Monday, September 21, 2009

Invitation to the mayor's office

After the train ride home, Marta and Rosa questioned me about everything which had taken place during my few hours with Leo. Did he pay for the lunch? Yes. Did he try to kiss me. No. Was he sleazy. No. Was he dressed well? Yes. Was he inappropriate in any way? No. Did I feel any fear? No.

In the end, it was decided that certainly he had been a gentleman and we could find no fault with his behavior. He was a shining example of a good Italian man.

A few days later, I was astonished to receive an email invitation from Leo. He and a business partner had a meeting with the major of Siena. Would I care to drive to Siena and attend the meeting? The only problem was transportation. If I could meet him at a certain point, he would drive by and pick me up. If I were late, he would have to go without me. The appointment was scheduled early in the day.

We had a family meeting. If I wanted to make this early morning meeting at the pickup point, I had two choices: take a late night train and arrive in the pre-dawn morning darkness or travel to Firenze a day early, then get up before sunrise and make the necessary connections. I would need to travel with a light bag, carrying business attire suitable for meeting the mayor (il sindaco).

It was decided it would be best if Marta called Leo. During this phone conversation she would evaluate his voice, determine more about his character and get details about the meeting.

The call was made as we all hovered around Marta. She sounded professional and older than her years. After the call, we all felt sure that the day would be a nice adventure for me. Leo assured her that she was free to call his phone again, should any other inquiries need to be made. The meeting was only two days away...

The Great Jubilee in 2000 was a major event in the Roman Catholic Church. Every hotel within a few hours travel distance from Rome was booked for an event taking place at the Vatican, with Pope John Paul II in attendence. Primo and Rosa worked together to find a vacancy for me. Primo made phone calls to one hotel after another, as Rosa searched the Internet for suitable hotels. I sat by listening and it didn't sound promising.

And then, I heard Primo's voice change. A possibility! I would have to pay for a double room. The bathroom was shared, down the hall. Did I have a credit card to save it? A big bonus, they speak English! I needed to make my decision fast. I ran for my purse and credit card. The transaction was quickly completed. I had one night reserved in Firenze for double the price I had expected to pay, but I was happy. I emailed Leo I would love to accompany him to the meeting and promised to not be late. He responded that he would see me at 8:30 am at the corner of two specific cross streets.

The morning of my departure I left the house with my small travel bag and a note Marina had written for me. I made my way to the train station clutching her note, which contained the words, Andato e Ritorno...round trip. It was the first time I bought my own ticket without help.

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