Coming Back - Chapter Three
Coming Back - Chapter Three
Damian began to accept himself as Gino Giovanni. He even began to understand Rosa part of the time. Little by little, he was learning Italian. At first, it had just been a word here and there. She called him “bambino,” and he figured that referred to him as a little boy, because he heard other little boys called that, too. “Forchetta” meant fork, and “cucchiaio” meant spoon. The looks that Damian had given Rosa when he first heard Italian made Rosa think something was wrong, but when he did not respond to questions or orders, she thought he might be mentally slow, and that would have explained why he was abandoned, she thought. But, as time went on, and Damian learned the meaning of certain words, she began to face the music. Her little Nino was not Italian, but that did not matter to her. She could see now that he was not mentally slow, that he was bright, and that, although he was a mute, he was learning to understand her. Rosa began to teach him Italian.
One night, as Damian lay sleeping, a dream came to him that he had had quite often. It was a nightmare, and it always went the same way. He would see himself in New York, in the crate inside the ship. His mother and father were being led away by the Jesuit Vanucci, and every time, Damian would cry, and the dream would end, but tonight, the nightmare was worse. The dream took its usual course up to the point where Vanucci and his men led Damian’s parents away, then, suddenly, a new act to this play was added. Vanucci was in the crate with Damian, and he was pulling on the necklace that Dr. Miller had placed around Damian’s neck. Damian screamed! Vanucci continued to pull on the necklace, and Damian continued to scream.
“Holy Father in Heaven! What is it child?” Rosa was saying.
The screams had awakened her and Damian both, and while Rosa was first to notice that Damian now had a voice, it took a few moments for the dream to face away before reality hit Damian.
“I can talk,” he said with a startled look on his face.
“American!” said Rosa with an equally startled look on her face. Stunned, they both sat and looked at each other for what seemed like forever.
Rosa said in English, but with a heavy accent, “You are American? You speak, you speak.”
Damian wasn’t quite sure what she meant, but said, “Yes, I’m from America.”
“Ah,” she wailed, “You gonna breaka my heart. Like my GI Joe. In last war, GI Joe sava Rosa’s life, then breaka Rosa’s heart and go back to America. I never see him no more. Now you gonna go back to America, too?”
This was all too fast for Damian. Who was she talking about, this GI Joe?
Rosa did not know what to think of her little Nino now being able to speak. It was both a miracle and a curse, for while on the one hand, she had always wished he could talk, as any normal mother would, she felt that, if he could, he might tell her one thing she did not want to hear in any language...who and where his parents were. But it was nearing dawn as Rosa and Damian continued their foray into Damian’s new found ability. Thus, Rosa learned of Damian’s parents, whom he thought were still in New York looking for him, and Damian learned of her “GI Joe,” and how, as a young girl during the war, she had developed a crush, even learned his language enough to get along. Then the heartbreaking day had come all those many years ago when he had unexpectedly shipped back to his country a day early. She had arrived the next day to find an empty dock, whereupon she had sat and sobbed for hours. She would never see her GI Joe again, never knowing if he had died, or just had not truly loved her. Damian’s arrival by boat became almost too much of a sign, or an omen, for Rosa not to take note.
Rosa was all aflutter one afternoon when, after having finished their lunch, she, as usual, sat down to relax in the shade of her booth at the marketplace, and Damian went to play. But today was different, for she came to find Damian before her break was over, something even the Pope could not take her from. To Rosa, you worked all day for everybody else, thus, when it came time for her and Damian to take lunch and rest for an hour, the rest of the world may as well have come to a stop. She did not resume business until the hour was completely used up, but here she was, out of breath, hurrying Damian to come with her.
Damian soon learned the source of all her excitement. Her brother was coming to visit. Time had passed too swiftly, ten years in all, and Rosa had not seen her brother, Alfredo, in all of those years. She had much to do. The house had to be cleaned, food had to be prepared, and much had to be thought out. She knew that Damian would be one of those things on the agenda for discussions, since she had never mentioned him in any of the letters to her brother, who was a police officer in her home town of Genoa. Alfredo DiAngelo and his family would be arriving, the letter said, on Friday. Today was Wednesday.
With all of the excitement and the hustle and bustle of things, Damian had not had time to notice Wednesday turn into Friday morning. Yet, before he knew it, the car had arrived at their front door, he had been introduced to Alfredo DiAngelo, Isadora, his wife, Karina, aged nine, Giulio, aged seven, and Luigi, who was the same age as Damian...and they were all inside having tons of Rosa’s great spaghetti and fresh baked bread.
Earlier that afternoon, when they had first arrived, Alfredo had wanted to ask Rosa about her little Nino, but these delicate questions had to wait. He did not want to let his curiosity seem like police work, and he had not even seen his sister in ten years. There was so much gossip to catch up on, and they had both changed so. With Damian, Giulio and Luigi out exploring Rome, and Karina outside admiring Rosa’s flowers, the adults were sitting around the table lost in Genoa. It would be well into the early hours of the morning after all the children had long since fallen asleep before the wine and laughter would cease, the lights would be extinguished, and Rosa would remember that she was in Rome and had not been back in Genoa.
Saturday morning was especially exciting for Damian, because they were all going to go sight seeing around Rome. Although he had been living here with Rosa, Damian had only been a short ways past the neighborhood. Rosa did not have a car, nor could she drive, and most of their time was spent preparing for the marketplace. Only on Sundays did they take a regular walk for the sake of walking, which was always to the park, and then they would circle around by the Vatican to see the home of the Pope. This always seemed to be the part of the week Rosa looked forward to the most, standing there in front of the “Tomb of the Popes” as she called it, she would just stand and stare, and no one, not even Damian, knew whether she was praying or just thinking. But, today was Saturday, and they were living like it was Sunday, no work. They went to the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla, Circus Maximus, and, of course, the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square.
That evening, while the children were out visiting the neighbors, Alfredo finally summed up the courage to ask Rosa about Damian. Why had she never mentioned him in her letters? Surely five years was long enough to say something about her little boy, but not once had she ever mentioned him. Why? And who was his father? Where was he? He did not dare bring up the name of Paulo Giovanni, but Damian did resemble Rosa’s husband quite a bit. So, his curiosity had to be satisfied at long last.
Many thoughts went through Rosa’s head. Would she tell the truth, or should she say that she had had an affair? No, an affair would be the worst possible thing. Perhaps she could say that Paulo had visited her once, long ago. Perhaps. Perhaps this, perhaps that...but Rosa could not bring herself to lie to her own brother. Her face would have betrayed her the very instant she lied, and she would not have been able to sleep, such was the type of woman Rosa was. She told her brother everything.
Alfredo was alarmed, however calm he may have appeared to everyone in the room, because Rosa had never gone to the authorities to see if the boy had been listed as missing, and so much time had passed; almost a year!
Though he did not tell her of his intentions, the next day he would visit the city police headquarters and check on the boy himself. Alfredo was a man as much inclined to follow the book and play by all the rules, as was Rosa just the opposite, a woman who listened only to her heart.
It was the blackest day for Rosa, that Monday morning. She would not talk to her brother for some time. How could what he was saying be true? And yet, her brother had brought her world to an end. She had not felt this alone since the day she left her home in beloved Genoa. Here was the truth in front of her to see, a report from the police files with a picture of her little Nino attached. It was a search request from a detective in New York. Nino’s real name was Damian Miller. Rosa knew this. So did this paper in her hands. The detective suspected two places as likely for a search; New York or Rome. His reasoning was simply that the bodies of Damian’s parents were found floating in the water where the only ship that left the next day had headed for Rome. It was the only ship which he had not been able to question the crew until they returned from overseas. When he finally came to Kim Reilly, a positive I.D. was confirmed, and the detective issued a request for the Italian police to help look for the child. Hired by Mrs. Nell Miller, Damian’s grandmother, his job was to find the boy. Mrs. Miller had a strong feeling the since only the bodies of her son and daughter-in-law were found, that there was a good chance her grandson had survived. And she never gave up, no matter how many times a body was dragged from the nearby rivers. It was always a confirmation to her when the body would be identified as someone else...her little Damian was not dead.
When Rosa spoke, it was if she was in a dream. There was no life in her. Yet, there was that inevitable question she had to ask her brother. “Will they take my little Nino away?” she asked, as the first tear streaked down her face. Alfredo was touched by his sister’s predicament, and suddenly felt like a man trying to hold two horses with one set of reins. He knew someone was looking to see this little boy safely back in America just as much as Rosa longed to keep him here. He had a duty, he reasoned with himself, no matter how much it hurt, and it always hurt him to see his sister cry. When Alfredo answered, Rosa really already knew the answer, but she had to hear it from someone other than herself.
“His grandmother has been looking for him for quite some time,” he said, trying to ease the pain. Rosa sat quietly crying. She was a woman guided by her heart, but she was a very strong woman nonetheless. She had seen enough pain in her few years, so this heart-rending experience was no stranger to her. Though she hurt in ways that even her brother could not understand, she had already resigned herself to the fact that Damian would soon leave her life.
Go to Chapter Four
Go to Chapter Four - The News