Read my Stupid Art II

Prompt for this week: Welcoming the Bride, threshold. Anyone who gets this, or catches what I’m alluding to, wins.

Their laughter precussed up the sides of the small, mud houses as the evening sun slanted along the road. But as she approached, the laughter turned to whispers. This girl was walking alone, and was very, very pregnant. None of the them had ever seen her before. She stopped. Of the men congregated in the doorway, all but one could not meet her eyes.

Stillness settled with the dust in the path.

“Do you know of Luca Esposito?” the girl spoke plainly and without introduction. “My husband. Or he will soon be. He gave me this. I will have his child, he is going to marry me.” She spoke with remarkable conviction. “I am looking for him, have you heard of him?”

“Your Name is?” Quietly, the seated young man ignored her question and posed another.

“Leonora.”

Her name sounded longer than she appeared to be worth.

“Only Leonora?”

Her hair was long and dark and surprisingly untangled, considering the hem of her dress was torn and she had no shoes. She was a small person, but the child had made her enormous.

“Leonora Esposito.”

“But of course.” The seated man said, with only a tinge of irony. “Before today I have known nobody by the name Esposito.” At this, a light, something like hope, flooded from her person. Her shoulders untensed as a slight old woman appeared in the doorframe. She’d clearly been eavesdropping from inside the house.

“I have never heard of a Lu-ca Es-pos-ito.” She tasted the sounds in the name, each own having its own bitterly emphatic flavor. “A Luca Rossi, we had, a few weeks back. He passed through with the other workers. Are you sure it’s Esposito?”

“Yes. I’m sure. That’s not him.” Leonora said, her voice betraying none of her uncertainty. “My husband is Luca Esposito. He told me he went this way. I walked from Potenza to find him”

“From Potenza!” The man who stood with a bicycle beside the door was roused from feigned nonchalance.

“You will not find him before tonight, I can assure you that,” the woman said with a stoic tenderness. “We are not rich people. But please, stay here. Rest, eat.”

Leonora looked down at her feet. Flat in the soft dust, she could see her toenails were chipped and rimmed with hardened mud. Her back ached from the weight of the child. Luca could be found in the morning, she thought. Surely, she must be close.

In the past weeks she’d slept amongst animals, in piles of straw, in fields of sheep, the baaa baaas rising from the dewy hillsides each morning. Seeing her condition, folk all along the way had offered her food, shelter, and transport. She had once even ridden a on farmer’s mule a long way from edge of his property all the way to town as the kindly farmer walked, head bowed and speechless, beside her.

“Thank you, thank you,” she replied to the offer. “I could use a rest. But tomorrow I must continue to look for my husband. He is expecting me to find him.”

I will go to Puglia, to Taranto, to the ports, where there are Iron mills and commerce, where there is money he said and touched her cheek. There, by the ocean you will have the child and you will be my wife. I’ll come back for you before it is time.

But the time was coming. A growing belly can only be concealed for only so long, and besides, the child was moving on its own now. She left on foot and tearless, before dawn on a Sunday. Hours later, in the first town that she passed through, white communion dresses flooded the square at the pealing of church bells.

Once she found Luca, she thought, it would all be so easy. How easy it would be, to go to him, as she had before. Gone out the window each night to where he was. So easy, to leave her room one night and then to return undetected, although now being more than she was when she left and not knowing it.

“Come in, my name is Maria” the woman in the door said. “These are my sons,” Leonora stepped forward and the seated young man rose and took her hand as her feet came to rest on the doorstep. The warmth of the air rushed out of the house. It smelled like a horse’s back. The floor inside was radiant stone.

“My name is Enzo.” The young man said, and then nothing else, letting her hand drop hastily. When rough men are struck so suddenly with something so foreign as to be very like love, or at least admiration, they tend to do things bluntly.

Once washed, Leonora’s cheeks glowed. The redness had returned to her mouth, if only from the exercise of eating. She ate delicately but not without hunger. Maria asked careful questions. Leonora answered honestly but without detail: She was a servant in a family of mediocre wealth, having gotten the job though a connection maintained by a distant and faceless uncle. Enzo simply watched, not knowing what to say, afraid of perturbing some dangerous balance that he
could only just barely sense.
….
“She will not find him,” Maria spoke to her son that night over the hearth, as Leonora slept. The dying flames in the fireplace curled and popped, feebly licking the air. “This Luca of hers. She will not find him.” She waved both index fingers emphatically, her eyes bulged. Enzo rested his chin on his fist. “A woman that close to birth should not be walking all day and night, looking for a man she will not find. A man who has run.” Enzo nodded in agreement. “We cannot let her leave tomorrow. If she leaves she will have that child with no one around. Helpless.”

Enzo crept the length of the hallway on padded feet, to the room were Leonora slept. He stood in the hallway and watched the soft mound of her body, rising up and down and up and down under the linen.

….

In the morning, Leonora’s bed laid empty. Enzo walked towards the bed slowly, as if approaching an altar. The bedclothes were neatly folded. There was no indication that she had even been in the room, save for that Enzo thought he could still smell her.

He spared his mother the heartache, and without waking her he saddled the mule. Leonora would not be helpless, no.

*****************************************************

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2 Responses to “Read my Stupid Art II”

  1. Thomas Davis Says:

    You are an excellent writer. I’ve liked almost everything I’ve read on this blog. The sentences are clean and direct and flow from beginning to end with a dance of narrative.

  2. tornspira Says:

    thanks!

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