Read Again, but Better Online

Authors: Christine Riccio

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BOOK: Again, but Better
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“When we got there, we set up camp near the water, and then I realized my wallet wasn’t in my pocket.”

I raise my eyebrows sarcastically.

He continues. “It was our only beach day there, and I spent about an hour retracing my steps all
over the sand before heading back to where my buddies were. I had to borrow one of their phones to try and get ahold of the cab company. I gave them my hotel info and my friend’s number so that if they found it, they could return it. Then I spent the day stressed out, pacing around and worrying.”

“Uh-huh.” I narrow my eyes.

He smiles. “And then I got a call around four that a driver had found
a wallet and dropped it off at my hotel. When we went back, it was there.”

I study him skeptically for a moment. “What’s your point?” I say, trying to sound aloof.

“It’s not worth the stress of stressing. We’re here for two days. You can’t spend one of them sitting on the curb of a restaurant for six hours.”

“But what if—”

“Let’s go get a gelato.” He stands and offers me a hand.

“What? It’s,
like, nine in the morning,” I say from the curb.


“And I don’t have any money,” I add gloomily.

“I’ve got this one.”

I twist back to frown at the trattoria behind me.
Why are you closed? I need you now!
When I turn back, Pilot’s still holding out his hand. I am hungry. I won’t be able to eat if I pass up this offer and insist on staying—because money.

“And then we’ll come back and check
on the restaurant?” I ask, grabbing his hand.

He pulls me up off the curb and releases my palm. My hand is fangirling as I return it to my side. I begrudgingly follow him down the cobblestone street.

“And then we’ll meet Sahra and Babe at the Colosseum.”

I let this sit for a moment. Maybe he’s right. Am I being stays-in-her-dorm-and-misses-everything-out-of-fear Shane? But, if they happen to
open early, I’d be here the second they open.

I sigh. “But what if I need Chapstick and start to deteriorate due to withdrawal?”

In front of me, Pilot turns back and shoots me a sarcastic look. I can see him trying not to smile behind it.

“If it gets bad, I’ll take you to the hospital myself.”

The corners of my mouth twitch up. Pilot hooks a left at the next corner, and we stop abruptly outside
a gelato shop. It’s open. What the heck? “How did you know this was here?”

“We passed it last night.”

“It was dark!” I exclaim in disbelief.

He puts a finger to his temple. “Good with directions.”

Pilot buys me a watermelon gelato, and we make our way down to a tourist-swarmed Colosseum. We find Sahra and Babe in the line to get in. While we’re waiting, I express my extreme disappointment
in not being able to document the day because my digital camera is in my purse—and immediately Babe offers to let me borrow hers whenever I feel like snapping a picture. I fight the urge to wrap her in one of those abrupt, emotional thank-you hugs because I don’t want to come off as too dramatic. I go a little boneless for a second, looking from her to Pilot. I got real lucky being assigned to Flat

1/16/11 11:50 p.m.

I thought I would be tired, having spent the last two days flouncing about in Rome and then traveling all the way back to the Karlston, but I’m invigorated right now. I’m riding this weird post-travel high. I already edited all the pictures, put them up on Facebook, and finished dramatizing a first draft of the harrowing tale of almost losing my passport for my blog
(“That Time I Lost My Passport”). I’m happy with it, but I need to put down a more personal recounting of the weekend so I don’t forget any of the details that made it super-wonderful.


We Explored the Colosseum

When the time was right, I switched into photographer mode, borrowing Babe’s camera and snapping solo pictures of Babe, Pilot, and Sahra.
Afterward, Babe took the camera away and shooed me and Pilot out in front of the lens. Immediately, I felt nervous and self-conscious. Is it okay to be in a picture alone with Pilot? Babe snapped the shot. Pilot then took the camera from Babe and instructed the girls to go stand at my side, and he snapped one of the three of us.

We Saw Super-Ruiny Ruins

We headed up the hills surrounding the
Colosseum where temples and ruins of all sorts of ancient architectural grandeur were scattered. We took our time, stopping to gawk in awe at everything. I basically ended up hijacking Babe’s camera for the entirety of the hike, directing everyone into
different poses in front of all sorts of beautiful giant structures. You don’t see things like this in the United States. We’re too new. Everything
in Rome feels old, weathered, and loaded with character.

I Ate More Ravioli

Around noon, we stopped for more Italian food. Sahra offered to cover my meal. I hugged her. She politely patted my back until I pulled away. I told her I’d pay her back as soon as I gained access to money. The three of them drank more Italian wine, and I worried more about my purse. Pilot promised he’d come with me
to check out the trattoria again after we ate, so I quickly devoured the most delicious ravioli I’ve ever had.

We Found My Purse

Thank the heavens! When I raced us back to the trattoria, it was open, and they had my purse behind the counter. Babe whooped, Sahra smiled, and Pilot loosed an excited HEY of triumph. My relief was palpable. It was all I could do not to tear up as I described the
items inside, and the owner handed the cross-body to me across the hostess table. I fell to the floor in a low squat and hugged it to my chest, feeling so blessed that I got to keep going—the adventure wasn’t over yet.

We Saw the Pantheon

Pilot took the lead, paving our path to the Pantheon with the map he had stashed in his back pocket. We headed down a narrow street lined with little shops
that emptied into an
open square dominated by one single, giant stone structure—the Pantheon.

I did a whole project on the Pantheon in high school, so walking up to it felt more surreal than any other landmarks we visited. I reverently stepped through its garden of pillars and into the circular cavern within. Niches line the circumference of the chamber, each one filled with some sort of historical
statue or tomb, and when you look up at the ceiling, there’s an enormous uncovered hole in the center called the oculus. You can look right up at the sky! While I was ogling up at it, Pilot said, “Give me your camera,” and when I dropped my gaze, he was right in front of me. I handed it to him. He hurried back a few feet and snapped a picture of me inside the Pantheon. Babe saw him take it,
came over, took the camera from him, and told him to get into the picture with me. My skin buzzed as he sidled up next to me and settled his arm around my waist. Another picture of just the two of us. This one, on my camera. This one would be (is) in my Facebook album.

The four of us made our way around the circumference of the room, exploring all the niches and reading the signs inlaid with
small bursts of history. Robert Langdon–related trivia kept zooming around my brain. I got to a point where I couldn’t help myself, and yelped about it excitedly.

Me: *flails* Guys, remember when Robert Langdon came here in
The Da Vinci Code

Pilot, Babe, and Sahra: *crickets*

I proceeded to insist upon their reading of
Angels and Demons
The Da Vinci Code

We Saw the Trevi Fountain

all threw coins over our shoulders and made wishes. The fountain itself was fantastical! There was so much detail in every statue, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it sprang to life (but that would be horrifying; there’s one too many practically naked intense-looking men in that fountain).

We Climbed the Freakin’ Vatican

Sunday (this morning), we spilled out of a bus into an area cordoned off
with an impressive array of giant pillars. It legit felt like we were walking into Mount Olympus. The four of us wandered into the most breathtaking square thus far. I’ve never seen architecture this grandiose, this—epic.

Inside the Vatican, we climbed this endless winding staircase. The steps actually twisted sideways and up onto the wall as we reached the uppermost domed portion of the church.
I loved it.

We were all out of breath when we finally reached the top. The path led us outside, onto a narrow balcony that encircled the tip of the dome. The four of us diffused, spreading out among the rest of the tourists. When I spotted an open area of railing, I flung myself against it to stare out at the city. I tried to memorize the view, the feeling of wonder and accomplishment, the joy
pumping through my veins.

We Saw the Pope

Back in St. Peter’s Square, there was a massive gathering of people looking up at a taupe-colored building. We wandered over to see what the fuss was about, squinting our eyes
against the sun. There, five stories up, looking out over a balcony, arms extended, was the Pope. What even!

I can’t believe we were only gone for two days. We saw so much. I
never dreamed so much could be done in two days. But it can! I can’t wait to do this in other countries. There’s so many possibilities. I’m so much more excited about my
Packed! For Travel!

11. What Comes Next?

January 17, 2011

Mom and Dad,

I got an email this morning confirming that I got the internship at the magazine,
Packed! For Travel!
I start next Tuesday! I’ll have to lie to you about where I’m working when we Skype, and I’m not looking forward to it. I hope BBQ this past Sunday went well. Did anyone notice I was gone?



I slip today’s postcard in with my
growing collection as Professor Blackstairs hands back our first assignment. I almost leap out of my seat when mine falls onto my desk. I got an A.

An hour and a half into class, Professor Backstairs dismisses us for a fifteen-minute break. A lot of students head out into the street to grab a snack or some air. I guess I could do that. There’s a Caf
Nero down the street, and I could go for a
latte. I push up out of my seat and make my way outside.


I pause on the front steps of the class building, my gaze snapping up to find Pilot ten feet in front of me on the sidewalk.

“Hey!” I walk over to where he’s stopped.

“Are you done with class?” he asks, confused.

“No, I’m on fifteen-minute break. I was going to grab a latte,” I tell him, delighted I decided to leave the classroom.

He shakes his head with a disbelieving grin. “Dang, me too. I guess our professors coordinated today.”

He’s all casual, hands in his pockets, hunched slightly against the breeze as we start down the block. I stuff my hands into my pockets too.

“So, Rome for the weekend is over,” he says, a half smile on his lips.

Residual Rome hype spills out of me. “Yeah, it was so fast, but we saw so much
stuff! I mean, yeah, the Sistine Chapel was closed but—”

“But,” he interjects happily, “we got to chill with the Pope.”

“That we did, that we did.”

“How would you rate it out of ten?”

I consider this for a moment, pursing my lips. “Hmm, eight out of ten, I think, which is excellent, but leaves room for improvement. If there’s ever a trip that’s out-of-this-world superb, like if we got to hang
with Taylor Swift and the Pope, that would be a ten.”

Pilot nods approvingly.

“And what would you rate it?” I ask, raising my eyebrows.

He answers in a cheeky, over-the-top version of his voice. “I mean, I’m pissed Taylor Swift wasn’t there, but I guess I’d give it an eight out of ten too.”

I snort as we come to a stop, waiting for the walk signal to cross the street. “Where else do you want
to travel while you’re here?”

He jumps at the question. “Oh, man, everywhere! Scotland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary, Denmark, Austria. I really just want to go as many places as I can.”

I bite back a smile at the enthusiasm in his voice. “It’s so cool that everything’s so close. I didn’t realize we’re like two hours from so many places.” The light changes, and we scurry
toward Caf
Nero. “When do you fly back to the States?”

“I don’t have a return ticket yet,” he says.

My head whips over to meet his eyes as we reach the sidewalk again. “You don’t have a return ticket?”

“Nope. Playin’ it by ear. We’ll see what happens.”

There’s that phrase again.

“Wow.” I pause as he pulls open the door to Caf
Nero. We step in and join the line.
People go places without
getting a return ticket?

“I never even realized that’s … like, an option when you travel,” I say slowly.

“What countries do you want to hit?”

“Um, I don’t know. I didn’t think about it enough because I didn’t realize everything was so close, and now I want to go everywhere I can.” I meet his eyes again.

He smiles and straightens his arms, stuffing his hands farther into his pockets. I float
a few inches off the ground. His smiles aren’t like mine, which typically etch themselves onto my face for various stretches of time. Pilot’s are fleeting; they come and then they’re gone again, and he’s back to his normal resting chill expression.

“Next!” the barista snaps.
Get back on the ground, Shane. He has a girlfriend.
I whirl around to place my order. After Pilot places his, we huddle
in silence for a moment at end of the counter, waiting for our drinks.

“How goes the music making?” I ask. “Are you going to tour with this new album you’re coming out with?” Amusement dances through my words.

He looks at the ceiling and lets go of a laugh. “Well, I’m hoping to do some gigs around New York City over the summer, like open mics and stuff, try to get our name out there.”

My mouth
falls open. “Really? That’s awesome.”

“Yeah, I really want to take this summer to do it because I don’t think I’ll get another chance with graduation coming and everything.”

“Are you going to invite us to your gigs?” I grin.

His cheeks flush. “I don’t know…” he answers shyly.

“What do you mean, you don’t know? I want to come!”

The barista drops our drinks on the table. Pilot smiles at his
latte. “We’ll see.”

“We’ll see?” I repeat with mock frustration as I grab my own. “We’re going to come and support your musical talents,” I insist.

“What about you?” he says when we’re back outside. “How’s the book-writing plan going?”

I laugh in surprise. “I haven’t started. I have ideas but, I don’t know, none of them feel good enough. Or I guess, I’m not sure I could write them. We’ll see,”
I finish slowly, staring into my drink.

“You should just go for it,” he encourages.

We cross the street, approaching the class buildings again.

“We should all plan another trip for this weekend,” Pilot suggests before we part.

“Yeah!” I call eagerly, as he strides toward the building next to mine.

This morning, Babe and I agreed to meet up for lunch. So after class, I wait for her on the
corner. I wave happily as she approaches.

“Hey!” I greet her. “How was class?”

“Boring. You?” she says. We fall into step.

“Mine was excellent! We talked about structure, specifically the break between act one and two!”

She laughs. “Cool—you ready to try this burger place?” she says excitedly. Ninety percent of what Babe says is said excitedly.

We head into Byron’s, a gourmet burger place
we pass on the way to class. Once we’re seated, a waiter comes to take our drink orders while we study the menu. They have milkshakes! Shakes and burgers—it feels so American! I’ve only been gone a week, but it already feels like I’ve been out of the country for ages. Weirdly, American things are starting to feel rare and special, in a way they’ve never felt before.

“So, you know that friend
Chad that I was talking about the other day?” Babe starts as we peruse the menu.

I glance up at her with a knowing look. “Yeah, the one from upstairs who you hung out with that first day?”

“Okay, so, I do kind of really like him.”

I nod and raise my eyebrows slightly to show I’m listening. I expect her to get giggly about it, but she’s all business.

“Well.” She puts down her menu. “This Sunday
is his birthday, and I, um, I usually plan things we do for his birthday.”

“You—plan his birthday?”

“We’ve been friends for, like, three years now, and I planned it last year and the year before, and he likes when I plan it,” she explains carefully.

“Okay…” The waiter arrives, and we both order specialty burgers and shakes. We’re quiet as he takes our menus and walks away.

She starts again,
“Okay, so, I had class with Chad earlier, and he was talking about going to Paris this weekend maybe, to celebrate. And did you know we don’t have class this Friday? It’s Thursday instead. So, I think we’re gonna go! Do you want to come? Maybe Pilot will come too? It’ll be really fun…” She trails off.

I feel my forehead scrunch up. Is she suggesting a double … date … situation? I’m afraid to
voice the question aloud. She knows as well as I do that Pilot has a girlfriend. But I want to go to Paris.

“Yeah, I’d love to come!” I spout.

“Really?” She relaxes back into her seat. “Oh my gosh, thank you! I didn’t want it to be just me and Chad, but I kind of want it, you know, to be just me and Chad, sometimes—you know?”

I study her carefully. “So, what’s the deal with you two, then? Have
you guys had moments and stuff? Are you, like, almost a thing?”

“Well, I mean, like last year I tried to tell him once that I had feelings for him, but before I could get it out, he started talking about how he likes tiny short girls.”

“What?” I drop my milkshake back to the table, instantly annoyed with Chad. Babe’s tall and curvy. She must register the look on my face because she hurries to
defend him.

“No, but he’s really nice, and we both love Disney. He’s great, you’ll see! I don’t know what was up that night. I think he was acting out and nervous about losing our friendship. I don’t know, but he’s great. I promise!”

“Okay,” I say quietly. We’ll see about this Chad.

Back at the flat, Babe and I retire to the kitchen to work on our laptops. When I pull up Safari, it opens to
Facebook where I have twenty-three new notifications—probably people liking my Rome pictures.

I smile, opening them, but my insides shrivel when I see who the majority are from: Leo, Alfie, Anthony, Angelo. Not just likes,
I race down to the first one and open it in a new window. It’s the picture of Pilot and me in the Pantheon. They all liked it.

Leo Primaveri
Who’s this?

Breaking News: Shane’s with a dude.

Anthony Primaveri
No. Fucking. Way.

Leo Primaveri
Do you actually speak to each other?

Alfie Primaveri
Can’t wait for the wedding.

I’m gonna throw up.

Babe’s voice. “Shane? Are you okay?”

Pilot’s tagged in this photo. I’m gonna die. My mouse scrambles up:
Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete.
I speed back to the notifications and open another.
There’s a post on my wall from Leo and Alfie’s mom, my aunt Marie.

Marie Primaveri

Miss you, sweetie! It looks like you’re having a great time. Leo tells me you have a boyfriend out there. I hope it’s the cutie in the pictures!

The computer’s pulled away from my face. “Shane, seriously, you’ve been muttering
repeatedly for, like, a solid sixty seconds.”

I pull it back. “Sorry, family
thing,” I mumble. I pick it up and run out of the kitchen. I hear my chair fall, but there’s no time to stop. This is dire.

I slam into a seat at our bedroom table and delete the post. Another new notification pops up from Leo. He’s online. He posted on my wall.

Leo Primaveri

You deleted our comments about your new boyfriend? I’m hurt.


Another new notification on my wall.


You keep deleting my posts about your boyfriend. What’s his name—Pilot?

Angry tears sting my eyes. Why is Leo leading this parade? I sit back up, opening a private thread in Facebook Chat.




Relax, cuz, just having fun.

“Ahhh!” I scream at the screen. It’s one thing to do this when we’re at a family party—I swallow at the lump in my throat
and type.




Whoa, calm down, you don’t curse.





A new notification pops up. Another post on my wall for the world to see.

Leo Primaveri


A tear sears down my cheek.
I storm through Facebook. Leo:

I return
to the kitchen ten minutes later. Babe’s still here. She looks up from her laptop as I settle back into the chair across from her. She must have picked it up for me.

“Is everything okay?” she asks, pushing a dark curl behind her ears. She’s wearing adorable gold Mickey-shaped studs.

“Yeah, it’s fine. I took care of it,” I breathe. Babe rises from her seat, comes behind my chair, and wraps me
in an awkward hug.

“I don’t think he saw,” she says quietly.

She saw
. My face burns.

Babe sits back down and tells me that her older brother is constantly making fun of her obsession with Disney. She tries to make me feel better. “Pilot’s been in class. We don’t have smartphones here; he probably didn’t see.”

She’s right. She’s probably right.

I throw myself into proofreading the “That Time
I Lost My Passport” blog post about Rome. Babe lingers with me. I’m pretty sure she’s just waiting for Pilot to get back, so she can ask him about Paris. Now, there’s the added bonus of finding out if he saw the stuff on Facebook. He finally strides in at 4:00 p.m., a few minutes after I publish the Rome piece.

BOOK: Again, but Better
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