Alchemist's Gift

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Let No One Who Loves Be Unhappy

For the next three days Farintino was tormented with dark imaginings. He could not sleep, and when he did finally pass from consciousness, it was to a dreadful dreamscape where the love letters dripped with blood and faceless phantoms, glistening with sweat and smelling of carnality, mounted his insatiable succubus of a wife, whose legs spread wide and her eyes half-closed in ecstasy. No matter how many of these interlopers he stabbed or clubbed or choked, there was always another waiting for his turn. Farintino lost his appetite. He shut out Amelia and Marcella. He imagined everything Amelia said or did was suspect or a deceit. He was unable to concentrate on his work. He ignored his father’s diatribes and rants as so much babble.

Farintino quietly put the half-finished hat and hooked needle onto his bench. Fausto prattled on and asked some rhetorical question that sent Farintino walking out of the shop and into the house. He went to the desk. The letters were still sitting out where he had tossed them. He calmed himself before he called out. “Amelia, where are you? Amelia?”

Amelia was so glad to finally hear Farintino’s voice. It had been three days of silence, sleeping alone, and icy stares. “I am here in the kitchen.” Marcella was in her cradle, snug under a soft yellow and blue checked blanket. Marcella rolled her eyes open at the sound of Farintino’s voice; then she closed them so very slowly and settled back into sleep. The cradle was on the floor next to the work table, and Amelia gently rocked it with her foot while she cut up vegetables for the omelet she was going to make for the midday meal. She looked toward the door when she heard Farintino’s footsteps. He entered with the packet of letters held by his side.

“You have come in early. Are you not well?” She tried to read the concerned expression on his face.

“How many are there?” His face flushed red and his words were sharp and cutting.

Amelia looked at her husband. She was puzzled and shook her head. “How many are there? I… I do not understand.”

“Do not mock me. How many? How many lovers have had your body?”

“Lovers?” Amelia was at a loss. “Had my body… what are you talking about?”

“Explain these.” Farintino wagged the packet of letters in front of Amelia’s face. “Who wrote you these love letters?”

She glanced at the packet. “I have never seen them before.”

He tried to give the letters to Amelia, but she refused to take them.

“Oh yes, Father said you would deny it.”

“Dear husband, you know I cannot read.”

Farintino spoke in a loud, hoarse voice and demanded an answer. “Who wrote you these? Who was it?” The tension between them was palpable. They stood staring at each other, uncertain of what to do next. Marcella awoke and began to cry. Amelia picked up the baby. She held Marcella close and turned away from Farintino.

“I beg you, good husband, please calm yourself. Please.” Amelia always showed the greatest modesty when she breastfed. She turned further away from Farintino, untied her blouse, and guided Marcella’s lips to her breast.

Farintino asked the question he dreaded the answer to. “Am I Marcella’s father?” His chest tightened as he waited for an answer.

Amelia was glad she was turned away. The question pierced her heart. Tears welled in her eyes. “I have never been unfaithful to you, Farintino. Never, never.” A sole tear spilt from the corner of Amelia’s eye and made its way down the contour of her cheek and for a second was suspended from the tip of her chin before it fell onto her bosom and trickled down to Marcella’s lips, where it mingled with her mother’s milk.

Farintino accepted Amelia’s indirect answer. He wanted her words to be his truth. Farintino looked into Amelia’s soft eyes. He knew all too well the hopelessness that saddened her. She was so small and vulnerable standing before him holding her baby to her breast. It was as if he finally saw her clearly and she became real to him again. She was his wife. He felt terrible for her when he realized that he was responsible for so much of her hurt. He smiled and slowly extended his arms to a woman consumed by her own terrible secret. Amelia and Marcella came to Farintino and they embraced. Amelia and Farintino hoped to find love.

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