Art Trip

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  No Houses

Chapter 16 (v.1) - Chapter 16

Submitted: January 31, 2018

Reads: 216

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Submitted: January 31, 2018

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The day for there trip to Florence had arrived. It was half-past four in the morning and Maggie stood looking out of the living room window cupping her latte in both hands. It was Saturday 2nd June and in two hours times her and Richard would be in the departure lounge of Gatwick airport waiting for the 07.15am BA3279 flight to Florence, Italy.

Maggie looked down at her phone on the window-sill as to see Janet’s message come through confirming to Maggie that she would be round at 5am to pick them up.

Maggie could hear Richard behind her struggle with the cases as he bumped them down the stairs. She thought of how much he had changed since she moved in with him.

She was glad that he chose that afternoon two weeks ago to express his love for her. She felt they both now benefited from his openness. It made her confront past demons, a ghost she thought had long been exorcised.

Maggie was so deep in thought that she didn’t hear Richard walk up behind her. He placed his hands around her waist.
“Oh! Fu…” she exclaimed, before turning round to see Richard behind her smiling before giving her a good morning kiss.
“You scared the shit out of me!” she said giving a nervous laugh and punching him on the chest.

 
Richard went into the kitchen whistling some kind of Italian Opera; Maggie liked this new more confident Richard. A man until three weeks ago, would almost pass out when she got to close to him, was now showing her spontaneous out bursts of affection. Yes, he could still be ‘clunky’ with his intimacy, particularly when he thought too much about it, being like a learner driver with poor hand and foot coordination.

“I take it you’ve had breakfast” he shouted from the kitchen.
“Just a coffee for now, I’ll eat on the plane. I always get nervous before a flight.”

Richard thought the same, not that he was nervous about flying his anxiety was coming from the engagement ring he had buried deep in his case. If airport security detected it, the game was over and he’ll have to propose to Maggie there and then it front of hundreds of disgruntled passengers.

He glanced back into the lounge; Maggie was lost in her own thoughts. she was inwardly preparing herself for her forthcoming lecture. For his engagament plans to go well, he'd had to remain cool. If he gets the jitters and starts his rambling, she’ll suspect something or he’ll just blurt it out and ruin the whole effect. If he’s too quiet, again she’ll suspect somethings up.

He was not nervous about proposing to Maggie, he knew she would accept. No, his nerves came from the fact that he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to use Florence for the perfect backdrop. He had no right-time planned for this, no restaurant booked, nothing, which made it worse because he had to spot the chance when it appeared. A second too slow and the moment would be gone. So, he was going to have to carry the ring with him everywhere they went.

Just then Maggie came through with her empty mug, seeing Richard looking vacant she asked. “Are you OK babe? You look like you’re about to throw up.”
“I suppose I’m a bit nervous too about the exhibition.” He lied.
Maggie gave him a peck on the cheek, “You'll be alright when we get there and meet everyone.” She tried to sound reassuring.

The main theme tune from ‘Indiana Jones’ broke the silence. It was Maggie’s ringtone. She rushed to answer;
“Hello” answered Maggie
“Hi,” said Janet who was on her hands free. “Just turning into the avenue, see you in a few minutes.”
Maggie ackonwledged her then put her phone back in her bag, “You ready Richard, Janet’s on her way.”

By the time Richard and Maggie had taken their cases outside, Janet was out of her car with the lid of the boot up.
“Good Morning you two.” She said. Richard loaded the back of the car and then got in the back with Maggie. He took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze,
“Here we go.” Janet looked into her rear view mirror back at them, and smiled to herself.

Maggie gazed out of the window as they passed through the streets of London heading towards open countryside. She moved her hand and placed it on top of Richards. Her nerves were getting the better of her as she gripped his hand with all her might, leaving red-crescent imprints in his flesh as her nails dug deep. Richard was too lost in his own thoughts about how to ask Maggie to marry him to notice the pain.

“You don’t like flying, do you sweetie,” Janet was trying to make light conversation to ease her friend.
“No,” replied Maggie. “It makes my arms ache.” Giving half a smile at trying to be humorous.
“So, Richard are you looking forward to Florence?” Janet was attempting to bring him into the conversation.
“Oh Yes. The business prospects are enormous for us.” He then spent the rest of the journey rambling to Janet about long-term plans and connections. Richard was unaware he was rambling and at the same time vigorously rubbing Maggie’s leg. She could feel the heat through her jeans increase and wondered if at any time now she would spontaneously combust.

Janet just listened to Richard go on about flow charts and capital expenditure and hope she was say ‘yes and no’ in the right places. Maggie caught Janet’s eye in the rear view mirror and mouthed to her, ‘he’s nervous’. Richard sensed he was been talked about, snapped his head towards Maggie. She just pushed her glasses back up her nose and with a look of innocence said, “What?”

Before long, they arrived at the north terminal car park. Richard unloaded the cases on to a trolley and Maggie gave Janet a hug and thanked her for bringing them to the airport.
“Make sure you two have plenty of time together.” She held on to Maggie for a little longer. “Text me when you can.”
“I keep you informed with all juicy goss.” Maggie told Janet. After saying good-bye to Richard, Janet got back in her car and left them to push the trolley to the British Airways terminal.

The BA checking desk was reasonable quiet for a Saturday; the fun would start in two weeks’ time when the English schools broke up for the summer. The queue soon went down and it was their turn to be in front of the check-in assistant. Richard placed the cases on the conveyor belt and despite his moaning to Maggie about taking too much, their cases were slightly under their baggage allowance.

Maggie handed over the e-tickets to the check-in assistant, “Ah! Miss Harris we have been expecting you.” Fear gripped Maggie by the stomach, she knew there was something wrong. The assistant was now in Maggie’s mind the evil scientist in a James Bond movie. I bet she as a white cat on her lap under the desk? She thought.

But the assistant was not an evil scientist, she was a nice lady and smiled at Maggie. “You have been upgraded to Business Class.” The assistant proudly handed over to Maggie the new boarding passes with a cheerful, “Have a nice flight.”

As they headed for the food court in the departure lounge, Maggie checked her emails and indeed there was one from Giovanni apologising for the standard class tickets issued in error and assured her their business class tickets we be waiting for them at the airport. Richard read the email over her shoulder, “Boy! You really did make a lasting impression with him.” Maggie was too in awe with the respect she was being shown Giovanni Rossi.

They sat in one of the many fast-food outlets and sat opposite each other drinking their Coke.
“Well,” said Richard. “Not long now to the flight.” Maggie just nodded has she slurped on her drink. Richard took her spare hand twiddling with her thumb ring looking at her empty third finger.
She slipped her foot out of her shoe and rubbed it against his leg. “What you thinking about?”
He smiled, “I’m actually thing how smooth your nail varnish is. Next time I paint some doors, you can do the glossing.” Then before Maggie could react, he reached under the table and grabbed her foot. “Gotcha!” Maggie screamed has he pulled on her leg.

They were still laughing when the call came over the PA that passengers for flight BA3279 where now boarding. “Come on,” said Richard. Maggie got up first and it was then that Richards noticed the seat of her white jeans had four large brown splotches. One splotch was on her left buttock and three were on her right. He stopped and then looked back to the chair she had been sitting on. Identical brown stains were also visible.

“What is it?” she said trying to look behind herself.
“What is it with you and chocolate buttons?”
Maggie looked over to the seat where she sat to see four melted chocolate buttons.
“How bad is it?” Maggie was trying to catch a reflection of herself.
Richard couldn’t help but start to laugh, “You look like a white domino from behind, come on we are going to be late.”

The flight attendants welcomed the e onboard flight BA3279 as they came across the boarding bridge. Maggie showed their passes to the attendant then was shown the way too business class. As Maggie passed by the attendant she called out to her, “Signorina” Maggie didn’t turn around she just put her hand up in the air and simply said, “I know.”

They found their seats and Richard sat near the window still trying his best not to laugh. He had been annoying Maggie all the way to the aircraft with his sniggering. “Will you stop that?” Maggie sat forward trying her best to ignore him. She really wanted this time to write some more of her notes for her talk she was going to deliver at the Book Festival but was now to wound up. Seeing Richards’s shoulders moving up and down she turned to him once more saying, “I’m going to one of the most fashion conscience cities of Europe with chocolate on my arse, I don’t see how that’s funny.” She turned back once more just in time to see the seat beat sign come on.

Richard looked out of the window to see the plane point itself down the runway. Then the engines roared followed by a burst of acceleration as the plane gathered speed. All thoughts of chocolate arses disappeared from Maggie’s mind as she closed her eyes waiting for the take-off. Richard held her hand and she appreciated the sentiment. Soon the juddering was over as the plane broke free of gravity and climbed into the clouds.

Upon gaining the desired attitude, the seat belt sign went off and passengers began to settle into the flight. Richard looked across to her, “You OK?”
She nodded, “I am now we’re up.”
Maggie started to relax and thought she would try and put a few thoughts together on her tablet when the flight attendant that originally greeted her onboard, came and leant down beside her.
“Signorina Harris?”
Maggie was beginning to wonder if everybody that worked for BA knew her name.
“Yes?”
“Is there anything you would like me to help you with?”
Maggie knew what she was attaining to.
“If you don’t mind, I got some stains on my jeans in a very embarrassing place.”
“Si, Signorina. I did notice when you came onboard. Please follow me.”
Maggie looked over to Richard and he was very impressed with the service she was getting.

“My name is Sophia Rossi; I believe you know my father, Giovanni.” Sophia took Maggie to the flight attendants quarters and asked her to remove her jeans. Maggie felt a bit awkward at first with all the attendants walking by, and then Sophia assured her it was an all-female crew today.

Maggie sat on one of the fold-down seats in her underwear; Sophia passed to her a blanket to protect her modesty, and chattered away to Maggie has she tried to clean her jeans.

“Signorina, you have no idea how much my father respects you.” All this praise and attention giving to her by the Rossi family was becoming overwhelming.
“Your father is a client of mine and I always look after my clients interests. When I was at the auction that day with him, I saw how excited he was when the Bible came up for sale. I left him so I could look at the other items for sale, it was then and only then I had an opportunity to study the Bible close at hand. It was then I noticed the paper the Bible was printing on was too modern. I alerted the auctioneer of my concerns and the sale was suspended. Two days after some testing, my theory was right. The Bible was a fake.”

Sophia was now, like her father, was in adoration of this young woman, “Signorina.”
“Maggie, please.” Interrupting Sophia
Sophia bowed her head, “Maggie, you saved my father’s reputation and honour that day. To him, that is worth more than money.”

Sophia now changed the subject, “However, Maggie I think your British chocolate is too much for my Italian stain remover. Your jeans need a proper wash.”
Maggie thanked her anyway for trying, and was going to get up.
“No, No. You sit.” Sophia went into her flight bag. “I also carry a spare pair; you never know who might need them.” She held up a pair of Mancini designer jeans. “You have these.”
“But how will I get them back to you?” Maggie asked
“I’m now on vacation for two weeks; I’ll wash your jeans at home and bring them around to your hotel.”

By the time Maggie returned back to Richard, breakfast was being served. He looked at her wondering where the new jeans came from, taking her seat she told him all about Sophia.

After two hours being airborne, the captain announces that they will soon be making their approach to Florence airport. Trays were being placed in the upright position and Maggie put away her tablet. Richard had fallen asleep and was feeling a bit groggy after being woken. The seat belt sign was soon illuminated and the familiar engine drone for the past two-hours now changed in noise pitch and slowly made its descent.

Once the plane came to a halt upon landing, the seat belt sign was extinguished and the passengers started to prepare to leave. Sophia opened the door and the aircraft was filled with the warmth of the Florentine morning. Sophia said goodbye to Maggie and Richard and hoped they enjoy her home city. The further they walked down the tunnel away from the aircraft the more oppressive the heat got. It was only 11.30am European time and the temperature outside was 27C.

Standing at the baggage carousel Maggie felt great wearing Sophia’s jeans and thought she must get a pair before going home. Richard liked them too, as he slipped his hand into her back pocket giving her bum a little squeeze. Maggie gave him that, you want till late look, then Richard spotted their cases.

It’s always a good feeling to see your cases first; Richard pulled them off the carousel while Maggie went to fetch a trolley. The cases were still air cold from being in the cargo hold and cooled Richards sweating palms.

Italian passport control just waved through the passengers from the BA flight and now Maggie and Richard were free to find their way to the hotel. Maggie got out her phone to check the name, when Richard tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to a man in the crowd dressed like a chauffeur. He was holding up a sign which read: ‘Benvenuti a Firenze Signorina Harris’


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