Book Title: The Things We Said in Venice
Author: Kristin Anderson
Solid and dependable, high school counselor Sarah Turner knows all about helping others get their lives on track. But when her own life spirals drastically off course due to a fast-track divorce, she surprises everyone. She leaves her job and home in Bend, Oregon and heads to Europe for a six-week solo adventure. Amsterdam is her final destination where she plans to enter a controversial program that could change her life.
From the temples of Angkor Wat to the ruins of Machu Picchu, renowned Dutch travel writer Fokke van der Veld has seen it all. After a major betrayal, there’s one thing he’s not interested in seeing again: women. That’s why the guys-only trip to the Italian Dolomites with his old fraternity brothers is just what he needs. Sort of. If they weren’t teasing him and getting him drunk.
When a series of unexpected events in Italy throw Fokke and Sarah together, the sparks are undeniable, but so is the fear that keeps them apart. Will these two independent travelers open themselves up to a chance of love, or catch a fast train to safety?
This romantic comedy is a story of self-discovery and love that travels through regions of Italy, Argentina and The Netherlands.
While the locals shuffle carefully over the snow-slicked sidewalks, Sarah runs like a mad woman toward the Belluno station. I will not miss this one, she chants in time to the distant, yet steady clickety-clack of the train’s metal wheels gliding over tracks. She picks up her pace, the icy air burning her nostrils, the straps of her pack chafing her shoulders despite her thick winter layers.
She cuts through the abandoned village park, her laborious movements at odds with the utter stillness as Belluno train station finally pops into view. As she slows her pace, her body relays physical complaints to her mind: the surprising weight of her backpack cutting into her shoulders, the ache of ice-cold air in her lungs, the burning sensation of snowflakes on her cheeks.
When she comes to a standstill, a rush of heat explodes through her body. Moments later, perspiration builds beneath her thick winter layers, cooling her down. Damp curls form a blanket of cold around her neck. She shakes her head involuntarily as the first shiver crawls up her spine.
As means of distraction, Sarah people watches, though the pickings are slim—a thickly built woman holding the hand of a stout, large-eared boy, presumably her son, and an older, clean-shaven man in military uniform. All three sport dry hair.
By the time the train pulls into the station and Sarah hears the familiar hiss of the doors opening, her teeth are chattering. She finds a free place in the third railcar and finally unstraps the cumbersome backpack, setting it in the seat beside her. The whistle sounds and the train is about to take off, but it doesn’t. There is some sort of commotion. The doors open and close again. She can hear two men talking, perhaps the conductor and a male passenger. Although she can’t make out the words, one voice is laced with tension and a bit too loud. The other voice, which she assumes belongs to the conductor, remains calm.
Back home, she would need to know why the doors had to open once more and what these men are discussing. But in the past four weeks of free-wheeling through western Europe on her own, she has adjusted her way of responding to things beyond her control. She has learned to let go. It is so different from how she acts at home that she has given her newfound skill a name: European Style Detachment.
Her feet and hands begin to return to body temperature as the train finally leaves the station. She leans into her large backpack and closes her eyes. She feels a slight pulsing in her subconscious, like an alarm clock going off in the neighboring hotel room; something you hear, but can choose to ignore. Except that she can’t. Something’s not right. It could be that slightly angry conversation she overheard, or it could be that the bag she is leaning into doesn’t smell like her bag. It has the faint scent of cinnamon and musk tinged with sweat; the scent of a man.
Sarah straightens in her seat, scrutinizing the travel backpack as one might scrutinize a naked stranger you have unwittingly brought into your bed—curiosity tempered with fear. It is black like hers. It has the white North Face logo of her bag and the same rainbow strap she put on it to differentiate her black bag from all the other black bags of the world. But isn’t the strap in a different place? And come to think of it, it felt heavier than her bag when she was sprinting to the train station.
Maybe it smells so manly from being in the pile of luggage where she stashed it while she grabbed a brioche at the café. Or, it could have been shuffled around in the compartment beneath the shuttle bus from Cortina to Belluno; cologne from a man’s bag spilling on hers.
I’m being ridiculous, she tells herself. But she unbuckles the exterior straps anyway and peers into the top compartment.
“Oh my God!” Sarah exclaims as she shuffles through the doppelganger of her bag. Several passengers turn toward her momentarily and then look away, exemplifying European Style Detachment. At the top of the backpack is a photography magazine written in what she thinks must be German. She pushes aside the magazine, revealing an impressive stash of Cote d’Or chocolate bars in their distinctive red and gold cardboard wrappers, cloth handkerchiefs in a Ziploc bag, a leather-bound journal, water, men’s plaid underwear size XL, slacks, long sleeve shirts, pants and thick woolen socks. On the inside tag of the top compartment is a name written in black permanent marker: Fokke van der Veld. She stops her search and pushes the bag away in shock. How the hell did this happen?
It has stopped snowing outside and sun reflects off the whitened fields, punching into the window. Sarah reaches automatically into the side pocket for her sunglasses, but of course they’re not there. Her mother is in a thick pea coat, wearing Sarah’s missing sunglasses and deathly blue lipstick that promises to make her forthcoming tirade all the graver:
What are you going to do now Sarah? You should have taken your time in Cortina d’Ampezzo to make sure you had your own bag! Your passport, your money, your iPad. Everything is in that bag! You could be mistaken for a terrorist and thrown in prison for traveling without identification.
The locals say Cortina, not Cortina d’Ampezzo, Sarah counters. As a school counselor, she is well aware it’s abnormal to be seeing visions of her mother in her head, not to mention silently conversing with her. But as usual, mom’s got a point. Sarah thinks about Italian corruption, envisions a musty 17th century prison cell with a mangy rat family in one corner and instruments of torture in the other. She stands suddenly, wanting to take action; wanting her mom to shut up. She has thirty euros in her jacket pocket along with the train ticket and the address of the hotel in Treviso where she will be staying. That’s at least something. But how on earth is she going to get her bag back? And who the hell is Fokke van der Veld?
United States https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XKDNFTM
United Kingdom https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XKDNFTM
Kristin Anderson is a lover of nature, culture, literature, arts, environmental activism, storytelling and romance. Raised by her librarian-mother and photographer-father in the rural Santa Ynez Valley in California, she developed a love of storytelling in her formative years. Her degree in English Literature led to a career of writing for others. It wasn’t until she moved to The Netherlands with her husband and their son, that she was able to pursue a life long dream of writing fiction. Green, published in 2013, is her debut novel. Kristin’s second novel The Things We Said in Venice was released in March, 2017 with the first scheduled book signing on May 20, 2017 in The Hague.
Kristin’s social media links:
Author Website https://authorkristinanderson.com/