19 – Epilogue: Coda

Continued from Pax Romana


Hepburn: I don’t know how to say goodbye. I can’t think of any words.

Peck: Don’t try.

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

********

Sara was tired. Already.

And her flight out of Rome hadn’t even left yet.

That she and Grissom had been up and rather pleasantly occupied for more than half the night before had little to do with it.

The half hour train ride to the airport — the quarter hour wait to catch the packed, stuffy shuttle to Terminal 5 — the hour and a half long check-in queue dominated by a rather unhappy shuffling horde of travelers, all harried due to the Eyjafjallajokull backlog — and the then yet another equally long wait and shuttle ride to the actual gate — they were another story entirely.

These were the times when Sara rued she’d need a vacation from her vacation.

Not that she would have traded the last few days for anything.

But as travel weary as she was, she was in no hurry to sit, not knowing that she was about to have little other option for the next nineteen hours.

Preferring instead to kill the last twenty minutes before her flight was scheduled to board leisurely stretching her soon to be cramped limbs, she opted to wander along Terminal C. With all its slick, brilliantly illuminated high-end fashion boutiques, l’Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci di Fiumicino resembled more mall than airport in Sara’s opinion, causing her to wonder and not for the first time if the you must arrive at the airport 160 minutes before your flight policy had more to do with making sure people had plenty of time to spend the last of their holiday cash than with ever-stricter heightened security measures.

Far too lost in her own thoughts and reminiscences Sara did little more than vaguely window shop. In any case, she wasn’t really into designer goods. Catherine, however, would have been in heaven.

Speaking of Catherine, she thought as her phone gave an impatient buzz at her hip and Sara hurried to retrieve it, thinking her friend and supervisor had texted her again. Not that Sara could complain. The first she’d heard from her boss back in Vegas since she left the week earlier was the single brief text she’d received only an hour before.

Catherine, who was a firm believer in work hard, play hard, held fast to the managing principle that time off should be time off and seldom if ever bothered with even a text message or email while Sara was away. For Sara this no working while on vacation policy had taken some getting used to. Although admittedly on this trip she had barely given a moment’s thought to all the work she knew would be waiting for her when she got back.

But Vegas was still Vegas. And Sara wasn’t quite sure she wanted to know exactly what she was returning to just yet.

So she was pleased to find the text from another quarter entirely.

Still at the airport? Her husband’s message read.

She withdrew into a relatively quiet and out of the way corner to type in reply, Still? Just got through check-in.

After two hours?

More like almost three, she corrected, but yeah.

This time her phone chirruped with a call. Picking it up before the second ring, Sara answered with a bright, “Does this mean you miss me already?”

For she had left him at the Termini Station less than four hours before, Grissom having insisted on coming with her at least that far. Thus their trip and time together had ended much the same as it had begun: with a train and a journey.

And with all the usual lasts of leaving: last smiles, last words, last kisses, that last touch, last look, all as ever put off for as long as possible.

Even after all this time and all the occasions, they really hadn’t gotten any better at goodbyes. Or all that fond of them. They were no longer awkward, but no less difficult.

Which was why once Sara had left the congested heat of the shuttle and stepped into the far cooler terminal, she unearthed the darkly patterned Kashmir shawl Grissom had given her the night before from within her carryon to drape about her shoulders. It might not exactly go with her usual travel ensemble of jeans and a t-shirt, but she didn’t care. The over air-conditioned airport air aside, she wanted the warmth of memory it provided.

Naturalmente,” her husband replied, in very passable Italian. “I brushed up at lunch,” he offered to her disbelieving chortle.

“Of course you did,” she sighed.

Unable to discern where he might be from the background noise on his end, Sara asked.

“The grounds of the Villa Borghese,” he supplied.

“More bug hunting?” she queried, but before he could answer she chided, “You never did finish telling me about the Barbarini bees like you promised.”

“Blame the rain.”

“And you fell asleep,” laughed Sara.

“I believe you insisted on the nap,” Grissom countered.

“You needed it.”

“Next time.”

“Next time,” she agreed, more pleased than disappointed. It was nice, his surety in the possibilities of next times.

“Anyway,” he was saying, “bug hunting isn’t half as fun without you.”

Imagining him out and about in the fresh air and sunshine while she was cooped up in Fiumicino’s post-modern, industrialism gone awry confines, Sara said, “Not feeling sorry for you right now.”

“Not even a little?”

“Nope.”

La belle dame sans merci,” Grissom intoned somberly. Then in a knowing sort of voice he added, more statement than question, “You’re heading straight into work, aren’t you?”

“Probably,” admitted Sara. “Particularly if Catherine’s latest text is any indication.”

“That bad?”

“Not yet. But you know Vegas. Actually, all she wanted to know was how Paris was and if I was still planning on coming back. I told her Paris was fine and I was on my way now.”

“Except,” he countered, “You never made it to Paris.”

“I’m sure Paris is still fine,” she replied. “Besides, some things are best kept private.”

Sara could practically hear the grin in his “I see.”

But Grissom was serious again when he said, “Be safe.”

“I’ll try,” she readily assured him. “You know,” she began, swiftly changing the subject, “if you can manage to get into The Galleria Borghese you won’t want to miss the statue of Napoleon’s sister, Pauline. Canova chose to immortalize her as Venus Victrix, apple and all.

“It was quite le scandale at the time as she actually posed demi-nue. Which as she was a Bonaparte is saying something. Reportedly her husband found the finished product so uh… revealing that he kept it under lock and key so that not even the sculptor could view it.”

There was no hiding the incredulity in Grissom’s voice when he asked, “And you know this how?”

“Art history 101,” Sara supplied. “The professor was more into the Baroque, bad puns and all, but he could never resist a juicy scandal. Made the class interesting. Plus, he was cute, so I paid attention.”

Sara had to choke back a chuckle as she could hear her husband spluttering on the other end of the line.

“Just seeing if you were paying attention,” she rejoined. “So what plans do you have for the rest of your time in Rome?”

For Grissom had discovered when he’d gone to apply for a return ticket to Paris at the train station that morning that because of the continuing travel problems resultant from the volcano eruption, there wasn’t a seat to be found until Saturday. Not that he seemed all that put out about the prospect of having a few more days in Rome.

“Apart from miss you?” he asked.

She gave him a grin he couldn’t see. “Apart from that, Gil.”

“I have no idea.”

“It’s only a three hour train ride to Pompeii. You could always go see those frescos you go on about,” she suggested.

“Which ones are those?”

“The bacchanal featuring the initiation of the young bride of Dionysius. Life size figures engaged in orgiastic dances. The ones you said were more explicit than porn. I looked them up.” Then when she could tell from his silence he was drawing a blank or at least pretending to, she supplied, “Vanessa Keaton case. Dead body in a fountain.”

“Six years ago?”

“Yeah.”

“What were you saying about me never forgetting anything? Rather hypocritical, n’est-ce pas, my dear.”

Sara laughed, “Peut-être, Gilbert,” emphasizing the French pronunciation of his full first name. “Which reminds me, who won?”

“Won?” he echoed.

“The bet on the train ride over. Old school versus new school. Whose Italian proved better. I know you remember,” she insisted. “We never decided who won.”

“How about a draw?”

“Okay,” Sara reluctantly agreed, then said, curious as to the response, “Does that mean we both won or we both lost?”

Grissom replied, “Won,” as if that were of course the only possible answer, causing Sara to retort, “That’s too bad.”

“Too bad how?”

“Well, you’ll never know –”

“What you had planned?” he finished.

“Unless you want to change your mind and concede defeat.”

From the dogged insistence in his “No,” Sara didn’t need to see his face to know what look her husband was presently wearing. She’d seen him wear it countless times before, that look that plainly said You have to be joking.

“Suit yourself,” she sighed. “You would have liked it.”

“Sara–”

But any further discussion on the subject was drowned out by a female voice over the loudspeaker booming, “Volo Delta 8121 a New York è ora d’imbarco. Delta flight 8121 to New York is now boarding.”

And Sara let out a reluctant, “That’s me.”

“Saved by the bell,” he chuckled. “Ciao, Bella. Buon viaggio.”

There was more amusement than rue in her sigh of, “Gil—”

“I know,” he said softly. “A presto, cara mia.

Recalling as she did from their language lessons on that same train ride over from Nice Grissom proceeding to inform her that while a presto colloquially meant See you later, it also held at its heart the literal promise soon, Sara smiled and said, “Yeah, you will.”

Finis

********

A/N: Why is it that I always seem to finish things just in time for the real writers to render them moot? Sigh… C’est la vie… Thankfully the franchise is in far better hands than mine…

In any case, it’s been a wonderful (if sometimes trying) experience, as travel often is. Thank you for taking it with us to the end.

And to all my French and Italian editors and everyone who shared their travel experiences with me – I couldn’t have done it half as well without you – merci beaucoup, grazie molto, and much thanks – in any and every language…

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. grissomsgirl72
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 15:55:39

    Okay, I’m NOT tried of the travel but I know you, you’ll have something else up those sleeves…and it will once again NEVER fail to ensnare the reader from start to finish. I don’t know about the franchise being in good hands…with the exception of a few moments I’ve been disappointed with how the show seems to have become ‘one man acts’…Catherine swinging her hair, Langston swinging that obviously unneeded cane…I’m holding out a response for The 2 Mrs. Grissoms..cause from what I’ve seen the fan fiction writers were nicer to Sara than she’s going to be….hurry back with more stories..

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