Moving right along my latest WIP (work in progress), a follow-up to Italy To Die For from the Savino Sisters Mystery Series. During my recent trip to Italy I enjoyed researching this chick lit novel and am now having fun with the writing process that introduces a few descendants of characters from my Italian American saga Family Deceptions. A major portion of the plot travels back to post-WWII Pont Canavese where two mysterious deaths have never been resolved.
Thirty-something sisters, plain-Jane Ellen and super-charged Margo are still vacationing in Italy and have decided to check out the Piemonte village of Pont Canavese where their grandmother Nonnie Clarita lived before immigrating to America at the age of eighteen. Having a personal connection in Pont Canavese, someone to show Ellen and Margo around would make their visit much easier than navigating on their own. So, the sisters decide to replace their lost cell phone and call Nonnie who lives in St. Louis with their mother. A simple phone call, that’s all. How difficult could that be?
Well, the sisters know their grandmother all too well and in the words of Ellen, here’s the gist of their conversation:
In Courmayeur, I popped for the full amount of the cell phone, even though Margo would’ve paid half if I’d insisted. She would make it up in another way, a bit of predictability I could count on. The clerk spoke decent English and set up our phone before we left. Back in the car, we made the dreaded yet necessary call.
What if Mom answers the phone?” Margo asked while setting the phone to speaker.
“At this hour, I don’t think so. It’s Thursday, she always has lunch with Kat.” Kat had been Mom’s best friend forever. Every woman, no matter how old needs a BFF. Not that fifty-five was old, nor did Mom look her age but she was still way ahead of Margo and me. Take eight-two, that was probably old but Nonnie didn’t seem old, just steadfast. Make that obstinate.
Nonnie answered on the third ring and Margo got the conversation off to a confusing start.
“Guess what, Nonnie?” Margo said.
“Who is this?”
“Who do you think? How many people call you Nonnie?”
“Just my two granddaughters and they’re in Italy. God only knows doing what.”
This could’ve gone on and on, so I spoke up. “Nonnie, hi, it’s Ellen and Margo calling all the way from … Italy.” I didn’t bother with the Monte Bianco thing.
“Ellen and Margo, why did you say so from the beginning instead of making me guess. It’s not like we’re on one of those silly game shows. Talk fast; this has to be costing you a bundle.”
“Don’t worry about that,” I said.
“If I don’t, who will? Your ma can’t come to the phone. She’s—”
“Yeah, we know. It’s Thursday,” Margo said. “Guess what.”
A stupid question that stupid could only lead to nowhere.
“You’re getting married,” Nonnie said. “Well, it’s about time, given your … never mind.”
“Sorry, Nonnie,” Margo said with a laugh, “I’m still looking for Mr. Right.”
“Good luck with that. How about this instead: Ellen’s going back to the nunnery?”
“Never going to happen,” I said. “Here’s the thing: while Margo and I are here in Italy, we want to visit your village.”
“My village, what village?”
“The one you grew up in,” Margo said. “You know, we want to walk the streets you walked.”
“You think I was a streetwalker? Show some respect.”
“Now, Nonnie, you know better than that.”
“Yeah, yeah, just kidding,” Nonnie said. “I just don’t get it. Why now?”
“What better time, we have another ten days before we go home.”
“No-o-o, you don’t say.” She paused, not a good sign. “I don’t know … call back tomorrow.”
“Nonnie!” Margo said. “We thought you’d be crazy for the idea.”
“Shush, give me a minute. I’m thinking.”
Margo raised an eyebrow. I resisted rolling my eyes. Silence filled the Fiat.
“Hello, Nonnie,” Margo said. “Are you still there?”
“I’m here, if that’s what you mean,” she said. “Trust me, you won’t like it there. Talk about nothing to do. It’s not like St. Louis, you know. No Cardinals baseball, no Forest Park, or casinos.”
“Neither one of us gamble, Nonnie.”
“No, but I do … never mind.”
“We’re tired of touring,” I said. “We need some quiet time.”
“Maybe you but Margo won’t last more than a day or two. From what I’ve heard, Italy’s not like it was in my day. Back then we danced the night away. Worked like dogs the next day so we could dance again.”
“Like Nonnie, like me,” Margo said.
Okay, now. Drum roll for my eye roll.
“Dancing was a long time ago,” Nonnie said. “Now those same people will be sitting around, coughing up their guts, complaining about sore knees and bad backs that went out and didn’t come back. That is, if these old farts are still looking at the green side of the grass. Talk about boring.”
“There’s no talking us out of this, Nonnie.”
“With or without your blessing, Ellen and I are going.”
Not the way to handle Nonnie. I motioned for Margo to button it up.
“Nonnie, it’s me, Ellen. What about the cousin you exchange Christmas cards with.”
“A very distant cousin, we hardly share the same blood. In fact, I doubt we’re even related.”
“Would you mind calling her, at least let her know we’re coming.”
“How long you known me?” Nonnie asked.
“My whole life.” I could not recall a time when she hadn’t live with us when Margo and I were kids and now with Mom.
“And when did you ever hear me call Donata on the telephone? I don’t even have her number.”
“Just give us her address,” Margo said. “That I know you have.”
“Directions to her house would be nice,” I added.
“What do think I am: one of those smart computers? It’s been forever and a day since I last saw her. It’s not like we’re best friends.”
“Not so fast, Nonnie,” I said. “What about Donata’s married name. I used to know it but forgot.”
“She’s a widow which might mean the married name no longer counts in Italy.”
“Think, Nonnie, think.”
“Oh, for god sake, just hang around the piazza and ask the first person who looks friendly, but not too friendly. Watch yourself, Margo. Don’t do anything to embarrass the family. Ellen, I ain’t worried about. Her beauty comes from within. Right, Ellen. Ain’t that what your ma … look, I gotta go.”
“Somebody’s knocking at the door. Ciao, Margo. You too, Ellen.”
End of conversation, before Margo or I had a chance to say our goodbyes.
End of my excerpt, a long way from ending my novel. But half the fun of getting anywhere is the journey, right?