Perspiration beaded Michael Young’s brow as he left the indoor court and headed for the showers. “Good game, guys. Good game.” He swiped at the moisture with his forearm. What on earth had made him think Americans were supposed to own the basketball courts? These Italians were certainly making him and Keith work hard to win.
Leaving Rome’s Centro Sportivo Santa Maria, he waved at his fellow American missionary, Keith, and their newfound friends.
“Arrivederci. See you at church on Sunday.” He smiled as he ambled up Via Labicana. Three converts so far, with hopefully more to come soon. Lorenzo would be next, of that he was certain. Not bad for the month he and Keith had been actively ministering amongst Italian students, using their skills on the court to befriend the locals. God was definitely at work in these students’ hearts, although some would prove to be more of a challenge to reach than others. Especially Matteo. The good-looking, bronzed Italian made no secret of the fact that he lived to satisfy the flesh alone, giving no thought to his eternal soul. But God had His perfect timing for Matteo. As He did with everything.
Keith was giving the post-basketball Bible study today. Michael needed to get back to Hope Center where he and several other missionaries worked and lived. Chiara had agreed to meet him there at three thirty. With only two more weeks until their big evangelism event at a popular piazza in the center of Rome, the group’s choreographer had offered him some private lessons. He couldn’t wait. He’d never taken part in a flash mob, let alone be the lead dancer. So many emotions roiled in his gut—nerves, excitement, fear.
He glanced at his watch—two forty-five—and hastened his pace. Up ahead, the Colosseum loomed. One of these fine days, he’d need to make time to visit the ancient amphitheater.
Why not now?
Michael chuckled. I can’t, Lord. You know that. Chiara…dance lessons…
The Colosseum cast him in shadow as he passed by. Breaking into the sunlight again, Michael stopped in his tracks at the flash of red that caught his eye. He hadn’t planned on taking a tour today—he couldn’t really, he only had forty-five minutes—but in that moment, all sense of reasoning vanished. Besides, wasn’t now God’s suggestion in the first place?
He veered left off the path into the crowded area. He’d apologize to his dance instructor later. Maybe he’d be lucky enough to still find her hanging around by the time he got back to the center.
Right. Fat chance of that happening. Chiara waited for no one. He’d probably face the fifty-year-old’s wrath the next time he saw her. He drew in a deep breath then sighed, unable to shake the feeling that he needed to take his chances.
Michael strolled across to the small group gathered in front of the auburn-haired beauty. Dare he even ask?
“Perdono, how long is this tour?” he asked the uniformed tour-guide dressed in a burgundy polo shirt and black knee-length skirt, Alessa engraved in black on her gold nametag.
With a smile she pointed the branded flag she held, its colors matching her clothing, toward the sign behind her. “One hour.”
Michael glanced at the Ancient Steps Tours’ board. What a stroke of luck. Or was it fate? The last English tour for the day was at three o’clock. Ten minutes more.
“Is it possible to join?”
Alessa eyed him, her gaze scanning the length of him as she raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have a booking?” She seemed surprised, taken aback even that someone would even think they could join a tour of the age-old walls without having pre-booked and pre-paid.
Michael shook his head, resisting the urge to pout, or allow his eyes to beg. He doubted either would score him brownie points with this woman.
She shrugged. “Okay, I do have an unreserved place. That will be twenty euro.” She held out her hand.
This is the girl you’re going to marry, God’s voice whispered in his soul.
What, Lord, you can’t be serious?
Of course He was. Michael had learned from an early age that God never joked with him. Exactly why he’d obeyed and moved to Italy when his Lord had spoken.
He handed over the tour fee. Small price to pay for the chance to get to know the girl you were destined to marry.
For the next hour, Michael hung on her every word, and not just because she brought the place to life. For once, he didn’t have much to say, preferring to listen to the sound of her voice.
After the tour, everyone thanked her and the group dispersed. Michael watched as some pressed a gray five euro note into her palm. Pity he’d used up all the cash he had on hand.
Michael followed Alessa to her scooter. She was about to put on her helmet when she spotted him.
“Yes…?” She raised her perfectly penciled brow again with the single-worded question.
“Uh…” It took all his American chutzpah to utter the next few words. “I’m going to marry you one day.”
Maybe it was his accent, but Alessa didn’t seem to understand what he’d said to her. For a few seconds, she merely stared at him, seemingly astonished before bursting into laughter.
“In your wildest dreams.” And with that, she slid onto her little white Vespa and buzzed off up the road.
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