Amelia stood on the edge of the tour group cluster and dutifully stared at the statue. She didn’t belong with these people. The only person close to her age was the guide and she suspected she made him uncomfortable. His engineered expressions that elicited laughter from his usual audience of octogenarians evoked only sighs from Amelia.
She reminded herself that she could leave at any time.
They’d been in Rome for two days; the next stop was Naples. She’d paid ahead of time for the guided tour package, thinking she might learn something, but all it did was exhaust her. She was sleeping well for the first time in months.
The statue, pockmarked and missing its original details, stood alone, far from its companions on the steps of the palazzo. Amelia could imagine the suffering it had experienced over the centuries. To endure so long only to be ogled by strangers, the thought brought tears to her eyes. She turned away.
Behind her, modern Rome rushed by in a haze of tiny cars and scooters. Commuters forced to drive in circles to avoid the ubiquitous past.
The sight of a rounded green car like the old Volkswagen she’d owned with her ex-husband pulled her own past into the present. She cut the memory off and turned back to the group. But the group was gone. Fear and panic filled her. She froze, only her eyes moved, darting, searching. The group didn’t move fast, they couldn’t have gone far. Would they notice she wasn’t with them? Would they care?
She’d resented them, all those old, nosy gossips, digging into her past, but now she wanted them back. If they came back, please come back, she promised she would tell them the truth: that she hated being alone. It was the reason she had stayed married for as long as she did. She would have stayed forever if her husband hadn’t finally, oh so gently, pushed her out the door.
“You’ll be better off without me.” he’d said.
The old ladies echoed his words, “you’ll be better on your own.” And now they had, oh so gently, walked away from her.
Amelia stood motionless, surrounded by strangers, and waited to be found.