Chapter 21: Believe

Believe in what you love.
Love what you believe.

Seeing is believing. Is that true? Or do our brains control what light goes up to the main centre? The magic to every card trick is trusting what you see and therefore seeing what they want you to.
She stared up at the bridge. It was them, it had to be. She recognized his shirt and her perfect tiny hips, even from this far away. Apparently, it was pointless being friendly to her. Nice girls don’t win. They don’t get the guy. They get cats and romcoms. Internet dates and diet plans. Those girls, those with the perfect hair and nails long enough to stick in, they win. They get the man.
Two young kids ran past her and into the river. They were searching for stones to skip. The one kid was searching for stones for himself and his brother. They skipped them together and celebrated each other’s triumphs.
When do we stop being on the same team?

She envied their pure hearts. Their only objective was to have fun, now, and not worry about tomorrow. She’d already invented thousands of situations with Michele, with their kids, their house, his family and upcoming parent-teacher meetings at the adorable school down the road. She wanted so much to be like the stone skippers and just live for today.

The kids had finished and unabashedly plonked themselves next to her while they put their shoes on. They were both giggling but one couldn’t tie his laces and he was getting frustrated. She smiled at them and made a gesture that implied tying laces. The boy put his foot forward with a hapless sigh.
“Qualcose sono difficile” he muttered defeated.
She took the lace slowly, looped it and placed it in his hand. She finished the knot and he looked at it relieved. She untied the laces.
“Ancora” She demanded. He looked back confused.
“Imparare” which was a word she learnt yesterday.
“You must learn” She commanded sternly.

He took a deep breath and tried again as she guided his hand. He finished the knot.
“Ho fatto!” He yelled as he high fived his older brother and then her.
“Tank you” he smiled and handed her a stone. They skipped a few stones together and she felt less embarrassed trying to understand their Italian. She kept one eye on the bridge. Michele and Dalila were still up there canoodling. She scorned herself for being foolish, how stupid to believe a feeling, how immature. She wanted to enjoy the moment and feel six years old again so she didn’t worry about these frivolous adult problems.

A stone came from behind them and bounced over the water, eleven, fifteen…twenty times! They all swung their heads around flabbergasted at what mythical creature had launched this Olympic stone.
And there he stood, simultaneously smug and angry in a wife beater.
Those arms.

“Zio!” The boys ran over and hugged his legs while giving him jumped up high fives.
She stared back at the bridge to the couple that had restarted their make-out session, but Michele was stood right in front of her.
“Ummm, I think these guys are a bit too young for you.” He said coolly with raised eyebrows. She was stumped and confused in her universe.
“Where’s your shirt?!” she barked back unnecessarily.

“Ah, I lost a bet…but I also lost an ex-girlfriend. So that’s nice” He smiled.
He listened to his nephews yelling stories at him and then he shook them off and walked over to her. He held her head in his hands and kissed her slowly. The sounds of the rushing water, the music, the boys snickering at their uncle and the sliding pebbles beneath her feet all dissipated as his warm hands cradled her cheekbones. Anger, disappointment, disillusion and all her negativity went out of the window. She was ready to be in love again.

“Fame?” He yelled at the boys.
“SIII!” they cried and ran off playing pretend soldiers.

He stood in front of her silently for enough time that made her feel awkward.
“ Where…did…you…go?” He asked in a calm voice with a stoic gaze.
Now she felt bad. She explained her kidnapping as they traipsed from the beach and up the hill. They climbed the cobbled streets with the nephews running ahead, bumping into an Alpino here and there who’d gotten lost on his toilet break. Finally, the boys ran into a house. A woman stood in the doorway. She was beautiful with long dark hair pulled up. She had flour in her hair, a rolling pin in her back pocket, a cigarette between her bright red lips and tight jeans. The boys slowed down their walk as they approached her with wide eyes. She put out her cigarette and gestured jokingly with the rolling pin.

Michele gave her an elongated hug.
“Diavoli, sono diavoli, non c’e lo faccio piu” She whimpered into his shoulder.
“Erika” She stated as she smiled confidently and took her hand. This was the sister. She rose the rolling pin like a tour guide and led them into the kitchen.

“I love my brother, I love my kids…but I hate all the men in this family” she yelled while giving back a fake scowl and slapping the younger kid on the butt.

Three men sat on the sofa watching football and were violently yelling at the TV. The kitchen was bedlam. Twenty different things were going on. Baking, home-made pasta, vegetables in the sink and random herbs hanging in between random pots. There were many family photos everywhere perched neatly beside crucifixes and pictures of the Madonna. The kids were running around grabbing plates and cutlery to set up the huge dining table. Erika would lightly spank them and kiss their heads at the same time.

Erika looked her up and down and knighted her with an apron. She handed her a potato and a peeler and pointed to the sink.
The boys roared in the living room as Juventus scored.
Erika rolled her eyes as they stood side by side and tilted her head towards the picture of the Virgin Mary holding a baby next to a picture of her and Michele as kids.

“Believe” She sweetly shrugged.

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