I HAVE to go,” my brother said. He had a sort of pinched expression to his face, and his dark-brown eyes seemed younger than his thirty years.
I didn’t bother to roll my eyes at this point in our vacation. Men were supposed to have twice as big of bladders as women, but apparently my brother’s didn’t fit the physiological norms. I surveyed the square, the Pantheon looming ahead of us, and pointed. “There’s a gelato shop. How about I order some and you can use the restroom?”
My brother’s face relaxed. “Okay. Thanks.”
“No problem.” I was the older sibling, and that’s what older siblings did. We hadn’t hung out like this in years, but it still felt natural, this way of ours. We picked our way through the square, dodging the multitudes of people that dotted the square. The sun beat down on my head and shoulders, so I rolled up my sleeves. I shouldn’t have worn black.
Inside the gelato shop it was cool, and I almost sighed with relief. I spotted the sign, met my brother’s gaze, and flicked my chin toward the toilets.
He hurried down the hall.
After I scoped the case, I paid for my gelato at a register in the corner. I held up my thumb. “Uno gelato.”
The clerk handed me a receipt, and then I waited in line for another clerk to scoop for me.
My brother was already standing behind me when I finished. I handed him my pistachio gelato. “Hold this for me for a sec. I guess I’ll go while I have a chance.”
My brother nodded and took my ice cream. “I’ll be outside,” he said.
I ambled down the hall to the toilets.
A guy was standing outside the toilet door, so I queued up behind him, avoiding eye contact. I stared at the wall in front of me and shoved my hands in my pockets. The guy bounced up and down, and out of the corner of my eye I watched him rock side to side, and pace the hall.
When he made a small helpless noise, my head snapped to him. We met gazes.
He was beautiful, twenty-something with spiked blond hair and light blue or green eyes. He wore the current style in Italy, which seemed to be shoes that looked like Vans, straight-legged jeans, and a polo shirt.
“L’Italiano?” he said.
I shook my head. “No. English.”
“Ah.” His brows furrowed for a moment before he tilted his head toward the closed restroom door and said, “There’s a girl.”
“Ah.” I nodded sagely.
The guy made another noise through his nose, and paced the hall.
As he passed me I laughed and slapped my hand on his shoulder. “It’ll be okay,” I said.
He stopped and stared at me, eyes wide and pleading.
Heat rushed through my body, and all at once I was sweating. My heart pounded and I forced my breath slowly in and out. In and out. Stepping away from the guy, I grinned my most guileless grin, the one I’d learned from my father, the most charming person I knew.
The guy returned a shaky smile, and then his face scrunched up and he folded over. He pounded his thighs with his fists.
I should have been sympathetic, because that would have been the polite thing to do, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t that kind understanding bystander anymore. I didn’t want it to be okay for him. I wanted it to be okay for me. Sweat ran down my back, and the heat crept up my neck. My entire body glowed and pulsed to the tiny exhalations of the guy in front of me, but I hoped my face wasn’t showing it. It wasn’t red—yet.
The guy clenched his thighs together. With every grunt and groan, he chipped at my facade, exposing me.
Piss yourself, I begged him. Do it.
He straightened and paced the hall again, whimpering. Before we had met eyes, I would have probably turned away, given him his privacy, but not now. I wasn’t going to miss him losing it in front of me. No way in hell.
Do it, I urged him. You have to piss so bad. Just let it go.
He shuddered and sighed, and then his breath hitched, eyes shut, and hands balled. The muscles of his back flexed through his shirt.
Almost…. He groaned and fuck, oh fuck, he was so close.
The guy whipped his head toward to the door. It was open, and standing there was a bashful-looking gal. She hurried away, her brown hair falling over her face, and he bolted for the open restroom.
Damn. My breath whooshed out, and I took a few shaky breaths. My entire body was tingling, and that blush I had been holding back flamed my face all the way to the roots of my hair. I swallowed as my mouth flooded with saliva, and I tried to calm myself. My heart was pounding so loud, the blood thumping in my ears, I could barely hear anything else.
I was still trying to process when the guy came out of the restroom, his eyes on the ground.
I huffed a laugh and slapped him on the shoulder. “See? It was okay.”
He peeked up at me with those big blue-and-green eyes—they were both, I decided—and I tried for another one of my dad’s charming smiles, only something happened in the execution, and I ended up mostly baring my teeth at him.
We both froze, staring at each other, but I broke it off first, sauntering into the restroom. I closed the door and just stood with my hand on the painted wood, forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. My body still rolled with heat and electricity—oh. Yeah. I glanced to the side. The toilet roll was out of paper. I grinned when I figured out why the poor girl before us had taken so long. After I finished my business, I strode back out into the gelato shop.
The guy was still there, standing next to whom I assumed was his girlfriend, judging by their proximity to each other. He had his hands in his pockets, and was staring very intently at the clerk, though the clerk wasn’t even talking to him, he was talking to the guy’s girlfriend, and she was pointing to the clerk what she wanted.
I strolled out of the store, but before I stepped outside, I caught the guy looking at me, his face blushed with red blotches.
I grinned—nailed it that time. Ciao, bello. I stepped into the sun.
My brother was standing in the shade, my gelato melted to a puddle in the cup.
“What took you so long?” he said. He thrust my gelato in my face, and I took it while I chuckled softly.
Eventually I said, “Getting to know the locals. When in Rome and all.” We headed toward the Pantheon. “Italian men have a certain something. US men are drowning in bullshit ideals,” I said.
“I think they all look gay,” my brother said.
He couldn’t destroy my good mood, so I smiled. “Exactly.”