Golden dawn at Forio Porto. I watched the crew of the hydrofoil Aliantares prepare for the 0700 departure to Beverello in Naples. My cell phone went off. It was Vittoria, after what? Three, four weeks of silence.
Of course she called. I had absolutely no doubt whatever that she would, because as the professor suggested, I was in an earlier incarnation a Stregone, and my spells were powerful, irresistible. Can you imagine what I could accomplish if I put a little more energy into it than I did yesterday? All I asked for was a telephone call. Power is intoxicating, eh?
At first there was silence, but I knew it was her.
“Sweetpea, please speak to me!” I said. “I won’t bite your head off.”
“I’m not ready to speak,” she said in a soft voice.
“Why not? So many people are just dying to know if you’re all right.”
“This is too much for me.”
“I know. It’s mind-bending. Your sister says she can’t believe it. But your dad finally admitted you were adopted. And you won’t believe what he said after your brothers pumped him for information about your birth mother.”
“Like I said, I don’t want to hear about it anymore.”
“May I tell them that you’re all right? And that you are in a safe place?”
“Do what you want. I don’t care.”
The small crowd of passengers began boarding the boat. I turned, headed for the Chiaia beach, cell phone pressed tight against my ear.
“I care,” I said. “And I miss you.”
“I might miss you. I’m not sure.”
“You can’t just forget about me.”
“I’m very confused.” She sounded like a little girl.
“I know. And I wish I could help you.”
“You have to know that despite this adoption thing, nobody has stopped loving you,” I said. “And that includes me. Although sometimes I don’t want to admit it.”
“But you can tell by reading between the lines.”
“Yes, I said I know.”
Then she said, “I have no clue who I am anymore.”
“Who you are, sweetpea, is becoming more and more clear. Not the other way around. This may be disturbing, but nevertheless it explains more than it hides or confuses.”
“My dad is not my dad.”
“But he IS your dad. And your mom is your mom. You simply have another pair of parents you didn’t know about.”
“The family I thought was mine is really not.”
“But it is truly your family, and it will be that way forever. Adoption doesn’t—can’t—change that.”
“I’m so confused.”
“Try to look at the facts. They raised you as their own. Period.”
“And the love they have for you has not changed, nor will it ever change. You have to know that.”
“I don’t know.”
“Biology has absolutely nothing to do with what your mom and dad and sister and brothers feel for you. And me too.”
“I don’t want to talk anymore.”
“If anything, this revelation makes you even more appealing.”
“You think so?”
“Would it be because Giovanni is not my dad?”
Ah, yes, I thought. She knows exactly how much I dislike that man’s strongarm tactics, his silences.
“No,” I replied, “because of who your biological mother is.”
“I don’t want to hear about her.”
“Okay. But Giovanni IS your dad. He always will be. It’s what he did—in raising you—that makes him truly and forever your father.”
“I say again, biology has nothing to do with all this.”
“I believe no one anymore.”
“You can believe me, can’t you?”
“Jury is out on that one.”
“Whoa! That hurts,” I said in a playful tone.
“You should feel what I’m feeling.”
“I wish I could take it from you. Sometimes we get dealt a bad hand.”
“This is not a hand.”
“More like a kick in the gut? Out of nowhere?”
I walked down the stone steps onto the sand. That early in the morning the beach was deserted. The sky was a panaroma of variously shaped cumulus clouds.
“I had a dream,” she said.
“No, it’s too mushy.”
“Come on, I can take it.”
“I’m not into mushy stuff anymore.”
“Your heart has turned to stone, then.”
“But nevertheless you had a mushy dream.”
“I don’t know why I would dream that.”
“I hope it was about ME.”
“Yes, it was you.”
“Whew, that’s a relief.”
“You held me in your arms and wouldn’t let me go, so I hit you over the head with a frying pan.”
“Holy cow!” I said. “I had the same dream. And I woke up with a big knot on my forehead.”
“I’m not going to smile.”
“You better not ever hit me with a frying pan.”
“Nope. Physical violence is not permitted.”
“Very well, if not a frying pan then a coffee pot.”
“I have a temper and you know it.”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m starting to get the drift.”
I sat down on a mound of sand close to the incoming waves. I hoped she could hear me above the rushing sound.
“Your dad has hired a private detective, to try to find you.”
“He’s supposed to be very good.”
“Not good enough. I’m not leaving any trails. I’ve got to go now.”