A campfire story

Once there was a woman who loved to travel. Her favorite place to visit in all of the world was Italy, and especially Rome. She would spend hours walking around the city square, visiting the old ruins of the Coliseum and the Forum, talking to young men and women on the subway, and taking in the wonderful Mediterranean air. At the end of every trip, she would visit the famous Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain, as you know, is the final destination of many trips to Rome. For there is a legend that says if you throw three coins into the fountain, you will return to Rome at least one more time. Because of this tradition, there are many vendors around who will gladly make change for a 5000 lire note for a small fee so you can throw your coins in the fountain and hopefully return one day to that magnificent city.

This young woman was one of the many people who forgot to bring coins with her on her trip to the fountain. She went up to one of the vendors, and in a light voice said, "Sorry to bother you, but may I make change?" The vendor, a young man named Bellini, was more than happy to help her. They chatted a bit about the weather and the silliness of tourists, and then the young woman threw her coins in the fountain, waved goodbye to Bellini, and left.

One year later, Bellini was still working as a vendor at the fountain, when he felt a tap on his shoulder, and a voice saying, "Sorry to bother you ..." He turned around, and who should it be but the young woman from before! Bellini smiled. "It is fortunate that you should come back to Roma," Bellini said in his pidgin English. The young woman nodded, and held out a note for Bellini to change. Their transaction complete, the coins were tossed once more into the fountain.

Year after year, Bellini worked at the fountain, and year after year, the woman would tap him on the shoulder, say, "Sorry to bother you," and make change for her note. It was a wonderful thing, and both soon came to expect their paths to cross.

Then one year, the woman showed up. She was no longer the young woman, and Bellini no longer a young man. With a light tap on the shoulder and a "Sorry to bother you," the two embraced warmly. They talked about Italy, and its beautiful hills and their love for the country, and Rome, and the fountain. After awhile, Bellini began to get out coins to trade for her note - he had stopped charging her long ago. The woman stopped him. "My amico, I thank you for everything you've done for me. But I'm afraid I won't be throwing any more coins in the fountain."

Bellini looked at her with strangeness. "Surely you are joking!" he said with a half-hopeful laugh. She shook her head. "But please, as a final gift, a picture of us." She called out to one of the photographers who frequented the popular square. He made his way over and took their picture in front of the fountain. She paid the man, gave Bellini the picture, and then with a final wave, she left the square. Bellini did not know what to think.

The next day, Bellini walked past a newsstand when a picture caught his eye. It was a picture of his American friend! He grabbed the paper and read the headline: "HEIRESS TO BE BURIED IN ROME." The article went on to say that the woman was none other than Henrietta Mathis, whose father had made billions in steel and coal at the turn of the century. Her dying wish had been to be buried in Rome, her favorite place. Bellini smiled at the sentiment. Then he came across a curious line. Miss Mathis had passed away nearly a month prior, but her body had only been transported to Rome the night before.

It must be a mistake!, Bellini thought as he pulled out his wallet and the picture from the night before.

In it was Bellini standing in front of the beloved Trevi Fountain. Alone.

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