"Jesus, Preston, you've already said that."
"I know but-"
"I know. It's hot."
"It is hot."
"Yeah. Got that. I got that about 56 minutes ago."
"I did not say that 56 minutes ago…"
"Uh, yes you did. I have an internal clock remember?"
Preston Winters sighed and crossed his arms over his chest, pouting. He wore khaki shorts and a plain white t-shirt and he was sweltering. It was at it's hottest in Rome and he felt a slight annoyance that Cammie was making him spend the ridiculously hot day standing in line at a stand that sold tacky looking jewelry.
As if reading his thoughts, Cammie pushed her sunglasses on top of her head and looked at him. "I'm not making you stay here with me. You can go home if you want."
(He felt a split second panic that Cammie was a mind reader. But he figured that was a ridiculous notion. Sort of.)
"No," He sighed dramatically, leaning against a wall. "You clearly just need my presence and I'm willing to die of heat stroke for that." When Cammie rolled her eyes, Preston grinned. "Seriously. The things I do for you, Cam."
Cammie smiled a little bit too.
(It was a smile Preston had grown accustomed to. A smile she gave him on a daily basis that said 'you are such a dork but I'm going to deal with you anyway.')
"Whatever you say, Preston." The couple that had been just speaking with the woman at the booth turned and left, grinning in that 'we're so in love' way that many couples who came to Rome for vacation tended to give one another a lot. "See," Cammie said. "After this next woman it's our turn. Then we can go get gelato in a nice air-conditioned restaurant if you want." She grinned bigger, gelato was probably her favorite food on the entire earth and Preston knew it. "Maybe that one restaurant we both love so much. What's it called?"
(She got that glint in her eye when she was truly happy and not putting on a big act for everyone. A big act Preston always saw right through.)
"What is it we're doing here exactly?" Preston asked, shaking his head. He stared at the people laughing and talking inside a shop across the street and felt envy since they were far from the sweltering heat unlike him.
"We're getting bracelets." She gave him a sideways look.
This time it was Preston's turn to roll his eyes. "Mhm. Yeah, thanks for clearing that up because I was so sure you were here to buy brownies." He pointed to the sign that he vaguely knew said something like "HANDMADE BRACELTS" in Italian. "No, but really. What is your ulterior motive in being here?"
Cammie was fighting back a smile. "My ulterior motive?" She asked, amused. Her wavy blonde hair flowing in the slight breeze.
"Yes. Your ulterior motive. Cammie Morgan never does something without having an ulterior motive." When he said her name she tensed and looked around as if The Circle of Cavan was standing right behind them.
(In Cammie's world, he realized, the Circle mind as well always be standing right behind her.)
"Ah, you two speak English, yes?" The woman standing at the booth said to them before Cammie could respond. The costumers before them had left.
Cammie stepped forward and slipped into her cover. "Yes." She put on a big smile and grabbed Preston's hand, tugging him forward. She squeezed a little bit as if warning him not to screw up and make an idiot of himself. (Something he did quite often.)
The woman smiled like that fact was just so great. "Traveling, yes?" She clapped her hands together. "Oh, are you two together?"
Preston could feel himself starting to sweat (and that had nothing to do with the temperature). Cammie just smiled some more and leaned in to him and touched his chest. "Yes," she said. "We decided to spend our summer in Rome before going off to college in the fall."
When he felt a pinch, Preston stuttered, "Um…yeah…right…" (So maybe he was no Clark Kent.)
The woman continued with her smiling. "So how can I help you two?"
Cammie fingered a blue and black threaded bracelet that was hanging from the display. "We were hoping to get something for my friends back home," she said quietly, keeping her on the bracelet. "They always wanted to go to Rome."
"Oh, yes, yes! May I recommend these bracelets over here…"
(And Preston watched Cammie and saw the other smile. The act. The one where he knew she was trying to show the world that everything was fine, she'd be ok. But on the inside he knew she was screaming.)
The woman began stitching in some names to three bracelets upon Cammie's request. Preston watched as the familiar name, Macey's name, was delicately stitched into a thin, dark bracelet. He tried not to let his thoughts wander to Macey in that moment.
When the woman finished, Cammie pulled out money from the pocket of her dark shorts and paid the woman. The two of them walked away from the stand and for a split second Cammie's smile went away as she stared down at the three bracelets that she gripped in her hands.
(And she was on the verge of breaking. He knew it.)
(She missed them. She wanted to be home. Rome wasn't home for her.)
(She was a highly trained spy but Preston found himself reading her like a book.)
"So," he said at last. "How about that gelato?"
And Cammie Morgan smiled for real and Preston Winters felt himself smiling back even brighter.
they're cute BFFs, no?