Art Trip

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  No Houses

Chapter 21 (v.1) - Chapter 21

Submitted: February 05, 2018

Reads: 203

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Submitted: February 05, 2018



Both Richard and Maggie were up early and their rooms were a hive of activity as they darted through the dividing door to each other. Richard needed to borrow some hair gel and Maggie had run out of tissues. Richard let the room service in so they could go through to the balcony and prepare their breakfast table.

Richard was looking into the mirror fixing his hair when Maggie came up behind him and put her arms around his waist. She reached up and kissed him on the back of the neck. “How are you this morning?” she said in that knowing voice of hers.
“All the better after a Nurse Harris’ massage last night.”
Maggie giggled, then slapped him on his behind, “Come on, breakfast is getting cold.”

After breakfast they both stood on the steps of the hotel, it was Monday morning and the quiet streets from the weekend now gave themselves up to the noise of vehicle engines and blaring car horns. Richard was looking at his phone. According to the Goggle Earth map, the Uffizi Gallery was only a fifteen minute walk from where they were. Maggie swapped her normal glasses for her prescription Ray Ban’s and took Richards hand.
“Come on.” She said. “It’ll be quicker to walk then wait for a taxi.”
Richard thought the same, so hand in hand they took a causal stroll towards the Uffizi Gallery.

They were both wearing what Maggie called, ‘their scuffs’. Old baggy jeans and t-shirt which by Italian standards made them look like a couple of tramps. Setting up an exhibition is very demanding work, so you need to be comfortable with what you’re wearing.

Maggie and Richard arrived at the rear of the gallery, to see the articulated lorry from The Netherlands in the loading bay being emptied by the gallery staff. Mr van Klerk was there with the curator of the Uffizi Mr Eike Schmidt. Once he saw Richard he came over concerned about his welfare. Richard was cursing ever going to that wedding fare yesterday with Maggie. He was having to tell one lie after the after to fabricate a story of why he passed out. One thing was for sure, there was no chance of him finding time or the place to propose to Maggie today.

Tomorrow was not looking good either; Maggie intended to spend all day at the Book Festival wanting the morning to make contacts before delivering her talk in the afternoon. That really only left him Wednesday or Thursday morning to propose. Giovanni wanted them back for a farewell party on Thursday evening before their flight home on Friday. If no opportunities would lend themselves, then it was increasingly looking like he may have to proposal either in the airport or during the flight home. Time was running out.

Ruud van Klerk was lending the Uffizi his personal collection of Dutch Masters featuring the artists, Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals the Elder, Paulus Potter and Dirck Hals. The crates were now being taking to the ‘Temporary Exhibit Rooms’ on the first floor.

Maggie had never been inside the Uffizi and was in awe of its grandeur. Huge paintings from the renaissance period mounted in their gold-painted frames hung against burgundy walls. Maggie did a double-take and pulled at Richards arm, “Is that the Birth of Venus?”
Richard looked over to where she was pointing, “Sure is, Sandro Botticelli famous painting.”
“The original!” said Maggie still tugging at Richards arm.
“Of course,” he laughed. “This isn’t Camden Market you know. No forgery’s here. ”
Richard walked on leaving her to take in one of the most iconic paintings in world alongside the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Realising she was getting left behind, Maggie ran to catch up with the rest.

The reach trucks were already in the exhibit hall by the time all the crates arrived. Mr Schmidt was instructing the gallery staff on where to hang the exhibition posters while Richard and Mr van Klerk started to help with the undoing the crates. Maggie was there to help out and insisted that they gave her a crowbar. She put on her riggers gloves made of thick leather and started prising open the crates.

One by one the crates were taken apart leaving the painting inside strapped to its pallet. Richard released the straps and started to cut through the various tie-wraps. It was when he saw some of the small plastic wire-coated ties on the floor and it gave him an idea about proposing to Maggie.

Although the real ring was back in his room, he could fashion one out of these ties. After the pictures have been hung, he would make an excuse to take Maggie back to see the picture of the ‘Birth of Venus’ and propose to her there. It would be kind of romantic for her to accept make-shift ring. He’d then give her the real one over dinner. Good sorted, or so he thought.

The phone buzzed in Maggie’s pocket. It was Sophia she was coming by the hotel with Maggie’s freshly lauded jeans and asked if she was free for lunch. Maggie was thrilled to think that Sophia was treating her like one of her friends.

Maggie immediately text Sophia back asking her to give her an hour. Maggie suggested they meet at the café across from the hotel. Maggie had to only wait three seconds to receive the reply, ‘Perfectto’

“Right, babe I’m away,” announced Maggie as she put her phone back in her bag.
Richard turned away from the painting being hung. “I’m sorry?”
“That was Sophia, we are doing lunch and then I’m off to the Book Festival”
Richard looked a little put out and disappointed that another plan to propose to Maggie was unravelling before his eyes.
“I thought we were having lunch together before you went off to the Book Festival?”
“I’m sorry babe, but this is a perfect opportunity for me to say thank you to Sophia for washing my dirty jeans. Listen after tomorrow, when both of our engagements are over we’ll have two whole days to ourselves. Let’s do something special then, say Wednesday afternoon.”

Not wanting to seem to disappointed, he kissed on the forehead, “OK, that’s a date.”
So, Wednesday it was, he thought and he knew just the place where to take her.
“How long will you be here?” She asked.
“Should be finished by two, so I’ll meet you back at the hotel,”
Maggie reached up and gave him a kiss, “I’ll see you later.”
Maggie said goodbye to Mr van Klerk and Eike Schmidt showed her the way out.

The brightness of the late morning sun pierced Maggie’s eyes as she walked away from the gallery. She fumbled in her bag for her sunglasses not looking where she was going when a tall man bounded around the corner pushing her to one side forcing Maggie to drop her shoulder bag.

“Scusami!” Maggie shouted at him. He either didn’t hear or he just ignored her. “Prick” she said to herself as she collected her things off the floor. Putting them back in her bag she made her way back to the hotel.

Martin Cook didn’t even look around at the woman he just barged by. He was more interested in meeting his girlfriend Julie Nicklin for lunch before he resumed his rehearsal for tonight’s performance as concert pianist with LSO.

Maggie walked out of the hotel after a refreshing shower wearing her royal blue three-quarter dress. Maggie was loving being in Florence and was adapting quickly to the relaxed Italian way of life. She sat outside the café across from their hotel which was becoming her favourite coffee shop. The sun was poking over the roof of the hotel and now shone where she sat. Maggie outstretched her legs lifted her dress just above her knees to improve her sun tan.

The café owner, who Maggie learned was called Alfonso, came out to see what she wanted. Maggie was in a rather embarrassing position. She forgot to ask Richard for some money before leaving.

Alfonso glanced at her ring finger. It was still bare, thinking to himself that yesterday obviously didn’t go to plan. He shrugged his shoulders and went back inside to return later with a compliment cup of coffee. “Per una bella signorina.” He said with a smile.
“Ah grazie mille Alfonso.” He went back inside the café and Maggie wished her and Richard could move their business out here. Still smiling at Alfonso kind gesture, she lifted the paper up again to resume her reading.

Maggie was too engrossed in working out what the news articles said, to notice Sophia approach her and playfully flick the newspaper. “Ciao”
That startled Maggie and it took her a few seconds to register who it was before answering, “Oh! Hi.”

Sophia stood in the doorway of the café with a Gucci bag in one hand and with her free hand she held up two fingers to Alfonso. Sophia spoke so quickly to the café owner, that to Maggie it sounded more like a burst from a machine gun.

Sophia placed her Gucci carry bag down next to Maggie. “I washed your jeans. Please don’t go sitting in anymore British chocolate.” Sophia had a lovely broad smile. Like her brother, her teeth were brilliant white against her light brown skin.

Sophia wore her cream coloured trousers, beige high heels and a white blouse. Her long black hair hung down in ringlets and with her the large gold hoop earrings Maggie thought she looked quite Romany.

“Parli Italiano?” Sophia asked Maggie.
“Un Po.” Replied Maggie, and then continuing in English. “As I said to Richard, if you understand Latin you can read some Italian.”
“How is Richard today?” enquired Sophia.
Maggie rested the newspaper on the table, “Oh he’s fine, nothing that a group session couldn’t cure.”
Sophia didn’t understand what Maggie meant.
“Richard suffers from bad anxiety attacks. I believe yesterday he was attempting to propose to me.”
Sophia banged her hand hard down on the table which made her bracelets jangle as well as spooking two pigeon’s to take flight.
“NO!” said Sophia, “How could you tell?”
Maggie went on to explain how Richard wanted to take her to the wedding fare.
“You see, if Richard thinks too much about something, he gets tongue tied and babbles on. I think he worked himself up so much that he just collapsed. I was actually enjoying myself there when all of a sudden he shouted for me. I looked around to see him on the ground in a pile of music stands.”
“Poor Richard.” Said Sophia becoming sympathetic.

Alfonso then came out with their lunch, two plates of homemade ravioli and two glasses of red wine. “Grazie” said both the women.
Maggie took a bite, “Hmmm! This beats the tin stuff from the supermarket.”
Sophia was by now engrossed with Maggie’s story. “Do you think he’ll try again?”
Maggie dabbed her mouth with the napkin, “I think he was going to ask me again this lunch time.”
Sophia, put down her knife and folk, “I hope you didn’t turn him down to meet me!”
“There was no way I was going to accept a proposal of marriage in bagging jeans and sweaty t-shirt with polystyrene packing material in my hair.”
Sophia laughed pointing her fork at Maggie. “You are now becoming Italian.”
“I want us both to enjoy the experience. So I said to him we’ll have lunch on Wednesday. By then the opening night for the exhibition will be over and so will my talk I’m giving at the Book Festival. I hope you can come too?”
“Papa and I will be in the front row, giving you plenty of support.”

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