From the Savino Sisters Mystery Series Regrets To Die For
Better Call Nonnie
Some things in life were never meant to be shared and I don’t mean men. Not that Margo and I had ever crossed into the love-triangle mine field, at least not yet. Nor were we about to share another phone, not after Margo’s lack of communication almost got herself killed in Monterosso El Mare. So, while poking around in Courmayeur, we each bought our own phone. The clerk spoke decent English and set up our new purchases with premium calling plans since neither Margo nor I wanted to mess with running out of juice or minutes. Back in the parking area, we assumed our positions in the car and using Margo’s new phone, made the dreaded yet necessary call.
“What if Mom answers?” Margo asked while pressing the speaker option.
“At this hour, I don’t think so. It’s Thursday, she always has lunch with Kat.” Kat Dorchester was Mom’s Best Friend Forever, before the words evolved into BFF. Every woman, no matter how old, needs a BFF. Not that I considered fifty-eight old, nor did Mom look her age but attitude-wise, she’d not adjusted well to the twenty-first century. On the other hand, although eighty-something Nonnie had surpassed the best years of most lives, she didn’t seem old, just steadfast and in many ways more open to change than our rigid mother.
After Nonnie answered on the third ring, Margo got the conversation off to a confusing start with, “Guess what, Nonnie.”
“I want you to go away for a while,” Isabella said.
Her words stung worse than a fistful of hard cacca. “So I should just disappear, like a puff of wind?” He lifted his arms to invoke spirits of the past. “Papa, Nonno, and all the Roccas who died before I came into the world: did you hear Isabella? This woman I brought into our house now wants me to leave. She wants me to desert our home … our land … our children … my heritage. Mine, not hers, she’s worse than a thief in the night.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Pietro. You’ve shamed the Rocca name, you and Serina. Soon, the entire village will buzz behind our backs, snicker to our faces. Already the women are musing over those welts on Serina’s back. And we still must deal with Giovanni.”
Besides her own hair, Giulietta had always shampooed Maurizio’s, even now when she could barely tolerate him; and for the last five years of Editta’s life, she’d scrubbed her scalp, even when it meant destroying the occasional hordes of lice that camped out there. But never had she worked her nails into a stranger’s scalp, these women with long hair tangled into extravagant pompadours, scalps untouched since their last visit to Bess, often three or four weeks depending on the generosity of the weekly allowance their husbands provided. Topics of conversation centered on those hard-working husbands and their rambunctious children, their charitable endeavors and the deplorable servant situation. To Giulietta’s relief, not one lady asked about her life, not that she would’ve given them much information.
At the end of the day when all the customers had returned to their lovely homes and petty difficulties, Bess walked to the back of the shop where Giulietta was wiping down the shampoo sink.
“If you still want the job, it’s yours,” Bess said, “Tuesday through Saturday from nine to five-thirty.”
Several miles out of town the road narrowed as it hugged the side of a mountain. To Bish’s right a drop-off, so deep I didn’t want to think about seeing it any closer. To my left water from above trickled down through the rocks and tangled brush and young evergreens before rolling onto the two-lane highway.
“Those trees are lodge pole pines mixed with spruce and Douglas fir,” Bish said.
“Uh-huh, thanks for the botany lesson.”
“You mean dendrology, the study of trees.”
“Show off.” Not now, not with me creeping out, so little road and nowhere to go if another car came toward us. At least our lane had the mountain advantage. As we turned with the bend, Bish straightened up and pushed his back against the seat.
“Slow down, slow down,” he said in a low voice. “You’re about to witness nature at its best.”
From the Savino Sisters Mystery Series
ITALY TO DIE FOR
Chapter 4: Ellen
In an arched doorway of the villa sat two fat cats, a calico and a white Persian, their eyes narrowed into slits and observing my every movement. I couldn’t help but think of Margo, how she connected with the obtuse creatures. Me, they made … a-ah-aah-choo. While I fumbled in my handbag for a tissue, the calico turned its rear end to me and lifted its tail erect to expose a taunting anus.
“The same to you,” I said.
And would’ve said more had it not been for the front door swinging open to reveal a forty-something wearing wire-rimmed glasses. Clean-shaven with straggly hair graying at the temples, a style I’d seen throughout Italy.
He offered a reluctant smile and spoke in stilted English. “Welcome to my villa, signorina.”
Hmm … as with the gypsy rescuer this Italian also considered me a signorina. At thirty-two, I
Monte Piano, Italy
Louisa Valenza had read Massimo’s words so many times she knew them by heart. After shoving his letter into her apron pocket, she threw a shawl over her shoulders and went outside, closing the door on the home of her birth, a small apartment squeezed between those of her brothers, Aldo and Matteo. They were already working in the field, along with their wives, each with a baby strapped to her back and two more in school. Louisa hurried along the outer balcony, down the open stairs, and away from the stone building her Valenza ancestors had erected during the fifteenth century, four hundred years before Vittorio Emanuele would unite the disgruntled provinces of Italy into the country it now was.
She walked with her head lifted to the alpine clouds and light steps to navigate a rocky road that would carry her to the valley three miles below. A forest of chestnuts lined the winding route, with crests and curves providing a distant view of red tiled-roof villages and an abandoned castle basking under the protection of its ancient stonewall.
Forty-five minutes later and with her arms laden with wildflowers she’d picked along the way, Louisa arrived at the cemetery in Locana. She strolled through rows of concrete walls holding the bones of earlier generations, those precious remains that had been moved from the ground to make room for the newly deceased.