You're the One That I Don't Want - By Alexandra Potter Page 0,1

his arm, he strolls over and slides his arm casually round my shoulders.

‘Ah, to be young and in love.’ The old man nods approvingly as Nate and I look at each other, our faces splitting into embarrassed grins. ‘I have just the thing for you.’

We turn back to see him holding out what appears to be an old coin.

I look at him in slight confusion. ‘Um . . . thanks.’ I smile, wondering what he’s doing, and then suddenly it registers. Oh God, he’s trying to give us money. Do we look that broke? OK, so we’re students, and Nate looks a bit scruffy in his ripped jeans, and my dress had seen better days, but even so. ‘Actually, we’re fine,’ I begin explaining hastily, and am about to tug on Nate’s arm and drag him away when the old man places the coin on a small piece of machinery and breaks it in half.

I watch as he proceeds to punch a hole in either half, through which he threads a piece of leather. Then triumphantly he holds them up, letting them dangle like pendants. ‘For you.’ He smiles. ‘Because you are like the coin,’ he explains. ‘You are two halves of one whole.’

I gaze at the jagged edges of the half-coins, like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. On their own they’re just half a broken coin, but together they make a seamless whole.

‘Wow, how romantic,’ I murmur, turning to Nathaniel, who’s watching me and grinning in amusement. I feel a flash of embarrassment. ‘What? You don’t think it is?’ I yelp, poking him in the ribs.

‘Of course it is,’ he laughs. ‘Don’t I always call you “my other half”, anyway?’

‘Only three thousand lire,’ says the old man.

I turn to see his palm outstretched expectantly.

‘Even romance has a price,’ quips Nathaniel, digging out his wallet.

And there was me thinking the old man was being all romantic, when the whole time he was just trying to sell us something, I realise, feeling foolish. Honestly, I’m such a sucker. Before I can protest, though, Nathaniel has handed him a note and is looping one of the pendants over his own head.

‘See, we can never be apart now,’ he jokes, putting the other half round my neck. ‘Wherever you go, I go.’

Despite his attempt at humour, I can feel my mood immediately darkening. In just a few weeks we’ll be leaving Italy and going back to our respective college¢€ective coyelge¢€ects and I’m dreading it. Ever since we met I’ve been counting down the days until we have to part.

‘Hey.’ Seeing my expression, Nate gives me a hug. ‘We can do the whole long-distance thing,’ he reassures, guessing immediately what’s going through my mind. ‘We’ll write. I can call . . .’

I think back to my student digs in Manchester. I don’t even have a landline, never mind a mobile, and letters might sound romantic in books, but in real life they aren’t going to be a substitute for nuzzling my face into his neck, sharing a huge bowl of pistachio gelato with him on a Sunday afternoon or laughing at that terrible English accent of his.

‘I guess so.’ I nod, trying to put a brave face on it. I don’t want to spoil the present by brooding about the future, but it’s like a big, black cloud is just sitting there, waiting to descend.

‘If you want to be together, you can always be together.’

I turn to see the old Italian watching us thoughtfully.

‘I’m afraid it’s not that simple—’ I begin, but he interrupts.

‘No, it is very simple,’ he says firmly. ‘Do you want to be together?’

Nathaniel cocks his head to one side as if thinking about it. ‘Um . . . what do you reckon?’ he asks teasingly, and I punch him playfully. ‘Uh-huh, I think that’s a yes, we do.’ He grins, turning back to the stallholder.

‘Well, then . . .’ The old man gives a shrug of his shoulders and takes a puff of his cigar.

‘We have to go back home,’ I explain.

‘Where’s home?’

Nathaniel hugs me tighter. ‘Lucy lives in England—’

‘And Nate’s from America,’ I finish.

‘But you are in Venice,’ he replies, seemingly unfazed. ‘Here, there is no need to say goodbye. You can be together for ever.’

He is a sweet old guy after all, I decide. And a bit of an old-fashioned romantic.

‘I wish.’ I force a laugh and squeeze Nate’s hand. ‘But it’s impossible.’

Unexpectedly the Italian lets out a loud roar of laughter. ‘No! No! It is not