My fictional characters, they’re all mine—to make, to break, to kill off, or to bring back—which is what I’m doing in my current WIP (work in progress), Book 3 from the Savino Sisters Mystery Series.
It seemed a shame, leaving Stefano Rosina (from The Mystery Series Book 2) in Northern Italy pining for his lost love of sixty-plus years ago, the sassy long-time widow, Clarita Fantino Riva. Stefano and Clarita’s WWII teenage romance had initiated a series of tragic events that resulted in Clarita emigrating from Italy to America when she was a mere eighteen. Clarita lives with her daughter Toni in St. Louis, not too far from thirty-something granddaughters Ellen and Margo Savino. El and Margo recently returned from Italy, where they met Stefano and his son Franco—a somewhat sobering experience for all concerned, as had a similar experience been for their mom Toni when she visited Clarita’s village years before.
That said, for Book 3 I decided to send Stefano and Franco on a surprise visit to St. Louis. Unlike Clarita, who claimed she never wanted to see Stefano again, he is determined to rekindle the flame that once burned so passionately for both of them. Of course, not everyone in these two families is on board with the reunion that Ellen narrates in this scene …
Rather than taking my car, Franco insisted on driving the rented SUV, which I didn’t challenge since it would allow me to see how well he navigated our St. Louis streets. While I gave him Mom’s address, he entered it into the Italian version of the rental’s GPS and relied on those instructions instead of mine that made more sense.
“For those times, Papa and I go without you,” he explained so as not to offend me.
Right, as if he fully expected Nonnie Clarita to welcome her one-time lover with open arms. Only time would tell and very soon. As expected, the GPS route took longer than my shortcut way; but Franco handled the traffic with no problem, a breeze compared to what I’d experienced in Italy where controlled havoc ruled, even in the smaller villages. I told Franco to turn into the alley behind Mom’s house; and to my relief, when we pulled into the asphalt parking area, there was Margo getting out of her car.
As soon as we exited ours, I waited for the usual hugs and kisses to pass, yet hoping they would go on and on, whatever it took to delay our entering into the den of unknown horrors. During the second round of greetings, Margo caught my eye from over Stefano’s shoulder and gave me a confident thumbs-up. Already I felt better, knowing her relaxed attitude would take the edge off of my uptight attitude.
Stefano was already walking toward the back door, meaning I’d have to do a quick sprint in order to catch up with him. Instead, Franco pulled me back with a firm grip to my arm. “Let this be Papa’s time,” he said. “And Clarita’s.”
“He’s right,” Margo said. “Regardless of the outcome, we will be here to soothe the shattered egos.”
We stood our ground midway along the sidewalk; Nonnie’s flourishing vegetable garden to our right; her fragrant rose garden to our left. Stefano found the backdoor buzzer, hesitated but a moment, and then held his finger to the button. “Basta, Papa,” Franco said in a voice too low for his father to hear. “Basta.”
Margo touched Franco’s forearm. “It’ll be okay; you’ll see.”
Or not. Nonnie’s voice came roaring through the closed door and into the yard. “All right, dammit. I’m coming. I’m coming.”
Stefano removed his finger from the button and the door flew open. As did Nonnie’s eyes. Never had I seen those expressive eyes so wide.
“What the … oh my God … it can’t be. Is that you, Stefano?”
“Si, Clarita.” After that a flood of words in Italian erupted too fast for me to understand.
Or Margo, she looked at me with a shrug and said, “I think he’s begging her forgiveness.”
“No, no, he is talking about times past,” Franco said. “The rest I cannot tell you—it is too … how you say?”
“Personal,” Margo said. “Damn, I didn’t believe the old gal still had it in her.”
“Nor my papa. Perhaps we should leave them alone, go someplace for a drink.”
Which we were preparing to do until Mom pulled her car into the space next to Margo’s.
She got out and walked over to where Margo and I were standing with Franco. To him she gave a polite nod, obviously not recognizing him. To Margo and me she asked with an air of authority, “What’s going on?”
“Uh, we have company from Italy,” I said.
Before I could say Franco’s name, he stepped forward, bowed slightly, and then straightened up, a look of ambivalence crossing his face. “Ciao, Toni. It has been a long time. Do you remember me—Franco Rosina.”
She gave a smile, the polite one with pursed lips. “Yes, of course. So nice to see you, Franco.” He stepped forward and placed his hands on her shoulders. She allowed him a kiss to each cheek but did not return the greeting. “What brings you to St. Louis?”
“My papa,” he said. “I brought him to see your mama.”
“You what!?” She stepped back, making no effort to hide the stunned look on her face that was growing redder with each passing second. “No, no, no, no, no!” She stomped her foot onto a weed creeping through the cracked asphalt and using the ball of her foot, twisted the weed into obliteration. “You should’ve checked with me first.”
She released a small snort when Franco opened his hands. “Papa was afraid you’d try to keep him from her.”
“As well I would have. I’m sure you meant well but my mother is getting up in years. As is your papa, who’s even older. Whatever was once between them is no more. Although knowing the extent of that whatever, I’m sure it served at least one good purpose at the time.”
Looking from one daughter to the other, she spoke with a voice raised several decibels. “Margo. Ellen. What were you thinking? And why didn’t you warn me? Mama must never know Stefano Rosina came to St. Louis. Never, never, never. Do I make myself clear?”
“Sorry, Mom,” Margo said in a voice higher than normal, one that betrayed the nervousness that would’ve matched mine. “You’re too late. Stefano already came knocking and Nonnie Clarita let him in.”
Mom’s face went from its current state of red to a putrid shade of green. She bent over, clutching her stomach. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“No, you’re not,” I said. “Nonnie can take care of herself. If she doesn’t want Stefano around, she’ll tell him.”
“Toni, please,” Franco said. He reached out one hand to her, then quickly withdrew it. “You should have seen your mama’s face when she saw my papa’s. So bella I almost wept. Do not deny them this time together after almost a lifetime apart.”
“Keep out of this, Franco. My mother is none of your business.”
“Ah but my papa is. And you need to stay out of his business and your mama’s.”
End of excerpt … must keep writing.