Everyone's love story begins differently. Remember that the next time you come face to face with someone new. Someone, who maybe leaves an awkward first impression, who feels more like friend-potential, or my personal favorite: a complete stranger you connect with instantly. Weird as it might be, try giving it a chance. It could only get better from there, right?
Anyway, on to the story...(disclaimer: I've changed most of the names for privacy reasons)
In Rimini, Italy, there are many resort-type hotels, some several stories high, lining the beach along the Adriatic Sea. At one of them, a Catholic convent/conference center, a bunch of Protestants from around Italy met for a three-day conference. I had arrived with my friends from Rome and we decided to explore the main building before going to our respective weekend rooms. As we walked arm-in-arm through a set of swinging doors, we passed a young guy carrying a duffel bag. I noted his pleasant appearance, but nothing more. After we passed him, the Rome sisters, Sadie and Erin, giggled and whispered loudly, "that was the guy." I brushed off their comments and good-natured teasing. I wasn't there to snag a guy. However, I can't lie and say that a small measure of excitement hadn't stirred in me.
My room was in the dormitory section of the "hotel". I could imagine nuns or monks sleeping in rows, kneeling before the crucifix on the wall, and scrubbing their faces in the sterile, brightly lit bathroom. The sparse room had a balcony overlooking the sea, and it was clean and held three beds. I quickly found out that I was to share it with two Italian girls of my age. The two were friends from the same town and I worried—only for a brief moment—that I would be the odd one out.
Our first interactions were slightly comical as we got used to our different languages. Imagine having a conversation where you have to search for five minutes for the right words to complete just one sentence. It wasn't easy, but we managed to discuss our names, ages, provenance, romantic statuses, and of course, our mutual excitement for the weekend activities. Lisa was petite, with beautiful, doe eyes and a sweet voice. She took me under her wing, preparing me for the onslaught of curiosity I'd receive because I was American. Rea was tall and slim, with a youthful energy that fueled both of her roommates. I felt like I'd known them forever.
After a fitful sleep in the narrow bed, I woke to a sun-filled room and quickly prepared for breakfast. I remember I wore my favorite flare jeans and my faux, crocodile-skin boots. I wore my blond hair, highlighted from the sun, in a mass of curls around my shoulders. I was twenty years old, full of life and verve. But, I was actually shy on the inside. I remember my nerves skittering from head to toe as we walked into the breakfast room and saw the small group that had already gathered. I followed the girls over to a table where their friends were eating and was promptly introduced to everyone. The blur of faces and names clouded my brain and I feared that the smile on my face would permanently crease my cheeks. Lisa was right; the buzz of interest surrounding my presence was palpable in the small room. I felt several pairs of eyes on me as I filled my plate with croissants and fresh fruit. I sat with my new acquaintances at the crowded table, tried to make sense of their rapid-fire Italian words, and answered their questions half in Italian, half in English. Where I wasn't understood, my roommates translated for me.
At some point during the meal, I glanced around the room and locked eyes with a curly-haired guy who sat alone at a table nearby. His shyness was familiar, but I wondered why he wasn't sitting with the others, for they were clearly all friends. We exchanged the briefest of smiles and my inner, romance antenna began to lift, slowly, for the first time in almost a year. He seemed quiet and serious, both attractive qualities, especially as we were at a religious conference. And, guys, his hair. When I say curly, I mean super thick, luxurious curls where you could pull at them and they'd bounce back. I was instantly intrigued.
Sadie and Erin had told me his name was Samuele. It felt strange seeing him for the first time and already knowing a few things about him. He was a drummer, he was good with kids, and he was from northern Italy. Now that I'd seen him, I understood what the fuss was about. His looks matched his reputation and I knew that our story was only beginning. Don't ask me how; I just knew we had an instant connection.
I apologize for the brevity. My time for writing is carved out where possible. Thank you as always for following my stories, and Happy Holidays to you all as the year comes to a close. Check back soon because this story involves many twists and turns and will cause you to reflect on your own romance. Reach for your loved one and remind them of the time when your story was just beginning.