Lost in Rome 1
I’d been planning to be a counselor-in-training at Camp Hiawatha, but there was an issue with fleas, mice, lice, and snakes and the camp closing, leaving my summer wide open.
The only question was, what would I do with all my free time? Thankfully, my parents were able to make alternate plans.
“It’s all set,” my mom said.
“For real?” I asked.
“Totally for real,” Dad confirmed. “Your great-aunt Maria can’t wait to have you.”
My great-aunt Maria was my dad’s aunt, and she was more than great, she was my favorite relative in the adult category. She was sweet, nice, an amazing Italian cook, and she owned this insanely cute pizzeria. Plus, I always felt like she and I had some kind of special connection—like a bond or something. I can’t explain it exactly.
Oh, and that pizzeria she owned? It just happened to be in Rome. Rome, Italy!
Basically, Aunt Maria is all that and a plate of rigatoni, if you know what I mean.
“When do we leave?” I asked.
“Tomorrow morning,” Mom said. “But this isn’t going to be two weeks of sightseeing and touristy stuff. I told her you wanted to work.”
“At the pizzeria?”
“Yeah,” Dad said. “She’s planning to teach you how to make her signature sauce.”
“The secret sauce?” I asked in awe.
“That’s the one,” he added. “I don’t even know how to make it.”
“That’s a major deal,” Mom said.
Just then a girl who looked a lot like me—long dark curly hair, light skin, brown eyes, except she was taller, prettier, older, and more stylish—walked into our parents’ room, where we were talking. A cell phone was glued to her ear.
“It’s on!” I said.
“For real?” she asked.
She pumped her fist in the air. “I’ll call you later. I’m going to Rome! Ciao!” She hung up the phone, looked at herself in the full-length mirror, fluffed her brown curly locks, and practiced, “Buongiorno!”
Maybe I should tell you who “she” is: my older sister, Gianna. She’s like my best friend. There’s no one I’d rather be with for two weeks in Rome. Next year she’ll be a junior in high school, where she is most often seen with a glitter pen and scrapbooking scissors.
Me . . . not so much. I’m more of a big-idea gal. Then she builds or glues or sews or staples my ideas into reality.
This fall she’ll start looking at colleges. She’s excited about it, but the idea of her leaving home makes my stomach feel like a lump of overcooked capellini. Maybe some sisters fight, but Gi and I are tight. (Okay, sometimes we fight like sisters.)
Mom said to Gianna, “I told Lucy that you girls are going to work at the pizzeria.”
“I love that place,” Gianna said. “I hope it’s exactly the same as I remember it.”
“Do you think she still has Meataball?” I asked. I had visited Aunt Maria and her pizzeria years ago, and I vaguely remembered her cat.
“The cat?” Dad asked. “He has to be dead by now, honey. But maybe she has another cat.”
“Gi, she’s gonna teach me how to make her sauce.”
I shrugged. “Maybe she loves me more.”
Mom said, “No. She loves you both exactly the same.”
“Maybe,” I started, “she wants me to take over the pizzeria when she retires, and I’ll be the Sauce Master, the only one in the entire Rossi lineage who knows the ancient family signature sauce. Then, when I’m old, I’ll choose one of my great-nieces to carry on the family tradition. And—”
Mom interrupted. “Lucy?”
“This isn’t one of your stories. Let’s bring it back to reality.”
“Right,” I said. “Reality.” But sometimes reality was so boring. Fiction—my fiction—was way better. I’m pretty sure I’m the best writer in my school, where I’m a soon-to-be eighth grader.
Gianna asked, “You’re totally gonna teach it to me, right?”
“It depends on if I have to take some kind of oath that could only be broken in the event of a zombie apocalypse,” I said.
Dad suggested, “And let’s try to cool it with apocalypse-related exaggerations, huh? Aunt Maria probably doesn’t ‘get’ zombies and their ilk.”
“Roger that, Dad,” I said.
“I’m going to pack,” Gianna said. “I can bring a glue gun, right? That’s okay on the plane, isn’t it?”
“I’m pretty sure they have glue guns in Italy. Or maybe you could refrain from hot-gluing things for two weeks,” Mom suggested.
“Ha! You’re funny, Mom,” Gianna said. “Don’t lose that sense of humor while the two of us are spending fourteen days in Italy!”
Gi and I looked at each other. “ITALY!” we both yelled at the same time.
We would’ve screamed way louder if we’d had any idea how much this trip would change the future—mine, Gianna’s, Aunt Maria’s, Amore Pizzeria’s, and Rome’s.