A Haunted Heart
I sighed as I set down my suitcases on the lush carpet of the hotel room, glancing around carefully. So far, everything looked to be exactly as the travel website's pictures had depicted to me: fancy yet affordable, cozy yet intricate, and absolutely the portrayal of Italy that I had imagined it to be.
My name is (first name) (last name). I'm a bit of an oddball, not to beat around the bush. Ever since I was little, I have always been interested in the paranormal. When other girls were playing with Barbie dolls, I was trying to find a way to make my own voodoo doll to experiment with.
All eccentricities aside, my entire life I had vowed to travel the world in search of the most haunted areas of each country. It was a goal my parents had not exactly approved of, but hey--it was better than wanting to be a hooker or something as equally as carnally disgusting. Now that I was eighteen, I had managed to scrape up enough cash to see my dream a reality, and now here I was.
In Italy, my first stop on my haunted world tour.
I had done extensive research for each of my sojourns, mind you. Italy's had probably been the most interesting, hence why it was first. You would think someplace with a history of hauntings and the paranormal like England or Ireland or Scotland would catch my interest, but it was quite the contrary. To me, those places were too mainstream. I wanted something fresh and new, an area that no supernatural philanthropist had ever really explored.
And that was the Viale De Sangue; the Avenue of Blood, as the locals called it, in Venice. It was a street that had once been populated by Italy's most feared mafia families, a bloodline known as the Vargases. According to stories, they had been around since the beginning of the mafia, and had been the source of much of the crimes committed in the early nineteenth century. Now, here's a little interesting tidbit on the mafia. It actually began in Sicily as an almost private army of a sort to rise up against foreign rulers of the island. Eventually it evolved into the feared and vicious crime syndicate its reputation exerts even today.
Anyway, the Avenue of Blood. I was staying at a hotel right on said avenue, which in itself was slightly abandoned. After the incident that had taken place here about fifty years ago, the area had lost quite a good chunk of tourism.
No one wanted to stay in a place reported to be haunted by the souls of many mafia members who died in a big shoot out over fifty years ago.
Well, no one but me.
A small grin traveled across my mouth as I pulled out my Italian dictionary and tourist maps, feeling excitement well up within me. It was time for some paranormal investigations. I was wasting time just standing here and reminiscing about the history of the place, when instead I could actually explore it myself!
With that mindset, I grabbed my bag and rushed out of my hotel room, knowing that something amazing was bound to happen during my stay here.
And something amazing most definitely did happen that week I spent in Italy.
After an entire day of walking around searching for anything out of the ordinary or supernaturally related, I had decided that it was enough. I was hungry, I was tired from jet lag, and all I wanted to do was pass out until something paranormal happened. With a groan I hefted my bag onto my shoulder, staring down at the timeworn cobblestone beneath my feet as I slowly made my way back to my hotel. It was dark, about eight at night, and I wouldn't be lying to say that I was just a little apprehensive about being out here all alone. I mean, yes, I'm adventurous, but I'm not an idiot. I know bad things can happen to a foreigner all alone at night, especially when said foreigner is a girl. Sexism runs rampant, no matter where you go.
"Veh~ Bella, do you have a moment~?"
I wouldn't be lying if I said I didn't squeak a little out of surprise when I heard the upbeat and cheerful voice cutting through the otherwise silent night.
Spinning around on my heels, I looked around wildly at the Italian rural scenery until my eyes landed on a figure racing towards me, auburn hair illuminated in the antique-feeling light of the lampposts dotting the sides of the street. It was a guy, and when he was close enough I was able to get a better look at him. Soft-looking auburn hair with a strange curl popping out from one side, honey-colored eyes that smiled just as much as the big grin on his absolutely adorable face, and he looked to be about my age, maybe a little older. He was Italian, of course, that I could tell. Only an Italian would be wearing such an expensive-looking suit, as well as have such a sexy accent. It did make him look quite attractive, I admit...especially since his slender build seemed designed for such clothes.
"Er...can I help you?" I asked slowly, blinking my (e/c) eyes rapidly. The entire day I had barely seen anyone around here in the daylight, and now that it was dark out, here comes this slightly ditzy seeming cutie! ...oh God what if he wanted to rape me?!
"Si, si!" he nodded rapidly, grinning more and bouncing on the heels of his feet. "I-a have a question for you, bella ragazza!"
"Bella ragazza"...? "Pretty girl"? Wow, don't I feel special. Too bad horny Italian men had been calling me that all day, the few occasions I had come across them.
I nodded uncertainly, not exactly sure how to react to all this. He didn't seem bad, but, how was I supposed to know any different?
"May I-a hug you?!"
I took a step back, sputtering as a flush bloomed on my cheeks. "W-WHAT?!" I managed to choke out, gaping at him. "Are you freaking insane?! I just met you on the street! How am I supposed to know you're not going to stab me in the back or something?!"
The boy seemed to deflate, exuberance swiftly changing to gloominess. "But...you can-a see me...so I thought that..."
"Of course I can see you. You're standing right here," I deadpanned.
The boy brightened again, and was suddenly making a sprint to one of the lampposts. "Just-a watch, bella!" he exclaimed, placing his hand on the pole.
When said hand sunk right into the metal and appeared on the other side, my heart went from being in my chest to weighing down the bottom of my stomach.
"Y-You're...y-you're...you're a...gh-ghost..." I stammered out, eyes wide as the boy pulled back and gave me a happy nod. Before I could make a move he launched himself at me, skinny arms wrapped around my torso and pressing a smooth cheek against mine.
It was freezing.
"Si~! And you're the first person to-a see me since I-a died, bella! So that means you're-a special! And I can-a touch you! So that means you're even more special!"
Okay, now, I know I made a lot of hype about loving the paranormal, and that I had come here to find ghosts or something similar.
But actually meeting a dead person?
Let me tell you, that's not something you can prepare for.
The boy continued to squeeze me happily, and all I could do was stand there as I gradually became chillier and chillier. "Veh, veh, what's your name?" he asked excitedly, now shaking me in his enthusiasm. "Mine's Feliciano Vargas!"
My eyes widened, and I'm pretty sure I made a weird noise in the back of my throat. "F...F-Feliciano Vargas...? As in...th-the Vargas mafia...?"
"Si! Have you heard of us?" He pulled away finally, still smiling, only this time there seemed to be an under layer of...sadness in his expression.
"Y-Yeah...I have...you're the reason I'm in Italy right now, actually..." I swallowed, feeling out of place. How did you tell someone that the whole reason you were there was because you wanted to find the souls of the dead of your family? "Um...my name is (first name) (last name)..."
The boy--Feliciano Vargas--grabbed my hand and began to pull me forward, making me shiver with the freezing contact. "All right then, bella (name)! Let's-a go~"
He turned his face towards me, light brown eyes glittering in the lamp light.
"To where I died, of course!"
I gazed around the room with investigative eyes, coughing quietly as dust flittered down. It was dark and musty in here, the windows boarded up and the entire room cleared of all furniture. The only light came from cracks in the boards, casting creepy shadows all over. Feliciano stood in front of me, and in this odd lighting I could actually see that his body was...translucent. Well. That's just a tad unsettling.
"This is where I died," Feliciano said quietly, turning in a circle as he gazed around as well. "I remember it like-a yesterday. Fratello and Nonno and I were-a sitting here in the living room...and-a before I knew it, there were gunshots...Nonno yelled at Fratello and I to hide, but Fratello wanted to-a prove he was a mafia member too, and I didn't want to be left behind..."
He turned his eyes back to me, smiling sadly. "It all happened so-a fast. It was a massacre. Nonno's mafia were angry, si? They didn't like the way he was leading it. So they decided to take matters into their own hands." His eyes slid shut, and I felt the melancholy in the room, like a heavy fog that was denser than lead. "It was-a half and half. Some still liked Nonno, and others didn't. Everyone was-a killing each other. Fratello and I tried to help Nonno, but..."
He took a deep breath, fists clenching.
"...I was-a too weak. I didn't see the man before he shot me. All I felt was-a pain in my back, and then I-a fell. I remember Fratello yelling, and Nonno too. And then...I was awake, staring down at my own funeral."
It was all I could say.
Feliciano gave me that same smile again, tilting his head. "It's-a okay! I'm sad, but I'm not so sad anymore. You want to know why, bella (name)?" He giggled, and my heart melted at just how adorable it made him. Stupid Italians for being so cute--even dead Italians. "It's-a because you're here! And you'll-a help me find my peace!"
I stared at him. "...I'm going to do what?"
"Help me find my peace!" Feliciano exclaimed happily, suddenly launching himself at me once more. Damn, was this guy ever clingy! Not that I didn't mind it too much...it would help if he wasn't so freaking cold. "Because you can see me and-a I can touch you with going through you! So you can-a help me find eternal rest now! See~?"
"B-But I'm not...h-how...?" My teeth were beginning to chatter somewhat, and I squirmed slightly in his arms. "What do I do? I'm just a regular girl who's on a worldwide trip to the most haunted places of the world! I came here because I wanted to find ghosts, and now that I found one...I don't really know how I'm supposed to react."
"It's simple!" Feliciano pulled away again, giving me that heartwarming grin of his. It could make chocolate melt. "You can-a help me accomplish what I never got to do when I was alive!"
"And what would that be?" I rose an eyebrow.
"Kiss a bella ragazza, veh~"
I did a double take, positive by the sudden heating of my face that I was as red as a tomato. Again my mouth refused to work, and all that came out was incoherent stuttering and more weird noises. I think they were goat noises. Goats having a seizure.
Feliciano grinned and grabbed my hands, bouncing on his heels once more as he gave me the most hopeful and excited look I had ever seen in my life. "I'm serious, (name)! I never got to kiss any pretty girls before I died! And now I have the prettiest girl I've ever seen, and I know that if I kiss you, I'll be able to join Nonno and Fratello! I miss them, you know...so please, (name)? Please kiss me?" Now he was giving me a puppy dog look, and it felt like a million butterflies were having a samba in my stomach. How could I resist that face?!
I swallowed, shifting awkwardly and biting my lip. I had never kissed anyone in my life, to be honest. And giving my first kiss to a ghost? A very attractive and Italian ghost indeed, but...
I thought about it. All my life, I had been dreaming of an encounter with the paranormal. And here I was, in Venice, Italy, standing with a ghost boy who needed my help. Help that involved a kiss from him. Help that would...make him find his peace. And from my research, I was pretty sure that meant no longer wandering the world of the living as a specter.
"...all right, Feliciano. I'll kiss you."
What can I say? I'm a humanitarian.
Feliciano's face lit up and he let out a stream of rapid-fire Italian, the only bits I was able to catch being the repeated "Grazie!" over and over again. I couldn't help but smile at his elation, some of the thrill passing onto me as well. When Feliciano was done having his little moment, he hugged me tightly once more. "I'm-a so happy I get to finally get my kiss from a bella ragazza~" he sang, hands sliding down to my waist. I shivered at the light contact, biting my lip again when he pulled away and gazed down at me.
I don't have much experience in the romance department, but I swear that night I saw love in Feliciano's eyes.
Love for me, the girl he had met only an hour before.
I had never felt more important in that moment than I had ever in my whole life.
Before any more words could be said between us, Feliciano's face slowly inched closer to mine. I could feel the chilly temperature emanating off of him even more now, but this time I didn't mind it. My eyes slid shut on their own, and before I knew it there was a light pressure against my lips.
Feliciano's mouth was cold, of course. Cold, smooth, soft, and gentle. He tasted sweet--like a blend of Italian herbs that goes into pasta sauce. It was a little strange, but in all honesty it was one of the best tastes to have ever graced my mouth. Feliciano sighed happily against my mouth, tilting his head somewhat as the kiss continued, and I felt my arms slid around his torso and hug him as tightly as I could.
That kiss was the longest moment of my life.
It felt like it lasted an eternity, just a girl and a boy sharing a precious moment together.
Part of me wanted to pull away, just so I could make Feliciano stay with me forever.
But he finally pulled away himself, leaving me with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach as warmth gradually returned to my lips. He smiled, resting his cool forehead against mine and whispering in a soft tone, "Grazie, mi amore. Grazie, mi bella (name). I've-a been waiting for you for a long time...grazie..."
His arms tightened, and he kissed my forehead. "Arrivederci, mi dolce (name)."
And just like that, he was gone.
My vision became blurry, and with a jolt I felt hot tears prickling at the corner of my eyes. Hastily wiping them away, I touched my lips with the tips of my fingers and whispered into the now desolated room, "No, Feliciano...thank you. Thank you...for making my first kiss...the most magical moment of my life. I hope...I hope that you have fun with your fratello and nonno now."
With those words I spun around and slowly walked out into the Italian night, smiling as more tears slid down my cheeks. I made no move to wipe them away.
That was the day I fell in love with the boy named Feliciano Vargas.
That was the day I helped his ghost finally find peace.