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Eternal
Author: Lisa Scottoline

PROLOGUE

 

 

Elisabetta


        May 1957

 

 

Elisabetta had kept the secret for thirteen years, but it was time to tell her son who his father was. She had been waiting until he was old enough, but she didn’t want to delay any longer. He deserved to know the truth, and she had never been comfortable concealing it from him. The secret had grown harder to keep over time, like a bag of groceries carried the first block, then the second, but by the third must be set down.

   She stood at the kitchen sink, finishing her coffee, and the apartment was quiet and still, as her son was out playing soccer. She prepared herself for the conversation, realizing she would have to relive the worst days of her life and even of her country’s history, since her youth had encompassed the ventennio, the twenty years of Mussolini’s rule and a war that had turned Italy topsy-turvy, during which good had become bad and bad had become powerful.

   Tears filmed Elisabetta’s eyes, but she blinked them away. She hoped she could make her son understand why she hadn’t told him. The revelation would shock him, as he suspected nothing, resembling her so strongly that it was as if his father’s biology expressed itself in his personality, rather than his facial features.

   Her gaze strayed to the window over the sink. She eyed a view ingrained in her memory, from Trastevere to Vatican City, a palimpsest unique to Rome, which had been adding to itself since the beginning of Western civilization, layer upon layer of travertine marble, brick arches, medieval turrets with crenellations, and the red-tiled roofs of houses with façades of amber and ochre. Church domes dotted the timeless scene, interspersed with palm trees, cypresses, and umbrella pines. Soaring above them all was Saint Peter’s Basilica, its iconic dome gilded by the Italian sun.

   Elisabetta withdrew from her reverie and set her coffee cup in the sink. Her son would be home any minute. The kitchen filled with the aroma of lasagna, his favorite meal. She had made it because he was going to hear a difficult story, but one he needed to know. One she needed to tell.

   She heard the front door open, and he entered the apartment, dropping his soccer ball. She braced herself. “Ciao, amore!”

   “Mamma, are we having lasagna?”

   “Yes! Come in the kitchen, would you?”

 

 

PART ONE

 


          Let everyone, then, have the right to tell his story in his own way.

     —Ignazio Silone, Fontamara (1933)

     The One remains, the many change and pass;

     Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;

     Life, like a dome of many-colour’d glass,

     Stains the white radiance of Eternity,

     Until Death tramples it to fragments.—Die,

     If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!

     Follow where all is fled!—Rome’s azure sky,

     Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak

     The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.

     —Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Adonais” (1821)

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Elisabetta


        May 1937

 

 

Elisabetta made up her mind. Marco Terrizzi would be her first kiss. She watched him doing bicycle tricks by the river, riding on his back tire, his head thrown back in laughter, his teeth white against his tanned face. His thick, dark hair shone with pomade in the sun, and his legs were knotted with muscles inside the baggy shorts of his uniform. He rode with joy and athleticism, achieving a masculine grace. Marco Terrizzi had sprezzatura, a rare and effortless charm that made him irresistible.

   Elisabetta couldn’t take her eyes from him, and neither could the others. They had grown up together, but somewhere along the line, he had gone from boyhood to manhood, from Marco to Marco. That he was terribly handsome there could be no doubt. He had large, walnut-brown eyes, a strong nose, a square jaw, and a broad neck marked by a prominent Adam’s apple. He was the most popular boy in their class, and everything about him seemed more vivid than everyone else. Even now, the sun drenched him in gold, as if Nature herself gilded him.

   Elisabetta wondered what it would be like to kiss him. She guessed it would be exciting, even delicious, like biting into a ripe tomato and letting its juices run down her chin. She had never kissed a boy, though she was already fifteen years old, and at night she practiced kissing on her pillow. Her tabbycat, Rico, with whom she slept, had grown accustomed to her routine, as cats endure the silliness of young girls.

   Elisabetta had no idea how to make Marco think of her as more than a friend. She usually achieved what she set her mind to, getting good grades and such, but this was different. She was too blunt to flirt. She lacked feminine wiles. She had been a maschiaccio, a tomboy, when she was little, which was how she had grown close with Marco. She was trying to become more womanly, but she still didn’t wear a brassiere. Her mother said she didn’t need one, but the other girls made fun of her, talking behind their hands.

   “Elisabetta, help, I’ll drown!” Marco raced toward the river, and she was about to call to him, but stopped herself. She had read in a female advice column that denying men the attention they craved drove them mad with desire, so she ignored him, while the other girls responded.

   “Marco, no!” Livia called back.

   “Marco, be careful!” Angela gasped.

   The boys waited to see if calamity befell Marco, but he cranked the handlebars, veering away from the river’s edge. They laughed and returned to their textbooks, spread out on the grass. They were doing homework, having come from their Balilla meeting, the party’s compulsory youth group. They all wore their uniforms, the boys in their black shirts and gray shorts, and the girls in white muslin shirts and black skirts.

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