643. - Lucien
It's Phoebe who makes us help the decision. She was obsessed with all the pictures that we have around the apartment, and on the second night she presented me with a frame that held a picture of me, Gabriel and Matthew, asking who the other boys were.
Emma and I knew we wanted to get away, even more so now that baby Felix is born, we just didn't know where to go. But when Phoebe handed me the picture and demanded to know the who and the how and the where, it suddenly seemed very obvious. The picture was taken in Rome, the year that Emma and I met. A city we never got to explore together, despite it being one of my favourite places to be. A city we always said we'd return to one day, but the moment never seemed quite right. This time it's not even a discussion: Emma suggests it when we are in bed that night, and I immediately agree. Then, when looking at flights and hotels, I come up with the idea of just driving there. It's going to be a long trip, but we decide to devide it into chunks and book a night in Lille and one in Geneva. We don't make any decisions about the trip back home yet, leaving it to however we might feel then. It's one of our longest trips: three weeks, including travel time. Maybe we'll spend all of it in Rome, maybe we keep exploring, maybe we return early. As per usual, we keep our options open.
Emma is holding my hand as we get closer and closer to the city. As with many metropolises, the outskirts of the city are little to be impressed by. The true beauty lays in her inner circles, with decades of history to be discovered. Just like three years ago, almost to the day, I head towards the hotel that's right on the riverside in that old city centre, ten minutes from Castel Sant'Angelo and twenty from the Pantheon. I hand the keys of the rented Maserati to the valet and then offer Emma my arm as we head inside.
"Could you have picked anything more luxurious?" She breathes, looking around the entrance hall. Still, she doesn't hesitate to take the glass of champagne offered to us by one of the servers.
"Easily." I chuckle, taking mine. "Rome is not only the city of history, but also money. I know this is over the top, but it comes with a very useful perk…"
"Ah, Signor du Castellon! Benvenuto! Bienvenue!" The clerk greets us as we approach. He's dressed exactly as you'd expect in a place like this: a black name brand suit with a tie clip and cufflinks with the hotel's name, and his hair slicked down just enough to not look creepy. Even though I've never seen him before, I know he's been alerted of our arrival and will act like he knows me. "It is so good to see you again! I take it your trip was wonderful?" He speaks with an accent, but not as much as you might expect. I smile at him.
"Buongiorno. Our trip was excellent, if a little tiring. I hope everything is ready?"
"Yes! Yes, of course, sir!" His fingers fly over the keyboard of his computer. "We sadly could not give you the penthouse - it has been booked." He looks truly regretful, but I wave it away. "Instead, we have set you up in one of our luxury suites! Fifth floor, a view over the Tivere in all her beauty!"
"I'm familiar with them." I smile, because that's where I stayed three years ago as well. "They sound excellent. Please, we would love to go there now. Our luggage..?"
"Is being brought there as we speak! Please, sir, I just need to see some ID to confirm that you are the young Mr Du Castellon… Hotel policy."
"Of course." I unthread myself from Emma to take out my wallet. When I hand it over, I hear her whisper in a low tone.
"What, no waving with that little black card you love so much?"
I smirk, but am distracted by the clerk before I can answer. He hands us two key cards, and insists on walking us to our rooms even though I know exactly where they are. We follow him politely, and then thank him for the lovely service he's done us. He assures us there will be someone at the desk at all times should we need it, and even gives us a business card with his private number that betrays him not just as a desk clerk, but as the assistant manager.
"As I was going to say," I say when I finally get to close the door behind him. "My father helped this hotel with some major legal issues some years back. Ever since, there's always been a place for us whenever we need it. No waving of that black card needed."
I watch as she slowly walks through the front room of the suite, spinning as she goes so she can take everything in. It's luxurious in that classic way, with lots of cream, gold and red and plenty of art. Suddenly, I feel nervous. "I know it's ridiculously luxe, and not really your style… we can always go somewhere that's more toned down, if you want to."
Her eyes meet mine from across the room, and she laughs. "I mean… Yes, this is ridiculous. It's proper insane, if you ask me, and the fact that we get to stay here for free even more so, but… I'd also say we deserve a little luxury after the year we've had, don't you think?"
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