Gaining Visibility(8)

By: Pamela Hearon

Camille’s chin buckled, putting her face in serious mode. “I worry about you. Going by yourself. Hiking alone in a foreign country. Nobody to take care of you.”

Camille could be such a mother hen, despite being sixteen years younger. “I don’t need anyone to take care of me. You know that.” Julia used a firm tone, hoping to put this subject to rest for good. “You know I’ve done my research and checked everything out.” She held up the brochure she’d been looking through yesterday. “The hiking trails around Lerici are popular, so there’ll be plenty of other people on them.” She dropped that one and picked up another. “And the Cinque Terre trails will be filled. I’ll probably have to step over the slow ones who get knocked down in the stampede.”

That brought a giggle from her friend. “I’m sure you’ll lead the pack.” She turned her attention back to the catalog.

Julia stared at the photo of the village of Monterosso gracing the front of the pamphlet. The Cinque Terre was in her grasp. In two-and-a-half weeks, she would be living the dream she’d first conceptualized nine months ago. Her “baby’s” due date was almost here.

Her hand and the brochure it held trembled with excitement.

She’d worked hard for this—going from couch potato to someone who could walk twenty or more miles a day.

But she would be all alone.

Was she ready?

Her hand trembled again. She laid down the brochure and pressed the hand to the middle of her chest. Cancer-free, reconstructed breasts. Perky, new nipples, completely healed. What had once been her broken heart, now beating wildly at the mere thought of this adventure.

Oh yeah. She was ready.

* * *

Hettie squinted her good eye and peered at the paper Julia had given her containing the trip itinerary. “I’ve never heard of any of these places until you get to Florence. You’re sure they exist?”

“Oh, they’re popular destinations.” Julia considered it for a couple of seconds and then shrugged. “But maybe not so much for the first-time visitor to Italy.” She grabbed her tote and rummaged through it but didn’t find the map she thought she’d put in there. That’s right, she’d decided she wouldn’t need it until she got to the hotel, so she’d put it in her duffel instead. “Let me grab an atlas.” She left Hettie at the table and hustled over to the reference books on the shelf of the nursing home’s limited library, returning with the thick world atlas. She sat down and flipped to the page containing the map of Italy. Spying the magnifying glass on another table, she jumped up again and grabbed it, then settled on the edge of her seat.

Hettie gave her a lopsided grin. “You’re as feisty as spit on a skillet this morning.”

“I am, aren’t I,” Julia agreed. “I can’t believe the day’s finally here, and I’m on my way.” She positioned the magnifying glass over the northwest area of the map and pointed. “See. Here’s Lerici.” She glided her finger across the small body of water and tapped the five villages. “And these are the five little towns that make up the Cinque Terre.”

Hettie’s good hand clasped around Julia’s finger and tapped it against the map again. “And see right there? It’s the sexy Italian you’re going to meet. He’s waiting right there.”

The pull of her mother-in-law’s hand had brought the finger over the Ligurian Sea area of the Mediterranean. “If he’s waiting right there, I hope he’s on a boat . . . or a good swimmer.”

“Fisherman.” Hettie’s hand lost its grip and dropped to the table. “They make the best lovers because they’ve learned to be patient.”

Frank’s dad had loved to fish, so Julia couldn’t keep from smiling at the subtle but unmistakable innuendo. “That so?”

“If I’m lying, I’m dying.” Hettie winked and made a cross over her heart.

“Well, patience is something I’ve been in short supply of lately.” Julia laid down the magnifying glass and slid back in the chair. “Camille was talking about how antsy I’ve been just yesterday.”

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