t was a hazy spring morning,Leonora woke to the steaming
sunlight seeping through her tainted windows, a slight elegant child of
sixteen, but had always seemed older than the rest of her other sisters
and having lost the most precious friend in her life , her twin brother
Marcus,who had died last Winter. Leonora always had to be the strong one
the courageous one, but somehow she could not overcome this twisting pain
at the loss of her brother.
As she gracefully unplatted her long silky black hair, she gazed painfully but peacefully at the picture that adorned her dresser, how much she missed him, his humour, his kindness, those companiable days now gone forever. She jumped out of her yoga like concentration as her mothers mocking shriek bellowed in the farmyard, out of her trance she quickly dressed, her crisp white blouse , her blue pinafore, today she thought she would wear those silky stockings her sister Bianca had sent her from Rome where she was a dancer. Always her sisters favourite, Bianca would send Leonora quite extravagant gifts for her birthdays these were Leonora's cherished possessions and were only used in circumstances she was feeling a little worse for wear.Today was one of those days! How shocking it would be she thought to wear them for school after all she was sixteen a woman now surely?and soon to leave her subdued village school and start her life in he outside world. The quick breakfast she managed to eat still left Leonora excessivley hungry which she was sure to suffer later that morning.She scrambled all of her books and papers into her schoolbag, the usual route she thought to be sure to be on time.
"Late again Leonora?" Miss Marciani moaned ". That's
all she needs she thought " Sorry it wont happen again, my Nona was...
ill..and..." "and..... " continued the schoolmistress "
you just had to feed her chickens and milk the cow is that right?"
the whole class was in an uproar of laughter surely she didn't expect them
to believe yet another one of her talespins ?
" Now pay attention" scolded the schoolmistress her thinly
boned face pale and bare glaring directly at Leonora. Leonora wondered
if Miss marciani had ever had the pleasure of being in love or someone
ever loving her? she was so cruel and unkind the question seemed rather
unfair.whoever could like such cold hearted woman Leonora hoped she wouldn't
turn out the same, a lonely, unattractive spinster whom nobody loved.
The lessons proceeded with sewing as usual one of her favourite subjects
followed by arithmetic , certainly not one of Leonora's better subjects,
but she longed for learning about the other countries, England, America,
Australia, she seemed to thrill learning about the outside world, that
great wonderful world , was it really as exciting as they had said in the
papers? she vowed she'd take a trip when she would reach the age of eighteen,
no one could stop her,as she spun the atlas round and round her mind whirled
with it where oh where would her cosmic journey take her?
Leonora was abruptly awaken from her fantasy screaming and almost feeling
physically sick as she was confronted with what looked like a snake, it
wasn't the real thing just a fake the schoolmistress had found to threaten
her pupils who decided to switch off during one of her lessons! and as
Leonora had a phobia about the wretched things Miss Marciani was in her
element torturing her this present moment. Miss marciani glowered over
Leonora ,her grey teeth struggling to smile through her tight pale lips.
" Now " she snarled, "You will pay attention". The
whole class yet again was in hysterics,shaking and almost unable to move
Leonora agreed to pay attention.
" Just another record then I really must be going as Mama will
be worried". Leonora said they're all the same" slurred Chichina
" at sixteen they still make us feel like bambino's! she continued.
Well they had been drinking wine all afternoon as Stephanie's parents were
out visiting their dying Grandmother in Palermo the house was theirs for
the whole day, They'd talked of school, they talked of home but the grand
topic of conversation that afternoon was boys! when were they ever going
to meet their Marlon Brando they thought. .
As they drank through their fourth bottle of uncle luigi's best red
wine that Leonora had found in their cellar, they'd fantasised over who
they would marry if they would marry as it seemed there was a shortage
of eligible men in their village and the prospect of ever meeting one seemed
ludicrous."I'll be an old maid at seventeen "sobbed Chichina,
Leonora seemed to think she'd had enough to drink and decided she'd better
make tracks it was only eight o' clock still enough time to go through
Nonas garden and freshen her breath with parsley and mint to hide the smell
of alcohol on her breath. She crept out as the other two who had drunk
themselves asleep one lay on the floor and the other in the bathtub.
she rode her bike for about ten minutes when almost out of nowhere a
white cloud descended, or what seemed to be a white cloud it fell into
the woods just a few hundred yard away from where Leonora was her immediate
instincts advised her to run to safety but she was curious she deluded
herself it wasn't the best thing to do.She climbed off her bike and running
fast and alert towards the keeping herself hidden behind trees and shrubs
she quietly but carefully peered round she couldn't quite make out the
silhouette before her. It was a man , a young man she gasped clutching
her chest which was pounding so loud the whole village could probably hear.
The man was trapped he struggled to free his ankle was which was presumably
injured, he looked anxious and scared, dare she get closer she thought
perhaps he needed help he didn't look the sort that could harm her did
Like a cunning hound approaching a defenceless fox she quietly advanced
towards him had he seen her? his head turned swiftly toward the muffled
noises he called out with an unsteady tone " Who's there?" there
was silence. " Who's there?" he repeated and still silence, biting
her lip with fear she decided to answer. I'm not going to tell anyone"
she crept out of the shadows into the moonlit area where the young man
sat his face tired and dirty and his hair straggly and uneven " Are
you alright ?" she asked he turned towards her " who are you
?" he demanded " Come closer" she patted her glowing cheeks
with excitement and a little fear wondering if her hair was tidy and her
face flushed. the young man gazed at her and thought how appealing she
was. Leonora could clearly see him now his bronzed face was tired and yes
quite handsome eighteen or nineteen she thought feeling slightly at ease
she asked him who he was, was he hurt , could she help shed blurted it
all out too quickly for him to reply he explained he was a soldier and
was deserting the army she must vow there and then to keep a vow of silence
and not mention their meeting to anyone " No One " she promised.His
ankle was indeed injured in fact she thought it was broken " you must
see a doctor" Leonora explained he struggled to free his numb ankle
further and repeated it was imperative that no one should know of his whereabouts
as it could cost him his life.
She swore herself to secrecy there was no doubt in her mind that she
wouldn't betray him, she'd weakened to him, she wanted to help him but
where could he spend tonight , she thought it out carefully, he barn she
whispered, no one really uses it, Nona just leaves her old barrow and other
oddments there.It would be ideal, if only for tonight anyway.
They managed to walk the long journey back, it had taken them at least
a full hour, but she was past worrying over the prospects of being found
out now anyway, they opened the door and steadily crept in, the air was
so cold it seemed to burn she found an old moth eaten blanket and laid
it on the floor for Franco to sleep on " its not very warm , or comfortable
" she said kindly " but you will be safe" she added. They'd
somehow managed to strap his ankle tightly and at least it wasn't hurting
quite as much as earlier so maybe he could get some sleep, but somehow
she doubted it.
All night long he tossed and turned, he moaned in fear rather than pain,
every movement and noise seemed to threaten him, his body shook with terror
contemplating the prospect of being discovered.
It wasn't much of night for Leonora, she'd slept on her chair next to
her bedroom window with a watchful eye on the barn she pitied him so. Perhaps
shed ask more questions in the morning, she willed the night to be over.
With what seemed like eternity morning came , Leonora was still awake,
she'd watched over him like a guardian angel. Running down the stairs to
the larder, she took eggs butter ,cheese and some freshly baked rolls and
began to prepare a feast
" My my you must be hungry!" her mothers mocking tone behind
her said "Where were you last night young lady?" " I was
in by eleven and then decided to see Nona" " that's funny "snapped
her mother " Nona was with me at the village hall". They'd had
an emergency meeting a parachute sighting , the village had feared the
worst perhaps a german had landed. Leonora's mother looked at her knowingly
"You'd better get that young man his breakfast " she added kindly
" but be on your guard Strangers are strangers remember that !"
She carried on with her preparations, a hot cup of fresh milky coffee,two
warm crusty rolls, some cheese and four poached eggs. As she approached
the barn she consciously looked over her shoulder , she opened the door,
he lay sleeping like a small child one hand under his cheek, he still looked
pale and tired, but very handsome , shed stared at him for at least five
minutes. before leaving the tray of delicious food beside him.how could
she wake him? she leaned forward and very gently kissed his cheek "
He wouldn't know she thought and she crept silently away.
It wasn't obvious to Leonora that Franco was indeed awake, he smiled
gratefully at the food and ate at it like a hungry wolf, devouring the
bread within seconds, he was hungry. When his belly was full he sat back
and sipped his coffee savouring every last drop as he wasn't certain when
he would eat as well as this again.
A tap at the door, Leonora stepped in, Franco stared admiringly at her
, how pretty she was he thought sixteen maybe seventeen, his mind raced
with thoughts of lust he'd not had in a long while he snapped himself out
of it "Come on in". he smiled at her "Thank you" "
That was the best meal i've had in months" "there's more"
she blurted, but he didn't think it decent to ask for a second helping
although he really would have enjoyed another crusty roll and a cup of
They sat and talked for what seemed like hours, he'd explained it all
to her , his desertion from his post, shed agreed he'd done the right thing.
"I've got a letter here would you post it for me?" " Yes
Leonora enthused and placed it carefully in her schoolbook. "I'll
have to go I'll see you in four hours. 'i'll make some excuse and try to
get back early" "Please don't go anywhere" Franco laughed
for the first time in months where would he go?" and thank you"
he repeated as she swept out of the barn.
Leonora's first errand was to make sure Francos letter was posted, she
hurried to the post masters house and gave it straight to him he wondered
who Leonora knew in america as it was addressed to Georgia, but put it
with the rest of the letters anyway.
Her heart pounded all the way back to school and just for a change in
time. Leonora was bright and alert that morning much to the dissatisfaction
of Miss Marciani who insisted that she was ill and had sent her home for
that reason as it was too incredible to believe that Leonora really could
use her brain and actually contribute to the lessons. Her plan had worked
famously. She collected two red apples from the tree outside the schoolhouse
and carefully placed them in her bag so as not to bruise them.
Approaching the barn, creeping almost spy like she watched Franco through
the splintered hole in the door, he was combing his hair,running his strong
hands over his chin and neck, it did look unshaven and untidy but very
appealing, Leonora giggled he'd heard her and jumped onto the door thinking
he'd been spied on , "Its me she yelled" he covered her mouth
with his hand and sighed with great relief ": you scared me "
he said trembling, although his trembling was not in fear, was it because
he was holding her close and touching her, something he'd not done to anyone
for a long while.
"You'd better go " he said releasing her sharply and quickly
changing the subject. "But I've come to see you" "Well to
see if you need anything more" " Nothing more to do except wait
," you posted my letter ?" "Yes " Leonora said , "Well
now I wait for my contact to reach me, a couple of days at least"
"then you wont have to worry over me anymore".
So soon she thought but shed grown very fond of him and felt rather
strange when in his presence. She thought shed like to kiss him, she leaned
over and kissed his lips quickly, this time it was he that was flushed
and he pulled her closer his full mouth overlapped on her delicate lips,
their kissing was potent and left Leonora feeling light headed, this was
wonderful she thought his strong hands placed on her shoulders, he could
feel her supple bronze skin beneath the crispy white blouse she was wearing
he gently but carefully and almost too easily took off her buttons her
blouse fell to the floor, she did not resist his advances, he kissed her
shoulders and she melted, shed never let a boy kiss her like this ever
in fact shed never been kissed.
What was happening to her, he kissed her neck, her ears and her lips
again and again the drowsiness seemed everlasting his hand slid down to
her firm supple bottom, she trembled with ecstasy, their feelings were
strong as she seemed to melt in his arms and was carried away with such
penetrating passion " You are Beautiful" he whispered, she answered
him with moans of uninterrupted pleasure, how wicked she thought of herself
but how much this experience delighted her.
She knew there was no turning back, how could she let him slip from
her life forever!..........