet exuberant English folk stood listening to their tour guide at the head of the bridge.

Ponte dei Alpini, also known as the old bridge was built in 1569. It had a few rough centuries after that and has been destroyed a fair bit. These nice folk…” The tour guide signalled to three drunk pensioners drunkenly singing and stumbling past. “Rebuilt it in 1948, but as you can see by the bullet holes on both sides, she also took a little bit of a beating in WW2”

The tour guide was a petite blond and she harrowed the crowd with facts while they rearranged their bum bags and funny hats. Some of them had sun cream on so thick that they hadn’t managed to rub it in properly and many wore trousers with an extreme amount of pockets.

They listened eagerly.
She pointed out the bullet holes and led them a little further down the bridge, struggling in her heels and pencil skirt in the heat. Her hair, however, was pinned up perfectly and her ribbon matched her neckerchief. Michele’s cousin nudged through the touristic herd and they ducked into the bar on the bridge.

She kept close to the door to hear the end of the tour guide’s spiel.
“Ok, now. As you know there is a small local festival on. So enjoy your free time but allow lots of time to get back to the bus.”
The tourists wandered away like sheep, bumping into each other and trying to configure each other’s cameras for the perfect scenic pose in front of Monte Grappa.

The old bar was made entirely of wood and smelled like history. The usual grumpy bartender was racking up red aperitifs without looking down.
How many of these had he made in his life?
It was her time to shine and show her independence. Plus she wanted to get in the first round as he had paid for the tickets.

She walked up to the humble bar and the bartender glared back with the eyes of somebody who had served nine million spritzes to nine million tourists.
“Prego” he uttered begrudgingly.
Smile. Smile. Smile. Clear throat.
“Tre? Per piacere?” she gulped.

He nodded and rolled his eyes as he turned around to make the same drink again, yet another time.

The tour guide bombed in behind her and almost knocked her over.
“Whoops! Sorry, new heels, still getting used to them” She rearranged her shirt after the stumble and then caught the bartenders eye.
“Ciao Mauro!” she hooted to her melody.
The look of perpetual disappointment and lack of a lust for life on his face suddenly transformed into the sunshine. His eyes opened up and he was smiling ear to ear.
“Ciao Emma!” He hooted back as he leant over and gave her two kisses, forgetting about the current order. He made her a special drink, refused her money and then went back to his job.

The boys came over to grab their drinks and clinked glasses. They were deep in a football conversation and it seemed heated, even though it probably wasn’t.
Emma took a breath and knocked back some of her drink. She looked at her mid swig.
“Oh sorry! Cheers!” She smiled as she reached out her hand.
“I’m Emma” She took another breath “You here herding sheep too?”
She wasn’t sure what she was doing so she just shrugged and pointed at the boys.
“Ahh, lucky you” Emma winked “My jobs a tough one, I’ve already nearly lost three”
At that point, the Alpini started coming through the door in waves. Michele grabbed her hand in a cute protective way. Emma still had her guide head-on and led them out fighting the crowd. They made it to the middle of the bridge and all took a moment to appreciate the power of the mountain in front of them.

Emma broke the silence and jumped on two girls walking past.
They were beautiful and flawless. Ironically so in this drunken zombie fest which appeared to be happening. In true hospitality form, Emma brought over the girls to introduce to her new friends.
“Dalila” started the one girl as she shook her hand. Her handshake went weak midway as she looked up at Michele.
“Ciao Dalila” he whispered.
Oh no. What was this?

Dalila took back her hand. Forced a smile and kissed Emma goodbye while grabbing her friends arm to walk away. Michele sighed and lit a cigarette. He walked towards the railing kicking an imaginary football and muttering blasphemies under his breath.

Emma looked back and forth in a confused manner as if watching a ping pong match.
“How do you know Dalila?” she accused Michele.

Home sweet home.

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