This wasn't how I'd wanted to see Rome.
I tried to tell myself it was no different, really, being here alone -- that I was still standing at the site where a temple to Jupiter had once stood, that what mattered was being here at all. But I knew the ruins would have never looked so forlorn if I'd been listening to the jokes he would have told about vestal virgins guarding the temple fire.
I nudged the Steps with the side of Dickie's shoe, careful not to scuff it. "Grab a cab and we can meet up at the railway station," he'd said, trying to sound encouraging, but he never could keep an edge of impatience out of his voice that made him sound as if talking to me would only hold him until something better came along. "Ciao -- have fun," he'd barely managed to utter before turning back to Freddie. I leaned out over the railing, the rope tensing into my stomach.
"Are you all right? Mr ..."
I spun around. The tall stranger's face was concerned, and all at once I knew my friend had come along after all, hovering like a phantom at the back of my mind, waiting for someone to hand me the key that would bring him to the surface. I felt the brooding of my lips melt into a haughty smirk, the slump of my back straighten into Dickie's own squared shoulders.
"Greenleaf," I responded, giving the stranger my hand to shake. "Dickie Greenleaf."