Art Trip

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  No Houses

Chapter 22 (v.1) - Chapter 22

Submitted: February 06, 2018

Reads: 232

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Submitted: February 06, 2018

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Maggie stood in the wings of the auditorium with her eyes closed. Richard was behind her massaging her shoulders. “You OK?” he whispered in her ear. No, she thought. Maggie wanted to throw-up.

Richard kissed her ear and gently squeezed the left buttock. “You are going to be amazing out there.” He said trying to calm her and offer her encouragement at the same time.

Maggie kept her eyes closed as he kissed her some more. If only Richard knew how close Maggie was in having him right now. Although she insisted on wanting for that special time and place to share their first intimate moment together. It was becoming incredibly difficult to keep her hands off him. If he didn’t propose within the next couple of days, she was going to abandon her principles and take him where he stood.

The thousand-seater auditorium was almost full. It was part of the hotel complex where they were staying. Maggie held on to Richard as he clasped his hands around her waist, holding her until the last moment.

Maggie then heard Giovanni start his introduction. It seemed long and drawn out as they waited for the English translation. Then Maggie heard the first of three words from Giovanni that needed no interpretation, signalling her countdown.
“…Benvenuto Signorina Maggie Harris.”

 The audience erupted into a thunderous applause, Maggie left Richard’s embrace and walked boldly out on to the stage. She approached the podium with a few extra notes and saw her speech beginning to role on the autocue.
“Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentleman.” Maggie looked to the first row to see Richard take his place next the Sophia and Giovanni “Just over a year ago I met the Patron of this year’s Book Festival, Signor Rossi.” That too was met with applause. “In January of this year, I was asked to attend an auction with him in London to oversee the purchase of a Gutenberg Bible. I do not have to tell those gathered here today that these Bibles do not come up often on the market.” She took a sip of water before continuing. “Between 1450 and 1455, a total of 200 copies were scheduled to be printed, the first book to use moveable type, on rag cotton linen paper, and 30 copies on velum animal skin. Although it is not known exactly how many copies were actually printed?”

“I saw the Bible with the security staff and leaving Signor Rossi to conduct his bidding in private, I wanted to take the opportunity to look at the copy before it was purchased. It was then I noticed the paper it was printed on.” The first picture from Maggie’s presentation came up on the screen. It was a close-up picture taken at the time by the London Metropolitan Police Fraud Squad who were conducting the crime.
“Note the fibres in the paper on the forgery are closely woven together.” Maggie highlights the picture with her laser pointer. “Compare this to the original.” The next picture comes on the screen. “The fibres are more open, this is due to the crude make-up of rag-cotton paper.”

A gentleman calls out from the audience. “And you spotted that just by walking by it? You must have the eyes of a hawk my dear.” Some others around him laughed, much to the displeasure of Giovanni. Then another person questioned the age of Maggie saying she was too young to have that experience and even he a dealer of fifteen years would have trouble spotting that detail.

Maggie could see a few out there were questioning her ability. She was used to this, people disbelieving her credibility because of her age. “Sir, I have been collecting antique books, originally buying them with my own pocket money since I was twelve years old. I’m now thirty-three. That’s twenty-one years of studying the art of printing.”

All the eyes in the auditorium were now fixed on the person making the comment. Maggie continued,
“That gives me a six year head start on you.” That comment got some laughs from those seated. With no other hecklers, Maggie carried on.

She spent the next forty-five minutes showing examples of forged printing techniques and even how the humble coffee bean when dropped on water can fake mould when dropped on wet paper to make it look aged.

In her conclusion Maggie clicked the last screen of her presentation, giving her and Richards’s company name, web and email address. “Thank you for your time and please contact me if you require further assistance.” The auditorium again burst into applause and a few people even gave her a standing ovation. She gathered the notes that were not on the autocue, smiled to the front row where Giovanni, Richard and Sophia were clapping the loudest.

As people were leaving a few hung around Maggie wanting her contact details with the promise they will be in touch. Seeing now she was alone, Richard went over and gave her a big hug.
“Well done you! You can do all the presentations in future when we get back home.”
“Not on your life, I don’t think I have enough underwear to do this on a regular basis.”

Giovanni and Sophia came across totally ecstatic with her performance.
“Magnifico!” They said to her, both were still smiling and clapping.
“You have proved yourself today without doubt.” Said Giovanni
“I don’t know,” said Maggie. “Those two at the beginning put me off.”
“Idiota” She Sophia, “What do they know.”

“Come on,” said Giovanni. “They will be nothing left at the buffet.”

The buffet was held in one of the function rooms at the hotel. With both engagements over, both Maggie and Richard started to physically relax. Maggie was openly chatting with some of those she had addressed, and Richard could see her giving out and receiving business cards.

Richard then spotted Sophia all alone over by the buffet table, he went over to her. “Hi, Maggie did well.” He said leading up to what he really wanted to ask her.
“Ciao, Richard. You must be very proud of her.” He was and she looked really sexy in her business trouser suit and high heels.
“Sophia?”
“Si”
“I want to take Maggie to a really special place tomorrow lunch time.”
Sophia gave half a grin as she picked food from the buffet table.
“I want to…” Sophia stopped him before he started rambling.
“Café Florence. It is this side of the Ponte Vecchio.”
“Thanks.” He said looking slightly bashful.
Sophia glanced at him, and seeing his cheeks were flushed red, moved alongside and whispered in his ear.
“It is where all Italians go to get engaged.”


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